Friday, February 15, 2008

"NASCAR Now" Changes Everything But The Kitchen Sink

The Friday version of ESPN2's NASCAR Now was facing some heavy competition from SPEED. That network had been on the air almost daily with NASCAR programming since the first testing dates in Daytona.

Now, on the eve of all three Daytona races, NASCAR Now was up against the SPEED's NASCAR Live hosted by the popular John Roberts. This time, ESPN had a response. The theme of that response was change. What they changed...was everything.

The result was the best episode of NASCAR Now since the program began last February. Hands down, ESPN has made a statement that this season they making a commitment to NASCAR. First off, this show was live on ESPN2.

Instead of the Connecticut studios, every ESPN announcer on the program was located at the race track. Instead of a single anchor with a video screen, the show took residence in the million dollar ESPN Pit Studio with the speedway visible behind it.

Memories of ESPN Radio's Erik Kuselias faded like the Yankees as the cameras showed Allen Bestwick, Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty on the set. Moments later, Bestwick called in the entire ESPN on-air team of Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree for comments on several key stories.

Bestwick then summoned Lead Reporter Marty Smith for a breakdown and follow-up on the news from the garage area. Smith has been working hard to fill a new role on this show as the featured source for news.

Formerly known as the network that shunned the Trucks, Bestwick led into a Nicole Manske interview with key drivers Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday. Bestwick then followed-up with an actual review of the starting grid, and gave the Truck Series the kind of treatment it deserves.

There is no doubt that ESPN is going to have to work very hard to make the Nationwide Series interesting this season. With less teams and a COT looming for next season, the interest from owners and manufacturers has been less than stellar. As SPEED's Ray Dunlap noticed during testing, they did not have enough cars in all the Nationwide tests to even fill the Daytona field.

Bestwick began this effort with an extensive and well-produced preview of this series. The key for ESPN is to identify the on-going stories while letting NASCAR worry about who shows up to race. Key "soundbites" from veterans like Jeff Burton helped to lend credibility to a series without a real focus in 2007.

In another sign that only the kitchen sink remains of the old NASCAR Now, Bestwick voiced a promo for all three of the weekend races from Daytona, including the TV networks and the air times. There they were, the SPEED and Fox logos on a NASCAR Now promo graphic.

Before going, the show reviewed a classic Daytona 500 finish and then transitioned into the first memories of seeing the speedway from a wide variety of drivers. Coming back on-camera, Bestwick got a response to that question from both Daugherty and Evernham.

After adding his own comments, he finished the program with a memorable line that perhaps only Daly Planet readers would understand. As the cameras went wide, Bestwick said it nice and clear for all to hear.

"You're looking live at Daytona! Thanks for watching NASCAR Now." It just does not get any better than that.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

JD, in this article you said multiple times, "everything but the kitchen sink." That implies that something remains form the old NASCAR Now. I don't quite understand what that could be. your article would make someone think EVERYTHING from the NASCAR Now of last year has changed.

Billy Delyon said...

I only read one 'kitchen sink' comment in your article JD.

Anyway, agree that was by far the best episode I've seen of NASCAR Now. And I sat through to many Erik LeCluless episodes last season to count. AB did a great job, as well as Marty and Ray and Brad.
Was glad to see the new booth crew show up for some pre-view. Nothing could be seen of last years debacle.

Good stuff.. Between what I heard from the booth crew during nationwide qualifying, and this show, I'm definitely feeling better about ESPN's NASCAR coverage this season so far. Lets hope they keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I agree. They were in danger of getting lost in the day of coverage on SPEED but NASCAR Now was well worth watching Friday.

Hopefully the race coverage today will be as improved as NASCAR Now appears to be (so far)!!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

The one thing that remains is that the show is on the air!

Anonymous said...

In an earlier post about NN, I said I was willing to ignore last year and to be impressed.

OK, I'm impressed. Keep it up ESPN.


Anonymous said...

JD, I was channel flipping. And this time ESPN got most of my time. Yes, the changes were good and enjoyed watching. Competition is good. Sometimes it brings out the best but is still early yet. It seems we maybe off to a good start.

Kingston, NY

pbump said...

I caught the end of it and it was and excellent show! Not sure why it took a year for them to figure out they have one of the best in the business in Bestwick.

SonicAD said...

I'm glad to see that the networks were able to come to an agreement about cross-promotion... I wouldn't doubt that NASCAR insisted upon it after the awkward mess it was last year. During the Truck race, SPEED also used an ESPN logo when showing when the Nationwide Series broadcast would be on on Saturday. This will be better for all of the networks involved.

ken-Michigan said...

NN is 1,000% better with Bestwick as host. There are few in the sport that are as professional as Bestwick. As I stated in a comment a week or so ago, to have success in this particular sport, there has to be trust between the person holding the microphone and the person being interviewed. Drivers are going to feel much more comfortable being interviewed by Bestwick than Burr, therefore , a much better TV show.

slithybill said...

I enjoyed last night's NASCAR Now, at least what I saw of it. I watched it on the DVR last night after the Truck race. The first six minutes was the wrap-up of the Nationwide qualifying (which ran late), so NASCAR Now started late. Didn't think it would be a big deal, but then I heard Allen Bestwick's voice and after watching the first few minutes I knew this was a show I wanted to watch. When it was over, I programmed my DVR to record the rebroadcast of the show at Midnight. I looked at the rest of ESPN2's schedule for the night, and seeing that they had no live events, I assumed the Midnight airing of NASCAR Now would run as scheduled. I therefore didn't program any extra time into the recording.

Boy, was I wrong.

When I put on NASCAR Now this morning I got to watch the end of the Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe fight from 1992. It was in the 12th round, so I figured it was nearly over. Then within the first minute they scrolled at the bottom "NEXT: NASCAR NOW". I hoped I'd get to see most of what I missed from the live airing.

Well, the 16-year old boxing match ended about 12:06am, and I decided I would re-watch NASCAR Now in light of JD's glowing review. I knew I still wouldn't see the end of the program, but that was okay. I figured ESPN2 hadn't joined any program "already-in-progress" and would do that sometime in the middle of the night. But guess what? Instead of showing NASCAR Now (as they had promised on the bottom of the screen only 5 minutes before), they were now showing a 2001 Lennox Lewis fight.

Why didn't ESPN2 show the repeat of NASCAR Now as scheduled? They still ran some NASAR-related commercial spots (Geico, Camping World, Nationwide). I'm not aware of any live sports they had scheduled last night.

I'm happy that NASCAR Now is a show I want to watch this season, but I'm disappointed that ESPN2 isn't letting me watch it. I understand that live sports will affect the schedule, but why didn't they preempt these old boxing fights and show NASCAR Now as scheduled?

l_long said...

I didn't follow things in the off season so was wondering when the epiphany occurred.

*IS* the old format out forever, or are we just being teased like we were last year when things changed so much, so often, and seldom for the better.

((And is ERIK K really gone???))

RICHnCA said...

I tined in and thought the show was great. My only comment is Marty Smith, WHAT WAS UP WITH THE COAT AND TIE?? He really looked out of place.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
I just woke up from a dream, I think I saw visions of years past when NASCAR programming promoted the sport and not the network, what an effort from production to topics ...great way to set the stage for 2008.

Anonymous said...

I actually loved the show for once.
Thanks ESPN, you CAN produce a racing show.
Only thing that could have made it better was more of everything, but you did good.
(Why did they go to Dr Jerry and the gang, though? I didn't get that one, but it flowed well.)