Monday, February 11, 2008
Bestwick And Friends Make A Statement
The pressure was on, and Allen Bestwick dove right into the deep end of the pool.
It was the first edition of the new and re-vamped Monday edition of NASCAR Now on ESPN2. This time, the stick-and-ball network might have hit a homerun.
Without the fuss and hype of last season, Bestwick guided the program straight into the Bud Shootout highlights and then into Junior's post-race comments from the Media Center. It was clear right from the top of the show, things were going to be different.
Last season, a Rusty Wallace or Andy Petree sighting on NASCAR Now was rare. Now, less than four minutes into the show Wallace and Petree were on-camera from Daytona and breaking down the on-track happenings.
For the first time in a very long time, the host and guests were talking NASCAR without any scripts and with a clear mutual knowledge of the sport. Wallace is effective in this role, and is a fun and exciting guest because of his personality.
If there was any tension between Petree and Wallace, it certainly did not show as the single camera kept both men in the picture during the entire liveshot.
Bestwick set a blistering on-air pace, and quickly recapped the pole qualifying and then brought in Michael Waltrip by liveshot. Good old Michael promoted SPEED's new This Week In NASCAR program and his XM Radio show without missing a beat. Bestwick asked good questions, and during this interview it became clear that he had single-handedly changed the tone of this entire program.
Newcomer Nicole Manske was also on-scene in Daytona, and is just beginning to get her feet wet in this sport. She filed a solid report about team and driver changes in the series, and featured good and fresh driver "sound" addressing this topic. It should be interesting to see her get more comfortable in her new roles as both studio host and on-site reporter.
Lead Reporter Marty Smith joined the show from the track, and chimed-in with his facts and opinion about the Tony Stewart vs. Kurt Busch controversy. Bestwick and Smith are going to be keys to this program all season-long.
Defining this on-air relationship and using Smith in the right manner can raise this show to the level many expected it to achieve in 2007. Free from the scripted questions and un-informed hosts, Smith will finally get a fair shot at delivering the goods.
In 2007, The Daly Planet was begging for Brad Daugherty to be allowed to conduct interviews and file feature reports. His personality and knowledge of the sport as a fan would be a wonderful perspective for a program like NASCAR Now.
Monday night, Daugherty did an upbeat and insightful interview with Richard Petty. As a follow-up to the classic Daytona finishes feature, it worked quite well. Hopefully, ESPN will continue to allow Daugherty to expand his role and then judge the results.
Bestwick did an extended interview with Marty Smith to clear-up any remaining issues from both the on-track and garage areas at Daytona. Bestwick pushes Smith for opinions and conclusions, without putting him on the spot or demanding "yes or no" answers.
In place of the roundtable discussions, which will begin next week, the program aired a Daytona feature that may have NASCAR fans talking for a long time. With parts pulled from the outstanding Ultimate NASCAR series, the highs and lows of the legacy that surrounds the Daytona 500 was featured in dramatic and emotional fashion.
In a very good piece of producing, the program brought-in Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree in the final segment to follow-up a solid feature on the greatest Daytona driver. This gave the key members of the NASCAR on ESPN team the opportunity to once again establish their presence on this show, and speak freely about various topics within the sport.
Closing the program with a "roll-out," it was clear that the changes made by ESPN during the off-season would pay-off. This program did not even resemble the Monday hours of 2007, either in tone or content.
From start to finish, the is exactly what the network needed to begin the season on a positive note. Welcome to NASCAR Now, Mr. Bestwick.
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