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.
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