Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Allen Bestwick Rocks "NASCAR Now" To Its Core


It might have been a good thing that most NASCAR fans are used to watching NASCAR Now on ESPN2 while sitting down. Normally, this position was assumed so that if fans actually fell asleep, there were no traumatic injuries.

Often, the sleep came while Erik Kuselias, Doug Banks, or Tim Cowlishaw was talking. There was no defense for nodding-off while Erik and Tim "screamed" about the fact that the Charlotte race was "600 miles long!"

Some fans are still asleep from the day that Doug Banks spent quality interview time asking Kasey Kahne if he "stood by his statement that David Stremme was fat." That was an ESPN instant classic.

Wednesday, NASCAR Now opened the show and seated fans nationwide had a strange reaction. First, their heads snapped-up straight. Then, their shoulders straightened. Finally, they slowly began to rise to their feet and screamed in a loud voice "is that Allen Bestwick hosting NASCAR Now? It sounds just like him!"

Sure enough, the dreams of many NASCAR fans finally came true as Allen Bestwick stood in the middle of the High Definition Studio at the very core of ESPN. After an endless moving disaster of "NASCAR illiterate" hosts since February, one of the most respected NASCAR broadcasters was in Bristol, CT to show them how its done.

All Bestwick did in his thirty minutes was blow them away from start-to-finish. It may have been the first time for many ESPN staffers that they experienced a "true" NASCAR broadcaster hosting "their" show. While ESPN News anchor Ryan Burr is solid, having Bestwick in the building, and on the air, was meaningful in several ways.

Allen has a style that is well-known. This allows struggling on-air "talent" like Brad Daugherty to feel, perhaps for the first time, that he is being included in the "conversation" of the show. Bestwick went out of his way to include Brad in a comfortable and casual manner. He finally allowed Daugherty to "talk" with the host, after Brad had endured four months of nothing more than answering scripted questions. For the first time, NASCAR fans got a glimpse into Daugherty's personality. This has been the aspect so sorely missing from his many appearances on ESPN.

As the show progressed, Bestwick spoke with JJ Yeley from the Joe Gibbs shop. For fans who have watched NASCAR Now for months, they may have actually felt the planet stop spinning for just a moment. Bestwick and Yeley spoke freely, were obviously comfortable with each other, and covered all the bases on a wide variety of topics. There were no scripted questions, and no pregnant pauses. They just "talked."

One growing problem for ESPN has been the animosity between the NASCAR Now news reporters and the show hosts. Both Erik Kuselias and the "now apparently fired" Doug Banks would read a scripted question, wait until they "thought" the reporter was finished, and then ask the next one. I believe "sharp stick in the eye" was my quote from an earlier article. It was going to be interesting to see how the ESPN Producer dealt with Bestwick hosting the news segment. We didn't have to wait very long to find out.

Reporters Marty Smith and Terry Blount did the best they could to hide the smirks on their faces, but they knew well in-advance that there was a new sheriff in town. The best part was, he had a clue. Bestwick allowed Smith and Blount to speak freely and engaged them both in actual conversation for the first time since this show began. The only thing lacking was the ESPN technical crew not having a "three shot" split-screen. The next step is to have the reporters on-screen together, and to allow them to talk to each other. I am sure the guys over at Around The Horn are laughing. A couple of reporters on-camera talking is not a new concept.

With Kyle Petty stepping out of his car to do the TNT commentary, one of the drivers filling-in for him will be Chad McCumbee. Bestwick interviewed the twenty-two year old on the phone about this opportunity. If there was ever a moment in this show when the glaring difference between "those who know" NASCAR and "those who ESPN says know" NASCAR was front-and-center, this was it.

Bestwick guided this young man through a feel-good interview that allowed the driver to get comfortable, relate his experiences, and let the viewers see his personality. In order to do this, the host had to know a whole lot about racing. Allen Bestwick certainly does.

Last week, Erik Kuselias interviewed seventeen year old Joey Logano after his NASCAR Grand National win over Kevin Harvick in Iowa. Logano could have been an alien as far as Kuselias was concerned. Totally ignorant to the young man's history, Kuselias was forced to ask "talk radio" style questions. This included "did you ask Harvick for half of his million dollars?" To Kuselias, it was just another interview that would be over in three minutes and then he could go home. For Logano, it was a fantastic achievement to beat Harvick, and then be live on TV on ESPN. Logano was cheated, the fans were cheated, and the sport was cheated.

Bestwick then brought Daugherty back to discuss the fact that less than a full field of Busch cars are entered at Dover this week. Brad's opinion did not really address the issues behind this problem, including the COT car and the lack of true "Busch Series only" drivers. Bestwick accepted this naive opinion, and allowed Daugherty to walk away with his dignity intact. Maybe Daugherty will begin to rise to the occasion and focus on what role he really plays in the ESPN NASCAR coverage. This must be defined before the ESPN NEXTEL Cup TV coverage begins, or the media will eat him alive.

Then, just like that, it was over. Remember when Bob Jenkins never had enough time for SpeedWeek? When John Kernan used to crank-it-up on RPM2Nite from the moment the show came on the air? This is the pace that NASCAR Now had tonight. There was a ton of information, and then it was over. Can you imagine if ESPN used Bestwick on the one hour NASCAR Now Monday show? That would make any fan smile.

Tonight's show was the most positive step in the right direction this program series has taken since it started. Bestwick and Ryan Burr would change NASCAR Now into a completely different show if they were the co-hosts. Restoring the credibility lost with Doug Banks and Erik Kuselias can be done, but only with consistently good decisions in both talent and content.

Maybe, while Bestwick is still in Bristol, he can speak to ESPN about some other items that they might consider for NASCAR Now. These could include regional touring series highlights, behind-the-scenes team reports, a weekly feature on an interesting racing personality, or even video questions from the fans sent-in to the NASCAR Now experts.

If this was an audition of sorts for Bestwick, I hope he provided the ESPN executives with what they were looking for. Thirty minutes of fast-paced NASCAR news and information went flying-by in a snap with a knowledgeable host, good interviews, and smart reporters. NASCAR fans could get used to this, and wasn't that the original idea?

The Daly Planet invites comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

33 comments:

Shoop said...

FINALLY.

Doug S. said...

It's really absurd that it has taken ESPN this long to do what has been a no brainer to NASCAR fans everywhere. Today Allen Bestwick showed us exactly what we should have been seeing for the past four months.

Linda from FL said...

I was busy at my computer and all of a sudden we hear Allen's voice on the TV.....could that be NASCAR Now???? Yes it was and we hope to hear him a lot more, might even remember to watch again. Great show tonight and did you see everyone smiling? Good news. We hope they got it.....finally.

Anonymous said...

Ditto

Anonymous said...

Amen. I saw "Nascar Now" on my TV "guide" and elected not to record it because the show usually sucks so bad. Now I will start recording a few episodes in hopes of improvement. I hope Allen is there.

Anonymous said...

great show today. i had almost stopped watching altogether, but if they keep allen as the host, espn will have a loyal nascar now viewer. the pace, format, and information were great.

they should consider hosting this show from their on track studio thursday/friday. which btw, should include allen as the countdown host, not suzy kolber.

SophiaZ123 said...

About darned TIME!!!

I could NOT believe my ears and eyes when AB hosted tonight...I was resting in bed, ready to get set to 'cringe' my way thru NASCAR NOW.

Imagine my delight when Mr. Bestwick appeared! PUHLEASE ESPN, watch this show against some other tapes of your alleged "NASCAR HOST".

THis show left me feeling good and SMILING. I loved the way he handled young Chad McCumbee's interview and asked him about his part in the movie "3".

It was the quickest 30 minutes in tv I had seen in awhile and I looked FORWARD to each segment.

Let's hope TPTB were paying attention.

Anonymous said...

THANK GOD!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I've only watched the show a few times. I didn't find it very informative, so I stopped. If Bestwick is there to stay, I say praise be and pass the remote!!

Andrew S. said...

I miss Allen on INC and hopefully he will get a chance on this show. Maybe Schrader can join him at ESPN as well. Then we'd really have a reason to watch.

Anonymous said...

What a great night welcome back Allen. It is great to have you back and I look forward to a great show every night. Now we just need to get you back in the booth.

Wanted to keep it upbeat but I don't miss Webber hope NBC puts him on some stick and ball sport he deserves that

OBROOK

Anonymous said...

I missed AB's appearance..because I had STOPPED WATCHING this show. I will give it another shot today, and see if Bestwick's still there. If he is, I'll be back as a regular viewer.

Cheryl said...

Great article, John! Maybe all your hard work is finally paying off and they've decided to make some positive changes.

What would be hilarious would be if ESPN put Bestwick on Monday nights opposite Inside Nextel Cup and NN outdrew them in ratings.

Anonymous said...

Please pass these comments onto ESPN! I miss having Allen Bestwick on TV as a regular. He and John Kernin(sp) have been my favorites for years. Get the show moved to NASCAR Country and keep Allen or John on as the hosts.

Joe said...

Wow, best Nascar Now ever. I rarely watch this show but happened to be flipping channels when it started. It's the first time I've sat through the whole show, and my goodness was it a good one. Hope Bestwick can become a permanent replacement.

Joe from Philly said...

hope he was filing in for Kuselias because he was busy asking for his radio job back

Vince said...

Dear ESPN Execs,

Thank you for getting your collective heads out of your posteriors!!!

Now do the right thing and keep Allen Bestwick as the host of Nascar Now. I hope to never see Erik Kuselias, Doug Banks or Tim Cowlishaw ever again. Send them back under what ever rock you found them. PLEASE!!

I am still confused as to what the heck Brad Daugherty is doing on this show and what qualifies him to be "the voice of the fans"? Owning a truck team for a year or two doesn't qualify him for being MY voice!

Thanks again ESPN for bringing Allen back and I hope to see him again tonight as the host of Nascar Now.

Jules H said...

I basically had “NASCAR Now” on last nite for background noise as I thumbed thru the day’s mail. When I heard AB’s voice I stated jumping around the room like a kid on Christmas morning!! The absolutely best “NASCAR Now” to date!

All I now hope for is for more AB!!!

Dustin said...

PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!

Billy Delyon said...

The ESPN HD graphic faded from the screen to the NASCAR Now Studio, and there stood AB. As with most other folks in this thread, this cat was jumping around the room screaming "Its AB! AB's hosting NASCAR Now!" my better half was looking at me like I'd lost my cookies, I just keep saying "Honey you don't understand what this means! JD's work is paying off!!!". ;~P anyway, was great to see him host and what a job he did. By far the fastest paced show of the series so far. Hope ESPN takes notice of the fan reaction. I've written them and stated my support for AB!
I think the Daily Planet is making an impact!
Thanks John Daily!

Anonymous said...

What a relief to see AB host the show last night! Not only does Kusilias not know what he's talking about, he has an annoying sing-song delivery and is always flailing his hands around when he talks. Banks was even worse, but it appears he is gone. Please ESPN, put AB on as the permanent host.

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction last night, "that sounds like... could it finally be... Allen Bestwick?? Honey, get in here, it's Allen Bestwick!" Tonight, well, more Kusilias... Every one of the regular hosts is horrible, Banks was particularly horrible with Kusilias not much better. I wouldn't expect to see AB hosting this show on a regular basis, he is much too talented and busy to be messing around with a second rate production such as NASCAR Now. Totally changes the credibility of the show with Allen there, though. Best show (only really "good" show) I've seen to date. "Loud," ignorant, completely uninformed hosts make this show a train wreck every night. Hope ESPN learned something on Wednesday.

Jules H said...

Oh well! That joy certainly was short lived.

ESPN, please bring back Allen Beswick!!

John D, keep up the good fight. Your efforts are appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I missed the show. I'd stopped watching NASCAR NOW, as it just wasn't working for me. I've always loved the positive, forward atmosphere surrounding NASCAR, and I wasn't about to let Erik Kuselias, Doug Banks, or Tim Cowlishaw ruin that.

Phyl said...

THANK GOD! I always thought that the worst decision SPEEDTV ever made was to take Allen away from INSIDE NEXTEL CUP and then NBC removed him from the booth during the race and replaced him with that moron Bill Webber! What a tool! I could not be happier. WELCOME BACK ALLEN!!!!!

Anonymous said...

YES! Now all we need to stop wasting valuable time with the stupid Driver Pick 'Em and the Fantasy Racing experts.

I must admit though, I still FF (instead of sleep) whenever Brad Daugherty is speaking. Maybe he's trying to get a foothold in the industry, but I cringe when they introduce him as a NASCAR expert. Frankly, the guy next door has more insight then Brad, so there hasn't been a single piece of info to come out of his mouth that I've found useful or insightful. Sorry, but Brad adds zero value to this show.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't believe what I was seeing. I laughed and thought about you! I immediately sent an email to ESPN thanking them profusely and saying I hope it wasn't temporary!!! Diane

Don said...

I record NASCAR Now every day, and watch it when I get home from work around 11 PM, if you call having it on in the background while checking my email Watching, usually when it's over I have no idea what it was about, but upon hearing Allen Bestwick, I actually got off the computer and watched

Anonymous said...

I've never really been a big Bestwick fan, but I thought he was a great fit for that format. Eric Kusilias has been nothing short of painful to watch all season. I hope the ESPN execs make it permanent.

Anonymous said...

Yay! It really was Bestwick!

Anonymous said...

I, too, couldn't believe my ears when the dulcet tones of Allen Bestwick reached my ears the other evening. I was watching on my DVR, because I use the FF button a lot when watching that show. I backed it up twice to make sure I wasn't imagining it! For once, I paid attention to every word, and actually enjoyed the show! I'm hoping this is a permanent change. The previous hosts not only displayed their lack of NASCAR knowledge daily, but their total lack of interest in speaking intelligently. The low point came the day one of them (I forget which, because they are all equally bad) referred to truck driver Kevin Hamlin as "Dale Earnhardt's former crew chief"! Please! A few seconds on Google would have corrected that amazing piece of idiocy. I wrote ESPN immediately after watching Allen shine on the show to express my delight. Thanks for expressing my feelings so well!

Anonymous said...

I know Allen Bestwick is good at what he does, but his sufferin suckatash lisp is so distracting I can't concentrate on the race.

Anonymous said...

Allen, you are the BEST!!! I always hope that you are back every season for Nascar. It's great that you always entertain with the people you have to work with.......YOU, are the greatest.

Thank you! Kat