Monday, May 12, 2008

Craven Lights-Up "NASCAR Now" Studios

There have been other Cup-level drivers on NASCAR Now this season, but the program found a winner in Ricky Craven. The New England native has not been seen on TV for some time now and the Bristol, CT studios of ESPN was a good place to select for a return.

This Monday show has always relied on the chemistry of the rotating panelists to either be very good or just kind of average. The challenge on this day was for host Allen Bestwick to combine the personality of Craven with that of Cup owner Ray Evernham and ESPN veteran Mike Massaro.

It was clear from the start that Craven was up-to-date on his NASCAR news and personalities. Evernham blended well with Craven, and gave him plenty of room to talk about driver-related issues. Massaro was once again focused on contributing the reality of what happened at the track on the weekend and the most recent news.

A review of both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races proved to be revealing in terms of the opinions of the panel about Kyle Busch. Craven clearly loves his style and attitude. Evernham continues to be amazed that Busch has only one speed and one way of driving. Massaro enjoys the fact that this "misfit" has upstaged the regularly featured top drivers.

Bestwick did a whole lot of talking in this show, and his questions have grown to sometimes be paragraphs in themselves. A while back, he would simply throw-out a topic for discussion and then let the conversation flow. Now, he wants specific answers from the three panelists to an issue that he has selected.

This may well be the response of a veteran TV host to the constantly-changing cast of characters that Bestwick hosts each Monday. The rotating cast used to feature ESPN announcers, but now viewers have seen several current and former Cup Series drivers on the program. Some have worked out very well, others have proven to be less than TV-friendly.

Once again, the features edited by both the NASCAR Media Group and the NASCAR Now staff contributed quite well to the program. This mix of several pre-produced features inserted into the show in a timely fashion makes for just enough of a change of pace to keep the hour interesting.

Craven appeared on-the-air to be a veteran TV professional. He acknowledged the opinions of his fellow panelists on a regular basis and called them by name when following-up on their comments. For NASCAR Now viewers who have been dealing with the disjointed comments of ESPN analyst Boris Said, Craven would be a welcome addition on this TV series during the week.

The Monday "roundtable" has started to insert a weekly guest, and this week David Ragan was interviewed by satellite. The former struggling driver has finally found his rhythm, and spoke about both Darlington and his current Top 12 status. Once again, only Bestwick was allowed to interview the guest. This practice is tough-to-take when a panelist like Ricky Craven is seated on the studio set.

Bestwick took the time to remind viewers that Evernham had picked Ragan as a driver to keep an eye on as the season progressed. Both Massaro and Craven added to that opinion with their veteran perspectives. Craven's comments were especially pointed about the personal and professional transformation of Ragan.

The panel capped the program with a candid talk about the upcoming All-Star weekend in Charlotte. Craven laughingly said the race is a "recipe for disaster." Evernham admitted to testing illegal equipment during the race and actually having one car later banned by NASCAR. Massaro, as the reporter, was only interested in following-up on Evernham's on-track "testing."

This was a classy touch for NASCAR Now to promote the All-Star weekend which is essentially exclusive to SPEED. If one thing has been noticeable this season, it is the on-air cooperation of the NASCAR TV partners in putting the sport before the network and promoting the racing regardless of where it airs.

Craven proved to be one of the most TV-friendly panelists on NASCAR Now this season. One wonders what an episode of this show would be like with Craven, Andy Petree and Mike Massaro. Hopefully, the NASCAR Now executives will return Craven to this program, and possibly consider some additional exposure for him on other editions of this show.

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PammH said...

Excellent show!! Ricky works for Yahoo & does a couple of articles a week, so yes-he is waaay in touch w/the racing. I still can't stand Ray (for his personal life), but he brings an interesting perspective to the panel. I did like when MM called him out about folks cheering for Vile Kyle! Loved it when Ricky said give the driver some credit about the Bif's safe!! LOL...

Diane said...

I didn't watch the show, because I won't watch when Evernham is on. It sounds like Ricky was a great addition and I look forward to seeing him on a show when Evernham is not scheduled.

Ritchie said...

I agree with you Mr. Daly. I believe that Mr. Craven would make an excellent addition to ESPN's nightly shows. He was excellent tonight and I enjoyed the show.

We need to keep in mind that Mr. Craven and Mr. Evernham both worked together at Hendrick Racing(Evernham as Gordon's crew chief, and Craven driving the #25 car). So it is not surprising that they meshed well.

Newracefan said...

Ricky was great, I never knew him as a driver but have read his articles. He filled the need much better than Boris and some of the other drivers they have used. I would welcome him back on a regular basis. Overall a good show

SophiaZ123 said...

I also enjoyed Craven...he seemed like a natural fit on this show.

I also agree he should be on NN...Boris Said really ruined it for some of us with his hissy fit last month at Marcos Ambrose....If Craven wants it, give him the job! I was worried about all these 'guest seat roulettes' but enjoyed tonight's show.

Also, i must admit, I too, am really having to work to let go of "Ray's stuff...or mainly, how he threatened and bullied the media and others"..but if I can divorce myself from that, I do enjoy his input on this show.

I also must say I have missed Brad D on this show.

jfs-va said...

JD, you brought up exactly what bugged me just a bit about the show and that was AB seemingly talking forever either to bring up a new subject or closure of one.

As for Ray, it sounds like I'm supposed to dislike him but I just started watching NASCAR last year and know nothing at all about his past. I also realize people make mistakes in life.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Craven did an excellent job last night-knowlegeable,chose his words well and was brief. I like Bestwick,but like most 'analysts' he's really not knowlegeable about the mechanics of a race car. Trust me, skewing the rear axle didn't cause the loose wheels.Nascar has a tolereance on the wheel base and also allows toe-in/out and camber in the rear axle housing believe it or not. The splined ands of the axles are barrel shaped to allow for all that juking. Mr October,Harry Gant, was the first to succeed with rear camber. As for the COT less susceptible to spinning out,the COT doesn't have the 'offset' the old cars had and they now must have 1700# of weight on the right side. Overall,a great show!

glenc1 said...

it was a good show, I'd like to see more of Ricky. Those columns he's been writing for Yahoo had a lot of insight so I'm not surprised he makes a good guest. That story from Ray about the parachute was a scream--never heard that one before. It was nice to hear them gush over someone whose last name isn't Busch (the David Ragan interview). I try and focus on Ray professionally--there are plenty of people who have things in their personal lives that we may not like, but this is 'job' time. If I held a grudge over everyone in NASCAR who'd ticked me off over the years I'd have no one left to root for!

Matt said...

I thought the show was again great. Craven was a nice surprise, and also agree that he'd be great as a regular on NN, and even on the race broadcasts.

Unless I missed it, the only thing I was disappointed in was the lack of mention of the top 35. I was so proud of Blaney running well, coming back from being several points behind Hornish to jump to 35th, yet he didn't even get mentioned. I understand if there's no change in the top 35, but there was this week.

Tracy said...

Ricky Craven, yes!! Get rid of Boris the Crybaby now. (And I was a Said-Head before the Ambrose rant.)

Lou,Kingston,NY said...

Ricky C. was a nice addition to the show. Do read his Yahoo deal. Not suprised he is up on his game. Good to see him on NN. Thanks Ricky.

Anonymous said...

Craven was superb and I, also, would like to see him as a regular. I have been reading his articles and they, also, have been good.

Years ago, when Craven was just getting started, one of his high school teachers wrote onto the nascar usenet board that Ricky had been just as focused as a student as he was as a driver - implying that the guy was loaded with smarts.

He and Evernham share having their racing careers ended by brain injuries that seemed not to hurt their ordinary brain power.

I hope to see him often on ESPN.

Lisa Hogan said...

I only caught the last 30 minutes of NN last night. I enjoyed the show. I’ve always liked Ricky. I don’t mind Bestwick doing the interviews. After last season, it is nice for the driver to be able to feel comfortable with the interviewer.

Anonymous said...

Fox/SPEED should snatch Craven and replace one of their duds, DW, MW, etc. Although I'm not sure he would be comfortable with their Circus/ WWE style of broadcasting NASCAR. He would be a great addition for any network, hopefully we'll see more of him.

Anonymous said...

Will this show be re-aired??

Daly Planet Editor said...


Each NASCAR Now episode is re-aired later that evening for the West Coast.

The times vary because of the ESPN live programs, so check your local listings or the website in the TV listings page.

This is a good show to record on Mondays.


Anonymous said...

This show is one of my favorite Nascar shows. They really have it together! The show focuses on last weeks race and not all the hype on the coming race. The panel of 4 people is working really well with everyone a specialist in one or more areas. It is so much better than TWIN show on Speed.Thanks ESPN!!