Wednesday, June 6, 2007
TV Viewers Get An Eyeful Of Dirt And Love It
There were lots of folks around the racing community who chuckled when HBO said the words pay-per-view. There were lots of people who rolled their eyes when they heard the name Tony Stewart. There were lots of NASCAR fans who got a puzzled look on their faces when the race location was announced as Eldora Speedway.
Nothing got the world ready for the complete success of Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream charity race that ran on Wednesday night live on pay-per-view. It may have been the most interesting and successful pay-per-view racing event in TV history.
Sometimes, things on TV just come together and the end product is wonderful. Good weather and a great crowd set the table for an evening of Late Model Stock Car racing on the half mile dirt of Eldora. Producer Pam Miller organized a professional television evening that was second to none. From the start of the pay-per-view program, it was clear that between show host Matt Yocum and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy, the evening would be classy and fun.
All of the TV personalities and production staff donated their time in the exact same way that the NASCAR and NHRA drivers had done for the evening. Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty formed an interesting union as the booth announcers. DW had just ended his Fox Sports racing season, and Kyle was about to debut in "DW's spot" with the TNT crew at Pocono. They got along great, and had a blast. It was nice to hear the racing knowledge flow from both of these veterans.
Give credit to the organizers who kept the event on schedule, even though Bill Elliott flipped at the finish line in his heat race. After a quiet moment, Elliott emerged and was still smiling. He had flipped at Eldora. The rest of the evening went off as planned, with good heat races, a B Main, and the Feature.
Lots of credit for the smooth flow of the evening goes to Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum. With Berggren patrolling pit road and the garage, he was able to introduce the viewers to many of the family members and associates of the NASCAR drivers. This brought back the family feeling that has been so missing this season on the other racing broadcasts.
Matt Yocum filled the role of host, interviewer, and reporter. He and his buddy Tony Stewart were keys to the overall organization of the event. Matt showed the TV industry just how versatile he is. He has hosted this event, a weekly NASCAR TV studio show, is a pit road reporter, and also is Tony's producer for his Sirius Satellite Radio show. Can it be long until Yocum gets an offer to step-up to a key TV role in the racing world? Can you say Hollywood Hotel?
While HBO will wait until Thursday to release the number of households who subscribed to this telecast, that information really does not matter. This concept was an unbridled success and will lead to huge numbers for this weekend in 2008. I certainly hope that lots of money was raised for the Victory Junction Gang Camp this year, but everyone at the camp in Randleman, NC can sit back and smile. The future for this event is assured.
Who imagined that a great looking TV broadcast from Eldora Speedway could be sold on pay-per-view? Who imagined that it could fund a good portion of the operating costs of Kyle and Pattie's camp? Who imagined that top NASCAR drivers and TV professionals would show up for free and be happy to do it? Who imagined that NASCAR and racing fans nationwide would step-up to watch an evening of Late Model Racing? Who got NEXTEL and Old Spice to fund the entire evening without running one TV ad?
Love him or hate him...that would be one man. This was a great idea, and thank you Tony Stewart. See you again in Eldora next year.
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