Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Commentary vs. Cheerleading On Monday's NASCAR TV

By now, fans are used to talking about the two Monday NASCAR TV shows. However, this off-week for the Sprint Cup Series brought some new faces to the TV screen.

Veteran driver Boris Said and ESPN reporter Terry Blount joined regular panelist Ricky Craven on ESPN2's NASCAR Now. The program was hosted by Allen Bestwick.

The ESPN producers have mixed personalities on this program for the past several season with interesting results. This year, gone are the theme shows that have featured all three Wallace brothers, retired drivers like Terry Labonte and non-NASCAR reporters like Tim Cowlishaw.

In their place have been solid programs that offer a lot of information and commentary packed into an hour. The steady influence has been Bestwick. Click here for a reminder of the fan reaction the first time he hosted an episode of NASCAR Now.

Boris Said was surrounded by some pretty sharp cookies in Craven and Blount. As an infrequent visitor to the program, Blount held his own and offered some solid first-hand observations on issues from post-race tempers to Tony Eury Jr. being at the racetrack and talking about the other Junior.

"I stood there with him (Eury) for at least twenty minutes," said Blount. "There were times where I actually thought he was going to break-up. I think he is hurting, really hurting, about what happened there. But, he did agree it was time for them to split up."

Craven and Said often disagree and have very different styles. On this program, it can be a positive to have different views on the same topic. As expected, Craven and Said often saw things rather differently.

"With these double-file restarts, there are going to be a lot less Christmas cards going out," joked Said about the Chicagoland issues. Craven said the new tendency for drivers to try and get spots back in just one corner "is a recipe for disaster."

When the discussion turned to Kyle Busch's Sprint Cup problems, Said and Craven also had different opinions. "I think it's partly because he races so much," said Craven. "The fact is that if you are going to beat Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup Series title, I'm afraid you have to give some more attention to these guys in the car during practice. If you don't, you risk having a weekend like he had."

"I disagree, Ricky," exclaimed Said. "Last year he (Busch) raced like every single weekend and he did great. But, what's different this year is there is no testing. I think the teams that have the engineers and the computer models have a clear advantage."

Mark Martin appeared by satellite from his Florida home. Unfortunately, Bestwick was the only panelist who got to ask questions. I am told this is a logistics issue, but any interview is more diverse when all the panelists are allowed to participate.

One thing sorely missing from This Week in NASCAR on SPEED has been a live interview. After eliminating a panelist and having only two voices on the show, the lack of an interview means lots of video played back between discussions.

Chad Knaus and Michael Waltrip were joined this Monday by Ralph Sheheen filling-in for series host Steve Byrnes. After teasing that Byrnes needed SPF-55 sunblock on the beach, Sheheen turned his attention to the Chicagoland event.

Waltrip brought his sense of humor and Knaus his eye for detail, but there was a whole lot of NASCAR cheerleading going on. "If you are a racing fan, you could not have been happier with the way that race developed at the end," said Knaus. "It's cool, it's fun, it's what people pay to see," exclaimed Waltrip. "And we are providing it."

"Lot easier to be saying how crazy it was when you know you are not doing it full-time anymore at the end of the season," said Sheheen to Waltrip. Point made.

Knaus was left to explain how his Hendrick teammate Mark Martin ran away on the track. His response was a reminder that this season the COT has been mastered by many teams and the competition and frustration levels are higher than ever before. "Don't you want all your stars mad?" asked Waltrip. "You want them to be on the chip."

Where Kyle Busch was concerned, Knaus suggested it was up to Joe or JD Gibbs to step-in and rally the troops on that team. "You don't know where leadership is going to come from," added Waltrip. "Somebody better step-up or one of our premiere teams ain't going to be chasing for a championship."

Sheheen wound the program down with a discussion of Indy. Waltrip used it for some humor. "I remember in 1995 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. won The Brickyard the year after Jeff Gordon had won it," said Waltrip. "And Dale said he became the first man to win The Brickyard." For veteran fans, the look on Knaus' face resembled that of Allen Bestwick on the vintage days of Inside NEXTEL Cup.

Gordon took some more teasing when Sheheen mentioned that Waltrip was going to be working on SPEED's Camping World Truck Series race Saturday night while most of the Sprint Cup teams are on vacation.

"Jeff Gordon goes to St. Tropez and Chad Knaus to the West Indies. I'm going to Sparta, KY on my off-week," said Waltrip.

NASCAR fans got two hours of TV on Monday that gave them lots of information and commentary. It certainly is interesting to see how the style of these shows continue to go in different directions even as they cover the exact same topics.

What program did you like on Monday and why? TDP welcomes your comments. 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 taking the time to stop by.


Sophia said...

I have to say I enjoyed the fun on TWIN tonight..but honestly, the less video and more talking is better for me. It would be nice to see the live guests again on this show...And the music was not LOUD tonight which was good.

The more I see Ralph the more I like him...he is good on this show. I hope Steve B had a nice vacation, but RS does a good job of blending in as if he has been there all along. That's nice Steve can get a week off and have a good pitch hitter.

Still wish the show would do us a HUGE favor and have Kenny Schrader on a time or two... Just sayin'.

Also, the "Odd Couple" really is what makes this show work as you have mentioned before. Nothing against Greg. Appreciate him and the work he does for animals.

Robert Upchurch said...

As primarily a road racing fan, I've long been a fan of Shaheen's work on those races and on the WRC rally coverage. He is smooth, professional and does his research. It is interesting to hear the comments of NASCAR fans (like Sophia) as they discover this talented announcer.

JD, I see no mention in this piece of the Mayfield story. Was nothing said on NASCAR Now? You predicted in your previous article that they would likely discuss it. What do you think now?


PS, JD, I want to echo the comments I read earlier this week. I like to come here because the discussions are reasonable and no one is calling others jerks (or worse) for disagreeing with an opinion. Very hard to find these days...thanks.

Dot said...

If I had to choose one over the other, TWIN would win. I like the comedy. Chad & Mikey always touts NASCAR. Buttered bread I guess since they're in it every week.

Boris very seldom races and Ricky not anymore though he offers great insight. I wish NN would have a current driver on. Oh that's right, they'd have to fly him in. They fly in Boris though. Speaking of Boris. I disagree with what he said about testing. Mark Martin is probably the least experienced COT driver and has won four times. KyB has other issues in my opinion and lack of testing isn't one of them. I'm sure Gibbs isn't lacking in engineers either.

I noticed on TWIN tonight that during the clips of the race, the audio was both from MRN/PRN (sorry, I don't know which) and BSPN. Why do they mix them? Funny SPEED would use JP, Rusty and AP's voices. Feud, what feud?

Another thing I was wondering. How did Ralph get the fill in spot? Is he connected to SPEED? Don't get me wrong, I like him, both in the booth and in Steve's chair. I think I'm going to miss him the most for the rest of the season.

@ Robert Upchurch, JD runs a tight ship here at TDP. That's why we love him. No off topics (maybe once in awhile) and no meanies allowed.

Robert Upchurch said...

Dot said...

"Feud, what feud?"

That reminds me. Concerning JD's pet peeve - no promotions of non-Disney races on NN - I noticed that SPEED showed this weekend's CWTS race at Kentucky on their calendar on The SPEED Report, but no mention of the Nationwide race at Gateway. ESPN isn't the only one playing that game.

Charlie said...

I thought it was interesting on This week in Nascar that when they showed the stats of the last 10 years at Indy they used 1997 - 2007 and did not include 2008. Knaus did point this out. Would have been a slightly different stat if they had include last year.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Nothing was released by NASCAR. As you may remember from the original incident, Mayfield's side gets their own info from the sanctioning body in this matter.

I get the NASCAR media releases, so I will be updating the Mayfield story when it breaks...again.

Just want to point out that ESPN and SPEED have a very good relationship. TWIN actually promoted the Nationwide Series race from Gateway and even used a nice big ESPN2 logo on the promo page. The start time of the telecast was also included.


The Monday race rewind or Radioactive or Scanner Chatter features are all prepared by The NASCAR Media Group. They have access to all the TV and radio calls of the race and normally pick the most exciting.

Look for a lot of Dave Moody over the next 17 Cup races.


50 yr. fan said...

I can't understand why SAID is
included on NN. He has never
been a Left Turn Racer and his
comments Monday were absurd.

Anonymous said...

Boris lost all credibility with me with the Marcos Ambrose incident last year. Or at least I think it was last year. When Marcos tried to apologize to him and Boris wouldn't take it.

glenc1 said...

actually Boris has competed in some oval races...though not since the COT I don't think. But remember, neither has Ricky, DW, Wally, Rusty, or any number of other driver commentators (that pesky thing about them being retired, ya know?) I think that's always going to be the case. Soon Dale Jarrett & Kyle P won't be as close to current conditions either. I don't know what the solution is--I'm guessing current drivers are generally too busy to do much of these shows. I think the analysts feel that by talking to the drivers, they can get as good an idea of what's going on as if they were still in the cars.

Sorry, all, but I agreed with Boris about Kyle's racing. I don't think Kyle racing a lot takes focus off his Cup team, in fact, it probably makes him sharper (and I can't *stand* the guy...) Not every driver is like that, but I think it's his style. I think he's just a few weeks of bad luck and trying too hard. (And Daytona, which is always a wild card.) If lack of testing would appear to have hurt any big team, it's the Roush teams (and Roush was in favor of the ban.) Denny and Kyle have had bad luck but run well most of the time though they haven't always had the finishes.

TWIN was very funny as usual. JD pointed out the best moments. Ralph did a fine job as usual. That was a good question Mikey asked about the wrench spinning, too.

dawg said...

It's getting harder, & harder, for me to stomach the races lately. If I've managed to get through 4 hours of mostly crashing boredom. About the last thing I want to do is watch anyone TALKING about it for another hour. Minus commercials, of course.

TexasRaceLady said...

I had fun watching Ralph, Chad and Mikey. Chad had me in stiches with his comment to Ralph about Mikey -- you'll get used to it. LOL

I'm glad Steve B got some time off. Ralph is a great go-to guy. I've loved his work for years.

Like Sophia, I would love to see at least an occasional live guest on the show. And popping Kenny S in would be a huge treat.

Dannyboy said...

DOT: Ralph had been around since SPEEDVISION. Good job RS!

RE - the audio feed on the NMG videos: I have only heard a few races on MRN (they're very spotty here in SD, CA), but when the race goes around the track, there's calls by various announcers as though they're cameras around the track. Very effective, but I can't stand the guy who yells. It always sounds so falsely hyped up to me. Crank it down a notch or two and I can take it. Pleeeze!

And to the Boris dissers: Boris has raced in the Daytona 500! Anybody who's done that can comment on races, as far as I'm concerned.

And what's this insistence on "current drivers" commenting on the sport? Especially when it goes all the way to insisting that they be "top drivers"? That's SILLY! For decades, the commentators on major network big-league sports shows have almost always been retired veterans. Look at "Baseball Tonight" Who's there? John Kruk, Eric Young, etc. Certainly not Hall of Famers!

One of the greatest baseball broadcasters of all time, Joe Garagiola, was a virtual nobody when he played. And you can't begin to list all the top MLB managers were just average players.

Please let's drop this pointless carping on who is qualified to comment. Anyone who's turned a wheel in a NASCAR race is qualified, especialy if they're as good on TV as Boris or Ricky or Randy LaJoie, IMO.

glenc1 said...

Dannyboy...generally I agree with you. But I don't know that stick & ball sports are the best comparison to show that...those sports don't have technology that changes nearly as fast as NASCAR's does. In the NFL, players are bigger than they used to be and the 'position' sometimes changes in certain ways; some rules change. Not as drastic as changing from the old car to the new. But I do think all drivers (especially those who have driven various types of cars) have a common language where you could understand the characteristics of a car by talking to the drivers or simply by observation. Sometimes you get that when you hear a conversation between a young gun & a veteran.

Newracefan said...

I to am not a fan of Boris and therefore tune him out. I am not usually one to hold a grudge but his issue with Ambrose coupled with his over his head driving for the win when he does race just bugs me. I love Ricky and pretty much agree with his opinions (most of the time). I enjoyed NN but I loved TWIN. Ralph did an excellent job of trying to control Mikey and it was obvious he was trying to control the show but he did it in a fun way so I was laughing with him. He asked Chad to bale him out at one point that coupled with the you'll get use to it comment by Chad was just too perfect. If TWIN was the ONLY place I could get info between races I would want more substance and less fluff but it's not so I'm good with the cheer leading. I know people say they want an additional guest that's fine if they extend the time, every time someone else is added to the mix it throws off the flow and this show is all about the flow.

JD anymore info on the possible cancellation that caused all the flack or is Speed just saying it was all Mikey just going off on a tangent again.

Anonymous said...

I still can't believe ESPN tries to shove Boris Said's Nascar expertise down our throats! He has virtually no Nascar experience, when he tries to analyze something, I have to laugh because he has no credibility.
34 cup starts, 7 top 10's, six on road courses.
18 nationwide starts, 6 top 10, all on road courses.
65 truck starts, 1 win, 6 top 5's. not too good.

Yes, he is a great road racer, but he's not a Nascar driver and should not be a Nascar analyst!

Daly Planet Editor said...


Silence from SPEED on that issue. But, we will not let it drop. The attempt at a primetime block of motorcycle programming has failed and now SPEED is re-airing another series (Jacked) that has already run on another cable network.

SPEED and NMG need to get some weekday NASCAR programming on the air NOW, regardless of who is footing the bill.

These next two months or so before the Chase starts are going to be critical to keeping the sport in the public eye or losing out to college and pro football when it starts.


Anonymous said...

anon 1:57, you just documented that Boris has 117 NASCAR starts. Regardless of what you might think of his analysis, he still has a valid NASCAR license and thus qualifies as a 'NASCAR driver'. There have been some with far more experience who did not turn out to be good analysts....true in other sports as well...some of the best analysts didn't actually play much ball themselves.

Just saying....

Anonymous said...

Try as I try, I cannot for the life of me see why people like Mikey.Just the fact that a grown man, a supposed team owner, is called Mikey is weird.I tried to watch this show but as soon as he began babbling I turned the channel. Why Chad Knaus would lend himself and his credibility to a show like this is beyond me.Ratings down, possible cancellation, I'm certainly not surprised.Mikey has had his run and now he's done.Cheers, Seinfeld, everything ends eventually. His act has worn thin and people don't want to see him anymore. He should do like the other owners do, Hendrick, Gibbs,Get off TV and get his team running with the others every week and challenging for wins. Makes sense to me,but does it make sense to MIKEY?

darbar said...

Here's another vote for not caring for Boris. I feel too much of what he says comes from a huge chip on his shoulder that he doesn't have a full time ride. I feel that many times on NN, he comes off as an old crusty curmudgeon. While he may have his hard card for Nascar, too many of his opinions come off as someone who's jealous. His treatment of Marcos Ambrose put the final nail in the coffin for me.

Richard in N.C. said...

I am wholly unbiased since I have been a Boris Said fan for many years - and I enjoy hearing his take. Besides having coached over 20 Cup drivers in road racing - including Ironhead when he was alive - now he is in a particularly good position to discuss how the economy is affecting small teams, and I don't recall Boris' ever having done a start and park.

My take on the Said-Ambrose incident in Mexico is much different, since it is clear to me after replaying their run-in several times that Ambrose turned left right into Boris in a right hand turn. Thus, it would appear to me that he meant to at least run Boris off the course, if not wreck him, and Ambrose never admitted that the wreck that knocked Boris out of the race was his fault.

I found it interesting to see 2 knowledgeable people give different views of Kyle B's situation - both of which I thought had merit. I do wish they had discussed whether teams have further reduced their testing from what they were doing early this season at non-NASCAR tracks.

banzaibonnie said...

J.D.I agree with you completely about the lack of nascar news,specials,or any programming related to the sport.Does anyone out there have aclue why speed ignores the second biggest fan base in the country? BY the way, I'll say again, the day mikey is gone, so am I!

darbar said...

According to a Tweet I got from Kenny Wallace, he said that the TV networks got a memo from Nascar saying they have to call the double file restarts "Shoot Out Style", rather than anything else. Like Nascar doesn't have anything else to worry about like less than 70% of tickets sold for Chicago, falling TV ratings and of course the Mayfield incident. Now they're worried about semantics? How stupid are these people?????

Anonymous said...

thanks Richard...sometimes I think people get an idea about someone by latching on to one thing which doesn't, when you later find out the real story, show who they really are at all.

Boris got scrappy because he didn't have someone around to pave the way for him. No daddy with a team or sponsor dollars, in fact, a dad not involved in his life. I don't think it's surprising he should have a little chip on his shoulder. He knows people and they obviously like him well enough to work with him, including Dale Jr and many others.

You shouldn't judge someone based on one thing. I abhorred how Dale (sr) 'rattled cages'...but I don't believe the man was only that. I think most of us have made choices that maybe we regret. If we were judged by that at the pearly gates, maybe we wouldn't feel very good about ourselves....

Anonymous said...

I'm getting tired of the drivers whining about the double file restarts. Deal with it !!! If you can't, get out of the car and let someone who can handle it race the car. The thought that the best and fastest car doesn't always win isn't something that started with this new rule. Sheesh !!! I would just bet that in every race Nascar has run in the past 10 seasons that the fastest/best car hasn't won in at least 40% of the time. Just look at this season....Kyle Busch has had the fastest car in many of the races, but he hasn't won every race. Man up, Nascar drivers and learn how to make those double files work to your advantate.

Richard in N.C. said...

I believe it is Tom Higgins that tells the story about the Big E telling the minister or some officials of a small church that he ( E ) would pay the cost of paving their parking lot - and then warning them that if the church let anyone know he had done so, Ironhead would send a bulldozer to dig it up. I am told he was a very generous and private man, with a special sense of humor.

Erik said...

I've gradually lost interest in that show since the format changed a couple of years ago. It has never been the same, or even come close to the greatness it was in the past, even in the later years with Dave hosting. Thats sad, really.

Sophia said...

I saw that Tweet about the memo on DRF SHOOT OUT STYLES mandated...lame. sure it's semantics but just another HUGE CLUE how NASCAR insults the fans.

They should be more concerned with CAMERA WORK SHOWING DFR SOS.
but what do I know.