Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used to be only a race car driver. Whether he realizes it or not, that changed the day he became romantically involved with a celebrity. When Danica Patrick announced in January that they were a couple, that made Stenhouse a bit of a celebrity, too.
Which is why it was news -- racing news and celebrity news -- when Stenhouse was part of an on-track incident at Charlotte Motor Speedway that led to a crash between Patrick and defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski during the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26. The story was picked up by national entertainment news outlets E! News and Us Weekly, prompting Stenhouse to blame the NASCAR media for creating a firestorm.
"I think it would be nice if the stuff coming out of our garage area and our media center is stuff about the good things about our sport instead of things like that. Us Weekly and E! News and things like that, that's their job, that's what they report on. So I don't really care if they pick it up or not."
The media writes about negativity because that's what people click on? Uh, no.
Here's how it works: The media reports on stories that are of interest to its readers or viewers. It doesn't matter if the news is negative or positive. All that matters is if it's news enough to attract the interest of the general public.
Has Stenhouse forgotten what happened in February, when the couple was peppered with questions at Daytona and just about every media outlet had a story on the relationship? If the NASCAR media was so negative, why would reporters have written so many positive stories? The good news generated clicks, too, just like the bad news.
I wrote in February that Patrick and Stenhouse would determine the coverage of their relationship. Whatever they did on and off the track would dictate the stories written about them. And that has proven to be the case. Patrick and Stenhouse chose to take advantage of their celebrity status by talking about their relationship in interviews with E! News in March. Now they're upset that E! News had a story about the crash, too?
As for the negative writers of NASCAR? They don't exist. There isn't a more amenable group of reporters in any other sport, in part because so many of those in the media center work for companies with a stake in the success of NASCAR.
And if the worst story they ever write about Stenhouse is that he played a role in causing Patrick to wreck, then he won't have a whole lot to complain about in his career. Unless, of course, he makes the same mistake some in NASCAR do when they view the media as just another marketing tool that exists to promote the sport with only positive articles.
If that's the case, he's going to be disappointed. Again and again.
Viv Bernstein is a freelance journalist based in Charlotte, NC. She writes for a multitude of media outlets, and runs her personal blog jersey/slant, giving her views on NASCAR among other sports.