Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Jeff Gordon's Video Game Leads "NASCAR Now"
Host Ryan Burr had just returned from his first NASCAR trip to the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Now back in the studio, Burr started the Wednesday version of NASCAR Now with Jeff Gordon on a satellite interview. The only question was...why?
Burr did a good job asking all the politically correct questions, and got the politically correct answers. Gordon did speak-out a bit in support of Goodyear after the blunder in Atlanta, and referenced his recent tire test at Darlington as a success.
During that test, NASCAR Now had Lead Reporter Marty Smith standing alongside of several other journalists who were kept on a very short leash by Goodyear. No company spokesman appeared on-camera, but the company made the drivers participating in the test available for interviews. That is the type of good reporting and solid information fans want from this TV series.
Gordon said Bristol this weekend will ease the pain of the fans and he looked forward to getting back to good hard racing. Behind Gordon was the EA Sports logo, and viewers found out the reason why. Gordon was actually on an EA Sports "junket" in his driving suit where interviews are provided to media outlets like ESPN2. Once again this season, NASCAR Now took the bait. The question is...why?
Andy Petree was brought-in from Martinsville to get things back on-track. Petree was quick to acknowledge that Goodyear had a problem, but felt that the next race in Atlanta would be different. Burr tried to pin Petree down, and referenced Gordon's earlier conciliatory words.
Petree said, "Gordon is a nice guy and he said the right things." Burr is still working to figure Petree out, and hopefully this relationship will grow as they both continue on this show. Without Stacy Compton, NASCAR Now needs a lot more of Andy Petree on a regular basis.
In sports TV, things have to be flexible. But, one simple rule is that single-camera satellite interview subjects do not wear sunglasses. Enter Chrissy Wallace on what may have been her first NASCAR Now featured interview. Aside from the noise of the cars behind her, Wallace presented a "mask" with large dark sunglasses on throughout the entire segment. All someone at ESPN had to do was ask her to take them off.
Much like the current TV commercial where the stain on the job applicant's shirt causes his potential employer to miss everything he says, Chrissy Wallace will be remembered for her big sunglasses and the fact that TV viewers really do not know what she looks like up-close. Sunglasses hide the emotions, they hide the eyes, and they distract from the content of the interview. Hopefully, as she prepares for the upcoming Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville, she will use the Kasey Kahne approach and lose the shades.
Jamie McMurray was up next as an interview subject, and once again the question was...why? He immediately scoffed at Burr's Top 35 question, summed-up Bristol as repaved but exciting, and said he was going to "stay out of that" on the Goodyear tire issue.
Just like Gordon, the real reason for a bored McMurray appearing was to promote his sponsor's Irwin Tools Industrial Challenge. He gave the website address for the promotion's sign-up, and mentioned that this was his second year of sitting on-camera totally bored while satisfying part of his NASCAR contract. Actually, he said it was his second time being involved in the promotion. The other part was obvious.
The NASCAR Media Group provided a nice feature reviewing last season's race at Bristol. This was another glossy and highly-edited product that uses all kinds of TV and radio announcers voices along with soundbites from drivers and natural sound of the race. This is the real "ultimate highlight" package, and more of them would make this show even better.
Burr "tagged" the show with the breaking news of Carl Edwards not appealing his Las Vegas penalty. Then, Andy Petree helped him with the racing reality that no one expected he would. Perhaps, the picture of Carl "flipping with his lid-off" seen all over the Internet might have helped with that decision.
One quick note to consider. Burr said that Andy Petree was at Martinsville to "observe" the Truck Series testing. Over at ESPN-owned Jayski.com, a blurb on the main page said Petree himself was testing and would drive in the March 29th race.
Perhaps, between the Irwin Tools Industrial Challenge of Jamie McMurray and the new EA Sports video game release featuring Jeff Gordon, there just wasn't time to slip-in some actual NASCAR news involving one of ESPN's own announcers.
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