Monday, October 6, 2008

Craven's Weekend TV Trifecta

The gang at ESPN has been very quiet about Ricky Craven. This weekend, Craven stopped by the Bristol, CT campus to participate in a weekend trifecta of NASCAR programs. If there was ever a doubt that Craven deserved a spot in the ESPN line-up, that was erased by Monday at 6PM.

It was Nicole Manske hosting the early and late editions of NASCAR Now on Sunday. Talladega was looming and Manske needed someone in the studio that could talk about all the aspects of this unique race. Craven answered the call and provided a impressive preview that finally gave the Sunday morning show the personality it had been searching for all season.

Manske works well with Craven, who respects her space and her role on the show. He patiently led her through all the race issues from the COT to the fear of The Chasers going into this high-risk event. Craven is a natural on-camera and his professional demeanor and racing background is the perfect combination for this program.

After the mayhem and controversy of the race, the duo returned with the one hour wrap-up show. Integrating interviews, reports and conversations from the track, Craven and Manske combined to put on a great show. This Sunday night hour has become one of NASCAR Now's best programs and it is a shame that ESPN only produces this show for the ESPN portion of the Sprint Cup schedule.

Monday afternoon brings host Allen Bestwick and his one hour "roundtable" version of the program. Craven was joined by Ray Evernham and Randy LaJoie on the panel. This put Bestwick in the position he likes best, having three very different personalities from which to draw comments and opinions.

The program began with a very frank discussion about the finish of the race. Each panelist carefully explained that since Regan Smith was not far-up enough to claim he was pushed below the yellow line, the correct winner of the race was Stewart.

As former drivers, both Craven and LaJoie took Smith and Paul Menard to task for not trying to pass Stewart with a multi-car group on the final lap. This was especially true when the car behind Smith was his DEI teammate.

Bestwick kept the topics flowing from tires to strange pit stop strategies. While Evernham continued to be the technical expert, LaJoie once again had fun with his very direct comments and humorous points-of-view. Craven's contributions were different.

In an era of loud and forceful sports TV announcers, Craven is a very good listener. His responses to others all weekend long often began with that person's name and directly referenced their comments first. Then, Craven would add his point of view or expand on the thoughts of others.

This is the same type of "inclusive" approach to television that viewers first saw with Ned and now see with his son Dale Jarrett. Both are good listeners who respond to the comments of others without openly disagreeing or disregarding those views. It makes all the difference in the world to learn that approach.

As ESPN starts to look at next season, they may well be thinking about bringing a versatile NASCAR announcer on board to help NASCAR Now fill in some weekday blank spots. Guests like Boris Said, Brad Daugherty and some of the ESPN pit reporters have been contributing to the show, but there has not been the consistency of having someone in-house who can work across all the ESPN networks.

Craven would be a natural to appear on ESPNEWS after the races, as well as SportsCenter. ESPN has been trying to raise the NASCAR profile on shows like First Take and Mike and Mike In The Morning. What a nice fit to have a New Englander who knows NASCAR talking with Mr. Greenberg.

This Monday, Bestwick worked well with Craven who has appeared on the Monday version of NASCAR Now as a guest for two seasons. Coupled with Mike Massaro and former NASCAR crew chief Andy Petree, this might be the most potent combination for ESPN down the stretch.

The network is still finalizing the line-up for next weekend, so maybe the name Ricky Craven will once again be associated with another good weekend of NASCAR Now programs on ESPN2.

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majorshouse said...

I enjoyed seeing Ricky on NASCAR Now tonight and he is a joy to listne to. I just wonder if he would be a natural to either have in the pit studio or to replace Jerry Punch with in the booth. His calm demeanor and great knowledge of the sport really suits him well.

Anonymous said...

The show was good, but I felt the opinions on the finish were all very 1 sided. Nobody looked back into the past like Kyle Busch at Talladega in April, Johnny Benson at Daytona in the Trucks, Dale Jr. & Matt Kenseth in 03 and question how those controversies were different from this one. If there were conflicting views on the topic, the show would have been more interesting. Instead, everyone in the media is backing NASCAR and covering up some questions from the fans that are still not answered.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:22PM,

That is a great point. I wish they had some additional footage to compare it to, like TWIN did with Benson.


Vicky D said...

I thought Greg & Mikey had different ideas regarding the finish of the race and made their ideas empathically told. And Mikey always sides with Nascar but Greg stuck to his guns and then made several good comments later in the show. And I think Steve Byrnes gets better and better as host.

Tracy said...

I admire Craven as well.
And to echo someone else, the exchange between Mikey and the Biff about the finish was very emphatic and made for great TV.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up about TWIN on SPEED.


Village Idiot Intern said...

Daly Planet Editor wrote:

"this might be the most potent combination for ESPN down the stretch."

JD, I for one, appreciate your observations and analyses concerning ESPN's coverage of NASCAR racing, but I have a nagging sense in the subconcious levels of my feeble little mind (which consist of two brain cell on Hoverounds desperately trying to find one another) that ESPN is totally unconcerned with what good motor contest coverage consist of and what their relationship with said motor contest coverage would be.

Dot said...

I'll have to catch the rerun of NN. I worked late and didn't see all of it.

I think Craven and LaJoie should be on all NNs. Together or apart. Randy for the comic relief alone. They offer more than Boris and Brad.

Boris doesn't race enough to offer an informed opinion, and Brad? What can one say? I'm hoping his being a full time Cup owner will keep him busy next season. We already have Ray as the "owner" on the show. He also has CC experience.

I am truly hoping ESPN will make our TV viewing better next season. On this show and especially the race coverage.

Dot said...

%&#% strikes again. DVR listing shows NN on @ 9pm. Oh, but nooooooo. It's Baseball Tonight. I'll check what's on @ 10pm. ARRRGGHHHHH!!

Daly Planet Editor said...


It re-airs at after all that baseball stuff is over. Its playoff time or something important to those folks.


mikemathew said...

Nascar live sections overr the weekend, do it on trackside...anywhere but in the middle of the TWIN.... Its a HUGE waste of time...I'd much rather see the boys talk....
Was nice to see Greg fired up about something... don't see that often... and Mikey.... was either love him or hate him... I happen to REALLY enjoy him... loved the Six degrees of Michael Waltrip blog the other day... guess when you are in the top 10 in starts made in Nascar you have lots of connections.... Just think how terrible those weeks will be when they are trying to squeeze two chase segments into one show.

Daly Planet Editor said...

v. intern,

Trust me, they are looking at all the parts and pieces right now for next season. Wild cards like Evernham and Craven are not kept around for no reason.


majorshouse said...

I hate all of this nonsense that the baseball palyoffs are the most important thing int he world and I get tired of all of the coverage that it gets. If they are going to have NASCAR on, then give it the respect of every other sport and quit playing games with us with the coverage that we ahve been given.

Anonymous said...

Always a pleaseure to see Ricky show up on TV. How about an all New England version of NN, AB, Ricky, Randy L and Mike M.

Ricky would be a nice replacement for Rusty W who just does not have it for TV.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wisconsin Steve said...


I realize this is a bit off topic, but with ESPN's stable of announcers growing (hopefully Craven will soon be a permanent addition), do you think there is a possibility of the network creating a seperate on-air team for Nationwide races?

When this contract was announced, NASCAR said that they hoped the Nationwide Series' identity problem would be helped by a seperate broadcast team covering that series. But for 17 weeks every year, the on-air voices are the same.

With multiple crew chiefs and multiple drivers working for the same network already, it might be a good idea.

Regardless, I hope they find a spot for Ricky Craven. He is outstanding.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:25PM,

Don't know what your agenda is, but Craven was well-dressed and sat up straight as an arrow on all three shows. His comments were on-target and well received.

Anon 3:29PM,

We suggested this last season when Jerry Punch and his crew were completely fried by the time the Brickyard rolled around in July.

Using guys like Craven and LaJoie who can identify with the Nationwide Series and help those broadcasts establish a separate identity would be great.

It might also give guys like Bestwick, Jenkins and Reid some time in the booth.


Anonymous said...

Ricky Craven needs to be on more. If ESPN fails to put him on regularly, SPEED should snatch him up to replace some of the weak links that they have. Imagine what a team that would be if he joined Mike Joy in the booth, it would be great!

Vicky D said...

I had to record Nascar Now last night but it got started late because of a baseball update for 15minutes so the dvr only recorded 15 minutes of the show therefore I missed the last half. I thought the 4 guys worked well together and I like Ricky Craven a lot.

Newracefan said...

Ricky did a great job as always he needs to stay around. Interesting show overall Ray always seems to come up with an out of the box opinion makes it interesting and fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

I don't have an agenda. I posted my comment before I saw Monday's Nascar Now. On Nascar Now I thought he was fine. Over the weekend with Manske, he seemed to be too nonchalant in his appearance. I felt like I was keeping him from something more important.
Anon 3:25pm