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.
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