Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"NASCAR Now" Moves Its Hype To ESPN


Last week, The Daly Planet celebrated the fact that ESPN had made some significant changes to its NASCAR Now program. Out was Erik Kuselias, and in was ESPN's own Ryan Burr. Race fans were upbeat, and the programs were outstanding.

This week, viewers could not believe that Kuselias was returned to the airwaves on a key week for both the network and NASCAR. The results have been a mess for both parties. On Wednesday, ESPN telecast a special version of this ESPN2 program.

The one hour version of this program began with the "merger mania" that is sweeping the under-funded NASCAR team world. As opposed to Ryan Burr, Kuselias is a "reader" who has no knowledge about the sport, and reads questions "in order" to his reporters. It changes the dynamic of the entire program when the host cannot speak freely about the sport with some authority.

Once again this week, feisty reporter Marty Smith talked over the host and added his feelings as a "tag" to a scripted question from Kuselias. The deer in the headlights look on Kuselias face always tells the tale. Someone has deviated from the script, and this is a big problem. Because Kuselias does not know...anything about NASCAR. This time he got off easy because no one asked him to provide an answer.

Over the past six months, The Daly Planet has referred to NASCAR Now as "bi-polar." This show was no exception. Kuselias was literally screaming from the opening tease throughout the show. Someone obviously told him "more excitement" and he interpreted that directive as "move volume."

Last week, the professional Burr was smooth and calm while delivering news and information at a rapid pace. Its almost tough to believe that this is the same network.

Both Terry Blount and Shannon Spake were put in uncomfortable positions on Wednesday by ESPN. Blount was forced to comment on the possible future contract restrictions that ESPN has decided are now needed for NASCAR drivers.

This has all come about because ESPN discovered that Carl Edwards got his thumb out of joint, literally, in a Late Model race last week. Blount took a deep breath and towed the company line while laughter echoed in the background since drivers are "independent contractors" and racing to most of them is life itself, not an optional behavior to be negotiated. At least he did it with a straight face.

Spake was forced to "hype" the theory that NASCAR events have to be "ranked," which is something that ESPN loves to do. She then was sent on a snipe hunt to ask around about what four NASCAR races are the "majors" of the sport. This feature showed a lot of racing types offering their opinion, and concluded the exact same way it started, with nothing solved.

Instead of the Blount and Spake reports, perhaps ESPN could have told viewers that there are three events this weekend in Indy. Friday night, the fantastic and exciting Craftsman Truck Series will be live on SPEED from O'Reilly Raceway Park. Saturday, the Busch Series takes to the same track live on ESPN2. This might be the best racing of the weekend.

Unfortunately, none of this matters to ESPN even in a one hour preview show on a Wednesday. They are obsessed with NEXTEL Cup, and will not lower themselves to deal with these "lesser" series unless they are forced to do so. It is the height of arrogance that ESPN shuns these two series, and the height of hypocrisy that NASCAR lets them get away with it.

This week, Ryan Burr and co-host Allen Bestwick have been absent on NASCAR Now. As the network leads up to its key NASCAR weekend, the executives have made the conscious decision to use the struggling Erik Kuselias during a week where many new NASCAR fans are being courted by the network.

Following a week of quality programming, NASCAR Now returned to the "screaming hype-fest" viewers have come to know so well. Another one hour special of NASCAR Now on ESPN follows on Thursday. One day out from the Indy on-track activity, it will be very interesting to see who the network chooses to lead the band. Thursday and Friday are the most important NASCAR Now shows of the season to date. We certainly will be watching.

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

21 comments:

vroom said...

Obviously ESPN thinks differently about Kuselias than you do...

Ryan said...

ESPN is quickly becoming the MTV of Sports, if it has not already.

Brian said...

ESPN is now just absolutely hopeless.

Sally said...

How frustrating, on a day with lots of 'real' news, that ESPN chose to put the 'hype meister' Erik K in charge of Nascar Now. Thank goodness the on site reporters are learning to ignore him and his insipid (or downright stupid) questions and insist on reporting the news.We have had glimpses of what this show could be, which makes it even worse.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear that ESPN doesn't care what the viewers think of their choice of hosts. They need to remember the first rule of business...ignore your customers and they'll go away.

Anonymous said...

The only way ESPN will get a clear message that their choice of hosts and programming don't work is when race fans vote with their remote.

Kevin in Indy said...

In reply to vroom, did you ever think that they may not like him. It may be that he has some photos of someone high up at ESPN that involves midgets (sorry, little people)and farm animals? That's the only reason I can think of that he's still hosting. I turned it on the Monday night (I know, I am supposed to be boycotting but I thought someone else might be hosting after last weeks fantastic shows) and Erik, with a K's lead story had to do with the Stewart/Hamlin dust-up. Pure hype, no story, all shouting. I haven't turned it on since that night. I will check tonight to see who is hosting. If it's Erik, with a k, I will turn it off.

Anonymous said...

Why will I NOT be able to see practive on TV on Friday?

ESPN is covering qualifying, so SPEED is not allowed to cover practice?

Someone somewhere does NOT want me watching NASCAR the remainder of the year.

Hey ESPN, my wife says thanks.

Joe from Philly said...

I pity the people who don't have Sirius. My radio is tuned to nothing but the Nascar channel for my drive to and from work. By the time I get home, I don't need TV to give me the news.

While I wish their programs were better, my main, selfish concern is their race presentation.

If they treat any portion of the races the way they handle Nascar Now, I will start to lose interest in even watching most of the races.

TNT hurt my interest greatly. Though I'm still heavily connected to the sport, I have waning interest in watching right now because of the 6 weeks of TNT hell.

I have high hopes for ESPN even with Mussburger and Kolber. Their event coverage teams tend to be first rate and I hope that continues.

Thanks to TNT though, I won't be watching much of the Brickyard as it's lost some momentum with me and I made other plans...

Ron P. said...

Paraphrasing my coments from last week. "Garbage Garbage Garbage". Thank you ESPN for craping on NASCAR fans.
Vote with your remote, if it sucks, turn it off or change the channel. Or better yet call the show's sponsors and let them know how you feel, and how you will not buy their product because they sponser a poor show and poor hosts. Everybody says that NASCAR fans are "Brand Loyal", show them how loyal by not buying the product or buying in to the HYPED Hype, When you hit them in the Pocket Book that when they listen. No Sponsership, No Show
RJP.

Anonymous said...

ESPN's coverage of NASCAR this year has been so disappointing. I just don't understand how you go from being absolutely AMAZING at covering a sport (in the 80's & 90's) to absolutely AWFUL at covering a sport (today).

Whoever is in charge should be fired. It's sad.

Jo said...

For the person who wondered about televised practice--SPEED has changed the name to "Go or Go Home." The practices _will_ be on TV. You just have to compare the announced practice times (on the Brickyard website) with the SPEED broadcast time. I'm just surprised that Melanie tramp isn't being used as a reporter.

As for Kuselias: can anyone prove that he has actually attended a NASCAR race? ESPN is using morons like him and Musberger because they think the name recognition will draw non-NASCAR fans to watch. It could work--viz. Bob Costas. But at least an ethical reporter like Costas or Suzy Kolber would try to get some knowledge about the sport. Pretty boys like Kuselias and Musberger just care about their makeup. Makes me sick!

Dustin said...

I cringed when Kuselias spelled out U-S-A-C instead of saying it the way all knowledgeable race fans pronounce it "YOU-SACK". This guy is just a waste.

Anonymous said...

To vroom: your right ESPN does think differently about Kuselias than I do, they also think differently about NASCAR than I do. Apparently they think that just because they put NASCAR on it that people will watch it and I guess they think Kuselias is doing a good job. THEY ARE WRONG. I don't have to watch NASCAR NOW to get my news when there are so many other places I can go to get it and I don't have to watch some idiot who doesn't know anything about NASCAR and at time has problems just reading the questions off the sheet he has right in front of him. I watched NASCAR NOW for about 10 minutes yesterday, just long enough to hear about the merger and listen to Marty talk intelligently about the effects. If I want to hear someone well at me while I watch T.V. I'll go see my ex.From now on if Kuselias is host I will not watch it.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR NOW with Alan Bestwick or Ryan Burr shows what ESPN can do. NASCAR NOW with Erik K. shows what ESPN thinks NASCAR fans deserve. Therefore, I see no reason to watch any ESPN studio or taped shows - and I will be muting the sound of the race broadcasts so I can listen to Barney Hall call the races.

Anonymous said...

Practice is not being aired on Friday (only Nascar Live) and that seems to be a rather odd decision for one of the year's biggest races.... Go or Go Home is SPEED’s new half hour show that precedes qualifying through the end of the season. It is scheduled for Saturday morning.

Kevin in Indy said...

Jo,
I with ya on your comments but I just have to ask. Is Brent Musberger really a "pretty boy"?

Kevin in Indy said...

Shoulda said "I'm with ya" instead of "I with ya". Sorry, I'm not normally that sloppy or illiterate.

Anonymous said...

Kuselias is a douche-bag with no real nascar knowledge. He is a joke. To have a guy on a multi million dollar network show who doesn't know the sport he is talking about is a crying shame. I have been a fan of ESPN for years but lately there total product is BS. From Nascar Now to this new crap "Who is more now" who are they trying to kid. Give the real fans a combo of Bestwick and Burr and let it be. Shuffle Tim Cowlishaw back to around the horn and ban him from all nascar telecasts because he is a douche-bag too. I like Boris Said and Stacy Compton both, and Tim Brewer is good as well, but Brad Daughtery had got to go too. I know that he used to own a team, but he is an idiot. Just my 2 cents worth thanks for the forum to air my gripes.

Steve from MD said...

I am delighted to hear that Erik is still on NASCAR NOW and not permantly re-assigned to ESPN Radio, where earlier this week he has been making co-host appearances and shooting off his mouth with some of the hosts in the early afternoon. John is right, he does like to create controversy on radio as well as on NASCAR NOW.

John, please keep posting the ridiculous pictures of Erik and I am hoping to see if you can get additional "shots" of him looking like a goofball like one with him on the Segway.

Billy Delyon said...

What blows me away is I saw John Kernan this weekend working on ESPN's NHRA coverage.

What the F#*k is going on at ESPN when they still have Kernan on the payroll and he's not involved in their NASCAR coverage????

Mercy.....


Erik K needs go go bye bye. Last week was brutal for nascar now. couldn't watch it.