Monday, November 17, 2008

Tired Johnson Visits Final "NASCAR Now" Roundtable

"One hour of sleep," said a visibly exhausted Jimmie Johnson to NASCAR Now host Allen Bestwick. To Johnson, Bestwick was a very familiar TV companion.

It was Bestwick who handled the championship trophy presentation and the questions for Johnson on ABC's live telecast. Shortly after the race, it was Bestwick again with Johnson in the ESPN Infield Studio for the Sunday night version of NASCAR Now.

Here it was Monday afternoon and it was Bestwick and Johnson once again. This time it was the HD studios of ESPN2 and the duo was joined by Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham. After a very long Sunday night, Johnson was in Bristol, CT for the finale of "the roundtable."

Bestwick has single-handedly restored the Monday hour to credibility after a horrendous 2007 season. Simply by inviting three guests to talk about NASCAR, Bestwick has established this show as the "can't miss" NASCAR TV show on ESPN.

This season has seen a tremendous variety of panelists stop by the NASCAR Now studio on Mondays. From drivers to journalists, ESPN has served-up a wide variety of personalities and asked Bestwick to blend them into something NASCAR fans want to watch.

TV viewers may remember all three Wallace brothers, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliot and journalists like David Poole on the program. Regulars like Mike Massaro, Ray Evernham and Boris Said have also done their share to make this TV series a success.

On this Monday, Bestwick worked very hard to keep Johnson engaged in the flow of the program and it worked. All of the questions and comments were aimed at Johnson, who has proven to be one of the most TV-friendly champions in NASCAR history.

Evernham and Wallace easily adjusted to secondary roles on this program with Johnson on the set. The Producer chose to break-out the old bar stools and leave the huge table off the set on this show. The fact that Johnson was able to stagger his way through this program was admirable.

The highlights had been seen before and the questions were the same, but having Johnson on NASCAR Now in Bristol the day after the race was apparently a priority for the network. Unfortunately, this ended the opportunity for the panel to talk as journalists about the year and the various series championships.

The ability to talk about NASCAR and deal with the pressing issues was mostly pushed aside, except for a brief conversation about off-season testing. Johnson proved once again after endless interviews on multiple networks that he deserved some eventual time off.

It was certainly a shame that this final MondayNASCAR Now chose not to feature the memorable and humorous moments of this TV show from the entire year. This was done quite effectively on other NASCAR shows and the decision to completely omit any reference to the many guests who appeared on these roundtable shows was tough.

One major positive is that ESPN has reclaimed Monday as a very watchable and enjoyable hour of NASCAR conversation. As next season rolls around, it will be interesting to see if hard-working ESPN personalities like Mike Massaro and Dave Burns get an opportunity to share in the host role.

The commitment of Bestwick to travel back from every single racing weekend and host this show really saved this series. Only taking one weekend off, Bestwick was the ultimate ironman and appeared to be none the worse for wear. Hopefully, the one hour roundtable version of NASCAR Now will return intact for 2009.

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Anonymous said...

On NN this evening Jimmie Johnson said that he was impressed with how focused and how much Junior wanted to win from their very first debrief. On Race Day yesterday, Jimmy said that Jr. could not focus and so 'failed'. Hm-m-m-m I wonder which one I should believe...and just what was the agenda here...?
It does help me understand why Jr. does not care to do interviews. I am sure that when he came out of the hauler to do an innocent pre-race interview with Wendy that he had no idea that it would be used as a door to open such an eruption of vituperative vitriol.

SallyB said...

As much as JJ deserves all the attention he gets after winning his third straight title, I was extremely disappointed to have this be the final show for the year on NN. I have come to look forward to this show as a place I can get diverse opinions and honest discussion of 'things Nascar'. I really didn't learn anything new tonight. Much as JJ is a good interview, it was really just another rehash of his season...the same thing I heard ad nauseum during the tace telecast yesterday. I would have liked to hear a lot more about the testing ban, the prospects for layoffs in the garages today, and what the future holds for racing. Instead I got a nothing new. What a disappointing way to end the season of a show that has, until tonight, bee a real treat to watch.

Lou said...

Hi JD,

Things I liked.

The round table without the table. The stools were ok.

All spoke in a normal tone of voice in conversation, was easy to listen to.

Did not know JJ would be on the show, a nice surprise.

Only heard Rusty say the CAT word once(was in and out during the broadcast so not sure if it was said more often).

And as usual I did enjoy Ray and he is comfortable in the environment and confident. And look forward to him next season to share his expertise with us.

Anonymous said...

If I had to guess, I'd say they were in the chairs, because the table is in the "ESPN Garage" which is the Home Depot Garage. I imagine that Johnson would have an issue doing it from there. That's why I think they were in the Tuesday-Friday studio.

Anonymous said...

On NN this evening Jimmie Johnson said that he was impressed with how focused and how much Junior wanted to win from their very first debrief. On Race Day yesterday, Jimmy said that Jr. could not focus and so 'failed'. Hm-m-m-m I wonder which one I should believe...and just what was the agenda here...?

Mr. Hendrick does not like it when one of his drivers is publicly critical of another.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see Jimmie on NN. I think that it's great that he is getting some props from a sport's network. I had ESPN on most of the afternoon, and JJ was on about 3 shows. I know that he also talked to Mike and Mike this morning. I think he must have been in the studio for hours this afternoon.

I know that some people went nuts last year after the Superbowl when Eli Manning was in every other show, but I loved it. He was my guy.

I know that JJ has millions of fans that love watching him. The only thing I'm sorry is that they did not have all 3 champions live in the studio.

I'll miss Monday NN and glad to know they'll be back in February. Since ESPN won't be doing the races, the material will be fresh and not earlier replays of pre-race shows.

PammH said...

On Raceday yesterday, it was JIMMY SPENCER dissing Jr, not JJ. Please get your Jimmie/Jimmy's straight.
Only saw the last half hr. Was a waste of time, imo, particularly for a final season show.

Anonymous said...


thank you so much for your clarification. This is how bad blog gossip starts. I really had a tough time believing that Jimmie had said Jr and failure. He is so supportive of all his team members. He even has complimented Casey on his year!

Anonymous said...

forgive us little folk in south carolina, but isnt the core idea for what Alan Bestwick did with 3 guests this year just a outgrowth of our all time favoritw Inside Winston Cup?

Margie Pickens

Daly Planet Editor said...


None of the ESPN folks working on that series knew what TWIN even was. Bestwick led them through this process and is responsible for a lot of the content and guest selection.

As I have said many times, NASCAR and ESPN are two completely different cultures that are trying to co-exist.


Newracefan said...

Enjoyed the show, thought JJ did well especially on 1 hours sleep, but would like another NN with AB, Ray, and a few others next week to summarize the season as a whole.

majorshouse said...

I am going to miss NASCAR Now, especially the Monday show. It was always entertaining and well done and cudos to Allen Bestwick for the great job that he always does and it is such a shame that he is not in the booth with Dale and Andy doing the play by play instead of Jerry Punch.

PammH said...

AB must just be puking in his sink or toilet every nite after putting up w/this season...:( I really would love to be a fly on the wall to see who's Cheerios he pissed in to get this low down on the totem pole (pc folks, get OVER it) ;) He has come up thru the racks & has sooo good before. It makes me sad.

Adam T. Martin said...

I enjoy the round table despite the high standards they must follow.

I also liked the rest of NASCAR Now. It mostly is positive.

Anonymous said...

The highlights had been seen before and the questions were the same, but having Johnson on NASCAR Now in Bristol the day after the race was apparently a priority for the network.

And this is a bad thing? If they had completely ignored him the day after he won his THIRD championship, people would be bashing ESPN yet again. He is being treated like any other sports champion, with wall to wall coverage the day after winning. And yes, some of it is going to be a bit repetitive. Yet I have no complaints, just like I don't when my other sports teams win a playoff round or a championship and get lots of Monday coverage.

I think it's awesome that they had Jimmie do the media rounds in person at ESPN the day after he won. It would have been strange if he was not the featured guest on NASCAR Now under these circumstances. As someone said yesterday or the day before, the championship "news" will be kind of old in a few weeks when NASCAR is back in NYC.

Which, naturally, is when you all will complain again that ESPN is ignoring him and NASCAR...right? I don't like ESPN's coverage in general, but I am baffled that yesterday's positive Jimmie coverage on NASCAR Now - an in- person interview, no less! - would be cause for complaint. Why do I need to see clips of "humorous" activity over seeing the champion? Personally I don't think the roundtable would have provided any deeper year-end insights than a Jimmie interview or what had been discussed in pre-race shows and this weekend's NASCAR Now programs.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any TV show or interviw will give you "insights" into Jimmie Johnson. His public image is far too polished to allow him to open up in any way.

That's part of the reason a 3-time champ isn't beloved, by the way--he's not seen as "real" because everything he says, including his pre-race radio message to Lowe's--is scripted and carefully controlled.

terri said...

Anon at 8:31.."scripted and carefully controlled"? By whom, do you think? I don't think you have a clue about Jimmie Johnson and who he is. Jimmie has often said that this is the way he had to talk when he was coming up, begging for sponsors and wanting to represent them to the best of his ability. In my opinion, he is acting like the polite young man he was brought up by his parents to be. And you make it sound like it is a bad thing? Would that more people had manners and followed the mantra "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Anonymous said...

Again,I thoroughly enjoyed NN. Johnson was gracious enough to devote considerable studio time as opposed to a Cameo appearance. I'm no fan of Rusty,but he did a great job also. ESPN has some real winners with Bestwick,Jarrett,Evernham and Petree.Just a nit,but they appear to be a little Politically Correct at times. They avoid criticizing driver actions,the COT,Nascar or Goodyear,unless its so obvious that they'd appear to be silly by not doing so.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 7:22AM,

You are missing the point. The issue was not Johnson being on the set. As another poster said, this show has been about three panelists talking about the race, the season and NASCAR topics in the news.

By putting JJ on the set and focusing on him the entire time, there was absolutely no opportunity to put a final wrap-up on the season in general.

This show normally brought in a guest by satellite for an interview, but then returned to three panelists discussing the issues.

By bringing the guest on the set and focusing the entire hour on him, the rest of the end of season topics were left "undone."

I enjoy the fact that JJ is a champ that can handle TV, but my point is what NASCAR fan had not already seen him on:

Post-race show on ABC
Victory Lane on SPEED
Wind Tunnel on SPEED
SPEED Report Special Edition
SportsCenter on ESPN

As a guest, he would have been great, but in my opinion having him on for the whole hour left Ray, Rusty and Allen asking him questions we had already heard him answer.

It is almost as if we need another Monday show to talk about all the topics and issues that were not covered when JJ was in the studio.


JHD said...

but my point is what NASCAR fan had not already seen him on:

Post-race show on ABC
Victory Lane on SPEED
Wind Tunnel on SPEED
SPEED Report Special Edition
SportsCenter on ESPN

This NASCAR fan right here. I don't watch any of those shows, none of my other friends who are NASCAR fans watch those shows, and I resent the implication that we're somehow not "real" fans because we don't watch everything.

So to see Jimmie on the one NASCAR show I DO happen to watch was good, and I probably would have been irritated that he made all the other shows, but failed to be on this one. Talking to him about his historic 3rd championship is an excellent way to end the season, and I'm not a Jimmie Johnson fan.

Besides, using your same logic, JD, there wouldn't be a need for NN to do a year-end wrap anyway because it was already on RaceDay and I'm sure it was also on Victory Lane and TWIN and Special Edition. Why would NASCAR fans want to see it again?

Anonymous said...

Here's a theory: ESPN was probably trying to attract their viewers who DON'T watch all the shows you listed except Sportscenter. They watch 'Mike and Mike', 'First Take', etc. So it would be logical that after a NASCAR champion was crowned that more casual viewers than normal would tune into NASCAR Now to see the NASCAR champion (with the analysts). Not to see analysts -and topics-they likely don't follow week in and week out.

Similar to the way that I would (and did) tune into Baseball Tonight and PTI the day after the World Series ends. I'm not a regular viewer of those shows, but after the World Series, I wanted to see and have more information about that series of games. They didn't discuss upcoming season end free agency and arbitration during those shows. They discussed the World Series.

It's not always all about the regular viewers who watch every bit of NASCAR TV, believe it or not. And anyone who assumes even a devoted fan watched all the shows you listed is sadly mistaken IMO.

Rosemary said...

Is their any chance that Monday's NASCAR Now will be re-aired at a later date? I missed it.

Jimmie was on Live with Regis and Kelly this morning (Tuesday). Do you all know of any other appearances by Jimmie or any of the 48 Team? Some of us never get tired of seeing the 48 on TV!

Rosemary said...

Argh...can't believe I spelled "there" wrong in the first line of my previous post! Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:31.."scripted and carefully controlled"? By whom, do you think? I don't think you have a clue about Jimmie Johnson and who he is.
Unless you're a personal friend of his, neither do you.

That's the problem.

Nobody acts, in real life, like Jimmie does on TV. Tony Stewart? Sure. Junior? Sure.

This is why a three-time Champion draws so much apathy from fans. The columnist are wringing their hands, asking why there are so many "haters" out there. The truth is, people don't hate Jimmie. But they never get to see a real person on TV or anywhere else, so they just don't care

Daly Planet Editor said...


You don't watch any of those shows and none of your friends who are NASCAR fans watch any of those shows?

OK, I'm confused.

Rosemary said...

Anon @8:31am and Anon @4:36pm: You don't have to be a personal friend of Jimmie Johnson to know what kind of person he is. His fans know what kind of person he is, even the ones who have never met him in person. The people he helps know what kind of person he is. His peers know what kind of person and what kind of driver he is, and they respect him for it. Besides being a fast racecar driver with a top-notch crew chief, there is one other thing you ought to know about Jimmie, and that is he has self control. That is one reason why he is the Cup Champion for the third straight year.

There has been a lot written about Jimmie Johnson that shows what kind of person he is, not just driver. Pretty good reading, I might add.

Anonymous said...

I'm not JHD but JD you might not realize there are many folks out there who want to see the race and the race only. From green flag to victory lane, that's all they have time for (and still consumes several hours a week). Whether it's trucks, Nationwide, Cup, they watch only the race and the Victory lane ceremony. No more, and they go on with their lives perfectly fine without any additional NASCAR programming. They catch up with news online during the week.

I'd say that's more the norm than a rarity. If everybody watched those shows they would get ratings as big as the Cup races right? But they don't get those types of ratings.

And yep people who don't watch these shows can still be very big loyal NASCAR fans.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 5:27PM,

I understand your point. Luckily, between the shows I mentioned, the evening news and the online video most folks had a whole lot of JJ by Monday afternoon.

When you concentrate on one driver for a full hour, there is no way to talk about the other stories concerning the issues at end of the season.

Perhaps, if ESPN is going to do that again next season they may think about going for a ninety minute or even a two hour show.

There was a whole lot of NASCAR left on the table when that final hour was done.


Anonymous said...

JD, did you watch the show? They did address testing, chase format, the economy, a nationwide wrap-up, a trucks wrap-up. Were you watching the same show as me?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:33PM,

Watched it, recorded it, watched it again. Thanks for the comment.


Anonymous said...

I was glad they had JJ on the show for the entire show. They still did not cover all he has done as a racer since driviing in Cup. Not only does he have the most wins, he has finished no worse than 5th and has a year-end average of 2.4 place for the last 7 yers! Not Petty, Earnhardt, Jeff, etc had that average after 7 years in the series.

I think that JJ is a good role model and the more exposure he gets it good for the sport. It shows you don't have to be a good ole boy to make it in NASCAR. He's more like Tiger Woods, smart, articulate, polite, generous, and lets his driving do the talking for him.