Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"NASCAR Now" Strikes A Balance


The familiar voice of Allen Bestwick welcomed ESPN2 viewers to the first NASCAR Now program of 2009. It was Ed Hinton, Marty Smith and Boris Said who sat on the Monday panel with Bestwick.

The mandatory review of Jimmie Johnson's championship was followed by a Mike Massaro update on the new Sprint Cup drivers and teams. All of the panelists then agreed that Tony Stewart's new role as an owner would be one of the top stories of the year on the track. The three also agreed that Stewart would make The Chase.

Then, it was on to the economy and the issues that fans needed to hear. NASCAR Now jumped into this topic. Bestwick called the economy the top story for NASCAR and led the panel into a wide-ranging discussion.

Said talked about the struggles of small teams to get sponsorship, including the one he co-owns. Hinton referenced the "start and park" teams that may appear at the tail of the Sprint Cup Series fields this season. "It will be a common man's sport again," said Hinton. "You only need thirty cars to have a good race."

"It has made guys happy to have work," said Smith of the economic crunch. He referenced the frequent "team hopping" of crew members over the last several seasons as the salaries across the board in the sport continued to rise.

In a very interesting twist, ESPN continued the pattern of making people pick things. All three panelists discounted Johnson for another championship because of the odds on four-in-a-row and made the safe choice in Carl Edwards.

In a very smart move, the show invited NASCAR President Mike Helton as a guest. "Everybody's concern is the economy," said Helton to start the interview. He used his decades of experience to put things in a very good perspective for the TV viewers. Helton was frank and open about "keeping his fingers crossed" that the sport gets through this crisis.

Helton's point was NASCAR will work with the current rules and regulations in order to keep the sport healthy. He said being a good listener and also proactive in these difficult times was going to be his priority for the year. The NASCAR business model continues to change.

Finally, Bestwick raised the topic of the Camping World Truck Series. Helton confirmed that there will officially be some rule changes designed to cut costs released shortly. New motor rules may also come into play for both the Camping World and Nationwide Series. This cost saving measure of using "sealed" motors numerous times on the track may well be the most important change for the two smaller national series.

Before he departed, Helton reinforced once again that NASCAR is conscious of the economic struggles of the fans. He was clear that NASCAR, the teams and the tracks are going to have to face a new reality where the fans are concerned.

"The character of the sport is at an all time high," said Helton, talking about the driver line-up. He teased the panel about their earlier discussion that some drivers were just "too nice" to make the Chase and be a champion. The only thing lacking in this entire interview was some questions to Helton from Smith and Hinton.

In a new feature for this season, Dale Jarrett presented his top ten personalities in NASCAR history. The list was interesting, as it included the former CBS Sports executive Neil Pilson. Jarrett paid tribute to Pilson's confidence in NASCAR that led him to authorize the Daytona 500 to be carried from start to finish on network TV at a time when no other races were televised live.

Jimmie Johnson was the next guest and he spoke with Bestwick by phone. After taking a little good-natured ribbing for his finger injury, Johnson said all the right things about the new season. He sounded just as focused as last year and wondered why no one on the panel picked him to repeat.

"I get a mulligan, don't I?" asked Bestwick after a rare on-air flub. Bestwick has worked hard to change this show into a premier NASCAR program for ESPN2. In many ways, it reflects his personality.

In letting the panelists have a closing comment, Smith talked about how Elliott Sadler will handle this season after his professional chaos. Hinton talked about just how wild Daytona will be because there has been no testing and this may be the season that a dark horse sneaks-up and makes NASCAR exciting again. Said echoed his earlier comments that this year has an underlying storyline of opportunity for smaller teams.

Bestwick wrapped things up by reminding everyone that those on his side of the camera know just how fortunate they are because of the bad economy. His point was that NASCAR is going to put on a show and everyone will try their best to get the minds of the fans away from reality for a short while.

The producers of this program series have come a very long way in two short years. This show had absolutely no hype and no forced advertising features. A new graphic showed the resumes of each panelist and Said stepped right up where his team ownership was concerned. This was a good start to a very long season.

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41 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Jojaye said...

It was an excellent way to start the year. It addressed the economy with out the "doom & gloom" nor did it ignore it & go on & on as if everything had never changed.

Boris actually made several valid points with insight, as an owner/driver. He really did well.

I'm glad I had the time to watch it since I was supposed to be working - but was canceled out today.Not enough work to go round.
So it was really good to hear people -even TV folks- are just glad to be working.

It was a very balanced show & I hope it stays even keeled thru the year.

The J said...

i cant believe im doing this, but bravo espn, bravo. a great show tonight. they addressed the issue of the economy without being too gloomy.

i was almost rooting for espn to have a fluff filled show, just so it can be pointed out that speed's poor showing isnt their fault. but after tonights show i am extremely disappointed in speed. the nascar tv world has been turned upside down.

Anonymous said...

I think this was a great show. I would make a very small point in what TDP characterized as AB's final comment. "His point was that NASCAR is going to put on a show and everyone will try their best to get the minds of the fans away from reality for a short while."

As I remember he actually said something like hoping they can "lift the spirits" for a few hours on the weekends.

IMHO, there is a difference between escaping reality and lifting someone's spirit.

Dot said...

I watched and I liked it. May it continue. I do wish that they would relax the dress code though. Suits & ties are too stuffy. Business casual would be nice.

JD, to add to Anon's 6:21 comment, you're not bailing out on us, are you?

glenc1 said...

this was a great show all around. Let's see if Steve & SPEED can come close.

When did they film this, I wonder? Because unless I'm delusional, I thought those truck series rules were published on Friday? May have just been when they could get all the guys there. Anyways, I loved the 'Sports Reporters' aspect of letting them address different things at the end. I liked the resume add, I enjoyed Dale's piece, everything. I did think Helton said a lot without really saying much, but I'm not sure how much they can predict until it happens (and no one asked him directly, will there be any fans in California?, lol.)

Gymmie said...

I haven't watched my recording yet but look forward to it! I look forward to seeing what the gang had to say. I loved the old IWC days when Mr. Helton would stop by and chat with the boyz. Always fun :)

@glenc1--nope you're not delusional yes the info came out over the weekend :). I'm not looking to the "new" rules. With the "half time" show they don't need to bring any Crew Chiefs because there's no strategy to be had. That's why I love the Pick 'em Ups seeing what strategy everyone will do. How far will they push that gas and end up crossing that finish line on fumes. Heck some tracks guys made *no* pit stops.

I can't recall if they'd done a "pre-taped" show other than interviews. It was always funny on IWC when they'd try to trick us and Mikey would give it away that it was taped early.

I don't want to wait until Wednesday :(. I hope it means you finally decided to do the forums :). I don't want to lose my TDP buddies <3

cdh said...

Great show. They have officially led SPEED in the dust. Info and commentary without the cheesiness. No, I don't care about Jimmy Johnson's beard.

darbar said...

With reference to Helton, all I have to say is blah, blah, blah. I had to chuckle when he made the comment about listening to the fans. What rubbish. The fans have been talking, loudly, for some time now, and everything has fallen on deaf ears.

What was with the graphic telling us the resume's of the panelists? Once on the show, maybe, but why did they have to put that up more than that?

JD, you're shutting down the blog? Sorry, but that bites !!!

Anonymous said...

ESPN did a fantastic with Nascar Now. They covered the economy, the off season changes, and an interview with Mike Helton!! I like the way Allen Bestwick let the panel discuss/argue topics while keeping control. They even talked about the Truck Series(which wasn't even advertised on ESPN last season!). This is the type of discussion / interviews / coverage that Speed has lacked. The panel was a great selection and I liked Allen's message at the end. Great Job ESPN!

TexasRaceLady said...

I really enjoyed the show. Marty, Ed, and Boris all made valuable contributions to the discussion.

I also thought the new truck rules had been announced late last week. Maybe this wasn't a live interview with Mr. Helton?

SPEED was blown away today. All they had was a Toyota love-fest.

JD, The Planet has been a true delight. I just wish I'd found you sooner. I do hope you are going to a forum operation. Maybe the trolls won't make your life so hard.

majorshouse said...

It was definitely a great show and let's hope that this is the tone for the rest of the year.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Glen,

The show was not taped days earlier. The Truck Series rules have been out on websites, but what Mr. Helton was speaking about was their official release by NASCAR.

Thanks,

JD

Newracefan said...

Great show today guys don't you just love Marty and Ed being able to give us their opinions even if they do speak different languages. Now if could just get Fire on the Mountain out of my head.

JD here's another vote for a forum, no Daly Planet at all might just push me over the edge.

Erik said...

Another banner performance for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. They have taken what always has been a great show to a new level.

It is really telling when a "Jack of all trades" network can beat a master at their own game.

Tracy said...

I couldn't believe NN addressed so many issues. Boy, that hour sure sped by. Finally, some meat for fans.

Kudos all around. Even to Said, who was introduced as a team owner AND driver.

Matt said...

I got more opinions and insight and information out of today's one hour NASCAR Now than I got out of 3 weeks of SPEED's Preseason Thunder. Great job, ESPN.

SallyB said...

Bravo! NN has started their year off with a big bang. They covered all relevant subjects without going 'gloom and doom' or 'Little mary Sunshine' on us. No fluff, just good info and informed opinions. Sure makes what's been happening on Speed look pretty sorry. The 'infomercials' for the manufacturers that have starte this week have been lame. What a breath of fresh air it is to get some honest reporting.

KoHoSo said...

I came here to celebrate after seeing what had been lacking from Speed in 2009...an honest and balanced look at what we face and can look forward to with the coming season. Instead, I am deeply saddened to see the announcement that The Daly Planet is coming to an end. :-(

Gymmie said...

Finally watched my recording. Very nice to cover everything and not have their heads buried in the sand over what's going on in the "real world". I hope the rest of the week is just as informative :)

Anonymous said...

Good show, Hinton especially is great. All the down talk about the economy on this and other websites had me really down on the season. Hearing these guys talk about how excited they were for Daytona got me really excited.

Favorite moment of the show: Asked to predict the winner of next season every single panelist used the word "Unfortunately" before they said Carl Edwards. Bestwick might as well have asked "Which driver do you really just not like very much?" based on the way all three answered the question. I found it very telling. Very telling.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

So sad to see you shut this blog down, John. I loved it and will miss it. I sent you an email as well.

Please let us know if we can see you somewhere else writing your insights into the media world and about the media. (If that is possible.)

I wish you the very best in the rest of your life if this is indeed the end of getting to know you via this blog.

I also wish my fellow bloggers the very best in life if I don't "see" you in other blogs.

Sophia said...

I missed the early show but after reading hope to catch the 1am repeat, provided it's on.

JD, I hope this means you got a message board format to keep out the riff raff!

I have been out of the loop in recent months but see now, apparently nobody knows what your plans are. . .

Soph

Sophia said...

P.S. Has ANYBODY heard from Stricklanfan?? I hope he's ok.

hotaru said...

I applaude this edition of a program I otherwise used to think was a complete waste.

The analisis was a higher standard then any of the Speed Channel programming thus far.

Who knows, I may change my mind about NASCAR Now in time.

Karen said...

Sophia,

I emailed Stricklinfan last week when someone else wondered where he was. He says he's fine but really busy and will catch up with us later.

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glenc1 said...

Ah--I get it now--just looking back at Jayski, I saw it said 'NASCAR has issued new rules' but it probably came from one of the teams, not the PTB, officially. Forgot to mention--I thought Ed Hinton was surprisingly good...I get the vibe that he will be as frank as he possibly can...it will help me not miss Tradin' Paint so much, I think. BTW, I'm assuming SPEED is giving each manufacturer a preview, but frankly, I found it rather boring and obvious.

Lisa Hogan said...

I enjoyed the round table on Nascar Now.

JD, I am trying to be patient until tomorrow to find out what is going on with you. :)

Vicky D said...

I enjoyed the show, although I thought Said was the weak link on the panel. I also liked Ed Hinton and, of course, AB was super as host. Mike Helton didn't really have a lot to say it was like blah blah blah what we've heard before - I wonder if they really want to help the truck series. JD I don't like that comment about your blog either. Anyway, roll on practice and qualifying this weekend.

Nan S said...

I thought it was interesting that they thought the little teams would compete and be a big story. Of course everyone and his dog tries to show up for Daytona, but I wonder what the field will look like for California and Phoenix, particularly the later races in the year.

JD your blog is a civilized place to discuss media and I will be sorry to see it go, but I think several in the media will be relieved that they no longer are under the microscope for their foibles. Recently we've seen people directly react to this blog, its a shame to see it go.

Anonymous said...

I liked Dale J top ten. I did notice that more than half of the list were non-drivers. That really highlights (from someone who kknows the sport) that the men behind the scene really have given us the wonderful sport of NASCAR.

Though many have become rather politically correct, the fact that DJ placed Ralph Seagraves/RJR in his top 5 list, lets us know how much credit he gives to them for the survival/popularity of NASCAR.

Good job DJ.

Sophia said...

thanks Karen for the update on SLFan.

JD knows how to write a cliff hanger.

Must have been a soap writer at one time :-) J/K

Curious sophia

GinaV24 said...

JD, NASCAR Now did a good show. I'm sorry to hear that you may be shutting down the blog. I will surely miss it and your ability to bring all of us the opportunity to comment. I've enjoyed it very much and will miss it (and you).

glenc1 said...

JD, just wondered if you caught the story about Matt Millen & the Detroit TV station...I'm just thinking that the NASCAR Now's 'resumes' may be ESPN's disclaimer, lol. It's on Yahoo if anyone wants to look. Funny stuff, but (I think) unprofessional of the station. But seriously, it would be one way around having to explain aloud each time someone is on screen.

3bud said...

I don't get home till 6:30 or so and I'm fighting it out with DirecTv about a DVR after 12 years of paying for the Premier package or what ever it's called. I digress and might have to record on disc if this show keeps up the work it sounds like they did on Monday. ESPN good NASCAR reporting, SPEED fluff pieces? Huh.

Richard in N.C. said...

Allen B did a super job, especially keeping everyone going in the right direction.

At the same time, EESPN could have reported a good deal of what was discussed Monday in December or Jan. They're still late to the dance, but better late than never.

At the same time - coincidence I guess - I note that EESPN is now promoting that it is "your year round source" for MLB news. At least that means I'll get to see one of my childhood heroes year round - that is the suave, debonair John Kruk.

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