Sunday, April 29, 2007
RaceDay On SPEED: NASCAR TV Really Does Live On SPEED
RaceDay from Talladega might have been the best example of NASCAR TV in many years. That is not a comment that comes easily to me, but I have been thoroughly convinced that SPEED has hit on a combination of personalities and behind-the-scenes professionals that is simply outstanding.
This week, a diverse amount of information needed to be relayed to the NASCAR fans. It included serious topics like Tony Stewart's angry comments, the violent Busch Series wreck of Kyle Busch, and the touchy subject of Jeff Gordon passing Dale Senior in the record book.
In addition, there was a major race to be previewed. After the Busch race, it was clear that new dangers awaited with the pavement change. It was clear that tensions were high with the season starting to become "real," and "The Chase" starting to become an issue. As always, it was going to be interesting to see Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace talk to us in the unique style they have developed.
The glue that holds this two hour live event together is host John Roberts and reporter Wendy Venturini. Roberts continues to be the best discovery of the executives at SPEED. He has risen to the challenges presented to him, and hosts a wide variety of programs for the network every weekend. His clarity and focus is unmatched, and his ability to deal with a wide variety of NASCAR and entertainment personalities allows RaceDay to be free-wheeling and consistently interesting.
Wendy Venturini is about to explode. Trust me on this. The only question is what direction her explosive career path will take. A smart, savvy, well-spoken young woman with a wicked sense of humor and a great on-screen presence can chart her own course through the TV landscape. Let's hope she decides to stay in the racing world. Venturini needs to be given a larger presence on SPEED to insure that she continues with the network. While present on the weekend, she goes missing during the week, and viewers know it. As previously suggested by The Daly Planet, perhaps a shot at hosting Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing on SPEED might be a wonderful opportunity.
Venturini had NASCAR's Jim Hunter on-camera responding to the Tony Stewart's situation. When a top executive like Hunter is comfortable talking live to a national TV reporter about a touchy subject like Stewart, it is a statement about Venturini's credibility and trust factor. Watching her develop into a top TV professional right before our eyes on SPEED has been a pleasure. Let's hope she stays for a while. Let's hope she stays for a long while.
The producers of RaceDay have also grasped the concept that has eluded many other NASCAR TV partners. That is the inclusion of video footage from the past to reference current and future events. To hear the late Larry Nuber's voice, to see the old ESPN graphics, and to listen to the race call of Bob Jenkins was an emotional experience for veteran NASCAR fans. Even more of this as the season goes on would be welcome. Kudos to SPEED for stepping-over the small-minded network boundaries of sports TV for the good of the sport and the fans.
As speeds at Talladega once again creep toward the magic two hundred mile-an-hour mark, SPEED brought out an amazing feature report. Focusing on Talladega, high speed, and the legendary Bobby Allison's accident, this wonderful feature brought a sense of perspective for new fans, while reminding the veterans how NASCAR has changed in response to the problems of the past. The ultimate topper was the surprise appearance of Bobby Allison himself on the set. With all the reverence that is due to him, the RaceDay crew absolutely celebrated Bobby and his contributions to the sport. A wonderful segment that will not be soon forgotten.
As the season continues, RaceDay needs to focus on stepping back and helping the NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck Series. This part of the sport would really benefit from more exposure on national TV and the strong feelings that Spencer and Wallace have for NASCAR as a whole. In a season packed with difficult struggles for many TV programs and series, RaceDay on SPEED continues to be an example of great NASCAR TV.
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