Monday, April 7, 2008

"NASCAR Now" Misses A Monday Voice

Viewers who tuned-in to ESPN2 expecting to see Marty Smith on the Monday NASCAR Now panel were surprised to see only Mike Massaro and Randy LaJoie. Smith was home attending to an illness in the family.

That left Allen Bestwick to work extra hard to fill the hour with his two panelists. The results were not exactly what viewers had come to expect from this program.

Massaro has been a good role player on this show, and LaJoie is best when he gets to speak freely. In this case, without the glib Smith on the program, things were a little bit off-balance. It certainly showed the true need for a third panelist.

Bestwick is as organized as ever and all of the ESPN driver "soundbites" and race highlights were right on-the-money. In the middle of the show, Bestwick welcomed Jack Roush and did his best to get some information from this unique man.

What many viewers were expecting right off-the-bat was a detailed look at the Randy LaJoie seat that was in Michael McDowell's car. The rookie's crash at Texas was the talk of the weekend, and it would seem only natural to have one of LaJoie's seats on the set of the Home Depot garage. For some reason, it did not happen.

After all the resources that ESPN has put into this show and the focus on the safety elements of both the track and McDowell's car, it seemed very strange not to have the President of the company that made the seat showing off his product.

Instead, LaJoie was put on the spot about lots of specific NASCAR issues relating to the action on the track so far this season. That was not really fair to LaJoie, who has been focusing on his nationwide racing safety seminars and his seat business.

Massaro did his best to fill-in as many details as possible, but his perspective is as a reporter. This lack of current driver knowledge put a crimp in portions of the show, but Bestwick carried on at a steady pace throughout the hour.

Now that the "Big Monday" edition of NASCAR Now has been around for a while, the thrill and the "new-ness" of it has faded. This is the time of the year where the show is really going to define itself and take the direction it will follow for the rest of the year.

Bestwick did a lot of talking in this show because the panel was down one man. That put him in a new role, and changed the on-air dynamic. Massaro did a lot of "reporting" in his comments this week, including talking about who he "just spoke with" or "just called." Those buzzwords remind viewers of the 2007 NASCAR Now where it seemed every "Insider" just got off the phone with either Jack Roush or Rick Hendrick.

LaJoie was straightforward in his comments, but did not have another person to follow-up on his funny lines or innuendos. He really needed a playmate and was instead surrounded by two very serious reporters. Marty Smith would have been the perfect compliment and hopefully these two will get a chance to try it again in the near future.

Having this one hour show is a great resource. Having the top ESPN NASCAR personalities on the program weekly has been outstanding. On this Monday, Bestwick did his best to pull the show along and got all the factual information and highlights across to the fans.

The only thing missing was the normally good-spirited conversation and laughter that have become hallmarks of this series. Next week should once again be an interesting show as ESPN continues to mix-up the personalities.

Terry Labonte will join Brad Daugherty and Mike Massaro as panelists next week. This will give Bestwick yet another new dynamic as a current driver and past champion comes to the ESPN2 studios. Once again, Monday's NASCAR Now should be a good one to watch.

Our thoughts go out to Marty Smith's father for a speedy recovery. Marty has been a good friend of The Daly Planet since we began in 2007.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. To add your thoughts, 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 stopping by.


Truck Series Fan! said...

It wasn't fair to Randy to have a JGR Home Depot car in the studio behind them, and Randy noticing and pointing out that the seat in it was 25 years old. The show was a little choppy but got some good information from all 3 of the panelists.

Anonymous said...

Instead, LaJoie was put on the spot about lots of specific NASCAR issues relating to the action on the track so far this season. That was not really fair to LaJoie, who has been focusing on his nationwide racing safety seminars and his seat business.

JD, you wrote a column last week focused only on touting Randy's appearance on the show. That was before McDowell's wreck. What did you expect him to talk about if it hadn't been for the wreck? They probably wouldn't have talked seats, so he should have been prepared to and expected to talk about all aspects of NASCAR - or not have been invited to be a panelist at all IMO.

But that doesn't mean that under these circumstances Randy couldn't have brought a seat and NN could have given him a few minutes to demonstrate what the seats protect against. Once again: seeing is better than telling.

But he still should have been expected to "keep up" with the rest of the panel, whether Marty or Brad or Rusty or whomever was there or not there.

The set lighting seemed extra dark today, almost like a TWIN type of lighting. You make a very good point that this panel needs four people.

Best wishes to Marty's dad.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was very interesting that Lajoie said McDowell was using a Dale Jarrett seat from 2003. That doesn't seem to be the sort of part MWR should be skimping on, but I could see that happening for a new driver instead of custom-fitting his seat as they should. Didn't someone ask how long seats should last (Allen?)and they moved onto something else and got distracted before the answer? That should have been answered. If they are supposed to last that long, that would be good to hear.

Also would like to have heard the range of costs of good seats, which is why short track racers shy away from those (and HANS). Lajoie mentioned that. The new seats from Hendrick cost around 15,000 and Hendrick is selling them at cost, which shows how much the materials are for those.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I understand what you guys are saying, but here is my point.

LaJoie never got to "pay-off" his conversation about the old DJ seat and McDowell because we did not see it. This is TV and that is ESPN's problem. They had three days to get one seat on that set and did not.

Make no mistake, LaJoie is a great guy and is normally a blast on TV. Two guys in suits and ties are not his best scenario.


Anonymous said...

Would three guys in a suit and tie been his scenario?

He knew what he was getting into when he signed on to be on the show. It's not button downs and khakis and easy chairs and never has been. Should it be? Maybe, but he had to be aware of what it is.

He's great in the booth, maybe that simply doesn't translate to this environment. It happens.

Anonymous said...

The show may not have lived up to the hype. But I still enjoyed it. And this season is better than last. Currently watching TWIN.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I have not seen the show yet, but with all the "experts" on the payroll, why couldn't ESPN have had DJ or Andy P (in particular, since they were in TX), Rusty, or Brad D on for at least part of the program by remote?

You probably saw Randy on Wind Tunnel Sunday night with 2 of his seats. Do you think ESPN might have wanted to avoid the possibility of the show appearing to be a commercial for Lajoie seats?

Tracy said...

Watched LaJoie on Wind Tunnel on Tivo today, and he had one of his short track seats with him in the studio. He said on WT that McDowell was in Jarret's seat. I think he said the seat cost $3500, and a short track seat was more than half that. Didn't Gordon say after his last wreck that his seat was made of carbon *something.* Wish NN had done a really in-depth look at the seats and how they're designed and tested by everyone who makes them.

Anonymous said...

Richard in N.C. said...
You probably saw Randy on Wind Tunnel Sunday night with 2 of his seats. Do you think ESPN might have wanted to avoid the possibility of the show appearing to be a commercial for Lajoie seats?

April 7, 2008 8:42 PM

I think that's a definite possibility. Maybe they couldn't get anyone who creates the Hendrick carbon fiber seats on air or arrange an interview in time for Monday's so they could have both viewpoints on air.

It sounds like a dual interview about seats with Randy and someone named Mark Hord, the safety director at HMS, would have been most educational for us viewers. From in Dec 2007:

"Hord said 26 Cup drivers now use the seat and another six, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., are planning to move into it.
Jamie McMurray, one of the first to use the carbon seat while at Ganassi Racing in 2004, says the process has come a long way.
McMurray is so sold on the seats that he wouldn't sign with Roush Fenway Racing two years ago without a clause in his contract guaranteeing one in his car."

It will probably fall to Wendy on the Real Deal to fill us in. As usual!

SophiaZ123 said...

Your column read like I felt about the show, JD. Nothing more to add.

They need THREE PEOPLE with AB. I missed the laughter.

Best to Marty's dad.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR Now was missing something - very quiet and going through the motions, almost. To be fair, there wasn't much to get excited about from yesterday.

The thing that bothered me a bit is when Allen Bestwick was trying to defend/play devil's advocate against the charges that the race was boring. He said something like, I'll remind everyone that not every football game has back and forth scores, that sometimes there are 40 point blowouts like we saw yesterday in Texas.

For the millionth time, this is not a stick and ball sport. If the powers that be at NASCAR, or NASCAR on ESPN or wherever don't want it to be treated like a stick and ball sport (only the winner gets shown crossing the finish line) then they need to lose the stick and ball sports comparisons. They don't fit and Allen's comparison didn't make me feel any less justified in calling yesterday's race boring, because that's what it was.

Tripp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Newracefan said...

I wonder if Randy just assumed that the HomeDepot car would have a real seat in it for visual not one that was 25 years old. The laughs were there but not capitalized on, that would have been Marty's job. Was Mike M suppose to be there too, that's a little heavy on media isn't it. The show wasn't one of the best but it was watchable. If NN is smart they would do a piece on the seat's and other safety equipment and let Randy talk about his mission of safety for the drivers on the local track.

Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think that Tony Stewart uses a Butler seat.Wonder if that was the old design that was in the 20 show car?

Bringing someone from Hendricks to talk about the carbon fibre seat might have been a little awkward with LaJoie there.The old here is why mine is better than yours argument. It would be better to have someone like Tim Brewer to explain the pros and cons of each design.

Frank in Sebring.

Ally said...

I'm almost reluctant to mention this because I haven't missed him at all, but Ray Evernham might have been able to contribute tonight with the seat and safety discussion. I know this because after Jeff's (Gordon) wreck at Pocono in 2006 - remember that bad wreck?

Ray went and bought Erin Crocker a Hendrick carbon seat. She wrote about it in her column: how after Jeff's wreck they decided she should get one of those seats, so she went to Hendrick for a fitting. She sat in Jeff's seat from the car he wrecked at Pocono while she was there and Erin said there wasn't a mark on it.

I didn't know how expensive they were at that time, but I remembered thinking "I adore Erin and all, but why is this truck driver getting the same seat that Jeff Gordon said was new and he just got?" But that was before all of that "stuff" became public.

So Ray has obviously dealt with pros and cons of different seating since 2006 since still Kasey runs Lajoies with no issues, that was mentioned here somewhere this weekend. Though he's changing to Hendrick at some point.

That means Ray might have been a good fourth instead of Marty Smith if they had made a real section of NN about safety and seats -which would have been much better. (I hope all is well for Marty.)

Anonymous said...

Frank in Sebring - Smoke has driven with a Hendrick-developed carbon fiber seat since he broke his shoulder. He already had the seat ordered but never got around to getting it fitted until after he recovered from breaking his shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Tripp said...
"Michael actually showed up on MSNBC for an on-set interview this morning, and it was shown many times during the day."
I think that interview was actually initially from the Today Show with Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera (freaked me out at first to see Michael McDowell sitting with them in the studio). I'm amazed at how much coverage this is getting from mainstream media. He's getting as much or more TV coverage as Jimmie Johnson did during Champions' Week - really! Jimmie barely got an question on GMA with the other top 10 when he won.

Michael was also on Inside Edition tonight, and he is taping the Ellen DeGeneres show Tuesday (on TV Wednesday.) Neither of which invited poor Jimmie last year.

I wonder who put this public relations tour together for Michael, they need to do a better job for the champion in 2008.

But McDowell is perfect for this, even in ARCA I kept marveling at how good his interviews were whether he won -he did that a lot- or wrecked/got wrecked. Always the same guy either way. He's one of the media trained guys for sure.

If anyone missed the Today Show interview with Michael and wants to see it, it's here. (Includes his wife Jami, she is doing all the interviews with him, including Ellen, according to Ellen's site) One of the best mainstream NASCAR media interviews I've seen in a while because it wasn't too silly, sidetracked, or making fun of NASCAR.

Matt said...

Tonight's show is a great example of why NASCAR Now should be taped in Charlotte, not Bristol, CT. If this show was being filmed in NC, ESPN would have been able to get a last-minute fill in. But being in CT, there is no one around who can fill-in for a missing panelist or even a missing host.

Tom said...

Yes, not the strongest show by far. I had looked forward to Lajoie, but even after WT, he seems to be in Sales mode too much.
This show, while certainly better than anything last year, really benefits from a fourth person. I agree that they should be in a position to replace someone quickly. While some may disagree, I think Evernham would have been good here. Whatever else people say, he seems to easily relate technical issues in a clear concise manner.

Inverness, FL

chad said...

Why didn't anyone tell Randy during a break to tighten his tie? He had that fat knot on there but was still showing the top button of his shirt. You'd think someone in the studio would catch that.

Kenn Fong said...


"Meat puppet" was a derogatory sobriquet coined by a black New York anchorman in his autobiography. I forget his name. He said this term referred to some fresh face brought in from another market because consultants said the team needed that sort of face. It means someone who can read copy flawlessly but has no idea what it means in local or international context.

I use the term here referring to any face which does not have a NASCAR background behind it.

None of the guests on NN or TWIN deserve the moniker.

Alameda, California

Daly Planet Editor said...

I let it slide because he is a regular, but only this one time.


Anonymous said...

Annoymous @ 10:35 PM -

Smoke does NOT have a HMS carbon fiber seat ... He's got a ButlerBuilt seat ...

Read the article below - as it was posted right after his shoulder injury ...

Anonymous said...

No, he does have a Hendrick seat:
In your link, he said he was going to use a newly fitted Butler seat while he was injured. The Hendrick seat was for use after his recovery, because he'd never tested one. It makes sense that he'd temporarily keep using Butlers until he was able to test the Hendrick. Read Zippy's comments in this story, also after the shoulder injury.

"We got a [carbon fiber] seat from Hendrick's earlier in the year," Zipadelli said. "We've just not been able to get everything together -- but we are working on hopefully four to five weeks that we'll have a carbon seat -- the latest and greatest.

"As soon as he is well enough, we're looking at five weeks or so and will go to Nashville with a new car with that seat in it and just run for a day and try to get him fitted and from that point on try to get it in our cars."

Tripp said...


Sorry for the reference I made. I honestly didn't know the origin of the phrase. My use of it didn't fit your definition. Thanks for taking me to school.

Clearly, no one on any of the NASCAR Now roundtable shows fit that definition.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the three on air did a good job. Randy is a very funny guy if you give him a chance. My comment is about the Monday show on Speed. It is so bad that i have quit watching. Is there someone else that is fed up with Waldrip interrupting no matter who is on the show. Schrader said it years ago, "It's your show Mikey." As far as I am concerned, he can have it. From a former watcher.