Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ESPN's NASCAR News Bonanza

Tuesday turned out to be quite a day for the "Insiders" at NASCAR Now, ESPN2's daily motorsports show.

First up was Terry Blount who has been both a strong and opinionated reporter for ESPN's NASCAR efforts. He has not been swept up in the "breaking news" hysteria, and always presents himself in a professional and credible manner.

Around this time of the season, right before The Chase, we begin to see the dominoes start to fall around the garage, and the entire sport. Blount had a good recap on Tony Eury Junior's move to Hendrick, Casey Mears moving to the "five" car, and the latest on Dale Earnhardt Junior's team and car numbers. Blount is one reporter who can handle host Erik Kuselias smoothly, and once again today it showed on-the-air.

"Insider" Marty Smith was next on-scene with JJ Yeley as he joined Hall of Fame Racing. This curious move was linked directly to Toyota motors from Gibbs Racing, and the opportunity to improve the performance of this single car team.

Another "Insider" David Newton came on-camera to re-enforce the details of this story, which to many fans just does not make sense. Yeley had several opportunities to go to established multi-car teams, but instead chose a team that has never even contended for a win.

Newton hinted that Yeley's new team would be a part of a major effort by Toyota and closely linked with Gibbs. All season long, Newton has been a soft-spoken reporter with good details and a calm demeanor. Appearing as the third "Insider" in the show, Newton's appearance really served to remind viewers of the resources at ESPN's disposal when it comes to NASCAR News.

Chad Knaus appeared on this show, but it was unfortunately by phone. This smacks of a TV show just repeating the same information heard on Sirius and XM radio's NASCAR channels. The endless parade of NASCAR call-ins by drivers and crew chiefs has gone on all season and certainly served to heighten the profile of satellite radio this year.

NASCAR Now absolutely needs to try everything possible to get their key interviews on-camera, including finally committing to a Mooresville area liveshot studio. When almost everyone in "NASCAR land" lives in the same general area, getting every face possible on-camera is key for this series.

Tim Brewer appeared from an unknown location, and offered a good summary of several news topics. Brewer is plain spoken, and he speaks the language of many NASCAR fans. These veteran fans remember Brewer's involvement in the sport, but the newer fans are somewhat put-off by Brewer's style.

Once out of the Tech Center, Brewer offers good opinions and chats very well live. Maybe, an Infield Studio appearance at Richmond is in his future? Tough to get the Tech Center on-the-air at a short track, and Tim's perspectives in the studio could add a new dimension to the racing.

After all this hard news and analysis, its a bit rough to watch a Fantasy League "pick 'em" where random drivers are just compared head-to-head out of thin air. Nothing that Fantasy Writer Christopher Harris says is ever referenced later, because racing luck does not respond to sports writers trying to describe NASCAR drivers in baseball player terms. Let's face it, everybody is trying to win, but no one is immune to mechanical failure or on-track incidents. Stats just don't play the same role in NASCAR as stick-and-ball sports.

With all the "news guys" in the show, it certainly appears that this would have been a good day for Ryan Burr to host the program. He has a pace that keeps things hopping, and talks naturally with the reporters, as opposed to reading scripted questions. His ESPN News Network background lends itself to this type of program, and has proven to be popular with viewers this season.

As NASCAR Now transitioned back to the thirty minute version, they showed the strength of good reporting that has been going on all season. These three "Insiders" are not the reporters involved in the ESPN skirmishes with drivers recently. It is very clear which ESPN reporters are on the "NASCAR news" side of the fence, and who is on the "tabloid hype" side. At the track, those two ESPN groups mix like oil and water. That should make for some interesting times during The Chase.

Wednesday, NASCAR Now will get a big boost from the fans tuning-in for the "Gibbs to Toyota" information after work. This is a great opportunity to put ESPN2's best foot forward and capture as many new viewers as possible with a focused and professional effort for thirty minutes. Good luck to all, we'll be watching.

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