Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday TV Shows Avoid The Obvious

If you did not know it, The Chase is on. Since this format began, it seems that one of the biggest challenges of the final ten races sits squarely with the two TV networks who are covering the sport at this time of the season.

ESPN2's revamped NASCAR Now Monday program has been the hit of the year. Moving Allen Bestwick into the host position set a tone for the season that helped the other NASCAR Now programs throughout the week. Bestwick brings what the TV series did not have, credibility.

From February through the beginning of The Chase, ESPN2's Monday hours have been fascinating. Themed shows have included all three Wallace brothers, several NASCAR reporter programs and even one all-ESPN announcer show. Bestwick's challenge each week has been to use the personalities of his panelists to create good TV.

As The Chase began, things changed for this Monday program. Brad Daugherty was now a Sprint Cup owner. Boris Said was no longer actively involved in the sport. Ray Evernham was again involved in controversial news and still owned a multi-car team. Rusty Wallace was now an outspoken Nationwide Series owner.

Even Allen Bestwick seems to have suddenly become a staunch defender of NASCAR on this program, often taking on the role of self-appointed devil's advocate. This Monday's show was another good example of how things had changed. The two drivers on the program, Boris Said and Ricky Craven from Yahoo! Sports, disagreed frequently on a variety of issues. Said was not a happy camper.

One got the opinion that this show had been well-planned in advance. Panelist Ray Evernham never once had to speak about his team business or comment on his own situation for next season. The ESPN wall of silence was up again.

Even as the NASCAR media wrote story-after-story about Evernham stepping or being moved aside at GEM, the issue was never raised as ESPN continued the dogged single-minded pursuit of featuring The Chasers.

Just as Jimmie Johnson was the class of the field at Martinsville, Craven was the class of this program. Whoever gets Craven for 2009 on TV is going to get a goldmine. If ESPN, TNT or SPEED decide to make some changes next season, Craven's name has to be on the short list.

After an hour of the buttoned-down and well-planned High Definition perfection of NASCAR Now, fans spun the dial to SPEED for three guys in shirts and jeans. This Monday, it was Martinsville winner Chad Knaus and top twenty finisher Michael Waltrip joining host Steve Byrnes.

If NASCAR Now is the best show of the season, then This Week In NASCAR is the most improved. Byrnes and The NASCAR Media Group production team have been tinkering with this new show since February.

On this Monday, they changed it yet again. After hearing it from TDP readers after dumping the Craftsman Truck highlights, that show element returned. The highlights were short and there was no winner interview, but that is a start. This series is important to SPEED and getting the struggling series some additional TV time was a smart move.

Since The Chase began, TWIN has been under the gun to insert a huge two-segment long feature on one of the Chase drivers. Since all of them are well-known, the time spent playing-back this edited feature really changed the rest of the show. This week, things were a little different.

First, viewers saw footage of the post-race meeting at RCR after the Charlotte event. Then, out of next commercial Byrnes showed video of Burton's Martinsville weekend. The scanner chatter and the new video is always fun to see, but the RCR meeting added nothing and all participating seemed bothered that the cameras were present.

Waltrip was coming off perhaps his best performance in the broadcast booth this season after calling the Saturday Craftsman Truck race on SPEED. Working alongside of Rick Allen and Phil Parsons, Waltrip was funny and glib without crossing the line into his sponsor-driven hype. He stayed focused and sharp for the entire race.

This seemed to translate into the Monday show. Waltrip let Knaus speak without interrupting, but managed to contribute his normal mix of racing experience and zany humor. The duo has certainly clicked and viewers got a lot of information about both Martinsville and Atlanta in the program.

Just like NASCAR Now, TWIN faces the almost weekly decision of whether or not to ask Waltrip about his MWR situation. Headlines this week spoke about Marcos Ambrose running an MWR car in Atlanta, Waltrip continuing to rotate drivers in the #00 car and the rumor of wholesale team changes for 2009. Just like ESPN, those topics were never raised.

NASCAR fans got a whole lot of experienced folks talking to them on Monday's two TV shows. As usual, ESPN2 and SPEED had two very different approaches to the exact same content. Now, with only a handful of shows remaining, it should be interesting to see how these two series decide to wrap-up a very long season.

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Anonymous said...

I agree about Ricky...I wasn't a fan of his when he drove but I have come to like him on the NN shows :). Very articulate and friendly.

Does anyone know who was in the 41 car that they showed the Hotlanta Collage? They didn't say who it was :(

My poor Stevie has had a ton of hard hits over the years :(.

I also wish they had given a bit more of a segment to the Pick 'em Ups. Even under IWC, they always gave a shout out to the Pick 'em Ups and Busch...even if they were in "hurry up" mode because Mikey was yacking about something and having us rolling :).

majorshouse said...

I loved NN tonight because there was the back and forth between Boris and Ricky Craven. I liked him as a driver and like him even more now int he role that they have created for him with television and someone desperately needs to pic him up for next season.

Anonymous said...

I watched NN in bits and pieces but did catch the disagreements w/RC & BS. Interesting that Ray is never question about the race team & when he is its gentle.

TWIN was good & I sat & watched.
Thank you Speed for dumping the dumb driver interviews we know who is in the chase. Honest & truly we do. It was an interesting show tonight. Thanks guys.

Jessica said...

Mikey was in top form tonight;) Do you suppose the universe would implode if Mikey and Scott Speed were to appear on the same show? How much goof and kook can occupy the same space? The wardrobe alone would be be mind boggling...

Daly Planet Editor said...


Wearing a purple velvet coat to the driver's meeting was something else. I wish they had covered him in the race. No clue how his day went.


Jessica said...

JD, I listened to his scanner. He lost his breaks early and spent the rest of his time trying to learn and stay out of the way...Of course I wouldn't have known he was even in the race if I relied on ESPN but we covered that already.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks Jess!

Dot said...

I'm watching the rerun of NN. Again, why is Boris on this show? He seems to have a chip on his shoulder. It must kill him to talk about racing and not be in them. Replace him with Ricky permanently.

Did anyone pay attention to the replay of Jr's interview? He wanted the race to go green to the end. I wonder how much trouble he'll be in after mentioning that NASCAR probably would have called a caution in the late stages of the race, if one didn't occur naturally (paraphrasing). Something we have all suspected anyway.

A comment about the other column. I sure hope ESPU isn't going to adopt NASCARs way of thinking and not make any changes for next year. This applies to NN and the race coverage. Pity us if they do.

TWIN was good. Instead of showing the RCR meeting, I would've rather seen more truck race coverage. Maybe next year SPEED will figure that out. The N in TWIN is NASCAR. But, then again, maybe there won't be a truck series :(. I liked Humpy's segment. Give that man his own show. I would watch it.

Vicky D said...

I believe it was Steve Grissom in that 41 car that broke in half. He walked away but probably was sore the next few days. I would like to hear about team's 2009 plans but maybe TWIN feels it's not the right time for Michael to talk about it right now. Maybe the same for Ray on NN. I miss NN a lot because of the time it's on but TWIN was good last night.

Tom said...

Even Allen Bestwick seems to have suddenly become a staunch defender of NASCAR on this program

Allen is an excellent host and probably a good PXP guy but he has been drinking the NASCAR kool aid too long to be an effective commentator. He has generally always been the moderator and NASCAR defender. This is not a bad thing, but like all the MRN guys, just don't expect free-thinking opinions from him.

I kinda like the Ricky/ Boris thing. Both have interesting opinions, and while I don't always agree with them, they are opinions that are generally not colored by NASCAR, and that is something sorely lacking outside of print.

Inverness FL

3bud said...

Glad to see TWIN atleast mention the Trucks, it,s a start.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it seems like, if you want to be a popular host on one of these shows, all you have to do is bad-mouth NASCAR.

Then everyone will call you "independent" or "not PC."

majorshouse said...

I like the fact that some people dare to speak their minds. Tony Stewart comes to mind in Atlanta when the tires absolutely sucked and was the only one that called Goodyear out and the crap that he took kfor speaking his mind and I think that no one outside of Junior couild have said what he said about NASCAR calling cautions to make the race interesting and get away with it. I miss the old days when the drivers like Cale and Bobby and even David Pearson were not afraid to speak their minds for fear of what the sanctioning body would do to them.

Ziggy said...

Am I the only one that gets the feeling that Chad now looks forward to spending his Monday mornings with Steve & Mikey ?? Or is it the fact that the 48 team has been clicking on all 10 cylinders lately & The Chase pressure is almost negligible??

His insightfulness to remarkable. It's almost seems he's the one driving.

Anonymous said...
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Larry said...

I don't think Mike should ignore his own teams if they are the news. The 47 car, the rotating drivers in the 00, Booty Barker coming over, etc are news and if it were another team it would get reported and it shouldn't be left out just because it's Mike's teams. As a matter of fact, let Chad do it.
People get all bent out of shape because he continually hypes his sponsors but thats show biz and he's good at it. It's funny and effective.

znimrod said...

i haven't been able to catch NN too often this year, but when i have it's been pretty good. the monday shows are obviously the best ones, and i enjoy having the differing opinions. i still have a hard time seeing boris on the set, though. he's hardly ever raced outside of the road courses, and he's trying to give insights and opinions on something he doesn't have a lot of experience with. i only caught half of last night's show, so i didn't get to see too much of craven, but i'll always listen to a guy who was in Cup full time over a less-than-part-timer.

TWIN is a good show that i look forward to watching. it's a lot less formal, which is why i like it, and having current drivers/crew chiefs adds more in my estimation. i enjoy the shows more when chad is on, just due to the fact that we get to hear insights from the crew chief's perspective. we get a little more technical breakdown, and that's always a plus for me.

i don't have too much of a problem with the obvious questions not getting asked to ray and mikey. to me, the shows aren't about them in the first place, so i'm not watching for the latest on "what's evernham going to do next year," or "behind the scenes of MWR." i want insights and opinions of the race and the nuances behind the racing, so as long as that's covered i'm happy.

Speedcouch said...

Monday night is the only time I watch NASCAR now because I enjoy Bestwick's roundtable approach. However last night, I found myself asking WHY they put Boris on there? He really has very little NASCAR experience and adds no insight IMHO. He was truly horrible last night.

Agree with everyone about Craven - he was always one of my favorites on the track and he's SO articulate. It would be nice to have someone who has no personal agenda or tries to dumbdown things like the Fox crew doing play by play.

alex said...

I didn't catch the show so I didn't see the wreck in question, but there's a famous picture/video of a 1996 Talladega wreck where Ricky Craven drives the #41 Kodiak car through the air over Ricky Rudd in the #10. Maybe that's what they showed since RC was also on the show. Just a thought..

Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed some of the comments today. I too like Craven and think he does a great job.

I have never understood why they have Boris on the shows. Just as has been said, he has little to add from a driver's perspective. He seems to often have a chip on his shoulder.

Whether you like them or not, I can see the the different shows having Ray, DJ, and Rusty on. All of them have been drivers or owners, or crew cheifs and champions in their fields. They have credibility in what they say and on their opinions.

I don't care what is going on in Ray's world. He has made it very clear that he is not part of the day to day decision making process and probably would be the last to know. I don't need to hear him say it again and again.

Ray is a very smart guy. He made a boat load of money when he decided to be an owner. Then he made more when he sold most of his team. I think that because of all the personal issues in his life, he may be looking to the future in a different role and is not ready to make an announcement in NN.

I like Allen and just because he and some others agree with NASCAR on some issues does not mean he's drinking the Kool Aid. I respect him enough to think that it is really his opinion.

Good conversation, folks

Anonymous said...

The two Monday shows are a study in contrasts. I thought Everham and Bestwick were the stars of the show. I agree that Craven is an excellent speaker,but the sport has changed so much since he got out of the seat that I think he's lacking a bit in terms of what it takes to drive these Cot's and all the technical nuances behind them.So he gives you the strategy and philosophy stuff. NN is much more serious than TWIN. Last night, Mikey just wanted to chat. A golden opportunity was also missed. They were discussing changes to the COT. Knaus started to say what he really thought,and Mikey cut him off. Byrnes,oblivious to it all laughed and moved on. TWIN has definitely gotten better,but something is definitely missing.Keep in mind that TWIN comes on after we watched the race,the Speed Report,Victory Lane, Wind Tunnel and Nascar Now. Many times, I've listened to Biffle and Waltrip and knew more about what happened than they did. I don't know how many times I've heard Biffle say "I just saw that clip for the first time".I'm not sure that Twin knows what void it's trying to fill.

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

Anon 5:01PM,

I think you can put your post into words that are not offensive or hateful. Your personal opinions are welcome, but not when they call others names.

If you do not like Michael Waltrip on TWIN, please tell us why and whether that affects your viewing of the program. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Anon 11:45,

You also have to keep in mind that TWIN is usually taped late morning on Monday, but not aired until several hours later. Thus, sometimes more information has come out than was known when they taped.