Thursday, February 28, 2008
The party gets started from Las Vegas Friday afternoon at 1PM Eastern Time and continues on SPEED all the way through until 9:30PM that night.
A thirty minute version of NASCAR Live at 1PM kicks-off a long day with host John Roberts from the SPEED Stage. This show will set-up the events of the day, and recap the news from the Cup and Nationwide Series.
At 1:30PM, SPEED will televise Nationwide Series practice for ninety minutes. It should be interesting to see how many cars are on-hand, and what transpires on this fast track with this very diverse group of drivers. Steve Byrnes will host the coverage with Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond. Several SPEED reporters will be on-hand throughout the day in the garage areas.
The network continues at 3PM with Sprint Cup practice for a ninety minute session. The NASCAR on Fox team is on hand, so it may well be Mike Joy leading this program. If not, look for Steve Byrnes to continue hosting.
At 4:30PM, the final Nationwide Series practice gets underway while the Cup Series lines up in qualifying order. This practice should run until about 6PM.
Next up is the quirky Go or Go Home show, which runs for thirty minutes and should end around 6:30PM, depending on the track situation. The idea of this show is to set-up for fans which teams not in the "Top 35" must make the field on time.
The big boys come out to qualify at 6:30PM Eastern, with each car taking two laps at SPEED. The Sprint Cup qualifying show on SPEED is scheduled for two hours.
That will lead directly into Trackside at 8:30PM, hosted by Steve Byrnes. This program is always raucous, and promises to be something special in Las Vegas.
That is a nice big Friday of NASCAR programming on SPEED. Over on ESPN2, do not forget NASCAR Now which will come along at 6PM.
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The hits from ESPN and their daily racing show just keep on coming. Former host of The SPEED Report Nicole Manske stepped into the ESPN2 studio to host the Thursday version of NASCAR Now.
Manske has been working very hard on the road in a wide variety of roles. Her transition from glamour girl of SPEED to the co-host of the only daily NASCAR program on TV has been fun to watch.
As most regular NASCAR fans know, ESPN likes to spread their talent across the many networks and programs that have anything to do with NASCAR. From Marty Smith to Brad Daugherty, the "regulars" of NASCAR Now pop-up on everything from SportsCenter to ESPNEWS.
Manske has been handed a lot of assignments in her first two weeks on the road, and has proven to be equal to the challenge. Her SPEED duties did not call on her to do anything more than read a teleprompter and occasionally interview from the studio.
In her short time at ESPN, she has hosted the live one hour weekend edition of NASCAR Now from ESPN's Pit Center at the track. That program was very impressive. She has also been the field reporter for the weekday version of NASCAR Now in support of studio host Ryan Burr. Those two seem to get along quite well on-the-air.
Thursday, Manske hosted the studio show with reporter Angelique Chengelis along for news, and driver Boris Said along for analysis. Even though it was pre-recorded, the program flowed quite well and covered a lot of ground.
Following the example of Allen Bestwick, Manske seems to not take herself too seriously and handles on-air problems with a good sense of humor. It seemed that the NASCAR drivers picked-up on that vibe during her Daytona interviews. That casual tone continued on the Thursday program.
Chengelis and Said were both on-hand for the new segment at the top of the show that covers daily news and follows-up on stories from the previous day. This change in format has been outstanding, and keeps viewers interested before the first commercial break hits. That means they will come back.
Just like this blog, there are some non-NASCAR stories that have a way of sneaking into the NASCAR media outlets. Certainly, the item that Gerry Forsythe had folded his open-wheel racing team was shocking. While Manske limited her questions to the future of driver Paul Tracy, this type of item and the changes in the open-wheel world may soon force SPEED or ESPN2 to consider creating additional motorsports news programming.
Todd Bodine live from Las Vegas was up next, and Manske did a solid interview that included the right mix of racing and family topics. Bodine is well-known for several things from nicknames to memorable racing moments in several series. This weekly exposure of a Craftsman Truck Series driver is a great carry-over from last season. The fact that now the interviews are well-informed and fun is wonderful.
Manske worked Boris Said pretty hard in this show, and Boris did the type of job he is capable of doing when focused. He followed a Tim Brewer Tech Tip with good comments, and then spent the next several segments of the show as the feature analyst. The bottom line is, it worked. No outrageous statements, and no NASCAR politics were on the menu this time.
Said related to DJ Copp's pit road report with some good facts, and then closed-out the show with some final comments about his exploits racing bobsleds again Bodine. The mix of Chengelis, Said and Manske made for an easy-to-watch program that stayed away from the hype and only stepped slightly into the "Kyle Busch might lead all three after Vegas" build-up.
Manske has also worked hard to build and maintain an on-air image very different from the one she used at SPEED. Business suits and conservative attire are going to keep NASCAR fans focused on the issues at hand. Manske already knows all too well that images shown on TV can live on the Internet for a very long time.
As the co-host of this national daily TV series, Manske seems to have gotten good advice from those around her and has headed into this project with a new maturity and strong work ethic. As Ryan Burr begins his turn hitting the road for NASCAR Now, viewers will see Manske host more programs from the studio.
When Allen Bestwick is added into the weekend and Monday mix, the new chemistry on NASCAR Now is hard to miss. If this program continues down the path it has taken so far this season, it should finally make the type of impact on fans and viewers that both NASCAR and ESPN intended it to make from the beginning.
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