Monday, March 26, 2007

NASCAR Now: No ESPN Race Highlights on ESPN

Mondays on NASCAR Now are tough. The weekend expertise of both the ESPN and Fox Sports announcers is replaced by the other set of "Bristol Boys." Host Erik Kuselias and sidekick Tim Cowlishaw are obsessed with the "cheating issues" in NASCAR. They talk about it like steroids in baseball or a corked bat.

Stacy Compton seems to be holding his own and continues to be a plain-speaking voice-of-reason among the "hype kings." Compton explained the last two laps of the NEXTEL Cup race and reminded viewers of the fact Jeff Burton is a gentleman racer. This is a fact that is lost on Kuselias and Cowlishaw. Compton calmed everyone down about the COT, and basically rebuffed the ESPN host's attempts to generate "controversy," which seems to be the goal of this program. "Shut up, sit down, and drive" he said.

David Stremme called in to help the perspective on the COT, but Kuselias demanded he "grade" the car. Kuselias then tried to bait Stremme into talking down about his teammate Juan Montoya. "Aren't you jealous?" Kuselias asked. The Daly Planet has called for Stacy Compton to do these interviews since this program began. Why use racing amateur Erik Kuselias, when the experienced Stacy Compton is right alongside in the studio? How is ESPN not grasping the concept of letting the expert ask the questions?

Marty Smith is the saving grace of this series, and should not have been shuffled to the end of the program. The updated news and inside information that Smith brings deserves to be featured in this show. How a David Stremme phone interview and a Tim Cowlishaw "opinion-fest" get higher billing is a head-scratcher. Smith's update was fantastic, and he ran the gamut from the Biffle car being low to the Toyota struggles this season. Kuselias tolerated Smith and then summarily dismissed him with one line, and no follow-up. Harsh.

As the Monday version of NASCAR Now, this show should have contained a recap of the Busch Race telecast by ESPN on ABC. Either Jerry Punch or Rusty Wallace should have appeared in that "wrap," reinforcing the ESPN presence in NASCAR as they build toward their NEXTEL Cup debut. It should not be assumed that viewers have watched the late night edition of the weekend show, and instead of David Stremme, we should have taken the time to review the Busch event. As NASCAR Now continues to define itself, we find the Baseball Tonight approach becoming the norm. Once again, this is NASCAR and everything happens over the weekend. Mondays are for looking back at the three days prior as one big racing event, not as individual "games."