Tuesday, March 6, 2007

NASCAR Now: One Man Alone

ESPN returned to its major NASCAR commitment on Tuesday with series host Erik Kuselias presenting a very diverse program. Included was an interview with NEXTEL Cup rookie David Ragan, a Dale Junior vs. DEI update, a news feature on the Daytona team penalty appeals being denied, and even a word from Bruton Smith about the changes in Las Vegas. There was only one problem. The solitary person on the set was Kuselias, who knows very little about motorsports or NASCAR.

On countless ESPN news and information shows, we see "experts" appear from every corner of the set. Sometimes, there are four or five panelists all discussing the same topic. On NASCAR Now, we have a former ESPN radio host standing alone on-set, holding some pieces of paper, and talking to "floating heads" in boxes on the wall. Is this what NASCAR means to ESPN?

Kuselias didn't know David Ragan, or the racing legacy of his father, and it showed. Reading scripted questions, Kuselias conducted yet another bizarre and almost "pretend" NASCAR interview. He asked almost nothing that made sense or was connected to the question before. Incredibly, he never asked how Ragan's father was doing, what he was doing, or why Ragan chose NASCAR.

Then, Kuselias was thrust into the middle of the Junior vs. DEI debate. On came Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis in liveshots, but neither was allowed to speak to each other, only to Kuselias. He would ask one a scripted question, then ask the other one the next scripted question. What is going on here, is this really ESPN...the Worldwide Leader in Sports?

After a feature about the Daytona penalties, Bruton Smith stopped by on the phone to talk about Las Vegas track changes. Smith could have been talking about changes on the surface of Mars. Mr. Kuselias has clearly not watched a Las Vegas race on TV, not been to a Vegas race, and had absolutely no clue to what Bruton was talking about.

ESPN has to re-think the format of this show and fast. Kuselias will not become a NASCAR expert in one season, and should not have to. His role is clearly to host, and not provide analysis, news coverage, or feature reports. How then, is the poor man left all alone on network television to speak about three topics he has no idea about...except for what is on his script?

If ESPN wants to commit to a NASCAR show based in Connecticut, they better bring in some solid "expert" help for the current host, because today's effort left a lot of NASCAR information on the table, and a lot of egg on Mr. Kuselias face.