Monday, July 2, 2007

Here We Come With More "NASCAR Now" Chaos

The familiar voices of Erik Kuselias and Tim Cowlishaw greeted NASCAR fans who tuned-into the one hour Monday edition of NASCAR Now. Also on the set, positioned as the "NASCAR guy," was former Crew Chief Tim Brewer. Taking the place of Stacy Compton, Brewer was the "designated voice of reason" among the very excitable Kuselias and Cowlishaw.

The slow pace and plain-spoken nature of Brewer makes understanding his concepts easy. Brewer is a guy who has "been there" before, and his summary of the NEXTEL Cup race at Loudon was straight forward. Good strategy, and why they did it.

Then, in a very strange moment, Kuselias got Denny Hamlin's Crew Chief on the phone and asked him exactly the same questions Brewer had just answered. Why not give Brewer a chance to do this interview? He was right there on the set. Kuselias asked ridiculous questions that added nothing at all to the story. What a complete waste of time. Did I mention that Tim Brewer was right there on the set? NASCAR Championship Crew Chief...Tim Brewer...who works for ESPN.

One of the toughest parts of the show for fans who want news is watching Kuselias read scripted questions very quickly to the NASCAR Now reporters. This is so rehearsed and structured it might as well be done on videotape and just mailed in. Monday, once again, Kuselias did not allow the reporters to talk freely, or to each other. Just like the situation with Kuselias interviewing Hamlin's Crew Chief, someone other than the ill-informed host should be in charge of this segment.

Often, its been suggested that ESPN favorite Marty Smith should host a daily news segment on NASCAR Now. Letting Smith bring-in the other reporters and give a good overview of the "real" NASCAR scoop would get rid of this scripted nonsense. When NASCAR Now has allowed the reporters to talk freely, and also allowed Mike Massaro to even "host" a news segment, things went quite well.

Massaro showed up next to present a great feature on DEI, and the changes since Junior's announcement. Much like Bill Weber, Massaro is great at putting together solid features on NASCAR topics, and he delivered. Then, he "tagged" the piece on-camera and unfortunately was forced to endure more scripted questions from the host. Kuselias then chased Massaro off the show without as much as a thank you. This guy is just plain "harsh." This is not sports radio...we can see you.

This weekend the Craftsman Truck Series put on a great show in Memphis. Travis Kvapil put the chrome horn to newcomer Brad Keselowski and won in controversial fashion. The Keselowski name is well known in racing, and Brad gave a heart wrenching interview after the finish. The race was exciting, and had a great field including Aric Almirola and Chad McCumbee, two of the hottest drivers in NASCAR. It was absolutely the best race of the weekend.

Unfortunately, the Trucks are on SPEED Channel. Monday, NASCAR Now decided to promote ESPN's drag racing coverage, run a feature on next weekend's Daytona Cup race, and interview Busch driver Eric McClure because he almost flipped his car on Saturday. That is what they did do.

What they did not do was show any highlights of the Craftsman Trucks. There was no interview with the winner, or the hard-luck rookie Keselowski. No "sound bites" from the other competitors, or anyone else. On the one hour show that they specifically expanded to show more highlights, NASCAR's third national touring series was purposefully ignored by ESPN.

Let's re-state some facts. NASCAR Now is the only daily TV show about the sport. ESPN is in partnership with NASCAR in several areas, including international programming and on-line ventures. They are now an integral part of whether NASCAR continues to thrive or whithers away and dies a slow death.

NASCAR Now does not promote any NASCAR races that do not air on ESPN or ABC. They do not cover the Whelen Modified Tour, or any other NASCAR regional racing. They have no "studio presence" in Mooresville, and rely on one "field reporter" Shannon Spake to cover the entire NASCAR community.

This season, they have already fired one "racing illiterate" co-host, and now cling perilously to another only because he is a former "ESPN Radio guy." Allen Bestwick, listed as a NASCAR Now co-host, has done two shows this entire year. Mike Massaro, Shannon Spake, and Marty Smith have never been given even one opportunity to host this show. Ryan Burr, from ESPN News, has never been a consistent presence as a co-host. Once again, as we come into July, NASCAR Now is a mess.

The ABC/ESPN family is a little over three weeks from taking over NASCAR. They will air both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series races exclusively until the end of the season. They will provide the pre-race shows for both series from the infield. They will provide the only daily NASCAR show on TV. They will once again assume the lofty perch that the network occupied seven years ago. ESPN and ABC Sports will become the "face of NASCAR" until the season is over.

This is the final opportunity for NASCAR Now and ESPN itself to shift gears from a "branded" approach promoting only ESPN interests, to one that has the best interests of NASCAR at heart.

Should the only daily TV show about NASCAR continue to refuse to show the sport as a whole, ESPN's own fate with TV viewers and NASCAR fans will soon be sealed.

The big problem is that this time around...NASCAR's eggs are all squarely in ESPN's basket.

The Brickyard 400 is July 29th.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. All email is held in confidence. Thanks again for dropping by.


Anonymous said...

Why should ESPN promote events that aren't on their air? While that truck race is on, do the ESPN family of networks suddenly go to black? NO! They have other programming on. Why in the world should they promote someone else's? For the good of NASCAR? Please.

Furthermore, while their Monday show is an hour wrap show, it is most definitely an hour wrap show of the Nextel Cup race. This has been the formula since the show went to an hour format. The truck race was on Friday. By Monday at 6pm, if you haven't seen the truck highlight, you obviously don't care that much.

You also mention they should cover the Whelen Tour. This seems odd to me. Looking up notable Whelen alumni doesn't reveal a very distinguished list. That being said, ESPN doesn't cover minor league baseball, or AHL hockey. Why then, should they put anything into NASCAR's minor leagues?

I just don't understand where you come from sometimes. Why would you want Tim Brewer interviewing Hamlin's crew chief? So they can swap inside jokes? So they can talk about the good ole days? Kuselias is the host. He does the interviews. It's the format used by every successful television show. You think Brewer could handle the delay of a live shot? You think he could handle a producer in his ear telling him what he needs to do next? I doubt it.

Finally, for all of this "ESPN needs to get their act together" talk, you are clearly missing the point. Do you honestly think there's going to be some huge backlash in the NASCAR community if NASCAR Now doesn't live up to your expectations. People are going to tune into the races whether or not Mike Massaro is there? Right now, it's the "in" thing to do to complain about ESPN. Yet they've provided NASCAR with a face they haven't had in years. Say what you want about Speed, but most people don't even get that channel. I live less than an hour from NYC and Speed is an add on in my Comcast system. I'll take ESPN over what anyone else is giving me. After reading your column each day, you're starting to strike me as the type of person who points out what's wrong with things rather than doing something to fix them. Just what the world needs, another problem identifier rather than problem solver.

projectpappy09 said...

I was really ticked when Kuselias called the McClure wreck "the highlight of the year for the Busch Series." I mean, all ESPN needs to see is their Aerosmith piece they produced Saturday on ABC to catch all of the great moments this season.

BTW, Ryan Burr somehow managed to host the Sunday late-night edition of NASCAR Now, despite hosting "The Blitz" on ESPNEWS while the race was going on. That's kinda odd.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting ABC/ESPN could have used two of the cameras for the Busch race at Loudon to get the last lap of the Whelen Modified race to at least be able to make reference on NASCAR Now?

Wouldn't have been any extra work since the Modified race ended right before ABC's Busch race.

Gilbert Sam, Jr. said...

NASCAR Now is the poorest quality show on ESPN related to news/host and panelist discussion..

This is coming from an 24/7 ESPN watcher. NFL Countdown, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight, College Gamenight, and etc. This is like watching Karl Ravech [MLB guy] covering March Madness, only when he's watching spring baseball.. I would love to know, the NASCAR knowledge Erik K. had prior to this year. It's soo annoying to watch him read off he's card, or teleprompter..

What is more sad, Erik wasn't that great even on ESPN radio.. And they let go of Todd Wright on ESPN Radio, when only to promote this joke?

I love the blog, keep it up...

And ESPN: PLLEASSSEEE give Mike Massaro a chance!!!

David said...

RPM2Night, I miss it for a reason. Totally NASCAR was the only serious and legit attempt at covering ALL of NASCAR since. Sure enough, that got squashed as well. Explain to me why the good shows get killed in favor of the self-righteous biased ones? Everything you mentioned is the exact reason I have never ever watched an entire episode of NASCAR Now. SIRIUS has me covered and the people I listen to actually know what they are talking about (even most of the callers!).

Joe from Philly said...

to the first "Anonymous"

You make a valid point about ESPN not having to cover events not shown on their network but I think Mr. Daly's point is that maybe viewership would be better if they did??

I get the impression that it's being pointed out as an alternative to the garbage they supply on the show as it stands. Kinda like: "hey, rather than sit here and argue about this, let's go have a beer! Sounds like a better option doesn't it? While I may not care much about the trucks by Monday, I'd certainly prefer it to listening to a talking head read nonsense from a script....

I think your points just bring home the problem with network sports coverage today. It's about self promotion rather than giving viewers something that brings them back.

You use "why should they?" as an argument for status quo. I believe "why shouldn't we" is a valid argument in asking for better.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good question and statement, as posed in the first post:

"You think Brewer could handle the delay of a live shot? You think he could handle a producer in his ear telling him what he needs to do next? I doubt it."

I agree, if Brewer interviewed Hamlin's CC, it would be better-on radio. As you know, TV is tightly scripted due to all the time constraints and hard breaks.

It does not excuse NOT using someone like Alan intead of Eric as the host, but may explain why the task of interviewing falls to the host with a script.

Jason said...

To Mr. Anonymous (the first one):

You sir are missing the point and that is producing a show that is informative and does not talk down to the fan base it is supposed to serve.

You want Brewer interviewing Hamlin's crew chief because is capable of asking questions that are informative to the viewers and he has some credibility behind his interviewing skill. He as a NASCAR "insider" is going to be able to get a better answer than someone like Kuselias who ask scripted questions that are inane and have been asked and answered 100 time already. The drivers and crew chiefs alike get tired of answering the same old stuff over and over again and their answers and tone will reflect that.

ESPN is paying a lot of money to NASCAR to show these events. Fine, they have a right to ignore the other series that are broadcast on other channels. But they are hosting a show call NASCAR Now not Nextel Cup and Busch Now and it is a bit of a misnomer to say we cover NASCAR when really all you are covering is the two series you broadcast.

ESPN is looking at the sport as a cash cow. But they are treating the fans like black sheep in the tone their daily news show takes. Interviewing people and asking basic questions like some cub reporter fresh from the farm does a disservice to the very people who would gladly watch a show like NASCAR Now.

As far as Mr. Daly "doing something to fix them", I believe by pointing out the shortcomings of ESPN's coverage he is giving them a large bag of clues on how to fix the problems before they are entrusted with coverage of Nextel Cup and the Chase.

Kevin in Indy said...

Hey Mr. Anonymous, yeah you the first "commenter". I can see your point about not showing highlights of the minor NASCAR series like, Whelen. They could show, as they are going to commercial break, a listing of the standings in these series. It's obvious that L'il Erik with a "k" has no knowledge whatsoever of anything related to NASCAR. His delivery is grating and annoying. I have stopped watching this show because it's apparent ESPN does not care about having somebody with actual "cred" (as L'il Erik with a "k" likes to say) with NASCAR and it's fans. As for John only being a "problem identifier" rather than a "problem solver", you must not read his columns in their entirety. He has given numerous examples on numerous occasions as to what ESPN could do to improve NASCAR Now.

Anonymous said...

To the 1st Anonymous:

Using your logic ESPN should not show any of the Nextel Cup Series highlights either as that is not on their network and they have other shows airing while it is on Fox and TNT. As for the Truck race being on Friday and the show being on Monday well, if you follow the truck series you would know that sometimes the race on Saturdey too.

While Tim Brewer may not be able to handle the delay of a live shot it is obvious that Kuselias can not understand the answers to his scripted questions. He is stiff as a host and when an answer would lead to a more detailed question Kuselias has no idea what that question would be, he just reads the script. If the host is just going to read from a script they should at least put someone on who is good looking, I'll take Shannon Spake in a low cut top reading from a telepromter over the joke they have as a host now.

Anonymous said...

Talk about problem solving....ESPN should bring back RPM2Night and host John Kernan. Those were the days!!! That show had credibility and would be a great solution to ESPN's re-entry into the sport. Kernan as host + Massaro + Brewer + Marty Smith would be a Dream Team! I, for one, would watch it every night! As is, you couldn't pay me to watch Nascar Now....

Check this out for some good memories:

Vince said...

To the first poster, you obviously aren't a long time NASCAR fan. First off like others here have said, the name of this show is NASCAR Now, not Nextel Cup Now. The Busch, Trucks and modifieds are all a part of NASCAR. I expect NASCAR Now to cover all of them plus other NASCAR weekly series. Especially on the expanded Monday show. An hour is just plain too long to talk about that weeks Cup race alone.

You Mr. Anonymous, the first guy, say you live an hour from NYC. Is it possible you are employed by ESPN in some capacity? I know you're not Erik K., because I seriously doubt he knows how to use a computer let alone get on to the Internet.

All of John D.'s comments about NASCAR Now are valid and he has given numerous examples of how ESPN could fix this show. As have us constant readers of this blog given our input on how this show could be made better.

As always I'm DVR'ing NASCAR Now daily and when I play it back later, if Erik K. is the host I just hit the delete button. I refuse to watch or listen to that hack any further.

Keep up the good work John. 99.9% of us are with you.


Jerry, Edgewater FL said...

I'm glad I came upon this site because I've been fuming since ESPN again became part of the NASCAR broadcasting family. If their performance up to this point is any example of what they have to offer in the near future things look bleak for NASCAR fans. I'm sick and tired of tuning into supporting events and "NASCAR Now" to find the programing preempted by tennis, baseball, poker, etc. If this is what we have to look forward to Brian France made a big mistake here. What is ESPN's commitment to NASCAR fans? I can only wonder.

David said...

On the John Kernan front: I doubt he would accept because he is quite happy where he is at with SIRIUS. At least that is what he says, also that he can state his opinion rather then merely report the stories.

Rese Davis didn't do too bad when he was in the RPM2Night Chair.

Monkeesfan said...

The most idiotic view on this issue is anonymous #1 when he asks, "Why should ESPN promote events that aren't on their air?" Because, as an all-sports network, that is part of their job - to cover sports, not just promote itself.

"Looking up notable Mod Tour alumni doesn't reveal a very distinguished list." It doesn't? And you obviously have not seen their races - they, not the Trucks, are usually the best racing in town as far as NASCAR goes. Last year at NHIS the Modifieds fought so hard for the win that all the top NASCAR brass was still buzzing with excitement about it - I know because I caught Jim Hunter in the NHIS garage before the NE 300 and he brought it up out of the blue.

"Why would you want Tim Brewer interviewing Hamlin's crew chief?" So Brewer can ask better questions than the other studio guys can.

ESPN has provided NASCAR with nothing. "A face they haven't had in years?" What are you talking about? What exactly was the sport missing when ESPN wasn't there?