Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ESPN's NASCAR News Bonanza

Tuesday turned out to be quite a day for the "Insiders" at NASCAR Now, ESPN2's daily motorsports show.

First up was Terry Blount who has been both a strong and opinionated reporter for ESPN's NASCAR efforts. He has not been swept up in the "breaking news" hysteria, and always presents himself in a professional and credible manner.

Around this time of the season, right before The Chase, we begin to see the dominoes start to fall around the garage, and the entire sport. Blount had a good recap on Tony Eury Junior's move to Hendrick, Casey Mears moving to the "five" car, and the latest on Dale Earnhardt Junior's team and car numbers. Blount is one reporter who can handle host Erik Kuselias smoothly, and once again today it showed on-the-air.

"Insider" Marty Smith was next on-scene with JJ Yeley as he joined Hall of Fame Racing. This curious move was linked directly to Toyota motors from Gibbs Racing, and the opportunity to improve the performance of this single car team.

Another "Insider" David Newton came on-camera to re-enforce the details of this story, which to many fans just does not make sense. Yeley had several opportunities to go to established multi-car teams, but instead chose a team that has never even contended for a win.

Newton hinted that Yeley's new team would be a part of a major effort by Toyota and closely linked with Gibbs. All season long, Newton has been a soft-spoken reporter with good details and a calm demeanor. Appearing as the third "Insider" in the show, Newton's appearance really served to remind viewers of the resources at ESPN's disposal when it comes to NASCAR News.

Chad Knaus appeared on this show, but it was unfortunately by phone. This smacks of a TV show just repeating the same information heard on Sirius and XM radio's NASCAR channels. The endless parade of NASCAR call-ins by drivers and crew chiefs has gone on all season and certainly served to heighten the profile of satellite radio this year.

NASCAR Now absolutely needs to try everything possible to get their key interviews on-camera, including finally committing to a Mooresville area liveshot studio. When almost everyone in "NASCAR land" lives in the same general area, getting every face possible on-camera is key for this series.

Tim Brewer appeared from an unknown location, and offered a good summary of several news topics. Brewer is plain spoken, and he speaks the language of many NASCAR fans. These veteran fans remember Brewer's involvement in the sport, but the newer fans are somewhat put-off by Brewer's style.

Once out of the Tech Center, Brewer offers good opinions and chats very well live. Maybe, an Infield Studio appearance at Richmond is in his future? Tough to get the Tech Center on-the-air at a short track, and Tim's perspectives in the studio could add a new dimension to the racing.

After all this hard news and analysis, its a bit rough to watch a Fantasy League "pick 'em" where random drivers are just compared head-to-head out of thin air. Nothing that Fantasy Writer Christopher Harris says is ever referenced later, because racing luck does not respond to sports writers trying to describe NASCAR drivers in baseball player terms. Let's face it, everybody is trying to win, but no one is immune to mechanical failure or on-track incidents. Stats just don't play the same role in NASCAR as stick-and-ball sports.

With all the "news guys" in the show, it certainly appears that this would have been a good day for Ryan Burr to host the program. He has a pace that keeps things hopping, and talks naturally with the reporters, as opposed to reading scripted questions. His ESPN News Network background lends itself to this type of program, and has proven to be popular with viewers this season.

As NASCAR Now transitioned back to the thirty minute version, they showed the strength of good reporting that has been going on all season. These three "Insiders" are not the reporters involved in the ESPN skirmishes with drivers recently. It is very clear which ESPN reporters are on the "NASCAR news" side of the fence, and who is on the "tabloid hype" side. At the track, those two ESPN groups mix like oil and water. That should make for some interesting times during The Chase.

Wednesday, NASCAR Now will get a big boost from the fans tuning-in for the "Gibbs to Toyota" information after work. This is a great opportunity to put ESPN2's best foot forward and capture as many new viewers as possible with a focused and professional effort for thirty minutes. Good luck to all, we'll be watching.

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.


Anonymous said...

You make two salient points in this segment. Upon reflection, they are related. There appears to be ongoing hostilities within the walls of ESPN.

1)The lack of a NC production facility seems to indicate either a lack of trust or commitment by management.

2)The NASCAR oriented journalists are frequently passed over in favor of smirky TV folks who seem to be perpetually indignant about some issue each week.

ESPN is loaded with talented folks. The real problem is at the top. The senior folks continue to force people into rolls that they are ill suited to perform. That is a real TV tragedy.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that at least part of the ESPN/NASCAR Now troubles arise from the now-prevalent belief (generated by sports talk radio) that "it's not interesting unless it's a controversy."

This sort of attitude does a disservice to any sport's fans. We watch NASCAR not because we like artificial drama, but because the sport itself is interesting.

If ESPN would just get this idea, it would generate coverage we could get behind.

Kind of like SPEED's treatment of NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

We watch NASCAR not because we like artificial drama, but because the sport itself is interesting.

This is so on point that it bears repeating.

Anonymous said...

Those ESPN people really showed their knowledge of NASCAR too.

The fantasy bozo picked Dave Blaney as his sleeper pick since Blaney "is 33rd in points and will be in the race."

You have to be kidding me.

Haus14 said...

Erik K said that Tim Brewer was reporting from Charlotte...over the life of the show, there have been many instances of the same type of thing. One of the reporters would be on some kind of live shot set reporting. Why don't they use that for the drivers and crew chiefs? Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

ESPN doesn't use that studio(ERT) to bring in guests because as John has mentioned at times, Charlotte isn't as convenient to get to from Mooresville as you would think. If you're Knaus, and you're dealing with your day to day duties as crew chief for the 48, would you really want to hop in a car and drive 1/2 hour(that's with no traffic) to Charlotte? Regardless of how any driver or crew member feels about ESPN, I don't think they'd do it for any network.

I don't agree that they need a studio in Mooresville. If you go down the main teams they're not all in Mooresville. Some are 20-25 minutes away, which again, makes it tough to get a driver/crew chief to leave. That being said, ESPN is supposedly installing "glowpoint" cameras at all of the major race shops next year. They said something about this at Daytona this year when they were hyping up their coverage. Something like this would be great. A glowpoint camera is like an HD webcam, where a guest just walks into a room, clips on a mic, someone in studio dials a phone number, and the camera goes up and is running. They use it now for guys like Buster Olney and John Clayton. My station just got some for their bureau cameras. It allows us to set up shop in different parts around the state without sending camera people.

GinaV24 said...

I quit watching NASCAR Now about 2 weeks after it started on air because it was just too stupid to bear. However, I read this column every day since I really enjoy the recap (I get all the info and none of the aggravation this way) and because I enjoy the commentary from other folks writing in. I'm about to quit watching the races on ESPN, too, mainly for the same reason. Just too annoying to waste time watching when the coverage on MRN/Sirius radio is a 1,000 times better (other than not being able to "see" it). But with all of ESPN's hype going on during the race broadcasts, seeing the race on TV is not all that great. I can visualize what is going on at track by what the radio announcers are saying. Great column, please keep it up!

Haus14 said...

I still watch NN to hear from the reporters...the driver pick-em and all of the hype is ridiculous...

If NN is going to continue to refuse to cover Busch and truck, then they should redues the show schedule for Nascar Now instead of filling it with hype and fluff.

They have had 7 month to figure this out...they just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that they need a studio in Mooresville.

I agree.

They need an entire bureau there.

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 5:37. A bureau would be smaller than a studio. Most bureaus are one room, usually rented in a complex, with a camera, a few lights, a small mixer, a background, and a computer to do some simple editing. I think ESPN's idea of putting cameras at the different race shops would be much better. You would get access that other stations just wouldn't have. Plus, you would never be in a bind for guests. You could call a specific race team and just ask that they provide anyone from the team to answer a few questions that day.

Anonymous said...

One more thing about the anonymous comment suggesting cameras at all the race shops: This would be akin to the "team cams" used on NFL Network. It can be done.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR Now and ESPN's NASCAR coverage both SUCK, period!!!

Anonymous said...

A bureau would be smaller than a studio. Most bureaus are one room, usually rented in a complex, with a camera, a few lights, a small mixer, a background, and a computer to do some simple editing.
i am not talking about a "bureau" as defined by your local TV news operation.

A "bureau" can also be staffed by several reporters, several photographers, lead by a Bureau Chief.

Think Big-Time TV, like a network or a group, not local.