Monday, June 16, 2008
Update: Wallace Brothers Work Well For "NASCAR Now"
ESPN's idea of having a rotating "panel of experts" on Monday's one hour version of NASCAR Now has proven to be a stroke of genius. Regardless of who is involved, the format draws the viewer back the following week to compare personalities.
This Monday all three of the Wallace brothers were in the ESPN2 Connecticut studios. While introducing them, host Allen Bestwick pointed out that Kenny was from SPEED Channel. The fact that there is now a cordial relationship between these two networks where NASCAR is concerned is simply fantastic.
Nationwide Series driver Mike and ESPN Analyst Rusty rounded-out the panel. It was an interesting opportunity to see the family dynamic of the Wallaces on TV. Over the hour, the personalities and the relationships of the brothers were made clear to the viewers.
Bestwick kept the pace fast and never slowed down. He has known the Wallace brothers for a long time and handled them quite well. Bestwick knew just how much rope to give them in conversation and just when to move things along.
In typical brother style, sometimes thoughts were not completed simply because of the spontaneous conversation. Each brother has a very different perspective on the various NASCAR issues, but the depth of racing knowledge was certainly there for all to see.
Rusty walks a fine line between analyst and car owner. Lots of thoughts on-the-air seem to come back to an ownership perspective. For those of us who remember Rusty from his outspoken driving days, this change is interesting to watch.
The panel offered great comments and lots of fun through the highlights of all three of NASCAR's national touring series. By ending the discussion with the Nationwide Series, it gave the show an opportunity to segue into a live Joey Logano interview.
Bestwick kicked it off, but ESPN has listened to the fans and let the members of the panel each ask a question of the guest. This time, the results were great. It was Rusty who capped the interview by asking Logano about his future Sprint Cup plans.
Continuing the discussion after the interview was a smart idea. Rusty said that he felt Logano would have success even in a Cup race. He offered that Logano has tested 32 times for Gibbs Racing this season. While Mike agreed, it was Kenny who pointed-out the new breed of racing dad that single-mindedly points their child toward racing. Over time, it will be interesting to see how things play-out for Logano.
Using the child actor who portrays Loren Wallace on the Geico commercials to provide some NASCAR Now commentary was a nice touch. In response to being challenged by Lauren about the Wallace brothers racing prowess, it was Kenny who responded with strong words. "I have led two laps this year...under caution," he said.
Bestwick took a segment to talk about Russ Wallace and his racing career in the Midwest. This took the conversation in a different direction as suddenly agendas and sponsors and NASCAR issues were instantly gone. All of the men on the panel quickly became boys and the stories about the patriarch of the family were great.
Perhaps, the segment was highlighted by Rusty saying his mom used to get in fights in the grandstands while his dad was racing. Bestwick followed-up by asking Mike and Kenny how Rusty paved the way in NASCAR for the two brothers. This led into Bestwick reminding viewers that Steven and Chrissy are going to be the next generation of Wallace's coming onto the racing scene.
Another glossy feature that focused on the dramatic closing laps at Michigan put a nice touch on the show and led into the sometimes hilarious press conference soundbites from Junior in the Infield Media Center. There is no doubt that Junior is going to continue to be a media darling for the rest of this season.
In previewing Sonoma, it was Rusty taking the lead and reminding viewers that fuel mileage was once again going to be a key. Kenny pointed out that Sonoma has a limited run-off area and Mike made the point that the fastest car might not win the race.
Bestwick was given some extra time for the early edition of the show and asked the Wallace clan about the Mike Helton closed-door meeting where he talked about the COT. While Rusty towed the company line, Mike and Kenny pointed out that each driver has their own personality and it was going to be a personal choice on talking about this issue. Rusty added that changes do need to be made, but everyone really understood that the COT was a work-in-progress.
It was Kenny who made a nice point about the current power of the NASCAR drivers speaking out in the media. Referencing Tony Stewart's comments earlier about Goodyear, Kenny pointed-out that the media itself is now an active participant with the drivers many of whom have their own radio and TV shows. He made sure to mention that one of them...was him.
Closing out the show, Mike got to talk about his daughter Chrissy and Rusty made some funny comments about his struggles with his son Steven. Mike was torn between dedicating time to his daughter and continuing to build his own career. Rusty was very up-front about the difference in his son from last year to the current season.
As a one time event, the "all Wallace hour" was fun and memorable. To see these three walk back and forth between talking about racing and relating as family was exactly what ESPN must have had in mind. Bestwick handled the nuts-and-bolts of the TV duties very professionally and that is what viewers have come to expect from these Monday shows this season.
There is no doubt that ESPN has hit on a winning combination, and the only question on many NASCAR fans minds is who will be with Bestwick next week?
Update: For those of you asking, here is the link to the story about the young actor who plays Lauren Wallace on the GEICO ads.
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