Monday, March 24, 2008

No Jacket Required For "NASCAR Now"

In the middle of the college basketball season, ESPN's NASCAR Now team stepped-up to the free throw line with everyone watching. The TV cameras were on, there was a high-profile visitor watching and there was an hour to fill.

The starting line-up ESPN chose to put on the floor was Allen Bestwick, Marty Smith, Andy Petree and Brad Daugherty. These veterans were ready for action.

Bestwick led the show with an explanation of the lack of suit jackets on the panel. The last time Brad Daugherty forgot an item of clothing, it was his suit pants. While ESPN was able to find a pair in time for the show, there was going to be no such luck in finding a suit jacket for a seven foot tall adult in Bristol, CT. Even the Men's Warehouse could not fill the void.

Without a Cup race, the manner on the show was easy and relaxed. This is exactly what the show needed as it continued to build momentum. A feature on the season-in-review led the panel into a serious discussion of pressing NASCAR issues. Daugherty, Smith and Petree all raised big topics that had not really been raised by the mainstream NASCAR media.

The type of free-ranging discussion led by Bestwick is the key to the success of this show. Daugherty was criticized at first, but often puts his views on the table so they can be discussed by the more experienced members of the panel. Give Daugherty credit, his enthusiasm never wanes and this is a good TV venue for his skills.

Early on, it was clear that the program would be an issue-oriented discussion. As the show went on, it then became apparent it would be the theme of the entire hour. What a nice change of pace for fans who are lambasted with highlights on most NASCAR TV shows on a regular basis.

Continuing to erase the painful memories of last season, it was clear that the NASCAR Now Producer had been given the green light to throw the doors wide open and talk about everything and anything under the NASCAR sun. From dollars to tires, and from personalities to failures, this show may have taken its format from the NASCAR message boards on the Internet.

Time-and-time again, the conversation came back to money. The country's economic crisis has taken a toll on NASCAR and is now actively affecting all three series. All four panel members were very clear in making solid points about the problems, and what can be done to address those issues. It was not a pretty prognosis.

At halftime, Bestwick changed the strategy and offered one topic for a quick comment from the panelists. The COT, Toyota, and Goodyear got some great reactions and some interesting comments from the panel. Petree was outstanding in his hardcore racing comments from his crew chief perspective, and his knowledge served to set the table for the comments from Smith and Daugherty. It was a nice mix of talent.

Surprisingly, Bestwick launched the most controversial topic when he said the words "NASCAR officials." To have an ESPN TV series that focuses on NASCAR having an open discussion about officiating borders on amazing.

The show included a nice recap of the Saturday stand-alone Nationwide Series race at Nashville, TN. It included soundbites from the winner and a good selection of highlights that told the story of the race. The Kyle Busch spinning discussion was interesting, and the panel pointed the finger at Busch for his actions.

IRL driver Danica Patrick was at ESPN promoting the upcoming season opener at Homestead. In another statement about the maturing of this series, she was quickly asked to come on the show and talk racing. The results may have done more to promote the IRL race than all her other ESPN appearances. Does anyone watch First Take?

Patrick was made to feel comfortable right-off the bat, and responded with a good interview. She was blunt in her response to her failure to win an IRL race, and was clear that she was gunning to win this season. In terms of NASCAR, she put her perspective on the table and then asked the panel why she should "come over" to NASCAR?

As the discussion progressed, it was clear that she was a politician and left the door open to the other "art form" of racing in the closed-wheel ranks. It was fun to watch her put the panel on the spot, and the "guys" struggle to tell her why she should change series. If she ever did decide to jump ship, it certainly would bring some new fans over to NASCAR.

As you might expect, the panel closed the show with a look ahead to the Martinsville weekend. This preview really put a nice end to a fast-paced and interesting hour program. NASCAR TV is being well-served on Mondays, and the mix of personalities in this show really clicked.

ESPN2 answered the question of how this NASCAR Now team would fill an hour with only one race to review. Each panelists came through with some interesting opinions and Petree predicted firmly that Hendrick Racing would be back up-front at Martinsville.

The result of this hour was that NASCAR fans are going to make plans to return next Monday, get some great NASCAR information and see if the ESPN2 dress code has changed once again. Maybe the panel could take turns forgetting a suit jacket, because the shirts-and-ties edition of NASCAR Now really clicked.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

I thought the show was good. I was really glad that not much time was spent on the upcoming Martinsville race.

Kingston, NY

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a good show with informative discussions. On a different note, JD, where are the control room pictures?


Lisa Hogan said...

I enjoyed this show very much. This was the "A" panel for me. Other panels have some people that I like. This panel had all people that I like.

To me, there was one bump and that was the Danica Patrick segment. I like Danica; but it reminded me of that PBS kid's song: "Which of these things are different? Which of these things doesn't belong?" Just like Jayski now has Indy car events in the NASCAR TV listings. Just doesn't belong.

Good column, JD. Thanks.

TexasRaceLady said...

I enjoyed the show immensely. All the topics that were touched on are important -- not only to race teams, but to the fans.

I got a kick out of Danica challenging the group with the "why should I?" The only little nit I have to pick, is her constant use of "you know." Guess it is the English teacher in me.

A very enjoyable show for an off weekend.

Anonymous said...

Why would they wait until the end to preview Martinsville? They should have started that at the beginning of last Monday's show...

Seriously though, another strong effort for ESPN. As an IRL fan as well, the crosspromotion didn't bother me at all.

Thanks again, ESPN.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Still do not have permission from all the folks in the pics to use them. Working on it.


Anonymous said...

This Monday show is now MUST SEE TV, the ESPN crew keeps raising the bar which to me is excellent. I knew when I saw Danica some would crab about it, but you can't please everybody. I always liked The old RPM show with John Kernan and I like all forms of racing and Danica was excellent on the show today. Anyone who has any negative comments about this show would probably never be satisfied, no matter what!

red said...

some initial thoughts:
thought it was a solid show: good use of the entire panel, smooth transitions by AB, interesting thoughts.
this is the first NN i've watched this season so some of my thoughts may be redundant.
1. not sure i like seeing the panel perched on those stools, altho' it worked w/the jacket-less presentation. the backdrop, aside from the car!, seemed superfluous. i mean, c'mon: yellow springs hanging in the background? a gas can, lying on it's side? ah well. the car alone would have been enough for me.
2. man, brad d is one tall guy! made the others look very short, even tho' i know they're not. scary. i always enjoy marty smith whenever and wherever he appears!
3. thought they dropped the ball w/danica, even tho' i'm not entirely sure why she was there (except to promote the start of irl season.). she asked a great question ("why should i join nascar?") and it seemed to have caught them all off-balance.
4. topics were good and the panel handled them well -- even tho' i don't agree with all the answers. (didn't i hear from the goodyear president that they run the same tire for both series? i thought brad said something about how tough it is for goodyear to bring 2 different tires each weekend: did i hear incorrectly?)

all in all, it was a solid job, well executed. not sure i will make time on mondays but i wasn't horrified and i didn't want to put knitting needles in my eyes at the end! based on earlier comments, i think they did a good, professional job!

Tracy said...

I learned something when Petree said that JGR gets parts from
Toyota and puts their own engines together, while the other Toyota teams get the whole engine package from Toyota. When Petree said that while the Toyota teams are sharing information, clearly Gibbs has something its engine shop isn't required to share, I perked right up. Neat insight.

Good show.

Ritchie said...

I enjoyed the show as always. Great commentary by the panelists. They seem to be getting more comfortable with each other every week. Personally, I liked them betther without the sports jackets, because they seemed to fit better with the "garage" setting.

I thought the money discussion was appropriate considering the Bear Stearns collapse last week. I would have liked to have heard Ray Evernham's take on this.

Finally, the Danica situation. Personally, I am a little tired of her. She really has a chip on her shoulder and everybody walks on egg shells around her. The reason the panel was speechless to her question/rebuttle was because ESPN is carrying the IRL and they didn't want to anger the boss. Because of this I am going to answer her question for her. So, her you go Danica, the answer to why you should race NASCAR. Choose from the following answers:
A) More money.
B) There are actual fans in the stands.
C) You can race against actual IRL champions.
D) People actually watch the TV broadcasts.
E)Its the closest you will come to racing against F1 competitors.
F) No Dan Wheldon. Ganassi won't let him come to NASCAR.

There you go. That is what the guys wanted to say, but wasn't allowed to.

Newracefan said...

Enjoyed the show as usual and Brad keep forgetting the jacket. Someone mention "one of the things is not like the other" Garage, bar stool, sport coat? Now if they could just lose the ties. Danica threw me off a little but I understood why she was there so I could live with it.

Anonymous said...

Good show, good panel. I've enjoyed Brad both times on the show but think he could watch the volume of his voice sometimes. Keep the enthusiasm, just control the volume. Good call by Allen to point out the lack of suit jackets in a funny way (I also liked them without them.)

Nice bit of information from Marty that Carl Edwards' team is testing with the 26 team to try to help McMurray out. Hadn't heard that anywhere else.

I didn't object to the Danica interview at all except for her speech. You know, you know, you know? I bet if I counted there were at least 25 you-knows, several per sentence. It was exhausting to even try to understand her. It's amazing how someone in the media that much hasn't eliminated some of those "you knows" from her interviews. You'd think someone would have taken her aside and gotten her some coaching.

And I have to say it was good that Ray Evernham wasn't there. (Full disclosure: he is the one panel member among the rotating group who I don't enjoy.) Despite the "you knows", Danica is what Erin Crocker was supposed to be for NASCAR (bringing in publicity and new fans) and IMO it would have been awkward to have him asking Danica questions. (Original plan was Crocker was supposed to have advanced to Cup by 2008, likely in the #10.)

Unfortunately, Erin is nowhere while Danica is making the rounds at ESPN and was in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times this weekend.

stricklinfan82 said...

I give ESPN a major round of applause for this edition of NASCAR Now.

Despite it being a slow news week after a weekend without a Cup or Truck race, ESPN managed to put together a fantastic Monday Night roundtable discussion, and in my opinion had their best episode of the year to date.

In my opinion I believe ESPN just hit on the ever-elusive perfect chemistry when they put together this particular set of panelists - Bestwick, Smith, Petree, and Daugherty. To me this program flew by and the discussions these four panelists were able to have were the most enjoyable to listen to of the entire year. To me Marty Smith is a must-have panelist every week, as he shined in this role on this episode from my perspective. Petree and Daugherty also did excellent jobs contributing to the discussions, and I thought all four worked tremendously together feeding off of each other's thoughts and adding to what each other was saying.

They also did a tremendous job coming up with a wide variety of topics to discuss on this "slow" Monday. Great choices of topics throughout the episode, especially when Allen asked them straightforward to give a letter grade to the Goodyear engineers, and amazingly the NASCAR officials. Bravo to Allen, the other panelists, the behind-the-scenes guys, or whoever came up with Monday's topics list. It was an absolutely tremendous program.

The only negative thing I have to say about the show involves the Danica Patrick interview. This isn't Sportscenter, ESPNEWS, PTI, or some other general sports show. This isn't RPM2Night, the Speed Report, or some other general motorsports show. This is a NASCAR show, and as a NASCAR fan I was personally disappointed that ESPN decided to cross-promote another ESPN sport on a NASCAR program.

With all due respect, Danica seems like a very nice person and seems to be a great ambassador for her sport, but again this is a NASCAR program, and she is not associated at all with NASCAR so she had no business being there. Patrick, Lewis Hamilton, and (as much as I love ARCA) Frank Kimmel have as much business being on a NASCAR show as Kobe Bryant, Alexander Ovechkin, Tom Brady, or Alex Rodriguez do. That being no business at all.

I'm sorry but I give ESPN a major thumbs down for bringing in Patrick for the sole purpose of hyping another ESPN program. If I wanted to see a non-NASCAR athlete being interviewed I'd be watching Sportscenter, PTI, or ESPNEWS during this time slot. I chose NASCAR Now because I only wanted to hear from NASCAR people. This would have been a great opportunity to talk to Scott Wimmer live. If Wimmer wasn't available there are hundreds of others I would have rather heard from. Some NASCAR driver, crew chief, owner, or something must have been available somewhere.

I don't think anyone here expects Patrick to show up on NFL Live, College Gamenight, or NBA Fastbreak tonight do they? I'm sure she won't because she doesn't belong there, just like she didn't belong on NASCAR Now.

Other than the Danica blunder, great job ESPN!

Anonymous said...

I think it would be a good thing if Daugherty was on more often - just so he could forget his jacket on behalf of the panel. That looked so relaxed and enjoyable. I agree with the "garage - check, barstool - check, SUITS - huh?" thinking.

In a half-hour show the Danica interview would have been misplaced, but I thought in an hour show, with no race to review, it was just fine. There was a lot of rumor about Danica moving to NASCAR last year, many Indy drivers had made the switch for this year, and I kind of liked the "what does it gain me?" perspective from her. Other than a quick mention of Homestead, the discussion remained NASCAR-focused.

And Danica showed that she would NOT currently fit in to the NASCAR media blitz with all the "you knows." That would take some coaching.

The one point missing from the "sponsorship money drying up" discussion that will probably never be addressed fully by ESPN or SPEED is - sponsors do not seem to get the airtime on TV that they used to. Long gone are the days of the car-by-car race rundowns where you'd get the nice showing of the 22nd place car's hood all by itself for a moment. If you're not up front or in a wreck - you can make it too easily through the race without being on TV. The Yates "11 million car" - ain't getting the 11 million every week.

And tangentially connected to that but slightly off topic - "GO or GO HOME" should not be using up time to interview the Kevin Harvicks, etc. Cover the drivers and cars who are trying to make it in on time and only them - it's only a half hour show!!!!!!!! For the "go-homes" it's their only sponsor plugs for the weekend.

JD - thanks for all these columns, I never would have returned to NASCAR NOW without them. Now it's a Season Pass on the TiVo.


Anonymous said...

"This is a NASCAR show, and as a NASCAR fan I was personally disappointed that ESPN decided to cross-promote another ESPN sport on a NASCAR program."

I think cross-promotion is just the name of the game these days. I see people like The Rock on ESPN sports shows all the time, giving his views on football or whatever b/c he's promoting a movie about football. (or Larry the Cable Guy on NN.) As long as it's a tiny part of the show and not every day I'm OK with it.

If the tables were turned and the IRL was more popular than NASCAR and they had a show, I think it would be great if a top NASCAR star was on it to promote the series.

I don't think the cross-promotion will stop. As you said, Danica is one of the IRL's ambassadors. I've been surprised that ABC/ESPN isn't using Helio Castroneves more in their IRL promotions (perhaps I've missed it). Helio is a contributor on Entertainment Tonight, for pete's sakes! He's commenting on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. I think it's great, they're obviously going to be letting him do some of his segments from the racetracks or testing, so good promotion for the IndyCar series.

Bottom line, cross-promotion works and among all the smart people in NASCAR, it's too bad only Jeff Gordon understands that. (He's in Men's Vogue magazine this month. I'm sure he'll pop up somewhere unexpected again next month.) Example: The guy who runs one of the most popular American Idol internet sites became a fan of Helio and racing b/c of Dancing with the Stars, so now he posts IRL, F1 and NASCAR news, results and schedules mixed among all the American Idol news. Even if you're not a racing fan, you have to scroll through some racing news to get to the Idol news. All because of Helio appearing on a non-racing TV show. Pretty funny.

RPM said...

I really had no problems at all with the Danica interview. As repeatedly noted this was a slow news week. If ESPN tried to shoehorn her in during a 3 race weekend then it may have been different. Danica is an excellent ambassador for her sport and it fit nicely. She did seem to stump the band when she turned the question around.

The relaxed look also worked for me. How many guys hang around the garage in a suit?

ESPN is on the right path. Now if they would just move the show to primetime...

Chico, Texas

SophiaZ123 said...

LOVED THIS SHOW!! The art of conversation lives!

I could not finish the comments after TRLady mentioned something that drove me crazy with Danica "you know" Patrick. I yelled to my room mate to turn on his tv (i was in my room) and he yelled out "I smell another drinking game for the young adults!"

LOL...she even did some you know, you know stutters! Wow, it was pitiful and made me hope that she never covers a race with Rusty "I TELL YOU WHAT"...i think she would out run him quickly with her "you know" comments....whew boy. Hard to listen to her but I finally treated those two words as a verbal stutter and let it go. :-)

TOTALLY enjoyed this show and wonder, what is the deal with Brad and his forgetting his clothes? But I like the fact AB took the time to fill us in. It was GREAT hearing all the topics at hand.

I also wondered about the how does IRL fit in here but I am looking forward to the Series starting SATURDAY NIGHT so did not mind one bit. Besides, there has been a rash of OW to NASCAR so it kind of sorta fit, you know? :-)

Who needs TWIN when we have this show. Get Kenny Schrader on here sometimes and color me happy.

I have decided I am going to watch Dancing with the Stars at 8pm on Mondays. I hate reality type shows but will watch this fluff to see how Marlee Matlin and Priscilla Presley do instead of griping here about my distain for the lack of Despain and the old gang.

LOVE the hour long NNow.

Brian said...

A very strong performance by ESPN and this group. Bringing Allen Bestwick on, and bringing that relaxing and fun, yet productive tone seems to of helped this show by miles.

If you look at an article from last year and read all the bad comments this show got, and look at this year, it's totally different. What a good job they have done to this point.

Very enjoyable show, and definitely well worth the time spent watching it, unlike last year.

I thought the Danica segment was a funny kind of break in between the action in the show, but it was nice and good to have.

Just got to say great work to ESPN for changing this show up and making it well worth the watch.

Good article JD.

SophiaZ123 said...

P.S. I also enjoyed the kernel about JGR putting their own engines.

I am glad others noticed Danica's "you knows". I never noticed that on Letterman, but my goodness. No excuse for that with so many years in the media, one would think.

You know? ;-)

Also, I gotta kick out of Helio on DWTS last year and watched and rooted for him and because of him. And I can talk about that show with my 87 yr old mom who likes it , too. NASCAR lasts too long for her but she did enjoy the truck race a few weeks ago on Fox.

with the fuel prices, I wish NASCAR would shorten the CUP races. but once nicer Sunday's get here, the VCR will get the work out and the radio will go outside with me.

Thanks for the column JD. Indeed, I am also another fan of ESPN Monday show due to your columns. I even peek in at the other shows if I am not busy with other stuff.

Anonymous said...

OK, yes all above comments have merit. And should be read by networks(SPEED). NN has improved and may have found a formula that works on Monday nights. Being old school, I am starting to like the competition. It could make for an interesting season.

Kingston, NY

Anonymous said...

OK, yes all above comments have merit. And should be read by networks(SPEED). NN has improved and may have found a formula that works on Monday nights. Being old school, I am starting to like the competition. It could make for an interesting season.

Kingston, NY

Anonymous said...

I posted here last week saying Andy Petree was improving and really getting good.ex. Gibbs Toyota engines.He really is, making an effort to improve his on air skills and info he relates to us. At Sat. race when he told Brad why Kyle B. performs so well, a simple great answer. "Some people just shoot and dribble a basketball better than others and some can just plain drive a race car better." My friend, a new fan,has kept asking me why some drivers do better than others and I have told him, teams, $$, equipment, talent. etc. He called me right after Andy's comment and asked why I didn't give him Petree's answer. I said, because Andy's smarter than I am. Also who cares, jacket, no jacket. What is said matters to me. Like Bristol, DW's answer to why the track was dirty, The Haulers did it!! Haaaa! Whaaat!!! How about in windy weather, dust is carried in the air and settles everywhere, even on the track. Nothing worse than a supposed expert guessing at an answer, how about if you aren't sure saying,"I'm not sure"

Anonymous said...

One great point they talked about. When they mentioned that Jeff Gordon even gets nervous when he looks at the books and the costs, and he worries about not keeping up his on track performance.That's very telling.That is helping me understand why guys like Mike Waltrip run to put his face in front of the camers every chance they get. The pressure to get sponsor time when you aren't performing must be huge. I guess any means that works must be done, even if it entails acting stupid and dopey has to be done.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Danica interview - it's not like they broke down the IRL field or anything. They asked one question about unification, one question about her getting a win (which is a good general racing topic for any driver), and then the rest of the interview was NASCAR-specific.

I think ESPN did a wonderful service to NASCAR fans to show they can put on an entire hour of good information during an "off" week. SPEED should learn from this. I think SPEED not running TWIN this week is a slap in the face of all NASCAR fans. There is a lot to talk about and it's a perfect time to take a breath and look at the season so far as ESPN did.

Thank goodness for ESPN!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I get a laugh out of the people saying Danica couldn't make it in NASCAR publicity because of the "you know" thing when half of the NASCAR field (and some of the announcers!) can't match subject/verbs and pronouns...

Wisconsin Steve said...

I enjoyed the show, but was disappointed with the lack of Modified highlights. I was hoping they would follow up last week's L.W. Miller interview with more than just a mention in "News and Notes". Other than that minor gripe, it was a good show as usual.

Tuesday's show looks like it could be interesting. Bestwick said that they will have a report on Richmond testing and a segment on Mark Martin's Fan Appreciation event. A number of drivers were there, including Tony Stewart. I know I'll be watching.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't have as much of a problem with the cross promotion of the IRL on NN. If you watch any other kind of sports programming, you see promos for other sports that appear on the same network. And if you were to apply the same logic, then you really shouldn't have the Jimmie Johnson Kobalt commercials or the Tony Stewart Armor All commercials appearing on anything other than race-related shows.

Many on here had negative responses to the poorly done interview with Chrissy Wallace, and the same should be done for Danica. She's been in the limelight for a few years now, she's done countless interviews and yet, she came off sounding pretty lame with her constant use of "you know". The girl couldn't complete one sentence without using that at least twice. Chrissy is a neophyte and her inexperience can be forgiven, but Danica, with all her overpromotion, should be able to give a more articulate interview. Yes, some of her answers were snappy, but the Valley Girl talk wears thin.

Richard in N.C. said...

SUPER show. I could swear that I had heard Allen use almost exactly the same type leads for discussions on the old Inside WC - deja vu all over again.

I would really have liked to have heard Rusty's comments on some of the subjects, except that I still cannot figure out whose place I would have wanted him to take.

I think Danica's appearance really benefitted NASCAR more than IRL. Except for maybe John Force, she is the biggest name in racing in America who is not in NASCAR, and one of the very best known sports figures. If her appearing on N-NOW might get a few thousand sports fans to sample N-NOW and then maybe become NASCAR fans then so much the better. I want ESPN's coverage to be a success so they can maintain the quality they seem to have found.

JD, thank you for a super article.

MikeL29 said...

Maybe Danica AND Jeff Gordon would benefit from a refresher course in public speaking, you know!
Am I the only person who noticed how that phrase has crept into Jeff's vocabulary over the last couple of years???

Anonymous said...

JD,it has become clear, that in order for ESPN to allow your articles to appear on their website,you have to toe the ompany line,so to speak.I personaly think the ESPN coverage has been dreadful.Why they continue to let Wallace stink up the show,I dont know.

Ken-Michigan said...

If we're going to comment on the grammar and vocabulary of our race drivers and personalities, I have a list of 10 or 12... but thats for a totally different thread I think.

Bottom Line: simply said,
I'd rather LOOK at Danica than just about anyone in the NASCAR garage.

Anonymous said...

Bestwick is THE MAN
He should be ESPN's Play by Play man in the booth instaed of gerry

This cat in the hat votes for Bestwick!!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:28PM,

Um...what are you talking about?


RPM said...

Obviously anon 4:28 didn't read today's entry.

Keep up the good work JD!

Chico, Texas

Anonymous said...

Why a IRL driver on NASCAR Now?

ESPN & NASCAR Now both SUCK!!!