Monday, June 15, 2009

Manske Struggles With The "NASCAR Now" Roundtable

Everyone deserves a vacation and that is just what ESPN's Allen Bestwick got this week. Instead of hosting the Monday version of NASCAR Now on ESPN2, he was home in Rhode Island spending some time with the family.

In his place, the network chose Nicole Manske. This was not her first time hosting the big one-hour Monday show, but it might be her last for a while. Manske came over from SPEED and has proven herself in several TV settings.

Alone in the studio on a weekday, Manske has a strong ability to keep things focused and ask the tough questions of her guests via satellite or phone. On the Sunday morning hour-long preview show, Manske works with a single guest in the studio. They use reporters in the field and edited features to set-up that day's Sprint Cup Series race. Manske with Ricky Craven on Sundays is fun to watch.

Unfortunately, something happens when she is put in the situation of dealing with three panelists live in the studio. Her ability to rely on teleprompters and a controlled environment is gone. While she has the TV skills to succeed, she does not yet have the NASCAR background to make conversation or ask the important follow-up question.

A positive note was the program allowing Craven, Boris Said and Mike Wallace to all ask questions of liveshot guest Alan Gustafson. Moving Manske aside and letting the panel talk with the winning crew chief resulted in some good questions and a great interview.

All of the production pieces are in place for this TV series. Outstanding highlights, good soundbites from all the top drivers and a solid Monday interview with a weekend newsmaker. The only thing remaining is for someone to drive the bus.

"In terms of saving fuel, who was the most impressive driver yesterday?" asked Manske of her expert panel. The looks on their faces told the tale. Ricky Craven could not hide his grin as he spread his hands as if to say are you kidding me?

"Well, the most impressive was Mark Martin, right?" said Craven. Proving that he is one of the top TV pros he quickly changed the subject. Wallace gave Martin a quick compliment and Said admitted that he just hates all fuel mileage races.

Manske has come a long way this season and continues to be a solid field reporter and weekday studio host. Unfortunately, this one-hour show calls for someone with more actual NASCAR history and experience. It seems that she is almost there and gaining on it, but on this Monday it was still a struggle.

Finally, on-air decisions in a studio setting come down to the Producer and the Coordinating Producer. During this program, two video clips were shown of accidents.

The first involved NASCAR veteran Johnny Benson, who escaped serious injury while racing his Supermodified car at a regional track. Although there was a brief fire, it was known in advance that Benson was going to recover and his condition was updated. The same could not be said for the second clip.

In the final segment of the show, the video of the accident that claimed the life of driver Carlos Pardo in NASCAR's Mexican Series was shown right out of commercial. There was no warning, no disclaimer and the footage was graphic.

NASCAR Now then actually replayed his death in slow motion from a second angle. Pardo was clearly seen inside his car that was essentially impaled on the end of a Jersey barrier. The video then continued to show rescue workers extracting his body from the car while covered with a blue tarp.

How and why this was included in a classy show that has made a name for itself by presenting the best NASCAR news and information is unclear. TDP has been begging for years to have this program include regional series highlights and information. The door has always been firmly shut. But now, because of sensational video and a fatality the door was opened for all the wrong reasons.

TV networks have a policy in place where the video footage of violent death is concerned. Nothing could have been more graphic than seeing Pardo dead in his car after this horrible accident. Let's hope that NASCAR Now does not have to face this issue again in the future, but somewhere inside ESPN this issue has to be addressed. That was tasteless and embarrassing for NASCAR Now, the ESPN2 Network and ESPN Inc.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by.


Nathan Brice said...

There were some times that Nicole did struggle, but for the most part she was good. They occasionally need a fill-in host for this to give Allen a week off. She is much better than Mike. I hope they don't go to the other guy that used to be on the show whose name I will not mention again, ever. I would also maybe like to see them use someone like Vince Welch or maybe have Robert Flores on there one time since he seems to have some NASCAR knowledge.

TexasRaceLady said...

I have to agree, JD, that Nicole was terribly out of her element today. She just doesn't have the NASCAR smarts needed to run the discussion group.

I opted out of the show a bit early, so I missed the replay of the accidents. Now, I'm glad I did.

NorCalFan said...

So much for setting the DVR to record the show at 2pm. The first 24 minutes of programming was college baseball world series. The 1 hour cut off just as Alan Gustafson was being interviewed. Maybe I'll catch the last half of the show on the re-run later unless it's preempted by poker. I guess I shouldn't expect too much from BSPN since they didn't broadcast the cup race.

Nicole did appear to be a little nervous and out of her comfort zone but Craven more than makes up for the the shows weaknesses as their go-to expert.

Speaking of credibility, when the conversation turned to Dale Jr's struggles this season, I had to chuckle when Boris said that Jr. is a really good road course racer and loves Sonoma. Hmmm, it was just last year at this time when Jr. was interviewed on TV and said he isn't very good at road courses and he HATES racing at Infineon. I tend to believe Jr. on that one (his finishes probably back up his statement).

Anonymous said...

I think almost any Nascar wife would have been a much better choice. I was embarrassed for her even though I am a strong advocate of women in Nascar. Someone just chose the wrong girl.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

Haven't had a chance to watch the show yet, but you don't learn to swim staying in the shallow end of the pool. Wonder whether EESPN might ever consider letting Dr. P. fill in for Allen?

Karen said...

Man, Ricky saved her butt on that dumb question about who was best saving gas. I like him more every time I see him. I noticed on a show early last week Nicole has a tough time ad libbing.

Lesley said...

I am so!!!!! Tired of everyone being PC...How many more people are qualified to do this show??

Anonymous said...

Nicole has never seemed very good at ad libbing. Add to that the problem that her knowledge of NASCAR seems very thin. Ricky continues to shine in this assignment.

The video re-play was horrible. Who in the world was in charge. I feel saddness for family and friends of this poor driver.

Anonymous said...

NN was a complete bore yesterday. Personally,I've never understood JD defending Manske the last year or so. Her on camera presence is timid and she appears to lack self confidence which is appropriate because I don't think she has even the most basic understanding of Sprint car racing.

Bobby said...

The video replay was wrong, but it brought to an important question that all racing should ask itself.

As we all know, the Technical Center in Charlotte is aware of everything and wants us to improve the safety of racing. This was a case, as I must admit, where NASCAR staff Stateside must be able to observe what happened to prevent such an incident from happening again.

It was avoidable, and the crash was similar to David Stremme's Sunday at Michigan in that the side of the car swiped at the end of the track that is the start of pit wall. Stremme hit a conveyor belt-style belt that allowed the barriers to splash. If C. Pardo (a former NNS and CWE driver; brother Reuben also has done both) had hit a barrier similar to the one at MIS, it would have been different.

Tracks need to ask how pit walls should be designed. That's the issue now.

Vicky D said...

We were just amazed that Nascar Now showed Pardo's wreck. I don't think they should have done that, although we have seen Earnhardt's dozens of times. Yes, Nicole was struggling, but don't you think it was the panel, I think Craven worked well, but Boris Said & Mike Wallace along with Craven means there are too many dirvers vs. Manske. Michigan was indeed a boring race so maybe they didn't need so many folks in the studio rehashing that.

red said...

i didn't watch NN so my comments are based upon one part of the content of the column.

if NN didn't "set up" the video of pardo's wreck and subsequent death, that is a major (and avoidable) lapse in taste and morality. the death of any racer in any part of the sport is numbing and to permit the graphic footage to be broadcast without warning is unprofessional and appalling. the video is horrific and viewers certainly should have been warned in advance: i thought that was simply part of the broadcasters' standards and am astounded that it apparently didn't happen. having viewed the video myself, i can only hope they didn't run all the footage that the mexican station filmed and ran.

as to bobby's point about the tracks' -- and nascar's -- responsibilities: every track that runs a nascar sanctioned event must have all current safety features in place or the event should be yanked until the track is brought to standard. i understand the ownership tangle, i appreciate the cost, i empathsize with the regional and local tracks who struggle to keep the gates open and the actual racing surface in shape for races.

but the bottom line is doing everything possible for driver safety. it's actually pretty simple: you want a nascar-sanctioned event at your track? then comply with the safety standards that are in place at the highest level. and at those highest levels -- cup, n'wide, trucks -- the track operators must be held to an even higher level: safer barriers all around, both inside and outside walls, no overlapping walls that jut out and have no protection (see jeff gordon's wreck), strongest catch fences, yank the pretty grass -- all the things that our sport knows will contribute to a driver putting his window net down after a wreck.

we have suffered the loss of too many great racers across all forms of motorsports to not have learned from each death. this most recent tragedy needs to continue the safety advances so that pardo's death isn't merely lamentable.

and all race broadcast partners need to get some form of codified procedure in place for airing the footage they capture at the time.

perhaps that is the best we can salvage from a horrible and sad racing death.

50 yr. fan said...

Ricky Craven was the only one with
any credibility. I put Said in
the Brad D. category as "talking
head, nothing said" (pun intended).
Nicole is easy on the eyes but
everthing seems preplanned and

Dannyboy said...


As I recall, the story of Pardo's death, which I read from a Jayski link on Sunday or Monday morning, said that Pardo was not killed instantly, he died 45 minutes later at the hospital. Same is true, I believe of Dale Sr. A technicality, I'm sure, but the tape does NOT show a driver "dead at the wheel" as you said.

Having said that, I felt "gut-shot" when they showed that video with no disclaimer. ESPN is literally the bottom of the barrel now.

Anonymous said...

after This 6/17/09 episode on NN, Manske will might take a break & recovered for the recent struggles on the 6/15/09roundtable edition. when she gets back from the break, she will not only hosting the Tue-Fri & Weekend eps primarly, she can guest host First Take. Let's hope she can do good more, not struggle while she's hosting the Tue-Fri & Weekend Editions of NN and guest host FT. She can do any more good & better on-air but she can learn alot from her fellow ESPN on-air personalites who did mostly good on-air and on camera. Nicole Manske, No more struggling but just hang in here, you deserved to be 100% mostly great like other ESPN On-Air Personalities.

Sophia said...

I am disgusted they showed that video. The end.

I thought Dale Sr died instantly due to sudden impact & damage inside brainstem.

Nevertheless, I googled the wreck on youtube and it's HORRIFYING in all the pieces that went flying. AND the blue tarp over the body as they loaded it in ambulance. So I see what the disgust was about. Even in Spanish you knew it was upsetting.

Stremme did have a similar wreck and thankfully is ok.

That wreck that took a life could've easily been prevented with redesign of the end of that wall. Very sad.

another reason I still avoid NN and BSPN every chance I get.

Richard in N.C. said...

Due to baseball run over I have not seen the end of Monday's N-Now. I do find it interesting that TNT felt the need to run a warning before Sunday's car chase show that came on after the Cup race, but EESPN did not on N-Now.

Anonymous said...

I was warned in advance that the footage was on NN so I was prepared for it, but they certainly should have said "This could be disturbing" and warned viewers, especially since kids watch the show. They definitely should have turned the discussion to safety. Somebody has an interview online with Jimmie Johnson today after he saw the video and he was obviously very distressed by it--said he wouldn't have DRIVEN on a track with those Jersey barriers. Nicole doesn't have the experience to turn the conversation that way--we really needed AB or even Ray to do that. It was a shame to have mostly the "B" team (except for Craven) to discuss the incident. Craven, IMHO, did the best job of discussing Benson's accident as well, and Nicole cut him off. Her strength is "up close and Personal"--wish ESPN would use John Kernan when AB is on vacation. You need a veteran in control, not a pretty hair cut.

Anonymous said...

To me things in life are relative. I think she did fine but I am comparing her to the FOX crew of DW, MW, and Hammond. I belive her on air skills far surpass this group.

Dot said...

I was hoping to catch NN last night. Too bad for me, some Soccer game on delay was on instead.

Why doesn't BSPN use Ricky Craven as the host of round table? We all seem to like him. Even though he has not driven the new (now old) car, he is well versed with racing in general. Give him a try BSPN.

I'll ask again, why is Boris included on the round table, or even on NN anyway? It makes some sense for him to be on it for the upcoming road course races but, that's about it. Yeah, I hold a grudge from the Marcos incident.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Do you think the handling of the Pardo might have been better if Allen B had been there?

From your description of the Pardo scenes shown it sounds to me like several EESPN production and management people need to be severely disciplined, even terminated, and that there needs to be a very public apology by EESPN.

Newracefan said...

First problem all drivers,Marty or Mike Massaro would have been better. Second you don't put a tarp up over the extraction when the guy is alive he just wasn't declared dead until he got to the hospital. Poor decision on NN part, I hope that AB just would have refused to use it, or given us a really big heads up. They couldn't find any footage of the guy when he was alive? So use a picture for crying out loud. Oh by the way Nicole says Killed just as the video shows the car slamming into the barrier, really nice touch WOW.

Sophia said...


I only watched the wreck on youtube to see how shocking it came off. Ouch, it was indeed and the explosion of car parts shooting what seemed like 20 feet or higher into the air and the abrupt stop was horrifying.

I wish now I had not been so curious.

Richard in N.C. said...

Being only borderline computer literate and fouling up password entry 5 hours ago helps avoid such.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I was hoping to get some reactions and I appreciate the posts.

Not sure how to word this, but times have changed and ESPN is not the same place we used to know.

Who made the decision to air this? Then, to make Manske just read it like another news story and try to make Boris Said follow it...tasteless.

I don't think TWIN would have done this, I don't think SportsCenter showed this and just because it now lives on YouTube does not make it right to show on TV.

All I know is one thing. Monday's NASCAR Now has never interviewed a regional driver, never shown regional highlights and never mentioned in a story a regional racing series.

So, how all of a sudden does an accident in the Mexican Series suddenly deserve video?

The answer is sensationalism and graphic violence. The two things ESPN was guilty of when they started this show with Erik Kuselias and Doug Banks hosting.

Two men who had NEVER been to a NASCAR race and were not fans.

It's just upsetting and in the present media environment where it seems only TDP and our readers speak their minds about TV one thing is for sure...ESPN is going to get away with it and pretend it is our problem.

Makes you really wonder sometimes...

Sophia said...

I have to say had I seen this live, or ambushed via NN, I would've burst into tears and been livid at the same time. I feel horrible for the family and friends involved.

JD you make a good point if NN NEVER mentions regional series. Just sick to be into the violence.

Just like local news..if it bleeds it leads..thus I avoid local news most ALL the time unless I know there is a clip of somebody on it being interviewed (for news or music clip)

I'm with Richard..somebody should be fired for thinking that appropriate. To ambush viewers with that from commercial? I can't believe Manske could not have voiced SOMETHING on her own (sorry for no warning on that or would THAT have gotten her in trouble)

SHAMEFUL but typical BSPN.:(

Anonymous said...

To exemplify just how little coverage the regional series receive, I must admit I didn't even know there WAS a NASCAR Mexico series until this horrendous and tragic accident. Very, very poor taste to a) show it and b) not give any advance warning.

Dannyboy said...

JD and Sophia:

I felt exactly the same. Pure sensationalism. I already knew about the tragedy before NN ran the video, so when they showed it in all its ugly reality, I felt violated, and my sorrow for Pardo's death and all it implied resulted in me having tears in my eyes. Like I said above, if it wasn't already, ESPN is now the bottom of the barrel.

Anonymous said...

As I just mention, Nicole Manske should take a brief hiatus from hosting NASCAR Now after the 6/17/09 episode so she can recover from the some of the recent struggles including the 1 when she hosted the 6/15/09 roundtable. While she's on hiatus: she can watch her finacee Ryan Briscoe racing and one thing she never done before...Guest hosting ESPN First Take. Jamie Little, Mike Massaro & Shannon Spake will be in-charge of it while Manske's on-hiatus from hosting NN. Manske & the entire ESPN on-air personalities will hang in there because this year is ESPN's 30th Birthday. She has been mostly doing pretty great since she joined ESPN in January 2008.

red said...

i'd just like to address a concern raised by dannyboy and sophia in re: the deaths of pardo and earnhardt sr: both racers were already dead at the scene before the extrication team got to them, regardless of what was said at the time. but that discrepancy is easy to explain:

emergency medical personnel are not permitted to declare a victim has died: only a physician can do that. as a result, both racers arrived at the hospitals with their status likely officially listed as "life-threatening" or "critical," even though neither had survived the wreck. as the transport was happening, emergency personnel would have been radioing vital signs and relaying obvious trauma signs that would clearly signal to the ER that the victim was dead. but until that transport arrives at the hospital and a physician makes the time call, the offical status is not discussed, let alone declared.

"doa" exists for a reason and likely would have covered both victims. it is likely that the ER may have attempt some form of resuscitation with earnhardt sr but that would have been simply a long-shot attempt while the patient was assessed.

the delay between the time the victim arrives at the ER and the time the death is called is merely a function of the ER team doing everything possible before issuing the formal TOD (time of death); nothing more.

so whie it was likely very obvious to the emergency response personnel that both earnhardt sr and pardo were gone by the time the extrication was finished, only a physican would do the actual declaration. in fact, i've been with an emt crew when they arrived at the scene of a woman who died in the night and her dentist husband wasn't permitted to call the death: the body had to be transported to the hospital for the ER doc to call it. in another case, a doc happened to be at the station when a suicide was called in: he accompanied the team and so was able to call it on the site.

just want to make certain we don't fall into the conspiracy theorist mindset that someone was hiding something. given the video i watched of the pardo case, the blue tarp was called for and everyone there knew it.

Robert Upchurch said...

Like a couple of other people, I missed the end of the show. My DVR missed it twice because college baseball ran over on the afternoon showing and the evening replay was spoiled by soccer. This is the old ESPN I remember, famous for playing fast and loose with the schedule, to the detriment of those of us who program our TV watching. I wanted to hear more of the Gustavson interview.

And speaking of "the old ESPN", I'm not surprised they showed Pardo's crash footage...the Disney sports networks have always gone for the sensational. It is an important story though, one I think was right to be covered on the show, but a disclaimer should be used for footage that the producers knew to be graphic.

Nicole was OK in the part I saw - not the expert at handling a panel like Bestwick is - but not many other broadcasters are. I'll give her a pass as a fill-in, but look forward to having Allen back after his break. A better panel would have helped...NN has better Roundtable teams than this one. I like Nicole fine on the half-hour news show...she's better than Shannon Spake or even Massaro at that format.

Anonymous said...