Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TV Reality Sinks-In With Daytona Just A Memory

Three of NASCAR's four network TV partners had quite a weekend. Fox Sports, SPEED and ESPN produced many hours of all types of television coverage. Now, the reality of a ten month season is staring them all in the face. It begins with four races in the next four weeks.

The Wednesday version of NASCAR Now sits all alone like an island in the middle of the week. Daytona has been reviewed countless times, and the action in California does not start for several days. So, what to do?

Well, if it was Daytona that can only mean one thing, penalties. On a day that NASCAR Now has sometimes struggled to fill, it was NASCAR itself that provided the content for the top story with reporter David Newton. His rundown of all the penalties was factual, but was not really breaking news. Time for the old fact check.

Jeff Burton stopped by via liveshot, but violated the ESPN "no sunglasses" rule. Not seeing Burton's eyes during this entire interview was tough, and the rule has been there for many years for a reason. Burton finally explained what the issue was with his final Daytona restart and ultimately his disappointing finish.

Burr did not ask about the footage showing Burton confronting Clint Bowyer after the 500, and instead used Burton's knowledge to preview the California weekend. ESPN also allowed Burton to promo the re-paving at Darlington, and sent him on his way without a whole lot accomplished.

Brad Daugherty was not in the ESPN2 studio, and appeared next via liveshot to speak as a commentator about a wide variety of NASCAR topics. The role of Daugherty in this on-air scenario is not clear, and he just seems to speak generally about NASCAR like a fan. Maybe, that is the whole idea.

ESPN has needed to increase exposure for the Nationwide Series, and Tim Brewer filed a "tech feature" from Rusty Wallace's shops. It was nice to see Harold Holly on the show, and the veteran crew chief backed-up Brewer's information.

Jamie Little stopped by next and for some reason was in Las Vegas. Bryan Clauson, the Nationwide driver who ESPN chose not to interview after the Daytona race, was again promoted as the future of the series. Perhaps, if he continues to do well he will rate a post-race chat with Little in-person.

The demise of Jacques Villeneuve as an active Sprint Cup driver was fundamentally strange. His videotaped explanation of that situation on the show was even stranger. Perhaps, this was something that could have used David Newton's expertise to explain. This veteran open-wheel racer was clearly moved out of his seat, without a good reason really being given by anyone.

For a Wednesday slim with news, the program worked its way through thirty minutes at a fast clip. Over the past season, this day has seen regional NASCAR racers as guests, extended debates between in-studio analysts, and endless hype by the host to try and stir-up any kind of controversy no matter how silly.

As the season rolls-on, hopefully ESPN will begin to use Wednesdays to bring fans the stories that are off the beaten path. There are plenty of regional racers that deserve an interview, an "old school" historic series is starting up and lots of good Nationwide Series stories like Bryan Clauson that deserve more than lip service.

The old RPM2Night had "open-wheel Wednesday" to fill the gap between big series races on the weekend. If NASCAR Now encourged regional series to begin to provide race video, no matter how raw, they just might stumble into a new Wednesday feature that would endear them to a whole new group of fans.

This TV series has shown amazing change in the past several weeks, and continues to be free from the problems of last season. Burr can certainly host, but he needs his reporters and analysts to be involved in the topics being covered throughout the show. On the whole, things in NASCAR Now land are looking good.

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


Anonymous said...

I guess thats why its called hump day! I thought Ryan did a good job getting through the news of the day. Newton is a bit boring but accomplished what he needed to get done. If they are going to devote wednesdays to Nationwide, why not interview a young driver? Lets be honest this year is 100 times better than last season!

Rick said...

I haven't watched NN for a week or so but watched today and was pleasantly surprised with the improvements, not just over last year, but even from last week.

Keep it up ESPN and I may start watching on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps because I knew of Villenneuve's departure a few days ago, and the reasons behind it, I didn't find the report confusing. They did say it was a lack of sponsorship, but what they didn't add was the fact that JV's crew chief was fired earlier, and he was supposedly the one who was attempting to negotiate sponsorship for the 27 car. While this part wasn't included in the piece, I thought they did explain the reasons satisfactorily.

I must say that there's still too much of a scripted feel to Ryan's demeanor. He doesn't seem to be able to deviate from a script, even when a guest's answers to questions begs an off course group of probing questions. Being spontaneous doesn't seem to be part and parcel of ESPN's abilties.

Newracefan said...

Todays show was ok and considering what we went through last year I'll take it. I was really hopeful that we would hear Burton's explaination of what went on between him and Clint but perhaps ESPN decided to take the high road, or Jeff told them he did not want to discuss it. (Hopefully all will be well by this weekend). I'll still keep watching

elena said...

I thought Ryan did a good job again. David Newton covered the news of the penalties. I know that sometimes people already know the news, but that does not mean they should not be covered.

I watch the news at 5 and sometimes again at 6. The reporters don't skip the weather just because it's the same as it was at 5. When the Giants won the Super Bowl, it was the lead story on the news at 5, 6, 10, 11, etc. Just because about 100,000,000 watched the game, you cannot decide not to report it. Besides, everything reported in a news segment is not necessarily "breaking news."

The interview with Jeff was good. Jeff even told Ryan he had asked a good question. I thought it was respectful not to ask him, or rather confront him with questions about Clint.

I did not care for most of the Tim Brewer piece. Ray Everham does a much better job of explaining tech stuff.

I think anytime you can interview a principle, it's better that having "hear say" from a reporter. Jacques Villeneuve gave an explanation, and I would leave it at that. It seems as though he still wants to race and will if he can find funding. Jacques had said he would have a press release today and since I did not see it live, I was glad NN played a tape of it.

I guess I don't really care why Jaime is in Las Vegas as long as she does a good job, and I think she did.

Once again I thought NN did a good job. I hope they continue.

TexasRaceLady said...

While I would liked to have known the reason behind the confrontation between Jeff and Clint, I can respect Jeff's right to keep it private.

The penalites handed down today deserved to talked about. All those crew chiefs being handed suspensions is news-worthy.

I, also, had heard of JV's being out of the seat, but I do appreciate him taking the time to give the reasons himself.

I would like to see "Hump Day" used for interviewing some young, first-time drivers --- in all series. Or maybe use it as a history of NASCAR day. Show some of the old days. :-)

A good show --- not as great as Monday/Tuesday, but light-years ahead of last year.

Tripp said...

I've watched NN three days in a row, which is a record for me. I keep coming back because it's become a good show. Good solid information, good interviews and insight from the reporters and analysts, and a host that keeps the show moving. That covers the bases. ESPN is on a role.

I have to comment on Tim Brewer's report from Rusty Wallace Racing. I've said repeatedly that I like Tim and hoped that they would give him something of substance to do, and this was that something.

I've followed NASCAR for over 30 years and I must admit that some of the sport's technology is a mystery to me, and I'm technical and mechanically inclined. The pictures in Tim's report helped me understand what the pull-down rig actually does for the first time. So for me, that was a great report.

Keep it up ESPN. You're on a roll.

Anonymous said...

Since the penalties were announced this afternoon, they were indeed breaking news and NN was absolutely correct to cover them. That part of coverage (news events that happened that day) was sorely lacking last year.

Many, many racing fans I know don't check Jayski or internet news sites every day - or check once in the early morning and don't check again at work or later at home.

I didn't know it was an ESPN rule, but it has long been a pet peeve of mine when drivers don't remove their sunglasses for TV interviews, whether it's practice, qualifying, whatever. It only takes a second to take them off.

I get especially annoyed with drivers who put sunglasses on in their cars in victory lane after winning and before their interviews. Matt Kenseth, I'm talking to you.

I didn't mind about Jamie being in Las Vegas. If they are going to use satellite stuff (and they are) the location of the reporter doesn't matter to me as long as the item is presented well. Based on last year (Smith, Blount, Chengelis, Compton etc), I think a lot of them report from where they live.

SophiaZ123 said...

just had to add the sunglass deal is a pet peeve of mine, too. I like to see the EYES of folks being interviewed. You can always put the sunglasses up on your head.

I hope JV gets another sponsor soon or can ride in another series.

Rough week for penalties but personally, I think Robby Gordon got it too harshly. I know it's the COT factor and all but the part was sent to him by the alleged maker.
Shame such a small team and Robby lost tons of money from the canceling of the Daker race.

I thought Ryan did a good job covering the bases. I think the more he does this show, along with AB substituting, the better. Last season it was dreadful listening to the long opening spiel of NN ONLY to get Erik....Ryan seems to be learning his way and it's gotta be tough stuck in the studio away from all the action in NASCAR. It was GREAT seeing Newman in the studio with him.

bevo said...

Jamie Little still lives on the west coast, don't know if it's California or Nevada. If your job is covering just the races I don't think it really matters where you call home.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Don't you find it a little bit strange that this is the only ESPN show that rarely tells the viewer where the on-air reporters are located...or why?

Even if they said "Brad Daugherty joins us from Charlotte" or "Jamie Little is back home after Daytona and joining us from Las Vegas" it would work for me.

As long as they are polishing the apple, why not polish till it shines?

glenc1 said...

Frankly, I don't think a lot of us really care where these people are. Maybe we *should* but as long as they're doing a good job, we don't....on the other hand, I do agree it's kind of basic journalistic practice to say where someone is, though no reason is necessary (as is the case with Little--it could be personal business that isn't ours...)

Gosh, I'd totally forgotten 'open wheel Wednesday', I used to love that! But since it's 'NASCAR Now', I'd really like to see the focus be on Nationwide and Camping World series features--that would be a real plus to those teams. I thoroughly enjoyed Tim and Harold in the RWI shop, informative and well presented from a couple of veterans. I think Tim is doing fine with this.

As for 'breaking news'--I would agree with Anon 12:44--I hadn't checked the news since early afternoon, and it was sure breaking news to me. Some people are not glued to their wireless laptops or have their ESPN phone updates 24/7! I would love to see a follow up feature on Robby's team, this has to be devastating--IMHO, a much bigger story than Jr's Nationwide team, but well, Jr is Jr...

I know I said the first day that Ryan seemed tentative, but that has all gone away; he seems quite confident now. I know people are complaining that he's 'scripted', but to me, that's part of being professional; even Ryan Seacrest has a teleprompter, ya know? I think the ad-lib comfort will come with experience.

Anonymous said...

But NASCAR is such a strange animal. Most traditional ESPN folks go back to Bristol after an event or they report from a team arena or field during the week between games. Example: They report from the Staples Center, or they report from the practice field for NFL.

NASCAR reporters don't have a "team headquarters" to report from every week and they don't get to the track until Thursdays where they can do those reports with the track in the background.

So if they're reporting from where their home base is, I don't see the relevance in mentioning where they are. It's not the same as a NBA Tonight reporter at practice saying "reporting from the Staples Center, I'm __________ for ESPN."

NASCAR folks are spread out and I remember watching Marty Smith on 7 Days on Speed Channel where they followed his job and he said most of his job is done through email, text,and phone during the week. He was sitting outside a Jiffy Lube type place interviewing people and writing on his laptop while he was getting his oil changed! So I think comparing NASCAR Now to other ESPN shows may be apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's personal business with Jamie at all. I'm pretty sure she lives in Las Vegas and has for a while, just like Brad D lives in Ashville NC and the other NASCAR Now staff are scattered around the country.

I know that Marty has reported from Virginia before when there was no race there. He's from there, and the studio host said he was in Virginia (this complaint about reporters on NASCAR Now not saying where they are came up last year, so they tried it for a while before dropping it), but I didn't see how it was relevant.

Brrrn Rubber said...

NASCAR reporters don't have a "team headquarters" to report from every week and they don't get to the track until Thursdays where they can do those reports with the track in the background.So if they're reporting from where their home base is, I don't see the relevance in mentioning where they are.
My two cents: The original comment asking why Little was in Vegas proves the point that they shouldn't mention it unless they're at the track or a shop. I know I'm not going to keep track of where they all live, so why wonder why someone is somewhere non-NASCAR, as with Little in Las Vegas with no race there this week?

Anonymous said...

Jaques Villenneuve's departure is because he was wrecking too many cars (practice,etc.)A classic example of the "trendy" thing not working out.Lack of chemistry between him and the crew chief,etc.
The show had some balance, but also awkward as well.What's up with the "no sunglasses" rule?Usually Jeff Burton is very VERY accomidating to the media-it had to be the Bowyer/Burton thing. Uncomfortable situations make people uncomfortable.
Why Tim Brewer is still working is beyond me.
All in all, it was o.k.,yet better than last years' National Enquirer broadcasts. Of course, that's pretty much how all the shows on ESPN are anyway.
A footnote: If people complain about ESPN only showing the "top stars" of NASCAR, and not the little people, one need look no further than their treatment of the NBA broadcasts. Three games in one week of the Miami Heat, and a total of 7 games in a month. The Miami Heat at the time of this occurance was LAST PLACE with only 8 wins, and 25 losses. The reason?
Shaquille O'Neal.

Anonymous said...

Your referral to RPM's "Dirt Track Wednesday" is spot on. As a sprint car fan, that was a must see program. It attracted viewers to RPM that otherwise would have missed it.

The unfolding Joey Logano story of last year renewed my interest in the NASCAR regional series. The story lines at that level are compelling. Beyond the rising stars like Logano, there are very talented career drivers who just did not get their lucky break.

The mid week NASCAR Now doldrums would be considerably enlivened by a weekly summary coverage of the various NASCAR regional series. Furthermore, it would be completely relevant to the program theme and, incidentally, attract fans to attend the regional events. The NASCAR regionals are far more affordable than Cup events.


Prospector said...

After not watching at all last season I am enjoying the "new" NASCAR NOW.

That said the hype and expression given of "BREAKING NEWS" bugs me no end.

It was news and should be reported but breaking news indicates to me that it is happening as the reporter speaks. Most, if not all their breaking news is common knowledge by noon.

OK, I'm nit-picking. Overall it is a tremendous improvement, particularly Monday nite's show.

Anonymous said...

About the issue of sunglasses being worn during an interview, there are a few drivers that I am willing to give a pass on for this. Jeff Burton is one and Steve Wallace is another. They both have what I guess is a nervous habit of what I'll call "aggressive blinking of the eyes" during interviews. Not only do they blink their eyes a lot during the interview, but they do in such a way that it seems to involve most of their facial muscles when they do so, almost like a nervous tick. I find it very disconcerting and distracting to the interview when it happens. To me it gives the impression that they have something in their eyes they are trying to clear or dislodge. Anyhow, them to wear sunglasses to cover up this act is okay by me.

Don't get me wrong, I like still these drivers, but when they start blinking like that I get completely distracted from what is being said.

Geez said...

Jamie Little lives in Las Vegas, so that would explain that. I would like to see the Wednesday show be a Nationwide series show, along with any new Sprint Cup news.

The Nationwide Series is ESPN's baby all season. They would do well to devote one show a week to it. Talk about the regulars in the series and get their name's out there.

Newracefan said...

Doesn't Burton have a personal services agreement with a sunglasses company, I thought I heard/read that somewhere? I know Kyle Busch had one last year but am not sure if it still ongoing.
Also I believe Steven had a form of Turettes Syndrome (sp?) that causes his facial tick. Don't worry after watching many interviews of the person you won't even notice. I actually forgot about the way Jeff blinks until I was reminded just now

darbar said...

What's behind the no sunglasses rule? Makes very little sense to me. I know there are some individuals who have conditions of the eye where the UV rays cause not only pain but can easily damage the vision. My sister is one of those. But I cannot understand why the issue of sunglasses bothers people? The poker players on ESPN wear them all the time. And it's part and parcel of King Richard Petty's look--the hat, the mustache, the shades and big belt buckle, it's a part of his persona. I think every driver does the sunglasses thing, some because it's a part of a personal services contract.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:08--Newracefan is correct, Steve has a mild form of Tourette's syndrome.

The sunglasses thing doesn't particularly bother me--perhaps the light was particularly bright, because Jeff usually takes his off, and he may have just forgotten if he'd just come off the paver, lol. BTW, kind of funny that ESPN has been running an ad for PBA Bowling where the bowler is wearing his sunglasses *indoors*.

Dot said...

I have noticed that Ryan B mentions drag racing coming up on the following weekend.
I think the NW and truck series should have Wednesdays all to themselves. Unless there is a bigger story in Cup.

Tom said...

As much as I would like to see a more well-rounded report (Dirt, sprints, east, west etc.), I really feel as though they have just started to report Busch and trucks! Lets hope they continue this and get solid on those series. Then ...maybe....

Baby Steps!

Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

They would have something to talk about if NASCAR would adopt 20-20 qualifying. Line up the first 20 at California based on the finishing order at Daytona. 21-43 plus Daytona non-qualifiers lines up for a short qualifying race (Sprint race). First 20 across the line get positions 21-40. 3 provisionals.

Think about all you could talk about.

A qualifying race with Bowyer, McMurray, Johnson, Martin, Mears, Kenseth, Blaney, J. Gordon along with a cast of others, followed by Elliott and Schrader would be something to talk about. Plus think about it, even if they win the qualifier, the best they can roll off is 21st. Talk about something to talk about.

Since everyone knows where they'll start Sunday (1-20) or Saturday (21+ in the qualifier) it creates a ton of story lines through the week.

Newman rolls off on the pole-can he sustain the momentum? Kurt Busch outside pole, does he have anything for them? Can Tony make up for his mistake? And what about Kyle? Robby Gordon securely in the field (or do you move him to the back because of the penalty?)as is Sam Hornish. Can E come from that far back.

A ton of story lines created just by changing the way you set the lineup.

Sure make for an interesting hump day.