Monday, May 26, 2008

Evernham Walks A Fine Line On "NASCAR Now"


This season Ray Evernham was revealed as a new member of the NASCAR on ESPN gang. It was a surprise to many that ESPN added a current Sprint Cup owner to the broadcast team. Evernham was going to appear on some races as an analyst, but most of his efforts would be aimed at NASCAR Now and other contributions like ESPNEWS.

On Monday, Evernham found himself walking a very fine line on the one hour "roundtable" edition of NASCAR Now. He was being asked to address the issues associated with his Coke 600 winning car as an owner. He was then asked to address the other teams and drivers as an ESPN analyst. That is one tough assignment.

Luckily, Evernham had a duo on-hand that was going to help him stroll down this narrow path. Allen Bestwick has been anchoring this Monday show since the season began. One of Bestwick's favorite guests is former Cup driver Ricky Craven. These two are exactly what Evernham needed to put things in perspective for him.

Unfortunately, the third panelist was the ESPN utility player Tim Cowlishaw. It was Memorial Day, and apparently Cowlishaw had been tapped to be the designated hitter for NASCAR Now during the weekend.

There is no doubt Cowlishaw has a good general sports knowledge and his appearances on Around The Horn show him to be glib. In this setting, between Evernham and Craven, it was very clear that he was a fish out of water.

Bestwick worked hard to include Cowlishaw, but the meat of the show came from Craven and Evernham. This included a very well-rounded review of the Coke 600 that talked about strategy, tires and incidents. Craven's comments kept Evernham from getting off-balance and made him very effective.

There is no doubt that Evernham and Craven have a chemistry with Bestwick. These three only needed a Mike Massaro or Brad Daugherty to round-out the panel. The conversation flowed and the points being made were always on target.

As Bestwick led the panel into a discussion of the upcoming racing career of Joey Logano, NASCAR Now flashed back to the ESPN footage of a young Jeff Gordon from Thursday Night Thunder. The comparison did not work for Craven, but having Evernham on the show was perfect as he addressed Gordon's early days and his early success.

The subject of Humpy Wheeler's sudden "retirement" was a touchy one. Bestwick let Evernham tell a Humpy story that was very personal. Craven also talked about Wheeler's influence over the actual individual drivers and its positive effects.

This NASCAR Now program worked-in video highlights of both the Indy 500 and the Grand-Am race from Lime Rock Park. The show also promoted the NHRA's upcoming event. It is clear that someone behind the scenes has an interest in expanding this franchise. For fans of the old RPM2Night, even a weekly general motorsports program could not come soon enough.

As usual, Bestwick set the same type of casual but fast-paced tone fans used to enjoy on SPEED's Inside NEXTEL Cup. His ability to laugh at himself and keep the racing action in a bigger perspective has turned this show around. There is almost always a big laugh in each Monday program, and this was no exception.

Poor Marty Smith lost a recent liveshot on NASCAR Now because the cars had taken to the track and drown him out. Unfortunately, it was right after Smith had penned a front-page story on Dale Earnhardt Jr. for ESPN the Magazine. All of us, myself included, gave him some grief over that one.

Bestwick played back a hilarious moment from the Coke 600 weekend that featured Smith once again ready to go live on the morning edition of NASCAR Now. Instead of car noise, this time Smith was standing on pit road as the US Military unleashed a practice invasion complete with helicopters and explosions. This was a Humpy Wheeler trademark for the pre-race shows.

The raw video showed Smith hanging-in there with gunfire and explosions so big they threatened to actually muss his hair. In reality, viewers were hearing Smith do a voice-over during that time and never saw the chaos. Once Smith returned to tag the story on-camera, the troops unleashed the howitzers. Let's face facts, liveshots at the track for NASCAR Now have been snake-bit the entire season.

The ultimate irony was that if Smith was present in the ESPN2 studio for NASCAR Now, he would have been a great third panelist with Craven and Evernham. Instead, he may be going for a hearing test.

The choice not to show highlights of the NCTS race was unfortunate, as the last lap was a classic. Hopefully, this situation will not occur again as a rookie and first-time winner made the race exciting. Ironically, it was a driver from ESPN's backyard and a former Northeast regional racer that took home the trophy. Omitting NASCAR's third national touring series was not the right thing to do.

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38 comments:

red said...

i left comments on the earlier column about the first part of the show so won't repeat those here. but i have a factual issue that's nagging at me.

it involves the confusing earnhardt jr pit road speeding penalty/no penalty fiasco. what was explained last night during the race is that the #88 car WAS penalized for coming in to pit road when it was closed and the penalty is tail end of the longest line. nascar was also going to penalize the #88 for endangering the safety personnel who were cleaning up yeley's fluid trail on pit road. it was THAT was the penalty that was rescinded after review: nascar decided that the #88 never put the safety personnel at any risk.
what is bothering me is that the panel all seemed to be intimating that "oh, he got away with it b/c of who he is." in fact, didn't bestwick make some comment about just that? but they didn't present the incident the way i understand it -- altho' i could be wrong as well. contrary to what seemed to be the prevailing belief on NN, the team WAS penalized and the car DID restart at the tail end of the longest line. damaged cars often come into the pits before they are open following a wreck and they just as often exceed the speed limit leaving in order to stay on the lead lap. the #88 car did just that. and yes, they did come in several times, just as i have watched other cars do over many years of racing.

so, what's bothering me is that, instead of clearing up the confusion, they seem to have added to the perception that earnhardt jr is treated differently be nascar than any other driver. i find that disappointing.

i felt craven and evernham absolutely carried the show and that cowlishaw was unnecessary. his anecdote about the rookie tiger woods was awkward and i don't know that a nascar reporter like, oh, say marty smith would have pulled that out of the hat to illustrate how hard it might be for legano. maybe talking about open wheel drivers coming into nascar would have been a better analogy? the fact that he went "out of sport" for his comparison made me wonder about the depth of his knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Red,
What still hasn't been explained is why the second penalty for Dale Jr. was the endangering safety personnel one - which is, best as I understand it, a judgment call.

There's another item in the rule book for speeding on pit road to beat the pace car under caution. I thought (and I could be wrong as I don't have a rule book) that carried a one lap penalty as well.

On JD's point about not showing Craftsman Truck highlights. I'll take it one step further - why not show those and the highlights from Stafford Springs sometime this week and have a conversation about weekly short track racing. ESPN has an on-air employee with a very special connection to local track promotion. Why not call on IRL pit road reporter Jack Arute for a segment on Nascar short track racing.

SophiaZ123 said...

I thought he got the one penalty and NASCAR rescinded the second one as well. I am a big fan of Jr's but was surprised at how quickly he blew down pit road!! Then I seemed to get confused at how many times he WENT to pit road...so I was suffering from racing over exposure by that time and needed a secretary to take notes at what was happening. Brain was tired.

Stewart was heard to grumble "How does that happen?" with the second penalty rescinded...I seem to remember ONE rare time in the last several months where NASCAR took back a penalty. I also remember the one where Kurt or Kyle B CLEARLY got penalized when they should not have..and I don't like either one of them....still, I think NASCAR needs consistency and in recent years, a new pair of eyes to over see things.

Who knows but I thought this could've gotten a better finality as well on NN. I hate shades of conspiracy theories course those that are on the I HATE JR or HMS bandwagon always seem around....

I liked the two guests ok on NN. Not crazy about the middle guy.
Bring Brad D back..he knows how to make the show fun and add an opinion.

Still a good show. Tried watching last half of TWIN but David R is just NOT a fun tv guy. He takes things so seriously whenever on a show....I missed Biff or Chad. I like DR as a person and racer but he is not good in a mix. Bring back SCHRADER.

Ritchie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ritchie said...

On one hand, I thought it was a good show. I actually enjoyed Ray Evernham and his perspective on the winning car. I am really growing fond of Ricky Craven as an analyst, although I didn't quite understand his problem with the Lagono/Gordon comparison.

On the other hand, I am not crazy about the introduction of non-NASCAR items into NASCAR shows like NN. I would enjoy a racing variety show if they wanted to do one, however it needs to be seperate from the NASCAR shows. Every minute spent talking about another series on a NASCAR show, is a minute they are not talking about NASCAR. It is a zero-sum game.

I watched the Indy race Sunday, and noted twice that they mentioned NASCAR during the broadcasts in passing, so the love is not being recipricated. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Bestwick, so I'm sure he understands my concern regarding NASCAR keeping its share of the pie. NASCAR paid its dues for several decades running in the shadows of Indy, I don't appreciate having Indy shoved down my throat now that NASCAR is king.

Evernham can talk all he wants about how the IRL growing is good for racing. I don't buy that. With regards to TV, there are only so many viewing hours in the day and I don't see ESPN giving racing many more of them. Like I said, zero-sum game.

Anonymous said...

Ricky Craven is a fabulous addition to the show. I really enjoy his perspective. As for Evernham, one thing that hasn't changed about Ray, he is still eager to take credit for everything (and none of the blame when things go wrong), just like ten years ago when he touted himself as being the reason for Gordon's success. He's a minority owner at GEM and it was kind of distasteful to see him being so smug about the win. This is what bothers me about him more than the poor decisions he makes in his personal life.

TexasRaceLady said...

I enjoyed the show.

AB and Ricky Craven obviously have that "chemistry" that makes good conversation.

Cowlishaw was the 5th wheel --- totally out of his element.

I liked Ray's contributions --- his explanation of how figuring gas mileage and how to save fuel was mind-bending. Guess that's why I taught English and not Math. LOL

All-in-all, a good show.

My only nagging little thought --- those guys just look ridiculous in suits perched on those bar stools. Eith get them out of the suits, or give them some regular chairs.

GinaV24 said...

Sounds like I missed a pretty good show in Nascar Now, but I was on racing overload after the weekend. Plus, I forgot about it. I did DVR TWIN and was glad I did because watching it "live" would have been way too painful. Reutimann is a nice guy but boring as heck on TV and with his owner there, well, what's he gonna do other than agree with Mikey? This is a pairing that doesn't work on this show, and made for very boring TV. Plus, I think I saw more of Dave Despain than I did of other info on this show.

red said...

texasracelady said...
My only nagging little thought --- those guys just look ridiculous in suits perched on those bar stools. Eith get them out of the suits, or give them some regular chairs.

i so agree! the only place for bar stools is . . . BARS! sit those guys on some sort of chairs or build them a bar!
it is what we call "a visual disconnect."

Anonymous said...

I didnt mind NASCAR Now showing the Indy and Grand-Am race. If you notice, Allen made some comments that were directed towards fans who would complain. But im glad he stood up for himself.

But it does being into question is ESPN will ever bring back a show similar to RPM2Night.

red said...

Anon 11:08 -- i might be wrong but my recollection of his rationale was "i know it's not nascar but i want to talk about it." sorta sounds like "because i'm the parent and i say so!" what really amused me was that he then said a bit later that he didn't even have the chance to watch the race. priceless.
i know they've made exceptions in talking about all things nascar on NN but c'mon! there was real news to be discussed and real racing that never made the show. indy had the nation captivated -- altho' i wonder how many people actually watched it if 3 of the 4 panelists on NN either didn't see it or hopped in and out. that race is all about the show and, for me, only the last 20 or so laps made it interesting, altho' i did watch the whole race.
NN needs to resist the temptation and stick to nascar. lord knows there's enough to cover in an average week.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Bestwick,Craven and Evernham did a great job. Even Cowlishaw was better than usual.It certainly looked like Junior was trying to beat the pace car. But then again,Junior always works to different rules.

Anonymous said...

WHAT ABOUT MW ON TWIN,ISN'T THAT JUST AS BAD AS HAVING RAY ON NN.ACTUALLY I THINK THIS IS WORST,BECAUSE WAL DRIP SELF PROMOTES HIMSELF AND HIS SPONSORS TOO MUCH.

Anonymous said...

I want to speak up for Reutimann - I enjoyed him and would like to see him more - not every week, but as a change of pace. He does have a lot to learn that will help him both on shows like TWIN and in interviews - mainly, slow down. When IWC first started, Johnny Benson said very little, but his comments were so wise and brought a different view to things. He, also, was serious and still is. Truth be told, Johnny was my favorite on the show. In time, with some speech coaching, I think Reutimann can fill the "serious" role.

stricklinfan82 said...

I'm going to reiterate what I posted in the other blog entry before this one was posted.

If the name of this program is NASCAR Now they should only be talking about NASCAR. If you want to change the show's format to include all forms of racing then fine, please change the name to RPM2Night or Auto Racing Now. For the time being though if the show is going to keep the name NASCAR Now they need to get rid of the non-NASCAR highlights.

It was a terrible decision for NASCAR Now to include Indy 500 and Grand-Am highlights and relegate the exciting Mansfield NASCAR Truck race to nothing but a brief audio mention in "News and Notes".

Trying to justify these other highlights as being NASCAR related by saying "NASCAR drivers usually watch the Indy 500 before their race" and "Ron Fellows is kind of a NASCAR driver since he runs a couple road races in Cup and Nationwide every year" is an insult to my intelligence as a NASCAR fan I'm sorry. A NASCAR road-course ringer like Fellows working his "day job" is not equivalent to Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. running in that race, which I could have understood showing since it would have been a legitimate full-time NASCAR driver doing something noteworthy on a day off.

If they're going to allow such a loose NASCAR connection to be the only criteria to having your highlights on this NASCAR-only program I can only image what could be next. Weekly New England Patriots highlights on NASCAR Now in the fall because Randy Moss is going to be a Truck Series owner? Chicago Cubs highlights because NASCAR driver Kurt Busch is a die-hard Cubs fan?

Now you can talk about other forms of racing to create a relevant NASCAR-related discussion, that's perfectly okay. For instance, when they threw out the topic "Danica Patrick just won an IRL Race and Ashley Force just won an NHRA race, how badly does NASCAR need a female driver?" that was completely appropriate. Saying "Look at Chip Ganassi's statistics in the IRL compared to his NASCAR statistics, why is there such a difference?" would be fine as well. Bringing in Danica to NASCAR Now to talk about the open-wheel merger and hype the IRL opener in Homestead and showing Tony Kanaan crashing in the Indy 500 were out of bounds.

Make a choice ESPN. Make this an all auto racing program like The Speed Report or Wind Tunnel and change its name, or keep this program 100% NASCAR related.

When I tune into a show that is called NASCAR Now, I have an expectation that this is going to be a NASCAR-only program, and that Indycar Racing and Grand-Am racing will receive as much airtime as basketball highlights and hockey highlights - that being not a single second.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed David Reutimann on TWIN. Of course I skipped over the first part of the show because I detest the format. There will be plenty of time to discuss all that is Dover later this week.

Mary

Newracefan said...

I agree JD they should bring back Ricky as often as possible, he and AB work well together. I would have loved to see Marty be the 4th person but can understand that being the lead reporter gets him dibs on the day off. Besides he prob still picking dirt out of that hair. The only thing worse than Tim on Mondays show is the "Tim's Takes" piece I have seen on several NN.
I also want to defend Reutimann I thought he did a much better job on TWIN this time, besides everyone else was off for the holiday. Remember how serious the Biff was in the beginning. I also want to comment on the differences in opinions about what happened with Denny/Brad and Kyle/Jeff ie racing hard and not letting people go. VL- Kenny and Spence slammed Denny and Kyle, NN- AB and company thought Brad was at fault and ignored the KB/JG issue. TWIN- totally avoided a straight answer and assigned no blame anywhere. Hmmmm guess MW and DR didn't want to stir a pot the have to drive in.

Richard in N.C. said...

I was pleasantly surprised with Tim C's appearance on NN. He seemed much more restrained and thoughtful than when he was on NN in 2007.

I am a racing fan who happens to be most interested in NASCAR and F1, so I was interested in what they had to say about Indy and the Rolex series. I did not think they devoted too much time to either - especially since the France family now controls the Rolex series and I have seen speculation that it might actually become part of NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Ricky Craven does and nice job, he has background knowledge, and pays close attention to the weeks racing and strategy.

It was somewhat enjoyable to see how Ray was going to handle discussing another owner's problems. But I would rather see a panelist with a fully objective viewpoint.

I am a race fan, and was glad to see some coverage of other racing. The show did have an hour time slot to fill. There was even a graphic of other NASCAR series winners, including Trucks and Modifieds. The Truck race was very good, and deserved some video.

Bestwick's personality, delivery and guest management make the show good on many levels.

Cowlishaw is weak and the Marty Smith outtakes were funny.

I didn't see TWIN, but as a sidebar note, I did see David Reutimann's father Buzzie race in his prime - one great dirt modified driver!

SophiaZ123 said...

yea, come to think of it Biffle did used to be quieter in early INC and got lots better.

Same with Vickers who did NOTHING for me in the early days then got better...then left.

I criticism of Reut had nothing to do with MW or Reut as a person. I think he is a grateful, hardworking, serious driver who is very hard on himself when he messes up.

but that is kind of refreshing as opposed to those that blame others all the time...but personalities should be individualized...not a cc of what NN... i thought on Twin they leaned to Denny since they found it funny his throwing a block comments. ???


NN on Tuesday night with Nicole. Yay. Like her better than the guy host. can't remember his name at moment.

Anonymous said...

The Monday NASCAR Now would be so much better without Bestwick's constant pontificating - he acts like he invented racing...

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed Reutimann on the TWIN show, he is not your seasoned TV personality, but a down to earth guy just trying to make a name for himself in this tough business. UPS would we wise to keep this guy, those brash young loud mouths are a real turn off. MW will always be entertaining, enjoyed the change of pace last night.

Nan S said...

I would love to have RPM Tonight back, but if Evernham is a part of it, I won't watch, just as I won't watch Nascar Now.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Red, I am sure we would still be hearing every week from AB about Earnhardt/Jordan rules if Nascar had given him a win as they Biffle at Kansas. AB mentions nothing about Biffle rules.
At Dover last spring Junior was the first one ever hit with a 100 point fine. I heard nothing mentioned about E rules then.
When he was wrecked with the lead at Talladega, Nascar could have given him the win. Instead he ended up somewhere in the mid 20's. It ended his championships hopes for that year. I heard nothing about E rules then either.
Kyle Busch went below the line in Talladega and got the win. AB didn't mention KB rules. When KB rammed Junior in the back in Texas and took him out of the race, and possibly the Chase last year and KB did not get a penalty, I heard nothing about KB rules.
etc.
They tell us it is suppose to be entertainment, not serious journalism. So I have learned not to take them seriously.
I was hoping that they would get to the big wreck...did Tony spin his wheels or did he brake check...? Since the COT is so much stronger, were any of the cars wrecked bad enough to be taken out of the race...?
Marybeth

red said...

marybeth, i agree with you almost entirely. but i continue to stand on the position that there must be some attempt to offer objective reporting from reporters AND commentators. i visit other boards and i feel as if i have to play fact checker and correct flat out wrong information, information that i have heard implied or stated explicitly by folks "in the media."
last night was just me hitting a point of disbelief. the situation was complicated enough to warrant something other than "oh well, we all know he's above the rules." and you're right: i, too, would have been interested in smoke's "brake check" but then again, i would have liked a discussion about the haas/cnc issue and the melee that was the end of the n'wide race, both on and off the track.
i guess my problem is that i want solid information, not speculation, to be the basis of the commentary that follows. i suspect i would be better served to adapt your position! but, i just can't seem to get there . . . yet.

SophiaZ123 said...

mary beth

Excellent post!! I am still confused over that "Biffle" win at Kansas...came out of nowhere and his lying about being out of gasoline...one of the oddest ends to a race I ever saw.

Also you raise good points about "so and so special rules" but what I never heard, Did TWIN or some show ADDRESS why Stewart had such a slow restart that wrecked so many in the 600? If so I missed that one.

Anonymous said...

Hello again...
I forgot to mention in my earlier post, during TWIN last night I thought that Reutimann has the potential to become another Benny Parsons, and Michael is giving him opportunity to learn and develop into the broadcasting side of Nascar.
Marybeth
PS I think I am done now. :)

SophiaZ123 said...

Marybeth

Another good point on Reutiman...while I guess i was "looking" for the yuk yuk laugh factor, I should not hold it against the boy that he is not "FUNNY" though I did click over on the repeat during a show and they were talking about Dover and he was smiling more while making some comments.

He seems to take in all that goes on around him...and I do like the guy A LOT!! It was great when he spoke of his dad being his Hero on Wendy's special last week, too...very sweet.

Tracy said...

Just watched TWIN on DVR- it's been a long week already. Thought Reutimann did fine. Needs a better haircut, LOL, but then, Jimmie Johnson's new "do" is positively girly.

Newracefan said...

Soph, TWIN talked more about was Tony slow or was Kasey to fast and that Tony had the choice of how to bring the cars to the line. They then went into how the drivers need to show patience at the restart (or something like that). VL blamed Reutimann for missing a shift or something and slowing up the line, which according to Reut was not the case because he "ran over" the car in front of him. Guess we'll never really know for sure.

SophiaZ123 said...

Thanks NRFan.

Now that you answered, I kind of remember them I switched over as it was discussed or finishing up the talk...i think that's when Mikey said he tries to leave a small bit of car length in front of him for restarts...it was brain overdose watching Sunday..and I did not even WATCH RACEDAY or the two hour pre race on 500..just off and on the ABC pre race...but too long a day. :)
S

Anonymous said...

evernham should not be put in the position he was in by ESPN.

If he's a race winner, he should not be treated as an analyst-at least for that show

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Red, as exasperating as it is, this is the way it is...and there is nothing I can do about it. They hold all the cards. They can say whatever they want, however they want, and repeat it weekly. I found myself with the choice of not watching, or not taking it seriously. I chose the latter, but as you can see I still have a way further to go. : )
I have only been following Nascar for the past few years. Maybe at one time it was true. Since I have been watching I have felt that Nascar goes overboard to send a message to the other drivers, or to show that they don't show favoritism.
I found this today and thought that you might be interested.


"Trading Paint: Pitty for Junior
By Jerry Bonkowski, Yahoo! Sports May 28, 5:16 pm EDT
When drivers have broken rules in the past to stay on the lead lap, NASCAR has penalized the team by holding them for a lap or two in the pits. Why is it when Dale Jr. speeds through the pits several times to stay on the lead lap there is no penalty? Just another example of the favoritism NASCAR shows to Dale Jr. It was great to see Budweiser make it back to victory lane before Dale Jr. (haha – 74 races and counting, Junior fans!!).
Brian Macey Tinley Park, Ill.
A lot of people thought the same thing you did, Brian. However, NASCAR rules clearly state that the penalty for speeding on pit road is being sent to the tail end of the longest line, which is exactly what happened to Junior. He was just taking advantage of the rules.
There was some confusion, though. After the second time Junior sped down pit road to make repairs to his banged up car, NASCAR warned him that if he did it again he would be held one lap. Junior and his team interpreted this as an actual penalty not a warning, and thus stayed on pit road and fell one lap down. After a discussion between both parties clarified that it wasn’t a penalty but a warning, NASCAR allowed Junior to rejoin the race on the lead lap at the tail end of the longest line. Hope that clears it up."
Marybeth

Daly Planet Editor said...

Marybeth,

Nice comment and thank you for helping to clear that up.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD,
Thanks! It took a couple of days to leave out words like "cheapshot" and "smear campaign", but I did it!! : )
Marybeth

Anonymous said...

JD,
Thank-you for giving us minions a place to air our small voices.
It may be a couple of days late and we are the only 2 reading it, but thanks anyway. : )
Marybeth

Daly Planet Editor said...

Marybeth,

The number of people who read this is often over ten thousand a day, many of them take it and re-post it in chatrooms and forums.

There are also pages that gather NASCAR stories and publish them each day as a list.

All in all, the comments left on this little blog go a very long way.

JD

Kenn Fong said...

Note to Allen Bestwick,

Ralph Edwards hosted "This Is Your Life."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Is_Your_Life

Kenny
Alameda, California