The Frontstretch: Missing RPM2Night More Than Ever- ODDS and ENDS (Race New for Fans with Short Attention Spans) by Dennis Michelsen -- Tuesday March 1, 2005

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Missing RPM2Night More Than Ever
Has anyone ever satisfied the racing junky better than John Kernan on ESPN’s defunct racing show RPM2Night? As I was suffering through another so-so edition of “NASCAR Nation” last night I realized just how much I miss RPM2Night. For those of you new to this thing called NASCAR you are probably saying, “Who is John Kernan?” The old time fans will say, “John is THE man!” In a snappy thirty minutes chock full of video highlights race fans had their adrenaline rush and racing fix for another day. Then along came the switch of television contracts and the abysmal treatment of ESPN by the new NASCAR television partners. ESPN decided that NASCAR fans didn’t need them any more and pulled the plug on RPM2Night. I wonder after a couple seasons to miss the show how many old RPM2Night junkies like me exist? While NASCAR is my number one racing fix I also loved catching up on the NHRA Drag Racing gang and the famous “Open Wheel Wednesday” features to catch up on spring car action. This is how we first learned about some of the rising stars that would invade NASCAR in the years to come. My VCR was set to record RPM2Night every night"¦the same can’t be said about the defunct “Totally NASCAR” or its replacement “NASCAR Nation.” Oh sure they might give you spiffy graphics and interview segments but RPM2Night gave the dedicated race fan just what they wanted without the other BS. Oh well I guess I will have to reminisce or as Tim McGraw might have sung, “Back When a Racing Show was a Racing Show.” I sure miss John Kernan and all the gang at the old RPM2Night"¦thanks for the memories!

Team Racing
Every year in the Busch series we see a few teams that split the races between two or more drivers. But this year the unusual part of this “Team Racing” trend is that more than one team has a legitimate shot at winning the Owner’s points title with more than one driver behind the wheel. You can credit this trend to the continued expansion of the “Developmental Driver” phenomenon. Big money sponsors might not be so quick to support a Boston Reid or a Brandon Miller, but toss in drives by Nextel Cup stars and they sign up for the big money! The established teams get to develop their new guys and the sponsors get to promote names such as Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick. Also some of these new guys just don’t have the experience at the big tracks and this gives the teams a chance to bring them up to speed easier without trashing a lot of great equipment. One of the more intriguing team racing efforts involves the Evernham development team of the number six car. Paul Wolfe raced a few times last season and is joined this year by short track ace Joey Miller and female World of Outlaws star Erin Crocker. Crocker especially is an interesting choice having impressed Tony Stewart at a recent midget race in Fort Wayne, Indiana last month. The team is led by a familiar name to long time Busch racing fans, Elton Sawyer. While this team is not expected to contend for the championship they might be the most interesting story to follow this year. Meanwhile up front the number five car from Hendricks and the number thirty-three car from Kevin Harvick Racing will battle for the title. Look for the “Team Racing” concept to expand in the years to come as money for fully sponsored teams gets even harder to come by.

Will NASCAR’s Popularity Lead to It’s Demise?
Everyone wants a piece of the NASCAR pie. This is America’s fastest growing sport and communities have helped developers sprout racetracks to get in on the big money. But will NASCAR’s sudden increase in popularity lead to its demise? Gone are old tracks that die-hard fans loved. The sport outgrew places like Hickory, South Boston, and the old Nashville Fair Grounds. Local economies and bad race dates took away great racing venues such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. Darlington is holding on to its date barely and progress might soon doom Martinsville too. These are more than just links to NASCAR’s past, these are the kind of tracks that always put on great shows. In their place are palaces built more for the media, fans, and sponsors. The race product is a secondary concern. Yes if the racing is bad enough tracks get an extreme makeover but they won’t lose their dates if they sell tickets. So what if the race is a boring follow-the-leader parade. But in the long run the racing product will bring more and more fans watching on television. That’s where the REAL money is"¦television rights! NASCAR is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new fans that have discovered this new sport that us old die-hards have loved for years. But those same new fans tend to gravitate to new adrenaline rushes and then go on to the new fad. If the racing product suffers in the meantime how many diehard fans will remain? NASCAR sold many more seats last week at California Speedway but that race will NEVER be shown as a NASCAR classic, unlike last years second race of the season at Rockingham. There were options such as adding lights and awarding a better date that could have turned Rockingham into a gold mine! It wasn’t too long ago that Bristol struggled to sell 40,000 tickets. After adding lights and making every race there an instant classic Bruton Smith can’t build enough seats at a track that used to be a loser at the gate. Once the historic tracks are gone NASCAR’s history will be gone too. Maybe someday, just like baseball did, we will see the rise of “Classic New Racetracks” patterned after the Darlingtons and Rockinghams of the world. But how many diehard fans will be left after the new wears off of NASCAR in the eyes of the new fans.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Dennis Michelsen and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

M B Yuhas
03/02/2005 09:06 AM
I miss RPM2nite also! I am so tired of the same people on all the NASCAR shows saying the same thing and nothing new. That’s not all, as time for Truck, Busch or Cup races who do they interview but the guys who are racing that day and not in the booth. I just turn it off until race time.
Toni Cathcart
03/02/2005 09:43 AM
I was missing RPM2night so bad while I was watching “NASCAR Fashions” on NASCAR Nation. Where’s the racing? I hope ESPN gets NASCAR coverage with the new TV contract.
Ken Johnson
03/02/2005 10:03 AM
Hi Dennis. I so agree with you about the Nascar popularity thing. I have been saying since Daytona that they are over exposed and the fall is coming. And Nascar Nation sucks, plain and simple. Though I do think Kris Davoda is rather cute…

pepper b
03/02/2005 10:06 AM
What the heck is this “space waster” NASCAR NATION all about?! Next thing I know my dear wife will come to bed dressed in a Jeff Gordon nighty because it was a fashion segment on NN!

Please, as Dennis implores, give us back RPM2Night, or at least put Krista Voda as the co-host on NN. She at least comes across has having a knowledge of the sport!

BTW, does anyone know what John is doing these days?
Richard Irion
03/02/2005 10:34 AM
I have to agree, NASCAR NATION leaves a lot to be desired. It seems so contrived and stiff not to mention the fact that the hosts look very uncomfortable. Maybe in time after they work out some of the bugs it will get better. For now I will stop watching. One week is enough.
John D
03/02/2005 10:42 AM
I have missed RPM2night since it left the air, as well. I have yet to sit through a full hour of the NASCAR Nation! It is just not for the hard core race fan!
jerry stelle
03/02/2005 10:46 AM
The only show on TV to watch was RPM2night when it came to NASCAR news. All I want is the news, not a bunch of fluff. Love John Kernan. NASCAR NATION is rideculous, one show was enough for me.

Jerry Stelle
Carolyn M
03/02/2005 10:47 AM
Finally! People like me!! I used to watch RPM2nite faithfully and I really miss it and John Kernan.
As much as I enjoy staring at Ralph Sheheen (sigh….) Nascar Nation is really really boring to me. I’ve tried it a few times and it didn’t hold my interest at all, so I gave up on it.
Jim P
03/02/2005 11:26 AM
Bring back RPM2Night! This NAScar Nation is a waste of time I don’t bother watching it but I’m sure they are making $$$. NASCAR is definitely oversaturating the market with shows like that. Why is Windtunnel only on once a week?
03/02/2005 11:28 AM
I agree to all you had to say . NASCAR nation will not survive and if NASCAR doesn’t start listening to some of the old die-hard fans it will not survive either. It’s all about money and the racing has suffered because of it.Heck put those bias ply tires back on there and bring out a STOCK CAR !! And see how much the racing improves !!!!!!
03/02/2005 12:41 PM
I think nascar nation sux also, bring back Pit Bull. At least their not kissing up to nascar
03/02/2005 01:14 PM
Why do we have to put up with NASCAR Nation, it’s sorry, to say the least. We want RPM2night back and Wind Tunnel 5 days a week. The programing on Speed is going down hill fast. I suggest you take a hard look at it before it is 2 late.
Barbara Thomas
03/02/2005 01:34 PM
Ditto, ditto, ditto. I couldn’t believe the new Nascar Nation!!
I assumed we couldn’t be the only ones who thought it was awful!!
Courtney George is VERY annoying!!
I’m with you all, John Kernan is the man!!!! Do we expect Nascar to care????? We have hope but it dims all too often.
03/02/2005 01:50 PM
I will admit I enjoy fluff, but NASCAR Nation does oversaturate a bit. In my opinion, the 30 mins of Totally NASCAR had just the right mix of fluff and news to make it a great show to watch. I dont know why they felt the need to change it. In my opinion, the only thing NN has going for it is Sheheen and Voda. The rest of the group just doesn’t feel like they belong.

And like many of you, I too miss RPM2Nite, but I was never a big John Kernan fan so I can’t say that I miss him. But I do miss Dr. Jerry Punch and Mike Massaro. I know they are still around ESPN, but nothing like they were.
Stan Millard
03/02/2005 02:48 PM
I agree on most of this stuff. I sure miss RPM Tonight and John Kernan is a “keeper”. About the only time I’d see my friend Sid Carlson is when he’d come tumbling across the screen on “Open Wheel Wednesday”. I saw Jerry Punch on something reciently and he was wearing glasses again. I remember a RPM Tonight segment where he got Lasic, or however you spell it, and was going on about how wonderful it was to not need glasses ever again. I guess nothing is forever…..
03/02/2005 04:00 PM
I am renouncing my “citizenship to the NASCAR Nation.” Bring back RPM2Night or replace NASCAR Nation with Wind Tunnel and move NN to Sunday night only. NN is nothing more than a NASCAR PR show. Pit Bull at least made people think, not put them to sleep. I am a sport car racer and official, but like all types of motorsports. I think NASCAR will be hurt by this over saturation and SpeedTV will be hurt by it’s expanding NASCAR PR commercials, I mean shows. By the way SpeedTV, you have over exposed Mikey to the point I can’t stand him any longer.
W.G. Jones
03/02/2005 04:38 PM
I remember how excited I was when I heard about RPM2Night’s launch back in-what-’95? The first time I heard of Tony Stewart was on RPM2Night. Kenny Maine was the host back then. What a show. This NASCAR Nation is total crap. Courtney George is a beautiful woman but it’s obvious she knows NOTHING about NASCAR. The people who do, aside from Ralph Sheheen, are treated like props and nothing more. One of the lowlights of my television viewing life was seeing Krista Voda discuss hollywood actresses and pop tarts with Jamie McMurray. Anyway, John Kernan IS the man, RPM2Night was the best motorsports show on TV even after NASCAR banned them from showing race footage and they had to use die casts and still photos to recreate the action. You’re sure not the only one missing RPM2Night and I’m sure glad to see the show getting some props, especially in the light of NewsCorp’s pathetic attempts to create racing lifestyle shows. RPM2Night, Inside Nextel Cup, and PitBulls are three shows that stand alone in a class by themselves; all this other just is just sad and pathetic.
03/02/2005 06:09 PM
Cloned drivers,cloned race tracks!!! I remember when DW was JAW’S. David Pearson was the SILVER FOX!! And if one driver had a beef with another he would kick his ass!! Now we have whinning baby’s that just get fines of $10,000.00 and sent back to their million dollar motorcoach!! What’s up with nascars diversity program? Have you ran off your loyale base looking to find someone else to sucker!Last but not least turn off that stupid music your loyale fan base that you are running off doesn’t listen to that crap!!! R.I.P. RPM 2 DAY
Matthew Sullivan
03/02/2005 06:20 PM
All these NASCAR shows on Speed/FSN are kiss-butt. I caught about 30 seconds of the new NASCAR Nation show and about wanted to puke. We all ready know/hear about how great NASCAR (thinks) knows it is, we don’t need to have any more of that bull shoved down our throats. The kind of racing programming fans really need is something that will EDUCATE them about the sport. Why can’t NASCAR/Speed/FSN develop a show based on drivers who no longer race and have helped build up the sport? Talk about people like Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, David Pearson, Cotton Owens, etc., etc., etc. I’m willing to bet that none of these new fans know a darn thing about these guys, and they SHOULD.
Mike Dezso
03/02/2005 09:29 PM
You’re right about NASCAR losing its heart by moving from the old tracks to the new cookie cutter tracks. Yes, they sell more tickets, but as a rule, the racing is lousy. And I for one fell in love with NASCAR because of the tight racing.

And when you throw away the Southern 500, its obvious you only care about the money, not the sport.

I still watch occasionly, but the passion is gone.
Jack Petty
03/03/2005 06:27 AM
The RPM2night crew was awesome. Kernan, Kenney Mains, and Reece Davis- WOOOOOOOOOOOO
Gone are the fun terms
“Into the spin cycle”
“Into the wall of voodoo”

They made every form of racing fun….and I didn’t miss an episode. What’s Nascar Nation? ;)
All we have now is the Michael Waltrip comedy hour.

To make it worse, they took Wind Tunnel to one night. Despain has always been a favorite.
03/03/2005 01:57 PM
RPM2NIGHT was an actual news show that gave us good interviews and info about the racing world even if it didn’t make NASCAR or any other series “look good” – they just told it like it was. I have to give it to the folks at NASCAR, they have wheeled and dealed to the point that they control just about every facet of their brand of racing, from the venues, cars, what drivers say and do both on & off the track and dumb-ass TV shows. NASCAR is nothing more than a marketing machine and they’ll figure out how to squeeze every last penny out of the people that patronize them and the racing itself is secondary. Hey Jack Petty, if you watch close on Inside Nextel Cup you’ll see that Ken Schrader is about ready to puke when Mikey NASCAR starts running his mouth, I know I want to. So as for NASCAR’s demise, as for myself its already going down hill fast. I watch the plate races (they need to get rid of the plates though), love Bristol, Darlington, The Rock, but as far as California, Vegas and the rest of the cookie cutter tracks they can pack it you know where. If you folks want to see some good racin’ check out the World of Outlaws
03/03/2005 06:18 PM
RPM Tonight was OK but the real “racing show” on ESPN was SpeedWeek & Thursday Night Thunder from The Speeddrome & Raceway Park. Real racing, real news, & no butt kissing of the sanctioning bodies.
03/03/2005 07:14 PM
Anybody out there that has been to NASCAR races 25 years ago or longer {i’m 46} enjoy racing now more than then?
lou modestino
03/06/2005 10:11 AM
John Kernan is currently doing Outoor programming on ESPN2 on Saturday mornings. I was surfing and caught his program on fishing and outdoors. He’s also sports a mustache and goatee.
03/09/2005 06:06 AM
RPM was a fast, must see look at racing news. Not much fluff, just good stories, breaking news, and some hard follow-up. Wind Tunnel was almost as good, but like the rest of NASCAR, the TV shows this year are mostly sizzle without much steak.


Dennis no longer contributes to the Frontstretch, but you can Dennis's commentary at his website bio and archive page.