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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