Saturday, June 9, 2007

Bestwick Back In The Saddle At Nashville

Last week at Dover, the new host of NASCAR Countdown spent almost the entire thirty minutes asking questions of her ESPN2 on-set analyst, Dale Jarrett. Suzy Kolber was new to NASCAR, and decided that asking questions about anything and everything was the only way to get through the Busch Series pre-race show. She got through it just fine, but for NASCAR fans, it was tough.

This week, the Busch Series stopped at Nashville for a Saturday night race. Allen Bestwick was returned to the NASCAR Countdown anchor chair with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside. The big story of the week was obvious. Our good friend Bill France Jr. had passed away, and this was the first Busch Series race since his death. Luckily, ESPN had all the right people in all the right places to deal with this issue.

Bestwick let Rusty Wallace talk about Bill France as a "fan" of the sport. Then, he let Brad Daugherty explain that France could also be a very good personal friend. After an excellent video tribute by Mike Massaro, ESPN's play-by-play announcer Dr. Jerry Punch and analyst Andy Petree shared their memories of Mr. France. Over the years, Petree was no stranger to the NASCAR trailer and the "up close and personal moments" crew chiefs often had with the NASCAR boss.

Each of the ESPN announcers had a truly unique perspective on this one man. It was exactly the kind of honest and emotional outpouring of respect which Mr. France deserved. It also required each on-air "talent" to step-away from the script and speak from the heart on possibly the most difficult topic of the year.

The network had all their NASCAR "big boys" on display, and they each lent credibility to ESPN's NASCAR Countdown with their years of NASCAR experience. This was the type of beginning to this show that fans deserve to see each and every race. This was not a week for Suzy Kolber to ask Dale Jarrett how it feels to go fast or if the race car has air conditioning.

Last week at Dover, Kolber switched the focus of NASCAR Countdown almost totally to the NEXTEL Cup Series. Not knowing anything about the sport, one might feel that this could be expected. Unfortunately for the Busch Series, this is their only pre-race show, and they were basically not even mentioned.

The Daly Planet has a column from June 2nd detailing the fact that somehow ESPN had decided the big story of the week was that Dale Earhardt Jr. had signed Jeremy McGrath to a driver development contract. This story was weeks old, and had absolutely nothing to do with the Busch Series. All the actual Busch Series stories were sitting right there at the track, untold and ignored.

This week at Nashville, Bestwick introduced the starting line-up right out of commercial. Rusty's son Steve was on the pole, and he has been exciting and controversial all season long. Bestwick then did a full track description, and even recapped qualifying with video highlights. With lots of NEXTEL Cup drivers trying to pull double-duty, Mike Massaro interviewed Carl Edwards who had arrived by helicopter with only minutes to spare for his qualifying effort. This was strong Busch Series information provided without the feeling of being overshadowed by the NEXTEL Cup gang.

This stand-alone Busch race allowed ESPN to finally focus on the series that they paid millions to acquire, and they did. Rusty Wallace shared his memories of how the Busch Series "saved" his career and gave him the toe-hold in NASCAR to become a superstar. He said "the Busch Series builds character." That is the message that The Daly Planet has been trying to get to ESPN all season long. No one is tuning-in to see a NEXTEL Cup practice session with a checkered flag at the end. Fans want to know who the new guys are, why there are here, and where they came from. The stories are right in front of ESPN's face.

As Bestwick transitioned to the team in the announce booth, once again it was clear that this role as the host of NASCAR Countdown is perfect for him. What problem ESPN has with him is unknown. Why the network is inserting a busy "non-NASCAR" football reporter into the mix is unknown. What is known is that ESPN has tried Chris Fowler, Brent Musburger, and Erik Kuselias in this role since February and they have all failed miserably.

ESPN adamantly refuses to accept a "NASCAR guy" like Bestwick as their host. It must be an "ESPN guy" like Fowler, Musburger, Kuselias, or now Kolber. This is despite the fact that all the "ESPN guys" have known absolutely nothing about NASCAR. Let me say that again. The "ESPN guys" assigned to host NASCAR Countdown have known absolutely nothing about NASCAR. I think Chris Fowler might still be in shock.

What does that tell the NASCAR fans? What does that tell the NASCAR management? ESPN was the network that promised to "partner" with NASCAR and continue the growth of the sport. Now we see flat TV ratings and empty stands at Busch races. How is it possible that the "2 + 2 = 4" concept is somehow lost on this network? Would ESPN take an "ESPN guy" who knew nothing about Major League Baseball and have him host Baseball Tonight? Never. The fans and the media would eat him alive.

But, this is NASCAR. The Daly Planet is the only site currently dealing with NASCAR TV issues on a regular basis. ESPN will never criticize itself, and the other networks will never criticize it. To NASCAR writers like Jenna Fryer and Ed Hinton, its all about the racing, not the TV shows. There will be no help from the NASCAR Media Center, even though The Daly Planet is read there every day. Thanks again for the "anonymous" notes of encouragement.

With TNT starting NEXTEL Cup coverage Sunday, ESPN continuing Busch coverage, and SPEED covering the Trucks, don't look for any open and honest discussions of these TV topics anywhere else...but right here. Only you can make a difference in what you see on TV when NASCAR is the subject matter. This season, many NASCAR TV issues have been affected, and many changes have been made, because of your feedback.

Instead of sending an email to ESPN's NASCAR Now and taking a chance that someone is reading it, post your comments here and know that top TV executives, NASCAR journalists, and influential people in racing stop here every day. Let's give praise where it is due, and work for change where it is needed.

The Daly Planet invites comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below. There is nothing to join, no passwords to select, and no reporting of IP or email information. We just want to hear what you have to say.

If you would like to forward email, but not be published, please email anytime. Thanks again for stopping by and reading our discussion about the NASCAR TV partners.


Janet said...


Marilyn said...

I heartily agree with you about Alan Bestwick. He is professinal, very knowledgeable and able to keep the program running smoothly without making someone uncomfortable. (Like Dale Jarrett answering all of Kolbers' questions when she should have known about NASCAR before being put in that position). I really hope that ESPN keeps Bestwick in the Pre race show for not only Busch races, but Cup races when they start televising them. I also would like to see and hear him on the NASCAR Now show. Keep up the good work, maybe it will be successful.


Anonymous said...

Alan is the best! Please leave him as host. All the others ESPN has tried as NASCAR dumb. Ms. whats's her name is no better. Please allow Alan to do what he does best and your ratings on ESPN will go up. Otherwise, people are not going to listen or tune in to fake NASCAR commentators.

RI8girl said...

I would like to add my two cents. First, about Alan Bestwick. I have always thought he was one of the best all around 'on air talent' in NASCAR broadcasting either in the booth, on pit road, or anchoring Inside Nextel cup. I quit watching that show the week they kicked him off. I don't particularly care for Dave Dispane but it was more the unceramonious way SPEED dumped AB that sent me away. I could just feel that Johnny Benson was on the hook and if Shreader went that was the whole show. It seems to me that one of the things that ESPN misses in the equation is how attached the FAN has become to the mixing of 'on air talen' at SPEED, NBC, TNT and FOX. It is somehow not Race Day without Webber's bad jokes, Wally's world (or DW terrifying Hammond), DW, Larry Mac and Mike Joy in the booth; Hammond's goggle lines and Meyer's impression of Henny Youngmen in the hotel; Or AB, Doctor Dirt, Matty, Wendy or Krista (the only two competent female talent yet) in the pits. Capped off nicely by the bookend show to Race Day with Kenny, Jimmy, JR and Steve Byerns at the end of the day. Wether ESPN likes it or not they must come to terms with the fact that the Broadcasters and their producers et al are as important to fan enjoyment as an addiquite number of bathrooms in the daga infield or not missing a restart or a wreck because they were in commercial. In the new NASCAR nation I think it is more important for SPEED and ESPN to help 'hook' the fan. Not as many of us as can go to a track, any track, than can turn on the TV Thursday for Quals and spend the whole weekend feeling as if we are AT THE RACE. All the more incentive for us to TRY and actually get to a track when we can instead of spending that vacation money on another venue. This is not to say that ESPN doesn't have its own excellent NASCAR talent, but they need to wake up and integrate with the folkes that have kept us watching while they were somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

I would just like ESPN (Entirely Stupid Prerace Network) to know that it sure sucks right now and would be wise to listen to the people that actually know NASCAR. Suzy Kolber is hot as hell on the football field and thats where she belongs, thats what she knows, and thats what she's good at. I'm an electrician..the plumbers and carpenters never ask me to do their jobs!

Anonymous said...

I say DITTO, DITTO, DITTO! Allen is the best announcer there is in Nascar. Who doesn't know that doesn't watch much Nascar. TV ratings are way down on all races, so Nascar better wise up or there won't be anyone watching their screwed up races with screwed up rules.

KE said...

When it was announced that NASCAR was heading back to ESPN, I was overjoyed. I had visions of RPMtonight in my head. Quality in every show. Fond memories of the wonderfully knowledgeable announcers of the races. Announcing that complimented the races. BUT THEN, reality hit. NASCAR NOW presented itself as amateurish at best, laughable & embarrassing daily. To be honest though, the daily didn't last long for me. There was way too little of Boris & Stacey & Mart, but way too much of the joker/village idiot/the uninformed. SO, I of course stopped watching. There is only so much to see at a train wreck before one must move on. THEN, I read on 'The Daily Planet' that Alan had surfaced, although for limited sightings only. Now I tune in just for the chance to see AB, with the hope of an informed, smooth, interesting,a nd professional show. If the show starts with anyone but AB, I'm back to TVLand. At least with the Beav, Gomer, Cousin It and Lurch I have a chance of some intelligent conversation.

If it's Alan Bestwick, I'll stick around. If not....I'm not into torture.

Chuck said...

I just wonder how deep into the season the networks/on-air talent think they have to "educate" the viewer. To constantly replow the same ground, race after race, is condesending to the viewer. I, for one, am glad Fox's time is up. It gets tiresome with McReynolds and Waltrip leaving no second without sound. Sometimes the race is more important and since it is television the pictures can tell us just as much as the commentators.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately ESPN took a step backwards Sunday morning by unearthing Eric K. for its pre-race show. At least SPEED's RACEDAY overlapped ESPN's debacle- although Boris Said is always good. There MIGHT be hope, but I'm not convinced ESPN appreciates NASCAR fans yet.

Erni said...

I have agree with all the comments concerningalan Bestwick. He is one of the most knowledgeable broadcasters out there. I also DITTO on speeds decision concerning Inside Nextel Cup. I also do not watch since Dispain repalced Alan. I Dispise Dispain!! I sent several letters at the time with NO response from Speed channel. However, I have lived up to my word. I do not watch and when Alan was there I NEVER missed an episode. It is Way too structured now. Before it was like listening in to the drivers sitting around talking after the race.
As for TNT on todays race at Pocono, I was not impressed at all. They also need to improve their personel. Fox does such a great job that they are hard to beat.

Anonymous said...

ESPN stinks------period!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SophiaZ123 said...

I also MISS the OLD INC and I only got to watch it a couple of years just recently getting SPEED. While Mikey could dominate, that show was MUST WATCHING with Kenny S there and Johnny B and the occassional Herman. I like Despain but the rotating guest hosts and screwing up the chemistry was a STUPID idea by the young punk that took over SPEED CHANNEL. If it wasn't broke, why the hell "fix it" ?? The feeling of old friends in my living room on Monday night was a TREAT.

ESPN: This is NOT THE GLORY DAYS OF NASCAR. I love watching old racing on ESPN CLassic. WHY? Less graphics and stupid ANIMATED CRAP on the screen. JUST, dare I say it...THE Cars! Instant replays were just that, not seconds of stupid animation taking up time before showing the replay, more stupid animation nowadays, and then back to the race.


For the love of God, STOP with all the NOISE and GRAPHICS just to introduce a fricking show or a race.

And the girls HAVE TO GO. Between their grating voices and idiocy on NASCAR, JUST LEAVE us the BEST FEMALE reporters in NASCAR, Krista Voda and Wendy Venturini. Please give us NASCAR GUYS to the pre show, like AB.

Do NOT FORCE NASCAR FANS to sit thru some insipid host du jour, as they use their training wheels to learn the ABC's of NASCAR.

If you continue to insult us real race fans, the ratings will continue to STINK.

Thanks to the Daly Planet for allowing us to voice opines here. I am grateful for the chance.

But if I have to sit thru one more idiotic host on the pre race show, or NASCAR NOW, somebody needs to be FIRED and heads roll at ESPN. They should be ashamed with the brand they have put on NASCAR.

Can NASCAR fire ESPN??


Your choices in PRODUCTION are pathetic.

Whew, I feel better, now.

Thanks be to this site.


Anonymous said...

Bestwick is great. The show was filled with great information about the Busch series drivers, some of whom will be future stars. It was nice to start hearing from and seeing some of them.

While I like Kolber in her football role on ESPN, she was clearly out of place in NASCAR land. Quit trying to force an ESPN "personality" at us and expecting us to like it. Bestwick has a great TV presence, has immense credibility with fans, drivers, owners, crew, and NASCAR, and can bring out the best in his surrounding broadcast team.

This was a great broadcast and shows what ESPN NASCAR coverage can be.

Oh, and by the way, any comments about such things go unanswered by ESPN from the e-mails I've sent. Hopefully this will help with the cause.

Bestwick needs to be the permanant "host" of NASCAR on ESPN.

Anonymous said...

I am very upset with ESPN preempting the busch races for other sports. I have set my DVR to record the races more than once only to find a baseball game in its place when I go to watch it. I don't understand why Nascar would put up with this.

I also think AB should be a permanent host on either ESPN or TNT. He is one of the best. After the coverage on Fox ends its hard to watch the second half of the season with Bill Weber. Alan would add a much needed boost to the second half of the season.

Anonymous said...

ESPN, Are you listening? Good, now I want you really hear this. It's easy to understand and quite logical and will make your ratings improve. MMMM, better ratings...O.K., here goes.


I hope you get the message. I'll stop now as I don't want to overdue it.



A NASCAR fan who wants the best in the booth...

Dot said...

Since this is the website to bag on ESPN, here I go. Allen Bestwick is the one and only for race coverage on any show on ESPN.

Onto another annoying ploy by ESPN...why do they show who wins a race on the bottom line when it isn't even over yet, or on tape delay? This happened a couple of weeks ago regarding a truck race.

Go HMS! said...

ri8girl said it. NASCAR fans are very attached to their on air personalities. The only thing that is saving NASCAR Now is that it is on daily. But I can get the same information from my favorite race annalyst, with genuine comments, from,, or Jayski.

Bring back Alan!!!!

P.S. We do not need to listen 8 or 9 crew chiefs/spotters at the start of the race. All I hear is gibberish...