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.
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