Wednesday, August 8, 2007

ESPN's Best "NASCAR Now" Show Of The Season

Wednesday was just another slow mid-week news day in "NASCAR land." The stories of the weekend had faded away, and the fans and media were turning their attention to the Watkins Glen action beginning on Friday.

ESPN2's NASCAR Now took to the air with co-host Ryan Burr at the helm, as he is so often for the middle of the week programs. Right off the bat, Burr grabbed the viewers attention be showing the odd couple of Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose sitting side-by-side on-camera.

Burr let Gordon talk fans through his "arrangement" to provide a ride for Ambrose in the NEXTEL Cup race at Watkins Glen. Ambrose is the star of the Busch Series, and Gordon's "dumping" of him at Montreal was a public relations nightmare. Especially, with the popular Aussie driver on the verge of his first NASCAR win. Burr pinned-down Gordon by asking him if he would spin Ambrose on the final lap at The Glen to get the win. His political answer and nervous grin was priceless.

Brad Daugherty on-camera was finally making the type of strong statements that ESPN hired him to make. Calling Robby Gordon "the most talented driver in the garage" and saying that "we will see a future championship out of Kyle Busch." He then transitioned to Kurt Busch and pointed to the "coil bound" situation as the reason for his early struggles. His final comment was that Kurt may well win it all this season. If Daugherty has finally awakened from his "TV slumber," this was a good start.

Next, Burr went directly to his grinning "Insider" news reporters who obviously enjoy working with him. Angelique Chengelis and Terry Blount worked the David Stremme, Michael Waltrip, and Toyota stories with detail and clarity. This is the type of "news block" that this show needs, and the lack of scripted questions and genuine knowledge by the host makes a big difference.

Crew chief Pat Tryson joined the show by phone, and Burr asked all the right questions about team chemistry, Tryson's long journey this season, and the fact that the team seems to be turning around. Tryson's low-key delivery and Burr's great questions really allowed a lot of information to be relayed to viewers, as well as painting Tryson as a well-spoken racing industry professional.

The production team chose to close the show with a "roll-out" highlighting the video and audio images of both the Busch and Cup events of the weekend. Finally, ESPN used a "music video" montage in a way that did not interfere with content, and actually served a nice purpose.

As The Daly Planet has said since the first episode of this program in February, NASCAR Now has the potential to be more powerful a daily show than Baseball Tonight or SportsCenter. The simple reason is that there is absolutely no competition. No national or regional TV networks carry a daily NASCAR show, ESPN2 is the only game in town.

How ESPN decides to "shape" this program as "The Chase" approaches will be interesting. In a strictly "news and information mode" like Wednesday with Ryan Burr, NASCAR Now has the feel of RPM2Night. It is fast-paced, informative, and packs a full thirty minutes of hardcore information and interviews in the show.

In its "hype and hysteria" mode, the show resembles a sports-talk radio broadcast where opinion and innuendo rule the day. The lure for the fans is "what will they say" about a certain topic. It shifts the focus from the "real" to the "emotional" side of every issue, which keeps radio listeners tuning-in. On TV, its a tough sell to watch the "talking heads" for thirty minutes and get little hard news.

For six months, ESPN has been tinkering with this daily show and continues to make changes for the better. With the network "giving up" practice and qualifying for both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series beginning in two weeks at Michigan, maybe we will see another change at NASCAR Now.

Allen Bestwick will once again be available to come to Bristol, CT and remind everyone how a true TV motorsports professional conducts himself. The last time he was in Bristol it turned the TV team on its ear, and resulted in several high-quality shows that had the whole place buzzing.

As long as ESPN is going to list Bestwick as a co-host on their media releases and website, perhaps it would occasionally be a good idea to have him...on the air.

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


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your summaries of the "NASCAR Now" show. I no longer watch it, but by reading your column, I'll know when it might be time to return!

Anonymous said...

DARN...they finally presented a good show and I missed it.

Phil Lee said...

Since we get NASCAR Now a day late in England I'll have to watch it tonight.

Prospector said...

lmnmThey still have it running against the traditional local news slot in the eastern time zone. 1/2 to 1 hour later very well might improve ratings as long as they improve the content and staff.

Rick said...

To bad you couldn't preview the show before it goes on the air, then go do your column so I know if I should watch it or not! Just kidding! I don't watch the show unless I see AB is the host. Keep up the good work!

GinaV24 said...

I don't watch the program any longer either, but I do read your column. It would be nice if they'd be consistent with this show -- maybe one of these days, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ron P. said...

Sorry I missed it but.... I don't watch any more, too many dissapoinments. But still you have to wonder.....
"Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."

Please continue the vigil for us. Your reward will be in Heaven because you continualy endure the Hell of watching NASACR Now on ESPN, for those of us who don't have the stomach.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that ESPN didn't play up more that Kurt Busch is one of the most disliked drivers in NASCAR. This is the type of thing ESPN seems to like. As far as Nascar Now goes up here in Canada we only get to see it when TSN needs to fill 30 minutes. This could be a good thing I guess, but I would like to make the choice myself.

JayJayDean said...

I think calling Ambrose "the star of the Busch Series" is the kind of not really true thing Erik Kuselias would say.

Daly Planet Editor said...


who do you think fits that title?

JayJayDean said...

I don't think there is one, unless you go with Carl Edwards or Kevin Harvick. To me, calling someone "the star" of a series is calling them "the reason to watch and everyone knows it". Danica Patrick (for better or worse) might fit that description for the IRL, but I certainly don't think Marcos has nearly that amount of appeal, and he DEFINITELY didn't BEFORE the Montreal race to the extent that he has now.

BTW, I really enjoy the column. I can't stand "NASCAR Now" when Kuselias is hosting because he approaches the interviews in EXACTLY the same manner he approaches his radio gig, like no one can SEE him so his vocal inflections tell more of the story than they do in TV. That, and he he really doesn't know a thing about NASCAR, best I can tell.

w17scott said...

John -
"Nothing like a little praise to get the desired result, when I enjoy a show I'll compliment ESPN
Another great shown with Ryan Burr ...nice to have a host who is knowledgeable enough to conduct an entertaining, informative, free-flowing interview ...stay with the 'A Team' ...Eri(k)is a turn-off as host, lost when it comes to NASCAR ...glad to see feature on Brian Ickler (West Series) just take time to add Busch, Trucks and other NASCAR series ...a 1/2-hr show? ...seemed like an hour with all the information provided ...great job, ESPN"

Walter from Virginia

Anonymous said...

What a disappoinment NASCAR has become, so much so, that TOP GEAR on BBC America is becoming my favorite motorsports show. At least there, I know they are kidding around, where-as Nascar expects their dramatized shinanigans to be taken seriously!
ABC/ESPAN, SPEED CHANNEL, and TNN should be ashamed of the tunnel vision coverage of only the top ten drivers, which has left knowlegable fans looking elsewhere for motor racingentertainment.
I blame You and NASCAR and the rest of the visual media for making a mockery of the sport of Amereican Stock Car "Racing". Noiw it is just a bad show full of commercial interruptions, and you have to see replays to catch any bad racing resulting in wrecked cars and caution laps where the fastest pit crews do all the passing for the drivers.

Anonymous said...

Since when is "alledged" necessary for reporting a rules infraction by Joe Gibbs Racing?
They didn't alledgedly charge cheating for those weak spoiler mounts on Scott Riggs #66 Chevrolet, earlier this season.