Monday, September 8, 2008

Experience Overload On "NASCAR Now"

The Chase For The Championship always brings out some interesting new twists in the TV programs that go along with the sport. Above is the official picture of the twelve drivers. Just click on it to view it full-screen. Thanks to NASCAR and photographer Rusty Jarrett for the image.

Monday, ESPN2 presented a ninety-minute version of the popular NASCAR Now "roundtable." Normally, this program features a panel of three who talk with host Allen Bestwick about the previous week's racing and then preview the events to come. The show usually has one guest appear by satellite liveshot and has been a great part of ESPN's NASCAR TV package.

This week, the idea was to bring all of ESPN's former drivers and crew chiefs into the Connecticut studio and talk about The Chase. Unfortunately, that put a few too many cooks in the TV kitchen.

Bestwick had Rusty Wallace, Tim Brewer and Ray Evernham on the set alongside of his host position. On a side set were Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree with reporter Mike Massaro as a second host. This dynamic made the show struggle. Rather than appear as two-halves that made a whole, the separate sets made for a disjointed program.

Massaro and his gang got a lot of information across where The Chase was concerned. Petree and Jarrett have been working together all season long and it shows. Massaro was a good host and led this team through a solid review of the Sprint Cup Series race from Richmond.

It was left to Bestwick to deal with the payback issue of the Earnhardt vs. Busch accident. Wallace called it flat-out payback, Evernham tried to call it an accident and Brewer said the two were now even. Bestwick once again played-back the earlier accident and Wallace said enough already, it was time to move on.

Fans of this show normally enjoy the interaction between the guests on the set. Unfortunately, Bestwick had Wallace, Evernham and Brewer grouped together. These three responded directly to Bestwick and barely even acknowledged each other on the set. Even though they flew up on the Wallace plane together, this trio of gray suits had a tough time meshing.

Meanwhile, over in "party central" Massaro led Jarrett and Petree through a rundown of The Chase contenders that showed-off the strengths of these three broadcasters. Petree has flat-out been turned loose and his opinions are stronger than they have ever been in his time at ESPN.

Evernham was interesting on this show because he is an active owner in the Sprint Cup Series. That really put him in the tough position of constantly stepping into-and-out-of different roles. He is well-spoken and informed, but it has to be tough for some fans to take his comments about other teams at face value.

Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer appeared on the show as live guests and both were tired and polite. Bestwick interviewed Edwards and Massaro interviewed Bowyer. It was nice to watch two good NASCAR reporters ask all the right questions.

While Evernham and Brewer were informative, this show really needed to be just ESPN's big three. Jarrett, Petree and Wallace really would have been fun to watch, especially when Wallace gets fired-up and makes things exciting. Brewer's limited role in the Tech Center really does not lend itself to this type of appearance.

Since the panel was at the ESPN headquarters, it seemed only natural to wrap the program up with the kind of silly media hype that pervades the ESPN studio shows. Categories like biggest controversy, biggest disappointment and most flagrant foul smelled an awful lot like SportsCenter.

Bestwick actually ended the show by asking what each panelist would change if they were NASCAR's "commissioner." Since NASCAR does not have one of those, perhaps it was a subtle dig at the TV format that Bestwick had managed to avoid until this Monday.

Leave it to Dale Jarrett to fire a shot across the NASCAR bow on the way out the door. "Let's get rid of that rear wing," said DJ. "This isn't what NASCAR stock cars are supposed to look like. That (rear wing) is for other forms of racing. Let's get this back to what we have known forever."

Rarely has Jarrett been given an opportunity to speak-out on this issue and he made the most of it on this show. Perhaps, NASCAR Now during the week will follow-up on his comments and get the debate going about changes to the COT for 2009.

Next Monday it will be Craftsman Truck Series driver Todd Bodine who joins Evernham, Massaro and Bestwick for a one hour show at 5PM. Bodine is a veteran who should be able to lend some expertise to the Truck Series highlights from Loudon. That show will hopefully get things back to normal as this program is usually right on-track.

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glenc1 said...

quiet so far...

I have to agree JD, it was all very interesting but I felt a bit like the channels were flipping by themselves. I missed the first half hour though, so I didn't have a total picture. Two programs might have been better, one today, one tomorrow. Petree sure seems suddenly all fired up--'party central' is an apt description...the 'foul' thing threw me off because I couldn't figure out what direction one should go it--cheating, mistakes, personnel? Anyways, at least the show kept my attention...keep wondering if Jarrett's cell phone was ringing with Darby on the other end before he even got out of the studio....

Lou said...

I enjoyed the show. But I expected all seven to be on one set. Then it would have been a real roundtable discussion.

Wisconsin Steve said...

This episode was ok, but I think the regular three-man panel would have made it better.

After seeing Ricky Craven on Sunday night's NASCAR Now, I'm convinced that he should be a permanent addition to the program.

And how about bringing Stacy Compton back for one of the roundtable shows? He was the only voice of reason on this program in 2007, and they haven't even interviewed him on NASCAR Now in 2008.

TexasRaceLady said...

glenc1 --- that was the way I felt -- the channels were flipping by themselves.

It got me so disoriented that I quite watching after 45 minutes. I felt dizzy.

Anonymous said...

I think it was an experiment by ESPN. What set were Mike, Andy, and Dale on exactly? It looked like an ESPNEWS set to me?

Newracefan said...

As I said on the other post get some extra chairs for the garage and put them all together. While I nderstand why TB was there, his presence wasn't needed. Enjoyed DJ's comments about the car but didn't understand AP (roster limits?). Overall an interesting show, not sure I would recommend they do it again unless they are all in the same room and minus a few people

Anonymous said...

If Massaro uses Mike as his first name, why does Alan insist on using Michael? He did it during the race(s) yesterday too.

Is it animosity or playing around?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Just playing around. Those two are long-time friends and co-workers.

Richard in N.C. said...

I haven't had a chance to see the show yet, but sure does seem to me that with the split arrangement this would have been the perfect opportunity to use Dr. P and see how he would handle a roundtable discussion.

majorshouse said...

What I saw of it tonight was a real joke. They should ahve never had Wallace, Brewer and Evernham together. It was really dis-jointed but did love Dale's parting shot. I would have loved to have seen Rusty, Dale and Andy really mix it up together as well.

glenc1 said...

slightly off topic, but don't they look silly in those matching shades? Just now on TWIN they said it was a sunglass deal and Bowyer wasn't in it. But it just looks goofy to me.

Anonymous said...

"Leave it to Dale Jarrett to fire a shot across the NASCAR bow on the way out the door. "Let's get rid of that rear wing," said DJ. "This isn't what NASCAR stock cars are supposed to look like. That (rear wing) is for other forms of racing. Let's get this back to what we have known forever." "
To me I do not care what the car looks like, I would think that if this idea could be incorporated it would help the safety features.
It was earlier said on this same program that the new Nationwide CoT has a spoiler, not the wing which obstructs views both forward and back.

Matt said...

I love your description of the 2nd set - party central. I'd much rather be over there. Plus the set itself was pretty cool.

I appreciate DJ's honesty. He's doing such a great job this year.

glenc1, I agree about the picture.. I don't like the sunglasses. But the picture looks great, the way they balanced out all the colors with the nice background.. sorry, OCD kicking in.

Anonymous said...

Thanks JD for answering my question about AB and Mike.

Dot said...

Let me be the one to say "I'm a big skinny liar". I vowed that I wasn't going to watch NN anymore, but this column has me intrigued. I want to see DJ (who I just love) say something negative about the car/wing. He is probably the only one who get away with that. And I want to see Andy too. I'll be watching the re air.

Just call me flip flop Dot.

glenc1 said...

Dot--it's a woman's perogative to change her mind, right?


Village Idiot Intern said...

"Let's get rid of that rear wing," said DJ. "This isn't what NASCAR stock cars are supposed to look like. That (rear wing) is for other forms of racing. Let's get this back to what we have known forever."

Dale Jarrett is exactly right. Both the splitter and the rear wing were adopted from the now defunct SCCA Trans-Am Series and the IMSA Camel GT Series with their GTO and GTU cars. I agree with DJ that our stock cars do not need to look like those cars, and I believe it does nothing for NASCAR to put cars on the track that recall those days gone by. No wonder the manufacturers, by some unsubstantiated accounts, are unhappy with the present product on the track. If we are to use a retro look, let's insure it is a retro stock car, not a retro sports car.

Anonymous said...

majorshouse said...
"What I saw of it tonight was a real joke. They should ahve never had Wallace, Brewer and Evernham together.... I would have loved to have seen Rusty, Dale and Andy really mix it up together as well."

I might have enjoyed Wallace and Brewer mix it up with boxing gloves on:)

Dot said...

Thank you glenc1. You must be married, lol.

Anonymous said...

Re: the Chase Photo...

...maybe now that he's in the Chase, Clint Bowyer can score a sunglasses contract! :)

darbar said...

I thought it was a pretty good show, especially at the end when they were all given the opportunity to say what they would do to change Nascar. The most interesting was the comment that there is too much racing. I was totally surprised by that one. What I thought he was going to say was that maybe they need to shorten some races, but when he said they really need to cut the total number of races, considering that if something like that would happen, it would impact ESPN's bottom line.

Adam T. Martin said...

"Let's get rid of that rear wing," said DJ. "This isn't what NASCAR stock cars are supposed to look like. That (rear wing) is for other forms of racing. Let's get this back to what we have known forever."

I just love Dale Jarrett.

It would be awesome to have Ricky Craven as a permanent addition.

Sophia said...

I turned it off. Way too disjointed and I felt I had been given ADD with somebody in addition to that, talking in my ear.

They should've either been in ONE room at a giant round table (literally) or made into two shows. Unwatchable for me.

Oh, and I hate the wing on the COT for the hazardous blind spots in this SAFER CAR. And I detest the splitter (have since I first saw the design) as it causes huge problems.

seems ok for the trucks but not the cars.

Frankly many FANS are turned off by the COT. And don't say we want dangerous cars...just things could've been made looking differently.

I am depressed that the NW series is going the same way.

maybe by then we will only have 18 cars in a race because most teams will be bankrupt. :(

And 118 people in the seats.

Meow Mix.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't too impressed by the show tonight. Agree it was very disjointed. A little off the subject though, how did they get by with so few commercials. Durng the race they have a commercial every five minutes, or so it seems, but not many tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!

ri88girl said...

This is slightly off topic but something that comes to mind through out all the recent collums on TDP.


In the Garage, the booth, the corperate HQ's in Daytona and Bristol, CT.

IMO there has been no leadership in any of these areas these past few year. If Dale Sr. were alive do you all think we would be racing the COT in it's present form? Would Cali have 2 dates if Bill Jr were here? Don't you think if there were such great rumblings among the fans either of these two men would have put a bug in someones ear at ESPN. I realize I may be giving them too much credit, but somehow I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Jarrett was great,but please,lets have less of Rusty! By the way, Petree said Junior/Kyle were even. Apparently he forgot 2007, where Junior wrecked Kyle twice. I saw the one time at I believe it was Kansas. On TWIN, Mikey and the rest of the panel agreed it was intentional. Or how about the Busch race a year or so ago where Junior wrecked Carl at the end of the race???? Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

Evernhams' perspective as a car owner and crew chief is not unique . Andy Petree also has those credentials . And Andy may be many things but shy about giving his opinion is not one of them . Where did you get the idea that he was ever constrained . Same with Dale Jarrett . He has never been a wallflower on expressing himself . Nor was his father . They both do so in a southern gentleman style , very eloquent and right to the point .
Tim Brewer has a record as a crew chief that Knaus can only dream about . The fact that Brewer didn't take an AM radio announcers course along the way really doesn't detract from his on-air insights . I am looking for reputable , meaningfull mechanical info , not hype or fluff . Tim Brewer certainly has the background , he just needs more seat time .
Given a choice , i'll take solid racing news and technical information over on-air banter and scripted inter play anytime .

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:57AM,

Last season on ESPN Petree worked with Wallace and Punch in the booth.

Often, the conversation was between Punch and Wallace and Petree had a hard time fitting-in.

Rusty is not trained at TV and he basically had a hard time figuring out the dynamic in the booth.

DJ stepped right in with that understanding after working for ESPN part-time in 2007.

That allowed Petree to finally get the opportunity to air his views. With the on-going problems with Jerry Punch, Petree has also been stepping-in and doing a lot of the play-by-play, especially for pit road and on-track incidents.

Many of us thought that Brewer would replace Brad Daugherty in the off-season and just go back-and-forth to the Tech Center when needed.

In his current Tech Center role, Brewer never gets to express his opinion and ESPN viewers are not familiar with him in that way. That is why the NASCAR Now appearance was not needed.

Regardless of whether or not he has the knowledge, his role on these telecasts is the Tech Center and nothing more. That is the way ESPN has it set up.

I hope that helped to explain the issues you addressed.


Geez said...

Just a heads up, but they aren't the same sunglasses.
The reflection in some of them may make it look like it but there not.

They all seem to wearing the glasses they are paid to wear.

majorshouse said...

It would not hurt my feelings if we only had Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth. It is quite obvious that they work well together and have a great chemistry as well. I have to agree with what Dale said about the wing as his parting shot and maybe NASCAR will listen to himi since he seems to have credibility not only with WSPN, but with NASCAR as well.

Richard in N.C. said...

I have a great deal of respect for DJ, but I believe the comments by Rusty and Tim Brewer about front end mechanics and aerodynamic changes needed for the COT at the end of the show were stronger and technically better than DJ's comment about the wing. I'm sure DJ probably had more in mind, but his comment came across as just about the look of the COT, not the functionality of the wing.

I do think the use of 2 unconnected sets distracted from the show.

Anonymous said...

Hurry for DJ! The wing is downright fugly, and until it's gone I won't be buying any diecasts.


Anonymous said...