Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Old Ghost Haunts Allen Bestwick


The familiar tones of Allen Bestwick welcomed Busch Series fans to the ESPN2 pre-race show on Saturday night. The fans had come to Lowes Motor Speedway for one of the highest profile Busch Series events of the year. Some of the NEXTEL Cup drivers remained at the track to watch the Busch race. Unfortunately, one of them decided to appear on ESPN2's NASCAR Countdown.

The cameras revealed the new ESPN infield mobile studio and the cast of characters for the pre-race show. In a good move, Andy Petree was present to add the credibility that the infield show has been lacking from an analyst. Also on the set was Brad Daugherty, who once again did not interview, report, or originate any type of content in this program. He should be hanging onto the "Voice of the Fans" title bestowed on him by Bestwick with all his might. He has long since confused race fans with his perspectives and commentaries.

As the host, Bestwick sat on the set knowing that after only one show he had been replaced by ESPN. Announced even as he hosted another classy show, Bestwick had been moved aside for another anchor who ESPN felt was more "familiar" with this role. Her name is Suzy Kolber, and she is currently the sideline reporter for ESPN's Monday Night Football.

She has never appeared on any NASCAR telecast. Kolber will not only host the Busch Series pre-race show, she will also assume the second highest profile seat on the upcoming NEXTEL Cup broadcasts. She will host the NEXTEL Cup pre-race show and continue to be the infield studio host throughout the races. In essence, she was "given" the Busch and NEXTEL pre-race shows before ever having attended a race.

Finally, the last man on the set was revealed by the ESPN cameras. With the three other panelists wearing suits and ties, Michael Waltrip appeared to have just crawled out from under one of his Toyotas. He was wearing an ill-fitting polo shirt and a sponsor's baseball hat...indoors. Prior to air, Waltrip should have been attended to just like the other ESPN announcers. No hat, an agreed-upon shirt, and combed hair should have been demanded prior to allowing him on this program.

For Bestwick, this had to be "deja vu all over again." Many credit Bestwick's calm and professional "straight man" demeanor with allowing Michael Waltrip to perfect his TV personality over the years on Inside Winston/NEXTEL Cup Racing. This unique series raised the profile of Waltrip far beyond his driving abilities, and allowed him to craft a very nice niche in a sport that had formerly treated him as a second class citizen.

When Bestwick was summarily removed by SPEED Channel as the host without warning, Waltrip chose to continue on the show, rather then stepping aside in protest. For many, this cemented the fact that Waltrip had changed. Even today, the program limps along with Waltrip and Schrader trying to reproduce their "act" every week with disastrous results.

Saturday on NASCAR Countdown, it was impossible to take Waltrip at face value as he answered questions both as a driver and owner. As a driver, he had failed to make numerous races, and had just crashed in qualifying and missed the Charlotte NEXTEL Cup event. It was not the slow time of his Toyota that kept him from the race, both he and Reutimann simply wrecked as drivers.

As an owner, Waltrip also had David Reutimann in the Busch race that he and the panel were previewing. Waltrip was treated with kid gloves by Bestwick, who respected the struggles of MWR and Toyota a lot more than many of the fans. In another cruel twist of fate, Reutimann's Busch car began spewing steam on the parade lap, and imploded only laps into the race.

As usual, the pit road reporting was solid, the driver interviews were interesting, and the features helped to put the race into perspective. What the pre-race show needed was more integration with the booth announcers, and less conversation with Mikey. The time has come for Mr. Waltrip to step out of the media glare and only return when he has his own professional and personal houses in order. It seems, sometimes, that Waltrip is his own worst enemy. A fact that Allen Bestwick knows only too well.

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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I liked the actual Busch race coverage. DJ and Andy are WAY better than I thought they could be.

And how nice to hear from Ned, before he reached his bedtime. His smooth southern accent reminds me of former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, a Virginia gentleman who had that soothing southern tone.

Allen Bestwick is a great talent, and it is a shame that he is not used in more high-profile spots.

Sal said...

The under use of Allen Bestwick continues to puzzle me. His knowlege and insight of Nascar would bring some credibility to the ESPN broadcasts and show fans that ESPN considers racing a top tier sport. Their persistance in using announcers ignorant of anything racing is yet another slap in the face to the fans of racing. It was bad enough that fans are dismissed by Nascar, and now ESPN is doing the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Will not watch pre race shows that have some talking head I've never seen before!

Allen is simply the best in the business.

Anonymous said...

I can not understand why Allen Bestwick is being removed from ESPN2's coverage. He is by far the most endearing and respected reporter in the sport. His knowledge and credibility of the sport are unprecedented.

To bring on an unknown such as Suzy Kobler and put her in such a high profile position without any prior experience makes one wonder about the reasoning behind this decision. I assume it is politics as usual.

I agree that the team of DJ and Andy is pretty good. They both bring alot of experience and firsthand knowledge to the booth. I also loved the fact that Ned was in there also. He is wonderful and has been missed for way to long.

Anonymous said...

Mikey sucks, We need more people like Allen Bestwick and quit putting in people that don't know anything about racing.

Anonymous said...

At first I was excited that ESPN was coming back to NA$CAR, then reality set in, as for Brad Daugherty, I've yet to figure out why he's there at all, he's as useless as Chris Meyers on FOX. I suppose I'll have to watch with the sound off and listen the MRN-PRN coverage on the radio like I do when FOX has the race.

Anonymous said...

He may be good in front of the camera but if you knew how he acted and treated the people behind the camera. You might understand why he isn't in front of the camera so much.

Anonymous said...

Come on you guys can't all be that out of touch! Brad Daugherty is there as NASCAR's attemt to show it is being diverse.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone who says that Allen Bestwick needs to have a bigger role in Nascar. He is just the very best. It is just unreal that Nascar hires people that know nothing about Nascar. Give me a break!!!! Allen is the BEST and Dispain will never come close to him.

Anonymous said...

Whoever said Bestwick is an ass behind the camera should reveal their identity to make their comment credible. Do you know Allen Bestwick? Do you work with him? Or are you just making things up and/or assuming?

Anonymous said...

It is pretty obvious that all ESPN understands is football....NASCAR probably wanted minority's host (i.e. Brad & Suzy) and with football personalities, another wasted attempt to attract football fans.

Allen Bestwick is, as someone already mentioned, is knowledgeable and talented anchor. Even if he is a bear off camera, and I don't know that, he is still the best on camera.

Then there is Dave Dispain and Mike Waltrip show. There is no doubt that Dave Dispain is very knowledgeable. That being said why does anyone listen to him spend a half hour giving hid opinion.

And Michael Waltrip, he's just impressed with himself, more than most of us!

Kelvin S said...

I have met Allen Bestwick on numerous occasions on trips to the race shops and "run in" to Mr. Bestwick and he's never been rude or anything else besides being the pro that he is in the business.
He is a class act and ESPN has once again shot themselves in the foot. Putting someone with no experience to NA$CAR is a BIG mistake and I only hope they see it before the Cup season gets to ESPN and ABC.