Saturday, June 2, 2007
ESPN Busch Series Pre-Race Show Never Mentions The Busch Race
Many NASCAR fans felt that the story of the weekend for ESPN would be the introduction of Suzy Kolber as the host of NASCAR Countdown. ESPN has been struggling with this program since it began in February. Kolber is a pleasant TV professional, and her on-air presence is calming.
The goal of NASCAR Countdown is to preview the Busch Series race that day, and look back on the previous race. Add-in the current Busch Series news, the driver changes, and the conditions at the track and the result is a nice, fast-paced preview show. ESPN made a deal with NASCAR while negotiating this TV contract that the network would return the focus to the Busch Series. This struggling sport has been on the decline, and did not even bring a full field of cars to Dover.
Very effectively, Kolber led the panel of Brad Daugherty, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, and the pit reporters through a discussion of many topics during the pre-race show. Her first question to the drivers involved the COT, a car not racing in the Busch Series. Her second question involved NEXTEL Cup racing, as did her third and beyond. Then, the pit reporters did their on-air features. None of them related in any way to the Busch Series race about to start. Once again, ESPN had shot itself in the foot.
The big feature of the show was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his signing of Jeremy McGrath to a driver development deal. McGrath is running a regional NASCAR Series, which ESPN's NASCAR Now has refused to report on, or even acknowledge.
Earlier this season, they did one story on McGrath's signing and have never mentioned him again. Today, for some reason, in the middle of the Dover Busch Series pre-race, there was McGrath. In the on-camera that followed, Jamie Little talked about where McGrath was racing this weekend. This story had nothing to do with Dover, nothing to do with the Busch Series, and was very old news. It will be interesting to see if NASCAR Now reports on his results.
The following discussion with the panel related to drivers switching series, but absolutely never mentioned the Busch Series or the race at hand in Dover. Bowyer and Busch talked intelligently about the topic, and ended the discussion with an awkward comment from Daugherty.
Then, a brief moment in the show actually relating to the Busch Series happened. Travis Kvapil was in for an ailing Jon Wood, who had the flu. That was it, nothing more. For some strange reason, the Busch Series had the audacity to intrude on the ESPN pre-race show. I guess its safe to assume if Jon Wood had not gotten sick, the Busch Series would not have been mentioned...period.
Casey Mears was next up, and his discussion was centered on NEXTEL Cup and his first win. Mears tried to steer the discussion back to the Busch Series, but Dave Burns took over and re-directed the commentary back to NEXTEL Cup. Give credit to Mears for trying to insert some Busch Series content in this show.
As Kolber dismissed both drivers, Busch and Bowyer made their picks in today's race. Unfortunately, viewers could not identify with their brief picks, because no where in the Busch Series pre-race show did we meet any of the Busch Series drivers or see their cars.
There were great Busch stories at Dover, including Marcos Ambrose qualifying third, and Scott Wimmer just missing the pole after all his struggles. Apparently, this did not matter when there are NEXTEL Cup items to be discussed.
Many months ago, ESPN never mentioned the Busch Series race during the NASCAR Countdown show from Talladega. They were so obsessed with "the big one" and the NEXTEL Cup stories, even the on-air announce crew for the Busch race never spoke about it. Then, we thought it was just a mistake, today is it just plain embarrassing.
After watching SPEED's Krista Voda lead the Craftsman Truck crew through their pre-race show called Set-Up, it was amazing to watch ESPN totally ignore the very series there were on-hand to preview. What else can be said? It was just flat-out amazing. Do you have the feeling that somewhere Doug Banks is laughing?
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