Monday, July 21, 2008

NASCAR Reporters Mix It Up On ESPN2

Host Allen Bestwick dove into the Monday "roundtable" version of NASCAR Now with a big smile on his face. For the second time this season, he was hosting three members of the NASCAR media on a special "reporters only" edition.

While the last all-media show was a good start, this episode was exactly what fans wanted to see. Jenna Fryer of the AP, Gary Graves from USA Today and NASCAR Now's own Lead Reporter Marty Smith comprised the panel. From the drop of the green flag, this group was off-and-running for the entire sixty minutes.

The show's early segments focused on individual drivers and their seasons-to-date. Fryer and Smith led a spirited discussion about Kyle Busch, including Smith stating flat-out that Busch was fired from Hendrick Motorsports simply because of his attitude. Fryer reminded the panel she thought Busch might standout at Gibbs Racing long before his dream year began.

Give credit to Allen Bestwick. Even as one of the most experienced sports media personalities in NASCAR, Bestwick limited himself in this program to offering topics and then following-up with good questions. The ability of Bestwick to shine the spotlight on the panelists and let them take center stage is something that did not go un-noticed.

Gary Graves from USA Today proved to be a wonderful addition to the panel. His personality and tone fit-in well with the boundless enthusiasm of both Fryer and Smith. Graves can really put things into perspective and it was clear that Bestwick enjoyed his presence.

Smith and Fryer are an act within themselves, two confident "type A" personalities who have proven to be very entertaining when put in the same TV show. Fryer is now a TV and radio veteran with an in-your-face style that fans either love or hate. Smith likes to have the last word, and waits to comment on the opinions of others.

Bestwick ran the panel through a wide variety of topics, but steered clear of several sticky issues including Mauricia Grant, the declining number of car and truck race entries and the sponsorship pull-back of GM. Granted, there were a lot of issues on the table, but the ones left there after the show was over were big.

The panelists were allowed to read a final thought from the teleprompter and they offered some good topics. Graves was especially effective with his comments on the COT. Bestwick threw-in his personal comments about Indy, perhaps giving us all a clue that he has never paid his own hotel bill on The Brickyard 400 weekend.

NASCAR Now has hit on a formula this season that has vaulted this daily TV series from the cellar to the penthouse. Bestwick has proven to be the master at handling the various personalities provided to him and has worked hard to make every show interesting. Both of the "media" theme shows have worked, so perhaps we will see some special editions of this show with NASCAR reporters again before the season is over.

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Ritchie said...

This was a great show with terrific discussion. I'm guessing no one has ever had to ask Ms. Fryer to come out of her shell. While I do like to hear the NASCAR insiders talk, this all media edition works periodically.

It is nice to have media there to give the second person point-of-view regarding such drivers as Tony Stewart. For many years I would see how he would act on TV, then I would hear the drivers act like he was their best friend in the world. Until I heard Jenna Fryer describe his true personality on a NASCAR podcast, the dichotomy drove me nuts. That is why I feel that having media types in these discussions are important. They bridge the gap between the common fan outside of the track and the insiders that live inside the track.

I liked all of the panelists and look forward to another such episode.

TexasRaceLady said...

A totally enjoyable show.

Interesting and entertaining even for an off weekend.

2 thumbs up.

Newracefan said...

Great show, there was more Tradin Paint here than on Speed lately it was fun to watch. While I wouldn't want it every week it was well worth it.

PammH said...

I always loved the show tonite, but the change to 5pm EDT SUCKS!!! I don't get off work most days until 5 & am too dopey most morns to remember to set up the VCR for this. :(

Daly Planet Editor said...


This is only one of the many things that we can thank college football for as we begin what can only be described as Nationwide Series "hell season."

Last year we were treated to no practices, bumped qualifying and as we all remember, yanking a race off the air during the pre-race prayer. That was big.

This season ESPN has once again only two channels for way too much live programming and it will probably be the Saturday NASCAR coverage that takes it right in the shorts.

The 5PM for NASCAR Now is for the rest of the season, with the exception of the weekend shows. I will update those changes in a column on Tuesday. Thanks.


Rockin Rich said...

Ritchie @7:06 PM:

What is the gist of J. Fryer's analysis of Tony's "true personality"?

Inquiring minds want to know!


Daly Planet Editor said...


It re-airs at 3AM Eastern which is Midnight Pacific Time. Set that DVR! It was a good show.


Anonymous said...

Very nice show :). I don't know Mr. Graves so it was nice to "meet" him. I had to *giggle* at Marty getting his workout in chasing after Kylie.

I definitely agree that it shouldn't be an every week thing, but it's nice to have here and there. To get the reporters' perspective is nice to have :).

@JD--yes I saw the Sunday night NN on my DVR last night as I was checking to make sure everything was set up. I hope they keep the Monday show "fresh" and not a rehash of Sunday night like they did last year.

Yes I also hope they work out their conflicts. It was so frustrating to have to flip to 18 billion channels and then just as the invocation was about to begin without warning there's College Football! Or a total blow to the winner and off to Football.

I know a few folks who stayed up last year to watch HH that was tape delayed to begin with and then bumped due to the race running over, just to discover that half way through they'd break it up for some baseball recap.

Adam T. Martin said...

I like the reporter format but I'm glad that it only comes on a few times of the season.

I enjoy listening to the drivers a bit more, but hearing and seeing the press is awesome.

Ritchie said...

Hi Rockin Rich,

She has commented several times on her AP podcast about Tony. Paraphrasing of course, she just talked about how he is very passionate, yet doesn't always express himself well. He is also impatient at times and doesn't always think long term about the consequences of his words (think Goodyear). That is his basic weakness. He tends to express himself poorly, which leads some to see him as childish (this was my viewpoint).

As Ms. Fryer has explained on numerous occasions, when he is away from the media, or is asked a good question, he is very thoughtful. However, if he is in a foul mood, you just have to know to aproach him different. I think the people who are around him for a while, get to see beyond the rough, crabby exterior. That is hard to see as a TV viewer.

My point, however, was that Ms. Fryer, for all of her detractors (most of whom are drivers), knows the personalities of the drivers. She also tends to tell her observations publicly and apologize later. Some reporters know the technology, some the history of NASCAR, but when it comes to what is going on in the heads of the drivers, I trust her opinion.

Karen said...


Bestwick threw-in his personal comments about Indy, perhaps giving us all a clue that he has never paid his own hotel bill on The Brickyard 400 weekend.

Where'd you get that from? I didn't hear it. I like Jenna Fryer. In fact, I liked all three of the reporters. Had not heard of Graves, but he was good but perhaps a bit nervous as he stumbled over his words now and then.

Lou, from NY said...

The first segment about Kyle Busch, the conversation was very lively. Tony and the media, Jenna Fryer mentioned how the media really likes Tony and respects him. I got a laugh when she said something to the effect that you will not win the battle of one liners with him. Jenna and her thoughts on the David Stremme contract situation, if true or not. I liked the explaination. Gary Graves commentary at the end of the program on the current car was good. It was a fast paced hour and it did seem to go fast. Heck I even watched the commericals. The SportsCenter commerical near the end of the show with Stuart Scott was laugh outloud funny when he sat in the wet chair.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...


AB's closing comment was about Indy and the way the community has embraced NASCAR.

As you may know, many teams travel far less folks than normal to Indy because a $69 dollar hotel room is $250 dollars and you have to pay for three nights.

While it may be a very nice tradition, the rip-offs are wall-to-wall when it comes to staying there on that weekend.

When I asked the hotel clerk why the scam for the NASCAR race, she said that is the way they do it for the Indy 500 and the local government encourages making as much money as possible from "the tourists."

I went to the first Brickyard 400 and have never been back.


Lisa Hogan said...

This format is a nice change a few times during the season. I really enjoyed it.

Yesterday, I read an article on the Foxsports/NASCAR site concerning driver changes and the Stremme portion was almost word-for-word what Fryer said on the program. The article credited AP, but with no byline. Maybe she contributed. Strange!

I'm with you, JD, I went to the Indy race once. :)

Tracy said...

Sat down last night to watch NN and TWIN, both on Tivo. NN was fascinating stuff - love Jenna Fryer's (you don't poke the angry gorilla)take.

TWIN - watched about ten minutes, all told. And I'm stretching it. I don't know why it was so boring, maybe because it felt . . .old.

Count me as one of the "one Indy 400 and done" crowd. Last year we even left the race early - too hot, too boring from the frontstretch stands. A shame, since we'd been looking forward to the race for ages.

TexasRaceLady said...

tracy said "TWIN - watched about ten minutes, all told. And I'm stretching it. I don't know why it was so boring, maybe because it felt . . .old."

Ding, ding, ding ---- it WAS old. The first 23 minutes had to have been a re-run of last week's Indy preview.

The last half was new, but nothing to write home about.
A truly forgettable program.

Anonymous said...

I truly enjoyed NN last night. All three panelists as well as AB did a great job.

Newracefan said...

I guess I wasn't the only one who noticed the TWIN "rerun". Now I understand the crack by Mikey last week about how they were going to be in the same clothes for the next weeks show, they filmed it all last week. Anything that was new was only SB talking or more correctly introducing the video clip. I actually felt a little cheated, that is the first time I felt like Speed though we were too dumb to notice. Thanks for trying to warn us Mikey. The more in depth piece about the tech center was the only worthwhile part of the entire show. They could have just talked about last weeks races or what ever for last week and then taped all the Indy stuff and shown it this week and we all would have been happy.

RPM said...

I enjoyed the "Reporter's Roundtable" edition of NN. You can also add me to the Jenna Fryer fanclub. This was the first time I have heard her and I really liked her analysis.

As far as the hotel hijinks in Indy goes, it's not the only place it happens. I first experienced it in Ennis, Tx during a NHRA weekend at Texas Motorplex. After thatI started camping.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love Jenna Fryer. I never miss Tradin' Paint when she is on.

I did dislike the scripted speeches at the end. Way too much like The Sports Reporters. That kind of stuff is for old people.

I would have much more enjoyed more banter and repartee from the cast.

The best thing about Jenna Fryer on NASCAR Now is she can actually keep Allen Bestwick from dominating the show with his unnecessary wordiness!

Richard in N.C. said...

I thought the show was very good, until about 2/3 of the way through when Mr. Graves trotted out the tired, unsupported conventional wisdom of the "Toyota menace." For well over a year it has amazed me that the bulk of the NASCAR media chooses to paint Toyota as all-powerful and ignors Toyota's $2+ billion failure in Formula 1. I guess the "Toyota menace" sells better than the facts. I lost some respect for all the panelists that they sat there without in any way commenting on the fallacy of Mr. Graves' assertion that Toyota is always successful. Very disappointing.