Wednesday, March 7, 2007

NASCAR Now: Those Who Know

Tony Stewart is welcomed on any race show because of his experience and personality. On NASCAR Now, he should have been a great guest who left with good feelings after a strong interview. Unfortunately, Tony was again chased around by host Erik Kuselias who is obsessed with drivers becoming frantic to make the NASCAR Chase for the Cup. Kuselias never asked about Toyota, Michael Waltrip, or Stewart's current relationship with Kurt Bush. Stewart slammed Kuselias back into reality, and then added a little cream on the top by signing off with "bye Bud." It was clear the pro was Tony, and the amateur was Kuselias. Once again, Kuselias should not interview NASCAR personalities, it should be the expert analysts employed by the ESPN who "speak the language."

At long last, NASCAR Now provided viewers with some hard news as they played sound bites of drivers from Las Vegas talking about the new track surface, and the problems it was causing. Then, Tim Brewer stopped by and added some additional clarification about tire wear and race issues. Unfortunately, Brewer spoke in terms that Kuselias clearly did not understand. His information that Goodyear was coming to Vegas with the hardest tire in NASCAR history was excellent. DJ Copp was alongside Brewer, and translated quite well the issue of a smaller fuel cell and pit strategy. This is the type of segment this show needs on a daily basis. Straightforward and informational.

Snapping back into the ESPN Gameday mode, Kuselias brought out Brad Daugherty and actually asked him:

  • "Which driver is most in need of a strong Las Vegas?" That's like asking Tom Jackson which NFL team really needs a win this weekend? Imagine asking Peter Gammons which baseball team wants to win? Does anyone ask Barry Melrose which NHL team could use a win in their next game? Daugherty threw around some big names, but the answer always is...every driver. This is becoming an embarrassment.

  • "March 25th comes around...where is Mark Martin?" Kuselias is absolutely stuck on Mark Martin driving a full NEXTEL Cup season. Martin's car owner Bobby Ginn said its up to Mark, Stacy Compton said Mark "usually does what he says," and Daugherty completely made up the response that Martin would be in Bristol "if he was still leading the points." One has the feeling that Kuselias has absolutely no respect for Mark Martin's word, or at least believes him to be needy enough to change his life around if good fortune comes his way in Las Vegas.

  • Will Montoya "win on an oval this season?" Incredulously, Daugherty answers that Montoya will win in the Busch Series, but not in Cup. What? Would someone please tell Brad about the Indy 500?

NASCAR Now delivered high-powered guests and expert analysis in the same vein as RPM2Nite for almost twenty minutes. Then, Mr. Daugherty and Mr. Kuselias reminded us of just how great the difference between those who know, and those who "ESPN says" they know...really is.

ESPN: Waltrip Racing (Re-Air)

What an interesting decision on ESPN's part to re-air the Michael Waltrip Racing - A New Era program today. From the opening words, both the announcer's voice and the interviews with the MWR participants told a story that had a very unhappy ending. Perhaps, ESPN might have decided to hold-off on re-airing this show until the Daytona suspensions of the MWR staff had expired.

Several months down the road, this series might have an interesting flair and be retrospective in nature. At this time, it since has tinges of sadness and disappointment. Its hard to believe that Toyota, with its keen sense of honor, desired this program to re-air on a national basis. If there were any losers as a result of the Daytona situation, it was Toyota.

Certainly, ESPN can claim some sort of contractual obligations to re-air this show, but anyone with some common sense and understanding of the Toyota sensibilities might have held off until the team penalties were over.