Monday, July 28, 2008
Bestwick Hosts Owner's Roundtable
This year has seen some interesting shows on the one hour Monday edition of NASCAR Now.
Themes have included all three Wallace brothers, three NASCAR reporters and next week will feature all four of ESPN's NASCAR pit reporters. On this Monday, ESPN2 came by a show theme accidentally. Mike Massaro missed his plane.
Instead of Allen Bestwick hosting Massaro, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham, it was suddenly an "all Sprint Cup Series owners" edition of the program. Massaro's presence was sorely missed as he is a valuable piece of this Monday show and was right in the middle of the pit road action at The Brickyard.
Bestwick opened with a muted tone considering the circumstances of the race and ran through the mandatory highlights and soundbites from the winner and his owner. The fun really began when Bestwick was talking about the tire situation and the resulting mess on the racetrack. "Why did this happen?" he asked both panelists.
The strength of Evernham where television is concerned is that he comes across as easy to understand and likable. His explanation of the weight issues with the COT and the problems in the corners made sense. Suddenly, things did not seem to be as complicated as other TV shows made them out to be.
It was Daugherty who was surprisingly outspoken about this issue on Sunday from the track for ESPN. As Bestwick turned to him for an explanation about why NASCAR did not have an open test session at The Brickyard, it was clear Daugherty was still upset. "I think it was a critical mistake," said Daugherty.
His point was that by not allowing the teams to test and solve the resulting problems, it put NASCAR and Goodyear in the very position they both experienced on Sunday. Evernham backed-up Daugherty and pointed to this issue as the key to the situation.
It was smart of Bestwick to push both men about the "why." Evernham and Daugherty were upfront in admitting they knew "what" happened but they had no clue about "why." Evernham called for new tire dimensions for next season or the same problem was going to re-surface. A "bigger box to work in" was the request.
Bestwick put both panelists on the spot by asking them about NASCAR's performance. Daugherty called Indy a "crown jewel" and said the race was "falling apart. His point was that NASCAR made the only choices possible.
Evernham has always had a dry sense of humor and his quote was that "there are some things NASCAR does well and some things NASCAR does...not so well." Suggesting that NASCAR kept things safe and did the best they could, but perhaps needs to take their lumps over the situation in general.
The race highlights were simply horrible and Bestwick quickly shifted the focus back to making The Chase. It was this topic that made Evernham put on his owner's hat and he responded well. He spoke about his teams and the many things that being in The Chase can bring. Most of those things were financial.
It was clear that having Massaro's pit road perspective and veteran opinions would have helped this program. Evernham can provide the owner's perspective and Daugherty can talk like a fan, but the show missed a reporter's first-hand experiences during the race itself. Now that Bestwick has been promoted to being the infield host for the Cup races, he cannot provide that kind of information.
We had hoped that NASCAR Now would have a Monday guest that could contribute to the tire issues in a meaningful way, but that was not to be. It was driver AJ Allmendinger who stopped by via satellite and did his best to address the Indy troubles. Bestwick also rather pointedly asked Allmendinger about the time this year when he was "benched." Viewers could see Allmendinger wince at the question on-camera.
The politically correct answers came out, so Bestwick moved-on to ask about Team Red Bull's improved performance. Allmendinger confirmed that Red Bull is now building their own cars and is trying to take control of the overall COT package. Still outside the Top 35, Allmendinger seems realistic about grinding it out for the remainder of 2008.
All three of the panelists looked rather "toasty" on-the-air and Bestwick even related that the airlines had lost his luggage on the way to Bristol. This endless trek of personnel back to Connecticut each and every Monday is still strange to many. ESPN is neck-deep in NASCAR and will be for many more years.
With almost all of the NASCAR personalities based in the Greater Charlotte area, it may be time for ESPN to look at all the content it generates about the sport during the week and consider putting a facility together in the Concord or Mooresville area.
Bestwick delivered an optimistic preview of Pocono and then showed brief Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series highlights to close the program. Kudos to all three panelists for dealing with a long race and a late night flight to simply make this show appearance. Evernham is making his way onto the ESPN team and Daugherty is finally speaking his mind and taking control of his TV image.
Next Monday the panel will consist of Massaro, Shannon Spake, Jamie Little and Dave Burns. NASCAR Now will move from owners to reporters as the amazing popularity of this Monday program continues to grow.
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