Sunday, August 5, 2007
Sunday's "NASCAR Now" Hype Machine Goes Crazy
It is certainly apparent that both NASCAR Now host Erik Kuselias and commentator Tim Cowlishaw have never been to a Saturday night short track race.
The events at Montreal in the Busch Series race seemed to be something alien to them. Hot tempers on feisty drivers on a bad track after a long race with lots of caution periods is about as surprising as ice cream melting in the sunshine.
How ironic is it that Tony Stewart's favorite ESPN reporter David Amber was the one interviewing NASCAR's VP of Competition Robin Pemberton for NASCAR Now? Amber knows absolutely nothing about NASCAR, and no one understands why Andy Petree, Mike Massaro, or anyone else on the ESPN Pocono broadcast crew did not handle this key interview.
Unfortunately, Jamie Little's interview of Robby Gordon's replacement PJ Jones was not much better. Little had nothing to work with, as PJ was just "filling in" and certainly was not going to be dragged into the Gordon vs. NASCAR problem. She kept probing for "personal" feelings, and PJ was having none of it.
Finally, Rusty Wallace was brought-in to speak about this situation. Rusty was a little muddy on his details, and spoke about the situation in general terms. Cowlishaw added absolutely nothing to the situation, and once again looked like he was having some personal issues in the health department.
Once again, as he has done all season long, Stacy Compton took a deep breath and slowly laid-out the racing reality to the "hype boys." The best part about Stacy's comments were they related directly to the ESPN production crew and their coverage of the incident. Compton is a cool head in the middle of the madness.
Rusty Wallace once again showed-up to comment on Pocono. Daly Planet readers may remember our call to integrate the TV broadcast crew into this show. Wallace gave a great overview of Pocono, and this type of appearance on NASCAR Now is exactly what the network needs to lend some credibility to the "Bristol boys."
Poor David Amber was standing in a suit and tie among the crew uniforms in the garage area at Pocono. As field reporters do, Amber "threw" to a pre-produced package about Dale Junior and other drivers trying to focus on the Chase. The package made no sense, and Amber was eager to end his report and "throw" back to the studio.
Reporting from the NEXTEL Cup garage for NASCAR Now should be done by a member of the ESPN pit road crew, like Mike Massaro. Just like having Rusty on, it "ties" this studio program back to the track with credible people that viewers trust. Needless to say, neither Amber or Kuselias addressed the Stewart vs. ESPN story. Had this been another network, it would have been first on their "hype" list.
Reed Sorenson was brought-in for a live interview, but instead of letting Stacy Compton ask informed NASCAR questions, once again Erik Kuselias took the entire time asking questions of Sorenson one might expect of a first year fan. What a waste of time when the experts are not allowed to ask the questions of the drivers.
Then, all of a sudden, things on NASCAR Now got very strange. First, they reported on the Whelen Modified Tour winner in "news and notes." Both the Hartford Courant's Shawn Courchesne (courant.com) and I have been pushing NASCAR Now to feature the other NASCAR Regional Series from around the nation since this show began in February. The next step is highlights on Monday's show.
As the program discussed the pending merger of Evernham Motorsports, Kuselias awkwardly welcomed Claire B. Lang from XM Satellite Radio into the program live from the Pocono garage. With Sirius holding the NASCAR radio rights, and ESPN managing its own sports radio division, it certainly made a statement that neither David Amber or any of the ESPN staff reported this story to NASCAR Now.
Claire is a wonderful person, a veteran reporter, and her brief segment really served to show viewers just how lame David Amber's presence and level of knowledge is on the NASCAR trail. Surprisingly, Kuselias then went back to Lang and allowed her to continue to report on other stories like Ginn Racing problems and the latest on Jeff Gordon.
All season long on NASCAR Now, there has been a simmering tension between the NASCAR Now "Insiders" like Marty Smith, Terry Blount, and David Newton and the show host Erik Kuselias. The Daly Planet has written about it many times.
When Kuselias is absent, the reporters come on with big smiles on their faces and have fun. When Kuselias is present, and in full "hype" mode, things get ugly fast. Marty Smith especially is one to talk right over top of Kuselias and even ask him questions in return, which completely freaks him out. Mike Massaro got so mad earlier this season he asked Kuselias a live question, and the resulting failure to know Jimmie Johnson's crew chief exposed Kuselias as just a "talking head."
Now, we find that on a weekend when Marty Smith was in Montreal filling-in as a pit reporter, somehow NASCAR Now could not find Blount, Newton, Chengelis, Spake, or any of the pit reporters to provide the information reported by Lang. Seeing XM Radio's chief NASCAR reporter, and one of ESPN's biggest rivals for stories, reporting live on NASCAR Now just might make Marty's hair stand-up even straighter.
This program series has never shown any mercy when it comes to picking apart the weakest moments and biggest problems for any NASCAR drivers or team members. They have purposefully gone out of their way to feature the most embarrassing moments, and cash-in on the "tabloid" side of the sport.
Sunday, they do an entire hour without even a word on the "Stewart vs. ESPN" saga that is being reported all over the racing world. No footage of what Skip Bayless or Tony Kornheiser or whoever it was at ESPN that shot his mouth off said. No comment from management, no comment from Cowlishaw, nothing at all.
The ultimate irony for a bully is that when the tables are turned, they are the first to run. NASCAR Now has been a bully this season, and the results have been a mounting frustration about them. Now, Stewart turns the tables and the show simply runs away.
Tony Stewart asked "do we always have to leave with a dagger in our back from ESPN?" There is only one group that can answer that question, and on this Sunday they chose to ignore it completely. Perhaps, we will get a better answer after the Pocono race Sunday afternoon. Once again, it should be interesting.
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