Monday, July 30, 2007

"NASCAR Now" The Day After Indy

ESPN had waited a long time to return to the "big stage" in NASCAR. They spent millions to invest in both the NASCAR Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series. In addition, they originated a daily NASCAR news and information show called NASCAR Now.

Monday, the one hour version of NASCAR Now took to the airwaves on the day after the first Busch and NEXTEL Cup weekend for ESPN in many years. At the track, ESPN had eleven on-air announcers covering the Brickyard 400, including Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett. For the Busch race, they had veteran Marty Reid and the colorful Randy LaJoie along with three pit reporters. With Shannon Spake doing double-duty in the pits, ESPN had fifteen on-air talent in Indy.

NASCAR Now started off not with Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree voicing over the highlights, but with inexperienced studio host Erik Kuselias trying his best to call the action at the Brickyard. Where was the ESPN NASCAR announce team? Why did they not include helping this show as a mandatory post-race activity? Send a "wrap package" to NASCAR Now.

Things went from bad to absolutely the worst when race winner Tony Stewart appeared on-camera. He was not being interviewed by one of the five ESPN pit reporters, and was not in the million dollar ESPN Infield Studio. He was sitting in the Media Center, providing what is called the "pool feed" for all the reporters. ESPN reporters did not even ask the questions. The "sound bites" with the Brickyard 400 winner came from the Media Center. How strange that Stewart had time for SPEED's Victory Lane program, but not ESPN.

SPEED Channel, which did not play any role in the race, had a post-race pit road interview with Kevin Harvick that appeared on both the SPEED Report and Victory Lane Sunday night. On Monday, ESPN used a graphic to type out Harvick's comments on-screen. Despite having five reporters on pit road and exclusive rights to "first interviews," they had no video of their own.

Incredibly, Shannon Spake voiced-over a "wrap package" that contained the same Media Center "pool" feed sound from Jeff Gordon. Spake did her best with limited resources to use interviews from the race itself to round-out her report. Once again, there was no primary post-race sound from the network itself in this piece.

Jamie Little's in-race interview with Jimmie Johnson was included on NASCAR Now because host Erik Kuselias found it amazing that Johnson had singed his eyebrows. Reporter Marty Smith was called-in to actually talk about Johnson's "mental status." Once again after this hype, analyst Stacy Compton on the studio set told Kuselias it was all a sham. Racing luck is fickle said Compton, and Johnson will be just fine. Basically, Compton refuted anything else Kuselias tried to offer on this subject.

Then, NASCAR Now did a brief recap of several drivers using the interviews from the ESPN pit reporters. None of this sound was created for this program, and the piece was disjointed because apparently that is all the "content" the NASCAR Now production team had to work with.

This recap missed two outstanding stories of the race. First, amid all the merger controversy, Mark Martin finished in sixth as a DEI driver. Second, the underfunded rag-tag "State Water Heaters" single car "made the race on time" team of Ward Burton finished fourteenth. Top twenty at the Brickyard for a single car part-time team.

Kuselias paid lip service to ESPN's Saturday night Busch race at ORP, but never even mentioned ESPN's own Marty Reid as the announcer providing the play-by-play for the highlight package. There was no interview of the winner, no "wrap package" from the ESPN announcers, and after a peek at the standings...NASCAR Now moved on. Did I mention it was the first ever Busch win for Toyota?

As The Daly Planet has mentioned on several occasions, ESPN likes to make people "pick things." Their latest time-filler on NASCAR Now is called "racer or chaser." Rather than offer more news or information, Stacy Compton was asked to look into the future and predict who would make "The Chase" and who would not. No feature on this program is more amateur or ridiculous. On the day after the first ESPN NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race since 2000, it was just embarrassing.

Late in the show, NASCAR "Insiders" Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis showed-up to address some issues. Kuselias tried to suggest that Marty Smith was "one of the few" people who talked to Kevin Harvick after the race. That might have flown, had SPEED not used interview sound in both their Sunday night shows of Harvick right after he exited his car. Nice try, but no sale.

Chengelis updated the Kyle Busch contract story by telling viewers that something should be sorting itself out this week. She has been good at keeping this story up-to-date and accurate. Smith once again was asked to say that Mountain Dew and Pepsi were the key players for Junior next season. This information was made public by Smith last week.

Smith again refuted Kuselias claims that Jimmie Johnson's troubles are due to the absence of Chad Knaus on the pit box. "Absolutely not" was the Smith response, who has to be tired at this time in the season of repeatedly responding to the endless hype and speculation of Kuselias.

For some strange reason, the program then took a turn into a pre-recorded interview hosted by Kuselias with Kurt Busch. It may have been taped some time ago, when Busch was a guest at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT. Kuselias is a sports radio talk show host who has transitioned to TV without any additional experience. His interview with Busch quickly took on a hard-edge with questions aimed at the personal problems and public issues Kurt has experienced. Busch never smiled the entire time, and eventually looked like a deer in the headlights. There was no explanation of why this appeared on-the-air Monday after the Brickyard.

After a brief Pocono preview and some final thoughts on Indy by Stacy Compton, Kuselias closed the show by saying the words fans have come to dread when watching ESPN.."Here comes Aerosmith." That's right, ESPN has removed the email address at the end of the show for fan suggestions and inserted the NASCAR on ESPN theme song as the close. That has to be some kind of statement by the network.

In this program, viewers never saw Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree talk about the race they had just called on ESPN. They never saw the winner interviewed in the ESPN Infield Studio by Suzy Kolber and Brad Daugherty. The ESPN telecast host Brent Musburger never appeared to "sum up" ESPN's first race back in NASCAR after many years and thank the viewers.

To NASCAR Now, this week was just another race on the schedule. There was no perspective on the network's return. No interviews of the network executives, race producer, or even drivers about ESPN being there once again. In the disjointed and ego-driven world of ESPN, there was absolutely no cooperation between the people producing the event, and the people producing NASCAR Now.

What a shame that viewers could not hear Rusty and DJ's reactions to the race and hear the winner interviewed by the ESPN announcers. What a shame that the stories featured on the Internet websites about the race never made it to this one hour show. What a shame that Toyota's first Busch Series win did not result in a winner interview. What a shame that ESPN refuses to show Truck Series highlights because they race on SPEED.

For the first show after ESPN's return to NEXTEL Cup, NASCAR Now was just...a shame.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion.


Anonymous said...

Many times I feel that you are too harsh and focus on thiings that would not really upset the casual fan. I agree 100% that TNT totally dropped the ball and God knows I'm glad that part of the season is over. The ESPN race coverage is "ok" by my book. Yes, we get rid of Musberger. What did you think of the "draft tracks"? Also, what about staying with the Kane interview while all hell is breaking loose on the track? Great insight on the Nascar Now show today. Where were the exclusive interviews and wrap ups? Not here. Sometimes I think you are too negative, but I know realize you are looking at it from a different angle and when I read these columns, it makes me think that we are getting screwed as race fans until they get off their ass and give us better content. Get rid of Kusilias!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think after the past two days, one thing has finally been proven and confirmed. The new "Higher-Ups" at ESPN have never watched, nor have never cared about NASCAR, and are only using NASCAR as a way to promote "their" people. They believe that NASCAR is just glorified wrestling where "controversy" and "hype" are the only important things that happen in this series. You never see this type of coverage of "stick and ball" sports. All reporters are in studio all the time, the hosts actually watch the sports they cover and only important news stories and highlights are shown on these shows. And guess what? Sometimes, even the people calling the games are spoken to?

Now, while ESPN2 is the place for the trashy NASCAR Now show, guess what Sportscenter showed over the weekend? During every report on the race this past weekend, it wasn't Eric K "playing" host of the tease, it was Mike Massaro live from Indy, in a suit, in the pit studio, with the words "NASCAR Now" under him and some of ESPN's reporters. Now if Mike is good enough for Sportscenter, isn't he good enough for the real show? said...

It was funny on hear Suzy Kolber explain on Sportscenter Sunday night that ESPN wasn't able to talk to Kevin Harvick because he "left the track without talking to the media". Needless to say I was shocked when I watched the re-air of Speed's NASCAR Victory Lane on Monday morning and saw Bob Dillner interviewing Harvick beside his car on pit road after the race. I guess no one working for ESPN thought it would be a good idea to send one their many reporters to the area of the #29 car because the 7th place finisher wasn't a good enough story. Either that or they just got confused because he was driving an orange car this week and didn't know where to find his car.

NASCAR Now sucks. The only good part of the show is when Marty Smith gets the chance to shut down Erik Kuselius every time he asks a stupid question. Sometime last week on the show Kuselius must have made the following tease 3 times during the broadcast: "What effect did Toyota have on the DEI-Ginn marger? We'll ask our expert (Marty Smith) later in the show." When that segment finally happened Smith calmly answered "None". Great job by the scripted question writer for ESPN!

Fellow NASCAR fans, we will get a little bit of break from ESPN in a few weeks at Michigan. That week ESPN must have something more important to do all week because they're not doing any practice or qualifying shows. What does that mean for us? We get to go back to the pre-ESPN days when Speed channel was allowed to televise EVERY Cup practice (even the Friday and Saturday morning sessions ESPN usually has the exclusive rights to but chooses to do nothing with) and show a qualifying session in a fashion that lets the fans see EVERY car run. I can't wait!

cwebs said...

Right on, John!!! What a wasted opportunity. ESPN really had a chance here to put NN on the map, but they instead chose to continue the same ridiculousness that has prevailed all year long. The fact that they had to use the pool feed Media Center interview of the winning driver says it all. I was especially amazed that they resorted to using graphic representations of each question instead of just using the original sound from the non-ESPN reporters who asked the questions in the Media Center. Maybe they aren't allowed to use that sound? I really don't know, but the use of the graphics to present the questions was notably odd.

I'm guessing ESPN would eschew the use of any footage and/or sound that didn't involve their own cameras or reporters anyway, just on principle. Basically, if ESPN didn't cover it, then it didn't happen. It's a shame that our country's premier sports network operates this way. Maybe it's time for someone (Rupert Murdoch?) to step up and challenge the boys of Bristol...

RH, Phila. said...

While I read the comments left by people, I wonder why they still whatch? I don't because I know it is terrible. I like your blog though because it is funny to see someone kill ESPN for their broadcasts. If you listen to ESPN radio or watch sprotscenter, it's become the same over-covered, over-hyped BS. I've stopped listening/watching those also. Look people, it will only change if you stop watching and affect the ratings. I do feel for the diehard NASCAR fans just looking for a quality daily news show. Get XM and listen to Claire B. She always has good info and good interviews.

SophiaZ123 said...

WOW!! Just when I thought N Now could not get any worse, it apparently DID. I am no longer sorry I missed it.
GOOD GRIEF. WHAT is the &^% deal??? If I hadn't read about the nonsense here, I never would've believed it.

Sounds like an hour of wasted tv time and the Kurt B interview is totally bogus since he has to be one of th most UNPOPULAR drivers (he and his arrogant/ungrateful brother Kyle)

thanks for the full report John.

I give ESPN a big fat F and I did not have to see the show to see how lame it was. Geez. I watched on the race yesterday...

Can SOMEBODY tell me how LONG the ESPN contract is with NASCAR??

They must all be laughing to the bank while we, the fans get screwed.

Thank GOD FOR SPEED! Try to get it ...and if you can NOT afford it, ask a good friend to get it for you for Christmas...that's how I got digital. :-) Plus we had to bump up a tier for SPEED. Living on a strict budget I could not justify UPGRADING to digital and the boxes to two TV boxes. But I NEVER attend races or go out much due to medical reasons and SPEED IS A TREAT!

Cut back on the junk food, if you smoke, give up the smokes, or something and SPEED. It is worth it for the NASCAR shows, SPEED REPORT (To keep up even on the racing we may not watch) Wind Tunnel, Inside Nextel Cup (when Schrader is on, I STILL LOVE this show and I DO like DESPAIN) and the other racing. (though some of their night time shows STINK like Pinks, Unique whips, etc)

Also, though I am annoyed it's on two hours instead of one, I enjoy Race day and VL.

Thanks to John and all the fellow posters with like minded thinking for us to blow off steam.

I saved myself an hour of TV "I thought I missed" from catching the last 2 minutes tonight.

Also, is it REALLY TRUE Michigan is going to have SPEED COVERAGE AGAIN!?

Woo hoo...I am going to have to bake a cake for that weekend or one of my coffee crumb cakes. That's worth celebrating. It's pathetic doing this alone as my friends are SO NOT into NASCAR and think I have lost me mind just getting into it in 2004 but I digress.

Thanks for the person who mentioned that on this site. I thought ESPN had "EXCLUSIVE" racing rights the rest of the season. Will watch for MI.


Lisa Foster said...

I didn't care much for their race broadcast and NASCAR NOW doesn't do much for me either. All of this talk
about how great their NASCAR coverage was, maybe they should take a look at their own old race broadcast footage.
It sucks, they kind of have you by the throat, if you can't see it in person, then it's either them or MRN.

Scott said...

I just hope and pray all the media folks and NASCAR media types are reading this. WOW!! What great information and how stupid are the ones producing this junk week after week. Three kids in a garage with a home movie camera could do better. I would like to suggest to those going to college majoring in communications and TV radio and journalism, please learn from NASCAR NOW and ESPN. Don't be like them. How embarrassing this must be to them and their peers in the media. Great column. Keep up the good work and all of you email this to ESPN executives as soon as possible, and maybe even the sponsers that are helping fund this scam of a show.

jimicement said...

Scott, thet do read this blog. Mr. Daly has mentioned this before. This is why I find it so crazy that they would go forward with the same-old same-old. It's not working and getting worse. NASCAR Now just took strike three (maybe they'll understand that!!!). My TiVo is now missing NN for recording. I know know I will get nothing out of it any longer. Maybe Bestwick knows what he's doing and knows to stay far away from this waste of time?!

Anonymous said...

nascar now. i watched that once. that was b.s. i would never watch it again

Anonymous said...

the espn of old was all over it. what happened? the race coverage was sub par. nascar now is a joke. who are you trying to kid? is this maybe what brian france means when he talks about taking it to a new level? spare me..

w17scott said...

The comments of anonymous are those of an ESPN insider - always defending, never acknowledging the total production failure at Indy and the pained expression of Erik Kuselias ...Erik I don't want to see or hear you on NASCAR Now anymore than you seem to want to be there ...kudos for Stacy and Marty to shutting down Kuselias' inane and after this amount of time, inept, comments ...time for ESPN to let the professional broadcasters be heard - full time!

jacko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard in N.C. said...

JOHN- EVEN ESPN must be able to see how very terrible NASCAR NOW is. WHY do they continue with Erik the Butcher and WHY has NASCAR not tried to do something about it? Could this be ESPN's way of showing NASCAR who (in their mind?) is in control? Payback for the controversy over on-track access for RPM2NIGHT while NBC was involved? I actually came to enjoy Mike Massaro's interviews at the helipads and similar locations - at least then there were post-race interviews by a knowledgeable reporter. IF NASCAR NOW continues to be a joke with Erik the Butcher, the fault must be at the higher levels of ESPN & NASCAR. THANKS for your diligence!!!!!!

Kevin in Indy said...

Same old NASCAR Now with Kuselias hosting, hype, shouting, no substance, and more hype. ESPN is telling the fans that they, in Bristol, know better than the fans do about who is an authority on all things NASCAR. And they think that "erik with a K" is credible. I wish that Speed would come out with a nightly show to compete with ESPN's hype-fest.

Russell said...

Check out Robin Miller's commentary on ( He echos a lot of what has been said here about the ESPN coverage from Indy (especially about AB being wasted).

KY1WING said...

This isn't ESPN related, just a comment on racing coverage in general.

I didn't get to see much of the race, but I did listen to the pre-race and beginning of the race on an FM radio broadcast.

I thought it was interesting to hear how everything was building up to the drop of the green flag. There was no "cackle factor" or cutting up going on, no personal thoughts, just reporting what was going on in a very professional manner. You could just feel the excitement building as Bob Jenkins (I think) and crew did the professional job we've come to expect at Indy.

Finally the cars pull away and the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife, pace lap after pace lap-then the pace car pulls off the track and the field of 43 roar down to take the green flag and the whole spell is suddenly broken with the thoughts of . . .

Boogity, boogity, boogity . . . lets go racing boys!

Guess Ol DW has made his mark in racing. Like a bad song in your head you just can't shake his race intro has forever changed racing for me . . . and not for the better.

I hate to say it but I miss Ned and Neil and Bob Jenkins, folks who would tell you whats going on, without either making a joke out of it or insulting your intelligence.

I'm sure race coverage isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be as hard or as bad as folks are making it. Hey, racing is better than its ever been according to NASCAR statistics recently released. The way I read their stuff you should be able to set up five or six cameras around the track and let them run and folks will be beating down the doors. So if the product is sooooo good but it translates sooooo bad on TV, who's fault is that? Think about it.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent . . . there that should hold me till after the Pocono snooze-fest.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you, Mr. Daly , that you have to continue watching "Nascar Now"

Most real Nascar fans gave up on this show many months ago.

SophiaZ123 said...

Wow! As usual I so agree with Miller and he apparently with all of us here, including John.

Can I use this cut and paste of Robin's blurb here?


Not only is its NASCAR Now show a nightly train wreck, ESPN's return to race coverage last Sunday was almost as lame.

Having Sideline Suzy Kolber serve as an in-race host with Brad Daugherty may be the single worst idea since Jason Priestly was recruited to add his expertise to Indy cars. Brent Musberger is a nice guy but adds nothing, Dr. Jerry Punch needs to go back to pit reporting and Rusty Wallace should go back to driving.

ESPN is wasting Allen Bestwick in the pits when he should be the play-by-play voice and Mike Massaro needs a larger role because he knows his stuff. Put writer Marty Smith in the booth, he knows all the NASCAR dirt and could liven things up.

Daugherty's sharpest observation of the day? "There's not a seat to be had in this place." No, except those thousands of empty ones in Turn 3, Turn 4, the short chute and main straightaway.


What I want to know as do many others, John, why is it just NOW somebody ELSE besides YOU has the guts to GRIPE the truth about ESPN. I realize Miller works for SPEED but out of ALL the plethora of articles online, this is the FIRST I have heard of some writer, besides yourself, daring to take on the stinking, lousy ESPN show and racing coverage.

Now, John, can you both get on Wind Tunnel to work this into the conversation with Despain? Course, I think you may have been critical of DD so that might not work.

Anyway, I would love to know why EVERBODY but you and now RM, are ignoring this TRAVESTY of tv coverage.

Prospector said...

ukiqThe great schedulers at ESPN have now deemed it important to increase viewership (ie. ratings) of NASCAR NOW by moving it to 6 PM Eastern time. This puts it head to head with most TV stations time slot for local news. Must be the inept directors of race telecasts are in charge of scheduling, again showing they don't function in the real world. It does make one wonder if these kinds of actions can be chalked up to ignorance or is it deliberate to torpedo NASCAR.
Poor direction + poor scheduling + poor staffing = Low ratings & lost fans
This applies to the pre-race show, race coverage, and their daily news(????) show

Anonymous said...

Never fear Nascar fans. When the future looks dark and dim ESPN will save us by sending Boomer and Stuart to save the day.

I can hear it now: Boomer, Jr. goes back-back=back- into the wall. He may have damaged his car!!

Stuart quotes after a Kyle Bush interview, it's a jungle out there. "where can a brother get some love".

Be calm Grasshopper the best is yet to come.

burn out from NC

Seanny said...

Great article, JD

I can't believe ESPN hasn't gotten their heads out of their rear ends yet. This show is nothing like RPM2NIGHT was, or will ever be. You could tell Erik had the deer-in the-headlights look when interviewing Jr. People who keep up with Nascar News knew already some of the questions being asked! So Jr. do you want to keep your number? Of course he does. It was just pathetic hearing questions from an unqualified host. Their race broadcast was abysmal toom filled with hype, hype, and more hype. Their qualifying show never even showed some of the go or go home cars AT ALL. Good Luck changing Nascar Fans' opinion now ESPN, because you're going to need it.