Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Manske Is Back And Taking No Prisoners

ESPN's Nicole Manske was in the studio on Wednesday as the host of NASCAR Now. Fresh off a reporting assignment in Charlotte, Manske took the opportunity to remind viewers just how far she has come from the script-reading blonde on the 2007 version of The SPEED Report.

Since her arrival, Manske has worked hard to gain credibility as a broadcaster and ESPN has given her the opportunity to do just that. Her interview skills both in the field and the studio have become top notch. Wednesday gave her the chance to handle three NASCAR interviews and work ESPN commentator Brad Daugherty for everything he was worth.

Scott Speed is quickly becoming a lightning rod of controversy. After unseating AJ Allmendinger and being tapped for the #84 Red Bull Toyota ride, Speed had one final ARCA race remaining last weekend in Toledo. Click here to see the results.

After short-tempered former sprint car driver Ricky Stenhouse spun Speed out, his team returned him to the track and he took out Stenhouse with a banzai move that got him parked. Speed was already on probation in ARCA, but he clearly did not care.

Manske showed the incidents and read a statement from Stenhouse basically calling Speed an idiot. Stenhouse is a Roush Fenway Racing development driver who Speed will probably being seeing on track again in the future. She then welcomed Speed to the program live by satellite.

Manske let Speed give his side of the story to start. He explained Stenhouse needed him not to finish in order for Stenhouse to win the championship. Speed's line was Stenhouse spun him on purpose, Speed's team fixed the car just to go get Stenhouse back and that is what they did.

"So, let's make this clear," said Manske. "Did you intentionally wreck him?"

"He (Stenhouse) was wrecked and he did not win the championship and that is OK with me," answered Speed.

"ARCA had you on probation for a number of incidents earlier in the year," said Manske. "You have this perception out there now that you are a hothead. How do you feel that this perception will affect your transition into the Sprint Cup Series?"

Speed looked like someone had just punched him in the stomach. "Who says I'm a hothead?" he answered. "I'm like the calmest guy out there. I think it's kind of an ARCA thing."

Manske followed-up by letting Speed talk about the fact that he had no incidents in the Craftsman Truck Series races this season. She led Speed into talking about how drivers like Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch have reached-out to help him as he steps into the Sprint Cup Series. She ended by letting Speed make the careful statement that his goal this Sunday was to stay out of the way and get some experience.

In the blink of an eye, she put Brad Daugherty on the spot over Speed's actions and the possible carry-over into this weekend. Daugherty's point was that retaliation happens in auto racing. Daugherty also felt that the ARCA incident would not have any bearing on Speed's Martinsville Cup weekend.

After that fast start, Manske welcomed in the familiar face of Felix Sabates. The minority owner in Chip Ganassi's NASCAR operation had done a lot of talking over the last weekend and (click here) stories all over the media had followed.

"You've publicly taken shots at Jack Roush's satellite team with Yates Racing," said Manske. "Why do you feel that way?"

This was the main point of the Sabates weekend interview and it is a good one. Simply by allowing teams from Tony Stewart to Doug Yates to operate completely outfitted and supplied by powerful owners like Hendrick and Roush Fenway, Sabates felt it would put other smaller teams out of business and fundamentally change the sport.

"You can fool some of the people some of the time," said Sabates. "But, you cannot fool all the people all the time. I'm afraid that two or three years from now you are going to have a circus with very few ponies."

Manske reminded Sabates that his team was also talking about merging. "How are you any different from Roush Fenway and Yates?" she asked.

"We have to do what we have to do to protect ourselves," said Sabates. "This business of NASCAR is monkey-see monkey-do. If somebody comes with the right opportunity, we would have to take it."

Immediately after finishing with Sabates, Manske brought Brad Daugherty into the topic with some interesting first words. She asked Daugherty to answer her questions from an ownership perspective. She had a good reason why. Daugherty's own Sprint Cup team had just recently become a satellite team of another multi-car owner.

"What are you doing to make sure your (JTG/Daugherty Racing) team succeeds?" she asked.

"We had to take the step to merge with Michael Waltrip Racing to create a technical alliance," answered Daugherty. "Felix is absolutely right, when you look at the mega-teams their tentacles reach out and they are actually eight car super-teams."

Daugherty pointed to the fact that the top four owners in Sprint Cup each have three cars in The Chase and the smaller teams have none. The bottom line according to Daugherty was that the small teams are being "out-resourced."

Manske drew Daugherty out on his opinion that the economy and attrition would shorten the Cup field to 36 cars in 2009. He further felt that the most effective way to control the rising costs in the sport would be to shorten the season.

He suggested 20 regular season races and an 8 race Chase for the Championship. This was a Sprint Cup owner and an ESPN commentator on NASCAR Now calling the season "way too long."

Manske was about to turn a doubleheader into a tripleheader when she welcomed Johnny Benson to the show live to talk Craftsman Trucks. Benson got a "Manske welcome" right off the bat.

"After leading the points for seven straight weeks, how disappointing is it to fall back to second?" asked Manske.

"Not very," said the veteran Benson. After ten years alongside of Michael Waltrip on Monday nights, Benson does not rattle very easily on TV.

Manske worked Benson through a good interview focusing on the tight race for the championship in the Truck Series. It was great of NASCAR Now to highlight this group with the big weekend at Martinsville on the horizon.

Manske even got Benson to admit if he had to do it over again, he might not have passed teammate Mike Skinner last season as the championship got tight.

She closed out the show with Daugherty, who finally earned his money on this program. He had addressed the ARCA incident, Scott Speed coming to Cup, the Sabates comments, his own team's merger and now had to preview the Martinsville Cup race and pick a winner.

Daugherty stayed safe in picking Jimmie Johnson to win and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to continue to struggle. He detailed the physical side of Martinsville and the fact that the flat track is going to be a new challenge after Charlotte.

The background behind Daugherty for his liveshot appeared to be his North Carolina home. Once Manske was done with him, Daugherty may well have needed a nap. This was an outstanding example of the NASCAR Now production staff choosing great stories to cover on a normally slow Wednesday and putting the resources of ESPN to work.

Four liveshots from four different locations gave Manske everything she needed to work with and she certainly made the most of it. To think about where this TV series was at this time last year and look at what it is today makes NASCAR Now the top NASCAR TV story of the season.

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Anonymous said...
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TexasRaceLady said...

I think Scott Speed is feeling like a butterfly pinned to a board after that interview.

This was a fast-paced, go-for-the-jugular program --- no holds barred.

Manske did an outstanding job.

darbar said...

I will fully admit that I did not expect much from Ms Manske after hearing she would play a major part in hosting Nascar Now. I thought she was just going to be a pretty talking head, ala Spake and Little. But, she's done a great job this season.

JD, one question. Does Ms Manske prepare her own script? Does she do a lot of ad lib? If the answer to both questions is yes, she deserves even bigger respect.

Newracefan said...

You go girl, Nicole did a fantastic job and I was not impressed at all with Scott Speed. RedBull made a huge mistake dumping AJ.

This may have been the best Wednesday show in NN history

Tracy said...

I wasn't paying too much attention to NN when it came on, but it quickly grabbed me and I put aside my laptop to pay attention. One of the best Wednesday shows so far.

Go get 'em, Nicole. Now if only she could grill Evernham about his ownership status and why it's up to the Gillettes, and what he REALLY has planned for the rest of his life. Hey, how about siccing Nicole on Hendrick and Roush about this satellite team deal?

AMS fan said...

I watched NN and had an opinion, then read the previous comments, and mostly changed my opinion.
This was a hard-hitting show today. Serious good questions.
I have one real problem, the statement to Scott Speed,
"ARCA had you on probation for a number of incidents earlier in the year," said Manske. "You have this perception out there now that you are a hothead. How do you feel that this perception will affect your transition into the Sprint Cup Series?"
This hit me like a ton of bricks. The same old ESPN, lets see what kind of crap can we get started. Create a story where there isn't one.
Scott Speed has been a guest on Sirius NASCAR Radio's "Tradin' Paint" all season. He has always showed respect and class to the shows hosts. He has also spoken well of all the racing series he has participated in. From all the times I’ve heard Scott speak he has shown tremendous humility and appreciation for his chance in NASCAR.
My first thought when I first saw him was "who's this nut"? As I've learned, once you get past his clothing choices and wild sunglasses he's an all right guy. I do not know this as fact; I can only go by what the people around him say. My point here is, it seems like ESPN took a cheap shot with the "hothead" question. I listen to 8 to 12 hours of NASCAR talk a day, watch NN most every day during the week, and watch most all NASCAR shows on the weekend. Today was the first time I’ve heard anyone call or speak of Scott as a hothead. I could be wrong, I was once last year, (lol) but I’m pretty sure ESPN pulled that out of the hat.
Nicole has done an outstanding job this year, but questions like that reminds me this is ESPN I’m watching.

Adam T. Martin said...

I think Nicole Manske has really stepped up.

Great job reporting JD and great job Nicole.

Dwight said...

I have to agree with AMS fan. I haven't heard anyone say a word about Stenhouse's role in this whole thing. ESPN seems to have a faction who dis Speed at every opportunity. The other day, the always brilliant Tim Calishaw - however you spell it, simply dismissed Scott Speed's likely performance at Charlotte, because he has been racing, and all of a sudden he is going to be on track with the greatest racecar drivers in the world and he will be lost. He might be lost because he is still learning how to drive stock cars, but he does have some experience with being on track with the greatest racecar drivers in the work, including Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonzo, Kimi Raikkonen, and Lewis Hamilton (and Juan Pablo Montoya).

I thought Scott Speed held his own quite well on NASCAR Now. I wouldn't be surprised if by sometime next year he holds his own quite well on the track as well.

Dot said...

I just watched the rerun of NN.

Was that Brad? He comes across alot better speaking as a car owner than he does during the races. I liked the clip of him next to Marcos in the garage. Good grief he's a tall man.

It will be interesting to see Scott Speed in the Cup series. He's kind of a quirky guy, but so far I like him.

I like Nicole as the host(ess) of NN better than Ryan. She's doing a good job. Btw, anybody else think she and Kim Burton kinda look alike? I noticed that on last nights' show.

Lou said...

Just spent the last 9 days in Disneyworld. Stayed in touch with the internet. Caught TDP for tonight when I got home at 2200 hrs. Had to watch NN at midnight.

I had mentioned earlier this season how I enjoyed Nicole this season.

She did a good job on the interview w/Scott. And then the good flow to Brad, it just seemed so smooth. It was a good thing not to see Brad as a cheerleader as he is on race day in the studio with Rusty. (Although I have not watched very much pre race TV in the last month.) Then again I do not like it when who ever they may be seem to be yelling. Just nice to hear in a normal tone of voice as was in that segment.

Yes, Nicole did well with Felix. And he came back with real world answers. As a Robby Gordon and Petty fan it is a reality check.
Just as the answer was from Brad to work with MWR. I was surprised to hear Brad look for a shorter season though. But then it is a cost issue also, and I understand that.

Johnny Benson, nerves of steel. not excited. Handled himself as he always has over the years on TV. Another good guy for the sport.

Nicole did (stick & ball) hit a home run again tonight. She was on spot. I hope she was the one who asked the questions not someone in her earpeice. She just seems to know how far to go to get the desired result. (the twins in the pits take notes)

Not a regular viewer of NN during the week except for Monday, but if I read a good review I try to record it on the VCR. But I thought this was a good show.

Anonymous said...

I think that Manske has improved quite a bit.

But, she sounded a bit rude to Scott. She can ask questions without being agressive. I have never thought of him as being a hothead. I'm glad he stood up for himself.

I thought the bit with Brad as an owner was very poor. She makes a statement about cost and the economy, and Brad comes out with an answer that was truly ignorant. I would have expected that from a fan, not a buiness person.

Brad suggested they shorten the season. Is he kidding? It's not just about the tv revenues. It's about the multiple of milions of dollars that track owners and small towns all over American have spent to build tracks. There are some that only have one race. That would devastate the income base of many cities.

Why didn't Manske ask him why he had decided to start a team? I can see Petty, wwho has been in the racing business all his life, complain about all the costs--but Brad? If Brad cannot afford the team, why did he get inot it? Does he think he deserves a free ride?

All the owners he mentioned started with nothing, worked their tail off to be where they are today.

She should have challenged him on this.

Sophia said...

well I try not to watch NN unless I hear a certain reporter is on.

I did not like Nicole on the Speed report at all. Came off as a Barbie. But when I caught NN I liked her lots better than Ryan. She just has a better conversational tone.

So I can't judge the Speed interview. He is quirky but I had never heard of him being a hothead.

I am just too irked and board with NN and NASCAR to watch all these shows. too much like a box of never know what you are going to get or they try to 'stir up dirt'...I am still steamed at how they have gone after a few drivers.

My interest in the sport is just not what it was ....either have "one car finishes" on Fox or Clueless bad camera/bumper cam express on ESPN. TNT was great...but I know things are what they are.

But that doesn't mean i have to watch it. Frankly, multi tasking and working just to see what's happening should not be a MUST to "enjoy" a race.

Thus I have skipped several races this year and maybe Martinsville. I would rather see the highlights on SPEED and see the after shows.

Thanks for the report on the show JD. Nice to read what I missed.

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Sophia said...


Do you have SPEED Channel? You should've seen some of the outfits she wore on that show! LOL.

I would explain one I STILL remember but JD would probably delete it. I don't know WHY the suits at SPEED let her dress in certain ways and seem like a bimbo because I have only been impressed with her interviews and hosting on NN...least when i used to watch it.

I am STILL laughing remembering the "mic" placement on one dress..and by the end of the show, it was moved due to a mic shadow in a certain body area...let's just say, above the equator.

She is a much better reporter on ESPN.

And so much better than the Doublemint twins.

Short Off Topic" Is there a clip online of the Shannon Jr interview (that made us all cringe and Jr bust a gut LAUGHING after trashing his car) "What did you FEEL" ..Jr POW! The tire exploded.....Shannon "Did you know the tire was going to blow?" LMAO..PRICELESS the look on Jr's face. I realized SPEED was not going to show it but even sat thru the monday NN to see if it aired there and it did not.

Deserves a spot on youtube. :) It was good to see Jr laugh though....poor guy.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that Nicole is a fabulous person. But I've been watching her regularly since the awful Speed Report days and I don't believe she knows anything about cars or Nascar Racing regardless of who loads the Teleprompter.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The former administration at SPEED wanted a formula like most TV shows and she was made to fit that formula.

It was not a question of allowing her to dress that way, it was an issue of having her dress that way.

Now that she is has been on NASCAR Now for almost nine months, I do find it interesting that here SPEED Report fashions continue to be a topic.


Tom said...

I agree JD.
Whatever she had to do or dress like on SR, I always felt she was better than what she was getting at the time. She is clearly heads and shoulders above a great many TV "hosts" and Interveiwers. I even thought her use of the word "feel" with Felix was appropriate! Although she sometimes comes across as a bit tough, thats just because we have been drinking the NASCAR Kool-Aid for too long, and real questions rattle us!

Inverness, FL

majorshouse said...

This was definitely one of the best NASCAR Now shows we ahve seen this season. Nicole has really done a good job of developingherself as a good reporter and is not afraid to ask tough questions. I really wish that there were more good female reporters like her working for all of the networks.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Nicole is allowed to ask tough questions. But when Jamie Little or Shannon Spake ask tough questions on the live broadcasts they get heckeled by people here. Its confusing to me. You complain how Jamie Little asks questions to get an answer out of a driver and you call say its uncalled for, but its ok for Manske in a studio setting?

Nan S said...

But when Jamie Little or Shannon Spake ask tough questions

Asking how someone "feels" is not a tough question.

Anne M said...

Great topic. Like others, I was struck by the toughness and competence of her interviewing yesterday. I wasn't familiar with Manske before NN, but I have to confess I initially assumed (this being television) that she'd been hired for her beauty. I was completely wrong. She has more credibility with me than any of the other NASCAR "news" people. More serious than Ryan and light years ahead of that *cough* other guy from last season (not that that's saying much!).

Bobby said...

Remember, this is a veteran journalist who started her racing career as a pit reporter for the IMS radio network

As for Speed vs Stenhouse, it was short-track racing the way fans loved it. Scott once said that these guys were angry bull terriers -- and he learned if he wants to win, drive like them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person that said that Manske knows little of Nascar.

When Brad said he wanted to cut back the schedule to fewer races, he said that it could not be done right now because of the tv contracts. She said NOTHING!

Does she know that 2 men own 19 of the 22 tracks? Why didn't she ask Brad how he thought he could convince them to shut down a bunch of races?

Why didn't she ask him why he got into racing this year? Brad was previously a minority owner. Did she know that? Why didn't she ask him why his previous experience as a part owner, did not caution him on how expensive it is?

If Brad is struggleing in his maiden voyage into Cup racing, why isn't it his fault?

Brad seems like all those who got those subprime loans they could not afford, and now want someone to give them a free ride.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if Manske goes after Edwards on her next interview. After all, there is more proof that Edwards is a hot-head, than Scott is.

Pictures this last week show Edwards with his hands around Kevin's neck!! And this is not the first time that we have pictures.

Anonymous said...

SCOTT SPEED PUNTS RICKY STENHOUSE,I loved it,didn't have any brakes is the oldest excuse in the book.Does anyone remember Kurt Busch spinning the truck series point leader and Greg Biffle wins the championship.To deliberately take out the point leader in any form or level of racing is wrong. Geoff FL

Anonymous said...

But when Jamie Little or Shannon Spake ask tough questions on the live broadcasts they get heckeled by people here.

I have yet to see this happen.

These two routinely ask ignorant questions that show they really don't know what to ask in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Dang! I had stopped recording NN about a month ago because it had gotten so boring. Also, after recording the midnight showing I'd get up in the morning to see a baseball or boxing show instead of NN. Sure wish I could have seen last night's show!


Wisconsin Steve said...

This was the first time since the DEI special that I put aside everything else I was doing when NN was on to focus on the show. Her hard-hitting questions got my attention. The entire program was very well done.

Anonymous said...

I saw the Felix Sabates interview on

She did a great job!!!!

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Newracefan said...

Anyone catch the DJC piece on NN Thursday. Too funny, I hope we keep seeing him I love his info.

Richard in N.C. said...

Well I think Nicole is due at least a B or maybe B+ - but it did appear she had an agenda. I'm not sure where the "hothead" accusation came from - but maybe just a poor choice of words. She did miss the obvious follow-up question for Felix S. - that is, whether being able to buy engines, etc. from the bigger teams might make it easier for new teams to get into the sport and easier for small teams to stay in. Yates Racing made engines for other teams and other series for years, which none of the so-called journalists like to discuss.

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:50a--I agree with the others...when have Shannon or Jamie asked "tough questions". They ask "questions" that get a snicker and a "WTF?" look from the drivers and fans. Asking anything that has the word "feel" in it is not a tough question...a 5 year old can ask that question.

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Lou said...

NRF 8:00pm 16Oct08

Yes that was LOL funny. To see him hang from the jack handle and explain was really good. It was good tech info with how important the position is to the team effort.