Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Owner's Roundtable Proves To Be Interesting
Say what you will, ESPN has stuck by the declaration that being an active NASCAR owner is OK for the network's on-air personalities. Sometimes, this can be tough to take when news issues and team politics are being discussed. In other situations, hearing the views of those dealing with the real issues of the sport can be interesting.
Monday, a live Major League Baseball game cancelled the original 5PM airing of the NASCAR Now "roundtable" show. All that remained was a one-time showing at Midnight Eastern Time. That was a shame for the fans, because this was a fascinating show.
Allen Bestwick hosted an "all owners all the time" version of NASCAR Now that featured Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. This was another new mix of personalities on the show that features a constantly changing panel.
Bestwick has been the salvation of this program and on this Monday he had his work cut-out for him. From the start of the show, he kept all three owners away from the team issues and steered clear of the NASCAR news. This was clearly a program that was simply going to review Kansas, preview Talladega and talk about The Chase.
The results of Bestwick's efforts were outstanding. All three panelists were talking in conversational tones from the start of the show. Finally, viewers got to see four guys just sitting around and talking NASCAR. The best part was they were all having fun.
The review of the Cup race from Kansas drew lots of great comments and analysis from all three panelists. Running through the Tony Stewart pit problems, the great save by Matt Kenseth and the banzai move by Carl Edwards, Bestwick drew-out the best from his participants and kept the energy level high.
A key guest on the program was Jimmy Makar from JGR. Monday was no doubt a hectic day at Gibbs Racing, yet Makar found time to appear on the program. Bestwick and Makar have known each other for a long time and this relationship resulted in a telling and very intriguing interview.
Starting of with the problems of the #18 car, Makar related that the engine was on the dyno and the issues appeared to be related to fuel pick-up. On the JGR struggles in The Chase, Makar said "it feels like we got hit with a left hook." He went on to expand on the human and mechanical issues that had plagued the last three races.
Bestwick prodded Makar about potential changes in staff, which was a fair question. In response, Makar said the issues were spread over all the teams and it was a matter of getting the momentum back. Where Logano racing in the #96 car was concerned, Makar said Logano was just getting seat time and learning a lot. Makar has a good sense of humor and included that one skill Logano was perfecting was "getting out of the way."
Back in the studio, it seemed ironic that Bestwick's owner's show fell on this Monday. He followed-up on the JGR struggles with three owners who have been seeing their own teams struggle this season. The Wallace solution was to just keep going and remember racing is a tough sport. Evernham's answer was to find the real problems on each team and solve them. He pointed to communication as the Stewart issue.
Daugherty is the rookie owner and he added that "finding the leaks" and then fixing them was key. He stressed fundamentals and trying to remember what got these teams into The Chase in the first place. Sounding very much like the basketball player, Daugherty said it was time to "get back to the basics."
Unfortunately, someone in power at ESPN has become fascinated with team radio conversations. Bestwick was forced to lead a discussion about a frustrated crew chief telling a frustrated driver to "shut-up and drive" while the team worked on a solution to the problems with the car. It was juvenile at best. The panel took it all in stride, made some jokes about their radio comments in the past and pushed-on.
The Nationwide highlights again did not include an interview with the winner, but the panel followed-up with a good discussion. It gave Daugherty and Wallace an opportunity to expand on topics inside the Nationwide Series. Both of them have been working on that series for ESPN2 all season long.
A Talledaga preview was next and it included the "drop to the back of the pack" strategy. Wallace pointed-out that the sponsors might not exactly be happy with key drivers falling to the rear. Bestwick was interesting in his comments that the team cars were going to line-up and wait until the end to race. This was unusual coming from Bestwick, who usually stays away from adding his own opinions.
Here at TDP, we pointed out last week the economic issues that were impacting our society and the world. On this program, Bestwick chose to raise that topic. Wallace called Monday a "horrible day for NASCAR." Evernham called for action from the politicians and Daugherty pointed-out that owners were going to have to look at new ways of doing things in a more cost-efficient manner.
This program made the grade because of Bestwick's ability to control the conversation and set a comfortable tone for all concerned. Maybe Tuesday's NASCAR Now will think about re-airing some of these comments when they take to ESPN2 at 5PM Eastern Time. Luckily, the Tuesday afternoon baseball game is on TBS Sports.
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