Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"NASCAR Now" Blasts Into Daytona


There was absolutely nothing going on at the Daytona International Speedway on Monday. That did not seem to matter to ESPN as the network began the fourth season of NASCAR Now. After a week of studio shows with a single reporter in Daytona, things were about to change.

The Infield Pit Studio was ready and the big boys were all front and center. Host Allen Bestwick greeted viewers on what would be the first of a solid week of one-hour specials from the track. Bestwick has become the face of NASCAR on ESPN through three seasons of hard work.

On this Monday, Brad Daugherty was in Charlotte, NC taping the first program of his new part-time TV job. Showtime is using the TV studios adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to record the Inside NASCAR series that airs on Wednesday nights. Daugherty, Michael Waltrip, Randy Pemberton and Chris Myers make up the cast.

This left the third chair open for a NASCAR Now panelist in Daytona and the network made a great decision in who should fill it. Ricky Craven joined the regulars Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett. Like Bestwick, Craven has been a hard worker for ESPN as a studio analyst back in Connecticut for the past several seasons.

These three teamed with Bestwick to offer one of the best programs in the history of this series. The fact that it was the first day back for the Infield Studio gang was amazing. Bestwick looked refreshed and set the tone quickly.

Danica Patrick might be a story, but Bestwick turned the attention to the Daytona 500 instead of ESPN's own Nationwide Series race. He then moved quickly into the Bud Shoot Out highlights while allowing all three panelists to contribute. After the video was over, Lead Reporter Marty Smith followed with a wrap-up that focused on Kevin Harvick and the continuing drama at RCR.

To NASCAR Now's credit, Bestwick and the panelists took their time to offer comments on the upcoming Sprint Cup Series races. This season, the TV program has established a Twitter account and is beginning to work this social media application into the show. The progress is slow, but it's steady.

Smith returned to explain the changes involved at Hendrick Motorsports that have linked the Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. teams into one larger unit. The fact that both cars had the fastest times in qualifying opened some eyes in the garage. Smith did not overstate the issues and kept the Hendrick hype to a minimum.

Danica Patrick spoke to Smith and the result was a rather frank interview on how her decision was reached to drive in the Nationwide Series race. Patrick insisted the decision was made on Sunday and that all the parties involved encouraged her to race. It was a shame that Patrick insisted on wearing hugely over-sized sunglasses during the interview.

The NASCAR Now panel was unanimous in the opinion that Patrick can handle the Nationwide Series race. Rather than running for the win, it was seat time and experience that the three former drivers thought should be Patrick's focus.

Kevin Harvick was the featured interview and the program continued the practice of letting all the panelists ask questions. Even with Harvick speaking from his North Carolina shops by satellite, having Jarrett, Wallace and Craven involved made the entire interview much better.

It seemed that Craven's presence made the other panelists feel at ease. Working for years with Bestwick in the ESPN2 studio, Craven left an impression that he can perhaps fill some other roles for ESPN during this very long season. Bestwick has already been tapped to call some Nationwide Series races for the network this year. Perhaps, Craven joining him in the booth might be a solid combination.

It was nice to see all the resources ESPN put into this program. These are the network's All-Stars and that was plain to see. The conversation was easy, the questions less scripted and everyone participated. It was a fast-paced hour that was over in a flash.

It seems to be understood that a good week of NASCAR TV from the ESPN crew will go a long way toward erasing the tough memories of the Chase coverage from 2009. Monday was a tremendous start.

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16 comments:

Jonathan said...

I enjoyed Nascar Now great job for once ESPN! One thing they need to fix is the delay when they interview the drivers from somewhere else its hard to hear the questions being asked

Anonymous said...

Really loved the show they all did a great job. Because of that i will be watching tonight.

51 yr. fan said...

I enjoyed your comment about the
sunglasses. Everyone should know
by now that they are part of "who can look the most absurd" in
marketing sunglasses. Just think
of some of the googy ones Kyle
Busch has worn. I'm glad to see
Edwards finally remove his for
interviews.

Donna in FL said...

Other than the remote sound technical issue, I was happy with this show, the panelists, and hope the stellar job continues.
ESPN's NN serves as my "serious" daily NASCAR show, the one I expect to ask the tough questions and thoroughly discuss any issues; SPEED's Race Hub is my daily "fun" NASCAR show, the one I expect to see mostly interviews with the teams who make it all go 'round with just a touch of recap and news. I am probably not going to get to see SHO's show as I refuse to subscribe to the channel; I'm not sure where that one would fit into my TV scheme anyway, except for race analysis. I watch RaceDay sometimes but I've never been that interested in race previews. Hopefully post race analysis and interviews on networks, ESPN and SPEED will be adequate for me.

West Coast Diane said...

Good job ESPN. Did open with brief Danica, but that was the "news" of the day. Then covered Shootout and other Cup related stuff before returning to Danica. It was very balanced IMO. I wanted to hear their opinions regarding her decision to do the NW race. Rusty didn't irritate me and I like Ricky, so it was a good show :-)

Donna in FL said...

PS about the sunglasses thing. I was taught about that in PR 101 back in the 80s. In NASCAR today, non removal seems to be a Larry Mac pet peeve. Edwards and a few others paid attention and make an effort to remove them for interviews; most seem to be oblivious about it and do as they please. I understand about marketing plugs but personally, I want to see your eyes when you get interviewed. Windows of the soul, and all that.

Spider said...

JD, now come on. The sunglasses were cool and just because they were different than the small ones that the racer boys wear does not bother me. As a matter a fact, to me, she looks good in anything she has on or does not have on. And to be politically correct that goes for all the other drivers too. Maybe they should model some swimsuits one day to help their career some. LOL
OK enough humor.
The show "NASCAR Now" was more like "NASCAR Was" as all it did was racap everything we have already seen and heard and read a bunch of times. The announce team was stiff, and every comment was scripted and over rehearsed. The suit thing looked way too formal and maybe DJ, Rusty, and Ricky should have had big sunglasses on too so their eyes were hidden from roving over to the teleprompter all the time.
Plus, as much respect as I have for Marty, the interview he had with DP was awkward to say the least. She looked like she had been ambushed outside the paddock entrance and trapped against a fence. He was again stiff and seemed programed in his questions without being casual enough to even respond to her as if in a conversation. ESPN should have done it right for the "big show" and had her come into the multi million dollar "Area 51" mobile studio for a nice fun sit down interview and allow the panel to talk with her. That would have put the show over the top, and it could have been arranged as the big story on Monday was the ESPN shining moment and they missed it. Marty even said he was going to have a sit down with her so when did that happen?
So, that show needs work and they need to start with letting the panel loosen up some, if that is even possible, considering the stiffs that sit on it. That goes for Bestwick too as he gets the Grammy for stiffest host in the business.

Anonymous said...

Danica's sunglasses were cool. Those are in right now. I've found everyone over 40 thinks they are ridiculous, and everyone under 30 is looking to buy a pair. I can't remember Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, or Kyle Busch removing their sunglasses for an interview. The only person who doesn't wear them it seems is Carl Edwards.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping Brad being on Showtime meant he would no longer be on NASCAR Now.

Are you trying to tell us there are some weeks where we will have to tolerate him on TWO NASCAR shows?

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Tuesday night television, I am eager to see what they come up with for the Jimmie Johnson 24/7 show.

After the first episode was so cool, the second one covered the Rolex race at Daytona and was a total bore. Now this week the 48 is not a factor in the Bud Shootout, I wonder if the show will again snooze it up trying to cover the week's events, or if they will re-focus on Daytona prep. Can't wait to see it.

GinaV24 said...

maybe we could get Elton John to donate some of his sunglasses to the NASCAR drivers. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

It was a good show last night. I liked the chemistry between Bestwick and Craven especially.

Anonymous said...

I'd finally given up on it and deleted my TiVo season pass a few weeks ago, so I didn't realize it was on. Last season, I watched most of the shows on fast forward. I don't get the whole contrived stuffy formality of ESPN. Suits just don't go along with sports, and the use of the studio made it seem like they didn't want to get dirty by going into a garage. From your review, it sounds like the show has improved, but for me it's just too late.

Jonathan said...

HEY Rusty we get it guy its about getting it to handle! He talked about this Monday w Danica and now Tuesday twice today about Dale JR

Its all about how they get it to handle...

He and his crew have to get the car to handle

and so on. Rusty needs to go Please get rid of Rusty and give us Randy LaJoie

PammH said...

This week NN has kicked RH's butt, imo. And it all has to do w/AB & RC! veri word "chanted" ?!?! LoL!

Anonymous said...

I though RaceHub had really improved. Now that NASCAR Now is back, I see how lacking it really is. Unless NASCAR Now is prempted, I can't find a reason to tune into RaceHub.

Donna in FL said...

Hmmm that's a question noone seems to be asking. Is NASCAR Now and Race Hub in competition for the day's news? Or does each show have a different objective (as I alluded to my perception of it in my previous post) I still think it's the latter, these shows were not supposed to be dueling each other, thus different content and presentation. Again, I have use for them both.
I continue to find it interesting that opinion is split on the look of both- some think NN is too formal; others think RH is too casual. LOL. Maybe both shows should compromise with sport jackets, open collar and jeans in a set that is half garage and half studio.