Thursday, February 22, 2007

NASCAR Now: Shell Oil vs. NASCAR

Recovering from a difficult showing at Daytona, Erik Kuselias and the NASCAR Now crew broke out their hard news right up-front on Thursday. Marty Smith has been returned to his status as "NASCAR Insider," and spoke plainly about the visibility of the Shell Oil company promoting their gasoline brand with Kevin Harvick, and why Sunoco was upset. Smith was well-informed, and explained both sides of the issue. He left as a weekend teaser the fact that RCR is "expected" to change Harvick's logos back to a Shell Oil non-gasoline brand at the next event.

Then, just like a lingering Daytona hangover that will not go away, the screen revealed Brad Daugherty and Tim Cowlishaw. Welcome back to Around the Horn, or maybe College Gameday. While both of these men are classy and well-spoken, they have absolutely no first-hand knowledge about the sport of NASCAR. Especially when following Marty Smith. Daugherty spoke incorrectly about race team and NASCAR sponsorships conflicting, and he never even referenced Alltel, Cingular, or NEXTEL. What he said was just fundamentally wrong. These exact type of issues have been around for years, and NASCAR makes it perfectly clear what limits teams can go to in terms of products and logos.
For some reason, Mr. Cowlishaw appeared as if he had just awoken from a nap, and forgot to look in the mirror before his TV appearance. His comments reflected someone who was perhaps still a bit groggy. This is not a talk show, and Cowlishaw's role is ill-defined. He is forced to "comment" on topics under discussion, but in the NASCAR world he has no credibility. We have seen NASCAR and all its TV support programming grow over the last ten years. What we have not seen, at any time in that mix, was Mr. Cowlishaw.

The racing chat rooms and forum boards are all asking the same question, why does ESPN need a non-racing journalist and a famous basketball player on their NASCAR coverage? Cowlishaw is great on Around the Horn, and Daugherty is an authority on the college hoop game. Perhaps, ESPN might consider adding more content for newer fans, or more field-produced features that tell personal stories of the sport.
The last time ESPN tried a Bristol, Connecticut based show about NASCAR, they quickly found that no matter how hard they tried, NASCAR did not live in New England. Its lives in Mooresville, Concord, and the greater Lake Norman, North Carolina area. Moving RPM2Nite to Charlotte changed everything. Maybe NASCAR Now is beginning the slow trip through the same cycle. Only time will tell.