Friday, September 7, 2007

Ryan Burr Goes High-Profile With "NASCAR Now"

All season long the two different "teams" at NASCAR Now have battled over ESPN2 air time.

The first team is led by Erik Kuselias, and works this sport like a bunch of used car salesmen. Anything and everything is up for hype, and the bottom line is to fill thirty minutes. Nothing in racing is sacred, and respect is a word reserved for Major League Baseball.

The second team is led by NASCAR News anchor Ryan Burr. Since his first appearance on this series, Burr has led an all-out assault on this thirty minute block by his production team to fill the entire time with news, interviews, and analysis.

Friday afternoon, lots of eyes were on the final weekday version of NASCAR Now before the big Richmond weekend. The Chase line-up was about to be decided, NEXTEL Cup was moving to ABC Sports, and the NASCAR news was flowing faster than the James River through Shockoe Slip.

When viewers tuned-in, they were greeted by Ryan Burr in full news mode. Immediately Burr went to Marty Smith in Richmond with real breaking news about David Stremme and Ganassi Racing. Smith hinted at the impending Dario Franchitti switch to NEXTEL Cup, and then filled in as many details as were available.

Burr then announced the AT&T problems with NASCAR were now over, and brought in Stacy Compton and Tim Cowlishaw to talk about these topics. The good thing about Burr is that he is used to being in charge on the air, and keeps talkers like Cowlishaw on a very short leash. He also respects Compton, a trait that Kuselias has yet to master.

Things went directly to the track for the latest practice news, and then an update on Carl Edwards, who is on top of the world in both The Chase and the Busch Series. Once again, Shannon Spake quietly delivered another concise and low-key interview that hit the spot.

Burr worked both Compton and Cowlishaw hard on their opinions of the current Chase format, and the issues involved in the season to date. One key issue is Dale Earnhardt Junior, whose problems were finally kept in perspective instead of hyped.

Spake spoke with Brad Keselowski, who was involved in the wreck of the year last week. Her interview touched on his future, and allowed him to update viewers on his plans for the remainder of the season and next year. This is the type of brief and news-oriented "soundbite" that Burr works into his shows.

One hilarious item was ESPN2 running a pre-taped promo by Dale Earnhardt Junior actually promoting NASCAR Now. Any NASCAR fan who watched the NEXTEL Cup races and pre-race shows for the last couple of weeks knows exactly how Junior feels about ESPN and NASCAR Now's reporters these days. Once again, Junior was not seen speaking directly with any ESPN personality in this show.

Marty Smith, a good friend of Junior, returned with some updates on Mark Martin and DEI. The story of Martin taking over the "eight" car next season is a good one, and possibly Mark is the only driver who could pull this one off with the fans. Both Cowlishaw and Compton "tagged" this story with good opinions about DEI, Hendrick, and Junior.

Burr is not exactly a Drill Sergeant, but he keeps the reporters and analysts on their toes, often by interrupting them and asking his own follow-up questions. This understanding of the content they are reporting, and his ability to push them for details and opinion is the best part of his on-air presence.

In this mode, both on-set analysts and reporters feel comfortable, and that leads to smiles and good conversation. This show is so close to being excellent when Burr is hosting, that the transition back to Kuselias is mind-numbing.

Friday's fast-paced news oriented program is the type that could put ESPN right back into the collective psyche of NASCAR fans as a credible source for racing news and opinion. How hard is it to put Ryan Burr on NASCAR Now full time?

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 taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.


Matt said...

A bit irony with Dale Jr and ESPN: this afternoon, he was on PTI and actually looked happy and joked with those guys. Why did Dale Jr choose to go on that ESPN show, but not a NASCAR-themed show?

Daly Planet Editor said...


You really hit the nail on the head. Junior is a nice guy, but respect in NASCAR is earned, not given. Some ESPN reporters are certainly struggling in that regard right now. Key word: some.

Anonymous said...

Isn't whoever is writing, directing and setting up interviews the same people regardless of host? They all read and follow the script of the show that happens to come from the days news. I guess it comes down to who reads the way you like to be read to.

Anonymous said...

Erik K soured me on this show so much that I quit watching.

I will check it out and hope to catch the Burr fellow. He can't be worse.

Thanks for the tip!

pogeyboat said...

now if they can get brad the nice guy basketball player to give up on his,when i talked to him, preface to every name he speaks, i'll be a lot happier. does he think saying that 50 times each broadcast gives him insider credibility?

Anonymous said...

Ryan Burr is surely a competent host, but is he the savior of NASCAR Now? I know some folks feel differently, but I just don't see that much difference in him and Kuselias, especially since Kuselias has toned it down. They're both professionals - the show itself is pretty dry and somewhat repetitive in content, if you ask me, and that's the problem.

For those who like Burr so much more than Kuselias: If you gave Burr a detailed NASCAR quiz with the news and notes of this past season - or even the past two weeks, would he pass with flying colors? I'm not sure he would.

And Burr needs to stop saying "Good stuff" after almost every remote interview he does with anyone else.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anonymous 9:23 AM,

I would respectfully disagree about both men being equal. Burr's career has been in TV, and he is a full time anchor on ESPN News.

Kuselias was a lawyer who wanted to be in radio, and became an ESPN Radio host. This is his only TV gig for the network, and he is continually doing radio on TV.

That is where the hype, the drama, and the created excitement comes from. Anchoring on TV is a skill that many people go to college to perfect, not a "thing to do"because you no longer want to be a lawyer.

ESPN is the highest level of sports TV in North America. NASCAR is one of the top five professional sports in the country. These two things should result in a competent and experienced host for a daily NASCAR program.

Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your comment.

Anonymous said...

You would hope that ESPN would have learned how not to put on a racing news show by not. You're right about the way Ryan Burr gives the show a huge dose of credbility when he runs it as opposes to Erik K. Where did they get this idiot? All flash and no substance. But I'm not holding my breath. Just when you think ESPN has learned from past mistakes, they seem to revert back to the same glitter and glitz, with a heavy dose of sensationalism. If something ain't broke, leave it alone. Micah

Anonymous said...

''Anchoring on TV is a skill that many people go to college to perfect,''

"Kuselias, 37, is also getting a Ph.D. from Columbia Journalism School and working on his dissertation."

cwebs said...

The rift between ESPN (or, at least some of their pit reporters) and Junior is really starting to affect the coverage now. SPEED had much more information about the DEI practice/qualifying efforts yesterday afternoon than ESPN ever did. SPEED was all over the story, and even had an interview with Tony Eury Jr. about the situation.

ESPN, on the other hand, remained clueless, even through Junior's qualifying lap. They didn't seem to know that Jr. hadn't done any mock qualifying laps in practice, and Rusty was left to puzzle over the 8 car's "poor" performance during happy hour. It wasn't until they finally caught up with Jr. after his qualifying lap that they finally got some details about all the changes that were made to his car during that final practice session.

I'm pleasantly surprised that SPEED is still able to do some live reporting from the track, even when they aren't carrying any practice or qualifying sessions. We certainly wouldn't know what was really going on if it was left up to ESPN!


Daly Planet Editor said...

Maybe when Mr. Kuselias finishes his schooling, he can get a weekend sports gig at a local station and begin his TV career.

Good luck to him.

cwebs said...

I'm guessing his tenure at NN basically counts as an internship. Sure is nice of ESPN to force a glorified intern on us for a full season...