Friday, July 20, 2007
ESPN Turns The Tide In The Nick Of Time
Not too much attention is focused this weekend on the lone NASCAR "national series" event near St. Louis. At Gateway International Raceway, a lot of Busch Series "regulars" are trying to get some quality national TV exposure on ESPN2.
Friday, the network scheduled back-to-back their daily NASCAR show and the normally boring Busch Series practice session. Surprisingly, this turned-out to be a great decision and a good solid ninety minutes of NASCAR TV.
Once again, Ryan Burr hosted a NASCAR Now show that focused on the Busch Series event, and then broadened-out into the racing stories of the day. ESPN Studio Analyst Stacy Compton could not wipe the smile off his face as he had the opportunity to work with Burr.
Compton was finally allowed to spread his wings, and share his views without interruption. Burr led Compton through a discussion about the upcoming seventeen week NASCAR grind and the fact that the crew members and shop guys have it a lot harder than the drivers. Compton always shoots straight, and he likes to rib the NEXTEL Cup drivers who "lounge around in their motor homes." Did I mention he could not stop smiling?
DJ Copp was next to benefit from Burr's actual NASCAR knowledge. Copp is a DEI employee and pit crew member. Copp got to explain Dale Junior's power steering problems, and did a great job telling fans the information they did not get on the final TNT telecast. This season, Copp has always "just been himself" and has done a great job with his knowledge of the pit crew side of the business.
Then, NASCAR Now profiled a group of people involved in the sport who viewers would not normally see. This time, it was Mike Wallace and his two kids who both race locally in North Carolina. Mike's daughter Chrissy is a hot ticket who has been strong in her driving efforts and could possibly be in the Craftsman Truck Series next season. This tough and headstrong young lady was great in her interviews, and the show followed it up with a live telephone interview with her dad. Mike is a great guy, and he was both a good parent and a good promoter in his interview.
ESPN is continuing to prove that they suddenly "get it" by going out live to Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree at Gateway. They were able to follow up the Wallace family story, preview the upcoming practice, and even pick the favorites for the weekend race. This is exactly what the network needs to show viewers that all the ESPN "pieces" can come together for one reason...to serve the NASCAR fans.
Burr rounded-out the show with a live telephone interview of driver Brent Sherman. Then, Stacy Compton gave a fast-paced "insider" view of Gateway and the race itself. Compton and Burr had fun, picked a winner, and then signed-off by thanking each other by name...imagine that. Polite comes to NASCAR Now.
Who would have imagined that this one week could have been such a turning point for this program series? If ESPN can keep the momentum going with this show, they will have put themselves in a very good position to preview the start of their NEXTEL Cup coverage using NASCAR Now as a daily information source. And, after all, wasn't that the original idea?
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