Friday, April 6, 2007

Race Fans Re-Discover "NASCAR Now" on ESPN2

Rusty Wallace was hyped. Ryan Burr was pumped. Terry Blount brought the hard news. Boris Said reported directly from the track in Nashville...and had really big hair. ESPN2 has hit it out of the ballpark in the first week of the baseball season. New host Ryan Burr has made NASCAR Now a winner.

The Daly Planet has been calling for more of Rusty Wallace on NASCAR Now since Daytona. Today, Rusty stopped by at the top of the show and proved once again why he is key to the success of this series. His personality, excitement, and knowledge about NASCAR, including this week's Busch Series event, is what fans want. He tells it like it is, never minces his words, and has not fallen into the "politically correct" gang of announcers. In their first on-air meeting, Ryan Burr proved that he and Rusty can keep viewers glued to the TV with their fast-paced conversation. If ESPN can let Rusty interact with viewer email or videos in the future, they will create a distinctive niche and give fans yet another reason to tune-in.

Boris Said is so much better when he is at the track, and this week the driver/analyst was loaded with info. Still in his driver's suit from practice, Boris gave viewers the straight scoop on the track, the cold weather, and the contenders. Host Ryan Burr brought out the excitement of Boris having a good car for this event, and several personal and honest comments about how Said needs to improve to compete at this level. Boris did take the time to add a new NASCAR Now classic line. Boris tossed out that the Busch guys were "like a bunch of Dobermans with hand grenades in their mouth." Now, this is TV!

Terry Blount alone handled the news duties today, and came with the strong info on a wide variety of topics. Perhaps, both Blount and Marty Smith will be set free to host their own news segment, and avoid scripted questions from the host. Still, the news segment moved along and Blount turned in his best performance since NASCAR Now went on the air. I have a feeling the reporters are feeling the new vibe of this show as well.

NASCAR Now still has a little cleaning-up to do. The bizarre sound effects during the news segments are just ridiculous, and the backgrounds for the reporters and interview segments need to be re-done. But, this is minor compared to the struggle for credibility of this entire series for two months. The Daly Planet has tried to be upfront and honest during this time, despite the criticism from other reporters and TV executives that our opinions were tainted. NASCAR Now was a mess, and the fact that ESPN stepped-up to the plate and made positive changes has resulted in a viable and very watchable series. I would invite those fans who left earlier this year to give it a try once again.