Monday, March 3, 2008

ESPN Continues To Shuffle The Monday Night Deck


Targeting the one hour Monday NASCAR Now show, the ESPN executives took a chance and made a big change. It has paid-off in spades.

The series introduced a roundtable format that gathers four NASCAR on ESPN personalities and lets them talk. This week, Ray Evernham joined host Allen Bestwick, Boris Said and Mike Massaro.

Mixed with highlights and soundbites from the track, the conversation flows from topic-to-topic. It is an interesting change of pace that comes at a time when NASCAR fans have already seen the highlights, and want more information and perspective.

Boris Said has been a regular on this program, and continues to be the free spirit that this program has needed to turn loose. Sometimes a bit outrageous, Said has been a vocal advocate for the "little guy" in the sport and relates well to the other ESPN personalities including regular hosts Ryan Burr and Nicole Manske.

All the hard work of Mike Massaro has been rewarded with an active role on this panel. Massaro has the true perspective of a veteran reporter, and he is not afraid to challenge the statements of the other panelists on almost any topic. While he was not chosen to be a co-host, his role as a pit reporter continues on the entire NASCAR on ESPN package.

The interesting personality on the horizon is Ray Evernham. How and why he suddenly showed-up as a member of the ESPN team has never really been explained. Evernham has a very good presence on TV, and he could easily slip into an analyst role for the network in the future. This season, he will be working on NASCAR Now as well as contributing to other programs like SportsCenter and also ESPNEWS.

While he is still active as a team owner, Evernham has been careful to steer away from even casual conversation about his GEM cars. He contributes from a veteran perspective and often took the lead in the conversations throughout the show. While fans have lots of strong feelings about him, ESPN has made it clear that Evernham is here to stay. It should be interesting to see if his role changes in 2009.

At about the halfway point of the show, there is an extended video piece that recaps all kinds of happenings at the track from practice through the final race. It is a wonderful feature that allows a break from the studio conversation, and gives fans the kind of behind-the-scenes peek they used to enjoy on some former NASCAR TV series. Getting this footage "turned around" and edited is no easy task.

Bestwick has been a breath of fresh air for ESPN, and this program gives viewers the opportunity to see ESPN personalities in an informal setting where they can speak freely on a wide variety of topics. Perhaps, ESPN may someday choose to allow the panel to take questions from fans and expand the conversation outside the studio.

The NASCAR Media Group provides a lot of footage and support for all the NASCAR-related TV programs, and NASCAR Now is no exception. The wonderfully edited video piece featured in each Monday show has become a favorite, and really begs for a NASCAR Now year-in-review program in November.

ESPN has hit on a recipe for success, and should get credit for making the changes needed to create a Monday wrap-up show that fans can finally enjoy.

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

33 comments:

TexasRaceLady said...

I really enjoyed this mix tonight. All had opinions and all expressed them without trampling the others.

Congratulations, ESPN on a job well-done.

lohur said...

I just wanted to congratulate ESPN on a terrific NASCAR Now.

Thanks for actually addressing the Top 35 Owners points issue that will be of great importance in the coming weeks. On this program last year, Top 35 was never addressed. ESPN is showing me they are changing to fit their audience, instead of trying to have their audience change to their format.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Daly Planet Editor said...
Anon 12:14AM,...

...As the show continues to grow and pick-up speed, perhaps the practice of disclosing the location will become habit.

JD

February 29, 2008 5:01 AM

Thanks JD. But I was more interested in the logistics of having reporters in different places. I don't think ESPN would just build a temporary studio in the city the reporter is in for whatever reason. I want to know if those cities the reporters happen to be in, have ESPN bureau's (if one exists) or are they using a local news station's facilities?

February 29, 2008 6:37 PM


Daly Planet Editor said...
That is a great question, I hope they give me an answer to that one.

February 29, 2008 7:42 PM


JD, did you ever get an answer to that? I would be interested.

Anonymous said...

I'll probably be in the minority on this: while I like the show and roundtable, I really wasn't expecting the roundtable to go on for the entire hour. My memory may be failing, but I thought the roundtable at Daytona was the second half hour of the show? And I don't remember how it was structured Monday night, except Marty was there with Allen.

It may be because they have people like Evernham and Said in the studio in person, they may want to use them for the full hour. Or it may be that because of testing, some other people weren't available for satellite interviews.

I felt that the items that they covered were somewhat predictable, though the perspectives were good.

I would have also liked to have heard from someone else who wasn't focused on in yesterday's race via satellite. Maybe Brian Vickers - hovering right outside the top 12;would have been interesting to see what he said about Allmendinger. Of if he wasn't available, have the panel discuss why one (Red Bull) team can do so well and another so badly (Evernham could have provided an owner's perspective on that since he had that issue in 2006).

Or discuss Elliott Sadler is currently in the top 12 -how long has it been since that happened?. Or have some focus on Travis Kvapil's run Sunday in an unsponsored car. How long can Yates keep that up? Like I said, perhaps the testing schedule prevented this, but they need to think "outside the box" for discussion items as well as cover the big items from the weekend - if they have an entire hour, they should use it wisely.

Mike Massaro is great on this panel.

Anonymous said...

It's my opinion that the Monday night wrap-up show is AB's beloved INC re-born on a different network that has a larger budget so they don't have to listen to the garbage truck arriving ;-)

All kidding aside, AB even sits in the same position (far left) that he did on INC. He has three guests, just like INC, they disect the race, point out interesting things we may have missed, and preview next week's race. It's like welcoming an old friend back into my home. It completes the race weekend for me.

I can't help but wonder how influencial this blog was in getting AB back on the air in this forum. Last year there were folks begging SPEED to bring AB back to INC and ESPN listened and is reaping the rewards.

To all those associated with this show: thank you!

JD, is it possible Ray Evernham is on the panel because his Racing Wizard show is not on anymore and ESPN has a contract with him?

Anonymous said...

"Like I said, perhaps the testing schedule prevented this,"

I meant to say: perhaps the testing schedule prevented those drivers I listed from being interview via satellite.

Tripp said...

I used to look forward to getting my NASCAR weekend recap from the old Inside Winston Cup show. Now, for me, Monday nights belong to NASCAR Now. What a great show!

When it came on the air tonight, I thought I'd miss last week's crew. How wrong I was. The same chemistry and free-flowing discussion that we saw last week was there again tonight. Ray "The Race Wizard" Evernham is sharp and always bring good stuff. I've been a "Said-head" for years and his work on all the ESPN shows is Boris being Boris. That's why Said-heads are Said-heads. Massaro, who I thought was good-but-not-great last year really shines in this role. The fact that he reminded all the Yankee fans that the Red Sox are still world champions didn't hurt either

The whole show is neatly organized, packed with salient information and masterfully moderated by Alan Bestwick. I get more knowledge from this hour each Monday then from THIN and Victory Lane, and that's cool. THIN and VL are great shows, but NN is different and in more than a few ways, better.

The packages from NASCAR Media Group are extraordinary. This is a great part of Monday's NN. I hope they continue this through the season.

Finally, I have to give major compliments to Alan Bestwick. It's obvious that he knows and enjoys this sport and there may be no better talent in the studio. He can be light without being silly, informative without being pedantic, and he's just plain likable. He's uniquely talented and we're fortunate to have him working to build ESPN's NASCAR coverage to the level we want it to be. He may actually want it more than we do.

Newracefan said...

I agree this show is somewhat of a throwback to IWC. Guys talking about the race and having a good time and we get to watch. Mike Massaro's questions were what I was thinking more than once. I love having Ray there and I am listening for the answers from a former crew cheif not so long off the pit box. Boris is the Mikey of the group. AB is AB wwhat else is there to say. I am not sure which group I prefer or even a combination just make sure AB is there. I like having the panel for the entire hour and the video clips were excellent. Since there are additional shows this week without the panel other discussions and interviews that a previous poster mentioned can still happen, unlike Speed who won't be back till Friday (after TWIN that is).

Todd A. said...

While fans have lots of strong feelings about him, ESPN has made it clear that Evernham is here to stay.

Strong feelings is right. I think that whole Crocker deal has set up Ray Evernham "camps" in a way.

I didn't know Evernham was going to be on tonight (good show I thought), but it was kind of funny - as soon as my girlfriend saw him on the DVR, she rolled her eyes. Literally. She really doesn't want to hear anything he has to say and went in the kitchen to watch something else on the TV in there while we were getting some food together.

I know it's weird that he causes such strong reaction (most people probably consider it his personal biz), but I notice it in most all the females around our age, mid-20s. And they used to like him. some have met him in person at the track or appearances. My girlfriend says while some of the older women give him a pass and still like him because he's good-looking, she and her friends were rooting for a woman (Crocker) to come up through NASCAR and feels like Evernham - and Crocker - ruined that with their behavior.

So they don't like him. Or her. Pure and simple. They don't consider it personal business because Erin was on his team. They think Evernham has made it harder for female drivers to get a chance (I agree a little bit) and has never really acknowledged that he made mistakes in that area.

Maybe in a couple years they'll be over it, but ahem... I think tonight was evidence that some are not right now. So while I agree with you 100 percent that Evernham is here to stay, ESPN should know there are some people that won't watch when he's on. I guess he's like Mikey Waltrip: you like him or you don't.

Sorry this is so long - thanks for your blog.

Anonymous said...

JD< I thought TWIN came on at 9? It seems to be on now, at 8. Why is that?

Anonymous said...

Allen Bestwick is at the top of his game and I'm glad ESPN is recognizing that finally.

Hey JD, since you're talking Monday night NASCAR on ESPN, PTI covered Carl Edward's possible violation tonight.

Bad news for NASCAR. Wilbon has been our biggest cheerleader when the rare NASCAR story comes up, but he and Kornheiser were really irate at the idea that Carl gets to keep his win even if there are penalties for the oil issue. They want to know why a win isn't forfeited if you fail post race inspection. Wilbon wanted to know why there's a post race inspection if they're going to let the results stand. They even pointed out that Edward's cap was completely off while the Nationwide cars had loose lids. (Statboy must have found that out for them!) They used the C word: Cheating.

"YOU HAVE TO FORFEIT THE RACE" They were really adamant. Normally they're pretty calm when they discuss NASCAR.

Kornheiser took an extra shot at the Chase format while he was at it, of course.

Over at espn.com in ESPN Shows videos if you want to check it out. It's in the middle of today's PTI mailbag clip.

SophiaZ123 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

There were so few comments as the NASCAR Now show was actually in-progress I did not post for TWIN.

How is that an agenda? The posts came after the show when I already had my full column up.

Trying new things is not bad. Readers asked that I try the same in-progress pages for the studio shows as the races.

Right now, I don't think it works very well.

JD

Newracefan said...

More people prob DVR these shows. I try to watch races live cause of the incar and trackpass but don't need to do that for studio shows. WOn;t even get into the 530 thing

SallyB said...

Thank goodness for this show, since the 'new and improved' INC, now TWIN, has so far been a dud. The roundtable forum is informal enough to feel as if we're watching a personal discussion, not something just put together for TV. They tend to give different perspectives on the news and events. All round, and excellent show!

Ally said...

First let me say I love Boris Said on all ESPN shows. I'm glad he and Rusty and Brad, who are also good guests, are on the roundtable.

Maybe it's a twenty-something female thing (!) because I'm like Todd A.'s girlfriend and I'm not a Ray Evernham fan. I didn't turn NASCAR Now off when I saw he was on it today -if he was on by himself I might - but I'm skeptical every time I listen to him now. If I'm being objective I can see that he's a very good TV personality and was good today, but his outside personality overshadows that for me.

I followed the Erin situation fairly closely and what I find ironic is that Ray is now a part of the media, which he tried to completely ignore when he had his troubles. After Jeremy's lawsuit, Ray would never answer a single of their questions about Erin and came off as kind of intimidating (re: Bill Weber interview, which is probably still on the 'Tube somewhere), like how dare you ask me about this?

When Robin Miller and Dave Despain were on WT discussing why NASCAR media stayed quiet on the Crocker/Evernham situation -Robin said it was known in open wheel for months before the lawsuit - Dave said that the rumor was that Ray threatened to sue anybody who mentioned the relationship. (I have that episode on tape.) Which led to jokes that reporters have no money! And now Ray is part of the media?? I don't get it.

Since this is his first major appearance I've seen, I wanted to express my opinion, but I won't say anything about the Erin situation anymore if commenting on him on ESPN in the future. I just wanted to help explain why some fans might not care for him. Erin got replaced in her two-race Craftsman truck ride the other day, so I don't think she should come up on the show or other ESPN shows this season when he's on.

stricklinfan82 said...

Another solid and very enjoyable Monday edition of NASCAR Now. I still love the roundtable format and getting to hear four NASCAR personalities discussing a wide variety of issues surrounding last week's race weekend and the upcoming race weekend. I also applaud them for focusing on the battle to be in the top 35 in owner's points after Bristol.

The only thing I would have liked to have seen added was a discussion on Team Red Bull replacing A.J. Allmendinger with Mike Skinner. Allen mentioned it briefly during the "News and Notes" but unfortunately they moved right on after that without anyone saying another word about it. I would have liked to have heard the panel's opinion on whether that was the right thing to do. I personally think it's a huge mistake and very unfair to A.J. He improved a great deal at the end of '07, only missed the Daytona 500 by one spot in his Duel, didn't get a chance at California because of the rain, and barely got beat out by his teammate Brian Vickers for the last spot in the field at Las Vegas.

Other than that it was another solid effort by the ESPN crew.

Tom said...

I really enjoyed this show. I am a habitual fast forwarder but I found myself actually watching everything. This is what TWIN and it's previous incarnations (post AB) have wanted to be. Informative, yet with an informal feel. Good topics with back and forth comments make for a relevant hour. If ESPN continues this level of monday night quality, TWIN really will come off the DVR.

Tom
Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

This was the first time I've watched Nascar Now this year. The roundtable format was interesting and much improved over last year's mess. However, I thought that the reason I'd tuned in, to get an explanation of just what a loose or missing oil tank cover did for a race car, was sketchy at best.

Along the lines of others who've commented, I think that Ray Evernham destroyed much of his credibility over Erin Crocker. Anywhere else, a boss who had an affair with a junior employee would be facing ethics charges from his shareholders or within his industry or sexual harassment charges in court.

And, of course, an owner who kept his mistress racing long after performance demanded that she be replaced AND did his best to ruin the career of a senior employee who suggested that the boss should pay more attention to the failing business and less to the mistress has very little claim to be an authority on anything.

Its a weird, weird world where neglecting one's business to the point where it had to be sold before it folded, while abandoning one's marriage to chase a junior employee (in contravention of all business ethics rules), should lead to a prominent media position as anything other than an example of how to turn success into abject failure.

Speedcouch said...

This is actually the first time I've tuned into this show since the first two of the season back in February. It was so horrible then, I cancelled the season pass on my Tivo immediately!

I was flipping throught the guide on DirecTV last night and happened to see NASCAR Now was on, so I flipped to it (about halfway through the one-hour show). Wow! I couldn't believe this was the same show we've seen for the last year! This was the first time I'd seen Allen Bestwick host or the Monday night race review. This was the first time I'd seen the "roundtable" discussion on Monday and I couldn't help but feel it was very close to the orginal Inside Winston Cup on Speedvision! Joining Allen were Boris Said, Mike Massaro and Ray Evernham. We had Allen's calm and organized style leading the discussion of highlights from the Busch and Cup races and insightful comments from actual live people and an interactive discussion.

They seemed to use a Beyond the Wheel style of race highlights (with mostly PRN commentary).

I haven't watched TWIN show since the first two horrible episodes, but certainly didn't feel I was missing anything last night after seeing Allen and this group. ESPN finally got it right (for at least one night)! Great job, guys!

Diane said...

Well, add me to the list of people who will not be watching this show due to them adding Ray Evernham to the line up. I tried to watch this show, but it just sceved me out every time he opened his mouth. Also, I would question any comment he makes in the future about Mayfield, or any female competitor (Chrisse Wallace, etc).

Its too bad, because I really enjoy Boris Said, but I will no longer record or watch this show.

Anonymous said...

Another fantastic show. Until further notice, the Monday NASCAR Now will get first priority for me on Monday evenings and TWIN can stay on the DVR until I have time later in the week.

I agree the one thing they might want to consider is adding a driver for a segment via satellite or whatever. Boris Said is very good on TV and a great racer but unfortunately he is not a full-time Cup racer.

As far as Evernham goes. I can take him or leave him. He certainly has damaged his credibility but it's not like he doesn't know anything about racing so he does add valuable information. I'm surprised he has the time to do this kind of stuff and I'm surprised ESPN would touch that hot potato.

Mike Massaro is the hidden surprise on this show. He shines in this environment.

boyd said...

Congratulations ESPN!
You've won me on Monday nights. I agree with anon 7:34 that is like IWC (I still refuse to use the N) and has a same feel of some guys sitting around discussing the race, although I've never done it in a suit.
About Ray being on the show. My wife got up and went to another room until he was off. Her choice.
As I've read some of the other posts, it seems he could be a real problem for ESPN, as the women seem to have a singular dislike for him.
I think that Brad fit in well, and may be a good replacement.

SophiaZ123 said...

I really enjoyed Monday nights show but liked the group last week better.

Though some may think personal lives are nobody else' business, for the reasons mentioned here, I have a problem with Ray EVernham. I know he looks good on tv and smiles a lot but I find him disengenuous (sp?) I realize he may know NASCAR but...

I know people get divorced all the time but it was the OWNER driver relationship that caused resentment around the garage area from what I was told last year. I remember the Robin Miller and Despain show comments, LOL.

Anonymous said...

I will not watch anything with Ray or Erin on it . Although I have to say it so nice to listen to a nationwide race withouthaving to listen to Rusty .

Anonymous said...

It's good to see ESPN improve their coverage of NASCAR. NASCAR NOW started bad but they got rid of Erik K. and improved all aspects of the whole show. That show Monday was excellent. They saw Rusty was not working well in the booth and replaced him. Good move. Andy Petree started kinda shaky, but obviously has worked hard to become better and it shows. He is getting really good. Are you paying attention DW and Hopeless Hammond. As far as Evernham, like him or not, if you listen to him, he gives insight better than anyone else I have seen. Every time I see him, I learn something most people don't know. Now if FOX/ SPEED could take a lead from ESPN, see what isn't working, DW in the booth,Hammmond, neither are suited for their jobs,and correct their broadcast problems. ESPN has definitely blown right by them in Quality. Smart , interesting , enough GENUINE HUMOR , and real enjoyable compelling TV.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know what the situation is with Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker. Unfortunately many years ago I stupidly got myself in a situation with a woman I shouldn't have been with. It was devastating but I learned from it. Fortunately my friends, family, and co-workers were not like many of the people on this blog. Believe me, we all make mistakes, but I for one will always understand mistakes by others, and because of how people treated me, I do have the capability to forgive others for their mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what Evernham's friends and family think. The only thing that matters is that ESPN is losing viewers because of the negative reaction people have to him due to his actions & choices. The network is not doing themselves any favors by putting him on the air.

Billy Delyon said...

great comment anon 6:14. None of us knows the in's and outs of what happened between Ray and Erin and the rest. It was all rumor and innuendo. Truly sad when people have NO idea what the REAL scoop is in a story. And then form a opinion about the folks in the story, as if they know what happened and were a part of it.
Forgiveness is becoming a lost word/act I'm afraid in this country. This being a prime example, even with out all the facts.

As far as NASCAR Nows monday format, I love it...

Have enjoyed the round table discussions very much. And look forward to mondays NASCAR TV shows big time.
On another note, I'm no Crusty fan, never have been, couldn't stand him in the booth last season, that being said, I'm loving him in his new roll, he seems to really have embraced it. So far this season, he's only said maybe two things that have really annoyed me, thats impressive.. Seriously! heehee...

Anonymous said...

6:14, the difference between your situation and Evernham's is that you were not a NASCAR public figure/car owner employing the most recogniazable female name on the NASCAR circuit, then entering a relationship with her when you were her employer (and married).

Evernham and Crocker have never said they feel any remorse for the effects their relationship can and did have on the opinion of women in motorsports and how women get or keep their rides. THAT is the issue.

All the people who think TV viewers/fans who have a problem with Ray are "holier than thou", think again. We're not. We just see a man who has NEVER apologized for any impact the distractions had on his team, his company, future female drivers, and posibly Crocker herself (who is currently out of both a team and a ride, doubtful she'll get another one.)

How can you forgive people who have never asked for forgiveness? I quote Evernham, who couldn't find a sponsor for Crocker and decided a year after their relationship began that she should leave EMS (espn.com):

"I felt we were very professional about everything we did and continue to be.

"But people are going to draw their opinions based on what the media reports. And that affects sponsorships and the perception of the quality of people you get to work on the car along with the quality of the sponsorship," he said. "


That doesn't sound like Ray thinks he did anything wrong or an apology, so I feel no guilt about not wanting to see him on NASCAR TV on a regular basis.

As the great sportswriter Monte Dutton (Gaston Gazette) wrote on this issue:

"I was completing the day's work on Saturday when I saw a headline on a web site that made reference to Ray Evernham talking about his relationship with Erin Crocker. Thinking I hadn't known about something really important, I quickly opened the link.

I've never seen a bigger pile of bull, and I grew up on a cattle farm.

A year ago, I'd have had a better chance of talking to Kim Jung-Il than Ray Evernham. Now he's been willing to discuss the subject of how his relationship with Erin is hurting her career, and she can become a big star if she leaves his team and drives elsewhere.

Translation: There's no sponsor.

Ron Ziegler (he was Nixon's press secretary) wouldn't have had the guts to spin that story...Evernham truly regards the media as being useful only to the extent that it can be manipulated."


More at:
http://blogs.gastongazette.com/MonteDutton/archive/2007/07/29/ray_and_erin.aspx

Does that sound like the kind of guy who needs to be in the TV media? I don't think so.

Summary: An unremorseful Ray Evernham is someone I (and obviously others) am not interested in seeing on ESPN programming. I'm happy with my "formed" opinion.

Anonymous said...

'As I've read some of the other posts, it seems he could be a real problem for ESPN, as the women seem to have a singular dislike for him.'
______________________________
My two cents: Maybe it is a gender issue as poster Boyd says above; I do have some difficulty separating Ray Evernham on ESPN from the Erin Crocker relationship (a relationship that continues, from what I understand).

During the NASCAR Now roundtable, there was a discussion of the cameraman who interfered with Carl Edwards' pit stop. Allen and Mike M. talked about being in the pits as a reporter, and Ray talked about how strongly he felt that no one - sponsors, non-essential people - be on the pit lane during a stop.

What Ray was describing was his feelings about a clear pit lane during a stop, but my mind kept wanting to ask him, "if you're so worried about pit etiquette, why did you have Erin Crocker sitting on Kahne's pit box nearly every week next to the crew chief and car chief?" She wasn't sitting in the back of the box or over to the side, she was always on television right next to those guys, with Ray sitting next to her. I always wondered how distracting that must have been for them as they did their jobs -that's not the normal spot for a development driver during a race; they're usually on top of the hauler.

I know that pit lane and pit box are different - the important thing is that I was remembering this very common visual image - Erin on the pit box from the previous seasons - as Ray spoke on NASCAR Now.

Since I can't separate his previous actions/comments noted on television and online reports from his current commentary -I agree that some sort of public apology, way back when, would have gone a long way towards my opinion of Ray and Erin - I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing him this season on ESPN.

Anonymous said...

well we are not all perfect but as others here have astutely pointed out, the problems with Ray are not rumors he cheated on his wife (HE DID and finally was blantant about it) after folks scratched their own heads for MONTHS wondering "WHY" Crocker was still driving in the races.

It's the disregard for the media, the sport and threatening people who simply spoke the truth.

and as others stated the poor way the entire situation was handled.

Folks of both sexes can lose respect for Ray and ESPN chose to put this hot potato on a great show.