Monday, July 2, 2007

Craftsman Trucks on SPEED Are The Best Show In Town

This season, The Daly Planet has been chasing around the bad things that seem to be happening more and more with NASCAR's TV partners. Sometimes, its good to go back and relax with an old friend. This past weekend, the Craftsman Truck Series was in Memphis under the lights. Krista Voda led a professional broadcast filled with emotion, information, hilarious fun, and good racing. Imagine that.

Voda brings her class and professionalism to this series, and having her on pit road for the pre-race show really sets the table for each event. She has been freezing in Daytona with Mark Martin alongside, and sun-baked on a pick-up truck tailgate with the fans in Milwaukee. In Memphis, a polished Voda hosted the show alone under the spotlight...literally. She is an on-air talent for SPEED that continues to shine.

Rick Allen has come a long way as a racing announcer since he first began with SPEED. Nothing has helped him to mature in the play-by-play role more than having Phil Parsons as a partner. Early on, Parsons would gently step-in and correct a mistake, or re-focus his rookie partner. Now, Allen has finally come into his own, and leads a solid event team that clearly works together well.

With apologies to Dave Moody, Parsons continues to quietly be the "godfather" of the Trucks. He has lent his strong support to the series when times were good, and now, when times are not so good. He continues to re-focus the TV broadcast on the racing elements that are really important, and avoids the temptation to "hype" incidents.

Ray Dunlap continues be a piece of work. One day he is on Tradin' Paint yelling about the state of racing, and the next he is in a Boris Said wig bowling with the Craftsman Truck guys. If you missed the new "Kingpin" of SPEED, you missed a lot of fun. "The Ray" was just toying with the drivers while dispensing his highly technical bowling advice. This included..."its all about the form baby." Absolutely hilarious.

The best part of SPEED's coverage is that the drivers are shown as "people," both on and off the track. Fans know Todd Bodine, Travis Kvapil, and Ron Hornaday. But SPEED greets the new faces, and makes them welcome. Brad Keselowski, Chad McCumbee, and Aric Almirola are drivers who have become better known because of their truck experiences.

SPEED's technical crew makes great pictures, and in Memphis that was complimented by outstanding audio. The big roar of the trucks and the dynamics of the track were really captured and poured through the TV speakers. On the graphics side, SPEED's in-race ticker moves at a good speed and with a good color selection that makes the information easy to see. With a track like Memphis, the in-truck cameras really worked well in the lighting. All-in-all, a super technical outing.

Finally, thanks to the SPEED Director for making the choice to show the viewers a wideshot of the finish line and allow the field to race to the end on-camera. This makes such a big difference, and on this night allowed the other stories of the field to be played out. SPEED has been the only network consistently covering the finish of the field, and fans can only hope this will continue for the remainder of the season.

Unfortunately, NASCAR Now on ESPN2, TNT on its race coverage, and ESPN while doing the Busch Series all refuse to promote the Craftsman Trucks. Instead of one big sport, its like rival fraternities at the same college. They might show highlights, but will never promote an upcoming event. On many cable systems like mine, SPEED languishes alone in the pay tier and is rarely visited other than for scheduled events.

Perhaps, some nudging by NASCAR to its TV partners to promote events, and not networks, would go a long way in raising the profile of the Craftsman Truck Series. Besides, if the TNT and ESPN production crews would catch a Craftsman Truck race, they might pick-up some pointers.

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Tripp said...

I must agree that Rick Allen is much improved since I started watching Truck races several years ago. He and Phil Parsons have developed a chemistry and flow that is informative and entertaining to watch, although I do miss Dorsey.

It's good to see Speed's coverage steadily improve over the years. Krista's contributions has kicked the whole package up a couple of steps. Props to Speed.

David said...

You nailed everything. The positive and the negative of the Truck Series both need to be addressed. The job that SPEED does with the Truck Series is excellent, I only wish they could get more exposure, kudos to FOX for airing them on national platform and wrapping their arms around that series. Granted, SPEED is owned by FOX. My wish for the Truck Series is that it can be a compliment to the Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series, and that it can finally get the recognition it deserve in front of all of NASCAR Nation.

Anonymous said...

Trucks rule! I always thought it was the best racing, and the best coverage.

Anonymous said...

As always John, your assessments are spot on.

Now if only we could convince NASCAR to lean on ESPN and TNT to act like the pros they claim to be.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Speeds coverage is great. Nascar should give one Nextel race to the Speed channel, how fun would that be? The problem with the other broadcasts is they ignore the drivers who are not the stars of the show. I am kinda getting tired of the tv going to the same old, same old, lets hear more about the other guys in the race in the pre-race interviews at least.