Thursday, September 30, 2010

NASCAR's Daily TV Shows Deliver (Updated)

Update #2: Leaving this post up as both NASCAR Now, which was preempted on Wednesday and Race Hub will have updated RCR appeals coverage on Thursday.

There may be some gloom and doom in NASCAR land over the production and TV ratings of the two Chase races this season, but one part of the NASCAR TV landscape is thriving. Right now, a little good TV news goes a long way.

ESPN2's six day a week NASCAR Now and SPEED's four day a week Race Hub are both cranking along on eight cylinders. Tuesday night was a great example of how two TV series with completely different approaches to the same subject matter can co-exist.

Mike Massaro has been a workhorse for ESPN this season. Monday, he filled-in on the one hour show for Allen Bestwick. After the recent passing of his mother, Bestwick was attending to family matters after anchoring the Dover weekend from the track.

The NASCAR Now production team, pictured above, has been tinkering with the show and on Tuesday had Kasey Kahne in the studio. Although notoriously low-key with the media, Kahne mixed it up as a co-host with Massaro and actively took part in the entire program.

Dale Jarrett and TNT/SPEED's Kyle Petty were among the satellite liveshot guests and both interacted well with Kahne on a variety of topics. Massaro several times put Kahne on the spot about issues from the Hamlin and Harvick spat to his racing future next season. Kahne absolutely took every question head on and never missed a beat.

The feature of the program was Lead Reporter Marty Smith's interview with Denny Hamlin. Smith knows how to ask the right questions the right way and really got Hamlin to address a wide variety of topics with honest comments.

Smith, Nicole Briscoe, Angelique Chengelis and the multiple other contributors to this program make it a pleasure to watch. Ricky Craven is the best NASCAR studio analyst by far. ESPN has been struggling to find a re-air slot for NASCAR Now and often the 5PM original airing is the one and only time this program can be seen by fans.

Even as the sport is in the Chase for the Championship, the Monday and Tuesday shows this week did not re-air. Due to the fact that these programs cannot be made available online, it would seem that ESPN would make sure to show them again and promote the very races for which the network paid dearly to televise.

Update: Informed by ESPN this AM that the Wednesday 5PM NASCAR Now program has been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. This is the day that the RCR appeal is being heard and cancelling this program is just a horrible decision.

Away from the suits and ties of ESPN is the casual style of SPEED. Since Steve Byrnes took over Race Hub, the series has the personality and credibility it needed. SPEED is still working to adapt the studio, but things have come a long way from the famous car couch and pinball machine.

Danielle Trotta has been a solid addition to the program as the fulltime reporter based in Charlotte, NC. Still a tough sell for some female fans, Trotta has been asking the right questions and working to solidify herself as not just another pretty face.

SPEED has also been working veteran Wendy Venturini back into the interview mix. Fans were miffed when Venturini's Real Deal segment was dumped from the RaceDay show so resources from the NASCAR Media Group could be used for a new NASCAR cooking series.

The strength of Race Hub is the ability to have guests drive a short distance to the studio. It didn't take NASCAR types long to grasp that with the big new SPEED studios, a driver could bring a show car or two along for the interview. Tuesday, that is exactly what Ryan Newman did.

Following a poignant interview with Jack Roush on Monday, Byrnes led Newman through topics from on-track anger to the upcoming birth of his daughter. Confirming that Thanksgiving was the due date, Newman talked candidly about his thoughts on fatherhood. Once again, Byrnes' experience in the sport made the interview click.

With an hour each day, Byrnes and the SPEED staff have begun to truly grasp that they have the ability to provide a valuable service to the sport with each program. Airing two hours after NASCAR Now, the challenge for Race Hub is to deal with breaking news and eventually live reporting from the field with Trotta.

While SPEED has backed off its original commitment to re-air Race Hub at midnight Eastern, the current 11PM Pacific timeslot is better than nothing. Eventually, as the program matures, it may also find a morning home just like SportsCenter on ESPN.

There may be some NASCAR TV problems to address this off-season, but the success of both these daily shows is a tribute to the hard work of the production staff and the commitment of ESPN and SPEED to keep NASCAR fans updated away from the track.

Perhaps you could share with us your views on these two shows. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


ESPN Internet TV said...
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GinaV24 said...

sorry to hear about Allen's mom, I know how hard that is and I would like to offer my sympathy to him.

As far as the NASCAR daily shows, the only one I watch regularly is Race Hub. Steve Byrnes is doing a great job and it is so nice to have the human interest side of things being presented on this show. I enjoy seeing the interviews with the drivers, crew chiefs and other guests they have had on. You are right - being in NASCAR's back yard IS the perfect spot - not Bristol, CT - where things are teleconferenced at best and half the time impossible to find on the schedule.

I had been very critical of DW and just wanted to say that I watched Race Hub program when he was on with Steve and DW did a really great job and I enjoyed the show very much. The relaxed DW is a person I like very much.

Also Hammond has had a spot on Wednesday's doing the tech stuff and since I am a bit of a geek about the race cars, I really enjoy that. Having it presented there gives me a chance to enjoy the tech side without it interrupting the racing.

I can't comment on the ESPN shows because I stopped watching them some time ago. The regular timeslot for NN is before I get home from work and setting the DVR has resulted far too often in getting something other than the show. I refuse to chase the shows around the schedule - life is too short and even the re-airs are sporadic.

Vicky D said...

We watch NN and Hub when they are on, or in the case of NN, accidentally find it recorded on our DVR. I thought Kasey Kahne was the weak participant yesterday and getting DJ from his golf tourny wasn't a good idea. I also enjoy Steve Byrnes as the host of Hub he asks good questions although during race weekends I feel Hermie Sadler and Marty Smith try to dig for good comments and answers to some tough questions from the drivers. I like some of Jimmy Spencer's minutes too and that crying towel is funny.

West Coast Diane said...

Nascar Now lost me. Tired of it not being there when I check my DVR. Too bad. Enjoyed when I did watch.

Race Hub. On DVR, but only seem to watch if I read something on TDP. I like Steve Byrnes.

Think weekends with ESPN has soured my interest on all things NASCAR.

Junior88Rulz said...

People think just NASCAR Now gets bumped by live events but the other shows are in the same boat. I DVR NFL Live and always end up recording something else. BTW, I think Craven-Evernham-McGee like they had on Monday is easily the best roundtable combo.

Anonymous said...

88,000 announced attendance at
Dover????Please....I've been attending races there since 1993.
65,000 tops.They can put whatever number they want up there,but empty
grandstands don't lie.

Newracefan said...

Just when I think about giving ESPN a break they do something stupid. No matter who was interviewed a question about the 33 penalty was asked, not to mention all the Denny vs Harvick hype and now there are scheduling conflicts. WTF, that's OK I'll wait for Steve and get all the info. Poor Marty Smith he must be having a fit and I'm sure Mike M is not thrilled either, I feel bad for those guys they obviously want to be there for us, just look at their twitter accounts. What a mess

SonicAD said...

It's worth noting the Friday night/Saturday morning 1AM NASCAR Now is canceled too, because the AFL Grand Final Replay was scheduled in that slot... starts at midnight on ESPN Classic and moves to ESPN2 as soon as the high school football game ends at 1.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that Kahne "mixed it up" - he gave the same politically correct answers that every driver gives. When Kyle and Mike asked him on separate occasions what it was like to drive for RPM with only 8 races to go, mixing it up would have been him saying "It's frustrating, because they aren't giving me good equipment any more, the organization has shifted its focus to a guy I don't like, and things are so messed up at RPM that I wonder if they're even going to be competitive." Instead he gave some PR-agent scripted answer of "Well, I want to finish strong and wish everyone the best."

Anonymous said...

I love the Monday version of NASCAR Now with the roundtable and the discussion of the weekend's race. Especially when they have someone like Jenna Fryer, or Ed Hinton, or anyone who is really willing to get a serious discussion going.

But the Tues-thru-Friday NASCAR Nows, with Mike or Nicole standing in front of a screen are just awful. It's just the most boring recap of the day's news - and they usually have one analyst who comments on everything.

Why isn't NASCAR Now using Marty Smith more? It seems lately that he's rarely on the show. They should have more roundtables, and more discussion. Massaro seems like a nice guy, but he is so stale on the teleprompter, and Nicole Manske is like a boring robot. You know it's bad when DJ Kopp is the most exciting segment on the show.

Anonymous said...

Here's one thing that I hate about NASCAR Now: when they pipe in Rusty or DJ or Andy or even Ray from a remote location, and they're in some garage filled with cars. Half the time I'm thinking "Man, the shop behind them is more interesting than what's coming out of their mouths." I just hope against hope that one day one of the interviewers actually stops and asks them "hey, what's that car you're working on behind you?" I bet the answer would be 10x more interesting than their "take" on some issue of the day.

Anonymous said...

I used to watch Race Hub back when it was replayed at 11:30PM I guess they have a audience in the monster jam reruns that they show. Does speed have a west coast feed? The best way for me to watch things like this is to catch the replay 3 hours later.

Bobby said...

For those of who who aren't familiar, the "AFL Grand Final Replay" is the championship (Geelong vs St. Kilda) of Australian Rules Football, which was played last week, but because of the tie game, must be replayed in its entirety. ESPN's coverage is well-known dating to the origins of the 31-year old network.

The only other championship sporting event with such a rule is any Japanese baseball playoff game, where after the 15th inning, the game ends and the game is replayed from the top of the first, 0-0.

Anonymous said...

Nascar Now is not a must watch show except for the Monday Round table show.

GinaV24 said...

I had to record Race Hub last night since I knew I wouldn't get home in time to see it live. Thought the press conference with Childress and his expert was pretty telling. This whole appeal process is such a joke. They have always rubberstamped whatever decision NASCAR makes -- even Hammond's answer to Steve's question about ever winning an appeal was telling. It was a simple "no".

I watched Hammond's "show and tell" about the shocks too and the thing that came up in my mind is: they disallowed Mark Martin's qualifying lap for too much pressure, but they had allowed both the 11 and the 48 to let their shocks "cool off" after the race so they met the height requirements. Why? What makes it different? Another reason why Hamlin shouldn't have run his mouth -- sounds lke JGR is "cheating" along with the 48.

I also saw that Steve did a long interview with Johnson, but although I'm sure it was well done, I employed my FF button for the segment -- I am very very tired of Johnson, Johnson, Johnson.

Think anyone at NASCAR has a clue yet -- I wonder what the Kansas ratings will be like? I know I don't plan to watch.

Anonymous said...

First I'm more of a NASCAR Speed fan than ESPN, love all the Speed Crew..., not as much of ESPN, exception is all...ex-NASCAR persons. ESPN is like Kyle Busch, you try.... to like them and then they go do something stupid. For "2 WEEKS", all its been is the penalty and "They... cancel", NASCAR NOW. Have tweeted to you on multi occasions my anger. "I personally" feel like we NASCAR fans get kicked to the curb "ALL THE TIME". I mean SportsNation is one of the irritating programs they have, but they manage to air it, no matter what.

That being said, "if' something has intervened, I do try to catch it, even an hr. later. But my patience has about run out, especially considering this is "The Chase"....

Anonymous said...

You failed to mention Inside NASCAR, so let me give you the update from this Showtime show:

1) Michael Waltrip is getting goofy again, this week singing, even after Chris Myers asked him to stop

2) Choppy editing. The first roundtable discussion of every episode is heavily edited (likely for time, but that's odd considering the show rarely fills it's one-hour timeslot and usually runs about 45ish minutes). Panelists sentences are abruptly chopped off in a way that the edits are obvious. As if they didn't let the person finish his point.

Anonymous said...

3) Excellent clips -- I really love the scanner segments on this show because they playing unbleeped cursing. Now, I'm not saying this because I like to hear drivers swear, but it DOES give me a different perspective on the drivers' emotions. Example: Everyone saw/heard the audio reaction of Kurt Busch to getting a pass-thru penalty mid-race. They showed it on the live broadcast, on NASCAR Now more than once, RaceHub, etc. But on Inside NASCAR, you also hear Busch scream the F-word three times (the last time extending it for a comical four-five seconds). When you hear the clip with the over-the-top cursing, it's a much more real feeling of intensity. I like that, and it's one thing Showtime has on its competition because of the relaxed rules for pay-cable.

4) Brad Daughtery adds nothing to the show. Nothing. Zilch. If you thought he was bad on NASCAR Now, he's even more useless on Showtime.

5) The set. In between the three race-rewind segments, the hosts are in a variety of locations (about four or five) and there is no continuity. Why don't they either stay on the couches or stay at the desk instead of constantly move around? It makes no sense to me.

6) Viewer emails. They almost always have a driver or owner on the set and inevitably they go to the viewer/twitter emails, and I cannot understand why. Does it REALLY make the show more interactive to waste time saying "Rebecca from St. Petersburg Florida wrote in and wanted to know"? Does it? And, let's be frank, the questions that the viewers ask are almost always incredibly dumb. That is time wasted that could be better spent asking a good question from a knowledgeable host.

Oddly, however, this show is still pretty darn good and must-watch if you are a NASCAR fan. I just wish they would tell Michael Waltrip to get back on his good behavior like he was the first 5-8 episodes, and stop the singing and catchphrasing and goofing off that he's done in the last 5-8 episodes. Man, is that goofball schtick tired.

Andrew (Sydney, Australia) said...

Bobby, it's actually COLLINGWOOD vs. ST KILDA. And what a pulsating game of football the first one was!! We can only hope that the sequel will be just as good as the original!! :)

No one really likes Collingwood. Half the country is cheering for the Saints to break their drought of no titles since 1966.

We love that it gets LIVE coverage on ESPN -- and that we get two grand finals in a row!!

larry said...

In my opinion, RCR is winning the PR campaign on the penalty and NASCAR is losing miserably.

I wonder if Childress will be angry enough to start another series. He and Bruton Smith could do the job.

Frankly, I would support another league. NASCAR will never get their heads out of the sand.

I've been a serious fan for well over 50 years and am seriously losing interest in the current NASCAR.

LOL, word verification is failta...describes Brian France very well...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Yes, it is my understanding Steve will continue with his role on FOX.