Monday, February 4, 2008
Darrell Waltrip Shows-Up On ESPN's "NASCAR Now"
It was a full two minutes of mayhem and music before Ryan Burr said hello and started the 2008 version of ESPN2's NASCAR Now.
Burr is known to be a fast-paced, news-oriented announcer and his first segment was no exception.
Rather then set-up the NASCAR Now menu and introduce the new on-air announce team, Burr sent viewers into a pre-produced feature focusing on matching the drivers to the cars in the Sprint Cup Series. It was an interesting way to get started.
Then, Carl Edwards suddenly appeared "just to talk." With ESPN2 handling all of the Nationwide Series races, was it any surprise that the Busch Series champ from 2007 would be the first guest? Edwards is a nice guy, but ESPN's fascination with both Edwards and his mom at the close of last season was very strange.
Burr introduced video of the top ten Daytona 500 finishes, and then who should appear on-camera but NASCAR on Fox Lead Analyst Darrell Waltrip. With all due respect, why would DW appear to talk about the upcoming Daytona 500 when viewers had not yet seen ESPN's new addition and former Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett?
DW on ESPN is either opening a new level of respect and understanding between NASCAR TV partners, or a very interesting production decision on the part of the NASCAR Now staff. Burr actually slipped a Daytona 500 promo into the end of the interview, and even included the dreaded "Fox" word. My, how times have changed since Erik Kuselias.
Reporter Marty Smith appeared twenty-two minutes into this thirty minute show, and focused on the biggest story of the season, Dale Earnhard Jr. at Hendrick Racing. Smith picked-up right where he left off, with a fast-paced and informative style that fits right in with Burr.
Carl Edwards came back for the "Final Lap," and answered some really awkward questions posed to him by Burr. Some of the issues raised were just plain strange.
This show was interesting not for what was included, but for what was missing. There was no update on the Daytona, Las Vegas or Fontana testing. There was nothing about the first season of the COT. The Truck Series was never mentioned.
Strangest of all, there was no introduction of Allen Bestwick and Nicole Manske as Burr's co-hosts of the show. One sentence would have sufficed.
The most recent ESPN press release detailed sixteen on-air "talent" that would be participating in this program. It included the high-profile new NASCAR team of Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. It also included Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty, the four ESPN pit reporters and the studio regulars like Boris Said and DJ Copp. Just one little question, where were they all?
Even if the network pre-produced a feature introducing the new line-up and what would be different this season, it would have been nice. Instead, a two minute music video from "Colourslide" with lots of crashes opened the show.
Once again, perhaps to ESPN's surprise, NASCAR fans have been watching SPEED for the last three weeks and are all caught-up with most of these news stories. ESPN-owned Jayski.com helps as well.
Finally, there was no promo of Thursday's big Media Day at Daytona. There will be three live hours on ESPN News, signaling a new committment of that network to the sport. Brand new host/reporter Nicole Manske will be on-hand with Rusty Wallace to anchor the coverage.
So, only Marty Smith from the big ESPN cast was present for NASCAR Now show one. The other two guests were NASCAR on Fox's Darrell Waltrip and from SPEED the co-host of The Chase Is On Carl Edwards.
What an interesting way to crank-up a new series that was supposed to feature three anchors, lots of guests, and a ton of ESPN NASCAR personalities. Still, this was a positive step from the issues of last February. Maybe the glass is actually half full.
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