Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shannon Spake Leaves "NASCAR Nation" Far Behind


This season has been a tough one for the ESPN gang. Along the way, however, there have been several individuals that have proven over the course of ten months that they are simply without a doubt very hard workers. At the top of that list is Shannon Spake.

Debuting on ESPN as a field reporter for NASCAR Now and NASCAR Countdown, Spake quietly moved into a pit reporter role for many telecasts as the season progressed. Now, with the season concluded, ESPN has just announced that Spake will be given an opportunity to be a college football sideline reporter.

While the network has not identified the Bowl Game or Division Championship events Spake will be working, the message is clear. We like what you did and here is your reward. The bottom line is, she deserved it.

Many NASCAR TV viewers remember Spake from the infamous NASCAR Nation on SPEED where "stock car racing mixed with Hollywood Celebrities." It turned out that "collided" would have been a better word. Created around model turned celebrity turned sportscaster Leeann Tweeden, the program fizzled.

Spake was a reporter for the series, but also hosted another minor show called Backseat Drivers. Without all the glitz and glamour, that show forced Spake to stand-up on her own in the NASCAR world, no easy task for a female. Spake did well, and added some additional reporting from the NASCAR garage before that season was over.

Moving to ESPN was a big step, and in many ways she was thrown into the deep end of the pool with the NASCAR Now series. Fans may remember that this series was hosted by two men who had never been on a TV series before, or knew anything about NASCAR. What a nice thing to walk into as the primary NASCAR field reporter from Mooresville, NC.

There is absolutely no doubt that Shannon Spake and the NASCAR Now Insiders reporting the news kept this show afloat. Even as ESPN decided to defend their ill-chosen hosts, all-stars like Spake and Marty Smith, along with newcomers Terry Blount and Angelique Chengelis created the only content of interest to fans.

Michael Knight, the veteran motorsports writer said "on ESPN's weekday and pre-race programs, Spake has emerged from the wreckage of SPEED's wretched NASCAR Nation as a solid, straightforward reporter." High praise from an informed source.

Back on April 15th, only two months out of the box, The Daly Planet said "Spake has proven to be a consistently good reporter with a laid-back style of presenting information that works well with the NASCAR set."

When NASCAR Now let go of their original co-host Doug Banks, the suggestion was made to let Spake step-up and take a shot at hosting. Memories of her time on SPEED and her Backseat Drivers program with Marty Smith were still fresh. The network chose instead to extend those opportunities to Allen Bestwick and Mike Massaro.

This season has been tough on veterans like Massaro, who has been in the wrong place at the wrong time...a lot. From badgering Junior about missing The Chase, to asking Mark Martin the stupidest question in NASCAR TV history, Massaro is probably glad this season is in the books.

With Allen Bestwick bouncing back and forth between pit road and hosting duties in ESPN's Infield Studio, Spake was inserted to work with Jamie Little and Dave Burns on pit road. Burns is a clown, and his nature is to play the fool. Little has a very aggressive and over-the-top style, which rubbed some NASCAR fans the wrong way.

That left Spake, once again appearing younger than her thirty-one years, to be the focus of attention. Her memorable run-in with Kurt Busch where he not only chastised her on-the-air but off it as well was certainly an interesting moment for both, and probably ultimately served as a lesson learned for each as well.

This season The Daly Planet has typed Shannon Spake's name over two hundred and fifty times. When we reviewed NASCAR Now, there she was. When NASCAR Countdown was in our sights, there she was again. When ESPN2 or ESPN News covered breaking NASCAR news...guess who was on scene?

This has truly been a breakout TV year for Spake, who is a resident of the Lake Norman area near Mooresville, NC. A Florida girl who graduated from Florida Atlantic University, Spake has made the most of her TV opportunities along the way. It will be interesting to see how ESPN uses Spake in her college football debut, and what she can make of this big opportunity far away from the NASCAR stage.

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. Please read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page before adding your comment.

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

39 comments:

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I think it says all that needs to be said about the depths to which EXPN has fallen that it has constantly had difficulty finding time for NASCAR, but found a morning time slot on ESPN itself Monday for a live special on the sentencing of Michael Vick.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to Shannon in her football role. However, I think Dave Burns is a far superior pit road reporter than Shannon will ever be. Shannon is a good news correspondent for ESPN and NASCAR Now and I hope they use her next year.

Incidentally, the photo reminded me that I thought the most talented "broadcast personality" of that NASCAR Nation bunch (yes, I watched the show) was the woman pictured above Shannon, Courtney George. Very solid, no-nonsense reporter but also very vibrant and seemed to be very well-liked by the drivers in the features she did. She reminds me of Wendy V.

Unfortunately, like Jamie Little, Courtney was extremely tall (maybe taller than Jamie, even) and that may have hindered (in an unspoken way) her working in NASCAR alongside the shorter drivers. I googled and she is an anchor on one of the regional cable sports networks, after working as a CNN Headline News Sports anchor. She would have been a nice addition to the NASCAR female reporter group.

SophiaZ123 said...

Gotta be honest...Shannon Spake does nothing for me most of the time..she was ok on NASCAR NOW the very few times I watched it..but her style of GUSHING and gazing at drivers just rubbed me the wrong way. Personally, I found her comments immature and insipid during the Busch awards.

Then again, I do NOT like Jamie Little at all either.

at least on many other sites I see many, MANY voice the same displeasure with Shannon Spake that I have.

Guess we can't all like the same people. I say get more guys down in the pits and leave the real women of NASCAR roles with Krist and Wendy...the NASCAR NATION and ESPN bunch does nothing for me.

I agree ESPN has no clue what quality people are..the comment about Vick? Nuff said.

NASCAR_IRL Fan said...

Shannon Spake is...OK. I wouldn't mind seeing her as a host or substitute host for NASCAR NOW to see how she'd do. But in the pits? Nah. She seems out of place and awkward during the Busch races and didn't seem to improve during the season.

Anonymous 9:26, you've brought back memories. I also (hangs head) liked NASCAR Nation, and had forgotten about Courtney George, who was the serious sports person on NN. And since you mention it, I think her size hurt her. She didn't get to do as many interviews as Shannon, from what I recall. Not only was she tall, she was the daughter of a pro athlete, NFL or NBA - and she looked like an athlete. She wasn't a tiny model size like the others.

But she was cool; seem to recall a couple of the drivers joking around with her on air about her height and she joked right back, maybe that's where she mentioned her dad.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I think one thing that I was trying to put forward in the column was that she has worked seemingly seven days a week all season.

Certainly, everyone has a style and I understand your comments completely. Dave Burns was a weekend only kinda guy, and we rarely saw Jamie Little on NASCAR Now.

There is no doubt that Shannon Spake has a long way to go in terms of depth of NASCAR knowledge and familiarity with certain racing situations, I was only trying to point out that of all the crew, it seems that she worked her tail off in much the same way as Marty Smith.

Both of them were there all the time, and I admire that type of dedication in "TV land."

JD

Busch Series Fan! said...

Does this mean that Shannon won't be back on nascar broadcasts? Sometimes she asked quirky questions but I remember Jeanne Zaleski (sp?) a few years ago I always thought she did a great job on the Nascar telecasts.

elena said...

I really wish Shannon lots of good luck in football. She had said in an interview that she liked NASCAR, but she had really always wanted to work in football.

What I admire about Shannon is that she is a hard worker. She has done work in other non-sports area and paid her dues while looking for opportunities for her dream job. Nothing has been handed to her. Every time I saw her, I thought she kept getting better.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Busch Series Fan,

NASCAR is over, and ESPN and ABC have a lot of college football Bowl Games and several Division Championships to cover shortly.

This has nothing to do with her NASCAR schedule. We should know which games she will be doing shortly.

JD

PammH said...

Busch series fan-really??? Jeanne Z, who didn't seem to know her when to shut up & knew NOTHING about Nascar??? She was HORRID & the drivers hated her-you could tell by their interviews.
And JD, altho I agree w/your thoughts 85% of the time, SS leaves me cold. Yes, she was all over the place at the track & did work hard, but..how can I word this correctly-she was TOO earnest. Like, hey look at me, I'm working with the big dawgs now.
And Courtney George-ugh. Wendy & Krista have set a HIGH bar, which these other women can't even begin to approach! jmho, of course.

batchief said...

I had the opportunity to meet Shannon at the Milwaukee Mile this past summer. She was very nice to my wife and I and left me with the impression she was eager to gather as much information that anyone from her field would offer her, be it statistics or interviewing techniques. She definitly is not a Krista or Wendy, but she is making the effort. By the way I have heard from a reliable source the Krista will once again be the sideline reporter for the Cotton Bowl again on Jan. 1st.

Anonymous said...

good luck shannon!!! don't do anything that you did while you were pit reporting and you should be good to go.

Desmond said...

I have some bad news, John: Your sources are wrong! I have just checked the Awful Announcing site, which lists the names of all the sideline reporters for ESPN's bowl games. Spake is not on the list. However, Vince Welch is: he will be at the Liberty Bowl game on December 27 between South Carolina and UCF.

darbar said...

The tale of Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, et.al. speak volumes as to what's wrong with women in sports broadcasting. Yes, they're beautiful eye-candy, but that a sports reporter does not make. Why do they have to all have the same look, attitude and lack of knowledge?Yes, I know men like to gawk at beautiful women, but I cannot believe that even men would better appreciate someone who might not be as plastic/fake but has a superior knowledge of the sport for which they're reporting. I mean, there are very few male reporters who send my heart aflutter, but that makes no difference to me because they provide what I'm looking for---real knowledge of any sport in which I'm interested. I don't need Brad Pitt as a sideline reporter, just someone who knows and respects the sport. But as with all things, as long as men are doing the hiring, we're going to be forced to deal with their T&A broadcast babes, no matter how incompetent they may be. As a woman, I'm all for equality, but for heaven's sake, don't just stick a "hot" babe on the tube just because she's blonde and has large assets. Find a few who know what they're doing. At least we have Wendy, who's the best out there, and is nice looking, to boot.

ShallowHal said...

Call me shallow.....But Shannon Spake is eye candy, and I dont care how well she reports.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

So are Wendy and Krista the only two females "allowed" to broadcast for NASCAR? Seems so, based on some of the comments.

"We have Wendy and Krista, we don't need any more of you!"

Daly Planet Editor said...

desmond,

If you take a look at my column, it does not say Bowl Games but instead says college football. I have an email into ESPN to see if we can get more info, and my source is a big industry newsletter called tvspy.com that many of us get every day. No secret stuff involved.

darbar,

That is a debate that has raged for years, and has featured everyone from Phyllis George to Suzy Kolber. As you can see from my column, I admire Spake's hard work, which is a big part of making it in the TV world. If you check her bio, you will also see the other shows and series she worked on before SPEED and ESPN.

btw - sorry to all that the tasteless comment lived on this site for a bit. Takes all kinds to make a world I guess.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

The times I saw Shannon Spake on N-NOW I found her well-informed, informative, and hard-working. I'm not sure you can ask for much more. She obviously was not as good as Wendy V., Krista, or Angelique - but, they did not learn their craft by announcing to trees in the forest. Practice makes perfect. On N-Now I thought her knowledge and effort stood out in sharp contrast to Erik K.

elena said...

I give Shannon a lot of credit for what she does and is doing. She's from southern Florida, and though she wanted a job in sports, she did not sit around waiting for someone to offer her one. I can only imagine what a culture shock it must have been as a young woman not too long out of college to move to NYC for her big break. Besides the culture and weather, the cost of living there must have been very discouraging.

Lots of people don't make it in this industry and I'm glad to see a young person maturing into the job. I'm sure she'll be even better next season.

Newracefan said...

I enjoyed Shannon on Nascar Now but not so much as a pit reporter. On NN she was always informative and professional, not as much fun as Marty but I always listened to what she had to say. Her pit reporting seemed more rushed and somewhat scattered, this very well could have more to do with the producer/ director than Shannon herself. I would love to see her as the go to person when someone drops out, wrecks, etc.(JD I think you suggested this first) She's good at follow up and we all know that ESPN lacks in the follow up area. Shannon does work really hard and deserves a shot at football. I wish her luck

Tripp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Tripp,

I moved your post off the main comment page so you could re-read my column. Spake is not leaving anything, this is just an end-of-season article about her hard work this year.

While the original tvspy.com article mentioned her working on college football over the next couple of weeks, the latest is that she may be actually doing ESPN Radio for some games as a sideline reporter.

We will keep you posted on Spake, and all the other NASCAR TV types during the off-season if anything else comes up.

Anonymous said...

I truly wish Spike well, though, if she leaves NASCAR coverage, I won't really miss her.
I was so struck by "tripp"'s comments. I think he's nailed it. The core issue is style. FOX/Speed being relaxed versus ESPN's stiffness. (I would add ESPN's arrogance). Perhaps so many of the incidents that frustrate us stem from this basic difference in point of view.

Makiki

Anonymous said...

John,

Let me start by saying I enjoy reading your column... But I must point out like at the end of PTI on ESPN, that Shannon Spake has already debut on ESPN College Football. She did a game from the sidelines a few weeks back. I believe it was a Division II game for a test run. Here in Hollywood we call it a screen test or dress rehersal. In racing it may be called the ARCA or ASA Series.

Speaking of announcing when is the exciting truck series going to get a dolt from Lincoln, Nebraska out of there and back to the corn field.

Have a great holiday! Look forward to your coverage in 08.

MarkyMark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Please take a moment to review the guidelines for posting on the right side of the mainpage before adding your opinion to The Daly Planet.

If you comment is deleted, please edit the content and re-submit it. For questions, please email editor@thedalyplanet.tv anytime.

JD

wickedj said...

Meh Shannon did better than Jamie Little but has nothing on Krista Voda. i dont like Wendy (cant properly spell her last name) much

could be better could be worse i suppose

all in all...HOW LONG TILL FOX IS BACK???? lol..

JD - will you continue your very insightful rants/blogs into the 2008 season? your very popular..ive seen your name mentioned several times from sites like Yahoo to RaceJournalOnline

Daly Planet Editor said...

wickedj,

I will be making that decision in the week after Christmas.

JD

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks again for taking the time to read the rules for posting on the right hand side of the main page prior to adding your comment.

JD

Big Henry said...
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Tripp said...

JD... I re-read the article and still think my comments were on topic. There's no doubt she's worked hard and produced informative results and she deserves plaudits and an open door to additional opportunities. It's good to see that talent and hard work pay off in the world of Big-Time TV.

You're the boss so I'll defer to your editorial decision.

Newracefan said...

JD Here's my vote for you to continue hopefully that will work with the rest of your career/personal life

Desmond said...

Shannon Spake was the sideline reporter for ESPN Radio's broadcast of the Champs Sports Bowl last Friday. The booth announcers were Dave Lamont and Jim Donnan. So that should answer JD's question about assignments.

Anonymous said...
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Big Henry said...
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Pig Benis said...
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Big Penis said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

What are you...like 12 yrs old?