Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NASCAR Now: Mike Helton Speaks

Wow! What a difference a day makes. NASCAR Now host Erik Kuselias returned to his studio hosting role and led a fast-paced thirty minute program on Monday that can be defined by only one word...excellent. This is the reason ESPN returned to NASCAR news after SPEED Channel passed time-and-time again on an opportunity to establish its own daily news program. Here are some highlights:

  • NASCAR President Mike Helton appeared via telephone and spoke plainly and in very clear terms about the caution flag controversy at the finish. Like it or not, Helton put to bed any additional speculation about NASCAR's "motives" by appearing live on ESPN2.

  • Marty Smith returned to his best role as "news man," and broke the scoop that Mark Martin will likely run the Pepsi 400 this season. Smith has a credibility when he is reporting and speaks with a sincerity that a new program like NASCAR Now needs.

  • Mike Massaro brings his strong field reporting skills to the show in a manner that is always factual and fast-paced. His report comparing Harvick to Earnhardt Sr. featured exclusive sound from Richard Childress, and left no doubt that Massaro is the top NASCAR field reporter at ESPN.

  • The surprise of the show is Stacy Compton. ESPN should have left Chris Fowler, Brad Daugherty, and Brent Musburger at home when they went to Daytona, and just featured Stacy Compton with Kuselias. His moment-by-moment break down of the final lap of the Daytona 500 was the best explanation of what happened, why it happened, and what NASCAR was thinking. Even Mike Helton complimented Compton on his analysis of the situation. What more can ESPN ask from a rookie announcer?

  • Taking the time to put the 2007 Daytona 500 in historical perspective was a great idea, and shows the maturity of the ESPN studio production team. With the network returning to NASCAR after six years, its important to establish that they understand the history of the sport, and more important, that they respect it.