Thursday, June 28, 2007

Will TNT's Problems "Hinder" NASCAR?

There are only three races left in TNT's summer "mini-season" of NASCAR coverage. This small package of races bridges the gap between Fox Sports and ESPN/ABC. Once ESPN kicks back in for The Brickyard 400, that company stays with the NEXTEL Cup schedule all the way to the championship. The final eleven races will be on ABC Sports, but produced by the same ESPN bunch.

TNT's contribution to this NASCAR season has been a memorable one. Off-balance since the start, this group of admittedly "cross-bred" TV production folks is a smorgasbord of personnel who normally work for other networks and production companies. TNT might know drama, but with NASCAR its been an uphill climb this season. The TNT team of television "freelancers" had its roughest day last Sunday in Sonoma.

One of the things that people may remember most about TNT this season is the fact that the network is shameless in promoting its own entertainment products. This often comes with little regard to the subject matter of the promo, or the time of day it is shown.

The Daly Planet got a bunch of email from NASCAR parents shocked at the subject matter of a TNT promo that included actress Holly Hunter. Apparently, it was a wonderful promo for kids to see on a Sunday just home from church and watching racing. But, what do you expect for a network with six races to promote itself and absolutely nothing to lose? When they are gone from NASCAR, they are gone.

This weekend, at New Hampshire, TNT is once again going to test the patience of NASCAR fans in a very big way. The fans at the track and on TV get to hear the rock band "Hinder" perform live. This is the group that recorded the version of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" that fans have heard on the TNT coverage. Let me re-phrase that. The version that fans have heard over-and-over-and-over again on the TNT broadcasts. Did I mention over-and-over again?

"A performance by 'Hinder' is the perfect instrument to get race fans revved-up to watch the dramatic action of NASCAR racing," says Jenny Storms from Turner Sports Marketing. This week on the one hour NASCAR Live on TNT fans will actually get "Hinder" in concert. Since Turner Interactive runs, that site will replay the performances and have other "Hinder" things.

A hard rock band playing in front of a NASCAR grandstand in New Hampshire on a Sunday afternoon. Can't you just feel the vibe coming from that crowd?

Despite the hype and the attitude, TNT has some serious explaining to do to the fans during their pre-race shows. They left the air Sunday without final results, never had a clue as to what was going on in the last twenty laps, and put Kyle Petty in a bad spot by airing an obscenity during a replay. Add to that the fact that Larry McReynolds, struggling with his voice, was placed in an open air set adjacent to the track during the race. To say the least, things were not good.

This week, Bill Weber's article on the NASCAR on TNT website is entitled "Picturesque New England Could Turn Ugly For Some." Truer words were never said by Mr. Weber, who has struggled to maintain a friendly on-air persona during the entire TNT coverage. Message boards and chat forums around the Internet are full of fans screaming for his head. They are annoyed by his style, his attitude, and his lack of play-by-play experience. Mike Joy he is not.

When the TNT crew comes on-air in Loudon, fans will quickly see if the adversity of Sonoma has caused them to gel, or continue to splinter into even more uncomfortable on-air relationships. With the positive press that DirecTV's Hot Pass has been getting, the pressure to deliver a thorough and professional race will be greater than ever. Thankfully, the flat track of Loudon will make it tough to pass, and keep the potential chaos to a minimum.

The odd man out of TNT's coverage is Wally Dallenbach. His Wally's World ride-a-long feature has been obliterated into a TNT promo. All the good information and track descriptions he used to give viewers while terrifying a celebrity are gone. With Kyle Petty on board, his status as the veteran driver in the booth is gone. After Sonoma, and his inability to relate anything relevant or accurate in the closing laps, his credibility is gone. What's left?

Hopefully, the TNT crew will take the adversity of Sonoma as a challenge to nail both the pre-race shows and race broadcast at Loudon on Sunday. Maybe the inside jokes and the put-downs will be put on hold until the ride to the airport in the rental car. Maybe the "happy" Bill Weber will be able to remain that way for four hours. Maybe Kyle will have his best race as an analyst just when he needs it most.

The bottom line is that fans just want on TV what they have been getting on the radio for decades. Good exciting NASCAR racing presented to if they matter. We shall see if that message sinks in.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. All email is held in confidence. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

"Born to be Wild", redone by Hinder for TNT, was pretty cool......the first couple times.

You said, "over and over" a few times. I think you are understating it. Ugh! I've been going to bed with that blasted song in my head on Sunday nights now.

I don't have DirecTV so Hotpass isn't an option for me. Are there any other good options for watching the race without TNT?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to TIVO I've never heard "Hinder"! Same with any other screaming intro. I know they want the young demographic, but is a screaming intro really going to make a difference? But then that is such a small issure compared to the just plain poor production of the race. Only hope I can get through these next 3 races without having a coronary.

Jeff said...

What we all need to know here is that "Born to be Wild" is a song about a MOTORCYCLE ride.

As for Bill Weber he stinks and I dont know how he got Alan Bestwick's job but he should give it back.

I disagree on Wally, he is the only one who makes sense in the booth and is not afriad to take NASCAR to task.

Lindsay and Marty are solid on pit road but Ralph should go back to Indycar racing.

FOX has set the bar so high nobody can reach it, I hope ABC does better.

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned, the TV coverage of NASCAR is much improved over what we were getting from FOX. The addition of Kyle Petty to the booth has provided a fresh new take on the racing as I personally am getting tired of ‘ol DW talking about “June Bug” even when Jr. isn’t a factor in the race. FOX is stale and TNT isn’t afraid to try something new.

I am not a fan of the in your face style in which Hinder is being presented but I don’t think TNT should be condemned for them being at the track and performing. I guess you missed the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond last September if you think rock bands performing before the race is something new. Barenaked Ladies performed on the track at the start – finish line before the race. Oh and in years before that, Nickelback, Collective Soul, Trapt, Uncle Kracker and Hootie & the Blowfish have performed.

Anonymous said...

The only ones enjoying TNT playing "Born to Be Wild" over and over and over again is the members of Steppenwolf who are collecting some royalty checks every time TNT plays it. The rest of us are in dire need of some Pepto and ear plugs.

TNT is as shameless in promoting their products as NASCAR is in promoting itself. So it's a perfect match from that aspect.

As poor as the broadcasts have been on TNT, it's proof that the NASCAR brass doesn't watch the races on TV. If they did, they'd either be looking for someone new to carry the 6 races that TNT does or they'd be applying pressure to TNT to make their coverage better.

brett1963 said...

Fortunately the TNT coverage will be over soon. I've not really cared for ESPN's work to date in Busch and am anxious about their coverage...but thats another subject.

I've noticed the lack of any professionalism from any of the personalities with the exception of Larry Mac and Marty Smith. And Weber's and Wally's insipidness and attitude are pretty damn painful.

Another option is just turn down the sound and listen to MRN. A better option is listening to MRN on Sirius (you need to adjust the delay on the radio or DVR if you have it). I like to flip around between the 11 driver feed channels
its pretty cool.

texaspony said...

I don't need to watch NASCAR races that badly to have to put up with Bill Weber any longer. BP was the glue that held this team together at NBC. The Sonoma race was the worst produced race I have ever watched. Therefore, I'll be back at the Brickyard.

indybigjohn said...

Could it be that all those years when ESPN was learning and pioneering good race coverage, the networks and others just weren't paying any attention? They didn't consider ESPN worthy of their attention, I suppose. Too bad. They could have learned along with the ESPN crew.

Anonymous said...

I agree about hinder ,but hearing the same aerosmith song over and over on the other network is not any better or how about listening to DW with his i did it this way comments all day and the ever annoying boogity boogity boogity. face they all have some work to do!

Anonymous said...

When I watch a race at home, I usually have hte TV on with the sound turned off, and I have the radio broadcast playing for the play by play. That way I get to see the race, but hear the better play by play on the radio.

Anonymous said...

Very well said as always. I don't mind hearing it one time as the "intro" into their coverage, but they always seem to bring hinder out AGAIN as they're heading back for the final laps of the race. We're missing make or break racing to hear and see hinder again. We're cutting away from great action to see the same lame dramas promoted. Even if I was interested, I would not watch them because of how they are shoved in my face.

ESPN...please take note of what fans are saying on this blog about TNT's coverage. There is no excuse for you guys to make the same mistakes in coverage.

norriski said...

TNT's coverage is bad and I was screaming at the TV last week for not knowing the finishing order (what the heck was that about, that's a rookie mistake).. I have no idea how Weber ended up as the play by play guys over Bestwick who is one of the best in the business. All that said I have LITTLE faith that ABC/ESPN will be any better, I actually think they will be worse, let's look at the Busch coverage this year or God forbid the nascar now show. At one time ESPN was the class of the field in covering nascar, but now it's almost like they don't care if they get any of it right! I don't trust any stats they put out or who they think owns a car because I've lost track of how many times they've been wrong! (just yesterday JGR now owned the 33 busch car..... uhm NO, and that's just a small example of how inept they are at knowing this sport. At least TNT usually knows the stats and the owners as annoying as everything else can be.

tom said...

Man Rule #1 - no using the word "insipidness" by anyone, anytime on any nascar blogs!

Anonymous said...

"We shall see if that message sinks in". I don't know, John. Why would anything change now? TNT's only got three races left so who cares? They don't seem to care too much about what the fans think anyway.

Like most people here, I've resigned myself to either a) watching the race via TIVO, or b) watching the race live w/out sound in tandem with the Sirius broadcast.

So what happens when either of these is the preferred method of the fans? Bye, bye, big advertisers.

Dan said...

Your article hits many points about TNT's coverage which I agree with. One point I believe you missed, were some of the rapid fire commercial breaks where we return from commercials to a 2 minute block of coverage only to be sent back to another round of commercials.. then 2 more minutes of coverage and commercial break again!... We fans are watching to see and FOLLOW the race, not just to get updates here and there... Hopefully ESPN will do better.. and I happen to think FOX has done a great job during their coverage. Go DW!

GinaV24 said...

I wasn't home to watch the race in Sonoma, but I did tape it to watch later. It was so bad, that I didn't even bother having heard from friends that TNT did such a lousy job of showing the actual race. They're really good at commercials, though. Weber is so awful he and DW are neck in neck for irritating people to listen to, so I'm not watching TNT for their last 3 races. I have a sirius radio and can tune into MRN. I can "see" the race in my head that way and my blood pressure stays down. It's nice to know that NASCAR cares so much about it's fan that they give us a quality product (NOT)!

Anonymous said...

While I agree that TNT coverage is weak, ANYTHING is better than the Fox gang of HeeHaw rejects. Larrymac's "He's out their by hisself" is one of my faves. I won't even mention Jaws' orange hair. How did he ever get that thru tech inspection?

Canada Doodge Boy

ONMC 940871 South Bay Area NASCAR Fans said...

Without fail I will invest in the DirectTv package next year. I used thier option to pay for a single race-and it was great, mature and informative coverage. I was very impressed.
I was at Sonoma, and cant believe that at a track where's it hard to tell what the heck is going on and who is where- that the folks watching TNT got -worse- coverage.
I'll be glad when TNT is gone. And not even gonna waste any type on "Hinder" the name says it all.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have DirecTV so Hotpass isn't an option for me. Are there any other good options for watching the race without TNT?"

I watch the broadcast on mute and then have Raceview fired up on my laptop.

Anonymous said...

The only purpose Bull Weber serves is to show that NASCAR NOW could be worse than it is with the Butcher of NASCAR NOW, Erik K. Larry Mc better watch his back since TNT and Weber have embarrassed Kyle - Larry Mc is probably next on their list.

Anonymous said...

I think Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach are pretty much the only things TNT have going for them. Both of them are insightful, knowledgeable, and most importantly honest about what they say.

Bill Weber on the other hand is a complete hack who should have never been put in the booth. He always tries to make things sound so dramatic and he comes across as an unintelligent idiot. Alan Bestwick was great in that position and TNT really screwed up with that one.

One last thing... I also noticed that Wally's World has turned into TNT's new promo segment for their stupid dramas. Getting no name "stars" to go for a ride with Wally is not entertaining. I would rather Wally just go around himself & tell us some good info.

Anonymous said...


I honestly couldn't agree more with a lot of these statements. What kills me is TNT used to actually be a good network for NASCAR. Back when they had Allen Bestwick in the booth and you only had to listen painfully to Bill Weber getting names wrong and not being able to read or get his facts straight for only an hour before the race. They've exponentially gotten worse. The last 2 races, the last hundred or so miles, the fans saw maybe 40 of them. They insist on playing a 5-min. commercial break, 3 mins. of coverage, then another 5-min. break, and the commercials are all the same. And hearing about Hinder this weekend is fabulous news. I'm going to the race @ NHIS, now I actually have to listen to those wanna be rockstars in person? They're killing thier cover song just like their one and only hit by having it played a million times. I thought Kyle Petty being an announcer fpr TNT would help them, but it's hard to ask 1 man to carry that much or a burden. Last week was interesting, the replay of the 1st lap incident was just that, a replay aka playback. Seems interesting that they couldn't find a way to edit or leave out his "blooper." I personally don't care, but if TNT wants to listen in on the drivers, guess what? Incidents occur, drivers get angry, and colorful 4-lettered words come out, plain & simple. So use a 5-second or longer delay to prevent that so the "offended" people at home don't have something else to moan about. And I agree, last week leaving the air without showing the results was pretty bad. That's my take on TNT's dilema.

Glen said...

I just wanted to add to the growing list of recommendations to "listen to the radio broadcast." Fantastic idea if you want to get the information you might actually desire to know. Sorry TNT, even though Kyle is better in the booth than in the car broadcasting, your coverage always leaves me scratching my head wondering what just happened. There is no direction and I depend on the web or the newspaper the next day to hopefully fill in the glaring blanks you leave during and after each race I watch. Barney Hall, your country needs you. (ON TV!!) Try this TNT, keep the cameras running and play the audio from the radio broadcast! You might actually learn something and I wouldn't have to wear head phones.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try the "watch TV/ listen to radio" approach this weekend.

I would love to do that for LSU games, but the TV is always a couple seconds behind the radio, so I see the guy hit the end zone while I hear the radio call of him breaking tackles at the 10 yd line.

Maybe the speed of NASCAR and radio's focus on so many different areas of the race (while TV is focused on one spot; 1st) will remove that issue.

Anonymous said...

I like both Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. Bill Weber on the other hand is an awful dolt, actually, a very good dolt. HOWEVER, Alan Bestwick was just as bad in a different, stiff, stilted, non-spontaneous way as play-by play. His spot is in the pits for short bursts, NOT in the booth doing the play-by-play for an entire race looking to his list of "Phrases to use in an exciting moment" to read the next one he's got planned in staged manner. Weber's spot is on a game show.

Anonymous said...

Yes tnt can never be allowed to cover a race again they really are a joke! I will never watch such a arogant display of commercial greed again!
not to mention a pre show more interested in water skis and other nonracing crap than the racers, that every body tuned in for in the first place.