Monday, April 21, 2008

Reporters Take-Over "The Roundtable'

ESPN continues to tinker with NASCAR Now as they work to build a new relationship with the fan base. On Monday night, with the Sprint Cup Series off, host Allen Bestwick gathered a group of reporters to review the season-to-date.

Originally, ESPN's Tim Cowlishaw was going to join Angelique Chengelis and David Poole on the panel. Chengelis is a Detroit News veteran, and has been a regular on NASCAR Now since the show began last season. Poole is one of the most recognized NASCAR journalists and creates original content for radio, the Internet and newspapers.

The choice of Cowlishaw for this show got lots of email and comments on this site. His 2007 NASCAR Now appearances consisted mostly of hype and conjecture that did not play well with the personalities in the sport. This season, he has been seen infrequently on this series and has not worked the NASCAR trail.

As the show began, Bestwick welcomed Poole and Chengelis. He never mentioned a word about Cowlishaw, who was noticeably absent. Unfortunately, Cowlishaw was not replaced on the panel by another ESPN NASCAR personality like Marty Smith or Ryan McGee.

Chengelis and Poole teamed with Bestwick to present exactly the type of program that viewers could enjoy. The topics ranged from grading the Cup teams to the resurgence of the newly-merged IRL. ESPN took what had been a worthless off-week and created value through simple conversation.

Poole was outstanding, and while he is finding his "TV legs" in terms of fundamentals he continues to bring a unique perspective wrapped in an interesting personality. His dry sense of humor and ability to speak candidly about the biggest stars and owners in the sport works best on his Sirius radio show, but translated to the little screen with good results.

Chengelis was appearing for the first time, and proved to be much more than many viewers may have imagined. Normally, she is seen in tightly-scripted weekday appearances on NASCAR Now as a reporter. On weekends at the tracks, she has a little more freedom but once again the questions are all rehearsed.

In this hour, especially without Cowlishaw, Chengelis was front-and-center. Her response was to step-up and participate equally with Poole and Bestwick. This was a big moment for her on ESPN2, with fans now understanding the personality and the depth of NASCAR knowledge that she brings to the table.

Bestwick was solid in hosting, although he had to walk the line between host and participant on several occasions. His extensive NASCAR background, along with his ability to deal with the ups-and-downs of a TV career have made him a fan favorite.

This season he may be at his professional peak as the new leader of the NASCAR on ESPN gang. Last season, this was a title that Jerry Punch did not want and Suzy Kolber could not handle. Bestwick has solved so many problems for ESPN because of his "utility player" status that the network must be smiling.

NASCAR Now continues to be the surprise of the season. This Sports Reporters format worked well, although it could have used a third opinion. Perhaps, ESPN2 will consider adding "specials" in this format to the line-up at specific times of the season. It certainly is a good way to get the journalism side of the business more TV time and expose the personalities of the folks who craft our NASCAR news.

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.


stricklinfan82 said...

I still haven't seen a bad Monday Night Roundtable yet.

Allen Bestwick is still the perfect host and regardless of who has been in the other chairs the show has always been very enjoyable.

Angelique and David did great jobs this week and I look forward to seeing them return to the program.

I was critical of NASCAR Now including Danica Patrick a few weeks back for the sole reason of hyping the Homestead IRL opener broadcast on ESPN, because I felt that shameless cross-promotion had no business being on a NASCAR program.

In this instance however I had no problem with the Danica / IRL discussion because it was framed in a very NASCAR-relevant discussion on issues like diversity and even the possibility of the IRL once again becoming legitimate competition for NASCAR.

I also LOVED the new wrinkle of 'The Last Word' and I would really like to see that become a regular staple of this show from here on out.

David's take on the complaints about the CoT and testing, Angelique's take on the need for making the Coca-Cola 600 / Indy 500 double possible again, and especially Allen's take on how "the sky is not falling" in NASCAR were excellent television in my opinion (even if that last part was a subtle jab at bloggers like us that do spend a lot of time critiquing what NASCAR and their TV networks do well and what they could do to improve their product).

I agree Allen. Even though there will always be room for improvement in some areas, NASCAR is still the best thing going right now. I think the outbreak of NASCAR blogs and message boards clearly shows that A LOT of people are watching and paying attention, and that is always a good thing no matter how you slice it.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was terribly B-O-R-I-N-G. Allen Bestwick had the best on-screen personality of the three, but the show needs at least one driver or crew chief to balance what was otherwise just a bunch of journalists' opinions. Angelique and David agreed on just about everything, providing no spark of debate or controversy, and they are both too mild-mannered in this format. Yawn!

Anonymous said...

Cowlishaw and Chengelis are useless. Nascar has too many 'talking heads' that don't have a clue what they're talking about. Mc Reynolds,DW,Petree,Venturini,Dale Jarett,Bestwick,etc are the best.How Chris Myers and others get their jobs is beyond me

Ritchie said...

I enjoyed the show. They delved into some topics that don't get discussed much such as the competition that the IRL could pose to NASCAR with regards to sponsorship dollars. Because ESPN/ABC covers both series, those on the permanent ESPN payroll cannot comment on this issue comfortably, so having Mr. Poole on the show freed up the conversation a bit.

Favorite David Poole quote with regards to Danica's IRL marketing potential, "She is a young hot....driver." Whether the dramatic pause was intentional or not, we will never know.

AMS fan said...

I really enjoyed the show. This was only the 3rd time I watched. ESPN usually has to much dog and pony show for me so I have no use for it. Since they brought in a new face, David Poole, I wanted to watch. I saw 3 people have good discussions about a sport they know a lot about. It didn't get over my head; I was able to understand what they were discussing. The show didn't feel as "uppity" and "stuffy" as the regular ESPN Nascar shows. The NHRA broadcasts are more for me. The excitement and enthusiasm the NHRA folks have keeps me excited. AB has that excitement, which makes a great show. Angelique and David did a wonderful job. Having a set with just reporters can be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Gotta say that, regardless of the quality of the topics and discourse, the setting for the 3 talent looked abysmal! David Poole looked like a toddler trying to stay in a high chair, the center position for Angelique was less than flattering to her calves, and there's just no way to make one's feet look comfortable on directors chairs!!!
Like it or not, TV is still a visual medium and by now ESPN should know better.

glenc1 said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Both reporters are very knowledgeable and familiar from other shows, but the fact that they agree didn't make it boring to me...if Alan had picked more controversial topics that might not have been the case, but this wasn't intended to be Tradin' was just an overview of the season, which isn't exactly a hotbed of controversy in itself. I don't need to hear an argument to enjoy a discussion. I also liked the way Alan turned the Danica discussion into a business one. NASCAR has worked with the IRL in the past, and eventually, I think they will be bigger competition--it's just going to take a while. But bringing it up now was good, as far as the young 'hot' stars staying in open wheel (especially since they'd already discussed the overhyped entrance of open wheelers into NASCAR.) I didn't miss Cowlishaw either. But I love the Sports Reporters and having something similar just for NASCAR would be great since they mostly are on stick & ball sports. I agree Marty or someone would have been a plus, but overall, it was good. I'd forgotten some of that stuff myself.

Lisa Hogan said...

Since Marty Smith has been mentioned, do you know when Marty will be back around?

Don't want to break a privacy issue; but, he hasn't been on ESPN or since the family medical emergency. I'm just concerned.


Tracy said...

I too enjoyed the show, except for the long video clip in the middle. My husband and I both thought it was boring and detracted from the discussions. Those chairs were designed from men in slacks, not ladies in skirts. Angelique sat like a lady, but there's no way she could have looked comfortable. She and Poole did a good job, and I appreciated their "take" on Allen's questions.

Tracy said...

Whoops, I meant "for men," not "from." Sheesh, I need to read what I'm writing!

Anonymous said...

I liked Angelique's performance on this show a lot. I've always liked her on NASCAR Now, but she got to show more of her personality. I liked the way she joked around with David Poole, especially. They seemed to have a good rapport, and both seemed to have a good rapport with Allen.

Good show.

SophiaZ123 said...

Ok, I gotta get this out again.

HIGH CHAIRS work for babies or maybe in bars. Not for TV. It makes extra tall guys like Brad D look like a giraffe and is not flattering to any body type. Let the adults sit in chairs where feet are on the floors, please. Comfy chairs or at least behind a desk.

(Trading paint has chair issues, too but I digress)

I did not miss a third party on this show. Also found the video in the middle of the show BORING and gave me flashbacks to TWIN. I want to hear the guests SPEAKING.

I thought the grading questions premature and silly but other than that, I totally enjoyed Angelique and David. I do not have pay radio an enjoyed listening to Mr. Poole.

Great show as always.

Oh, and I was also a fan of bringing Danica into the conversation. IRL needs all the yakking up it can get. It deserves a bigger audience and sponsorship. I would rather see it promoted than a stick and ball sports spot/person/celebrity. AB did great bringing up this topic.

This hour flew by except for the pre taped video bit where I found myself looking at the clock.

Thanks ESPN for Monday night being must see tv for this fan.

Also I hope I REMEMBER to tape the show and check local times, Marcos and Boris are on. :)

Wisconsin Steve said...

Very good program. The hour flew by for me.

It was great to see Angelique Chengelis on the panel. I think she was one of the smartest hires ESPN made before last season. It would be nice to see more of her on the Monday shows.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Marty is fine and so is the family. They were on vacation, which is popular with the teams and the media during a Cup Series "off week." He will be back for the Talledega coverage.


Mr. Poole was referring to Bobby Rahal's son when he said "young hot driver." He then added Danica and Helio to the list as the three reasons the newly-merged IRL is getting some good press.

All of the comments show just how different we perceived this one program. I am sure ESPN will go back and decide what to tweak when they return with this format in the future.


Lisa Hogan said...

Thanks for the info. Glad that Marty and family are fine.

Wanted to repeat here that I really enjoyed the show last night.

I agree with others about the silly "high chairs" for adults. I'm not sure why set designers like these chairs. They are on a lot of shows and don't work on any of them. I think these chairs also show a lack of imagination on the part of the set designers.

Anonymous said...

I believe I heard evry multiple car owner mentioned in some fashion except MWR.......?
Any show with Allen Bestwick is enjoyable and now don't miss INC as much.
Grami Girl

Anonymous said...

AB is top rate! His years of hosting INC have made him a top ring master as well. Speed channel made a grave mistake disbanbing the ole INC formula.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This was a really good version of the Monday Night roundtable. The only thing I disagreed with was Poole and Chengelis saying that NASCAR doesn't need a female (or minority) driver in the ranks to stay successful (they weren't opposed to it, they just said it wasn't needed). My husband laughed and said it was that kind of static thinking ("we're doing fine") that's currently sinking the Pettys, Woods, and Yates teams. They didn't think ahead.

David Poole has a good column today following up his thoughts on the IRL and Danica related to NASCAR. I know NASCAR has gone back to its core fan which was an excellent idea, but they need to keep an eye on the casual fan a little bit now. I don't know that casual fans care two figs about Graham Rahal - who keeps being mentioned as a key to the IRL resurgence - but I do know (because I read People magazine and visit their website) that they do care about Danica and Helio.

People's website contacted Helio personally for a comment about Danica's win; Good Morning America yesterday asked Danica about Helio ("Is he really as nice as he seems?" Danica said yes.) The only NASCAR driver I remember seeing on People's website in the past year or so is news about Jeff Gordon's wife having a baby. (I think they were hoping Kasey Kahne would be a big hit with casual fans, but that hasn't happened.) But Danica's win was a top story on their website and Helio is always on there since he won Dancing With the Stars.

If the two of them both do well this season (which isn't out of the question seeing that Castroneves is the current points leader), it would be a "friendly rivalry" that might capture casual fan's imagination more than a rivalry among any of the NASCAR drivers would. Because other than the Dale Jr/Kyle Busch rivalry that's being generated by Jr fans, I don't see any NASCAR rivalries right now. And I'm not sure Busch is famous enough yet to capture a casual fan's attention. So I'm glad NASCAR Now called attention to the IRL situation -sponsorships and fan/media interest - because I think it bears watching.

Richard in N.C. said...

I thought it was a super and informative show because all 3 knew what they were talking about - a distinct contrast to the Sports Reporters issue broadcast from Daytona before the 500 when the panelists had only a passing knowledge of NASCAR.

It continues to amaze and fascinate me how much more ESPN has made of the show since last year. Thank you ESPN.

JD, I would be intrigued with your thoughts about why the notorious stools are used, which I find to be a continuing, though minor, distraction.

Anonymous said...

Wow< Do stools really have anything to do with a racing talk-news show. I thought the show was great and never pay attention to things like that. I just seem to enjoy the content of shows vs looks.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I thought that perhaps the ESPN2 crew would suggest an alternative, but I do not know if one existed.

Obviously, this was not the most comfortable setting for both Chengelis and Poole. What they did to blunt this issue is to step-up and deliver content good enough to remove any viewer from thinking about things like stools.

Perhaps, simply switching to Directors chairs in the future for a program featuring female guests would be appropriate. The stools were a good idea for "the boys," but not so much for skirts and heels.

I do wish there had been another reporter on-hand, to put a third viewpoint on the table and get conversation flowing. This was still an outstanding concept, and one that hopefully will be repeated again during the season.


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Matt said...

I thought the show was, again, excellent. I really like Angelique and it was nice to see her show some personality. She had me laughing a few times.

The lack of debate did not bother me. Both provided many good points about the topics discussed.

The chemistry between the three was great. I hope to see more of them in the future.

Oh and about the chairs.. they didn't really bother me much. I wasn't as distracted as some other people were.

Newracefan said...

Angelique impressed me with this show, I felt her Nascar knowledge showed, I wasn't sure before this that she belonged. I'm sure now. I agree that a third person, preferrably Marty Smith, would have even been better or having AB say he is taking off his host hat and going to be part of the panel. I liked hearing that he wasn't sure he wanted to include the Danice story and the spin he put to it made it belong.The part at the end should be incorporated more often. I know people went on about the stools but they at least have curved a back that came around to the side instead of just a seat so they are more like long legged chairs. That said, who ever picked them out did not anticipate a women sitting in them or David Poole for that matter

Anonymous said...

This was the best yet. David Poole is one of the best in the business He sticks with facts, not rumor and he will ask tough questions.