Monday, May 19, 2008

"NASCAR Now" Orders The Right Combo-Platter

Wow! There is a word used sparingly on this blog over the last sixteen months. Monday's NASCAR Now on ESPN2 deserved every letter of that powerful little word.

Allen Bestwick only has one speed, and that is full speed ahead. He sets a fast-paced tone on this one hour "roundtable" show. What makes the show good or just average is the three panelists with whom he shares the Bristol, CT studio.

On this Monday, Bestwick was joined by NASCAR veteran Johnny Benson, ESPN pit reporter Mike Massaro and NASCAR Now's own Lead Reporter Marty Smith. This group turned-out to be one of the best in terms of conversation and information that has been on the show since the season began.

The key element that changed the show was the ability of Johnny Benson to jump-into the moving conversation with the talkative Smith and Massaro. With Bestwick filling-in the gaps with his own comments and questions the pace never slowed.

Massaro pointed-out many NASCAR issues about the All-Star race and the teams involved from his veteran perspective. He reminded viewers that winning team owner Ray Evernham had been a panelist on the show just last week.

The TV production part of the program began with a very positive change. The Director has finally decided to show the entire panel during the opening introductions instead of the horrible single shots that forced panelists to smile and nod as if CourtTV was back in session.

Rather than open the politically correct door, Bestwick swung right into the fact that the COT cars were struggling at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the All-Star race lacked the normal excitement TV viewers and fans had seen in the past.

Bestwick then led a nice tribute to Dale Jarrett. These three panelists had the absolute best stories, including video of Jarrett passing Benson for a Daytona win. This one simple segment really showed TV viewers the years of NASCAR experience represented on the NASCAR Now panel. That was exactly the goal of ESPN when Motorsports VP Rich Feinberg had the courage to make the wholesale changes that resulted in this outstanding series.

The two edited features in this program give the panel a short break and add a nice perspective to the show. The scanner chatter and the great editing include the radio calls of the racing action which always brings excitement. Both the NASCAR Media Group and NASCAR Now production staffs contribute to these features.

Ray Evernham has been trying hard to put the personal issues behind him. As a new contributor to ESPN, Evernham appeared on this show as the winning owner. For the first time, the NASCAR Now panelists were finally allowed to speak to the guest. What a difference this one little change made. Finally, the same diverse perspectives that viewers had been hearing from the panel were continued in the featured interview. Hopefully, this change is permanent.

Evernham continues to be a hit where his TV appearances are concerned. He interacted well with all the panelists, and even confessed to Mike Massaro that he was "testing" a new engine in the All-Star race. Evernham did his own preview of the Coke 600 from his owner's perspective. In another veteran TV move, Evernham had listened to the show prior to his interview and referenced the comments of the panelists in his answers. This was TV working very well.

With no Nationwide Series race, Bestwick led the focus on the Craftsman Truck Series and Benson offered a first-hand review. His controversy in the race was a good story for the show, and Benson showed once again the intensity he often brought to Inside Winston Cup Racing on SpeedVision over a decade ago.

A recap of the Todd Bodine vs. Ron Hornaday wreck was solid. Both sides were represented, and the panel was clear on their different views. Benson once again reminded viewers that although he may be low key, he is one of the most experienced NASCAR drivers remaining active in the sport.

The show is still very structured, but Bestwick has been slowly loosening the reins and continues to allow "fun" to creep into the program. The show sneaked in some regional Camping World Series highlights at the end that included a soundbite with the winner.

The amazing turn-a-round of ESPN's NASCAR efforts continue, and a fast-paced informative hour like this on Monday is a great building block for the entire NASCAR on ESPN TV package. Once the heart of the season begins, and the pressure of making "The Chase" becomes real, this show is going to be an integral part of ESPN's Sprint Cup efforts. Bestwick and company are certainly off to a great start.

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Lou,Kingston,NY said...

Just a note, that once again I did enjoy the show tonight. Nice job by all. But the jacket and tie deal does seem strange w/the garage backround

SophiaZ123 said...

I was kind of busy when Nn was on but from what I saw and heard it was a TERRIFIC panel and had fun

and good review and information.

not to get off topic but I am dreading the 600 with the COT car...NASCAR REALLY needs to address this....

SusanB said...

I agree with JD that NN tonite was great. The panelists were definitely comfortable with each other and they were having a great time. Good job ESPN.

I agree with you sophiaz123. If the race is going to be like the All-Star race, it will not be a great race. Especially if there is little passing.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping they would get into a discussion on the engine builder for JGR deciding to use an experimental engine for the All Star race--to the detriment of all three JGR drivers. I can't help but think that using the All Star race as a practice race isn't what that race is supposed to be about. Personally, I find the race to be silly and boring, obviously done to make money. But, if teams are going to put a sub par vehicle on the track, and if they force the fans to watch and pay for sub par racing, this event is going to go away quickly. I really wish they would have discussed this as a part of the COT and Lowes

All in all, a really good show.

Newracefan said...

Great show, JB looked much more comfortable this time and he stepped up his participation in the show which was fantastic. I really like having Marty Smith there he is the closest thing NN has to Wendy (well respected and knows many from Nascar on a personal level and is at the garage a lot, I wish it was every week). Mike impresses me more every week, he obviously paid his dues in this sport and as usual AB is the man.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Do you think Johnnie Benson was picked in advance for the panel because he was going to be in the truck race - or was picked for the panel after he had his problem in the race? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

For the serious Nascar observer,last night's show was very professional. Just straight talk and non of the "Hee Haw" nonsense you get on some other shows. I've always enjoyed Evernham's contributions to the shows.His opinions have credibility given his background.

Ritchie said...

Great Show! That hour went by so fast, it was unbelievable. All three panelists were exceptional in their own way.

The conversations were fast, intelligent, on target, and clear. This is the kind of show that NASCAR needs in order to keep growing. This show is becoming a great ambassador for the sport.

glenc1 said...

this had the earmarks of a grown up show--entertaining and interesting, issue oriented and personal at the same timem no silly stuff. I'm getting used to the chairs. Maybe it's just Brad that is too tall for them. It was great to see Johnny again and he had a lot to offer. I've been a fan of Mike's too (and remember the 'helicopter pad' days very well.) Well done, ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Great show ESPN!
Marty's twang wears on me a little, but his contribution to the show is solid.
Agree with the other post who doesn't get the jacket and tie in the setting, but a much better show that TWIN

Daly Planet Editor said...


They like him because he fills the veteran driver role and he has TV experience. We saw the TV-related issues some of the other current drivers had when they were on the show.

As the program begins to get into the heart of the season, both Rusty and DJ are going to be busy. NN needs a person for the Monday "driver's seat" on the panel and JB has proven to be a good mix with two other panelists.


Anonymous said...

JB looks like a college professor, but he knows his stuff. I love it when he is on any racing panel.

This show was great. Whoever said something about Marty's twang must not be from the South. (You sound GREAT to me Mart Dawg!)

Richmond, VA

becki4jb said...

I liked the show. I have always enjoyed the way Johnny and Allen play off eachother. I like Mike. He is truly awesome. And Marty is very knowledgable and knows when to let the drivers explain things. I must admit to liking Ray a bit more than Marty. They are just two different styles, and when Ray is in the chair, I think he has great chemistry with JB and Mike. But, I am soooo glad their is now an ALTERNATIVE to SPEED channel. I am happy camper again....

Dot said...

Good job ESPN with NN. I am now DVRing the day versions during the week since they don't seem to be preempted like the nightly repeats.

I like everyone that's been on the panel so far. I too, like Marty's accent.

One suggestion to ESPN, let's have casual day once in a while. The suits are a little much. I think the only time race fans wear a suit is for work, weddings and funerals. Oh, and church. Sitting around talking about racing in a suit just doesn't look right.

Anonymous said...

Because of my father, I had to tape it Monday night, but I did watch the show on the tape the next day & it was real awesome in my book.

From the NEXTEL All-Star race review, to the tribute to Dale Jarrett (Which I'm sure my dad would enjoy considering Dale is his driver), to the controversial truck race, this show had what some shows don't, the right balance!

This show reminded me of the original "Inside NEXTEL Cup" & what I miss about it. It had the controller of the show (Allen Bestwick), & the smart, calm, & decent driver (Johnny Benson), & it also has the in-depth reporter (Mike Masaro), & it has the news-finder & person who can talk with anyone (Marty Smith).

I also like what JB said about the controversial restart, because from what I know, the NASCAR rule is, "Once the leader gets to the restart line area, the green flag is supposed to be waved by the starter. You can pass to the outside once the leader gets to the restart area before the start/finish line. Passes to the inside before the the start/finish line or is way before the restart line will result in a penalty."

JB said NASCAR explained it to him as "he jumped the start because the starter didn't wave the green." Well that's an error on the starter's part, not JB's!

Johnny Benson has been one of my drivers since October 2001, & I will NOT tolerate NASCAR screwing my drivers! NASCAR better explain the exact rule for the restarts come Mansfield.

Back to the case in point, "NASCAR Now" is good at picking a "Monday roundtable group" & I like where this show is going.

I like the future for "NASCAR Now" if it's "Monday roundtable edition" as Allen puts it keeps getting better!

Adam T. Martin said...

I love how NASCAR NOw has turned around for the better.

First, they add Allen Bestwick and Nicole Manske. Then, comes the Monday Roundtable Edition.

I hope ESPN carries this momentum come July for the Brickyard.

Anonymous said...

I liked that AB paid tribute to his son Allan for graduating college.

Remember when he took off a race to attend the child's High School Graduation - would have had to be in June 2004.

RPM said...

Great show once again. ESPN just needs to make 1 more tweak, lose the suits!