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.
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