Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"NASCAR Now" Stays On A Roll

One day after the first big Monday hour show, Ryan Burr took the studio helm of Tuesday's NASCAR Now and kept the momentum going. To make a statement about the new shared responsibilities of the co-hosts, Burr and Nicole Manske appeared on-camera right at the start of the show.

Burr updated the news with Lead Reporter Marty Smith, including the penalties for the Stewart vs. Busch incident. Smith and Burr work well, as they did last season. This time, the questions were on-target and the responses by Smith were clear and concise.

Then, for the first time, viewers were treated to Nicole Manske and Brad Daugherty in the big ESPN Infield Studio that the network built just for NASCAR. ESPN is working hard to involve Daugherty, and he seems to be working hard to diversify his TV activities for the network. Manske followed-up with Boris Said talking about Casey Mears and his slightly more high-profile teammates.

Twisting off the hardcore news, Burr returned ESPN to their corporate agenda with the beginning of a long year of NASCAR "fantasy racing" reports. There is no doubt that this activity is popular and important to ESPN. The question is, does it have a place in a thirty minute racing show that only has twenty-two minutes of content?

Manske worked with Brian Vickers on a studio interview that finally allowed her to talk freely and relax a bit. Vickers related well with her, and she was able to keep her feet and ask the right follow-up questions. This was the first time for viewers seeing Manske on the ESPN set at the NASCAR races, but it will not be the last.

As we mentioned in an earlier column, Brad Daugherty has been trying to spread his wings with ESPN. His feature report on Petty Racing and their move to Mooresville, NC was a great first step. Asking questions in his understated style, Daugherty got a lot of information out of Petty on his future plans. For those who understand Daugherty's start as a NASCAR fan, this opportunity had to be wonderful.

Tim Brewer made his first appearance on NASCAR Now for the season with a feature on the wind tunnel that was recently featured on the Media Tour. Brewer did a solid job in explaining the function of the tunnel, and how the information that teams need is gathered. It was again interesting to see how data-driven this technology really is.

Finally, the confirmation that the boundaries between the NASCAR on ESPN gang and the Fox Sports on-air team are finally down happened with the perfect person. Larry McReynolds works for Fox, SPEED and TNT. His agenda is clearly NASCAR.

Now, McReynolds sat on NASCAR Now talking about his Daytona 500 memories while wearing a NASCAR on Fox shirt. At the end of the interview, Ryan Burr on NASCAR Now promoted the Daytona 500 on Fox Sports. My, how times have changed for this program.

Burr mentioned Marty Smith's interview with all four of the Hendrick drivers, which will be featured on the Wednesday edition. That type of opportunity for Smith to act as more than just a talking head will be a good one.

This program series has changed almost everything but the studio set after last year's struggles. The on-air content today was solid, and the potential for the program to pick-up-speed as we head for the weekend is almost perfect timing.

Give credit to ESPN for making the changes that are continuing to result in improvements on the air where NASCAR is concerned. With NASCAR Now finally on the right track, it is almost time to find-out how the new broadcast crew will mesh.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the simple instructions. Thanks again for stopping by.

SPEED Offers All-Star Announcers With Daytona Memories

Before you go to work on Wednesday, make sure and set your DVR, your Tivo or anything else in your house that can record SPEED Channel at 5:30PM.

As a TV person, this is a great opportunity to have some of the greatest announcers in NASCAR history appear on-camera together. Barney Hall, Ned Jarrett, Ken Squier and Mike Joy will sit down for a thirty minute program specifically about Daytona.

These four have seen a lot of history with the Daytona 500's that they have experienced. This SPEED program will allow them to look back on those special moments, and offer their own personal memories of that time.

This special Voices of the 500 jem will be tucked inside the SPEED line-up for Wednesday. While it may not be a prime time blockbuster, for veteran NASCAR fans it will simply be a treat. Each of these men has an incredible and very different perspective on the events they have seen at Daytona over the past decades.

The opportunity to get them together does not come along too often, and is a part of the big SPEED-HD roll-out during the 100 Hours of NASCAR promotion. Fans should make it a point to get this recorded if you cannot watch it as it airs. Over time, it may come to be a favorite program and a vivid memory of NASCAR's history.

Thank you to those that provided this information. This special moment deserves attention.

"Humpy Show" Lets Drivers Actually Talk

The idea of getting Humpy Wheeler involved in anything on TV that had to do with conversation was a good one. The fact that he could get one current and one past NASCAR driver to sit down and "just talk" is very special.

The one thing that has gone away from fans over the years is the ability to hear NASCAR personalities when they are not involved in "corporate speak." This is especially true of the younger generation of drivers who have literally been raised with as much education about public relations as they have about racing.

It would take a special person, and a special purpose, to snap these drivers out of the sponsor mode and return them to being just plain old folk. Perhaps, the best perscription would be to mix-in an older driver who does not have to toe the company line. Then, let Wheeler ask questions that put both generations on-the-spot.

Kurt Busch tried his best to look and sound mature, but that certainly was tough in the company of Buddy Baker. What Busch did well, however, was talk like a driver who had been through some rough times and was simply not going to take it any more.

Taped before the Daytona practice crash, Busch's words certainly seemed prophetic when he talked about when to stay calm after an incident, and when to retaliate. Hearing Buddy Baker agree, and then add-in his own personal views was very interesting. These two might have a bit more in common then most fans thought.

While this pilot episode was shot very tight and resulted in very large heads appearing on very large HD screens across the country, the production on a whole was solid. Simply letting the three men talk, filling-in the references with "B-roll" (footage) and using individual comments really told the tale.

In this world of electronic graphics, special effects, and seventy cameras at a NASCAR race this change of pace was nice. There were no sponsor duties to fulfill, no beverage to drink, no sunglasses to wear, and no new product to sell. Just some conversation and questions from a man with a right to ask them.

Since this program did not involve a lot of production issues, I think it would be important to get your opinion of this pilot episode of The Humpy Show. What did you like, what did you not like, and would you want to see more driver pairings like this presented in a one hour format?

Please leave us your comments on the program by clicking the COMMENTS button below and then following the simple instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. There is nothing to join, and we do not want your email address. We just want your opinion of The Humpy Show.