Stewart, Earnhardt take swipe at ESPN

When does innovative and interesting become intrusive?

To a couple of NASCAR drivers bold enough to bite a hand that feeds the sport, it's what ESPN did on Sunday.

The network has been a pioneer in racing broadcasting. The synergy between NASCAR and ESPN has helped both grow in popularity. The network has provided "inside" coverage to enlighten its fan base.

After Sunday's race in Richmond, a frustrated Stewart came on his radio and blamed his crew for a poor performance. Stewart, a lame duck at Joe Gibbs Racing and well-known for his mercurial personality, was angrily chastised by crew chief Greg Zipadelli, with whom Stewart has had a long and friendly relationship, reminding Stewart that "we win as a team and we lose as a team."

ESPN picked up audio from the testy exchange between the two and aired it. It's been repeated countless times.

"I think it's just poor taste by the networks and I'm seeing it too often," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday in a teleconference involving the 12 drivers who have qualified for the Chase for the Championship.

"That's ESPN," Stewart said. "We've had a terrible relationship with ESPN for years. We've been very outspoken with them as a company about how they treat the drivers, treat the teams. They're a production team that wants to do everything they can to stir the pot up.

"Do they have a right to air it? Absolutely," Stewart continued. "Trust me, if there's anything negative I do, ESPN is going to pick up on it and run with it every chance they get.

"That just shows you what's important to them. It's not the positive things in the sport. They want to pick up on everything negative they can."

"It's taking it too far where they're putting those type of conversations on network television and it's getting the kind of press it's getting," Earnhardt said. "It looks terrible for Tony. (It was) heat of the moment. You're going to say things you regret and I'm sure he regrets saying what he said and maybe Zippy regrets coming back at him."

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