Monday, January 30, 2012

ESPN's Little Monsters

It was a press conference ten days ago that featured some memorable images like the one above. While NASCAR fans will recognize the Busch brothers, the two men sitting down really tell the tale.

Seven-time Supercross champ Jeremy McGrath and BMX legend Dave Mirra look like the brides in a double shotgun wedding. Their friend and former motorcycle champion, Ricky Carmichael, had just been unceremoniously dumped from his NASCAR sponsorship by Monster. The GOAT was out and the Busch brothers were in.

Here is part of the official Monster release:

A collection of world class Monster Energy action sports athletes welcomed Kyle and Kurt Busch to the Monster Energy team today with the announcement of a multi-year agreement as primary sponsor of the team’s No. 54 Monster Energy Camry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"It’s great to have the Busch brothers join the Monster team and be wearing the Claw – they have the right attitude for Monster and they’re proven winners, which is what Monster is all about,” said X-Games champ and Monster athlete Jamie Bestwick.

I’m thrilled to a be part of a team of athletes like this,” said Kyle Busch, who will drive the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway and the subsequent four races before splitting the balance of the season with Kurt.

The Nationwide Series has ESPN coverage with races appearing mostly on the ESPN2 TV network. Over the past five years it has primarily consisted of watching Sprint Cup Series stars race each other for wins while thoroughly thumping the Nationwide Series regulars into the asphalt.

All that was supposed to change this season for ESPN. Carl Edwards is gone from the Nationwide Series by choice and is expected to join ESPN in some on-air capacity. Kevin Harvick disbanded his growing KHI team and the focus of Kyle Busch Motorsports was the Camping World Truck Series. Much of the Sprint Cup Series cloud appeared to be lifting.

The reason ESPN wants so desperately for the Sprint Cup Series drivers to get out of the Nationwide Series races this season is easy to understand. Her name is Danica Patrick. It's nice that guys like Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr. will be running for the title, but it's a TV ratings gold mine that Patrick will simply be in every race.

With the January 20 announcement that the Monster dollars would be leaving Carmichael, ESPN's world has changed. In the blink of an eye there will now be either Kyle or Kurt Busch running a car in every single one of ESPN's Nationwide Series races with the goal of winning the owner's championship.

It was 2006 when then ESPN president George Bodenheimer called the Nationwide Series NASCAR's diamond in the rough. Two years into the coverage, things were not going well. "Diamond In The Rough Not Shining" was a TDP column from July of 2009. Click here to read it in full.

No part of the NASCAR TV package has been worse than the Nationwide Series on ESPN. The series was a victim of the Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace failed experiment in the TV booth. It was also a victim of ESPN pushing it to the back burner when the network started Sprint Cup Series coverage in July.

Finally, it has been a totally helpless victim from September to November. Jammed into an ESPN2 schedule totally filled with "College Football Saturday" programming, the Nationwide Series is made to look like the redheaded stepchild and every season since 2007 has gone out with a whimper.

This year ESPN is in an interesting situation. Come July it may well have Carl Edwards on the telecast team, Danica Patrick in the top five in driver points and the Busch brothers in the middle of another ego-driven total meltdown.

Joe Gibbs made a point on the NASCAR Media Tour to say he did not approve of KBM's Nationwide Series plans. As Kyle's Sprint Cup Series employer, Gibbs is clearly not pleased with the prospect of the Busch brothers running door-to-door with the JGR Nationwide Series drivers.

Last year's Kyle meltdown almost cost Gibbs a multi-million dollar sponsor. Many thought it would cost Kyle his JGR job. The Kurt meltdown at Penske resulted in a series of laughable press releases that tried to frame his firing as a mutual decision. The video of the Jerry Punch incident told another tale. The captain had enough.

So, instead of the carefully scripted TV reality series that features golden girl Patrick against a weakened field of contenders, the ESPN pit reporters may regularly be walking to Victory Lane to speak with a grinning Busch brother sporting "The Claw" and trying to say things that fit the extreme action sports athlete mold.

ESPN's new little monsters may also affect the TV coverage when they lose. It would only take an incident with Kyle and a JGR car or Kurt and a Penske entry to shift the TV spotlight from the winner. Let's not forget Richard Childress as someone who has a vested interest in his Nationwide Series team and also a past with the Busch family. "Hold my watch" was a phrase that is forever etched in NASCAR history.

Love them or hate them, expect to see a lot of Kurt and Kyle on the ESPN Nationwide Series telecasts. Monster hired them to win races and they can both come in and do just that. Where they fit into the ESPN script is yet to be seen, but there is little doubt it's not going to be what the network had planned. With the Busch brothers, it just seems to happen that way.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to Busch Bros. dominating Nationwide! Danica who?

OSBORNK said...

I don't know that Danica is going to bring in the viewers after the initial curosity wears off. The lack of Cup drivers could backfire also. A lot of people watch and attend the races to see the Cup dirvers and they are not that interested in drivers they are not familiar with. I'm already tired of the concentration of coverage on Danica. I hope she does well and the coverage will be for her ability rather than her looks and celebrity.

Frank said...

I have no praise for the Busch brothers. But it is difficult to denigrate winners. I forsee no time in the future where these guys will be referred to as "The Backmarker Brothers".

If Danica Patrick wants attention, let her earn it on the track. With wins.

If ESPN wants more attention, well...

AncientRacer said...

Twist the prism a bit and look at it this way: The Brothers may be laying the foundation for their eventual self-employment. One is 26 the other 33. Both are enormously talented and have many years of racing ahead of them. Yet the idea they will keep (or find) jobs at major teams questionable. A contigency plan, were I a Busch Brother, would seem prudent and the most bullet resistant would be a team of their own where they cannot be fired. They might kill each other, but they could not be fired. Too, sponsors love winners and there are sponsors and potential sponsors out there that would not mind, and might even embrace, backing the Busches as Black Hats so long as they win. Bing known as the baddest boys on four wheels has its upside viewed this way.

As a fan of both this makes sense to me.

As for Danica and The Worldwide Leader I shall simply take another whack at the poor old dead horse the easy way by saying ditto to Anon 8:54, OSBORNK, and Frank.

Poor old horse.

Anonymous said...

Asking if I want all the attention on Danica or the Busch brothers is like asking, "Do you want to be stabbed, or would prefer to be shot?"

The only bright spot is that I can look forward to the day when I hear that Coach Gibbs asked someone to hold his watch.

glenc1 said...

AR, I think you do have a good point, and the right kind of sponsor just may think that arrangement is perfect for them. Monster's an 'edgier' company than candy and motor oil. I wonder if NOS will move on to another team? I just feel bad for Ricky C; I think he had been doing pretty well for a guy who only had 2 wheels up until a few years ago--it's not like he'd come up through the ranks like drivers normally do.

Anyways, ESPN has certainly shown how they get fixated with one story or another, and this might indeed take some energy from Danica. I'm sure they'll hoping she'll actually do well (which I think just might happen, she seems to be taking it in, and there appears to be plenty of resources at her disposal.) But I'll say this--if the Busch bros. get on a tear, it could be the end of my interesting in NW, and I suspect it would hurt ratings eventually.

diane said...

Danica should easily be in the top 5 since the Cup guys won't get points. In fact, if she's not in the top five with that equipment and money she should be ashamed and hang up her racing shoes.

Ricky C. was wearing his Monster shirt when he helped call the Supercross race this weekend, so he still has a personal sponsorship deal with them. I hope he finds another Nascar ride and sponsor unless everyone has moved onto Travis already.

KoHoSo said...

Shoot, I might have to start rooting for the Busch Brothers! Anything that gives ESPN indigestion and gets them off of their forced story lines is fine by me!

Then again, knowing Bristol...

While the Busch Brothers team leads the field by 26 laps, let's go to the studio for thoughts on how this race would be different if another car was being driven by Tim Tebow. XD

Anonymous said...

Would you watch the big game next weekend if you knew who would win? If the same ones win the race each time I have no interest in watching.

Dennis said...

I think the Nationwide races will still be fun to watch regardless if some Cup regulars enter.

I'm more curious to see how the season goes with Kurt driving for Kyle. They claim to get along with each other but we know how Kurt gets when frustrated. Pass the popcorn. :)

Anonymous said...

Ever since the Nationwide series stopped racing on the Saturday night type tracks, I don't have any desire to watch them. I liked watching them when they raced on the fender-banging short tracks everyone grew up watching in their local areas.

Keith_Kagee said...

How soon people forget the dominance RCR had in NNS the last time they ran there full-time. Pop-Pop has spared no expense and will bring all the resources of RCR to bear for his grandson.

That said I hope the Kurt-Kyle duo take the crowned prince and the princess to school, and leave ESPN with the stammering lips of Rusty to try and explain it all.

Buschseries61 said...

If you want to know what the series was supposed to be, look up Busch Series races from the 90's on YouTube. It is supposed to be a completely seperate touring series from Cup, but that culture has been lost for years while it has been considered an extention of the Cup series.

If I look back 5 years to 2007 when ESPN began broadcasting the series and compare it to 2012; it's incredible. The diamond in the rough was hit with a weed wacker. Many owners are out of the series.

The only organizations still running full time in the series 5 years later are Cup teams & JR Motorsports, plus some remaining week-to-week independent owners like Johnny Davis, Jay Robinson, Randy MacDonald, Jimmy Means, and Morgan Shepherd.

Teams like Phoenix Racing & JTG Motorsports abandonded the decaying series for Cup a few years ago, and it paid off. Now even Robinson & Means are trying Cup instead of just another year of stagnation in Nationwide.

NASCAR and ESPN have done a lousy job with the series. At least they have the Busch brothers & Danica to create more 'records' this season.

hotaru-hockeymaiden87 said...

And I thought this year would be different.

But Shrubba Dubba Ding Dong will ruin the series even more. And now, he's pulled Kurt into this.

Ella said...

Remember a few years back when the Busch brothers were not speaking to one another until their granny intervened at Thanksgiving? I think Kyle needs to pay Granny as his human resources person to keep things on an even keel between the two ..and maybe Granny will land her own reality TV show, as well. Keep the popcorn but pass the Good and Plenty..

jerry said...

I don't care if it's Danica, Austin, Buckshot Jones, Larry Pearson, or Tommy Ellis.

The series is finally(slowly) returning to a developmental series. The difference now is the new kids on the block are already stars. There new to the top levels of NASCAR, that's good enough for me. Bring the diversity on.

I'm thinking the NSCS may not have new TV partners. Nationwide, however, may be wide open. Needs to get away from CFB and the only way that can happen is on Speed, Velocity, and maybe Turner. I would welcome that change in a heartbeat.

The Mad Man said...

With Fox being a 50-50 split between "All Waltrip All The Time" & "All Danican't All The Time" and BSPN pre-empting the NNS races for "The Danican't Show", we won't see the Busch brothers anyways.

Anonymous said...

The Nationwide races still have cars entered from the big Cup teams. Rousch has a couple cars as does Gibbs. Drivers have to declare which series they are taking points in. If the Busch brothers are paying their own bills, we'll see how well they run. As far as sponsors, they want to be up front but not represented by idiots i.e. the Busch Brothers. Remember M & M's pulling off the car? That wasn't that long ago. There are a lot of talented drivers out there like Algier waiting for their shot. Roger Penske FIRED Kurt Busch and owners will cater to sponsors before they cater to drivers. Running up front takes talent but, you have to have the whole package! Danica may surprise.

Jonathan said...

The 2012 Nationwide Series is going to be interesting its going to be interesting to see how different Kurt acts/says in this ride compared to the Phoenix racing team in CUP! I hope Sam Hornish wins the Nationwide Series Championship in 2012 go SAM!

and im sorry but nationwide running all short tracks would run away viewers even more so with all the cautions and wrecks throughout the yeatr.. I like the fact Nationwide races all kinds of tracks just like Sprint Cup just my thoughts

Bobby O said...

I thought/was hoping the rules restricting Cup regulars from getting NNS points would rejuvenate my interest in NNS.

But now with Dannykar all the time, I hope the Busch Boys take the series over, and make a laughing stock of what the "network" would like to see and will SELL nonstop!

The Loose Wheel said...

I don't have much trouble with this article until we get to the Joe Gibbs disapproving part. Hearing his tone of voice for me was much more telling then the words that came out of his mouth. When I read the text on some sites that JG did not approve the KBM move, it caught me off guard. Then I actually heard his words with tone, and heard an interview with him on Sirius that really changed it for me. It sounded more like him making a somewhat sarcastic remark that the entire media seemed to blow out of proportion.

Perhaps I am wrong on that, but it is what I took away. He knew what he had in that series with Kyle. Before Texas, all sponsors involved were thrilled to have Kyle in their car because he delivered results. Losing a driver like that because he is running his own program is no one's ideal plan.

Also, let's not just assume KBM will be dominant. They are building and preparing their own cars which as you climb up the ladder gets much more challenging. In the Truck series all he had to do was beat KHI, now he has to race against JGR, Roush-Fenway, RCR and Turner. That's a pretty stacked lineup.

ESPN botched the whole presentation of this Series. It should have had it's own identity and it's own attitude. Instead it got treated like the red-headed stepchild. They could learn from what SPEED did with the Truck Series...