Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ryan Burr has "NASCAR Now" On A Roll


As the NASCAR season nears its high point for news and information, ESPN has just used Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to unveil very new back-to-back episodes of NASCAR Now. Hosted on Tuesday by Allen Bestwick, and on Wednesday by Ryan Burr, the new look of this show has hard news, topical interviews, and edited features at the core. These changes may have come just in the nick of time.

At the start of the show, Burr followed-up immediately on the on-going saga of Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt Junior. ESPN2's NASCAR "Insiders" Marty Smith and Terry Blount were featured in the first segment dealing with several "hard news" issues. Once again, the two reporters were allowed to interact with each other and the host, which made this "news report" exactly what the fans wanted.

With very active websites out there like Jayski.com, ESPN has to work hard these days to justify why NASCAR fans would turn-on the TV rather than surf the web for the latest information. Rolling out the best NASCAR reporters right at the top of the show with the most up to date information is key to this program gaining ground over the next four months of the season. Today's news segment was another success.

Burr was kind to Brad Daugherty in the two on-camera pieces Daugherty contributed in the show. Thankfully, ESPN has slowly started to go away from the "pick' em" and "fact of fiction" type of features that make fans nuts and take-up valuable time. Daugherty picking an All-Star from each NASCAR team because of the MLB All-Star Game was harmless. His picks were quite curious, but you have to give him credit. He hangs in there.

A good young second generation driver Brad Keselowski was just picked to run Earnhardt Junior's Busch Car for the next three races. Since NASCAR Now has struggled to promote ESPN2's own Busch Series coverage this season, an interview with Keselowski was a great touch. Unfortunately, it seemed that Ryan Burr did not know Brad's family history in the sport, but the interview was professional and caring. ESPN is a multi-year exclusive Busch Series broadcast partner. They need to promote and pump-up interest in this struggling series.

One of the strengths of both ESPN and NASCAR Images is their ability to produce fabulous edited features. Often, these features gain additional power from being presented without a "voice over" from an announcer. At the halfway point in the season, NASCAR Now presented a super feature that really brought back a lot of memories from Daytona in February, and followed right through to the same track this past weekend. A fantastic "post-produced" feature of this type would be right at home on a weekly basis in the Wednesday mid-week show.

NASCAR Now has stepped-up to the plate and pulled its act together with only two weekends before ESPN takes over the NEXTEL Cup coverage for the rest of the season. Hopefully, this ABC/ESPN exclusivity will allow additional on-camera pieces and feature elements to be taped at the track and presented throughout the week. That should really round-out the positive changes this program has made over the last two days.

For veteran ESPN viewers, these last two shows might have brought back a hint or two of...dare I say it? On both days, I had the same positive vibe about racing that I did when John Kernan finished a fast-paced episode of RPM2Nite. Let's hope ESPN rides this big wave all the way to November.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hot show. The Junior/Bud deal was very well explained. I can't imagine it would have been so with the usual host.

Matt said...

It was a very good show tonight, but did anyone else notice that during "Chaser or Racer", Brad said Kyle Busch (8th in points) was a Racer, but never gave another driver to replace him in the Chase. You would think SOMEONE at ESPN would have noticed this.

Also, it appeared to me like Marty really asserted himself today and just kept having the conversation with Terry (by talking over Ryan) even though there were prolly more scripted ques to be asked. Good for Marty!

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, ESPN has the ability and talent pool to provide race fans with excellent NASCAR programming. The rust that accumulated during their absence from NASCAR has shown through the new paint job on occasion, but as the season progresses, there are signs that somebody at ESPN gets it. The NASCAR Now programs that you have just written about reflect that. Alan Bestwick and Ryan Burr are a wonderful tag team.

When one considers the schizophrenic nature of NASCAR Now up to this point, one has to wonder about the reasoning behind certain personnel decisions. I can imagine two distinct camps sitting around the table at the NASCAR Now production meetings. One camp wants to build the show around a dominant marquis personality, and all things flow from that perspective. Erik Kuselias. The other camp wants the program to be free flowing, entertaining and informative. That is best personified in the Bestwick / Burr programs. Every time I see Mr Kuselias on the set, I wonder if that is the result of some entrenched producer's "refuse to lose" ego driven mindset.

If I understood Suzy Kolber properly during her Claire B Lang XM interview, she had been asked more than once to accept the NASCAR assignment by ESPN producers. She was up front about her lack of NASCAR knowledge, but ultimately, she was willing to take a chance if that's what ESPN wanted her to do.

Remembering that interview has made me curious. Did Erik Kuselias want to be involved in NASCAR? Was NASCAR Now a "must do" assignment that he was pressured into accepting? Does Mr Kuselias dread going onto the NASCAR set? Unless he resides in a vacuum, Kuselias has got to know that he is not well received by racing fans. Over coffee at my local Hardee's, I hear people grumble about Bill Weber and Chris Myers, but they seem to really dislike Erik Kuselias. He gets consistantly slammed on racing radio. Is Mr Kuselias taking one for the team? If so, I feel bad about his "no win" situation.

You have been accused of conducting a vendetta against Erik Kuselias. I personally disagree with that assessment. You have been spot on target. There are many places within the moat around ESPN where Mr Kuselias can be productive. However, it is not NASCAR. It may be time for swallowing a little pride in Bristol CT. Regroup, rethink and come back stronger than ever.

SallyB said...

Finally, two shows back to back that actually had some news! I was amused when the off site reporters managed to get in all their information, even if they had to talk over the host to get it done! I hope this is an indication that ESPN is finally waking up to the fact that Nascar fans aren't stupid enough to tolerate incompetence!

GinaV24 said...

Two good shows in a row -- it's a miracle. I thought the hard news (and I did love Marty just continuing his line of thought regardless of the host). Get the information out there to the fans. And the segment with the first half highlights was great. Still can't figure out why we need Brad Daugherty and that seems a little forced to me -- again, what's his basis for this stuff? Otherwise a good show and I e-mailed nascarnow to tell them so. More like this -- less Kuselias and I'll become a regular viewer

Joe from Philly said...

your point about ESPN's tough job of competing with the information given by jayski and many other outlets is spot on.

Besides the fact that Erik is.....not right for the job (man, I'm being nice), I don't care to watch this show since I already got my information during the day. Whether it be online or on Dave Moody's Sirius radio show on the way home, I tend to know what's going on WAY before ESPN would have a chance to 'inform' me.

I believe they have a limited audience so long as their focus is on "news". Even with better hosts, they certainly won't grab my attention during the week with a news show.

Now, if they let the news shape their show, great! Get the news makers on the phone or on the satellite feed or whatever. If I knew I could count on ESPN to have an interview with someone involved with a developing story, I'd be more inclined to watch....assuming Erik is gone that is ;-)

Anonymous said...

Why do you talk up Burr so much? I don't think he's the person for the job either. They need 1 host for this show and that's Alan Bestwick! I never plan to watch this show, because 9 of 10 SUCK, but if I click by it, I will watch for a few minutes. ESPN's NASCAR coverage SUCKS!!!

disney81 said...

i always channel flip to NASCAR NOW, but if i do not see AB i move on. what a pleasure to see him the other day watched the complete show. as i posted the other day, ESPN WAKE UP.