Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NASCAR Now: The Doug Banks Era Begins...This should be interesting.

ESPN has added yet another wrinkle to the NASCAR landscape with the addition of hip-hop urban radio host Doug Banks as the new host of NASCAR Now. Banks made no mention of previous host Erik Kuselias, a career lawyer who entered sports radio only a short time ago. Neither Banks nor Kuselias have any previous NASCAR media experience on their resume.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mr. Banks first show was a disaster from the drop of the green flag. He is clearly more at home in a radio format without a script and teleprompter. But as with Kuselias, ESPN forced Banks into interviewing NASCAR personalities directly. Without any knowledge of the sport, both of these rookies are struggling in their first season.

Its curious as to why ESPN does not pair the host up with an expert, who can step in and help with the specifics of this very hard to understand sport. In the past, NASCAR media veterans like Bob Jenkins, John Kernan, Eli Gold, Ralph Shaheen, Krista Voda, and others would have been considered for this type of high-profile position. But, this is the new ESPN/ABC/Disney.

Gone is the importance of the sport. What is going to be emphasized is that ESPN and ABC are here now. The big guns like Brent Musburger and Chris Fowler, the columnists like Tim Cowlishaw and the experts like Brad Daugherty are here. ESPN has brought their "A" team to town, and one thing is very clear. Their "A" team is completely lost.

The urban hip hop radio show host attempted to interview Regan Smith, who will be stepping into the Ginn ride for Mark Martin at Bristol. Every question he asked Smith pertained to Martin. How do you feel the fans will like you taking over for Martin? Do you think Martin will be in the car if he wins Atlanta? Did Martin give you driving tips? Another horrible scripted interview from ESPN by a host who does not know the first thing about this sport. When will this cycle end?

Unfortunately, Banks brought the hapless Tim Cowlishaw on the show to reprise his Around the Horn persona, and answer questions about NASCAR with complete inaccuracy. Cowlishaw will no doubt be taken to task about his ill-advised comments on Michael Waltrip driving in the Busch Series race in Atlanta, and how Toyota has "gotten nothing" for their money from Waltrip. Cowlishaw likes to shoot from the hip, but in his racing comments, his gun is clearly not loaded.

Give Banks some credit, he is a clean and credible host, with a professional manner on the air. Perhaps, if ESPN would step up and surround him with the kind of regular cast that Banks employs on his radio show, NASCAR Now would emerge from the dark hole it has dug itself since Daytona.