Monday, September 3, 2007

ESPN's "NASCAR Now" Still Searching For Perspective

All eyes are on the Monday night one hour version of ESPN2's NASCAR Now. This show was expanded from thirty minutes to one hour earlier this year.

The ESPN press release said this was to "provide more time for recaps and analysis of the weekend's NASCAR races." Viewers tuning into this show have walked away scratching their heads and asking themselves one simple question.

Is the Monday edition of NASCAR Now about NASCAR racing, or just about the NEXTEL Cup races on ESPN and ABC?

Over the last seven months, The Daly Planet has suggested that NASCAR Now include The Busch and Craftsman Truck Series on these Monday shows. We have also asked for the results and highlights of NASCAR's regional touring series. This would include items like the high-profile Busch East Series and the build-up now underway for the Toyota All-Star Showdown.

The strong answer to these questions has been a resounding no. This week is a great example. The Busch Series raced under the lights in Fontana live on ESPN2 with Jeff Burton holding off Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. In ESPN2's own one hour NASCAR show, the network was not able to show highlights or interview the winner. This could have taken less than two minutes.

One of NASCAR's other three national touring series, The Craftsman Trucks, raced at Gateway on Saturday live on national TV. That race featured some future stars like Regan Smith, Chad McCumbee, and Josh Wise. It also showcased veterans like Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, and Johnny Benson. The racing was great.

Once again, even in a one hour show, ESPN could not find time for highlights or results. The bottom line is, the Trucks race on SPEED Channel. Only when Craftsman purchases advertising time on NASCAR Now do we see the Trucks mentioned. To ESPN, the Trucks simply do not exist because they do not race on an ESPN network.

By the way, many regional touring series drivers are livid with the network. NASCAR Now has recently asked Modified and Busch East drivers to come to ESPN to be interviewed live in the studio. Since then, ESPN has never followed-up with their series race highlights or shown one page of results. ESPN also interviewed by satellite some high-profile regional drivers including Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath. Since that time they have never mentioned how either one of them is doing, or where they are racing.

This is the first year that ESPN has approached the big NASCAR "NEXTEL Chase for the Cup." This is the first year that ESPN has been back in the NASCAR business of televising races. This is the first year of ESPN's studio program NASCAR Now. Sometimes, it has looked like this is ESPN's first year in TV.

Add Kevin Harvick's name to the list of drivers not too happy with the endless ESPN hype about The Chase. Harvick's comment into an ESPN microphone after Fontana was that despite reality, ESPN "would jerk everybody around and make them think its a good story." As the ESPN associate continued to babble, Harvick said "I think you ask stupid questions." NASCAR Now, of course, used this on the air.

Over the weekend, we have seen Dale Earnhardt Jr. be very pointed in his relationship with ESPN reporters. His words are carefully chosen, and he speaks very slowly in a tone that borders on disgust. Last week in Bristol, ESPN's Mike Massaro made Earnhardt repeat for TV an earlier comment about his step-mother Theresa. The look on Junior's face told the tale. ESPN had pissed-off the biggest name in the sport.

Tony Stewart is now invisible on NASCAR Now. Stewart's comments that dealing with ESPN's news and pit reporters was like "a sharp knife trying to dig for dirt" really dented the network's ego. His further question of ESPN reporter David Amber was "do we always have to leave with a dagger in our back from ESPN?" That one made national headlines.

So, instead of a fun hour of NEXTEL Cup, Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks, regional action, top news stories, and analysis...we get NASCAR Now. The thrust of this week's hour was to pump viewers to tune into the Cup race at Richmond. Host Erik Kuselias told viewers it was "the deciding race" for The Chase. Unfortunately, no one told ESPN studio analyst Stacy Compton who said the race for the top twelve spots was over after Fontana.

Now, the network heads toward Richmond with a group of drivers who do not quite know what to make of their new TV partner. Some of ESPN's NASCAR Now reporters are quietly ending the good working relationship between the media and the drivers at the track. The days of casual conversation are going fast, and the trust level is falling quickly.

This ESPN NASCAR Now situation is a shame. We all know that racing money is tight, and the Busch and Truck Series teams are struggling for the very dollars to continue operation. This lack of exposure on a big one hour Monday NASCAR TV show is not going to help. Even the success of The Chase is being affected by the endless hype and seeming lack of racing knowledge by the host of this show.

I personally believed that this episode of NASCAR Now was crucial for ESPN. Next week, the Richmond races are at night, and will wrap-up on Saturday. NASCAR fans can then choose from any of the SPEED or ESPN News programs that show race highlights on Sunday. By the time Monday rolls around, the lure of NASCAR Now will be long gone.

Everyone will already know who is in and who is out of The Chase, and that news will be two days old. With the Internet a click away, this Monday show needs to broaden its wings to have any appeal. In an ironic twist, only true NASCAR diversity can right this ship.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your opinion.


stricklinfan82 said...

They should just rename the show "Nextel (Sprint) Cup Now" if that's all they want to talk about. Even Speed's 1 hour Monday show called "Inside Nextel Cup" (whose name implies it is a recap of only that week's Cup race) manages to squeeze in limited Busch and Truck highlights and results.

Matt said...

I have lost all hope and expectations for anything on ESPN and am just waiting for one major driver to actually call out ESPN live, on air. It's one thing to do it on a taped interview, but live on-air would be the nail in ESPN's 2007 coffin.

I only hope that ESPN will use the off-season to re-evaluate their NASCAR coverage and perhaps grab a few of their veteran reporters currently being used on other racing series (John Kernan, Bob Jenkins, Rick Benjamin, Bill Stevens) to rebuild the respect and credibility this network had when they left the sport 8 years ago. Years ago, those things used to be important to ESPN..

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, I for one am grateful that my area has once again gotten an MRN affiliate.

That's where to listen when watching the race if one does not have Sirius or satellite options.

I think the problem with Harvick looking like a brat to many is, yes, he is the bubble boy and maybe the question was legit. But in the past weeks, ESPN's treatment of the sport in general, and the tabloid mentality is what is raising the hackles of the driver.

I do not have Sirius to hear all the talk but know for sure Tony has been annoyed, Jr, Harvick, and during the actual races, many driver seemed either bored or bothered to deal with ESPN period.

I think it was the Busch race (where we had no MRN) that Jamie Little went up to Carl as he sat in his car in the garage. She asked him something about how important he thought it was to get back out on the track ? He looked at her like she was an idiot and responded " Do you see all the guys working on this car?" His tone and facial expressions spoke volumes.

This has gone on with many drivers. And now to diss the Busch and Truck series with NASCAR's blessing??

I only watched NN to hear Happy's comments as I had read the buzz elsewhere.

John, I missed Jr being asked about Teresa on a pre-show as I stick with SPEED except maybe for a commercial switch over.

I do not remember the drivers showing such disdain for a network. It isn't just the work questions the reporters are asking about, but the overall "ATTITUDE" towards NASCAR.

Anonymous said...
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cwebs said...

My favorite NN moment from tonight's show was when Klulesas introduced the Keselowski segment.

The graphic at the bottom of the screen said "uninjured in wreck" as EK was saying "...Brad Keselowski injured his leg..."

So, was he injured or uninjured? Is it possible to be both at once? Is it kind of like when a driver is "walking away" from a wreck on a stretcher???

On another note, my cable system's on-screen schedule showed NN as airing from 5:30p - 6:30p. It must have actually aired from 6:00 - 7:00, since my DVR only caught the first half. I had to wait for the midnight repeat to catch the rest.

Why go to so much effort to see "NASCAR (For Dummies) Now"? Good question!!! I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment...


SophiaZ123 said...


Wow, you actually watched the entire show huh? :-)

I must admit, I was going to watch to see what the deal was with Harvick and then turn it off..which I did at 6:11pm, LOL.

I could tell by the tone they were going to focus too much on Dale. I know he is the most popular driver and I am a fan as well and my brother is a huge fan of his. However, none of us drink his beer, or wear his Wranglers or any of that stuff.

I just cant sit thru this blathering to drag out this story anymore. Leave him alone.

There is a reason I have a Bobby Labonte, Ken Schrader and Two Tony Stewart shirts (all gifts) and no Jr shirt. Jr NATION scares some of us less rabid Jr fans. But I may break down and get a shirt next year since his going to HMS put many fans into conniptions.

I am sorry I missed an interview with Brad. I would also like to hear more about Ricky Rudd's wreck. We all know about the shoulder but was he or was he not, knocked out "briefly?"
Hope to get the real story on that, eventually.

Guess I will just have to stay tuned to different news sites.


Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey Guys,

I guess we have someone who has a problem on-board. It takes all kinds to make a world.

Let me respond to Anonymous 12:56 AM:

If this gives you power for your life issues, that is fine. We all have them. What we also have here is a bunch of folks who like to talk NASCAR TV, and if they agree or disagree with me its not an issue.

I was not a videotape operator or any other type of Technical Operations employee at ESPN. Those guys knew better than to let me near the equipment. If you would like to speak to me about my TV resume, you can email me anytime at as many people do.

As you are new to NASCAR, perhaps you have not been to where you could understand the different series, where they race, and how many people participate.

One hour on one race is too long, that was my opinion and still is. I would like to see highlights of the weekend's racing, which is what the other wrap-up shows do.

Regional series are not akin to baseball, they are just guys who have real jobs and choose to race regionally. You may recall that one of the institutions of RPM2Night was their open-wheel Wednesday, where they showed various regional racing series.

Its the same for NASCAR, just some Busch East or Modified highlights after introducing the public to the drivers would be a good follow-up.

No one ripped ESPN for their soundbites, they had plenty of driver sound. My site is not the TV Guide review of each NASCAR show, it is one opinion each day that leads to a discussion.

It has been this way since February, and will continue to be through the end of the season. If you can temper your comments to make the points relating to the topic, please return and post.

I am sorry for the anger management issues in your life, but if this type of forum is not a place where you can follow the simple rules, I can suggest other blogs and sites where you can rip me personally all you want. There are several of them. Just email me.


Cire said...
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Cire said...

ESPN cannot seem to do anything right with its coverage. Will they listen to the howls of the Nascar fans? Doubt it. Doubt they care at all about what we say. The change is going to have to come from the Nascar side of it. Question is, how long will NASCAR sit idly by and let this debacle continue? My bet is as long as they have there TV money, they will sit on the sidelines and do nothing other than admonish the drivers who speak out against their TV partner. See my blog for more of my opinion on this mess:

Anonymous said...

Considering the iron hand with which NASCAR rules everything else in its domain, what are you supposed to think of this ESPN mess?

The "sanctioning body" surely cannot be pleased with the way it is being covered on ESPN, especially when (a) we're not even a full season in and their reporters have already alienated some of the top drivers, guys who normally have no trouble talking with reporters, and (b) SPEED's right here, offering a good example of how NASCAR coverage should be done.

Anonymous said...

If you watch the weekly NBA or MLB shows on ESPN, they do not show anything from the NBA D-League or MLB minor leagues. How is this any different than the Nascar "minor or developmental leagues" not being shown.

Anonymous said...

After the Michael Waltrip "incident" during the race, and after it was reported that he was out of the care center, I did not hear one person say "we are glad he's ok..........Course ,I fell asleep about 30 minutes after that happened. Grammi Girl

Garry said...

Where in the hell is Brian France or Mike Helton in all of this????

Anonymous said...

ESPN: Earnhardt Sells. Promote Now.

Anonymous said...

Bring back RPM2NIGHT. One man did a better job than that cast of thousands they have. The host is an embarrasment to the real reporters that get the inside scoop.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't ESPN just bring back John Kernana as host of NASCAR Now? He is back at ESPN as an NHRA reporter.

John Kernan would bring NASCAR Now back to its feet. Slowly, but surely.

Matt said...

To Anonymous 8:29am:

The reason the baseball and B-ball shows on ESPN don't show highlights from "minor leagues" is because none of those games are broadcast nationally. However, all NASCAR touring series are aired live on national TV (SPEED, ESPN2, HDNet) and therefore deserve to have their highlights shown on the "official" NASCAR program.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 8:29... it's a question of customer expectation.

First of all, unlike baseball minor leagues, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series are nationally televised - one of them by ESPN themselves! If you must think of them a "minor leagues", equate them more with College Football and Basketball, which gets a lot of coverage on ESPN.

Second, shows like The Speed Report and Wind Tunnel give some coverage to the regional series, as well as non-Nascar series like the World of Outlaws.

Third, when Rpm2Nite was still on the air (on ESPN2), they usually reserved part of a show each week for the regional series (unless breaking news forced them to skip coverage). We're not talking about anything extensive - it was typically a 3-5 minute segment with brief highlights (a key pass or the finish) and a graphic of the top 10 finishers in each race. It was perfect "filler" for the middle of the week - regional series one night, open-wheel on Wednesday, modifieds another night, etc.

So this is something Nascar Nation, and racing fans as a whole, like and want. And I thought the main goal of a television show was to give the viewers what they want - it would mean increased ratings and revenue.

Personally, the quality of ESPN's studio shows (including SportsCenter) has been going downhill for some time. They seem to be catering to the audience who listens mostly to Sports Talk Radio, and the shows seem to take on that type of attitude (see, Around the Horn and PTI). Even shows that used to be a high quality like the Sports Reporters have become nothing more than ego trips for the panelists. Even College Gameday has slipped in quality the last couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Not only did I see the injured vs uninjured Brad Keselowski segment, on my TV the scroll at the bottom said playing now was Stacy David's Gears, and up next was NASCAR Now, while NASCAR Now was playing!
Kevin in SoCal

Anonymous said...

To To Anonymous 8:29am:

Thats the problem! ESPN is basing NASCAR Now off Baseball Tonight and shows like NFL Live. There is a huge difference between baseball/NFL and NASCAR. That is why NASCAR Now should be treated differently. But ESPN refuses, and wants the show to be like a younger brother to Baseball Tonight.

stricklinfan82 said...

Mr. Daly,

Well said. I enjoy giving my thoughts on NASCAR TV coverage and listening to what everyone else here has to say, even if I disagree with them at times. It's just a shame that certain people can't express a viewpoint without personally attacking the other people that disagree with them. People tend to grow a lot of courage and become very outspoken when they can hide behind an anonymous name tag.

I don't always agree with everyone else here, but that doesn't mean that those people are idiots or that I'm an idiot. It's just a shame that a few rotten apples have to ruin the bunch at times.

Anonymous said...

About the drivers vs. ESPN reporters: Could the trouble be that the drivers are used to the reporters who are their friends, and the ESPN reporters are not trying to be their friends?

The Cup drivers may have gotten used to feeling like the reporters and anchors on NBC/TNT, Fox, and Speed are their friends, and if a new person from ESPN comes in and just asks no-nonsense questions like they would of athletes from other sports, they get upset.

I'm not saying the drivers don't have a point or a preference in how they are approached(I like the warm atmosphere of SPEED myself), but one could argue if the sport is going to be treated like ESPN treats its other sports, they need to deal with the tough questions from reporters who are going to maintain some sort of professional distance.

That means maybe not playing cards with them in their motorhome -I heard Matt Yocum on Tony Stewart's radio show talk about doing that with some drivers and their wives during the Michigan rain delay. I saw a clip of Marty Smith on TV this weekend hosting a live Budweiser appearance for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Maybe the existing relationships are just too close, and if someone like Massaro comes in and acts like a traditional ESPN guy, Earnhardt Jr and Stewart don't like it because it's not what they're used to. Maybe Bestwick and Burns have been told not to be as friendly either. I don't know if this theory is accurate, but those are my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Rusty Wallace should be demoted to "calling" the truck series until he stops using the phrase "right now" in every sentence. He really ruins the broadcast.

As far as the drivers disdain for the pit reporters: The drivers need to be reminded they are employees, and should act like it, not like spoiled babies.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to state a correction from my post at 2:51. I wrote -
I saw a clip of Marty Smith on TV this weekend hosting a live Budweiser appearance for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I actually saw photos -not a TV clip - of Marty Smith and Dale Earnhardt Jr on stage at the appearance Thursday, taken by a fan who attended the event. I watched too many racing shows this weekend and thought I saw them on TV.

SophiaZ123 said...

Demote Rusty to truck races!!

Please do NOT! I love watching the trucks and those guys are good, as is the racing!! LOL.

Wish him elsewhere...ok?


dispatcher112 said...

I could care less about ESPN anymore. It's a complete waste of my time to watch NASCAR NOW. As far as the races, I'll be watching on Direct TV and during the commercals switching to the team audio. At least with that you will see all the restarts. As for the highlights, I will be watching Inside Nextel Cup. I can't wait to see how many stations the Richmond race will be bounced around on next week.

Anonymous said...

Dispatcher. Most likely the richmond nextel cup race will not be bounced around, since it is on ABC. Unless college football runs Super long.

I don't get what the big deal is. I guess ESPN could just not show the races at all, and wait until college football is done. They are trying their best to do the fans a favor and get as much coverage on TV as possible. It is not the NASCAR on ESPN's crew fault that college football runs long. Its the higher ups who have scheduled these games/races.

They are trying their best. Trust me. But, you can't please everyone.

Seiko said...

Wait a second here...

Anonymous said...
They are trying their best to do the fans a favor and get as much coverage on TV as possible.

They are doing us a favor? Oh thank you most gracious and powerful ESPN. Just what I always wanted!!! Horrid announcers constant football and baseball analogies from a stick and ball idiot filling in for a day. I could go on here but you understand.

ESPN is not doing us a favor, they are trying to earn a profit from racing. They paid something like 700 million to air the races to NASCAR. I hope that money makes up for the fans that ESPN is turning away from the sport.

I doubt that may of the true fans (I'd wager anyone here is a long time NASCAR fan.)Is going to stop watching racing. But they are going to stop watching ESPN and switch to Hot Pass the other alternatives. I did just this week.

The favor ESPN could do for us is keep working to get better.

shinnery said...

I agree with SophiaZ123, we don't need Rusty, or Mikey, anywhere near Craftsman Truck Racing. How about sending them to IRL or maybe even better CART.

Anonymous said...

They are trying their best. Trust me. But, you can't please everyone.

Or anyone.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports is trying?

With 27 channels (including The Ocho), you'd think they'd have the resources and experience to get it right, not try to get it right.

If ESPN can't handle the job, then it should not have bought the rights.

Anonymous said...

What can we, as fans, do to impress upon ESPN how much we dislike their coverage? Or is there anything we can do?

I can't help but think that until the NASCAR big-wigs say something, ESPN is going to continue on the same old path. Then I wonder IF the NASCAR bigwigs will ever do anything. After all, ESPN is keeping their pockets lined with plenty o' green.

The interviews after the races this weekend on ESPN were absolutely pathetic. I still can't believe that stupid idiot Spake had the nerve to ask Carl Edwards how not winning the race made him feel. Duh. What'd she expect? A backflip?

Seriously, if there is an email address we can start sending comments to at ESPN, please share it and let's get the information out there for everyone. Maybe Jayski could put something on his homepage?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if there is an email address we can start sending comments to at ESPN, please share it and let's get the information out there for everyone. Maybe Jayski could put something on his homepage?

Since they own his site, I don't think you'll see that happen anytime soon.