Tuesday, November 6, 2007
ESPN Hosts A "NASCAR Day" Without NASCAR
Marty Reid has been working hard for ESPN on both the NHRA and IndyCar Series. He certainly has been an outstanding announcer and of great service to ESPN.
Suddenly, Reid has been turning-up on NASCAR Now, ESPN2's daily NASCAR show. There was never an explanation of why, but it was nice to see him. Perhaps, he was doing some vacation relief duty, even though the series has two regular hosts.
Tuesday night, Reid was once again hosting NASCAR Now, only tonight things would be very different. This episode of the show was ESPN's attempt to host a "NASCAR day" at the end of the season, and discuss some pressing issues about the sport.
Selected to participate were driver Jeff Burton, NASCAR Insider Marty Smith, and veteran Charlotte Observer writer David Poole. Reid informed viewers right at the top of the show that NASCAR President Mike Helton would not be participating due to "scheduling conflicts." NASCAR would not be represented in a TV program about them carried by one of their official TV partners.
Reid led the panel through a question about the length of the season, which broke the ice and let everyone participate. David Poole cut to the chase about the NHIS purchase and the amount of money each race is worth. The season will not be shortened. Several other topics were then discussed, with good results.
Reid then laid-out ESPN's plan to change the way NASCAR races are scored. It was an interesting moment in NASCAR Now history, and one had the feeling that Reid was fully aware of just how off-beat this suggestion was.
Reid tried to make the case that Dale Earnhardt Jr. checking the Redskins score during a race meant the race was too long. As many of us know, Junior is a Redskins fan, and keeps up with the team. Reid unveiled a graphic while asking "how do we make every lap count?"
He proposed that NASCAR divide each race into quarters, just like an NFL game. He continued on to suggest that the purse and the points be split into these quarters in order to make "these guys run hard all day." Reid first turned to Jeff Burton for a reaction.
"Well, the first word that comes to mind is absurd," said Burton. "The goal of racing is to be there at the end. This (ESPN) system would reward people for doing things that would actually hamper they way they finished the race. So, it makes no sense."
Burton continued "you used the worst example in the world of Talladega to expose a problem, when in fact we don't have this problem at most race tracks. You have to run hard to be competitive at almost every race track with the exception of Talladega, so I think that (concept) is absurd."
Marty Smith was next, and fled this idea at high speed. He suggested "making winning matter" and mentioned that David Poole had a good idea about this. In "TV land," that is called re-directing the conversation. Smith knew better than to get himself on TV talking about racing in "quarters" like the NFL.
The next topic on the agenda was the Busch Series, which will change to Nationwide Insurance sponsorship next season. This is the one NASCAR series carried exclusively by ESPN. After a brief conversation about Cup drivers "Busch-whacking," Marty Smith chimed-in with some views. They were very interesting.
Smith said "one thing that NASCAR should do is really promote the young kids." He was referring to the youngsters who have raced this season in the Busch Series in almost total anonymity. "Create a separate interest for the fan," continued Smith. His point was that the promotion of the Busch "regulars" is key to this series becoming healthy. Unfortunately, he missed one key issue.
The Busch Series has been ignored by NASCAR Now for the entire season. Somehow, that part slipped his mind. Clearly, NASCAR had entrusted an entire series to ESPN and they had summarily run it into the ground.
Any reader of The Daly Planet this season saw our outrage when the entire NASCAR Countdown show before the Busch Series race at Talladega did not even mention the Busch race. Thirty minutes of Brad Daugherty and company talking to NEXTEL Cup drivers about "the big one" and "drafting" without ever mentioning the actual race they were there to preview.
Incredibly, young Brad Coleman had taken his first Busch Series pole position and was not even interviewed. After the race, Coleman had landed himself a top ten finish and was not interviewed once again. Smith was right in saying that this series needs a distinct identity. What he forgot was his network was the one totally responsible for ignoring these same up-and-coming stars.
The ironic twist is that for over ten months now The Daly Planet has been asking ESPN to include Busch Series highlights and interviews on the Sunday morning and Monday evening one hour NASCAR Now programs. It never happened.
Two or three minutes of Busch Series highlights and interviews should not be a problem. Especially, when every race is carried by ESPN...and NASCAR Now is ESPN's "NASCAR only" TV series. Can this concept be any more fundamental?
Why Erik Kuselias was not hosting this show is anyone's guess. It was suggested that his level of NASCAR knowledge would not lend itself to this type of free-flowing conversation with three experienced personalities. Substitute host Ryan Burr was also nowhere to be found. How Marty Reid wound-up in Bristol on the NASCAR trail is a mystery. At least he was the right man for the job and someone viewers trust.
There are so many good news items to discuss, and getting these three "experts" together was a great idea. Hopefully, it will happen again soon.
Certainly, one thing fans will be talking about is ESPN suggesting that NASCAR races be like NFL games and played in four quarters. Also, the network making the case that the change is needed because that is the only way drivers would "run hard all the time." It certainly has been a long season.
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