Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ESPN Glimpses "NASCAR Now's" Potential

There has never been a NASCAR Now program on ESPN this season that has required one anchor to deal with such a wide variety of stories as the Tuesday version of this show. The tragic death of a NASCAR family member, the follow-up with the Pepsi 400 winner, and the on-going news stories involving Dale Junior, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Busch were only a part of this one program.

Somehow, on this key day, ESPN had Allen Bestwick at the helm. The simple act of Allen explaining the tragic plane crash, his personal connection with Lesa Kennedy's husband, and his absolutely heartfelt conversation with Dr. Jerry Punch about the incident should show ESPN executives what this one program series has the potential to be...and was today.

In a reporting role, Jerry Punch was at his best when recounting his shared experiences with Dr. Kennedy. Punch could easily be the voice of NASCAR on ESPN if he can assume the role that is correct for him. Today, both NASCAR fans and TV viewers saw him in that role. He may be one of the most experienced and knowledgeable NASCAR reporters in the sport today.

Bestwick handled the tough transition from tragic news to the reality of racing with style and class. Once back into the sport, his interview with Jamie McMurray showed what it means to have someone asking the questions that has "lived" the sport and knows the players. Respect in NASCAR is something that is hard to earn. Allen Bestwick has it.

Finally, the news segment let the reporters talk to each other, something suggested on The Daly Planet for months. Are these guys in sealed rooms? Let them talk, let them discuss, and let them relate the information they have to each other as well as to the viewers. Tuesday, it worked great. Both Terry Blount and David Newton were like kids in a candy store with Bestwick. Finally, somebody on the other end of the line had a clue...and it showed.

Bestwick was forced to interview Casey Mears on the phone, and it was a throwback to his radio days. Mears really is letting his personality shine through now that he is comfortable in the sport, and fans are finally warming up to him. Just as with the other drivers Bestwick has interviewed on this show, he sacrifices himself to allow them to shine. Isn't that the role of a true show host?

When NASCAR Now is rocking, the show sprints by so fast it is amazing. This program seemed to be over before it began. It delivered a ton of information, a ton of good solid interviews, and even brought dignity and respect to a tragic passing.

ESPN has seen a glimpse of what NASCAR Now could be seven days a week with the right people in the right positions. Today, there has to be some very deep conversations in-progress about who should lead this important and high-profile series into the exclusive ESPN/ABC coverage of NASCAR's two most important series. Perhaps, among NASCAR fans, that conversation is already over.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from viewers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Our deepest sympathies to the families impacted by today's accident.