Monday, May 21, 2007

One Hour Of "NASCAR Now" Does Not Double The Pleasure

A while back, ESPN2 expanded the Monday edition of NASCAR Now. The press release mentioned the fact that a one hour show on Mondays would give NASCAR Now the opportunity to recap all the NASCAR racing from the weekend, give fans more news, and present more behind-the-scenes coverage. In fact, it has turned out that the Monday hour has only done one thing for ESPN2. It has doubled the amount of commercials that fans must watch to see the same information.

This Monday, ESPN decided that the Craftsman Truck Series did not exist. Despite the fact that there was no Busch Series race, ESPN decided that they would fill almost the entire hour of NASCAR Now with NEXTEL Cup "All-Star" hype. It did not matter that the Trucks put on a great show right there in Charlotte on Friday night. Right there where the ESPN reporters were standing. Right in front of them.

Ron Hornaday pulled off one of his classic re-starts to beat the likes of Mark Martin, Ted Musgrave, and Kyle Busch. The race was live on SPEED under the lights and was much more exciting than the newly formatted All-Star Challenge. NASCAR Now viewers should have seen a full-length highlights package, and then heard interviews with the winner, and several others who had good stories to tell. They got nothing.

Instead, Erik Kuselias was alone on the set for a full hour of disjointed "hype" about everything from the Busch brothers to Juan Montoya. Somehow, even after all these disasters on Mondays, NASCAR Now continues to shoot itself in the foot. This show featured nothing but Kuselias and Boris Said. Kuselias "hyped," and Boris translated things back into reality. "600 miles!" Kuselias screamed when talking about the next race. "What do you do to get ready?" Boris before you get in the car...because you get hungry. Now, that's drama and insight.

Often times, when there is a Busch Series race on ESPN2, NASCAR Now will not show highlights on Monday. They began this practice a long time ago, and have stuck with it. Let's remind ourselves, these are highlights of their own race, on the same channel, at the same network. Does the left hand vs. right hand joke fit here?

With three ESPN announcers in the booth, four on pit road, two in the infield set, and a multi-hour telecast of every Busch race, you think the network might like to...see it again in highlight form. In the old days, the booth announcers would provide a "wrap-up" of the night after the show was off the air specifically for other ESPN news shows. Interviews would also be "fed" so that there would be new content when it came time to put together the highlight package. If we could do this when I worked at ESPN in 1985, what might be the problem in 2007?

For the past couple of months, The Daly Planet has been hammering away at the "Bristol Boys" that NASCAR has several outstanding regional touring series. Today, NASCAR Now finally caved and invited young Joey Logano on for a live interview. Logano had just edged out All-Star winner Kevin Harvick to win a combined division Grand National race. It was in front of a sell-out crowd at Iowa Speedway on Sunday. The kid is sixteen.

Unfortunately, Erik Kuselias did not know Joey Logano from the man-in-the-moon. His questions of this youngster were absolutely embarrassing. Logano has a great story, great connections with top drivers helping him, and a super future in the sport. The stuttering and stammering Kuselias was forced to ask ridiculous questions like "did you ask Harvick for half of his million dollars?" Every second in a limited TV interview is precious, and Kuselias should have let Boris Said handle this interview. It was very clear from the start that a sixteen year old "boy" was talking over the head of Kuselias with every racing term he used. Logano said he won by "saving his stuff until the end." The look on Kuselias face told the true story. Logano could have been speaking Chinese. Kuselias has no clue to "stuff."

As we reported yesterday, NASCAR is going to have to pow-wow with ESPN pretty soon. We are beginning the time of the year when every decision about what highlights, interviews, and features to show on NASCAR Now will be remembered and critiqued. The play time is over. Fans want to see Busch and Truck highlights on Mondays, they want to know what happened after the race. They want information on the Grand National, Modified, and Busch Regional touring series. They want feature reports prepared on the people behind-the-scenes. Basically, they want what you promised ESPN. This is our sport, and you committed to cover it. Now do it.

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