Friday, February 22, 2008
"NASCAR Now" Plays The Rain Game
The weather threw a wrench into the plans of both SPEED and ESPN2 on Friday. With no cars on the track as of 6PM Eastern Time, both networks worked hard to deal with the reality of rain in Southern California.
Nicole Manske was on-site in California for NASCAR Now with Ryan Burr hosting back in the ESPN2 studios. After a brief wrap-up of the weather problems and some driver comments, Manske unveiled yet another wrinkle in this interesting TV season.
Allen Bestwick was suddenly on-hand in the ESPN Tech Center, and he had some friends along for the ride. Tim Brewer, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were all on the Tech Center set, and had a rather free-wheeling conversation about the topics associated with the rain out.
Bestwick promoted the ESPN coverage of the Nationwide Series, and then threw back to Burr who rolled the Busch Series California highlights from last season. This is exactly the type of flexible and responsive coverage from the track that NASCAR Now fans appreciate.
With the California situation documented, the show switched gears to focus on the penalty given to Robby Gordon and his team. Right or wrong, the sound from Gordon was great. Reporter Angelique Chengelis appeared from the track with the suggestion that the current NASCAR penalty might ultimately force Gordon out of the sport. Chengelis covers several sports, but her NASCAR information has always been solid.
In discussing the rain scenarios, Chengelis recapped the issues associated with the continuing weather and relayed the official NASCAR line that many of us know so well. Basically, they have lights at the speedway and intend to use them.
Chengelis continued with a Kurt Busch update and put a very good spin on the situation in the Penske camp with Sam Hornish and the points being transferred. Regardless of how much public relations effort has gone into the Kurt Busch "push" for the Daytona 500 win, it certainly has resulted in some quality TV time for Penske Racing.
Manske talked with Dario Franchitti and Kenny Wallace about their rides in the Nationwide Series. It was nice that NASCAR Now took the time to point specifically at this series, and is finally beginning to calm down their Cup hysteria of 2007. Setting the table for this race by simply telling viewers that Franchitti and Wallace will be racing is exactly the type of basic promotion the series really needs.
It was nice of Rusty Wallace to come on-camera alone and update the COT issues with the speedway. He also updated the rain situation, and continues to appear to have been "set free" to be himself once again with his new TV role. Rusty is fun and outspoken and does not take himself too seriously. He and Burr had a great exchange on a wide variety of topics and it really showed the Wallace value to ESPN.
This is the first time this season that the new and re-vamped NASCAR Now had to scramble with an on-going weather issue. Burr and Manske handled things quite well, and once again we saw seven different ESPN announcers and reporters on the air in this thirty minute show. That is impressive and requires a lot of resources.
Manske seems to be comfortable at the track, and Rusty Wallace seems to be emerging on this program as an outstanding analyst. It should be interesting to see ESPN, SPEED and Fox Sports deal with the on-going weather situation over the weekend. If they can handle it as well as the NASCAR Now gang, things should be just fine for the viewers.
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