It’s been a wild week for AP reporter, Jenna Fryer. Known for her coverage of NASCAR, the daring journo waded into the tepid waters of Formula 1 and Indycar to offer her editorial on the big news that 2-time world champion, Fernando Alonso, would be skipping Monaco to participate in this year’s Indy 500.
The article was titled, “So what that Alonso is racing the Indy 500?” and It has unleashed a mob of Indycar and F1 fans on social media. The article, in basic summation, equated this to a publicity stunt and proffered that it would be far better to have Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart or the Taylor duo in the race than Alonso…a man who hasn’t achieved anything in the last few years.
The mobocracy has been untethered and it comprises of F1 and Indycar fans, two camps that don’t often coalesce, against Fryer on Twitter and other social media. With pitchforks, torches and anger, they storm Castle Fryer to take down the walls and expose her evil ways. Now it seems that the leader of the mob is none other than racing legend Mario Andretti himself.
“I really resent the fact that the story is giving the impression that this is just a publicity stunt. Don’t get me wrong, it is great publicity for IndyCar, but that is just a by-product of a totally legitimate and valid attempt by a great champion, Fernando Alonso, to try and win the second part of the Triple Crown.”
“Quite honestly, I think she [Fryer] owes Alonso an apology, because the initial motivation for this whole thing came from him; he wants to do it, and would never do it just to help any series gain publicity or to gain publicity for himself. He doesn’t need it.
“He’s doing this as a pure racer and follows a great tradition of some of the best F1 drivers trying to win Indy – some succeeded, some didn’t – and I find it reassuring that Indy still carries that aura, a feather in the cap, as it were.”
A cursory look at Fryer’s Twitter account will find many scathing comments about her story, as well as her personally, that have been met with a churlish and sometimes flippant response by her—including a picture of her giving the middle finger. Not passing judgment but she is literally flipping off fans about an article she wrote for AP and this brings up the ridiculous notion that the Twitter account is her own opinion and doesn’t represent AP. Many reporters these days tweet during the day and hide behind the caveat that their Twitter account doesn’t represent their publication. I find that a rule that will be challenged legally someday soon.
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) April 20, 2017
Reading articles from Fryer regarding Danica Patrick or Tony Stewart, I find her support of their efforts standard fare and it’s to be expected. Those are the drivers she follows in the series she covers. Nothing wrong with that. Imagine if someone dared say Patrick is nothing more than a publicity stunt. I assume Fryer would have plenty to say about that and so she should.
The challenge here is that her article regarding Alonso suggests that she is not an F1 fan and doesn’t follow the series very closely or the career of Alonso with much interest beyond basic informational reads. Most F1 fans, by contrast, have watched Alonso’s entire career and would tell you, like Mario did, that he is one of, if not the, best drivers on the grid. Alonso has more skill and credentials than many of the Indycar rookies, as Mario points out, and I would argue some of the regulars. He knows his way around the business end of a race car. So did Jim Clark and Graham Hill.
Her diatribe also fails to take into account the risk that Alonso, McLaren and Andretti Autosport are all taking to make this happen. They wouldn’t do that for a cheap publicity stunt. The risks are too high in F1 terms as Alonso has already suffered concussion twice in his career and this is no matter to be toyed with but then if she were a follower of F1, she’d know that. McLaren are taking a huge risk—just ask Renault about Robert Kubica.
Alonso has always wanted to be the renaissance driver and go for the hat trick. This may be the last chance he gets while he’s still at the sharp end of his skills. The 24 Hours of Le Mans can’t be far behind. She would also know that if she had been following Alonso’s career like most F1 fans do.
I try not to offer wide-ranging editorial about a racing series or driver I am not familiar with. It does no good for me to throw stones at BTCC, I don’t watch the series with any regularity and don’t have an editorial knife in the fight. Fryer’s responses to her critics on Twitter read like a boorish, petulant person but then she asked for this derision when she chose to implicate Indycar for cheap publicity stunts and denigrate Alonso in the process as a hack who hasn’t done anything recently. If she saw him drive the McLaren in 2016 and 2017, she’d know that was wrong. He’s driving his *** off out there.
Out of the pan and into the Fryer
Jenna probably didn’t expect to get the kind of F1 outrage usually reserved for the #TeamLH mob but she hit a nerve that crosses many lines in the F1/Indycar sand. This is why America can’t have nice things, folks. We eviscerate F1 in our press because it’s not “American” and not NASCAR. You’re right, it’s not…but if you ask an avid American F1 fan, they’ll tell you that’s because it’s better than NASCAR and Indycar.
The issue at hand, and Mario alluded to it, is that Indycar isn’t doing as well as it used to and having F1 lend it credibility by suggesting that the Indy 500 is still a jewel in the racing crown’s royalty goes a long way for the series. For Alonso and McLaren, it’s an opportunity to deepen their working relationship and do more together given the trajectory of their current F1 season. They have an Alonso contract to renew this year as well.
In Fryer’s case, let be honest. She wrote a piece that was probably not her finest moment but nonetheless, it was an editorial piece and written from the perspective of a NASCAR racing fan and American-centric view of what Indycar could have done to cross-pollinate the two American series. After all, F1 doesn’t even race at Indy anymore. Fryer is supporting the two series that still do.
I understand how she might feel this was a bit of a show. It’s easy to draw that conclusion if you aren’t a F1 nerd who knows Alonso’s shoe size, the total weight of the current McLaren in kilograms and can name 20 drivers by their helmets as well as most of the technical directors in the series. She’s looking at this from 60,000 feet. I get it.
I also have to say that her opinion is simply that. She was a bit ham-fisted in her approach and didn’t make the most cogent argument but some of the vitriol she’s receiving from F1 fans on Twitter is incredibly base behavior and quite honestly, beneath F1 fans. Sure, Mario was incandescent about it but he’s got a knife in the fight…namely his son’s ownership of the team Alonso will drive for. Context people. Mario’s outrage doesn’t give free license to become vile just because Jenna thinks the Alonso move is not as big of a deal as getting some NASCAR drivers in the 500. You would expect a big NASCAR fan to think that way. What’s F1 to them? Not much.
I say Jenna is entitled to her opinion and I certainly don’t think Alonso gives a rats *** about her rant nor would an apology be something he felt he deserved. He’s a tough cookie and has had much worse in his career and at the hands of F1 fans no less—just ask the Singapore wall in 2008 or Ron Dennis in 2007.
I have no idea how Fernando will do. Indycar is a different discipline but keep in mind, the last guy that came from F1 to try Indycar at the 500 won the damn thing and that was last year. I’ve nothing at all against Alexander Rossi but he’s no Alonso. Then again, maybe he won’t do well but I would avoid gloating if he doesn’t because you’ll be missing the point entirely. He’s that good, you’re just going to have to take our word for it because we’ve seen things from him that few drivers have ever been able to do. Remember 7-time champ Michael Schumacher and Ferrari? Yeah, he beat them…twice. That’s not easy.
My message to Jenna? Just chill. You shared an opinion from a NASCAR-centric view and while it may not be the best supported argument, it is, after all, just your opinion. Your responses to Tweeple are not very becoming and I think it just adds to the inflammatory nature of the entire situation. The RT of the Billy Monger situation as something people should focus on instead of your article was a bit odd given the gravity of the situation.
Like, focus on this or something. https://t.co/5dBfXzFWJ5
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) April 19, 2017
I get the impression that Jenna isn’t interested in my opinion or advice on the matter…just as I suspect Alonso, Andretti, McLaren, F1 and Indycar fans aren’t interested in hers either. Just my unsolicited two cents, Jenna. Keep up the great work on NASCAR and tell Danica we all said hello. You’ll get no hate tweets from me.