Thursday, July 26, 2007

ESPN Surrounded By SPEED Channel At Indy

Over the last six years or so, there has been a TV dynamic at work in NASCAR that was quite unique. NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series was carried by Fox Sports, TNT, and NBC Sports. Most of the "support programming" like practice, happy hour, and qualifying was carried on SPEED Channel.

Viewers got quite comfortable with seeing TNT announcers like Bill Weber and Wally Dallenbach doing the early on-track sessions live on SPEED. The same was done for the NBC package. Lots of early parts were on SPEED. With Fox Sports, SPEED is actually a sister company also owned by Fox, so the announcers simply bounced back and forth between the two networks. Often over the years, many practice and qualifying crews were a combination of announcers from SPEED and the network broadcasting the NEXTEL Cup race.

In addition, SPEED literally surrounded the NEXTEL Cup events with a strong line-up of on-site programming including NASCAR Live, Trackside, RaceDay, and Victory Lane. While the NEXTEL Cup racing was on a non-SPEED network, fans knew to turn to SPEED for everything else.

On Friday of this week, all that changes. Enter ESPN, ABC Sports, and Disney. There will be no "sharing" of announcers for the rest of the season. You will not see Jerry Punch doing play-by-play on SPEED. You will not see Andy Petree offering analysis on SPEED. Add to that list Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty, Brent Musburger, and Suzy Kolber. The lines have been drawn.

This is an awkward situation for ESPN. There is no other venue where the network does not control almost everything on-site. There is no Fox Sports pre-game show before ESPN's Monday Night Football from the stadium grounds. There is no USA Network post-game show right after the last pitch of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. There is no two hour live preview show from the X Games venue on MTV or SpikeTV.

At Indy, ESPN will be up against a network that has worked hard to gain credibility in NASCAR by doing it the old fashioned way. They worked for it. Along the way there has been success with Trackside, RaceDay, and Victory Lane. There have also been failures like the memorable NASCAR Nation. But, SPEED hung-in there, produces a solid Craftsman Truck package, and even features NASCAR prominently on shows like the SPEED Report and WindTunnel.

When ESPN looks around at Indy, they will not see the College Gameday set with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit. They will see the SPEED Stage with Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds. When ESPN looks again they will see John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace staring back at them. That crew will be doing a two hour pre-race show at an "ESPN track" before an "ESPN exclusive race."

SPEED viewers are used to Wendy Venturini roaming the garage area for two hours during the RaceDay program that is telecast live just before the NEXTEL Cup race. During the 2007 TNT package, RaceDay actually overlapped with TNT's own ninety minute pre-race show. ESPN would not, and will not, ever permit that sort of thing to happen with SPEED. Just how far they will permit Wendy and RaceDay to roam in Indy remains to be seen.

ESPN has its own fleet of TV trucks, and its own army of technicians. But, at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, the TV compound is controlled by NASCAR's own official television and media production company called NASCAR Images. ESPN will have to nestle-in beside DirecTV's Hot Pass package, InDemand's Pay-Per-View in-car package, and the RaceView package. For NASCAR Images, ESPN is just another client in this racing season. That's right, just another TV client in the NASCAR package.

All these issues have been given lip service by NASCAR, ESPN, and SPEED. Everything is going to be just fine they all say. Well, talking has been the only way to deal with these potential problems because until Friday they have not been real. There have been no conflicts, no problems, and no egos colliding into a screaming television mess. Rival fraternities have not been forced to live in the same frat house...until now.

As you go through the many live hours of NASCAR TV this weekend from Indy, try to appreciate the new dynamic in play. ESPN's previous coverage of the Busch Series has absolutely nothing to do with this. The network had been the "bottom feeder" to the NEXTEL Cup broadcaster. Now, with the click of another day in time, they are instantly the big fish in the NASCAR pond all the way through Homestead in November.

For veteran fans, the most interesting moment may be when SPEED begins to tape its Victory Lane show. This program begins taping when the winning car crosses the finish line in the NEXTEL Cup race. SPEED announcers watch over their shoulders as the winner comes into Victory Lane, gets out, and does the mandatory live TV interview. Then, almost immediately, the winner goes to SPEED for a Victory Lane interview with John Roberts and his co-hosts.

Imagine ESPN on-the-air live with the winning driver interview while SPEED tapes a TV show right behind them. Can you see ESPN allowing their "exclusive" winner interview to be shown later in Victory Lane as "background?"

Best of all, with ESPN SportsCenter, NASCAR Now, and the ESPN News Network waiting for interviews, can you really see ESPN giving up the winner of "their" Brickyard Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace?

Stay tuned fans, this is going to get interesting...and probably by Sunday afternoon.

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


Sophia said... me stupid but I am NOT FOLLOWING what this column is 'trying' to say.

I thought SPEED channel was still going to have all the normal shows...practice and qualifying the second half of the season, John.

Are you telling us that is GONE!?!

And, are you trying to tell us if ESPN interviews the race winners, SPEED will not?

I am not sure what you are trying to stir up here or insinuate.

How can "one CHANNEL OWN EVERYTHING". I think ESPN in general STINKS. And while I enjoyed a few of their documentaries this week, they are even WORSE THAN FOX with their INTRUSIVE OVERBEARING GRAPHICS that take up a good 1/6 of the shows they are making (example, countdown of BIGGEST NASCAR RIVALS..the 'numbered part' went on forever with dizzying, noisy, motion sickness INDUCING GRAPHICS when by the end of the hour, hell, they coulda given up a couple more minutes of SHOW rather than nonsense.

All I know is it is a major BUZZKILL to think "SPEED IS LOSING ACCESS TO ALL DRIVERS" now that &^%$#^@ ESPN has taken over.

I thought ALL SPEED coverage would continue after ESPN took over and NOW you are writing like ESPN WILL HAVE TOTAL CONTROL.


But I am starting to get depressed when I read this site.


No more ESPN said...

I think it is time to tackle the issue of how ESPN is taking over Jayski's site. I know that you don't want to, in fear of Jayski will stop putting a link to your articles on his Articles page. But enough is enough!! Jayski said when he sold his soul to ESPN not much would change. Huh??

Take a look at his sight. You would swear that it's only goal is to promote ESPN. From articles posted by ESPN where they never used to be, a ESPN video player in the middle of the news page, links to all over the place, news about draft track technology (oh joy!!!), news about ESPN debuting dish tech center (who cares??), news of ESPN's 66 hours of coverage, news of ESPN's ultimate Nascar week, news of ESPN's 17 multimedia platforms, pushing the Busch race on ESPN in a promo, pushing the Allstate 400 on ESPN in a promo, enough!!

Whoever let these guys get their foot back in he door should be shown to the exit at Nascar headquarters.

Anonymous said...

Just a few things:

1. The NASCAR IN CAR cable ppv package was gone last year, replaced by Hot Pass.

2. I don't see this whole ESPN/SPEED line-in-the-sand thing working out. Anyone have an estimate as to how long before RaceDay and Victory Lane are shot outside the track, or not aired during the ESPN portion of the season.

3. My Dish Network program guide has RaceDay on from Noon to 2, meaning it would overlap with NASCAR Countdown, which begins at 1.

Last, but not least, what I see of RaceDay is good, but I feel two hours is too long for a pre-race show. I will watch NASCAR Countdown because it is shorter, and will have none of the Riki Rachtman crap.

Daly Planet Editor said...


All the weekly NASCAR shows on SPEED will remain, and they are even adding two about "The Chase."

As you can see from the TV schedule, ESPN is doing happy hour and qualifying from Indy. ESPN owns the rights to all of the on-track activity of the NEXTEL Cup Series for the rest of the season.

This article is about the changes that will begin at Indy when two networks, ESPN and SPEED, are the only game in town. The "chummy" relationship that has existed between the old NASCAR partners is gone. ESPN does not play that tune, especially with a direct competitor and Fox-owned network like SPEED.

I am not trying to stir-up anything, just pointing out to non-TV industry folks that when a change like this takes place, many things change.

SPEED is about to make some changes of its own to deal with the new ESPN role in the sport, and those will be unveiled during the weekend. Thanks again for leaving your comment.

Anonymous said...

ESPN, which has already done plenty to make itself unwelcome to NASCAR fans, sounds like it is ready to do even more. Nothing like a company that works hard to alienate its customers, and ESPN seems to be one of the best.

What can this network possibly think it gains by buying all the rights to on-track activity, then NOT showing that activity? We'll miss practice because of that attitude.

I had a sinking feeling that decisions like this were going to be the norm when ESPN was announced last year, and, sadly, I was right.

Like I said, gotta love a company that delights in screwing its customers.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of how lost the stick and ball network ESPN truly is in broadcasting racing events. At one time they were decent but since they lost out to Fox in the early stages of the last contract they turned their back on the sport putting it close to pro bowling or curling. Now you have the worst on air package one could listen to, just plainly unwatchable. It does become amusing to watch Rusty Wallace and the basketball guy waddle around the sports issues once again proving opinions are like noses everyone has one.

Anonymous said...

"There are only three real sports in the world, Bull Fighting, Mountain Climbing and Auto Racing, the rest are just Games...
Earnest Hemmingway

Anonymous said...

ESPN won't care if the winner gets interviewd by other networks, once the ESPN coverage is concluded. But they won't give him up to SPEED while they are on the air! In ESPN's defense (and it pains me to defend them at all) FOX totally screwed ESPN in the early years of the FOX NASCAR deal-ESPN couldn't even have a reporte inside the track!! One does hope the FOX arrogance that emanates from David Hill gets a slap roght back from ESPN

Anonymous said...

"Draft Track"=2007's version of Fox's glowing hockey puck.

Race fans don't need this crap. Just show the race.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if ESPN can step up to the plate, so to speak. So far this season, their coverage of anything NASCAR related has been shoddy at best. I always liked how they would either not show the pre-race show at all or barely start coverage in time for 'gentlemen start your engines'. There's nothing like NOT getting to hear the invocation and national anthem and then not seeing the flyover. They did this more than one time during their coverage of the Busch races this year. As you may have guessed, it is one of my pet peeves about ESPN. NASCAR fans are fiercely patriotic and ESPN's failure to include this part of the pre-race activities in their coverage is like a slap in the face.

Another area which should prove interesting is the ESPN staff which will do reporting from the infield and surrounding areas at the track. I've not been impressed with any of them, either.

Where's Krista Voda when you need her?

Rich said...

But ESPN has Brent Mustardburger, that font of Nascar wisdom. How can the coverage be bad with him there to 'splain things....

Anonymous said...

It looks like ESPN already dropped the ball at Indy. No practice coverage Friday on ESPN or ESPN2, instead ESPN2 is airing World Series of Poker re-airs and an NCAA Year in Review Show. Meanwhile it looks like ESPN won't let Speed pick up the practice sessions because Speed is just airing 90 minute "NASCAR Live" programs while the practices are going on.

On Saturday ESPN2 is showing qualifying and the 2nd of two Cup practice sessions, but during the first practice session will be airing another re-air of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR". What sense does that make? Thankfully Speed is doing the best they can under these conditions and will air another live NASCAR Live program during the first practice session on Saturday.

ESPN is still using the 2000 model of airing qualifying and "happy hour" and ignoring everything else, and their stance that Speed can't air any of the practices ESPN passes on does nothing but hurt the fans.

Shame on ESPN.

Sophia said...


Thanks for answering my question. I did not understand that ESPN had "bought the rights" for ALL ON TRACK ACTIVITY? That so totally STINKS.

So, why are folks going to pay to keep SPEED if all the qualifying and practice and driver interviews are going to get canceled. I loathe most the ESPN talking heads.

I feel like NASCAR fans have been ROBBED.

stricklinfan82 said...

It looks like ESPN already dropped the ball at Indy. No practice coverage Friday on ESPN or ESPN2, instead ESPN2 is airing World Series of Poker re-airs and an NCAA Year in Review Show. Meanwhile it looks like ESPN won't let Speed pick up the practice sessions because Speed is just airing 90 minute "NASCAR Live" programs while the practices are going on.

I have to say Stricklin fan, I noticed the same thing. Yes sirree, ESPN has to keep the important POKER rubbish on.

I would rather see every bit of on track ACTION at the Brickyard.

Only been watching NASCAR 4 years and am suddenly very depressed.

Gone are Steve Byrnes and the knowledgeable guys.

It would seem John you were implying how ARROGANT a monster ESPN has become and I not being savvy to broadcast dealings missed that. Thanks again for explaining it to me and for providing this blog.

But not to be dramatic, why do I just feel like somebody died with the change in the NASCAR coverage?


Anonymous said...

ESPN might very well be the death of NASCAR. They have turned into hype machines through the years. What's interesting is that I saw Bob Jenkins on ESPN2 yesterday broadcasting an Indy Pro Series event, yet they don't want him doing Nextel Cup. Give me a break, and put Dr. Jerry Punch(who says "alright" 50 times during the broadcast)on pit road, where he's much more comfortable.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

First of all, I saw Anonymous' comment about the invocation, and all I can is that it's in very bad taste.:-<

Now to the actual reason I wrote. It is in reply to stricklin82 noting that ESPN2 is showing only qualifying and final practice from the Brickyard in part because it chose to air poker in place of the first practice (which by the way will be rained out, so no effect on the coverage). That poker show is a rebroadcast from last Tuesday. In other words, there is no absolute need to re-air the poker show when live coverage from one of NASCAR's biggest races, in the weekend of its return to ESPN, is available. Makes no sense to me.:(

Anonymous said...

From the article: "During the 2007 TNT package, RaceDay actually overlapped with TNT's own ninety minute pre-race show. ESPN would not, and will not, ever permit that sort of thing to happen with SPEED."

Then why is RaceDay currently schedule to be shown from 12 - 2 on Sunday, while ESPN's own pre-race show is 1 - 2?

Anonymous said...

To John:
We keep SPEED channel to watch the best racing.....Craftsman Truck Series.

Anonymous said...

Correction, my response should've been directed to SophiaZ123. Sorry

Sophia said... the time I scrolled back up here, I forgot to whom I was addressing! Lol..but to whomever said they keep SPEED for the truck racing....of course I love the trucks as well and would never give up speed..probably for that reason.

Though I hope they do not lose ALL their power to give us behind the scenes tidbits.

But I have enjoyed the truck races since we got speed a couple years ago.


Daly Planet Editor said...

I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for the tasteless comment that was on this site for several hours today. It should have been removed promptly, and we are working to assure that situation will not happen again.

About the comments so far:

This column was my way of pointing out exactly the situation that occurred today with Cup practice.

It was also my way of indicating that the TV listings suggest that SPEED will be on the air live from the track when ESPN is also on the air live. We will see what actually shakes out over the weekend.

Finally, I have a good professional relationship with Jayski, and he continues to be a friend of this site by providing a link on a regular basis. The Daly Planet is preparing an article on Internet TV/Videos and the effect of this technology on the NASCAR TV partners. It will appear next week. Thanks again for your comments and support.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how ESPN deals with the new schedule for tomorrow.... Wonder if we will get to see any practice at all???? (and, not to mention, how they deal with any Cup/Busch overlaps in scheduling...)

Anonymous said...

I made the mistake of watching NASCAR Now to see what ESPN's revised schedule would be for Saturday and as they signed off at 6:59 they still showed the schedule remaining unchanged, with qualifying at 10 AM, etc. What a joke. In the first 2 minutes of Trackside at 6:00 on Speed they announced qualifying was pushed back to 4:00 with practice in the morning and that it would become an impound race. ESPN gave us no useful information in 60 minutes, imagine that.

My guess would be that qualifying at 4:00 shouldn't be a problem for ESPN2, because they could just pre-empt Busch Series qualifying from ORP (or at least you would HOPE so). As for practice, my best guess would be they'll come on the air at 10 AM as advertised and probably show the last hour of the practice session. It would be nice to see them come on the air at 8:30 and show the whole practice but this is ESPN so we'll probably get fishing and hunting shows until 10. Heck, they might even come on the air at 10 with cars practicing in the background, spend 60 seconds telling us qualifying will be seen at 4:00 and then leave the air to show another re-air of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR."

Sophia said...


I HARDLY think ESPN would show reruns of Ultimate NASCAR in lieu of practice/or qualifying.




More likely reruns of POKER! Meow, Hiss. Sorry...couldn't resist. :-)

and now the truck race is majorly delayed by rain...hope they get it in.

Anonymous said...

I was so excited back when I first heard that ESPN was going to be doing NASCAR again. They used to be so good! Then they messed up their Busch programming so badly and their NASCAR Now show is just plain AWFUL. The hosts sound like people who might have once heard someone else talking about NASCAR racing. Why can't they get some folks who actually KNOW something about it?! Their broadcasts make me wince. That 'basketball guy' is the only one who is even halfway watchable. (is that a word, even?)
I never thought I'd live to see the day that I would miss DW's stupid Boogity crap!

Unknown said...

I personally am not a fan of ESPN at all. I have a great amount of respect for Dr. Jerry Punch, but I think he is the best as the lead pit reporter. Poor Allen Bestwick, what a waste of a great play by play guy.

Erik Kusilias was awesome on NASCAR Now, asked if Kahne and Sadler had a chance at the chase? Come on now.... I just shook my head in disbelief.

He then called Robby Gordon "Bobby Gordon", didn't corrected himself either. ESPN is HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They need to get over their sour grapes with Speed, they got enough fans against them, wait a second... They don't care.

Thanks for the continued articles and good work though, Mr. Daly! I appreciate this site, and your work here!