Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brad Daugherty Featured As ESPN Covers "The Chase:


This first year of NASCAR's new TV contract has been a lot of fun. There have been many new things to talk about, including the only daily NASCAR show currently on TV. That would be NASCAR Now, which airs on ESPN2.

The on-air line-up has become a familiar one to many, and includes Stacy Compton and Boris Said as analysts. These two drivers have been good for the show, and have no problem stating things in plain english when it comes to racing.

Rarely, do we see members of the NASCAR on ESPN announce team appear, although Tim Brewer does leave the Tech Center once and a while to talk about various topics. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree have never been regulars on this show, and their presence is missed.

Erik Kuselias is the fulltime host of the show, relieved two days a week by ESPN News anchor Ryan Burr. Kuselias is a script reader, and works the show from a handheld script that guides him through the questions of the field reporters and provides him "intros" to features.

The show also uses various ESPN pit reporters like Shannon Spake, Mike Massaro, and even Allen Bestwick from time-to-time to add interviews and the like. Spake has been the workhorse this season, and her low-key approach and calm interviewing manner has been well received by the NASCAR community.

This show needed journalists, and they picked up Angelique Chengelis from the Detroit News, while Marty Smith, David Newton, and Terry Blount all came over to the ESPN.com world along with contributing to the show.

The most interesting person for ESPN this season has been former NBA star Brad Daugherty. Originally tabbed as only in the mix for his skin tone, he quickly proved that he knew the sport. After the passing of Bill France Jr. he also proved that he is a caring and compassionate man when telling stories of his personal relationship with France and his wife. His access to the personalities at the highest level of this sport was almost unbelievable.

Daugherty was involved in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity, and in several conversations this season on-the-air he let it be known that he was not exactly pleased with the results of NASCAR's efforts in that area.

When he was originally announced as being added to the ESPN/ABC team, he reacted this way. "I have a little bit of technical and ownership experience, but mostly I am a fan."

Daugherty was a part-owner of Liberty Racing, a Truck Series team that won two races with the late Kenny Irwin Jr. back in 1997. He also campaigned a regional team with Robert Pressley that briefly stepped-up to the Busch Series and won a short track race in North Carolina.

Interviewed by Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch, Daugherty was asked if he was aware that he was the most visible African-American covering the sport, and just how significant that was? He responded "To be honest, that's the main reason I'm doing this."

Deitsch then asked him "will you own a race team again?" Daugherty answered that "I would be interested in becoming a Cup owner someday, and probably will try to do that at some point."

Daugherty's role in NASCAR TV is a new one. It has left many fans wondering what exactly Daugherty brings to the table in terms of the TV broadcasts and the NASCAR Now studio show. Depending on the announcer that Daugherty is working with, he can either be tabbed as "the voice of the fans," or an ESPN NASCAR Analyst.

On Wednesday, Daugherty put on his Analyst hat for an appearance on NASCAR Now. In this show, Daugherty was presented to viewers as a person who could analyze for ESPN the new NEXTEL Cup Chase format.

Daugherty has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for The Chase on the ESPN staff, and in his comments he lamented the lack of an incentive for the Chase competitors to "go for the win." He said once The Chase starts, those guys basically points race just like the regular season.

In evaluating Jimmie Johnson's chances in The Chase, Daugherty said "this whole sport is about momentum." He added that Johnson was "probably the most consistent and aggressive race driver (in The Chase)"

On Kurt Busch, Daugherty said "Kurt Busch has driven the wheels off that race car. He is definitely a contender to win this whole thing. It just depends on how he gets started this week in Loudon."

Finally, on Tony Stewart and The Chase, Daugherty said "I think Tony will be the guy to beat. I think he is the one guy who will not go out and points race. He will go out and try to win a championship. Its all Tony Stewart's to win."

In making his closing remarks to Erik Kuselias, Daugherty said "let's clarify, this is all speculation by me. This is just what I observe." Kuselias then closed the interview by saying "that is Brad Daugherty...Analyst."

During the NASCAR season, ESPN has found itself struggling with the Wednesday editions of NASCAR Now. With no highlights to review, and a race just a little too far ahead to preview, the show has taken wild swings between long talks about Fantasy Racing and long interviews like the one with Daugherty.

When Daugherty appears in the ESPN Infield Studio with Allen Bestwick, it is immediately made clear that he is "the voice of the fans." Daugherty thrives in that role, primarily by asking questions of the other announcers about issues in the race. He does not have to pretend to "know," he is just a fan.

Earlier this season, when he was put in an Infield Studio Analyst role alongside Ray Evernham, things got ugly. Then, alongside of Rusty Wallace, things got tense. Even if the host of the show says that Daugherty knows "racing things," that does not mean the tough and hardened NASCAR gang is going to agree. In those cases, they certainly did not.

Recently, he was allowed to be the third announcer in the booth during a practice and qualifying multi-hour marathon telecast. Relaxed and polished off-camera, Daugherty came across as an enthusiastic NASCAR supporter with a solid knowledge of the sport. He interacted well with the crew, and once again asked the type of questions a fan might ask if put in that position.

The quandary for NASCAR fans is very clear. Which Brad Daugherty will appear the next time on ESPN or ABC? Is it Daugherty the fan, or Daugherty the analyst? Last week, Infield Studio host Suzy Kolber even called on Daugherty the NFL Expert to handicap the upcoming NFL game on ESPN.

As ESPN continues to re-define the NASCAR TV broadcasts, they also continue to paint Daugherty into his own corner. The network needs to decide what role Daugherty is playing in the very important "Chase for the Championship" this season.

They have not allowed him to do any key interviews, and the ultimate slap in the face is Suzy Kolber walking out to the starting grid for the featured driver interview of the pre-race show. Kolber is completely new to NASCAR, and will be the first one to admit it. There sits Daugherty, alone and silent.

In the race, Daugherty is inserted coming back from commercial on-camera despite the race being under green flag conditions. His attempt at talking about race highlights or asking some questions of another announcer actually takes the place of live racing. This did not go over well with the fans.

In the end, it seems that Daugherty has made the most of his exposure this season. In these final ten races, he is poised to play a key role on the ABC broadcast network coverage and on ESPN2. He will co-anchor the pre-race, continue to be live from the Infield during the race, and then appear during the week on NASCAR Now.

In Daugherty's own words, "I have a little bit of ownership and technical experience, but mostly I'm a fan." I would dare say that in the twenty years of NASCAR on TV, no fan has gotten the wild ride that Daugherty has been on since February. Did I mention that this NASCAR TV season is really interesting?

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 and leave your opinion.

30 comments:

cwebs said...

Yes, JD, this NASCAR TV season certainly has been, *ahem*, interesting.

I'll say this about BD - he certainly has plenty of enthusiasm. When he was in the booth for the practice sessions, some of that enthusiasm even seemed to rub-off on Punch & Petree, which was a positive development.

On the other hand, his unbridled enthusiasm often leads to straightforward cheerleading. It seems like everyone he talks about is “top notch”. Every race-car-driver in the field is incredible, outstanding, great, unbelievable, awesome, tremendous, superior, excellent, or amazing. Such superficial and trite “analysis” gets tedious very quickly.

His information got a little more interesting over the past couple of weeks when he began to relay the details of conversations he had with various people around the garage area. This can be a useful role for him, but he needs to find some way to vary his “delivery” of the info. Starting each and every statement with “I was talking to…” gets repetitive and makes his contributions seem blatantly contrived.

BTW, did anyone notice how his NFL “analysis” delivered during the red flag stoppage at Richmond turned out? Well, if you watched the Ravens-Bengals game on Monday night, it was pretty clear that Steve McNair was most definitely not “THE MAN”…

cwebs

Isaiah said...

This is the same thing that happened with Rush Limbaugh and the tv deal he did. The reason that Brad isn't doing the interview is because he is black. I don't care what people say, if you can do a report, then do it.

I really like Brad. He is good for the sport. I think that it kinda shows a little stupidity on the part of ESPN. Yeah, Brad is black, but I think that he should be on the track doing some interviews. This just goes to show you that ESPN is still part of the old school NASCAR.

Brian France is always trying to go and move NASCAR forward. If he really wants the sport to progress, then they need to have Brad interview Dale Jr. This really shouldnt even be an issue in this world but it still is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the prevous post, made by Isiah. Let's do away with tokenism and allow Brad to maximize his ability. Practice makes perfect, but he never gets a chance to interview the drivers.

NASCAR needs to shed its racist image......before the next century.

Do any Black Women watch NASCAR and could a Black Woman ever get a job as a reporter or interviewer ?

Anonymous said...

Let's hire people who know NASCAR racing, regardless of their skin color...or gender.

Brad doesn't know the subject.

Suzy doesn't know the subject.

It is an insult to viewers to have them on the telecast.

Anonymous said...

John, you mentioned that at times Rusty and Ray got tense working beside Brad. Although that could be construed as a bad thing, I tend to view it as a positive. Let me explain.

As a long time fan of NASCAR, I really enjoy Brad as much as any announcer that I have watched through the years. What differentiates him from many of the other announcers that fill the booth is that a)he truly is a fan, and has more experience than a lot of people give him credit for, and b)he doesn't come to the announcing booth with an agenda like many of the former drivers/crew chiefs that fill our TV screens each week.

Many members of the NASCAR fraternity who move on to the booth have worked in the garage for years and have an intimate knowledge of its social heiarchy. This works well for getting the "scoop", and is very important when navigating the garage looking for information. However, it also leads to pushing agendas for personal gain. Over the past few years, I have become sickened by the likes of Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, and Jeff Hammond who, at times, seem to be preaching to the race fans instead of analyzing a race.

That is where I feel Brad D. could have a niche in racing. Someone who knows racing, has been a part of racing, but has spent most of his time as a fan. This is probably what ESPN had initially intended, but because it is such a unique position, no one has yet figured out how to make it work. With a little creativity, Brad could be a huge asset in the years to come. Someone to remind the Rusty Wallaces of the world that they are their because of the fans, not because of the drivers, and maybe he can slap the next driver who says the words "I don't know what race the fans were watching, but from my seat the race was exciting!".

Anonymous said...

Brian France is always trying to go and move NASCAR forward. If he really wants the sport to progress, then they need to have Brad interview Dale Jr.
Why?

Just because he's black?

I'd rather see an interview conducted by the most qualfied person for the job, and Brad isn't the one. His "analysis" is superficial at best and his understanding of NASCAR shows that he was a "celebrity owner," not someone who knows the sport.

Anonymous said...

BTW, did anyone notice how his NFL “analysis” delivered during the red flag stoppage at Richmond turned out?

I also enjoyed the NASCAR analysis the network did during that time-out during the NFL game.

Oh, wait--they didn't do that. Because they take NFL coverage seriously, which is more than you can say for their coverage of NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

I thought his pre-race concert in Richmond was pretty good, he's come a long way since American Idol...

mymegasuccess said...

Very interesting and welcomed topic that can certainly open up another discussion entirely. I think it's hard to peg Brad Daugherty's role in NASCAR broadcast. Sometimes he seems to assume the seat of the expert but can speak from that role and the position of the fan. There are many, may NASCAR fans of color. They attend the events and support their drivers. ESPN broadcasted one program showing that NASCAR's growth and rising popularity has been due to its ability to attract the non-traditional fan-the 9-5 office work, the madison avenue executive, suburban families, hardcore basketball or NFL fans tune in to the races. It's become a crossover sport, which is why the networks spend huge coin on broadcast rights and corporate sponsors support those racing teams who plaster company names all over their vehicles and suits. Derek Jeter, Puff Daddy and Kid Rock attend these events. NASCAR wants those fans. Many of these fans know Suzy or Brad but might not be familiar with Rusty Wallace. Hosts typically introduce and moderate the show that features the experts. Bob Costas is not expected to know as much as John Madden. Joe Buck isn't expected have the same level of expertise as Terry Bradshaw. Jim Nance's background isn't compared to Johnny Miller. That's silly. The prerace show is simply the prelude to the main event, which is what fans are interested in anyway.

Steve L said...

Why do we need an infield studio in the first place? It shows the lack of innovation and creativity that networks have when it comes to racing. Just because one has the hollywood hotel do they all have to have one?
Again leave it to Speed to come up with a new idea with the Truck Series pre-race. A simple desk (tho a very nice one), pulled out on pit road, right in the action with crews, drivers, media, and officials getting ready for the "Big" event. They have the enthusiasm and up beat tempo which seems to draw the fan right into sitting down and watching an exciting race.
Get rid of Brad and Suzy and get someone in there that knows racing. I don't need a recap of the race every 100 whatevers, I'm watching the race! I saw it myself. Save the recap for the end of the race or even better, on NASCAR Now?

Desmond said...

I also think that Brad Daugherty has potential as a good TV analyst once his role is better defined.

I also truly believe that Daugherty was hired for his expertise in the sport, although being African-American doesn't hurt.

Finally, to the anonymous who posted at 9:51 am EDT this morning: Either you are really confused or you need to use the LOL emoticon at the end.

Anonymous said...

Again leave it to Speed to come up with a new idea with the Truck Series pre-race. A simple desk (tho a very nice one), pulled out on pit road, right in the action with crews, drivers, media, and officials getting ready for the "Big" event.

That wasn't even a Speed inovation (although it is a good idea). NBC started that with placing Bill Webber on top of the NBC Pit Box parked on (or at least near) pit row for their prerace show. And that always helped to build more exicement than the Hollywood Hotel.

When NBC first started their contract, I thought that their race coverage was superior to FOX's - especially when AB was in the booth. Of course, that was mainly due to AB, BP, and the fact that it felt like the old ESPN broadcasts. Then they decided that they had to be more like Fox, and the quality went downhill.

Anonymous said...

I thought his pre-race concert in Richmond was pretty good, he's come a long way since American Idol...
Funny.

But you have the wrong guy. According to the closed-captioning, that concert was performed by "Dog Tree."

GinaV24 said...

I particularly like this -- "and maybe he can slap the next driver who says the words "I don't know what race the fans were watching, but from my seat the race was exciting!". I would LOVE to see this. It ticks me off as a race fan when driver's say that and I'm sorry but I'm tired of watching a TV broadcast of everything BUT racing when the green flag is out. I agree, too, that the red flag is usually used to catch up on things -- in the case of Richmond, an update on the drivers who had been in wrecks earlier in the race, rather than talking about football. Overall, I would prefer that people doing the NASCAR shows actually know something about the sport, no matter what network they are with. This is one of the reasons why I am exploring directTV options for next year and am turning the ESPN off. TNT was a debacle -- ESPN is only marginally better. Wall Street Journal had an article about Brian France -- and once more presents the rosy picture about the state of the sport that the emperor who has no clothes continues to paint. Blech!

Anonymous said...

The ONLY issue in regarding BD and interviews... he is too dang tall!! would pose a huge problem for the camera guy to get both into the shot. Plus not having the interviewee put into a subserviant role for having to look up so far for eye contact..

Ann_Ominious said...

ok, this is off topic, but I have a question and figure John will know the answer....

TNT/NBC used to do the banquet coverage. Will TNT still do it, or will ESPN?

And to make it on topic, if ESPN does it, what part will Brad play in the coverage?

Anonymous said...

Even bigger question...

If ESPN does the banquet, will they miss the beginning of some speaches coming out of comercial?

haus20 said...

No, they won't miss the beginning of the speech because of a commercial, they will have Suzy and Brad talking over the current speech because they are re-capping the previous speeches from the ESPN box "high atop" the Waldorf Astoria.

haus20 said...

In all seriousness...at least for the most part. I thought that Wednesday's NN was one of the better ones that EK has done. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope somewhere in ESPN production land.

RC said...

Brad does know the sport very well - the problem is he is a victim of ESPN's upper management and has to proceed in the direction they send him.

If given the opportunity to change direction he could be better. Do you think it was HIS idea to wander off into a football discussion Saturday night? I think not, the little voice inhis earpiece guided him there.

Sandie said...

@anonymous 6:49 I am :)..I'm more interested in being OTW

@anonymous 1:09 LOL! I LOVE reading the CC sometimes, it's too funny!

@anonymous 2:05 DillPickle is 6'5" and they manage OK :). They even did a bit either earlier this season or last about how he compensates as much as he can when interviewing shorter drivers.

@Ann_Ominious I haven't found anything, Jayski's last update says he hasn't heard about any TV as of May and it's now September. So I don't know.

@anonymous 3:54 LOL! I can see it now: Dr. Jerry: "We'll be right back with So and Sos speech." 200 commercials later, Dr. Jerry: "Folks you haven't missed a thing, So and So just got to the podium and started his speech." So and So: "...thank you and good night"

Anonymous said...

Don't they have I-AA (oops, I mean playoff subdivision) college football at that point of the year? They'll probably relegate the banquet to ESPN Classic, ESPN News or ESPN 360... maybe all 3!

David said...

John,
Brad has been by far the most impressive this season because the expectations many had of him were quite low. While Andy Petree and Shannon Spake have stepped up to the plate on several occasions, BD has been a constant and has proven he can fill a role that no other network really has. All of the other "faces" of each network have been known as "NASCAR" people. Period. Brad has come in when many viewed him as an outsider and has showed that you don't have to be a "NASCAR" person to walk-the-walk instead of merely talking. When he has had Bestwick to lean on this season he has been VERY impressive. I am curious to see how this develops as I was a cynic of his early in the season. Hopefully ESPN uses those few brain cells left and keeps him onboard for awhile.

Tripp said...

Hello tempest? Here's your teapot.

Why does BD need pigeonholed as either an analyst or the voice of the fan. He's an articulate, knowledgeable proponent of NASCAR. What does that make him? A versatile and personable on-air talent.

If one must put him in a box, how about that one?

Anonymous said...

Given a choice of listening to Brad, Jimmy Spencer and/or Kenny Wallace, or even Larry McReynolds, I choose Brad overwhelmingly.
He is intelligent, kind and he speaks well.
Anyone that sounds like he just fell off a turnip truck is impeded and his credibility can suffer. Uneducated speech patterns are often distracting
and unappealing.
Yes to Brad ! Yes to anyone, attractive and knowledgeable, regardless of race or sex.

NASCAR needs to "Chase the Race"
dilemma.

Anonymous said...

Brad has grown as a broadcaster this year. When I watch NASCAR Now, I am satisfied if I get him, Alan, or Marty Smith. Otherwise, I would be just as happy to read Jayski and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

He is intelligent, kind and he speaks well.

Now if he only knew the sport well enough to be able to speak authoritatively about it, he'd be all set.

Anonymous said...

Brad doesn't cut it. SpeedTV knows how to staff races, ESPN uses actors. Stop insulting our intelligence and give us a suite of ex-drivers.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

PLEASE... enuff of the boring commentary on ABC/ESPN! Nascar needs to designate it's OWN set of commentators and make them part of the package deal... let's get some consistency, people!
Left up 2 me (and I'm SO partial!), would be Darryl Waltrip, Jeff Hammond, Mike Joy, etc... and DON'T forget Wendy in the pits!!