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.


Ritchie said...
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Ritchie said...

I also was surprised that Jeff and Jimmy were interviewed by Ryan. It was ok, but if I were in charge and the issue of the day was race engines, I would have wanted Rusty doing that interview. If anybody could understand the stress of that situation, I would think Rusty could, which would mean that he could ask questions that a common sportscaster could not.

I was also curious about Angelique Chengelis. Is she still with ESPN?

I thought the Hendrick interview was interesting. I enjoy an interview that uncovers elements of racing and the teams that you don't generally get to hear about. The part about Jeff having a Hendrick Corporate credit card and the "Quarterly Luncheons" blew me away. I knew that Hendrick was very corporate, but having quarterly luncheons? Can you imagine that at other race teams?

Brett Baldeck said...

John. I have a question about the show that I noticed today. I noticed that ESPN is now promoting racing on the other networks. At the end of todays program I was shocked to see that they put up the schedule for thursday and friday racing. They said "Gatorade Duels Thursday at 2 PM on SPEED, Craftsman Truck Series Friday 8 PM on SPEED". They even used the SPEED logo.

This is different that last season when they wouldn't even say the name "SPEED". Has ESPN And SPEED/FOX mended fences? What is with the sudden change. It is nice to see the networks are cross promoting but I just wanna know how it all came about.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Please take a moment to go back and read my previous columns this week about NASCAR Now. This is one of the biggest and most positive changes.

ESPN realizes that this show is about NASCAR, and not about only the NASCAR shown on the ESPN Networks. When Larry McReynolds was on yesterday with a NASCAR on Fox shirt and then Ryan Burr ended the interview by promo'ing the Daytona 500 on Fox, it was great.

This will work out for ESPN in the long run better than they know. It is a nice change for this season.


elena said...

I thought the show was pretty good, about the same as all the others. I think Ryan did a pretty good job. What has to be accepted is that when he is the host, it is HIS show.

I listen to Mike and Mike every morning, though I've got to say that I don't agree with them quite often. But what I like are the guests and interviews they do. Anyway, most of their guests are off site, even Eli Manning. They do not have anyone do their interviews, ever. It's their show. It's the same with most other sport's shows that I watch, like Jim Rome, who is in Los Angeles (another guy I often don't agree with.)

I paid close attention to all the questions asked in all the NN shows. Ryan was as good as AB, even though I do not think his delivery is quite there. Rusty was not that popular in the garage, so I have to think they'd rather speak to Ryan, especially the HMS guys.

As far as interviewing most drivers, they are an easy lot. Jeff is especially good and that's why he has been a guest or co-hosted talk shows, been on various other shows including SNL. Jeff and Jr always show emotion. I just love seeing them laugh out loud or joke around (white towel!). JJ and Casey are still very reserved and maybe that's just them. They shouldn't have to change.

They had the #3 best 500 and yet no interview. Why?

Nicole started her turn by quoting Kyle Petty!!! Good grief! Why? It was something about "knowing drafting." IS SHE KIDDING? What has she been doing all day? With all the really great drivers down there that know how to use the draft, she quotes KP.

I do not believe she could carry the show the way Ryan has, not by a long shot. I have to think that after her performance yesterday, ESPN is wondering if they made a mistake. I sure think they have.

Marty and the HMS drivers: It seems like it took a couple of questions to get it going, but it was fun.

I hope they have a good show tomorrow. Midnight!!!WOW!

haus20 said...

I wish that ESPN could talk to someone beside Hendrick. Of all of the driver sound bites and driver interviews so far this year, it seems that there has been a disproportionate number of Hendrick drivers compared to everyone else. Not necessarily a big deal, but it is something that I have noticed.

Seek said...

I haven't seen this Wednesday night show yet, got it TIVO'd. I've always found NASCAR Now unwatchable (on the rare occasions I checked in), but Monday's show with Allen Bestwick hosting was the best I've seen in a year. Bestwick is best with his own show because he's a control freak and a perfectionist...and damn good at his job.

Tuesday's show was also promising. Ryan Burr was much less annoying with his scripted questions. I like Nicole Manske being loose with her guests. She's far from polished, but I think she should keep the looseness, it works well in contrast to the rest of the stuffy-suited ESPN talking heads.

Bottom line, I'm finally going to make a point of recording NASCAR Now on a daily basis. It's greatly improved the last few shows IMO.

glenc1 said...

ya know, if they hadn't done it all last year too, I'd have thought the purpose of Ryan doing the interviewing was to 'establish' him as one of the hosts. We all keep saying he has to learn,'s the old catch22, how's he going to learn if they don't let him interview anyone? Just thinking aloud...this doesn't really bother me that much, but the 'delay' between the studio & location is always a bit awkward. As JD indicated, it still doesn't seem like they've quite figured out how to best use their 'cast of thousands'. I'm just once again comparing to the old RPM2Nite--Kernan was both host *and* interviewer, though granted, he was more knowledgeable.

elena--Kyle may not be a current winning driver, but he has been doing it for a looooong time, with and without plates, and with different types of cars than what some of the younger guys have (and COTs are more like older cars)...he may not be the best at using it, but for those reasons I would find his comments relevant. I wouldn't read too much into her choice.

as to the press focusing on Hendrick--um...maybe it has something to do with Jimmie being the champion and Junior joining up, lol. I think that'll even out some once the season gets going and there are other stories like Toyota.

GinaV24 said...

I thought it was a good show, but I do think that it is odd that with people on site they have the driver's being interviewed by remote. However, I also agree that while Rusty might be a former driver, he doesn't like Jeff Gordon and has let that show far too often in his speech during race broadcasts, so I did prefer that it was Ryan asking the questions, even if he perhaps wasn't as aware of the impact of having to change the engines. Jeff is a professional and always acts like one, Rusty is still holding a grudge. Overall the NN show is much improved from last year. Since I don't always make it home before the show airs, I've now started setting the DVR to make sure I can see what the show was about and that says a lot considering by this time last year, I'd already written the show off. I thought the pre-produced piece was good and it showed some interesting things about HMS. The quarterly meetings stuff was funny, but Jeff has certainly earned that role at HMS and fits into it well.

earl06 said...

While I appreciate the improvements to the show so far, it still doesn't give me any reason to tune in. It still has the "NASCAR for Dummies" feel and the producers of the show seem to be holding the talent back.

I'll DVR the Monday shows with AB, but other than that, I don't have time for this kind of crap.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Burr needs to go.. what a joke?

Burr to Jeff Gordon..."The talk in the garage area is about how the new car is handling...Jeff, do you think there will be a big wreck on Sunday?"

HUH? Where did that come from?

elena said...
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elena said...

glenc1, I do not think I "read too much" into Nicole's choice of the Petty quote. She has played such a very small role in the new NN, so I have used all her appearances to judge her commpetance, from my view. So far she's getting a D+ from me.

Kyle has a famous last name. So do I. So what? That does not give me any street cred.

Kyle is NOT a current winner. In fact, he has NEVER won a restrictor plate race. In his 73 races he has 1 top 5! He has done it a loooog time--with no success, so his comments would mean nothing to me.

I would find the comments from Jeff Gordon, Jr, Tony, DJ, Bill Elliott, etc VERY relevant. I mean DJ has 6 wins and 21 top 5s. He would have been great if she wanted to avoid the HMS drivers. Only Jr (7)and Jeff (12))have more wins than DJ (current drivers).

elena :>)

glenc1 said...

elena, I understand your point, but I meant only that in doing it a long time, he still understands how it works...*using* it to your advantage is something else; obviously others have been better in the recent cars--they have not, however, driven the older style cars as Kyle has (along with Mark Martin, Schrader, and some others, who have compared the COTs' handling at Daytona to older era cars.) Did Nicole pick his quote cause she didn't know any better? Perhaps. But goodness--I certainly hope she's done enough homework to know who the others are. I'm just guessing that this quote popped up in front of her and she chose to use it. I don't really have an opinion about her yet one way or the other so I'm not particularly defending her. The first few times I saw John Roberts I thought he was a total robot, and it just took time for me to like him. As for Kyle--if you've seen him on Tradin' Paint, you know he's knowledgeable about many things (and no, he's not a particular favorite of mine. I just respect his opinion as a veteran even if I don't always agree with him.)

jersey_dan said...

i think i'm done with this show, for good. there are still too many things i don't like for me to tune in on a regular basis. at the top of my list are 1) the stupid interviewing by the studio host when they have people right on site, and 2) asking nascar people (drivers, crew chiefs, whoever) questions that are self obvious. example: brad asking the king if moving to the new shop will help their race team.............

i was hoping that Allen would improve things, but that didn't happen. yes, that show was better than the others, but not enough to bring me back as a regular viewer. oh well, i gave espn a chance to make changes, and they have, positive ones too, but just not the ones i wanted to see. and since i'm just one person, i doubt they'll even miss me.

i've watched since the show started, and basically haven't heard anything that i haven't already gotten off the internet from jayski and his news page. i'm talking about things to do with actual racing; i personally don't care if HMS takes their staff for quarterly picnics or whatever. if i read here that things have changed, i may tune back in, but not until then.

elena said...

glenc1, thanks for your explanation. I understand your point. I guess if she wanted to choose and older driver, she could have chosen Mark, Kenny, or better yet DJ. DJ has driven in more restrictor races than Kyle. But no matter, it was her choice and her show.

I'm not sure how informed she is. She thought we would have a time figuring out the 4 HMS drivers.

As far as Kyle, I do not care for him. He is often very rude, doesn't listen to others opinions, and trades a lot on his last name. I don't consider him a real racer. I cannot imagine Tony, Jeff, Carl, Kyle Bush, and many others, get out of their cars to sit in a studio. How is that helpful to his team?

Bottom line, I get your point. :>)

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't the crew chief ask about the engine problem? He would have asked the best questions and been able to explain the answer. Duh!