Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Ryan Burr And Company Tackle Breaking News
The normally tightly scripted weekday version of NASCAR Now was put to the test with the breaking news about engine problems at Daytona.
Hosting from the studio, Ryan Burr introduced Lead Reporter Marty Smith who immediately addressed the issue. Smith had a lot of solid details about the actions being taken by many of the teams that all centered around engines.
Next up was Jeff Gordon, who for some reason spoke with Ryan Burr back in Connecticut rather than the ESPN on-air staff in Daytona. This is still a rough spot for the show, as Burr is relatively new to NASCAR and putting him on the spot with this type of interview is not really the best idea. With lots of troops on the ground in Daytona for the network, this was an interesting decision.
Jimmie Johnson is always a good guest. He is also Jeff Gordon's teammate. Jimmie was the next guest on NASCAR Now, and once again there were none of the ESPN veterans around in Daytona to conduct this interview. Burr, from Connecticut, was alone in the studio to ask the questions.
There must have been an ESPN staff meeting in Daytona because Nicole, Brad, Rusty, Andy, Jerry, Allen, Dale and even the new addition Ray Evernham were all apparently in it. Any one of them could have stepped-in for three minutes and handled these two key interviews of these past champions.
Burr has worked hard to learn the sport, and his questions were certainly solid from a journalistic standpoint. Regardless of who is in the Connecticut studio, there is one lingering issue. On the day before the Gatorade Duels and after an ESPN press conference confirming more involvement of the ESPN race announcers in NASCAR Now, where did everybody go?
Tuesday, Nicole Manske was seated in the ESPN Infield Studio and acted as the Daytona host for this program. Today, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were standing in the Media Center with microphones in their hands and once again answering questions from Burr in Connecticut.
Ironically, Manske was next from the same Daytona location with the same microphone in her hand. She introduced a pre-produced package that used good "soundbites" to preview the Gatorade Duels. On this day, rather than hosting the Daytona coverage, Manske was simply reporting. After Tuesday, this was a change of direction.
The Hendrick theme continued with Marty Smith hosting a pre-produced interview with all four Hendrick drivers. Marty set a casual tone, and asked some good and slightly unusual questions. Once the talk turned to racing, the tone changed and the answers became honest and very interesting. Gordon was clearly the elder statesman of the group, and he is now a very well-spoken father and champion. The second part of the feature continues on NASCAR Now on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick was up next. As expected, he was on camera from the same location with the same microphone talking to Ryan Burr back in Connecticut. Harvick was as outspoken and fiesty as usual, and he seems to be poised for a big season. Having the Daytona 500 winner on the show the day before the Gatorade Duels was a smart decision. Being interviewed in this manner, was not.
After some random news and notes, the show was over. This hour was the final dress rehearsal before real racing and lots of real news begins in earnest for 2008.
What we have seen is lots of Marty Smith. What we have not seen is the rest of the "Insiders" from last season. What we have seen is Nicole Manske in a variety of roles. What we have not seen is ESPN establish a base of operations for her at the track to co-host NASCAR Now.
Key to this show are the supporting players, and they need to be involved in interviews with NASCAR personalities all season long. Burr will probably be the first to admit this is a learning year for him. The fans deserve ESPN veteran analysts asking the questions, not the studio host.
With all the resources of ESPN, it is going to be interesting to see if they can own-up to the promises of ESPN VP Rich Feinberg when he says the entire NASCAR team will work as one. On this night, they came up a bit short.
With SPEED still on-the-air with the Gatorade Duels and then Victory Lane, ESPN has NASCAR Now airing at Midnight Eastern Time Thursday for thirty minutes. We will keep you posted on this program all season long as it works to change into a comprehensive NASCAR news TV series.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and then follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion.