Sunday, March 16, 2008
Sunday''s "NASCAR Now" Surprises Once Again
NASCAR fans watched Allen Bestwick work hard all day on Saturday as the NASCAR on ESPN team took to both ABC and ESPN Classic in order to finally get the Nationwide Series race completed. Bristol, TN had once again offered nothing but bad weather for this early season race in the mountains.
Alongside of Bestwick in the Infield Pit Center was Rusty Wallace. Now firmly in his element, Wallace spent hours talking about all kinds of topics with all kinds of guests. Both Wallace and Brad Daugherty were outstanding during this "rain fill."
As the Sunday morning NASCAR Now took to the air on ESPN2, viewers once again heard the familiar tones of Bestwick. Once the camera revealed the Bristol, CT studios of ESPN2, they also saw the smiling Rusty Wallace.
This season, ESPN has made a commitment to NASCAR that is astounding. Switching gears and changing direction, the network on this Sunday added a new twist. The A-team from the NASCAR crew was now going to be featured on the Sunday morning NASCAR Now.
Mike Massaro was up next from the track in Bristol. ESPN's most experienced NASCAR reporter set-up the day, the weather and the on-going Hendrick saga. Massaro was clear and concise in this NASCAR reporter role that he helped to define.
Viewers knew that ESPN's Dale Jarrett would be driving in his final race on Sunday. Bestwick led into an outstanding profile of DJ that was voiced by Jarrett's longtime friend Jerry Punch. This feature was important, because it was the transitional moment for both Jarrett and ESPN. While NASCAR loses an active driver, ESPN may have changed their NASCAR fortunes for the future with this one key addition to the TV team.
Lead Reporter Marty Smith has been smiling this season. After dealing with less-than-stellar hosts in the studio last year, Smith has been featured this season and has been surrounded by the best TV talent available in the business. As he continues to expand his opportunities, fans have seen Smith create full-length feature interviews and move from strictly a "reporter" into more of a multi-faceted TV personality role.
Smith interviewed Jarrett as the "tag" to the Punch feature. DJ was frank in explaining his struggles both professionally and personally as he worked to pursue a NASCAR career. Smith asked the right questions, and drew from Jarrett some "bigger picture" answers that gave viewers an insight behind the public persona of Jarrett.
Wallace added his thoughts on Jarrett and had a great perspective as someone who has been through the same process. His honest thoughts on Jarrett, and his personal memories of retirement worked well to end this theme in exactly the right way.
The Nationwide Series race wrap-up put things in the right perspective, and Bestwick and Wallace added the missing elements. Most important was that Kasey Kahne did not push Clint Bowyer for the win. The best part of the discussion was that both Bestwick and Wallace were there for the action, and speaking from first-hand knowledge.
A surprising feature on the COT voiced by Marty Reid was outstanding. The soundbites from the drivers and the viewpoints about this new car were very interesting. A year later, the COT struggles continue and Marty Smith caught-up with Kyle Busch for some additional comments about the level of competition that this car offers. It continues to be nice to see a grown-up and well-spoken Busch still being outspoken about NASCAR topics.
Bestwick is starting to get a little bit tired, and it showed toward the end of the program. Daly Planet readers often ask in their email about just how long Bestwick can keep this pace going. The season lasts until November, and the ESPN portion of the NASCAR TV package is the largest by far of the four NASCAR TV partners.
Marty Smith finished his time on-the-air with a couple of more interviews. Once again, the ambient noise problem reared its ugly head. The background noise sometimes overwhelms the primary audio, and this time even Bestwick was forced to apologize. Since this was a taped interview, it might have been a good move to just tape it over again. This problem has dogged NASCAR Now in 2008.
Chrissy Wallace is going to be story in a while. An "all access" interview with this young lady proved to be very interesting. It is clear that family plays a big role in the Wallace family, and the mix of racer vs. daughter was interesting. She has the Wallace toughness in a very different kind of personality package.
Having "uncle Rusty" follow-up on this story again confirmed the fact that Rusty Wallace has found himself in the right role at ESPN. Wallace even mentioned that his son Steven had been struggling simply because of crashing, and made sure that Chrissy should know that was the one thing to avoid at all costs. That sure sounded like the guy who was writing the checks.
Closing out the show was a prediction from Wallace that Carl Edwards was the favorite in Bristol. Bestwick predicted a lot of cautions, and said goodbye. The content of this show was again outstanding, and if ESPN can fix their studio and remote audio problems, NASCAR Now will become a franchise program for ESPN2.
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