Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Commentary: Conflicting Reports Provide Valuable Insight

The ongoing discussion regarding Richard Petty Motorsports and its manufacturer affiliations has produced no shorage of headlines in the last 72 hours. Reports have been made, confirmed, denied and contradicted, leaving fans with little choice but to decided who they want to believe, and forget the rest.

If nothing else, the story provides an interesting look at how things happen behind the scenes in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

I told you Monday that there was a strong possibility of Richard Petty Motorsports fielding Toyota Camrys for driver Kasey Kahne, as soon as mid-August. Despite being confirmed by multiple sources within the organization, the story was immediately and categorically denied by RPM.

Yesterday, team co-owner Richard Petty joined us on Sirius Speedway, and was asked whether the team had plans to field Toyotas later this year. He answered, “I don't really know. I don't think anybody knows right now exactly where we're sitting, what we're gonna do, (or) what's gonna happen three weeks from now, let alone the beginning of next year.”

Just hours earlier, Richard Petty Motorsports spokesman Drew Brown responded to the same question by saying, “Richard Petty Motorsports has no plans to switch manufacturers in 2009 with any of our Cup cars. Our people plan to keep winning races with Dodge like they did Sunday and later this year put Dodges in the Chase."

Is it any wonder that media outlets contradict each other? And is it any wonder that fans are confused about who -– and what -- to believe?

For the record, I have no problem being called on the carpet by a race team for reporting something they don’t want reported. Public relations representatives are under no obligation to tell the truth to the media. They can tell us the whole truth, a half-truth or an outright lie, as the case requires. In fact, there are times where they have to lie to us, in the best interest of their team.

Anyone who does a job like mine for any length of time has been called a damned liar – in so many words – on Monday, only to be proven correct a few days later when the official press conference takes place. It’s part of the job, and people generally don’t take it personally.

I certainly don’t.

As of now, nobody knows whether Kasey Kahne will drive a Toyota this season or not. I don’t know, you don’t know… King Richard himself says he doesn’t know! I guess we’ll just wait and see. Despite all the denials, however, it is clear that the possibility has been discussed at the highest levels of Richard Petty Motorsports.

Take all the hubbub and confusion of the last few days, file it away and remember it the next time you're faced with wildly conflicting media reports on a major NASCAR story. At times like this, the bottom line is simple. Reporters have a job to do, and PR people have a job to do. Sometimes, those jobs put us at loggerheads.

It happens.

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