Another reason to be glad Mark Martin is running a limited schedule this season…

The new NASCAR brand web portal was unveiled today. Lotsa flash, but it’s so busy you can’t really see headlines or news snippets. Can’t quickly scan “what’s new.”

The portal reminds me of some of the new SPEED TV talent — these pretty young boys and girls “anchoring” NASCAR racing shows is ridiculous. They’re clearly reading a teleprompter. They don’t know anything about the sport. They don’t know who the drivers are and are clueless at how to capture the drama of a storyline — especially if it’s a personality-driven storyline. If it ain’t purty, shiny, pearly white, or gelled, these anchor types ain’t interested. They’ve probably never had a wrench in their hands in their lives. You know which two I’m talkin’ about (oh, I forget — some of you aren’t hard-core NASCAR fans):

Drew Johnson is one. He admits in his bio the worst moment of his career was mistaking newly-crowned Craftsman Truck Series champ Todd Bodine for Todd’s older brother, Geoff. Go back to golf, Dreeewwwwwwww.

Of the two, Nicole Manske is definitely brighter. But, well, again her bio tells you all you need to know. She was a general assignment reporter and her first experience with racing was in 2005, at the Indy 500. Go take Katie Couric’s job — PLEASE.

I’m sure their mamas love em. And I’m sure they’re nice kids. But they both have a loooooooggg way to go before I’m the least bit convinced that they have more of a passion for racing than they do about becoming as famous as the stock car drivers they cover. Lemme tell ya, boys and girls, that ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve been watching the ESPN NASCAR page. It’s glitzy, but has versatile and easy to scan content.  And landing Marty Smith as a columnist was quite a coup. But of course, it’s ESPN! Marty gets to write content — heck, ya gotta pay extra to see his blog. At he’d just disappear into the glitz. Good move, Marty.

Yahoo! has revamped it’s graphics, too — and added the AT&T brand. The AT&T Yahoo NASCAR portal (there’s a mouth-full) is pretty good. Again, easy to scan. I’m not crazy about the Yahoo! Racing columnists, though.

And That’ is always reliable, with solid content. David Poole is one of the best columnists in the biz. He knows his NASCAR backards and frontards. He’s clearly not influenced by NASCAR officials — he speaks his mind.

But I think my all-around favorite portal remains Fox Sports. You just can’t beat analysis from Hammond, McReynolds, and even ole DW. Their opinions are diverse, they’re updated on time and, when breaking news requires it, they’ll even throw down on a day when they’re not scheduled to turn in a piece. These guys figgered out content and synergy long before anybody else did, when it comes to NASCAR. Looks like they’ll be expanding their interactive capabilities during games with the rollout of Microsoft Vista.

While we’re talkin’ online racing sources, ya gotta add Jade Gurss to your favorites. He’s Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s publicity dude, under the brand of Fingerprint, Inc. (sports publicity). Gurss is probably almost as important to Jr’s career as sister Kelly. His blog is multi-media, insightful, gives a race fan inside dirt, and he even ventures to other subjects now and again. Gurss is a thinking gal’s NASCAR veteran.

So, we’re about 2 weeks from the Daytona 500, which, according to Forbes, is among sport’s top 5 brands — time to gear back up for 2007, whether you’re gonna race full-time, or be like Mark — and just race for fun. Let’s let the young guns have the sport — but only when WE’RE ready to bow out gracefully.

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