Monday, November 5, 2007

SPEED's Chad Knaus Takes His Act To ESPN


Regular viewers of the NASCAR programming on SPEED have been familiar with Chad Knaus for sometime now. In addition to appearing on SPEED's RaceDay show, Knaus is also a longtime co-host of NASCAR Performance with Larry McReynolds and Bootie Barker.

Knaus has also appeared on Trackside and NASCAR Live, which basically rounds-out his commitment to SPEED and his high level of comfort with the on-air staff of that network. Now, he has taken his act to ESPN and ABC.

With Hendrick Motorsports team mates Gordon and Johnson the only battle on the horizon, ESPN has seemingly fallen in love with the camera-friendly Knaus. This was certainly apparent in the Sunday coverage of the NEXTEL Cup race at Texas.

Toward the close of the event, the ESPN on ABC crew actually cut-away from Greg Biffle's burning car to witness Knaus sitting on his pit box...deep in thought. The Daly Planet referred to the coverage as the "Chad Knaus Telethon."

On Monday afternoon, the one hour edition of NASCAR Now took to the air from the HD studios of ESPN in Bristol, CT. Analyst Boris Said was on-hand with series host Erik Kuselias to handle the commentary.

With only two Monday versions of NASCAR Now remaining, the program decided to follow-up on the Sunday race by speaking with Knaus. He is the crew chief of the championship team, he is on the verge of clinching another title, and he is one of the best known faces in the sport. Knaus appeared on NASCAR Now ... via his cell phone.

That's right, the Worldwide Leader In Sports once again had demonstrated their lack of understanding about NASCAR. Whether from Hendrick Motorsports, or even his home, Knaus should have been on a satellite feed live and in living color. There are two weeks left in the "playoffs" of this very high-profile sport. Then, it is over.

If there was ever a time, and ever a show, where ESPN should have pulled-out all the stops with follow-up coverage, this was it. Instead, viewers find Boris Said talking about races he has not run and a series where he does not regularly compete.

Incredibly, it was the NASCAR-challenged Kuselias who interviewed Knaus without a word from studio analyst Said, much less an informed question. Now a TV veteran, Knaus handled Kuselias with ease, which was hard given the interesting quality of the questions.

"Chad, what were your thoughts on this race...as its winding down the stretch...and making sure you either left with the points lead vs. trying to balance winning this thing?" asked Kuselias as the opening question. Knaus did not flinch.

In winding-up the interview, Kuselias teased Knaus about "breaking out his ten gallon hat" in Victory Lane at TMS. It appeared Kuselias did not know that it came from TMS President Eddie Gossage...for winning the race.

While this show once again tried to make amends by showing brief Busch and Truck Series highlights, no amount of promotion could mend those fences for this season.

Knaus should have been asked about those two series, and his outlook on the COT for next season. He should have been asked a lot of things, but he was not. Once again, in the biggest fundamental flaw of this show, the studio host does the interviews while the studio analyst sits silently on the set.

Aside from a brief news segment, ESPN continued to hammer the Johnson vs. Gordon theme. Never did they reference the drivers whose conditions were not updated after accidents in the race. Never did they update the stories of the "non-Chasers," or the injured pit crew member.

When a bottle bounced off Kyle Busch's car under caution, and when Greg Biffle struggled to get out of his burning car it certainly got the attention of the fans. It did not get the attention of NASCAR Now.

Credible guests like Knaus addressing more issues than just one and staying for several segments of this show is going to be key to NASCAR Now moving forward in 2008. The continued use of a host and not an analyst to talk racing has resulted in memorable moments with Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick this season that should have embarrassed ESPN.

The squint of Dale Earnhardt Jr and the grin of Tony Stewart should have been a sign that the questions being asked of them on national television were ridiculous. Even Chad Knaus finally snapped back when Kuselias asked him which track he "favors" over the next two races. "Both" he said. What other answer is there?

NASCAR Now will not have a show on Monday after the Homestead race so ESPN2 viewers can watch a basketball game from Hawaii. That means next week is the final Monday one hour episode for 2007. When this series ends, we will put together a recap of this first season of the only daily national TV show about NASCAR, and then ask for your comments.

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.

29 comments:

Newracefan said...

To quote Bootie Barker "it's all about the Chad" Unless you saw Nascar Performance from Texas you won't understand. Bootie's explaination of why the 70 hit the wall in Atlanta had me laughing for 10 minutes "Aardvark". Unfortunately for Erik my 10 minutes of laughter related to Nascar Now was at him not with him. Boris rant about Penske and owners points was interesting but I'm not sure it was his place to rant. That would have been a perfect news item- what do other active drivers in and out of the top 35 think- Marty Smuth please! All I got was Boris at the end of the show and no follow up, why bother bringing it up at all.

Anonymous said...

Chad Knaus is the smartest crew chief in nascar currently. This reminds of the Ray Evrenham era.

Anonymous said...

JD, good summary, as usual. I thought after not seeing Erik for most of the past week, that he was history. Not a chance, I guess he was in school?

I wish he wouldn't sound as though he's screeming. The way he projects his voice is not pleasant to listen to for an hour.

Okay, it was the Jimmie and Jeff show. It would have been okay if it had not been so reduntant. Erik asked "Do you think Jeff can win the chanpionship" in a variety of ways and to several people. Then the question "Was Jimmie's driving too risky?". It was posed to Rick Handricks, Chad, Boris, and MIke? Good grief, I've heard that the writers are going on strike, but I didn't think they had already gone!

There were too many recaps of the race. I didn't count them, but it seemed like there were at least 4.

No mention of the hand gestures from Tony and Kevin.

I'm sick and tired of hearing Boris gripe about the top 35 in owner's points. He needds to mention that it directly affects him. WHY does ESPN continue to give a platform to those who don't like the system?

Millions of us will never see a Texas race in person. So why with all the extra time they have, they did not let us know more about the race traditions at this track? Instead of showing us endless recaps of the race, they could have shown us the victory lane celebrations.

I was lucky to have read in USA Today (Sat. edition) about the traditions here. The winners are given hats (Richard Petty's supplier), a sterling silver hat on a pedestal, 2 Berettas, a wall of fame where they slide a name plate, an engraver with a laser to fill in the winneer's name, red, white and blue confetti in the shape of Texas.

No updates on rookie points. I always have to look them up. I wish I could find an explanation on how the points are distributed. Also, some of the drivers that have not been mathematically eleminated, can only win if both Jeff and Jimmie don't show up for at least one of the races. Please, if it requires the top 2 not to show up, it's not taking much of a risk to say they are out of the race.

stricklinfan82 said...

No NASCAR Now after the Homestead finale? Wow, that's certainly showing a commitment to this sport.

wickedj said...

Hut Stricklin Fan - meanwhile isnt SPEED doing some HUGE 3 hour Raceday? and probably a even bigger Victory Lane?

Anonymous said...

Why do these drivers, crew chiefs, etc., bother to appear on a show they know will insult their (and the viewers') intelligence?

If I were Chad, I think I'd have been too busy to make the interview.

Anonymous said...

There are two NASCAR Now programs scheduled after Homestead on ESPN2. One is the regular Sunday night program at midnight Nov. 19 -it's a half hour.

Looks very bad for ESPN2 when they can't devote at least an hour to a championship followup, and even worse that they can't bother to move NN back a few hours earlier for ONE week so more of the audience could watch it. Three episodes of World Series of Poker air from 9:30-midnight EST that evening, and IMO the second episode from 10-11 PM should be pre-empted by NASCAR Now in this instance.

The final NN is scheduled for Tuesday 11/20 at 1:30 AM EST, after the basketball tournament mentioned in the column.

Talk about a lack of bells and whistles for a championship. Can you imagine if this was the final game in another "major" sport?

An alternative ESPN should consider: ESPN Sunday evening Nov 18 is a classic car auction from 8-11 PM. They could easily air NASCAR Now live on ESPN instead of ESPN2(which they did the first week or two it was on air) not long after the championship concludes.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I didn't watch this episode, but I don't have a problem with them interviewing Knaus by phone.

That's common with athletes/coaches on all the ESPN daily sports shows devoted to one sport. Sometimes the interviewee has other committments or may be away on a day off, in which case a phone interview is preferable from their side. They may not want the camera intrusion into their home in that case as well.

Looking forward to the season-end wrap up of this show from the Daly Planet.

Anonymous said...

Is it just not beating a dead horse on Monday evening after you have had 1hr Speed Report, 1hr Wind Tunnel, 1hr Raceday and 100's of recaps of the race on the net, to expect NN to just go over the same???

Rick said...

Once again, turned it on, saw Erik, clicked to another channel.

Anonymous said...

Chad Knauss should have been asked if he was planning on cheating again in 2008.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 8.18am

Not everyone has Speed, or ESPN Classic, Sirious, etc.

If they air programs of NASCAR on ESPN and ESPN2, they should cover all of NASCAR, which they don't. It's a perfect opportunity to highlight some of the acttion during the race that was missed by the announcers.

HBO, Fox, NBC, or CBS, don't worry what some other program has covered. The Sunday night shows deliver complete information to the viewer who has turned on the show.

It just seems that ESPN doesn't know what else to do on NN, so it has endless videos of the exact same thing. There's not enough originality in their programming. There are many interesting untold stories that fans would appreciate.

Since they don't show the award ceremony at the end of the race (unlike tennis and golf), NN would be a perfect time to show the fans some of the neat traditions at certain tracks. When you have athletes who go all over the country to "play their game", bring the viewers with you and let them share the experience.

elena

Anonymous said...

It seems a couple of these posters are employees of ESPN, or are Pro-ESPN. There is no such thing as too much information or recaps from NASCAR. There are 43 teams in Cup 36 teams in Truck, and 43 teams in Busch with hundreds of employees that entail MANY stories of the day or weekend. One need to only look at Gene Haas's story and find out that a couple of hours are not enough to explain everything. If you are complaining about too much recaps, what in the world are you implying that you'd rather be watching?? The other poster saying that it's not uncommon that many athletes in other sports often take a phone call rather than an in person interview. That may be the case, but as usual, this is not "other" sports. This is NASCAR. Where crew members work 6 to seven days at the shop, and yes, even on Christmas.(I know because I have a sibling that works for a NASCAR team). So it is not uncommon that they do a camera interview from the shop, or even (gasp) from their home. Because if anyone has been around NASCAR long enough knows, they are accessible to the public. Again, folks, this is not "other sports."

Sgee said...

Well, I said I would give it time before I moved in with the complaing. I believe there is too much complaining about NASCAR on the internet, and I don't want to be a part of it.
But for NASCAR Now...I can't help it.
The show sucks. They have all the right stuff for a fantastic show, but all we get is dumbed down footage of what we have already seen.
There is so much they could cover. It is sad. Please, tell me more about the 17th and 20th place drivers. I don't care if the "general public" doesn't care, I do! I watch Basketball shows and they cover the games of the teams with the worst records, why can't NASCAR Now tell me some good things about Ricky Rudd or Johnny Sauter. I mean, there were over 50 drivers who ran a race this year. That is 50 interesting segments they could have done. Instead, I had to watch 50 replays of the same race, 50 asking of the same dumbed down questions, 50 reminders about the chase format.
Blah. I love NASCAR, I love ESPN. They have got to work on this though.

Anonymous said...

"So it is not uncommon that they do a camera interview from the shop, or even (gasp) from their home. Because if anyone has been around NASCAR long enough knows, they are accessible to the public. Again, folks, this is not "other sports.""

I visit nascar.com and other racing sites that have audio or transcripts of frequent driver/crew chief phone press conferences for the media. I've heard/read enough of them to know that many times - especially in the driver's case - they are in a cell phone in a car on a way to an appearance or a business meeting, or out on their property or porch or about to get on a boat (on their only day off) when they do these press conferences. In other words, no time or desire to do a satellite interview. Understandable as the demands on their time are heavy every week.

"Well, I said I would give it time before I moved in with the complaing. I believe there is too much complaining about NASCAR on the internet, and I don't want to be a part of it.
But for NASCAR Now...I can't help it. The show sucks."


Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@ 8:05 said:
"Looks very bad for ESPN2 when they can't devote at least an hour to a championship followup, and even worse that they can't bother to move NN back a few hours earlier for ONE week so more of the audience could watch it. Three episodes of World Series of Poker air from 9:30-midnight EST that evening, and IMO the second episode from 10-11 PM should be pre-empted by NASCAR Now in this instance."

Thanks for this information. I just checked the listings and I think NASCAR fans should really be insulted by this. ESPN has *three* channels that could provide in-depth post-race championship finale coverage on Sunday November 18 and none of them are doing it.

Instead there's the car auction (ESPN), poker, which appears to be reruns (ESPN2), and the football movie 'Neccesary Roughness' which is showing **twice in a row!!** from 8pm-Midnight (ESPN Classic).

I'm just...stunned. The more this goes on, the more I see that NASCAR really has no clout with ESPN right now. We all better hope they get some.

Anonymous said...

sgee, is so right. There are so many wonderful stories that remain untold. Even though I'm a Jeff fan, I want to know more about each and every driver. You mentioned basketball, and baseball is the same.

I lived in southern California for many years and was a fan of the Dodgers and Vince Scully. He would always have stories about the most obscure player, evenn of the other team. If the game was televised, I would turn the sound off and listen to him on the radio.

The way NN does NASCAR, makes the drivers all look one dimensional. They do no reasearch, not indepth interviews for background, don't spend time at the track to hear the "inside baseball" type of stories. They make no attempt at a relationship with drivers so they trust and don't think it's just a gotcha question. Dont' blame Tony for paying a fine rather than talk to ESPN reporters.

elena

Anonymous said...

"I'm just...stunned. The more this goes on, the more I see that NASCAR really has no clout with ESPN right now. We all better hope they get some."

NASCAR really has no clout anymore..NBC dropped them and NASCAR was lucky ESPN picked them up..do you wonder why FOX/SPEEDTV did not try and get the TNT races?
Just not what it was in the growing 90's for NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR needs to shoulder some of the blame for the coverage, I don't care who or what shows the races in the fall on Saturday & Sunday, they will never come close to the interest and time that we have for College & Pro Football. These 2 will always trump NASCAR and I don't there is anything that anybody can do to overcome this. For the harcore fans you can look forward to a pay NASCAR channel or Pay-For-View.

Anonymous said...

The facts are not that NBC dropped NASCAR, but rather that ESPN was wiling to pay more than 1 billion dollars for their contract. That is serious money.

NASCAR has more viewers than baseball, basketball, all women's sports, golf, tennis, poker, bowling, etc.

One of the problems is that NASCAR did not read the fine print in the contract and gave ESPN too much control--based on past performance.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notince how ESPN's bottom line called Gene Haas the owner of the 36 car and not the 66, 70 cars when reporting his prison sentence? These little inaccuracies in their Nascar coverage have been non-stop all year long.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
The facts are not that NBC dropped NASCAR, but rather that ESPN was wiling to pay more than 1 billion dollars for their contract. That is serious money.

NASCAR has more viewers than baseball, basketball, all women's sports, golf, tennis, poker, bowling, etc.

One of the problems is that NASCAR did not read the fine print in the contract and gave ESPN too much control--based on past performance.

November 6, 2007 12:20 PM


NBC dropped NASCAR for NFL....Yes they might have more viewers for sports you listed, but the problem starting in Sept every year is College & Pro Football...NASCAR needs to change so they don't go up agaist this...maybe shorter season, but more sponsors & higher ratings would be a help to all

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for the great comments, I agree that there are just so many stories to tell this season that have never seen the light of day.

Logistics is one big issue, with only Shannon Spake filing reports from the Mooresville area and little else being invested by ESPN on the ground in the area.

I certainly hope that next season we get the Mooresville/Concord perspective of the sport, instead of the Bristol, Connecticut view.

It should be interesting to see who winds-up as the primary host of this program in 2008 as well.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a live Q&A session going on in another post, just refresh to the main page to participate.

JD

Anonymous said...

"The facts are not that NBC dropped NASCAR, but rather that ESPN was wiling to pay more than 1 billion dollars for their contract. That is serious money."

This is incorrect. NBC and CBS were not interested in NASCAR. From an Associated Press/ESPN.com article on the deal:
Spreading the content around was the only way NASCAR could make deals affordable for its partners. Both Fox and NBC lost money on the last deal and in declining to extend its contract, NBC said the value the network put on the NASCAR package was far less than the asking price.

http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/news/story?series=wc&id=2251049

The current NASCAR contract that runs through 2014 is a $4.48 billion, eight-year contract that splits its racing schedule among FOX, the SPEED Channel, TNT, ESPN and ABC.

Anonymous said...

In the world of broadcast media, perception is reality. ESPN's much anticipated return to NASCAR was damaged early in the racing season by some critical personnel assignments. It begins with NASCAR Now. The NASCAR fan's expectations about ESPN's superior sports coverage were dashed immediately.

Erik Kuselius was clearly a bad choice as the primary program host. His abrasive "in your face" style alienated many NASCAR fans from the outset. ESPN was wasting the fan's predisposed good will by stubbornly sticking with their NASCAR Now game plan.

By the time it was ESPN's turn to broadcast the Cup races, many racing fans were feeling let down. Snide remarks about NASCAR by other ESPN on-air personnel did not help. As a result, little miscues that happen to all broadcasters that cover a live event were magnified into a crisis. Some folks had come to expect that ESPN's attitude about NASCAR would be disrespectful. Perception again. They were just looking for proof. Of course, it did not help that some of ESPN's Busch and Cup programs were, in fact, sub standard.

Incidentally, I am a fan of ESPN. I sincerely hope they regroup and have a great 2008 racing season.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:03PM,

How do you think I feel? I started this site to talk about the good things that this new TV deal was going to bring the fans, and have spent the entire year documenting the bizzare and sub-standard TV coverage of my favorite sport.

As a ten year employee of ESPN, I was stunned when they unveiled Doug Banks and Erik Kuselias on NN. Now, some ten months later, Kuselias continues to push fans away from both the network and the sport. Its just flat-out strange.

Anonymous said...

I normally don't watch the Monday editions of NN - 60 minutes is just too much time to ask for from this show especially when they fill the hour with absolute junk, but after reading your article, I went back to watch it on the Tivo.

I must admit, whenever Eric the Silliest is interviewing someone, I usually cringe constantly, sometimes hiding my face out of sheer embarassment for the jack-assery that flows from his mouth.

That being said, I went into the episode expecting a complete train wreck. Maybe your pre-review build-up painted such a bleak outlook in advance that it lessened the affect the interview with Knaus had on me, but I honestly didn't think it was a bad as you made it out to be.

Everything you recapped was accurate and true, but I guess I didn't get the same normal gut-wrenching reaction to the interview. Could his questions have been better? Of course, but I didn't think they were completely out of line and I certainly didn't get the impression Chad was annoyed as many an interviewee has clearly been in the past when speaking with Eric.

While my "agreeing-with-you" percentage has been 100% since the inception of this show, this marked the first time I thought you were being too harsh in your comments regarding this specific interview. I thought Chad handled the questions great and the quality of questions were no where near the "bottom-of-the barrel" or "under-the-barrel" quality we've come to expect. At least he didn't ask him how much energy his head absorbed when he put on that 10-gallon hat. I guess they save the physics related questions for the trackside guys on TV.

Did the rest of the show suck? You bet it did!