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.
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