Saturday, April 7, 2007
ESPN2 in Nashville: TV Lets The Busch Series Shine
Nashville's cold weather just could not put a damper on the Busch Series "stand-alone" party. Without the big names, without being second class citizens, and without Brent Musburger, these guys were ready to put on a show.
Lots of ESPN's Busch regulars were also on vacation, and with live tennis running thirty minutes long, the pre-race show was eliminated. Unfortunately, we still had to deal with Erik Kuselias and his struggles to continue being viable in ESPN's NASCAR agenda. His off-balance opening segment as series "host" set the telecast off on a bad foot, but fans knew that behind him were the pros just chomping at the bit to get racing. In his first assignment as host, Kuselias voice was so high and his words so disjointed that they made no sense.
It only took Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree about thirty seconds to raise the excitement level to a fever pitch, and re-assure the viewers that the pros were, in fact, ready to go. The all-star pit road reporters Mike Massaro, Alan Bestwick, and Jamie Little set the tone early that the ESPN crew respected these drivers, and this race, just as much as a NEXTEL Cup event. They carried this attitude throughout the telecast. Fantastic performance.
The racing was great, and there is no doubt that Marty Reid brings something to the table that Jerry Punch does not. These guys just clicked. The same week that ESPN's daily show NASCAR Now hit on a solid host, the addition of Marty Reid to this team really added a new element. Just like NASCAR, things in the TV world are always changing. Hopefully, if ESPN noticed...for the better.
Early on in the race, the production team tried to insert Erik Kuselias, Brad Daugherty, and Stacy Compton from the infield set. Kuselias was so out of his element that it was painful. Between the booth and pit road there were seven voices on a Busch race, and that is plenty. When ESPN discovers that, and stops treating the Busch Series as a NEXTEL Cup rehearsal, they will finally give it the respect it deserves. And no doubt, both NASCAR and ESPN need this series to get a lot better respect in the media.
From start to finish, Marty Reid made this race a pleasure. Its a bit easier when a dynamic combo like Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree is alongside. Nashville promised to be a fast-paced race, but a second racing groove never really materialized. Despite the fact of no side-by-side racing, this crew kept it interesting right up to the end.
As if to put an official cherry-on-top, ESPN showed the lead lap cars cross the finish line and inserted a scoring graphic when they did. On behalf of all NASCAR fans, thank you for letting us see the drivers finish the race. With NASCAR Now sorted out, and strong performances like this one on races, ESPN has to be smiling that things are finally looking up for their sizeable investment.