Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tough Topics On The Monday TV Menu

Allen Bestwick is back in the saddle as the host of NASCAR Now on Monday. Each week, this one-hour ESPN2 program takes a look at what is going on in the stock car racing world.

Since there was no Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Bestwick will instead lead a team of reporters in a discussion of NASCAR topics. The show's Lead Reporter, Marty Smith, will be on the panel. Also along for the program will be Jeff Gluck, the veteran reporter from NASCAR Scene.

The most interesting twist in the Monday line-up will be former Kansas City Star reporter Jim Pedley. That is Pedley pictured above. NASCAR fans may have stumbled across the Racin' Today website, which recently opened for business.

The site features Pedley and four other veteran journalists who now have some spare time on their hands. Here is a summary of the situation from The Stock Car Gazette:

Five auto racing journalists who feel “discarded” by the ailing newspaper industry are writing the next chapter of their careers themselves. Racin’ Today, a website that launched recently, aims to cover major U.S. motor racing series with Jim Pedley, John Sturbin, Rick Minter, Larry Woody and Bill Fleischman — all of whom either had their beats downsized or eliminated during cutbacks at newspapers in Kansas City, Mo., Fort Worth, Atlanta, Nashville and Philadelphia. Pedley, the managing editor, wrote “your newspapers have let you down” in an opening salvo to his former industry.

“It seems to be thumbing their noses at auto racing fans,” says Pedley, 57, who started Racin’ Today after being laid off at The Kansas City Star. Pedley says Racin’ Today is an online magazine of features, analysis and opinion that “hopefully will break a little news once in a while” by staffing at least one major event each week. The site has no financial backing but hopes to build an advertising base.

While past NASCAR Now shows featuring reporters have turned into nothing more than team-by-team reviews of the Cup Series, this show promises to deliver a lot more.

TV ratings are down this season for tracks of all sizes. Key teams have started to fall by the wayside due to financial issues and even the racing empire of Bruton Smith has been called out by The NASCAR Insiders for shady dealings.

If Pedley wanted some important topics to discuss in his TV debut, there are plenty on the table from which to select. Gluck and Smith are both straight-shooters and Bestwick has been the key to reviving this Monday TV hour. Fans who are not able to view the original airing at 5PM ET or the re-air at 12:30AM may just want to set the DVR.

Shaking things up and getting the energy back in the sport may be a good topic, but simply discussing the current reality for all three of NASCAR's national series may wind-up being the main menu.

Update: Click here for the link to the Monday story in the Wall Street Journal about the millions of dollars Sprint Cup teams spend on research in the engine oil category. Add that to the NASCAR Now menu.

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