Thursday, March 4, 2010

"NASCAR Now" vs. "Race Hub" Battle Fizzles

We are now down the road a ways with the newest NASCAR TV situation. This season, both ESPN and SPEED have committed to fulltime daily NASCAR news programs. ESPN began NASCAR Now in 2007. SPEED launched Race Hub late last year and made the decision during the off-season to bring it back for 2010.

Each series leverages the strengths associated with the respective networks. ESPN has a vast resource of reporters working fulltime on NASCAR assignments for TV, magazines and websites. SPEED has virtually the entire NASCAR world right outside its backdoor in the Concord and Mooresville areas of North Carolina.

ESPN learned a hard lesson when the network tried to overlay an existing sports formula on hardcore NASCAR fans. The original on-air talent knew nothing of the sport. Several of the contributors from the ESPN journalism family were little better. The hype-driven approach to NASCAR news fell flat.

None of the three co-hosts now working on the series participated in the early years. Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro and Nicole Briscoe have teamed-up to give the series a firm foundation. Bestwick's superb Monday hour mixed with the ability of Briscoe and Massaro to work both in the studio and at the track has resulted in unqualified success.

Gone is "columnist" Tim Cowlishaw, the stick-and-ball reporters and the long fantasy racing segments. Now, Lead Reporter Marty Smith is joined by a cast that includes Ryan McGee and Ed Hinton. This year will also see Shannon Spake take on a bigger role both in the studio and on location with news reports.

Since the beginning, the series has also used the NASCAR on ESPN on-air talent as contributors. This year Ray Evernham has been a bonus with his technical knowledge of the many issues and changes currently in progress inside the sport. Rusty Wallace has been his outspoken and feisty self while Brad Daugherty has proven to have much more value in this setting than in his seat at the track.

The biggest improvement of 2010 has been the series taking questions and comments directly from Twitter. An email account still provides a link, but the growing social media trend should not be ignored. The remaining challenge is to increase the number of Sunday night shows from the final seventeen race weekends to the entire season.

NASCAR Now has matured into a comfortable presence in the sport that packs a lot of information into each program and features timely interviews with the newsmakers. Those goals are still quite a bit down the road for SPEED's Race Hub.

Instead of hiring one on-air news personality for the Monday through Thursday programs, SPEED continues to rotate a wide variety of announcers through the position. One day it may be a play-by-play announcer coupled with a pit road reporter. The next it might be a pre-race show host with a news-oriented reporter. The results are uneven.

Race Hub made a casual clothing statement early on, but is still struggling with where to put everyone on the set. The show has evolved into clearly pre-taped interviews that generally accentuate the positive and follow the NASCAR mandate for this season.

The news in the program is presented right off the top. Click over to Race Hub a little late and you have missed the most topical information. One pleasant surprise has been that Jeff Hammond seems to work very well in this setting. He has been perhaps the most outspoken and opinionated analyst on the show.

Jamie McMurray has just been added as a weekly regular, as has Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo. McMurray's appearances start next week, but Palumbo has been working hard to figure out exactly what she is doing on the show. It's certainly not very well defined right now.

SPEED can get almost anyone to just drive over to the studio. What's important is having the news credibility to ask them the tough questions fan want answered. While Race Hub does have a Twitter account, the series is still trying to determine the best way to get things more interactive.

The two big positives of this series are that it is in primetime and has almost all of the potential guests just a short drive away. The downside is the lack of a permanent host and the softball questions.

Last week, truck series announcer Rick Allen was put in the awkward position of interviewing his own color analyst Phil Parsons on the day of the big "start and park" controversy. Allen never even brought it up although Parsons was at the center of the issue.

Right now, the two TV series are happily going their separate ways in style, substance and format. What we thought would be a battle over guests, between hosts and over breaking news headlines never materialized. The NASCAR TV news battle has simply fizzled.

Can you tell us which show you watch and why? What suggestions would you have for the producers of these programs? Who has been the on-air personality that impressed you the most this season?

TDP welcomes your opinion on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when hosting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Sally said...

I find that Nascar Now is what I end up watching. They give me up to the minute news, and discuss and issues without seeming to cater to the Nascar line. I'm not sure what Race Hub is supposed to be. It isn't news, and any discussions are strictly soft ball. The constantly rotating 'hosts' just don't do it for me. Not what I'm looking for, so I stick with NN.

Dannyboy said...

I will regrettably not be watching much of Nascar Now due to ESPN's unfathomable scheduling of this show in San Diego. Below is the grid for the next two weeks as provided by's Zap2it search engine. As you can see, unlike last season when they ran the Monday show usually around 9-10pm, there are NO slots for the weekday show during normal viewing hours when people are home from work. This means that if I want to watch it I have to program the VCR/DVR and frankly that's too much bother for a business owner with a busy workday.

I may watch some of the prerace show (I'm not big on pregame/race hype shows) and I will watch the Monday at 12 midnight recap of next Sunday's race when it airs.

But this scheduling shows just how little ESPN cares about us NASCAR fans. Most of the time when a West Coast rebroadcast of NN is pre-empted, it's been for such inane stuff as a background piece on a long past NFL football game (not even a Superbowl!) or perhaps a poker match. A pox on your houses, ESPN/ABC/Disney.

Thu 3/4 1:30-2:00am ESPN2
Thu 3/4 5:00-5:30pm ESPN2
Fri 3/5 1:30-2:00am ESPN2
Fri 3/5 5:00-5:30pm ESPN2
Sun 3/7 9:00-10:00am ESPN2
Tue 3/9 12:00-1:00am ESPN2

Dannyboy said...

Oh, BTW Race Hub does not YET have enough original content of sufficent interest to me that it compels me to watch more than here and there.

Richard in N.C. said...

I try to catch both shows every day and view them more as complements, than competitors. Many of the interviewees on Race Hub are unlikely to ever show up on EESPN, like lower profile crew chiefs.

I do believe it is unfair to imply that an opinion agreeing with NASCAR is necessarily less honest than one criticizing NASCAR. I believe there are many members of the media who would rather choke than say anything positive about NASCAR, including one in particular at EESPN.

In regard to Phil Parsons' poorly arranged appearance on Race Hub, of course nothing prevented him from bringing up S&P and giving his side.

jdh417 said...

From some videos I've seen, I think Monica is being groomed as an attractive, articulate, fan insider. At least I hope so for her sake, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of her.

The current trophy girl thing is kind of awkward, just standing around trying to stay in picture and look good. Maybe they could shake the winning driver's hand or something when they get out of car?

Anonymous said...

Funny, I think the addition of Twitter messages to NASCAR Now has been utter filler. I get Twitter... but there has to be something better they can do that put up on the screen: @tinyboxershorts99 says "Jimmie Johnson was awesome Sunday. He is definitely the team to beat."

I mean - it is useless.

Anonymous said...

The reason I watch NASCAR Now is because:

1) They break down the race. Not just the winner and the highlights, but they will take a half-dozen drivers and recap their race. Overlooked by every other show.

2) They offer mixed opinions. Sometimes it gets a little chummy on the set, but they do disagree and do get into discussion. On RaceHub all the discussion seems scripted and light.

3) They get the most info in - the most clips, the most stats on screen, the most new between segments, everything. It's really not even fair to compare this to RaceHub.

If you missed a race, the only better way to get a recap is Showtime's "Inside NASCAR" which does an extended three-segment version of the scanner talk. But aside from that (which is on Wednesday!) NASCAR Now is the show to beat.

I like that they are having more reporters on the roundtable, too.

boutitbenza699 said...


a.) watched it from it's unsettled beginnings with Ryan Burr and Erik Kuselias where the host during the debut season.

B.) been watching it more due to being at a time slot that perfect for me, unlike Race Hub which is up against the last half hour of G4TV's Attack Of The Show.

C.)more established to me.

and that's the ABCs or why i like NASCAR Now and watch it.

Dannyboy said...

And now, after all I said above, there is a rebroadcast of today's NN at 10:30pm here in San Diego. Cox's Zap2it search engine either missed it, or ESPN decided to fit one in at the last minute.

So I'm watching it and so far what we've got is Nicole (not sure) asking Reutimann and Brad D about Martin Truex and Reutimann's chances this year. Some good insight from all concerned, but nothing earth-shaking.

Then a segment on Harvick's succession to the legacy of the #3 car. Nicely done, nothing really new. And upcoming is a piece on drivers having a slow start to 2010.

Well...I know it's Wednesday, the slowest news day, so I'll give them a B+ for good presentation of mostly stuff we already knew. Nicole still has to learn not to sound like she's reading a prompter, even when she admits to Marty Smith that hearing the last lap call from Atlanta in 2001 when Harvick just edged out the 24 "gave her a chill."

Next came segment about why Atlanta is so fast, and other Tweeted questions featuring Ray Evernham. He went to a cutaway car to discuss the track bar (or Panhard rod) adjustment we hear so much about. What kind of cutawy car is it when you can't see the dang thing? Now, I know what it looks like because I've worked on cars, but if you didn't, you just had to imagine it. Good description of it by Ray, but coulda used a better visual. He spoke of the track bar raising or lowering the car's roll center which in turn affects the spring rate, but not really why that happens. An Animation or even a nice illustration would have helped a lot.

Maybe I'll amend my earlier reluctance to go out of my way to tape this show...

Anonymous said...

Race Hub

Miss Sprint?

The stench of David Hill's mucking about with something thatwas once, long ago, not broken

51 yr. fan said...

I'll take Race Hub anytime. I think the variety of announcers
and particpants create more of
cross section of the sport. I'll
bet you already know the answer
from the NN panel when questions
arise. What did you expect Brad
to spew yesterday when talking
about his "alliance" team mate?
Race Hub just needs to develop
some journalistic integrity and
ask the tough questions.

JohnP said...

Race Hub hands down. Espn lost me during the Chase last year. Plus the 5pm time slot here on the east coast is the worst around. Either just getting home, or working with dinner. And nope, don't have a dvr, yet. This group got me into Race Hub and I enjoy it. But lately it's gotten stale and I don't watch it every night like I was a couple weeks ago. With some work, a full time host, getting everyone looking comfortable and some harder content will change any issues I have with it.

Oh, does anyone know if TDP is on myspace? Or just facebook? Just wondering. Have myspace, not facebook.

Anonymous said...

I can't for the life of me understand the relevance of any of these shows . They go over the very same story lines that every other show goes over . And there aren't all that many interesting story lines per week . How many times , on how many shows do we need to have Larry Mac tell us the very same info ? The hype behind all of these pre and post race shows is " an inside look " at NASCAR . For one thing , none of these shows goes " inside " any further than the newest race fan would be interested in . And no self respecting race team would allow any of these people into their true inner workings . The average fan could get more infomation by simply going on the shop tours .
Its a huge overload of not very interesting information . Since most of these shows are really only infomercials financed by NASCAR , they get the infomercial treatment from me .

boyd said...

Currently NASCAR NOW is the on that I watch most. I catch Race Hub occassionaly, but don''t fret if I miss it.
I am hopeful that Hub can mature and become a competitive voice in my nightly racing menu.

Anonymous said...

Nascar Now anyday. I never thought that they would out do Speed, but they sure have for me. The rotation of reporters gets on my last nerve. Nascar Now has a great Monday show after the race with their round table. It kinda gives me fond memories of what was once TWIN.

BToS JD said...

I prefer Race Hub. It's laidback and more in my comfort zone. I don't think 'tough questions' are a necessity in this type show.

NASCAR Now is built on the ESPN culture of fomenting issues and tough questions are integral to their paradigm.

I TiVo both and watch later in the evening. I find myself watching many more minutes of Race Hub than NASCAR Now.

Anonymous said...

Neither show does much for me. I'll skip both and get my info from the best source:!

Anonymous said...

Race Hub is like most "NASCAR related" shows on SPEED - No meat on the bone.

Just same old fluff from SPEED...

Finally deleted it from my DVR as a daily record.

BTW, Inside NASCAR on Showtime is a great show, too bad it's on Wednesday night instead on Monday.

GinaV24 said...

I DVR both, but find that I usually get more info out of NASCAR Now -- who'd have thought it a couple of years ago when I couldn't stand the show?

Race Hub needs to find a plan. Rotating hosts don't work. They are in the perfect position with their location to be a good show, but they haven't taken advantage of it.

Anonymous said...

RACE HUB for one simple thing. It does not have ESPN tied to it. ESPN doesn't know how to carry the sport and until they do I don't watch them until I have to.

FloridaMatt said...

I dvr and sortof watch both, but bail early, especially midweek if they are just filling airtime. NN's team seems a good mix, while RH is terribly uneven. And the moment they start with fantasy racing it's stop/delete time. So far this year I've not missed much NN due to their not being on as scheduled, which was a major problem last year.

dwight said...

DVR is the viewer's friend. You don't have to miss the news segment of Race Hub, and you can zip by stories you don't care about.

Twitter has become a crutch for lots of ESPN shows to pad content and avoid the need for creativity. Best example is the insufferable Sportsnation, with the even more insufferable Colin Cowpie.

NascarNow is good on Monday. Enough that I don't even miss TWIN a little. But right now the remainder of the week seems to require continual reprise of the obligatory big story of the year so far which they judge to be the RCR revival.

Race Hub really needs to ditch the set, and stop making the guests stand awkwardly and uncomfortably, wondering if it's ok to put hands in pockets or to hitch thumbs in the belt. But the range of guests they get is much better than what NN is interested in or willing to do. Hammond and Larry McReynolds have both been used to much better effect than Tim Brewer, in discussing and reviewing, for example, the various rules changes this year.

We should be glad that we are getting content from both networks, and that NN is a very different show than it used to be. We can expect that RH will continue to grow as well. ESPN has already had several years to polish their entry.