Friday, November 28, 2008

Your Favorite NASCAR TV Studio Analyst Of 2008?


As we wrap-up the "best of" series over the next several days, we are trying to cut the TV pie into pieces that make sense to discuss. NASCAR offers a lot of experts on TV and one big category is the guys who talk to us during the pre-race, the race itself and from the studio.

Let's get your opinion on the analysts who work at the track or the network headquarters. We'll start with the folks who travel to the races.

The NASCAR on Fox gang kicks-off the season with Jeff Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel. Although he is joined by Darrell Waltrip during the pre-race show, Hammond goes it alone as the infield expert while he watches the race with Chris Myers.

Hammond is another one of the hardcore NASCAR TV personalities. He works on several TV programs every racing weekend. These include "Trackside" on SPEED along with the practice and qualifying sessions for the Nationwide and Cup Series. Hammond moves seamlessly between the broadcast and cable TV networks.

Although previously mentioned in the booth analyst category, the name Larry McReynolds pops-up again in this one. McReynolds moves down to the infield for the six TNT races and his presence has made quite an impact. His role is to provide advice on race strategy during the live telecast.

McReynolds could easily have become the fourth man in the booth. TNT's Kyle Petty kept a running commentary with him and continually asked his perspective on race-related issues. Several times it was McReynolds who predicted the racing strategy used to win the TNT Sprint Cup Series races.

Credit goes to Rusty Wallace for being a team player. Moved from the Lead Analyst position down to the ESPN infield, Wallace made the best of his new role and never was at a loss for words. Aided by the professional TV presence of Allen Bestwick, Wallace seemed to enjoy his new role.

For better or worse, Brad Daugherty has to be put into the studio analyst role. In addition to his season of work in the Infield Pit Studio, he was a regular on ESPN2's "NASCAR Now" and routinely addressed all types of NASCAR topics.

As the season moved on, Daugherty became the cheerleader while Wallace was often the skeptic. Both of these roles had their place and Bestwick really made the most of this duo. They are the only ones who worked together in this setting for the entire ten months of the racing year.

The other pre-race analysts are on SPEED. Jimmy Spencer has a personality that is defined on "RaceDay" by large cigars and a rather unique hairstyle. He is also well-known for his hard-nosed opinions and very direct style. Spencer means well, but his rough and tumble upbringing sometimes leaves him just a bit short in the sophistication department.

His tag team TV partner is Kenny Wallace. "Herman" has been around the sport for a very long time and is a personality that many fans just love. Enthusiastic and honest, Wallace has worked hard on his TV skills in order to handle his roles on both "RaceDay" and "Victory Lane."

One key TV element of both Wallace and Spencer is their ability to laugh at themselves. Whether dressed up in black gowns and white wigs to hold court or being featured in "RaceDay" pieces that question their ability to form complete sentences, these two keep things in perspective where TV is concerned.

Another face that viewers saw in 2008 was Boris Said. He became a semi-regular in the ESPN studios on "NASCAR Now" and was often the analyst in the network studios on Sundays handling two shows. Said is eager to learn better TV skills and came a long way this season.

The final name in this category is Ray Evernham. Moved around by ESPN this year, Evernham settled into a role in both the Infield Pit Studio and on Monday's "NASCAR Now." Rumored to be selling his interest in GEM and retiring from NASCAR, fans should expect to see a lot more of Evernham in 2009 where ESPN programs are concerned.

An honorable mention goes to Ricky Craven. He was a frequent panelist on Monday's "NASCAR Now" and was then invited several times into the studio on Sunday to work alongside Ryan Burr or Nicole Manske. He handled all these assignments well, but was not a TV regular where ESPN was concerned. It should be interesting to see where Craven lands for next season.

When you listened to these men speak about NASCAR topics in 2008, who did you trust and understand? What person gave you a perspective that made sense and talked in terms that brought the sometimes complex issues of NASCAR to you in an orderly manner? There was a whole lot of talking going on in 2008. Who did you listen to?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on 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 and share your opinion.

37 comments:

Aven said...

I like several of them moderately. However, I can handle almost anyone if they are not a Waltrip or a Wallace (first name doesn't matter much).

Anonymous said...

Jeff Hammond is #1, just about the same as Larry Mac, but since I voted for Larry before, I'll make him #2.

majorshouse said...

I think as an overall analyst, Allen Bestwick is definitely in a class by himself. His kowldege of the sport is surpassed by no one, even though I feel sorry for him having to be with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty and think that ESPN shold replace the two of them with Ray Evernham.

Newracefan said...

Larry Mac tops this list too with Jeff and Ray tied for second with Ricky a close third. Then Kenny and Jimmie simply for the fun factor and I'll put Rusty 4th too he's is much better in the studio than in the booth and I've seen even more improvement when Ray is present it's almost like he can't get away with some of his crazier comments. This leaves Boris and Brad for last and if I had to choose I'd put Brad first, even if he's never driven a race car he's more respectful of the sport and the people in it and doesn't let his personal agenda show through.

Karen said...

OT. Does this category, the last from which we get to pick "the best of" mean that Wendy V. is in a class with no peers and has no competition so we can't pick her for anything?

Just wondering.

My pick is Jeff Hammond, although when calling Q'ing and practice, you can't beat the team of Hammond, Larry Mac and DW.

Honorable mention goes to Ray Evernham.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Karen,

The "best NASCAR TV reporter category" will be posted on Sunday night for Monday and Tuesday comments.

This will include Wendy, Hermie Sadler, Marty Smith and others.

Thanks for asking.'

JD

Anonymous said...

I'm going with Larry Mac. He's funny, he's intelligent, he's down-home material, and he loves racing!

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with Aven. Anything Wallace or Waltrip and I go to Mute or just don't watch. Boris Saids's initials are appropriate, also. It's a tossup for my number one and it came up heads so, Larry Mac is # 1.

PammH said...

Larry Mac is #1 again, which Jeff as a close 2nd. RC is also terrific. Ray, I really have to look past personal issues, but he is good. Herm & JS are just fun. Brad, Rusty & Boris are just worthless, imo. They bring nothing to the table.

3KillerBs said...

Good thing I read the comments before posting mine because I was about to ask, "Where's Wendy?"

With Larry Mac already #1 in his primary specialty, I'll have to go with Hammond for #1 in this group. Hammond and Larry Mac are, however, at their best when working together in complementary roles anyway.

I want to like Kenny Wallace because he seems to be such a NICE guy (I love the fact that he's still deliriously in love with his high school girlfriend/wife), and he can be remarkably thoughtful at times, but I just can't handle his manic personality. I get to wanting to shoot a tranquilizer dart at the TV.

However I enjoy Jimmie Spencer tremendously. He's not all that articulate, he's not the least bit polished, but I believe that he's a great deal brighter than many give him credit for and I like the way he keeps his eye on the RACING.

Even more, I like the way Spencer has gained perspective from his retirement and has embraced the role of putting a literal or figurative arm around young drivers and telling them, "Don't make the mistakes I did."

Fans and drivers alike don't always want to hear what Spencer has to say along those lines, but I think they often NEED to hear it.

As for the rest, Ricky Craven, whom I never really noticed as a driver, has impressed me tremendously as a columnist and analyst -- as though his racing might have been mere preparation for his real calling. I'd love to see him get a trial in a TV booth.

Rusty has been a disappointment to me. I expected him to be great on TV but he seems unable to leave old rivalries behind, slow to learn to focus on the race, and reluctant to keep up with current issue instead talking more about what it was like when he was racing than how it is today.

Contrariwise, Brad Daugherty has been a pleasant surprise since I first wondered why ESPN had stuck a basketball guy into the Nascar programing. Brad does an excellent job of combining "voice of the knowledgeable fan" with "owner/insider".

Lou said...

My favorite NASCAR TV studio analyst of 2008 is Larry McReynolds. Larry could explain brain surgery and we all would understand it.

Nan S said...

I'd put Jeff Hammond first and Boris last. After the way Boris handled the Ambrose incident and let it linger and linger, he lost me as a fan.

None of the team owners had any business being on the shows since they all had to call races with dogs in the hunt.

Zieke said...

Larry Mac has done his homework, so he is #1. Also being with Earnhardt could'nt have hurt.Jeff Hammond is # 2 simply because he was a very good crew chief in his day, and remembers alot of what he has done. Spencer is good entertainment, but alot of what he says can be taken with a grain of salt. Happy Holidays...

Delenn said...

I think Larry is the best at this role. He adds more information to the piece than does Hollywood Hammond, but I like both of them on Trackside (apart from when they go on about hunting - this is a Nascar show guys). So those are my top two.

Jimmy and Kenny are a great duo, although sometimes they go over the top (although that may be my mood rather than them!). I started watching Raceday for Wendy. I grew to like them. However, they do not add enough info to be top of the list.

"My brother Rusty" is has improved a lot in this role, and he has something to add given the amount of time he has "he really does". (Sorry, couldn't resist) Yes, that's right, ESPN moved someone who was struggling with a commentary job into a role they proved to be good at. Can anyone else think of someone else this needs to happen for?

Anyway, Brad is unnecessary, but I suspect he is doing what ESPN want. Sadly, what he is doing is not needed.

Ray is rather an unknown quantity to me when it comes to the techie bit, and explaining it. He is certainly eloquent, but I remain to see where he truely lies in this list.

Finally, Ricky Craven, who I like a lot, but is severely under-used.

SallyB said...

I like AB's approach the best. He has extensive knowlege, yet keeps his enthusiasm on an exciting but reasonable level. Ray Evernham and Ricky Craven have both been a pleasant surprise. Honest and thoughtful, they often add a lot without having to say too much. I still don't know why Brad Dougherty is there, except to cheerlead.
As much as I respect Larry Mac and Jeff Hammond, perhaps their overexposure has finally gotten to me. I find a little bit of Raceday goes a long way with me, escept when they decide that humor is the way to go.

Dot said...

JD, your column lists so many studio analysts it's hard to put them in order.

My first choice is Jeff Hammond. Ray and Ricky come in 2nd & 3rd.

Brad and Boris are useless and need to go away. Rusty needs to be a full time car owner down on the pit box ala Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress.

Kenny W and Jimmy are perfect just where they are. Though, sometimes Jimmy irritates me with some of his comments.

Larry Mac is in his own category as all around chief cook and bottle washer. He is good at what he does.

Anonymous said...

I'll stick with McReynolds. He's the most knowledgeable and has a minimum of biases. Hammond just doesn't have the Touch and has an oversized ego. Rusty just needs to go away and take Brad with him. Evernham is very sharp and professional.

Anonymous said...

Larry McReynolds is tops in my book but can I just defend Brad Daugherty a little tiny bit here? Maybe it's precisely because I haven't watched NASCAR for years but I kind of appreciate his presence. He does make relevant points -- or at least frames his points in ways I understand. He contributes without constantly referencing himself, his team or his own career. His enthusiasm, to me, seems sincere although I can see where it would get old. Maybe Daugherty is just a guy I relate to more than I do to any retired driver or crew chief, I don't know.

But yeah, Larry McReynolds is the best of this list.

TexasRaceLady said...

*sigh* I'm back in my corner, JD. LOL

For me, Larry Mac is "da bomb."

Hammond runs a very close 2nd.

Ricky Craven and Ray Evernham have surprised me --- they are low-key, but articulate and precise.

The bottom of my list is reserved for - in no particular order -
Rusty, Brad, and Boris.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Larry Mac gets the nod from me. He did a wonderful job on the TNT "tilt-a-whirl" and worked well with Marc Fein.

Ricky Craven is my runner-up. If ESPN doesn't offer him a full-time gig for 2009, they're crazy.

Vicky D said...

I like Larry Mac a lot becuase of his immense experience and even though he butchers the English language, he makes fun of himself so that's ok with me and makes it an enjoyable broadcast. Some folks that post here during hotpass cup races find him a great addition to DirectTV too.

stricklinfan82 said...

I would have given this award to Larry Mac because, as I said in the analysts section, in my opinion he is the premier analyst in the sport today.

However, the TNT "Larry is a magician" angle with the magic wand, pulling rabbits out of his hat, and cutting Marc Fein in half during green flag racing really rubbed me the wrong way, so I will instead give my award to Jeff Hammond.

GinaV24 said...

Hammond with Larry Mac a close second. Allen is the yeoman in all this and can fill just about any role. Rusty, Brad, Jimmy Spencer and "Herman" all rank very low on my list. I like Ray E's perspective on things, but I'm with some of the other posters on here -- if you own a car in the NW or Cup series - and that includes Kyle Petty - then you don't belong as an analyst

Anonymous said...

I vote for Jeff as #1. But I must say that the networks are wise in having many personalities in the different programs. Some folks like high energy guys, some like fine-spoken articulate types, some like the commom-down-home-type, etc.

I'm certainly glad that the same 3-4 guys are not in every program. I think that most in the list do being different perspectives and often interesting. The 2 that don't bring much to the table, in terms of being regulars, are Brad and Boris.

Brad is nice but mostly repeats what everybody else says, except when predicting a winner. Boris is such sour grapes and it drives me crazy.

Lisa Hogan said...

1. Larry McReynolds
2. Jeff Hammond

Richard in N.C. said...

I happen to enjoy them all, in different ways. The one thing I find they all have in common is giving their honest opinions, which is not the case with all analysts - and yes I recognize that sometimes they avoid issues. I don't have to agree with them, but I want to know what they honestly believe (even Crusty), not what the producer thinks will make good TV.

While I like Larry Mac and Jeff H. the best of the lot, I really believe that Ricky Craven might be the best at making things understandable.

I have been a Boris Said fan since he ran Trans Am and always enjoy hearing what he has to say. He has a perspective that almost all the others do not - the little guy trying to crack the system. I really believe he gets far too much criticism for what I value most - honesty. He believed (rightly) that Ambrose wrecked him on purpose (as the film clearly shows) and would not back down when Ambrose did not apologize for what he did. As a consequence, even as a long-time Petty fan, I no longer use STP in my coffee.

AMS fan said...

Larry McReynolds is my overall choice for fun and information

Ray Evernham has become my favorite for useful NASCAR info. I like his TV appearances, but I also like Tuesday's when he can loosen up on radio. He really tells it like it is, except when it may be pepriority information.

Jeff Hammond does contribute his years of knowledge.

Ricky Craven has been a positive asset to ESPN.

Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace work very well together and they provide an opinion that keeps you thinking.

Kyle Petty still needs to decide what he will do when he grows up.
He does an ok job, but if he would concentrate on something, I think he could do so much better.

Brad Daugherty is a great cheerleader. I wouldn't use "analyst" to describe what he does. ESPN should keep him around. Someone needs to be the excited high-strung person on TV.


Rusty Wallace would do a better job running his race teams. No matter how I try, I don't enjoy him on TV.

Boris Said can be excused from TV. I used to like him but learning more about him I can do without him. I know he doesn't have the knowledge that the retired NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs so I have trouble believing him.

Steve L. said...

Larry Mac with Jeff Hammond in a very close second. They're both the best in the business. Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer tied for third. Great chemistry between the two. Kenny's fun and Spencer just puts it on the line and I like his honesty. Ray Evernham forth for his intelligence and good TV presence. Rusty Wallace in fifth just because.
Brad Daugherty needs to just disappear from TV. Boris Said and Ricky Craven gets no votes because I just can't seem to get into NASCAR Now. I have never understood how or why Boris Said ever got that gig anyway.

This is fun J.D., reading every ones thoughts on all this. We're all fans but have different opinions.

Anonymous said...

1. Hermie Sadler

Marybeth

Daly Planet Editor said...

Marybeth,

We will do a new column on Monday that will let readers weigh-in on their favorite NASCAR TV reporters who don't cover races.

Wendy Venturini, Marty Smith, Hermie Sadler, Angelique Chengelis, Randy Pemberton and others will be included.

Thanks,

JD

Tracy said...

I have to give big props to Ricky Craven. Thoughtful, articulate, and always coming up with an angle no one else has addressed - he's totally underutilized, which is probably his choice.

Love DW, Larry Mac, Hammond, as Karen said, for qualifying and practice.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

red said...

only 2 analyst choices for me and they rank about the same: hammond and larry mac. altho' i had managed to erase the "magic trick" from my memory until stricklinfan mentioned it (thanks a ton, there, stricklinfan!), i still put larry mac right up there b/c of his overall body of knowledge and the clarity of his explanations. hammond shares those characteristics as well. i also feel both have worked to stay on top of the technical issues surrounding the cot and so bring solid information to us instead of "back in the day" stuff. (and i have to ask once again: when will nascar performance get a set time slot?!?)

i'm liking craven more and more and would appreciate seeing him more often. ditto with evernham (wonder if he'll ever be forgiven his trangression, even when he marries her?)

the rest? not even on my radar. they're all pretty much talking heads to me, i fear.

ri88girl said...

If you are going to put Larry Mac in this catagory too, you can't make me choose,

1)LARRY HAMMOND
2)Kenny Wallace
honorable mention goes to Rikcy Craven, and if he got more face time he would be there with Kenny. I like Spencer, but honestly, Kenny's still driving.

ri88girl said...

I didn't list AB because I think he is so under used he doesn't belong in the catagory. Kind of like being a head chef at a McDondalds.

Mary said...

OK it has to be

Larry/Jeff then Ray for me

Anonymous said...

I feel the truck series broadcasts(minus waltrip) are the best there are. Real racing, real coverage.

kbaskins said...

*sigh* Another one that's almost too close to call...

1a) Larry Mac
1b) Jeff Hammond

Ricky Craven gets and honourable mention. He could turn into an exceptional analyst with more experience.

--KarenB