Saturday, June 16, 2007
ESPN Finally Lets Mike Massaro Shine
Longtime NASCAR fans like to tell Mike Massaro stories. The time Massaro was drowned out by the helicopters because the only place he could do interviews was the helipad. Massaro soaked in the rain on the access road. Massaro leaning into car windows to ask drivers for comments. Race after race, with ESPN kicked out of the NASCAR race tracks, there was Mike Massaro by the side of the road...waiting.
Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, Mike Massaro had to wait no more. Finally, ESPN gave Massaro an opportunity to step-up from pit road and host the Busch Series pre-race show called NASCAR Countdown. The results were fantastic.
Alongside of Rusty Wallace, Massaro got right into the Earnhardt Junior story and aired the interview that he had taped on Wednesday with Junior himself. This included the RCR and the "three car" comments that were omitted from NASCAR Now by a technical error. This got the big news out of the way, and allowed Massaro to re-focus the show on the Busch Series.
Massaro made sure to include Brad Daugherty, who is either ESPN's expert analyst or the "voice of the fans," in the Junior comments. As the season has progressed, the racing issues being discussed are more serious and require the perspective of someone who has been there. Judging by the expressions of Rusty Wallace, he perhaps believes that Daugherty is just a little light on experience to be a NASCAR "expert" on national television.
When the Busch Series races as a stand-alone event, there is a feisty and fun spirit that exists in the garage area and on pit road. Its as though a bunch of teenagers have just realized no grown-ups are around and they have the keys to the car. ESPN's pit reporters have been excellent in capturing this spirit and having fun with the drivers. Introducing the new Busch stars was supposed to be an important key to why ESPN is back and telecasting every Busch race. This time, they actually did it.
Massaro has solid experience in dealing with a wide variety of broadcasting situations, and on Saturday that proved to be a big advantage. Massaro directed traffic between the booth, his analysts on the set, Tim Brewer at the cut-a-way car, and the pit reporters. Massaro looked at home on the new high-tech ESPN set, and hosted a fast-paced and fun thirty minutes.
With the impending arrival of Suzy Kolber as the host of NASCAR Countdown, this was a solid audition by Massaro as both her back-up, and the host of the stand-alone Busch Series race preview shows. Earlier this season, Allen Bestwick also stepped-up from pit road and hosted two solid and informative pre-race shows. So, for ESPN, its good to know they also have the worst case scenario covered.
Massaro also manned the infield studio anchor position for Busch qualifying and the race itself, giving the network a good look at his ability to deal with flexible situations in a live environment. Maybe, after all the years of hard work and long nights, ESPN might consider allowing Massaro to host some mid-week editions of NASCAR Now. You know, its always good to have an experienced back-up quarterback waiting on the sidelines. One never knows what trades management might be considering as the season progresses.
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