Wreck Reporting

What's the first thing that happens after a wreck?

Okay, the FIRST thing that happens, is the yellow flag comes out. And then?

Scanners go crazy with discussions about pit stops, and the TV network cuts away to commercial break.

But as soon as the drivers involved in the wreck are out of their cars, THEN what happens? There's a reporter with a microphone in their face, and a cameraman sticking a camera at them.

Most of the time, these drivers haven't had a chance to really figure out what happened to cause the wreck, and they're generally not in the best of moods. Yet, the pit reporters are right there asking them "What happened out there?"

Guess what folks? From their cars, the drivers really have a limited view. If they had better vision, there wouldn't be any need for spotters, would there? So at that moment, the reporters that are asking, "What happened out there" probably have a better idea than the drivers does.

So why do they do it week in and week out, race after race, wreck after wreck? Because they want the ticked off, emotion-laden responses that they wouldn't be able to get once cooler heads have prevailed. They want the confrontational comments. They want the heated arguments. It gives them, and the rest of us, something to talk about between races.

Think back to some of the post-wreck comments that have touched off debate about who-did-what-to-whom on the track, and stirred up "intense rivalry" talks among the media, only to be pushed to the side the following week. Most often, by the next week, all the drivers involved have to say is something like, "Yeah, we talked about it during the week. Everything's fine between us." Why does that happen? Given the chance to cool off, more sensible heads prevail.

There's also that issue of not being able to see 360 degrees on the track, and not really knowing what actually happened. So, the drivers are giving a very biased version of events, based on little to no fact. Maybe if they were allowed to watch the replay of the wreck before being interviewed, and not just once, but with the repetition and various angles that we viewers are treated to, things would be different. Instead, the driver has a monitor stuck in front of them showing them one angle of the wreck, and asked to tell the world what happened as they see it for the first time. That's just asking for some confrontational remarks.

A perfect example was this past weekend in Charlotte for the All-Star race. After the Stewart-Kenseth wreck, Matt Kenseth was immediately shown the replay and asked, "what happened." The first thing he said was that he didn't see the beginning of the replay. That right there tells you he still doesn't know what happened, and of course he made emotional comments based on his limited view from the track. Later, after having seen the replay, he admitted fault. Or close to it. He said something to the effect of "If I made a mistake, I made a mistake. There's nothing I can do about it now." Which in NASCAR terms is about as close to "It was my fault" as most drivers will get.

Following that same incident, Tony Stewart did what was quite possibly the smartest thing any driver could do. He got out of his car, ignored the media and reporters, and went to his trailer where he could cool off, and watch the replay on TV like the rest of us. Then he went out to talk to the media. In this case, he was still pretty ticked off about Kenseth's comments (who hadn't had the benefit of seeing the replay, remember) so he was still pretty steamed. But compare his comments to those in the past, and just imagine some of the things he might have said right after climbing out of the car.

All in all, the media needs to give the drivers some time after a wreck. Time to cool off. Time to see the replays. Time to figure out what happened before being asked about it.

Of course, then we wouldn't have all of these confrontations, misconstrued comments, and garage arguments to talk about.

Published on May 25, 2006 in