Monday, February 18, 2008

Allen Bestwick Emerges From The Shadows


One person was not featured at the ESPN press conference in the Media Center at Daytona last Wednesday.

The network showed-off new stars Dale Jarrett and Ray Evernham. They brought along Jerry Punch, Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace. Once again, Allen Bestwick was the odd man out.

That is a shame, because NASCAR fans who have watched ESPN over the past four days know one thing from the TV coverage. Bestwick is now the man in charge of NASCAR on ESPN.

After a 2007 season that saw him host NASCAR Now, report from the pits, host the Infield Studio activity and call the play-by-play on selected races, Bestwick has finally been rewarded.

This season, he will host the one hour NASCAR Now on Mondays that includes the ESPN roundtable of NASCAR announcers. He will be the permanent host of the Infield Pit Studio for all of the Nationwide and Sprint Cup race weekends. His face will be seen on ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and ESPN.com. As viewers found out over the weekend, Allen Bestwick is suddenly everywhere.

Sunday night found Bestwick and company hosting a one hour NASCAR Now special on ESPN. That same cast of characters then flew to Connecticut for the first big NASCAR Now studio show with the season underway. After long year of Monday disasters, ESPN has stepped-up and changed almost everything about this daily TV series.

Bestwick set the new studio tone by introducing Rusty Wallace, Mike Massaro and Brad Daugherty as his roundtable participants. The free-flowing and non-scripted conversation was a total change from the past.

The program featured the Daytona 500 winning crew chief, although the pre-recorded nature of the interview did not allow any of the other studio panelists to ask questions. Bestwick walked through some very personal and difficult issues with dignity, and came away with high marks.

Then, the program took on a very familiar tone for Bestwick. As the man who hosted Inside Winston/NEXTEL Cup on SPEED for many years, Bestwick now had an "esteemed panel of experts" once again. In a style well-known to NASCAR fans, Bestwick made the most of it.

On the panel were a veteran driver, a former team owner and a veteran reporter. Along with Bestwick, ESPN had put together a very interesting dynamic. The conversation flowed well, everyone had the opportunity to make their point, and Bestwick set the tone with his normal good humor.

Rusty Wallace was fascinating to watch as he came alive. In this format, he could be outspoken and spontaneous without the fear of embarrassment. The spotlight was off, and Rusty could be himself. It should be interesting to watch him embrace his new role.

A nervous ESPN Director called for way too many buttons to be pushed. The only thing interrupting the panel discussions was the frantic cutting of the cameras. The wideshot of all four roundtable members worked just fine, and helped viewers to see the interaction and body language of all four men. As time passes by, and everything settles down, we should see a lower-key approach to this production element.

Lead Reporter Marty Smith filed a wrap-up from Daytona detailing the Monday ceremony at Daytona USA. His interviews included Ryan Newman and Roger Penske. Smith's story was strictly business, and when the details were over he was done.

The show rolled through the Nationwide and Truck series highlights with brief roundtable discussions following both. This commitment to embrace all three of NASCAR's national touring series is wonderful. For a veteran sports TV company like ESPN, it was also about time.

In previewing the California racing weekend, Bestwick set-up the panel with a factual introduction and then opened the floor for discussion. Each of the participants brought their own perspective, and that resulted in a great overview that this program never could have offered last season. Once again, it was like Rusty Wallace had found his TV groove. He was happy, enthusiastic and informative.

Bestwick ended the show with news and notes, including a quick recap of the 500. The final thoughts of the panel included a good perspective of how the Penske camp flew under-the-radar last weekend and what the COT will mean for the rest of the season.

This time, the music roll-out to close the hour was not a screaming rock video. It contained great sound from team radios, the TV and radio announcers and included a hilarious moment from Kyle Busch. It was great to hear ESPN include the NASCAR on Fox announcers as the 500 field crossed the finish line.

If this is the prototype of the new NASCAR Now, my only advice to ESPN is...don't change a thing.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion of Monday's NASCAR Now on ESPN2.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just finished watching NASCAR Now and I really enjoyed it. It was lively and interesting. Bestwick was great---as always. And I really liked Mike Massaro. He did a good job. Loved Brad . . . especially the tidbit about his pants not being available on the rack. All in all, it was a good show and I, for one, will be back next week. Thanks, ESPN. This is the show NASCAR fans were hoping for and we were not disappointed.

Matt said...

Great article, and I completely agree. AB has helped ESPN step up the coverage this season.

I was excited all day to watch this, only because I knew AB was hosting. It almost felt like IWC/INC from years ago.

I thought the show was great. I may not watch NN every weekday, but I'll certainly watch it on Mondays.

PammH said...

Just to clarify a comment you made in your other "comments" section, AB made a point of saying the Monday nite shows after this will start at 5:30.
Show DID remind me of the old IWC. AB kept everyone under control, included everyone on the panel & the conversation was free flowing! Monday nite NN has be back-not sure about the rest of the wk.

Newracefan said...

I was very impressd with Nascar Now, what a difference a year makes. It was as if someone had been reading this blog and addressed all our issues. The Monday addition is a must see. I'll keep coming back. AB you are the man.

Anonymous said...

I just e-mailed ESPN to congratulate them on a great NASCAR NOW show....want to encourage them to keep improving. Whenever they give Bestwick air time, he will deliver. That hour just flew by. Loved the joke about Brad's slacks.

Makiki

Ritchie said...

Now that was a great show. I enjoyed it immensely. A very relaxed atmosphere, very freindly, and with good racing content.

Lately, everytime we have seen a group of so-called racing experts sit together to discuss racing, the discussions have degenerated into nonsense. It was refreshing to see no goofing around, no pushing agendas, no conversations trailing off on wild tangents. Just four racing experts and a few million fans reflecting on a great race. ESPN may have just developed a show that is better than what SPEED can produce. I will definitely tune in every Monday evening to watch.

I hope the more news oriented version of NASCAR Now will be as good as this.

jfs-va said...

I loved the show. Can you imagine Kuselias interacting with that group? I enjoyed the discussion of Smoke's strategy at the end of the race. As a fan of his, it was fun to listen to them break down the final lap. This show was way beyond anything we saw last year on this show. As for Brad, I really love his enthusiasm for the sport. It's very infectious.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR Now was a lot better than I expected. Unfortunately, I can't say that about the new SPEED show. So far, the only word I can think of is...boring. How many times in that hundred hours of coverage did they tell us that Petty Enterprises had moved? And Michael Waltrip is such old news...I miss IWC already.

Tripp said...

JD, NN is now a really good show.

About 8 last night I was pegging the NASCAR overload meter so I saved the viewing of the rest of the shows until later. I ended up watching last night's and tonight's NN back-to-back and I am pleased to admit that ESPN had found the recipe and the master chef is Alan Bestwick.

I'm not smart enough to quantify what he brings to these broadcasts, but no one can do that voodoo that he doo so well, to badly quote from "Blazing Saddles". He injects good humor like Byrnes and Roberts do for speed, but he does it with something the others don't have, and I can't quite put my finger on it. Whatever it is, it's the "X" factor that makes AB uniquely special as a NASCAR broadcaster. He's taken this show and put his brand on it and that's good.

As you said, Rusty's found his niche. The insight he offers both in the infield studio and on NN is now a valuable addition to each show's content. Funny how a change of venue can make all the difference. I'm glad for Rusty and it's now a treat to watch him.

Mike Massaro is the big surprise for me. Solid, steady, reliable. These adjectives were what I'd use to describe his work last year. Now, as part NASCAR's version of "The View", he's really come out of his shell. Great insight and enthusiasm with a knack for turning the discussion in a different and interesting direction in the blink of an eye. I like clever and witty.

Brad was Brad, which is just fine by me. I like what he brings to the show and it's good to let him do more. I was wondering about what he was wearing. The fooling about the pants was mildly reminiscent of IWC.

That's what this is! It's Inside Winston Cup but with grown-ups. Good information, some fun, opinions and a good recap of the weekend's racing. I like it.

BTW: did anyone catch where AB lost it for a second and there was a jump cut to the taped interview. Ah, live TV... or something close.

Congratulations ESPN and crew. Nice job.

Anonymous said...

Man oh man (quoting BP) - I missed the 5:30 ET show - have to tape the replay at 2AM ET - didnt realize IWC/INC ISC? was back - wow

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new column up about This Week In NASCAR on SPEED.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD - Your creditability is starting to stray. You said "One person was not on the stage at the ESPN press conference in the Media Center at Daytona last Wednesday". I was in the media center! Bestwick was on stage along with others from ESPN. Were you there? Where do you get your facts? What is your agenda? Bestwick was sitting there with everyone else. We are starting to wonder about ytour attention to detail.

elena said...

I liked NN tonight. I show seems to keep getting better. Of course, now that the season has started, there is so much more to talk about.

This is just a small point, but I wonder why they don't use a table since they bill it as a round table. The wad of notes Allen has to have on hand would not be a intrusive if they were just laying on a table top. Also we would not have seen Brand's pants.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:41PM,

I listened to the press conference on the conference call and read the notes. Bestwick said nothing.

If you have a correction for me, please send me an email at editor@thedalyplanet.tv and it would be appreciated.

As a "blogger" I was not eligible for Media Center access. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

JD - Here is word for word what you typed....all of which is factually incorrect - your readers need to understand this...

"One person was not on the stage at the ESPN press conference in the Media Center at Daytona last Wednesday" A. Bestwick

WRONG - Bestwick was on stage and spoke. Heard by all who were listening..with no pre-conceived reaction..What were you listening to?

JD : "The network showed-off new stars Dale Jarrett and Ray Evernham. They brought along Jerry Punch, Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace. "Allen Bestwick was the odd man out" ---- WRONG ---Bestwick was there and spoke and answered questions - the above statement is misleading to your readers.

Opinions will always be acceptable...too bad you do not present accurate facts by which you present you opinions.

Anonymous said...

What a difference a host makes. The director, producer, and entire crew of Nascar Now has not changed at all. Yet somehow the show is more credible, less fluffy, and enjoyable. So far, Bestwick, Manske, and Burr have done an outstanding job. The way it breaks down, if Bestwick does the meaty Monday post-race show, and Manske does most of the rest, if they just hold Burr to do the hard news shows, this show could be fantastic this season.

I'm guessing they don't shoot the roundtable with a table because it's tougher to shoot. We don't need to have them recreate the diner scene from "Reservoir Dogs." I think it worked just fine. Hopefully, they'll have a car as a backdrop soon. I guess last year, the car the Home Depot donated was a Chevy Car of Yesterday. Maybe they'll get a Toyota COT soon.

TexasRaceLady said...

Fantastic show.

This is the kind of show I've been waiting for. Everyone was relaxed and at ease. They were having a discussion among friends and invited us to listen in.

Great job, ESPN.

PG_Harley said...

Could not agree with you more, JD. One would not even know last year was as bad as it was given this kick-off.

I now have a new Monday night date... Back this up with Steve and the boys on Speed and the good stuff just keeps coming.

SophiaZ123 said...

I must have not have hit the submit button after preview earlier.

I also REALLY enjoyed tonights show thanks to AB and all the guys relaxed. Just a small quibble, i wished the guys were behind a desk...the 'high chairs' always look odd..like on INC last year. And as somebody said, the guys THOUGHT they were going to have a desk thus we saw Brad's pants. :-)

THIS is a great show. Hope it continues.

If ESPN had any REAL CLUE, Allan would be hosting EVERYDAY!!

Great show.

p.s. I purposely missed the end as I did not want to hear that "choir song again" but guess they played something else?

Sandie said...

Finally watched the recording and AWESOME! I LOVED it! I knew that Allen would do an awesome job! I loved the format!

Karen said...

Never thought I'd ever, ever say this: I enjoyed Rusty Wallace tonight.

I'm sure AB was the reason why the whole thing worked. Not impressed with TWIN. This show was much better and really is a throwback to IWC.

Charlie said...

Interesting Picture for the Top of your article.

Anonymous said...

I liked the show. AB was great, as always. Glad to see ESPN make the effort to produce a quality Nascar news show.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled about Marty Smith. You (in your columns) and NASCAR Now keep emphazising that he is the Lead Reporter, but outside NASCAR Now he remained NASCAR Insider Marty Smith on all other ESPN programming this weekend and today.

I don't get it, it must be important if you all keep referring to him that way, but why isn't it universal if it's so important? Why isn't he NASCAR Now Lead Reporter on the other shows? (They'd get publicity for the show that way too.)

I much preferred the roundtable in chairs rather than behind a desk. Even though they are still in suits (it's still ESPN), it conveyed informality which was the right tone here. Good idea NN.

SallyB said...

This show was such a pleasant surprise I couldn't believe I was watching ESPN.It was relaxed, informative, yet informal enough to be fun. The director's chairs they use certainly emphasize hw much taller Brad Dougherty is than the others, though. It was so good that it made the debut of THIN even more disappionting.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:21PM,

Did you get a chance to talk to AB after the event during the one-on-ones? If so, did he talk about his new role?

JD

Anonymous said...

I wish they'd let Marty Smith loose a little bit. He's hysterical and really could change the tone of some of the segments.

Truck Series Fan! said...

Missed the beginning of the show but thought it was much improved over last year's NN. Yes, I thought Rusty was at the top of his game and he did a fine job. The others were perfect for the show. Good going ESPN.

Ron P said...

With Allen in the lead seat , the show reminded me a little of the Old IWC. But with some minor differences. AB did his best to keep it moving, but jeeze some one stick a sock in Rusty's mouth..... I'll bet he was fuming over Ryan winning the 500, the guy never had a nice thing to say about Newman when he was team mate and now..... come on Rusty give me a break.

I still feel sorry for Brad, he was the odd man out in the panel. He still looks very uncomfortable. I'm sure he will come around.
It would be nice if Allen had the opportunity to do all the shows, he really does know what he is talking about, he is good in front of the camera and he know's how to keep the show going on a good pace.
Lets see what happens toninght when Ryan gets back.

I see the ANON's are still worried about what ESPN calls Marty Smith, I wish my life was so empty that I could worry about that all day :)
"Don't worry EK some day thay may let you play with the big boys a again".." (my words not JD's)
RJP

Mike 24 said...

I believe ESPN has gotten the message. This panel has works well together and so far the egos are left at the door.

What a refreshing way to recap the weekend without the hype of old days aka whats his name EK

I'll be watching this show from here on out, good job ESPN. Keep up the good work.

glenc1 said...

I was very surprised to see a 'panel show' here. Was not expecting that. I don't have a problem with how they were presented, but maybe more comfortable chairs, like on the Sports Reporters? It might make them look more at ease. But the conversation certainly was, even Rusty seemed like his old self. I wonder if Marty will be on the panel sometimes (since he's the 'Lead Reporter', hehehe?
;-)
I think that would work well too, although I have always liked Mike Massaro and thought he was very professional (although it looked kinda funny having the smallest guy next to Brad....) Brad was about the best I've seen him as well. Allen kept the discussion flowing, I had no problems with anything they covered. Nice job.

elena said...

If they want the round table guys to look comfortable, maybe they could sit on chairs like the have in "The Best Damn Sport Show". Those guys can exercice body language and react without fear of falling or tipping those stools.

Anonymous said...

I tell you what - ESPN put a great show on Monday and Rusty is even winning me over.

It's hard to believe the ESPN show was more laid back and fun than the SPEED show.

Anonymous said...

Allen Bestwick has ALWAYS been awesome! Now replace Rusty Wallace with Marty Smith or Angelique! Ray Evernham sounded and looked great!

Anonymous said...

I agree. I couldn't help but smile while watching the show. What a refreshing change of pace. It was great to have people who know NASCAR and obviously have a relationship with the drivers, crew chiefs and teams.

Anonymous said...

It would be really nice if they didn't do the show in Bristol so they could have a driver live in studio...

However, last night was fantastic! I never thought I would say that about an ESPN NASCAR show but it was entertaining and informative. A perfect balance of news, insight, and fun.

Lisa Hogan said...

Bestwick was great, as usual. The panel was fine.

I am not a fan of the tall chairs on any show. They make me feel uncomfortable.

I'll watch a couple more shows to see if this will be regular viewing or just hit or miss.

Desmond said...

This was much better than This Week in NASCAR was on SPEED. And certainly indescribably better than the same show was last year. The biggest difference was the use of broadcast professionals compared to the likes of Erik Kuselias and Tim Cowlishaw.

Bestwick has also said that the show will have occasional driver guests as the season progresses. I can't wait to see them.

Desmond said...

Sorry. I meant "trained broadcast professionals" as a joke and a nod to Steve Byrnes, who coincidentally hosts the other program.

Anonymous said...

Linda from FL

Just wanted to add my two cents worth.

I thought NN''s Monday hour show was great. It's so nice to see Allen Bestwick doing what he loves and the hour went so smoothly.......what a difference a year makes.

Let's hope it all continues - no changes need to be made now.

Good job to all.

MW55Fan

stricklinfan82 said...

I really enjoyed this new Monday Night NASCAR Now. I loved the roundtable format and enjoyed listening to all the discussions among a credible panel of NASCAR-knowing people. It was nice to just hear 4 guys talking about racing as if they were just 4 guys sitting at a bar chatting about the past week's events. I also liked seeing some new post-race comments I hadn't seen like the Franchitti and Edwards interviews. Also a very good job talking about both the Nationwide and Truck Series.

It was definitely a much better program than Speed's new This Week in NASCAR was, in my opinion. Good job ESPN. You have now earned my viewership for one of the 5 weekday shows.

Anonymous said...

For the 2nd year now, I have been a "lurker" here at DP, and have never posted a comment. But FINALLY ESPN may be getting their heads out of "you know where" and actually using the most talented and seldom seen personalities they have. It's about time!

Richard in N.C. said...

I did not get a chance to watch any of Monday's N-NOW until this AM and what I saw was outstanding. I am convinced Allen B could herd cats if the need arose.

However, they do need some better wardrobe coordination as the first thing I thought of with each wide shot was "G**, Brad's thigh is bigger than Mike Massaro" - a distraction. Also I agree with the comment above that seating like Best Damn SS or Inside NC would be better.

Quantum leap forward. Thank You ESPN. Just keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Here's how I view Allen Bestwick. First off, he is by far the smoothest anchor/host that I've seen in a long time. In a complimentary way, I compare him with good ol' Frank Gifford during his Monday Night Football glory days. They use to describe Frank as "Teflon"....he was so smooth and likable that even when he stuttered, stammered or made an error, you never noticed. It just slid by the viewer. Allen is that polished. He is a joy to listen to and watch.

I still cannot believe that NBC let this guy get away. He should still be in their booth, as I put him way out in front of Bill Weber.

Anonymous said...

Monday night's show was great. ESPN appears to have finally got it. It was wonderful seeing Allen Bestwick at his best, leading the discussion, just like the good old days of Inside Winston Cup. Rusty, Mike, and Brad were good too. I really look forward to having drivers participate in the roundtable discussion (gotta have Schrader, even if he's not racing Cup, who cares, he still has his opinions about what's going on).

The seating was a bit of a distraction though. Brad is such a big guy and seemed to overpower the others sitting out there in the open. My preference would be for them to sit behind a desk (then Brad could forget his pants and shoes every week and no one knows)!

Dot said...

I agree with Anon 9:32 pm. Brad looks like a giant sitting next to those guys. I did love the show and AB is the best, as always.
BTW, how tall is Mike Massaro?

Gaga Gazoom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dram Aqueen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.