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.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.