Sunday, May 6, 2007
Ryan Burr: ESPN's NASCAR Future
After a brutal week of daily shows, NASCAR Now headed for a late night Saturday airing following the Richmond NEXTEL Cup race. As we all know, the race was rained out. So, the show took to the air with the agenda of filling in the rain story, the Busch Series story, and the news. Luckily, ESPN brought in the one person who has successfully hosted this program with dignity and class. Ryan Burr stopped-by once again to remind us of just how good this show can be.
The very patient Stacy Compton sat in his usual place in the studio. Compton has had to be patient this season because ESPN continues to put Tim Cowlishaw alongside of him. In only his first year on the air, Compton has continually been the voice of reason and restraint among the ESPN muck-rakers and gossip mongers. He brings diverse NASCAR experience to the table, and is often the lone provider of common sense in the studio. He did not buy the "Jeff vs. Jimmy" Martinsville feud, he did not buy the "Mark Martin should be racing Bristol" nonsense, and he did not buy the Kyle Busch's HANS Device "broke" exaggeration. The voice of reason in a sea of hype. This season, Compton is the studio star of the show.
As usual, NASCAR Now uses its field reporters as the daily link to the reality of this sport. Ryan Burr brought in Mike Massaro to talk about Richmond, and his points about the rain, the track, and the impound race procedures were dead-on. Then, Marty Smith stepped-in to address the rain-out issues, and his heartfelt feelings for Virginia Tech. A good story presented with class.
Compton addressed the Jeff Gordon issues about the COT and his problems at Richmond. Cowlishaw piped-in with another "Mr. Obvious" comment that continues his legacy of representing Around The Horn on yet another ESPN show. Sooner or later, the amount of news and actual information gathered by ESPN about NASCAR will fill thirty minutes. Then, Cowlishaw will move back to Tony Reali, Woody Paige, and Jay Mariotti for their daily stick-and-ball festival. NASCAR information in, Around The Horn panelist out.
Mike Massaro returned to answer NASCAR questions, and viewers might have gotten a glimpse of what this show could be. Ryan Burr at the helm, Marty Smith and Mike Massaro trackside, and Stacy Compton in the studio. Burr gets along great with those three, and the chemistry between them all on this show was unmistakable. This was fast-paced NASCAR information being shared between four guys who know and understand the sport. With an additional studio host, and the other news and feature reporters already on staff, NASCAR Now is a show just waiting to blossom.
The key sticking point continues to be the problems with NASCAR knowledge. With NEXTEL Cup rained out, this was the perfect opportunity to show highlights of the ESPN Busch Series race...on ESPN...in an ESPN NASCAR program. As usual, no such luck. There needs to be an urgent production meeting to determine how to handle the Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks, and the inclusion of the other NASCAR Touring Series. NASCAR Now continues to struggle with decisions made by the producer that single-mindedly address the issues of "today," without the understanding that what happens on a racing weekend nationwide is all connected. Imagine the boost the Whelen Modified Tour would receive from just a mention of results and season standings. Its time to open-up NASCAR Now to all of NASCAR, not just the one series that the "rotating" production staff at ESPN in Bristol, CT is familiar with. These changes are so easy, its amazing they have not taken place. Did I just answer my own question?
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