Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Which NASCAR TV Reporters Did You Trust This Season?

Now that we have discussed the TV types who work on the actual race broadcasts and in the studio, this next topic is a TDP favorite. Credibility and journalism skills are on the line and NASCAR fans certainly have their favorites.

This slice of the "TV pie" is the reporters who are featured on the news and entertainment programs that NASCAR fans have been enjoying for years. Here are the reporters who worked hard to gain your trust in 2008.

Marty Smith had a busy season. In addition to his new role as Lead Reporter for the "NASCAR Now" TV series, Smith was busy writing for the ESPN.com website and ESPN the Magazine. Marty may be one of the most easily recognized faces in the sport, hairstyle not withstanding.

Smith struggled in 2007 because ESPN put him in a very tight TV box. There he was in a suit and tie in the summer heat reporting from the garage area looking completely out of place. He spoke with TV hosts who had little or no NASCAR knowledge and often looked like he wanted to be any place other than ESPN. He gets credit for hanging in there.

This season, ESPN surrounded Smith with Allen Bestwick, Nicole Manske and Ryan Burr. The results were amazing. The new TV professionalism of "NASCAR Now" laid a foundation that helped Smith become the focus of ESPN's NASCAR reporting crew.

Looking back, Smith was in the middle of the biggest NASCAR stories of the year. His appearances on the Sunday "NASCAR Now" shows really matched him up directly with the pre and post-race shows over on SPEED. If ESPN focuses on Smith as "the NASCAR reporter" for 2009 it should be interesting to see how he responds. Next season is clearly going to be a very unique challenge.

Angelique Chengelis comes to NASCAR from the Detroit News where she is a sports journalism veteran. She can talk Big Ten college football with the best of them and has worked on her NASCAR TV presence since she began with ESPN in 2007.

Chengelis is a "NASCAR Now" regular and reports primarily from the race tracks. Often, she is the "beat writer" who tracks down multiple stories and reports her findings on TV in a factual manner. This season, she has proven to be a life-saver for Smith who found himself surrounded by freelance ESPN reporters last year.

As SPEED TV continues to live in denial of that network's NASCAR issues, the news coverage from the race tracks was dominated by Wendy Venturini. While she also works practice and qualifying coverage for SPEED, she is only involved in the actual race coverage on DirecTV's Hot Pass telecasts.

Most viewers know Venturini's background of being married to a JGR employee, living the NASCAR lifestyle and following in the racing tradition of her father Bill. They also know that she understands TV, can navigate through the garage seamlessly and can pleasantly ask the tough questions with a big smile on her face.

In 2008, Venturini cemented her NASCAR TV credentials by providing "RaceDay" the vast majority of the news and interview content. It was clear that while Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace talked, Rutledge Wood goofed and Hermie Sadler chatted it was Venturini who did almost all of the heavy lifting where that TV series was concerned.

Venturini graciously made room for newcomer Sadler this season. After filling a part-time role and offering track descriptions and driver tips, SPEED found that Sadler's personality allowed him to conduct interviews from a different but often equally effective perspective than Venturini.

Sadler routinely adds personal references from football to fishing to his interviews, which puts the person being interviewed at ease. Sadler's good sense of humor was on display this season and he shares the NASCAR on SPEED trait of being able to laugh at himself. He also expanded his TV credentials with Hot Pass this season.

After the Sprint Cup races, it is Bob Dillner who is on-scene for two hours of programming on SPEED. Dillner is live for "The Speed Report" and then provides additional interviews for "Victory Lane." He worked hard this season.

Dillner has a unique personality and it comes through in his interviewing style. This year, he faced a lot of angry drivers after debacles like The Brickyard 400 and other tire fiasco races. Despite some issues in the past, his 2008 performance was solid and his post-race hustle was outstanding.

SPEED also offered Randy Pemberton this season as a utility player. He did everything from pit and garage reporting to being the media guest on "Tradin' Paint." Pemberton is flexible enough to assume additional responsibilities in the future for SPEED and also worked on the Hot Pass coverage this season to good reviews.

Honorable mention in this category goes to both Ryan Burr and Nicole Manske. After the disaster of 2007, "NASCAR Now" put both of these anchor/reporters on the road and it paid dividends. While admittedly Burr was still learning, Manske proved to be a natural and came into her own where field reporting was concerned.

This was especially true for Manske on race days, where pre and post-race interviews worked well for her with the drivers, owners and crew chiefs. One can only wonder what additional benefits would come from moving Manske to North Carolina and finally establishing a full-time ESPN presence in the Mooresville area.

There were several writers like David Newton, Tim Cowlishaw and Ed Hinton who crossed-over from their ESPN.com duties to appear on "NASCAR Now." Normally, what they were doing was talking about a story they had published on the website. Please feel free to refer to them in your comments, but they were introduced as writers and did not quite fit the TV criteria for this category.

So, who did you trust in 2008? There were several hundred hours of TV programming that came your way despite not one lap being turned in any of these programs. On many weekends, the number of hours of "support shows" was greater than the length of the Sprint Cup race.

Perhaps, you could share the memories you might have about the reporting of the group above. You can Google Daly+Planet+reporter's+name to refer back to any TDP stories of the season.

To add your opinion on this topic, just click the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Lisa Hogan said...

Who did I trust?


Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

Wendy Venturini. Hands down, no comparison.

Trustworthy,respectful, serious, funny. Good rapport with the race teams.

I also like Nicole Manske, wish she and Ryan would change places.

PS...not a women's libber (no to Jaime & Shannon), just these 2 happen to be great at what they do.

stricklinfan82 said...

No doubt on this one - Wendy Venturini.

I just hope Fox can find a way to integrate her into the Cup broadcasts in 2009, because she certainly deserves it.

kbaskins said...

Wendy Venturini wins this one hands down. She's intelligent, knowledgeable, professional, fun, and I believe every word that comes out of her mouth. Seriously. Never ever have I believed that Wendy has some sort of hidden agenda, never sensed any obfuscation, never thought that she wasn't being entirely honest with the drivers and the fans

Actually, now that I think about it, all of SPEED's reporters are credible. I just like Wendy's style the most.

The ESPN reporters I (unfortunately) tend to tar with the same brush as some of their less credible brethren. There seems to be a culture of tabloid journalism at ESPN that makes me wary of anything reported by that network. It's unfair of me, I know,


Newracefan said...

Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. Then Marty, I actually emailed Jayski (along with many others evidently) when he first disappeared from Nascar.com and he was the only reason I even clicked on ESPN.com or stayed with NN during the 2007 season from hell. I don't distrust Hermie, he just isn't up there quite yet. Bob and Randy are next. Angelique, Ryan and Nicole are last (very much improved but last) only because I don't trust ESPN to allow them to present info without an ESPN agenda attached.

bevo said...

I know this will come as a big surprise to you JD but my vote goes to Randy Pemberton :)

He wasn't afraid to bite the hand that feeds him when he took on the tv coverage of the races and contrasted it with the MRN coverage. On HotPass coverage he didn't shy away from calling out drivers for their actions on the track.

He's at the top of my list.

red said...

i didn't even have to think too long for this answer: wendy venturini. her professionalism, respect, sense of humor, knowledge and intelligence made her someone i have chosen to trust.

i also rely on marty smith: despite being hampered by his current employer, he obviously has the trust of the garage and i believe he works hard at "damping down" the sensationalism.

it's not that i don't trust the others -- although dilner has damaged his credibility for me this year, i'll never trust newton about anything, and do we really need to even bring up cowlishaw in the same sentence as "nascar"?

chengalis and sadler just simply need more air time: they have both demonstrated a depth of knowledge and respect for our sport that are the foundation for building a reputation that can be trusted. i like them both and hope they get more air time in '09.

venturini earned her stripes for me: i think it would be fascinating to sit down over dinner and drinks with her and discuss our sport. she's pure class, all the way!

Dot said...

It's Wendy for me, too. Then the rest of the SPEED team in no particular order.

Marty is the only guy from ESPN whom I trust regarding the TV team. Ed Hinton gets it for print.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I had the pleasure of working at Sunbelt Video in Charlotte (now the NASCAR Media Group) when Randy was a reporter along with Bill Weber for Inside Winston Cup Racing.

Back then, the show was hosted by Ned Jarrett and it was a pleasure working with all three of them.

Each of us deals with our own personal issues in life and it is a great pleasure to see Randy back on TV and establishing himself as a solid reporter and anchor.

It is also nice that along with Randy, we have Marty, Angelique, Wendy and Hermie who read your comments and have emailed me about those opinions.

On the ESPN side, it has been Ryan Burr who has reached out for a fan perspective and has been an active reader this season.

There really is not a big "wall" between us and them. All we have been trying to do is give fans a platform to air their views on how the NASCAR TV partners are doing.

Thanks again to all the on-air folks who have been so supportive over the last two seasons. The list is long and I know that I would forget someone.


TexasRaceLady said...

Wendy Venturini by far is the one I trusted most. She's grown up in the racing world and relates in ways no one else can.

Marty Smith and Randy Pemberton are close seconds. Both give me the information without the hype.

Nicole and Ryan have really grown on me this year. They've really come up on my trustworthiness meter.

BTW, JD, you have email from me.

Anonymous said...

Wendy is my #1--no contest
Marty is #2
Ryan Burr is #3
Angelique is #4
Nicole has improved quite a bit, but she still needs growth--

Jimbacca said...

Out of the list Wendy. She grew up around it. Doesn't have motives. Asks the tough questions, knows when and where to address drivers. Can't think of a nascar interviewer that lived it growing up and knows the time of when a boundry is needed and how to come back with later and get the answer.

Pretty much any of the infield or race commentators in ESPN are not trustworthy. You've got car owners out there with agendas pretending to announce and give non biased opinions. There were major stories completely ignored by ESPN. So its pretty much crushes all their credibility.

Not on the list. Yet again I trust the truck series broadcasters. If you silence a waltrip. Some tell it too much like it is and get suspended.

Lesley said...

Larry Mac...Wally, and Benny...All the rest need to find a job!!

Lou said...

Although all of those mentioned above in your column deserve some sort of award for all they do. I have to go with Wendy Venturini. I really enjoyed listening to her during her Real Deal segments.

Anonymous said...

Who do I trust?


Somehow though I think that Steve Byerns, Larry Mac, Hammond, Ray Dunlap, Krista and some other pit reporters deserve to be in this catagorie as well. Often they are the fist place we hear about a story that is later developed on one of the support shows.

Anonymous said...

Wendy gets my vote for all the reasons given by others here, plus I love her enthusiasm! She's having fun no matter what!

3KillerBs said...

Wendy is #1 hands down.

The incredible standard she set for The Real Deal continued and her grid walk during the Fox portion was spectacular.

The only person on TV who has anything like Wendy's ability to ask tough questions in a way that gets answers instead of evasions is Dick Bergren.

Wendy's status as a racer allows her to not only know what is going on but to know what it means and to find race-affecting stories that a reporter without a racing background wouldn't know were stories at all. Obscure things like the effects of weather on engine performance and the like.

Dilner and Marty have formed relationships with various drivers that enhance their ability to get the interview even in adverse circumstances and Hermie is making a great transition from driver to media.

The biggest surprise for me has been Nicole Manske -- formerly known as "Cleavage Girl" on The Speed Report. ESPN allowed her to put on some clothes and engage her brain instead of just relying on her bosom to draw in drooling males. She's done well.

Zieke said...

Wendy is head & shoulders above the rest. She always smiles and seems to get the hard questions out without causing bad feelings. She's also a doll. What could be better?
Rutledge adds nothing to anyone's show.

majorshouse said...

I definitely think it is Wendy hands down. She has great knowledge of the sport as well as being able to put anyone at ease with her easy going style. I have to say that Randy, Ryan Burr and Nicole Manski are a close second and Nicole and Ryan have come a long way this year. I really like Marty Smith, but wish that he could leave some of the ESPN party line behind him.
I too love Ed Hinton for print because he says it and just leaves it the way that it is and that is definitely a breath of fresh air from his ESPN colleagues.

Delenn said...

What is it about Wendy? Really. I love her, but what is it? I wish I knew, and I wish we saw more of her. I watch Raceday for her, plain and simple. The rest is fun, but I really love what she does.

Nicole has been a real find. I had not experienced her work previously, but she has been solid and enjoyable, but obviously "buttoned down" in the ESPN way. I wish ESPN would let them loosen up a bit.

I thought Hermie showed his skills best in the Raceday he stood in for Mr Excitement. It was a completely different show, and in a good way (and I like Jimmy!) He has had a good year.

I have always been an Angelique fan, especially during the baron wastes that was Nascar Now in 2007. When she gets to let me hair down, she is really fun, and she is a good complementary reporter to Marty.

Marty is the only one of ESPN crew to get near Wendy, and when he is interviewed by Allen, he is a different guy completely. He has probably provided the most solid information all year, but I like Wendy's style a little more.

Ryan was the only decent Nascar Now presenting light of 2007, and has continued to improve in 2008. ESPN really need to get him and Nicole to Charlotte, and to the track more.

I am not going to comment on Dillner and Pemberton, purely because I have not seen enough of their work to make a fair judgement. What little I have seen, I saw nothing I had issue with.

This is probably the only category with no obvious "worst" and no poor performers. Good job by all!

Finally, if Wendy or Nicole want to send a signed picture, you know where I am!!!!!!!

Penny said...

No contest. Wendy Venturini is # 1.
1. Wendy
2. Bob Dillner
3. Marty

Anonymous said...

For me, the most informative were Wendy V and Marty equally.

Angelique Chengelis and Bob Dillner were also very good. Burr and Manske did well and are a credit to ESPN. Finally, I think Hermie is going to be very good in time.


Anonymous said...

Wendy is my #1 choice. I also like Krista Voda. Both these ladies know the subject on which they speak. Neither of these ladies come across as loud, and have a know it all attitude

GinaV24 said...

Wendy Venturini, Marty Smith and Bob Dillner. I love the way Wendy interacts with the people in the garage.

SallyB said...

I'm on the Wendy band wagon! She can ask tough questions without being offensive, and seems to have the respect of all in the garage. I admit I am always leery of the ESPN crew, as I always wonder what the corporate agenda is, and how they are serving it to me. None of the other 'candidates' are a problem for me, as most of them do well.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt it's Wendy Venturini and Krista Voda. Great rapport with the race teams and their broadcast partners. Can ask the tough questions without being obnoxious like the other "tabloid style" reporters. They are professional, intelligent, know the sport, and just seem to have fun (who can forget the Truck Series Halloween broadcast!)

Bob Dillner, Marty Smith, and Randy Pemberton are fighting it out for third.

Mary said...

Wendy, Marty, Dillner, Hermy

Anonymous said...

I always trust Hammond, Wendy, Bob, and Randy. I'm not a huge fan of ESPN's ancillary programming, except for Allen Bestwick's Monday program.

Anonymous said...

Wendy wins,hands down. Not even close. Marty is too stiff and wooden. Manske just doesn't cut it. Herme Sadler is under rated. He really does a great job. Wendy really has the touch. Dave Burns also doesn't get the respect he deserves, Chengelis is useless.

bryan said...

In another category I asked for a chance to vote for Wendy Venturini - well this is it. Wendy #1
I'd then put Dilner and Smith.

I think all of the rest did a decent job, but these 3 are the ones I count on.

I recall Wendy in a break during a hotpass telecast going along pit road kidding with some of the pit crew while giving us solid into - can't be beat.


Vicky D said...

I like Marty Smith & Bob Dillner the best. Always think they get the news right (most) of the time.

Anonymous said...

Tops in this catregory has to be Wendy V. She has the background and the rcaing credentials to do the best job telling the story.

I think Ms. Chengelis is a better journalist, but only because that's not really Wendy's job.

Richard in N.C. said...

I have a very hard time choosing between Wendy V and Marty S, but I do believe Marty reports more new news, maybe because he has more support resources available. They are both excellent interviewers. I would like to see Angelique on more.

I don't think Bob Dillner gets enough credit for the job he does. After Wendy and Marty, I enjoy hearing what Randy P has to say the most.

PammH said...

Wendy is Top Gun for me! Marty a close second...Dilner & the rest of the Speed crew are next. The rest are okay...

Adam T. Martin said...

I absolutley enjoyed the addition of Nicole Manske. A smart reporter and easy on the eyes too. She kept her cool and asked tough questions.

Marty Smith is a good reporter too.

However, Nicole is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Who do I trust...?
Marty Smith. Both feet flat on the ground and can look you in the eye.
Chengalis. I believe that she does her homework and does her best to get it straight.
Bob Dillner. Week in and week out, on air, is affable and works hard.
Now...with all this talk of laying people off...I sure hope that Hermie Sadler stays. He knows what he is saying, he has thought it through, he is aware of what is going on around him, he is straight forward, up-front and without his own agenda. This gives him credibility. Someone I have learned to trust. He also has a very quick sense of humor. He is a big asset to Speed/Fox and he has the ability to go to the top of broadcasting.
I might add that John Roberts deserves double combat pay and the highest Medal given for bravery! He has a complicated, wearing job trying to keep things on track and trying to smooth over others comments. And he does it with a smile! :)
I think that Randy Pemberton, along with Hermie, have great potential for the future of Nascar broadcasting.
PS I think John Roberts and Steve Brynes are under appreciated in their roles. I would love to know what Steve was thinking during the last Race Day show from Miami. Jeff and Larry were dissing Jr., after Jimmy Spencer already had, (those 3 seemed to have discussed this ahead) and Steve sat there looking at them...bemused, not saying a word, and I would really like to know what he was thinking...?

Anonymous said...

JD - could you skew the results any more by putting a big picture of your "fantasy girl" Wendy at the top of the poll?