Monday, May 5, 2008
LaJoie And Massaro Have "Rountable" Fun
It was a three person panel on Monday Night for ESPN2's "roundtable" version of NASCAR Now. Host Allen Bestwick has seen a wide variety of personalities as panelists on this show so far this season.
Luckily, after a memorable weekend in Richmond, Bestwick had former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie and veteran ESPN reporter Mike Massaro with him in the Connecticut studio.
On his previous appearance, LaJoie was somewhat nervous and soft-spoken. For those who know him, those two words are rarely associated with this gregarious and outgoing man. This time, the combination of two familiar faces in Bestwick and Massaro let LaJoie open-up and have fun.
While reviewing the Cup highlights, LaJoie made it clear he believed that Kyle Busch just "sailed it in there" when he hit Dale Earnhardt Jr. and ultimately it was a racing accident. He and Massaro made good points in reference to the post-race comments offered by both Busch and Earnhardt. LaJoie made sure everyone knew that in his opinion race car drivers "have small minds anyway."
It was Richmond winner Clint Bowyer appearing on the show from testing in Charlotte, and once again it was only Bestwick who asked the questions. Perhaps, NASCAR Now will eventually give each panelist the opportunity to ask at least one question. As usual, Bestwick did a solid interview with Bowyer and included a testing question about the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
It continues to be amazing that in almost every key video highlight this season it has been the exciting radio calls of MRN and PRN describing the action. On this Monday, MRN called the incident between Busch and Earnhardt Jr. during the outstanding edited feature recapping the Sprint Cup race from Richmond.
After this feature, the panel continued with an overview of the big multi-car accident in the race. LaJoie was clear in his evaluation that higher speeds at short tracks were going to continue to result in bigger accidents than fans are used to seeing.
In talking about the issues of Jeff Gordon, Massaro recapped the struggle from the back of the pack to a top ten finish as almost a victory for this team. Bestwick framed this effort as what can perhaps separate those teams who are champions from those still focused on individual wins. LaJoie added that Gordon was "a good shoe" as well.
It was a live report from the Lowe's Motor Speedway offered by Shannon Spake that gave viewers fresh "soundbites" from both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was a very nice round-up of the events from Richmond that included mature drivers talking in conciliatory terms.
Spake talked about the added COT test at Lowe's and relayed that the same teams already dialed-in with the COT on the mile-and-a-half tracks were just getting better while the struggling teams were finally getting a handle on things. The entire panel reacted to the Hendrick Motorsports COT issues with LaJoie reminding everyone that Junior was the best Hendrick car right now, and that was a surprise.
The Nationwide recap was solid, and replayed Hamlin's comments describing this as his biggest win ever. The tire issue was key, and LaJoie did his best to explain why Harvick stayed out and ultimately lost the race. Pit strategy was almost a "no win" for Harvick and his team.
Bestwick took a moment to sum-up the brief scuffle between Kyle Busch and Steven Wallace after the race. These two might be the most opposite personalities in the Nationwide Series, and Wallace came away as a very distinct personality who may be coming into his own at last.
In previewing Darlington, LaJoie reminded fans that fast racing is not necessarily the best racing. Since Darlington was made for cars to go 150 mph and some teams in testing exceeded 200, it was going to be a very different race than ever before.
Last season, LaJoie was a substitute analyst for several ESPN races and was a big hit with the fans. His sense of humor and easy-going nature worked well with Allen Bestwick, as it did on Monday's NASCAR Now. ESPN has indicated that LaJoie will be seen on-the-air in several NASCAR roles this season, and his continuing presence is exactly what the network needs to continue to build their NASCAR credibility.
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