Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Darrell Waltrip Takes-Over ESPN's "NASCAR Now"

You really have to tip your hat to the newly re-vamped NASCAR Now program on ESPN2. The wholesale changes this season in on-air personalities and content have paid-off in an interesting TV series that covers all parts of the sport.

On Wednesday, it was Ryan Burr hosting the show. Little did he know what he was in for on this day. Two of the biggest talkers in NASCAR were the guests and they both did their best to keep their reputations intact.

Darrell Waltrip from Fox Sports and Ed Hinton from were along for a "mini-roundtable" discussion about a wide variety of NASCAR topics. All Burr had to do was mention a topic and then stand back. It might have helped if he had ducked.

Waltrip wants to start the NASCAR season in California on New Year's Eve with a night race followed by fireworks. His point was the season should run from January through September to avoid the tough conflict with the NFL and college football.

Hinton was all about throwing darts at Brian France and started by saying Waltrip should be Commissioner of NASCAR. Hinton followed that by suggesting the best way not to compete with the NFL was to cut The Chase to five or six races with drivers being eliminated every week. Waltrip said The Chase was "too long and there was not enough drama."

"If I can interject here let's move to the next topic," said Burr trying his best to direct traffic. Burr tossed-out the economy as the next issue and then ran for his life.

Waltrip called for owners to be more efficient and for NASCAR to open the tracks on Friday for testing. He has long proposed that testing be limited to the tracks where the Sprint Cup Series was racing that same weekend. His point is that it would create a real off-season for the racing families and keep testing expenses down.

Hinton's contention is that reality is reality. NASCAR will not fade away if everyone does not have a private jet or multiple team engineers. He believes that NASCAR has weathered earlier storms and this financial problem might wind-up re-inventing the sport simply from necessity.

Burr's final question was who should be "driver of the year?" Waltrip picked Jimmie Johnson should he win a third championship. Hinton picked Carl Edwards because he created the most excitement this season for the fans and the sport.

The final challenge for Burr was to wrestle these two on the topic of what would be better for the sport. Edwards coming from behind to win or Johnson getting the third championship?

Waltrip went for the dominance of Johnson. Hinton said the core fans wanted Johnson to win but the casual fans liked Edwards and wanted him to snatch the title away in the final race. Edwards would get "the swing voters."

"When we were putting this show together, I thought we might need an hour," said Burr. "But after listening to you guys talk we needed more like five hours." Burr barely had time to say a quick goodbye before another edition of NASCAR Now was done.

Credit goes to the production team for pairing-up these two and getting the little-used Hinton back on TV. This type of discussion in NASCAR-land now only takes place on Sirius Satellite radio's 24-hour NASCAR channel.

Hopefully, either ESPN or SPEED will see the value of having regular discussions on NASCAR topics with racing veterans and journalists and create a TV series for 2009. Even in this fifteen minutes of conversation, more ideas and topics flowed than NASCAR Now had seen in a very long time. This program re-airs at Midnight Eastern time for those who missed the original airing.

For those of you who have been asking, you can click directly on the picture to see it full-size. I think you can guess the track if you look closely. I will be kind to DW and not relate the year. Great shoes.

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