Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Roundtable" Latest NASCAR TV Victim


It had become a tradition on Mondays for many fans to tune into Allen Bestwick and his expert panel as NASCAR Now took a full hour and reviewed the happenings of the race weekends. That tradition has now come to an end.

Bestwick had originally coined the term roundtable as the continually changing ESPN2 set had the panelists literally spread out around a huge table. It was always fun to see what had changed early in the series and just who was seated around the host.

This week in a brief and lifeless media release ESPN confirmed that another slice has been chopped off the NASCAR Now pie. The Monday show now joins the Tuesday through Friday programs as 30 minutes long. The roundtable is no more.

TV series have interesting lives and NASCAR Now is no exception. Originally hosted by a lawyer and an urban DJ, neither of whom had ever attended a race, the program stumbled out of the gate and then lost all sense of direction.

Erik Kuselias and Doug Banks combined to produce some of the worst NASCAR TV in history. Here is a little trip down memory lane.

"NASCAR Now: ESPN2's Dismal Failure" from March of 2007.

"ESPN2's NASCAR Now Gets Lost In Translation" from early May of 2007.

After three months of chaos, a moment in time finally happened for both the show and the entire production team. One man changed the course of the entire series.

"Allen Bestwick Rocks NASCAR Now To Its Core" from late May of 2007.

This from a reader comment on that post: " When I heard AB’s voice I started jumping around the room like a kid on Christmas morning!"

Eventually, Kuselias and Banks left the program. The network brought in Ryan Burr from ESPNEWS and then made the move toward a larger group of experienced on-camera personalities with a background in the sport. At the heart of this group was Bestwick.

Veteran fans can remember Bestwick's painful firing from the Monday night TV franchise on SPEED originally called Inside Winston Cup Racing. After a change in management at the network, Bestwick and Johnny Benson were fired for not being "exciting enough" for NASCAR TV.

Bestwick, Benson, Kenny Schrader and Michael Waltrip had gone from a poorly-produced cable TV show on an obscure network to a smash hit as SpeedVision transitioned to SPEED and NASCAR content moved front and center.

"Can Allen Bestwick Save NASCAR Now?" was a TDP post from February of 2008. ESPN had given Bestwick an expanded one-hour show on Mondays and the opportunity to have a panel of experts with him to talk racing. That format certainly sounded familiar.

For the past four years, Bestwick and his Monday roundtable production team have produced some of the best NASCAR TV ever seen. Hundreds of personalities have been featured as guests. Theme shows involved racing brothers, former teammates and regular off-week panels of NASCAR journalists. It was a diverse mix of content.

Viewers got to see Ray Evernham, Randy LaJoie and Ricky Craven make an impressive trio of panelists. Names like Ed Hinton, Ryan McGee and Marty Smith made a Monday impact. Fans were able to put faces with the familiar names of working NASCAR journalists like Jenna Fryer, Nate Ryan and Jim Utter.

Bestwick's ultimate revenge happened last season when two new names were added to the list of Monday panelists. It made quite a sight when Bestwick appeared on NASCAR Now once again alongside Benson and Schrader. With Ricky Craven or Ray Evernham playing the Michael Waltrip role, a bit of the old magic seemed to return with that combination.

The writing on the wall for NASCAR Now appeared when ESPN created the Sports Nation show. Bumped from its 5PM ET timeslot, NASCAR Now was pushed all the way back to 3PM in the afternoon as ESPN2 continued to expand the daily sports talk franchise.

During that shift, the West Coast re-air of the show was also scrapped. Once again this season it will sometimes appear after midnight at different times, but is often just cancelled. NASCAR Now went from a featured TV product to the ESPN scrap heap in a relatively short time.

The only remaining hour in the line-up is the weekend preview show that airs at 9AM on either Saturday or Sunday depending on the day of the race. Ricky Craven will continue to appear on that program with hosts Mike Massaro and Nicole Briscoe. ESPN will also use in-house announcers like Lindsay Czarniak and Michelle Bonner to host as needed.

There are three years remaining in ESPN's existing NASCAR contract to show all the Nationwide and the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races. While things can always change, it once again appears that NASCAR Now will be DVR Theater for those who care as the new season gets underway on Monday, February 13.

It would not be fair to just let the big Monday show leave quietly. A good TV hour of reviewing three races, having a featured interview and then a robust discussion of the current NASCAR news will be missed. Thanks to Bestwick and all the production staff who worked hard on this program for the past four years.

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

52 comments:

Buschseries61 said...

It's sad to see the roundtable go, but the theme of ESPN seems to be quantity not quality. That NASCAR Now PR had twenty-five names on it...not including Benson, Edwards, Evernham or Schrader. Insanity.

All ESPN needs is a small group of regulars working with a great format at a great time. All three of these elements are off balance.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

Such a shame. I really loved watching the roundtable. I wish that it hadn't moved to 3pm. We do afternoon/evening homeschooling and that is right when we're doing school. I loved it when the print journalists were on the show. :-(

I wish that a network would pick up something like a roundtable or a panel discussion and involve the print journalists. Those were gold tv. JD, can you campaign for something like that, please?

RIP NASCAR Now roundtable!

coachkevin64 said...

all I can say is this sad. I can't believe that ESPN is not smart enough to know if they promote NASCAR ratings will be better. Maybe they are trying to keep the ratings down so they can low ball the next TV contract. Worth a thought.

Anonymous said...

For several years, the only time I would watch Nascar Now was the Monday show. This is hard to believe. Nascar television is fast becoming a joke. I used to watch Nascar Now, Trackside, Performance, Race Day and Victory Lane. Now I watch NONE of them. Nice going folks!

Dannyboy said...

Well, if Brainless France wants to make a mark in the history books, maybe he could take some of that vaunted NASCAR power and put the screws to some of those ESPN suits and do something helpful for a change.

Or am I just a hopeless throwback: I actually WANT to hear an in-depth analysis of the previous weekend's race. I don't give a &*$# about pre-produced video/audio montages, or interviews with someone who is just repeating the same stuff the previous nights guest said. I just I wanna know something about the race that I wouldn't have otherwise.

Well, for this race fan, no more panels, I'm not watching. Again.

Scott said...

I agree. It's a real shame to lose The Roundtable. Bestwick ran a very good panel each show. It was great to see the reporters/journalists, and like was said, to be able to put a faces to names. All who appeared on it and NASCAR Now brought passion and knowledge to every show. We got to see Ricky Craven come out of the ether and prove what a bright resource he is. NASCAR seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of ESPN's broadcast properties in that it gets no respect.

I still don't understand why they bought in to NASCAR based on the poor treatment we’re seeing. One could get the feeling that there is intentional sabotage afoot to get out of a commitment or force lower broadcast rights costs. They once treated the sport incredibly well and were greatly responsible for taking it from coast to coast and border to border, and beyond.

Between ESPN's loss of interest and the Speed network crew which includes the Inane Clown Posse that their real pros have to make up for, I can’t imagine it along with the economy is not harming the sport’s popularity and image. It’s a double-whammy which will take many years to repair. Who would ever have imagined just a few years ago that you could buy Bristol tickets on the day of the race? Bristol tickets were once a part of divorce property settlements and inheritance battles.

My question is, what does NA$CAR think of all this? How can they be happy about it and why do we hear nothing from them? If they are content to just get their race broadcast money, they’re as guilty as ESPN and will have no one but themselves to blame.

Anonymous said...

If you compare college and pro sports to nascar, are you really surprised about what is happening with nascar tv? This is what you get with bad nascar leadership - a bland product, the LIFE of nascar sucked dry by the greed of the nascar management. MC

larry said...

The roundtable was the only NASCAR Now I watched last year. Well, that frees up my DVR for Mondays...

Roland said...

Well thats a shame. The roundtables were great. I really liked hearing from Marty Smith and Ricky Craven.

James said...

Alan Bestwick (the voice of NASCAR fans), saved the day for NASCAR, when he was given back the role of race announcer for the CUP series. ESPN the network that MADE nascar tv, continues to peel away any credibility with programing decisions it makes. Speed, has turned the great show it has become with Steve Byrnes, into the Comedy half hour, with Wood and Petty. NASCAR continues to allow this. This is the same group who finally decided that the deal they made with Turner for its rights was limiting its ability to give the fans the data todays fan requires. The issue has been NASCARS loss of understanding, the change in media and its new technology. Instead of print we all have access to electronic media and NASCAR has failed to act with this new age ability. The content that worked with print, fails to work when most of the sports reporters (watchdogs) have been lost due to the media changes. There are many places to get opinions on our sport, few had the expert analysis that NASCAR NOW roundtable had. For NASCAR to allow this shows its lack of awareness that the loss of real reporting and discussion is highly prized to the fans. This week RH used in depth interviews with the principal players in the garage to allow fans to see the human side of these personalities, it was very informative. Then they ran the Wood and Petty segment, a complete opposite of style and class. What fan wants to watch an hour of this, while it competes with the local and national news programing? Who decided this?
On a personal note, after Daytona, it should prove interesting as to how the Waltrip brothers TV show fairs. Another brilliant decision, made by the genius, also known as the network with no clue!
As always thanks for a place to vent.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR better wake up. The less exposure for NASCAR means the less people interested.

Michael Stoffel said...

Our local AM sports station recently switched from ESPN to Fox Sports Radio. Fox radio treats NASCAR like it's any other sport. It just comes up in their conversations like normal. ESPN radio, when it mentioned NASCAR, always treated racing like some bizarre sport that existed on another planet.

GinaV24 said...

So does ESPN actually WANT to do NASCAR programming? The answer would seem to be "no" based on the decisions they are making.

Of course that applies to Speed's choices as well.

I'm sorry to see the roundtable go, it was a good program.

KoHoSo said...

In an off-season where there has been a good amount of promising news on the media front, this is a terrible blow. The roundtable segment was the one place left where there could be intelligent and fun discussion between true experts in the sport. What a disappointment to have ESPN abandon it, surely to be replaced by more programming featuring blow-hard former sportswriters screaming at each other over Tim Tebow, Yanks-Sox, and LeBron James.

Anonymous said...

For crying out loud, ESPN keeps harping on "how much" it wants NASCAR, then we keep getting these disappointing and puzzling announcements of reduction in quality programming.

Wish we could just cut them loose right now, tell them, too bad so sad! You HAD great NASCAR coverage & blew it!

Photojosh said...

A darn shame.

You'd think that, based on the 24/7 analysis and debate that all other sports have these days, NASCAR and it's media partners would get that racin' fans would want that as well.

But I guess we're still just backwoods hicks to them all. Aw shucks, give us a TV broadcast and a 'lil moonshiney and we'll be happy as a pig in plop, right?

A. Darn. Shame.

sue said...

Loved watching Nascar Now especially the round table. But throughout the year it gets very frustrating since Nascar Now is all over the board on its time schedule. I'm sure it was all about ratings dropping the panel.

Jimm57 said...

All great comments above. You cant convince me that they still can't have a decent conversation, only shorter. Still trying to figure out why I'd want to watch either Nascar Now or Race hub. The internet and social media has everything I look for without the fluff and more timely as well.

Stefano said...

Great piece! It's just unimaginable that this is the way it is in the ESPN world. It's because of this, that I've been completely turned off to this network that I so enjoyed at one time. The on air pesonalities that they've shoved in to reporting NASCAR in the past has always been a complete joke to me. Don't try and fool us ESPN.

glenc1 said...

you know, slightly off topic, but...people always through around the 'fluff' term as if it's completely unimportant. Yes, you can watch sports without it, and many serious die hards probably do. But TV figured out long ago that a lot of people like fluff...yes, they do. Why else did we have 'Gisele-cam' at the Superbowl? TV isn't the only source of my news, I read lots of articles, but I also enjoy watching RH and NN to tell me some feature stories--things about the drivers/teams/etc that I didn't know. I would not want *only* silliness, but I expect some 'behind the scenes' or 'at home' glimpses of life. Those stories make the people involved more accessible, more human, more likeable (or dislikeable) to the fans. And NASCAR Now was the only place we actually had a 'rountable' discussion about issues that occurred during the race. It's a shame that ESPN seems so completely clueless as to how to use this programming to promote its broadcasts.

glenc1 said...

that would be 'throw'...fingers moving ahead of brain...

DewCrew88 said...

ESPN giving us the good ol one finger salute and we don't even have the Bud Shoot out in the books yet....

I'll let it slide aslong as they bring back their version of Race Buddy.

Sally said...

I can't even find the words. Why does ESPN even carry Nascar? They certainly don't care about producing anything watchable or informative unless you are willing to spin the channel all night to try and find NN. The roundtable was one of the few places that brought new perspective to dissecting the races, and now we've lost that. I supposed I shouldn't be surprised, should I?

AJ said...

Fox needs to get some balls and fire Darrell Waltrip. He was a great race car driver, but he's a lousy TV "personality". He has got to go.

If anything, he should no longer be called "DW". That honor belongs to Dan Wheldon.

MRM4 said...

Could it be this is a signal that ESPN is easing their way out of NASCAR and will not pursue renewing their contract? Could it be ESPN is waving the white flag to SPEED? Could it be the people that run motorsports programming at ESPN and SPEED are clueless?

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Are any of you surprised? E$PN is just continuing to thumb your noses.at you. ESPNs cancelling of roundtable just shows how little the fans mean to ESPN. The loyal NASCAR fans.

And that is a shame because ESPN used to be the gold standard of NASCAR coverage.

ESPN first toiled in NASCAR BACK IN 80 or 81 and in its first year ESPN did not have set announcers. Bob Jenkins, Larry Nuber, Eli Gold, Dave Despain, Mike Joy and Ned Jarrett all had a handnits first year. Then Bob and Larry gave ESPN a set booth for five years and then Ned joined Bob in the booth in 88 and then BP a year later. Bob, Benny and Ned were the best booth trio ever and staayed together for 11 years.

After a 5 year absence from 2001-2006, ESPN was back in NASCAR. But it has never beem the same.


As a matter of facrlt ESPN has not been the same since the new millenium. Sportscenter is a joke, Some of the original programming is a joke. ESPN is just a shell of what it once was.


And the viewers are being held hostage.

NASCAR fans are being held hostage.

We have been making a lot of noise on this forum but nothing has been done about lousyy coverage we get every week.

JD has guts to stand up to the coverage and sohave we. The networks still are too arrogant to give us what we want.

Until they change we will continue to fight the good fight.

Fight the real enemy

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

Hello from Daytona! We decided not to pay the exorbitant price with the club we usually go with and went to the ticket office today.

Interesting. We wanted Sprint Tower. Not too many choices but found something we could live with. More interesting was the camping sites on the West side. We got a space but pretty far back from the entrance. The ticket girl, who was sooooo nice, said they have been selling lots of tickets & camping spots. The best news, cost us half what we would have spent for the same 4 races plus RV spot.

Too bad about Nascar Now. I like many would always made sure to watch the Monday show.

I don't know what is happening, but I do know I must not be in ESPN's, FOX's or SPEED's demographic anymore. Or I guess NASCAR's...athough we just shelled out a small fortune, plus traveled 3000 miles to get here.

I am just going to try and focus on the racing and ignore all the other stuff. Looks like I may just be tuning into the races and using my trusty DVR. I am sure that device has saved me as a fan.

Word veri: voccull Doesn't seem to be working too well...lol! Well be did get AB.

AveryNH said...

That really sucks. That was the only NASCAR now I'd watch. Now I'll rush home after school and catch the last ten minutes of the lame thirty minute show. Or I'll stick to this site and Jayski for my news. Or go really radical and watch race hub. Man espn will never learn.

Larry said...

One interesting note is that Marty Reid will be apart of the rotation for Nascar Now.

Anonymous said...

Hold on there.
I have Nascar Now in my Comcast (whoops Xfinity) DVR favorites and it shows that NN on Monday 2/20 is scheduled to record between 3 PM to 4PM eastern.
Although, it also shows NN's first broadcast is scheduled to record at 2:30 AM Tuesday morning 2/14.

SD80MAC said...

It'sobvious that ESPN does not care about NASCAR. Why don't they just bale out on the rest of their contract and get their unwanted step child out of the house? I'm sure NBC or someone else would be happy to pick up the race coverage for the balance of ESPN's contract.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Larry,

That is going to be very interesting. Marty does not live in the area of ESPN and his overall role in the 2012 NASCAR on ESPN coverage has never been explained.

Anon,

On 2/20 here is the ESPN2 sched:

2PM - SportsCenter for one hour.

3PM - NASCAR Now for 30 min.

3:30PM - Numbers Never Lie for 30 min.

4PM - NFL Live for one hour.

5PM - Around the Horn for 30 min.

5:30PM - Pardon the Interruption for 30 min.

ESPN has live hoop specials.

JD

Ir42nate2bhere said...

I will miss the the roundtable in the old form, but I'll wait and see what the Monday show is like now before burn ESPN at the stake. Speed has the opportunity to do the same with their .com writers and the Charlotte based media people, let's see if they want that style of show 1 day a week on the Hub.nt

Anonymous said...

Brian France doesn't have a say in what espn does

Anonymous said...

Just to compare notes JD.
On 2/20 my Comcast (whoops Xfinity) program guide sez:
10-2PM First Take
12-2PM First Take
2-3PM Sports Center
3-4PM Nascar Now
4-5PM NFL Live
And on 2/21:
2-2:30 Sprint Cup Preview
2:30-3 Nationwide Series Preview

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon, if you type "ESPN Media Zone" into Google, you will see a tab on the left for program schedules.

This will give you the schedule of any ESPN network for the next several months.

That is where my info came from!

JD

Anonymous said...

The Monday Roundtable NASCAR Now and Wind Tunnel were the only two racing support shows that I considered worth my time. So now I'm down to Wind Tunnel. Considering the demonstrated behavior of Speed management, I hope Despain has another job waiting.

Anonymous said...

Have been watching IWC since it was on TNN.Have been reading and commmenting on the D.P. since it's inception.Can remember when comments praised SPEED that IWC was cancelled.A.B. tried to bring the the magic back,and did so.He brought out the best in people,reguardless if you liked them or not.Whatever network picks up A.B.,I'll watch it.

TheNASCARTER said...

I watched Days of Thunder earlier today and Harry asked Cole about Stock Cars and Cole said "ESPN has great coverage, you would be surprised at what you can pick up"

Now days, Im shocked if they interview the Top 5. NASCAR needs to buy ESPNs contract out!!! But they really can't give it to anybody. Except for maybe SPEED.

It's sad too because they have guys that work for them who really care about NASCAR and do great. Like Marty Smith and Alan Bestwick.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the Roundtable, but per ESPN, they're not interested in informing their audience, just annoying it with inflated egos and people "building their personal brand" of crap.

At least AB has the pre/post race gig. I really like Allen, think he does a fine job.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR would do itself a favor and get away from ESPN as soon as possible...

Anonymous said...

just another indicator that ESPN is OUT of NASCAR when the current deal is up

Vicky D said...

AB and his expert panels were terrific and we always enjoyed the Monday show. This tv year is getting crazier and crazier for sure!

Ir42nate2bhere said...

Not to subject steal, but if you have a Comcast(Xfinity) DVR and auto record, you should check for your upcoming Monday recording.My listings have the only airing of NASCAR Now at 2:30 Tues.AM, as the guide has replays of Mike n Mike and First Take taking the afternoon schedule. I do not think anyone here would be happy to get home Monday evening, and find no recording if that is what you were waiting for.

diane said...

Unlike most here I prefer a general racing news show, not one specifically for Nascar. Sort of like the old RPM Tonight or when Windtunnel was on every night.

Racing fans need to understand that ours is a niche sport and won't command the share of mind stick and ball does on ESPN. It would just be nice if Speed would pick up the slack with a real news show. Not fluff, not lifestyle, not funny guys or hot girls.

Garry said...

A blogger said "Brian France doesn't have a say in what ESPN does." Kind of true, but:When Brian's dad was beginning to get sick, and turned the controls over to his son, Brian sold the COMPLETE t.v. rights over to the networks for Billions of dollars. So in a sense, he does have a hand in the poor treatment given to the sport by the networks. That's why a few years ago, Jim, his uncle, and other family members tried to do the ol' Tony George Family Take over, and kick him out. Unfortunately to no avail. So in the end, the blame for Digger, DW, Hollywood Hotel, BSPN, Fontana, etc. all falls on Brian's shoulders.O.K. So Fontana was built while Bill France was in charge, but it's fun to blame it on his son....

SnowdogBob said...

This makes my life easier...that was the ONLY thing on ESPN i watched other than a few of the late season races (and the "Big" Busch races). I'll keep following how ESPN is doing on here and when I hear of an interesting change in their shows i will give it a try and see if it's worth my time, but generally I find I like NASCAR too much and have been around it too long to find anything ESPN is putting together informative or entertaining.

The round table was the last pretender to the continuation of Inside Winston Cup which I still remember fondly. Time to mourn another NASCAR tradition gone. Does it bode well for NASCAR when the most enjoyable news format show is Dave Despain who many feel doesn't like NASCAR.

rich said...

Hey fellow speed junkies, don't forget NHRA drags starts Sat on ESPN2.
15 DAYS TO DAYTONA 500
I CAN NOT WAIT

NASCAR Bits & Pieces (Bruce) said...

Bestwick is a great personality that brought a unique, concise energy to the information and content he delivered. I found his presentations engaging. Sigh, oh well.

BWBarefoot said...

I am bummed. I looked forward to it every week, just as I did to its predecessor on Speed, Inside [Winston/Nextel] Cup.

This makes me wonder if ESPN plans to renew the NASCAR contracts when they expire. If they don't, NASCAR coverage will all but disappear from SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, and related shows except for special occasions and extraordinary news coverage.

This has been the pattern with the NHL and PGA Tour, among other places. (For example, don't think for a moment that ESPN would have sent Colleen Dominguez to this weekend's PGA event if Tiger Woods wasn't playing in it.)

Rockin Rich said...

JD — Thank you for the "nugget" on where to find BSPN TV schedules. I truly miss George Webster's Race Fan TV site. That was the absolute best I had found for complete racing related TV schedules well in advance. George was right, (so far anyway), when he predicted the new owner of the site would not put the same effort into it.

Sooo, can you direct us to other sites that would provide more complete scheduling information than what the main Speed, Fox, Versus/NBC, etc. sites do? Last Monday, I was trying to see what the complete Daytona broadcast lineup was, and couldn't find any scheduling beyond Feb. 20.

Thank you, as always, for continuing this site. It is a great resource, and incidentally, often a great source of entertainment.

Damon said...

Ahh yes......more Skip Bayless, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, that's what FANS want on Mondays.