What a fantastic and refreshing change to hear from the talented Shannon Spake directly from Bristol, TN right at the top of the show. Fans finally got reliable hard news trackside, and even some comments from NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby about the "Car of Tomorrow." Darby should be heard from on a much more regular basis as the season progresses. Spake and Darby provided exactly what NASCAR Now needs in large amounts...credibility.
The show then moved quickly into a telephone interview with a NASCAR driver about the COT. It seems strange that ESPN chose Greg Biffle, who has just become a regular panelist on Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing on the SPEED Channel. Biffle is solid all the way around, and his comments on the COT were well-stated and concise. This is exactly what SPEED needs for INCR.
After this breathless rushing around on the COT, ESPN could have called on any of their NASCAR analysts to put the COT in broader perspective. Instead, the collective moan you heard nationwide resulted from the appearance of the one and only Tim Cowlishaw. The switch from fact to opinion can be a harsh one, and Cowlishaw did not disappoint. This was Cowlishaw in full Around the Horn mode, completely talking racing off the top-of-his-head. Perhaps, others might suggest alternate locations as origination points. Let's fact it, where NASCAR is concerned, we call Cowlishaw "Mr. Obvious" for good reason.
Since his first appearance, DJ Copp has been a pleasant surprise. A pit crew member from DEI, Copp speaks in normal language with no hype and good facts. His updates on the COT problems with pit stops were interesting, and he does well to put the ESPN hype in perspective. It begs the question if we will see any other pit crew members given a shot on national television this season?
Transitioning to the Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Now co-host Erik Kuselias attempted to interview driver Tyler Walker. The past performance problems with Walker were well-documented on SPEED over the last several seasons. It was clear that Kuselias did not know Walker's background, and this made any follow-up questions impossible. What a shame, as Walker is a colorful character with lots of bridges burning behind him and many challenges ahead. Loads of information was left on the table.
Luckily, David Newton returned to report directly from Bristol in his pleasant and professional manner. Newton is just a fount of knowledge, and his updates are always an addition to this program that no one else can provide. It would be a pleasure to see more of him as the meat of the schedule begins this weekend.
Unfortunately, ESPN continues to shoot itself in-the-foot with the Vault (energy drink) Pick 'Em sales feature. The ridiculous premise is that the host gives Cowlishaw two drivers, and Tim picks one to do better on a particular weekend. This feature was humorous before a race like Daytona, where bumper cars and restrictor plates rule the racing. It is absolutely hilarious before the race in Bristol, TN. As Mark Martin once said, "a lap at Bristol is like driving an F-16 around a high school gym." Between racing luck and just plain dumb luck, there is no possible way to "Pick 'Em" for a race of survival...even for "Mr. Obvious."