TWIN Continues To Find Its Footing (5/19/08)
NASCAR Now Orders The Right Combo-Platter (5/19/08)
New ESPN Network May Be A Reality (5/19/08)
Indy 500 TV Review And Open Forum Tuesday (5/19/08)
Two And Done For NASCAR On Fox (5/18/08)
Monday, May 19, 2008
Steve Byrnes and company got off to a fast start with This Week In NASCAR on Monday. Joining Byrnes on the panel were Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle.
This week, before the Coke 600 preview, the panel ran quickly through the All-Star action from Saturday night. They added video highlights and extended the conversation for several minutes.
This allowed Byrnes to ask the right questions of his two guests. Biffle talked tires and Waltrip talked about the COT and clear air. Both guests were emphatic in talking about the struggles of the teams with the COT cars.
Once again, Waltrip used his sense of humor to talk about his own struggles in the Sprint Showdown. Some small changes meant to help the car with performance turned instead into a straight pathway to the back of the pack.
This one segment aimed at the previous race really helped ease the transition to the extended preview of the Coke 600. Beginning with the added test session, the panel then moved into full preview mode. Biffle gave way to Waltrip as an owner about the hassle of the test vs. the reward.
The historic footage of David Pearson was a nice start to the edited feature on the history of the Lowe's Motor Speedway. As usual, the NASCAR Media Group prepared an outstanding feature with footage not seen on other NASCAR TV programs. The follow-up conversation with the panel "paid off" the issue of future champions.
Moving to the review of the All-Star race, it was clear the panel did not like AJ Allmendinger's actions where Elliott Sadler was concerned. The comments were low-key, but the message was clear. It was an interesting way to get the message across.
There had to be a Dale Jarrett tribute, and it was going to be interesting to hear Michael Waltrip's comments. Waltrip chose to focus on the fact that Jarrett has remained a family man committed to the things in life away from racing that are important. His summary was that DJ had remained the same person regardless of the amount of success he achieved in the sport.
The panel finished-off the All-Star discussion with good comments from both panelists. Then, the fun began with talk about the unfortunate burnout competition. As Biffle said, since he was the only one that actually followed the rules the competition was not all that hard to win.
The extended feature from NMG using the scanners, radio and TV announcers from the All-Star race was even better with Biffle on the set. He was the perfect person to follow-up this feature with his comments as one of the race contenders.
After a brief review of the Truck Series, the fan questions brought-up topics like Sam Hornish and his "crab" car. One thing for certain is that between Biffle and Waltrip, almost everything NASCAR can get answered completely.
This program had a relaxed and friendly feel that had been missing from this series. Waltrip seems at ease, and Biffle continues to contribute good information because often times he was in the mix himself. It may have helped that the Producer allowed the panelists to talk a bit more about the race from the previous weekend first.
This one little touch really allowed the show to get "cranked up" and the conversation to begin flowing. Hopefully, this can continue after the Coke 600 and for the rest of the season. There should be plenty of highlights and plenty of stories next Monday on This Week In NASCAR.
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Wow! There is a word used sparingly on this blog over the last sixteen months. Monday's NASCAR Now on ESPN2 deserved every letter of that powerful little word.
Allen Bestwick only has one speed, and that is full speed ahead. He sets a fast-paced tone on this one hour "roundtable" show. What makes the show good or just average is the three panelists with whom he shares the Bristol, CT studio.
On this Monday, Bestwick was joined by NASCAR veteran Johnny Benson, ESPN pit reporter Mike Massaro and NASCAR Now's own Lead Reporter Marty Smith. This group turned-out to be one of the best in terms of conversation and information that has been on the show since the season began.
The key element that changed the show was the ability of Johnny Benson to jump-into the moving conversation with the talkative Smith and Massaro. With Bestwick filling-in the gaps with his own comments and questions the pace never slowed.
Massaro pointed-out many NASCAR issues about the All-Star race and the teams involved from his veteran perspective. He reminded viewers that winning team owner Ray Evernham had been a panelist on the show just last week.
The TV production part of the program began with a very positive change. The Director has finally decided to show the entire panel during the opening introductions instead of the horrible single shots that forced panelists to smile and nod as if CourtTV was back in session.
Rather than open the politically correct door, Bestwick swung right into the fact that the COT cars were struggling at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the All-Star race lacked the normal excitement TV viewers and fans had seen in the past.
Bestwick then led a nice tribute to Dale Jarrett. These three panelists had the absolute best stories, including video of Jarrett passing Benson for a Daytona win. This one simple segment really showed TV viewers the years of NASCAR experience represented on the NASCAR Now panel. That was exactly the goal of ESPN when Motorsports VP Rich Feinberg had the courage to make the wholesale changes that resulted in this outstanding series.
The two edited features in this program give the panel a short break and add a nice perspective to the show. The scanner chatter and the great editing include the radio calls of the racing action which always brings excitement. Both the NASCAR Media Group and NASCAR Now production staffs contribute to these features.
Ray Evernham has been trying hard to put the personal issues behind him. As a new contributor to ESPN, Evernham appeared on this show as the winning owner. For the first time, the NASCAR Now panelists were finally allowed to speak to the guest. What a difference this one little change made. Finally, the same diverse perspectives that viewers had been hearing from the panel were continued in the featured interview. Hopefully, this change is permanent.
Evernham continues to be a hit where his TV appearances are concerned. He interacted well with all the panelists, and even confessed to Mike Massaro that he was "testing" a new engine in the All-Star race. Evernham did his own preview of the Coke 600 from his owner's perspective. In another veteran TV move, Evernham had listened to the show prior to his interview and referenced the comments of the panelists in his answers. This was TV working very well.
With no Nationwide Series race, Bestwick led the focus on the Craftsman Truck Series and Benson offered a first-hand review. His controversy in the race was a good story for the show, and Benson showed once again the intensity he often brought to Inside Winston Cup Racing on SpeedVision over a decade ago.
A recap of the Todd Bodine vs. Ron Hornaday wreck was solid. Both sides were represented, and the panel was clear on their different views. Benson once again reminded viewers that although he may be low key, he is one of the most experienced NASCAR drivers remaining active in the sport.
The show is still very structured, but Bestwick has been slowly loosening the reins and continues to allow "fun" to creep into the program. The show sneaked in some regional Camping World Series highlights at the end that included a soundbite with the winner.
The amazing turn-a-round of ESPN's NASCAR efforts continue, and a fast-paced informative hour like this on Monday is a great building block for the entire NASCAR on ESPN TV package. Once the heart of the season begins, and the pressure of making "The Chase" becomes real, this show is going to be an integral part of ESPN's Sprint Cup efforts. Bestwick and company are certainly off to a great start.
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We have been getting a lot of email asking for a one-time TV discussion of the Indy 500. Since there is no TV-related website that deals with open-wheel racing, readers would like a place to preview and then talk about the race telecast on ABC.
Please give us your feedback about whether or not you would be interested in reading a TV preview of the Indy race, participating in a live blog during the event, and then responding to a column about the TV coverage.
Also, there will once again be a live question and answer forum on Tuesday beginning at 9AM. Last week we had a great response, you can read that post by clicking here. Once again, we will be talking NASCAR TV and using some of our friends to help answer the questions you may have about any TV issues.
The post for the Q&A will be up at 9AM, so please do not post your questions here. Thanks for helping us with the Indy 500 feedback, we will update that issue on Tuesday.
To post your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and help us with this issue.