Monday, April 14, 2008

Labonte Slows The Pace On "NASCAR Now"

This season, ESPN has been "stirring the drink" with a wide variety of NASCAR personalities appearing on the one hour Monday version of NASCAR Now.

This week, host Allen Bestwick had Terry Labonte, Mike Massaro and Brad Daugherty to work with. While Massaro and Daugherty have been on the program before, it was the first time for Labonte.

The low-key Labonte is well-spoken, but lacks the on-air energy of a Rusty Wallace or Dale Jarrett. The responsibility of providing the excitement fell to Daugherty and Massaro. While these two did their best, it was clear that if Labonte returns there needs to be either another driver or a crew chief on the panel.

The group reviewed the Phoenix Cup race for thirty minutes, and it was clear after about fifteen minutes things were being drawn-out far too long. Labonte was not going to step-up and take control like a Wallace or Jarrett, but he did respond quite well to Bestwick's questions and held his own in conversation.

Bestwick has assumed the leadership role not only for NASCAR Now, but for ESPN's NASCAR on-air team. His presence and knowledge has finally been allowed to flourish, and he is making the best of the situation. One interesting switch for ESPN this season is the ability of the announcers to talk about controversial issues.

Drug testing was brought-up by Bestwick, and he led an interesting discussion that neither SPEED or Fox has been able to handle. This has become a TV-driven story, and ESPN has taken the lead in keeping this topic very public. All the panelists contributed their views, but Labonte took the high road and did not criticize NASCAR for their current naive policy.

Jimmie Johnson was on the program by satellite, and this was a nice touch. Bestwick and Johnson have fun, and this was another good interview. Unfortunately, NASCAR Now continues the policy of only having Bestwick ask questions during satellite interviews. Things would be much better served with all of the group involved.

The panel briefly reviewed the Nationwide Series race, and spoke about the upcoming race in Mexico with some mixed emotion. To say the least, this event is something that teams are once again not too thrilled about. It should be interesting to see how ESPN approaches this weekend's race on-the-air.

Bestwick told viewers that ESPN will be using the off-week for the Cup Series to host a Monday version of NASCAR Now that will feature the reporters for the series. The show will explore various topics that have arisen this season and allow the reporters to take center stage on the program. It certainly sounds like a good idea.

This program lags a bit when one of ESPN's "big guns" like Wallace, Jarrett or Andy Petree is not on the show. Petree might have drawn a lot more out of Labonte with his crew chief perspective. Instead, the program had to rely once again on the general statements and casual knowledge of Daugherty. It was not the same.

When the reporters are named for the show next Monday, we will provide an update. Hopefully, both Massaro and Marty Smith will be included because of their hard work and dedication so far this season. As The Daly Planet suggested a while back, both Terry Blount and David Newton need to make an appearance on this series to help fans further understand their levels of NASCAR knowledge and journalism backgrounds.

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 and thanks again for stopping by.


Newracefan said...

Terry is a great guy but I was worried when I first heard he was to be the driver because he is so low key and I wasn't sure how things would turn out. Althought Terry did better than I expected it would have helped to have Andy or Ray (they both worked together at Hendrick didn't they) there as a second Nascar guy. Much of the discussion seemed to be all media and not enough the guys in Nascar perspective (Brad counts as media). It was still a good show.

Sophia said...

I agree... I like Terry but he really slowed down and dragged out the show. I like the quicker pace the show usually has....bad mix maybe?

Anonymous said...

Hello JD,
Bullet notes I made during the broadcast. Terry laid back,low key. Brad well spoken on tail end of lead lap in front of leader on restarts. Brad well spoken on NASCAR drug policy. Yes it was good to see Terry, and yes he was not at the level of DJ or Andy. Would like to see him on future shows. He does provide a calming effect, which is good. But the thing I think on this show that is most important is that on this show it was Brad D's. Although I have not seen every show w/him on. I thought this one was one where he was very well outspoken on the lap and drug issues. And I was glad to see it

Anonymous said...

I thought Terry had a good comment about Aaron Fike, and Brad brought some energy, but Terry was way too low key for an hour's show. AB does a fine job as moderator too.

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Anonymous said...

"As The Daly Planet suggested a while back, both Terry Blount and David Newton need to make an appearance on this series to help fans further understand their levels of NASCAR knowledge and journalism backgrounds."
I disagree with this opinion. Blount and Newton are both excellent NASCAR journalists, especially when they get to write long investigative pieces. (Their detailed bios are on with the other ESPN staff members, by the way. If any fan is that concerned about their levels of experience and journalism backgrounds, they can go look them up.)

Marty Smith and David Newton's writing was the best on, which is why cherry-picked them for their site.

Blount and Newton been in this sport a long time and their articles have been posted on Jayski for a long time. Their writing skills may not translate as TV performers (especially Newton), but to question their NASCAR journalism skills or say they need to be on this show to "help fans further understand their levels of NASCAR knowledge and journalism backgrounds" is something I disagree with -strongly.

Tracy D said...

I liked Terry Labonte's clear, precise manner of speech. I felt as if he knew what he was talking about because he wasn't speaking off-the-cuff. Awkward angle for him to turn to speak to Bestwick, however. He looked very uncomfortable.
It was a different dynamic, is all. He's a resource with huge depth and a great deal of class, all of which were on display tonight.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:27PM,

I think you missed the point. The reasons you listed are exactly the reasons both of these men have to appear on a show where they can get in a real conversation.

TV viewers have only seen them as talking heads, and last season almost everything they said was scripted.

We are saying exactly the same thing, just in different ways. Having them on the roundtable would allow them to join in the conversation and let TV viewers "get it."

I want them on the show to promote what they know to a new audience, not to challenge their knowledge.

Sorry if that did not come across in my column.


Anonymous said...

I think all the guest star panelists on NASCAR Now Mondays are hurting the program. You can't have the same flow and chemistry when half the panelists are different every week.

They hit on a winning combination the first time out with Bestwick, Wallace, Daugherty, and Massaro. I realize all four can't be there every week, but they should try to keep it as close as possible to that lineup with limited substitutions: Andy Petree, Boris Said, Marty Smith if one of the other four can't be there. That's it, unless a CURRENT driver like Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick or Jeff Burton is in the area and can be in the studio. If a current driver can't make it to the studio, then they should keep the satellite interview as part of the program.

Anonymous said...

I have not had a chance to view today's NASCAR Now yet, but I do think it must be kept in mind that Terry L. is not a broadcast professional like Rusty and DJ.

After his ill-informed report last year about Dario Franchitti and his involvement in the Roush "theft" news hold-back, I have no desire to see Terry Blount on TV nor to read any of his articles.

Anonymous said...

JD...I watched the Mexico segment on NN twice because of your comments. What was said that made you comment that they had "mixed emotions" and that drivers had trouble with going to Mexico? Had my husband watch it as well and he didn't get it either. Are you referring to some inside knowledge or did we just not hear something right?

I agree with you and others that Terry was low key and could have used another driver or crew chief to help Terry out a bit.


stricklinfan82 said...

I still continue to enjoy the Monday Night NASCAR Now. At the end of every episode I always leave the TV feeling that no stone was left unturned. This show seems to always tie-up the loose ends from the weekend that was. Even the smallest details - like last week's report of a Denny Hamlin fainting spell and DW's on-air comments this past week about the "wave around rule" - don't seem to slip past the NASCAR Now crew.

The only exception I have noticed in that area was the story about Fox missing the start of this week's Phoenix Cup race, but I can certainly understand one TV network not "slinging mud" at a rival network over issues with their TV coverage.

I continue to enjoy the inclusion of new soundbites that I hadn't seen or heard all week, instead of using a simple replay of the race coverage's on-air interviews.

Allen Bestwick still does an outstanding job as the host of these roundtable discussions, and I continue to enjoy the diverse collection of panel members - in this case a former driver, a former owner and current analyst, and a current pit road reporter.

I thought Terry Labonte did a fine job on this episode as well. Though he is more laid back and soft-spoken then some other panelists, I didn't have a problem with that. To me, a ton of energy and a "rah rah" factor are not a requirement for my viewing pleasure. I enjoyed his comments and welcome seeing him make a return to the program in the future.

In my opinion the best episode of the year so far was the other Cup off-week "issues" episode, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us in the next episode of that sort next week.

Julie said...

I greatly enjoyed Terry on the broadcast. Michael Waltrip brings a lot of "energy" with him to shows but I don't think it helps anything once people realize that half of what he says is just babble. Terry brought a touch of class to that show, and his low-key manner made me pay more attention. He has so much gravitasse that when he speaks I got a clear sense that he has Something to Say. Quite a pleasant change of pace, and I think with more camera time he would get even better.

Ritchie said...

It was an interesting show, but I don't feel like Terry added a lot to it. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Labonte, but he tends to turn into a wallflower in that setting. He would be better in a 1 on 1 interview setting.
That being said, there was still twice as information on this show as there was on This Week in NASCAR.

Kevin in SoCal said...

Wow, I barely recognized Terry Labonte without his mustache. He looked like he's been working on his tan and spending some time at day spas enjoying his retirement. *grin*

I also liked the exchange at the end when Bestwick said it would have been great if Juan Pablo said last year he didnt mean to wreck Scott Pruett, he just wanted to rattle his cage a little. But I missed what Terry said that everyone chuckled at.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, you East Coasters need to take a deep breath and chill. Terry was great! What's wrong with being relaxed. He had great information. Just because he is hyper and loud and doesn't talk fast doesn't mean he's not good on television. It was refreshing to me.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that Speed has not talked very much about Aaron Fike and the whole drug issue? Could the reason it's being brushed aside have to do with the fact that Fike was Red Horse Racing's driver, a team partially owned by Jeff Hammond? I was surprised that Trackside did very little on the issue, again, I believe, because of Hammond's ownership. I would have liked to hear Hammond speak on this issue, and perhaps have someone ask him why no one at Red Horse saw a problem with Fike, and why, it appears, that Red Horse didn't do drug testing of their employees like many other teams claim they do. I think Speed is protecting Hammond, to some degree.

I thought the panel on NN did a nice job. And yes, Massaro did seem to take a bigger role in many discussions. One thing I would like to see on NN is an appearance by Mike Helton, with that someone putting the hard questions on Helton and forcing the issue on many things---especially in light of Helton's head in the sand approach to this whole drug testing thing. I would love to see Bestwick say something like "Mike, you say you have a handle on the drug issue, and that you'll test on suspicion. Don't you think you guys blew it big time with not recognizing Fike's problem? Don't you worry that you're putting lives in danger by refusing to recognize that you could have more than a few employees with drug issues?" Think anyone at ESPN would have the cajones to do something like that?

Anonymous said...

I found Terry LaBonte's voice to be a 'comfortable' voice. He gives a little calm sanity, a time to take a breath, a sport that is sometimes on the edge and needs calm.

Anonymous said...

One thing that struck me as odd last night was the discussion of the bubble drivers. The teaser going into commercial showed the 96 car. Then the actual segment centered around the 96 falling out of the Top 35. For me the segment just reiterated the teaser - with very little extra information.

It would have been nicer to hear more about the driver who drove his way back in the Top 35 at Phoenix, as well as some of the others who are doing their best to stay in or get into the Top 35.

The parallel to this is that there are always 43 teams in a Cup race - even more attempt to qualify each week - and each driver has a fan base to some degree.

The race telecasts are infamous for focusing on certain drivers & neglecting others - be that out of necessity or not - but the weekday shows seem to provide a perfect outlet to compensate. I'm not sure just how to do that, but I'm certain there are a number of untold stories out there!

(First-time poster here, but long-time reader! Thanks JD!)

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