Sunday, July 15, 2007

"RaceDay On SPEED" Is The Super Wal-Mart Of NASCAR TV

People have varied reactions the first time they step foot in a Super Wal-Mart. Some find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer size of the store. Others just can't wrap their mind around the fact that they can get frozen food, buy a TV, and then get their tires rotated under the same roof. Some people just find themselves drawn to the place over-and-over again for no reason. They just wander around and "discover" stuff.

Then, there are the people with the smile on their face who understand very clearly what this one Super Wal-Mart means to them. They have found nirvana. It does not matter in their life what the problem is, the solution is "go to the Wal-Mart." Anything from diapers to prescriptions to a new battery for the truck...Wal-Mart.

Slowly, this neighborhood store becomes a part of their life, which is the goal of the company. "Lean on me" they say, and we will take care of your family. When you have a need, we will fill it. If we don't have it, we will get it. Over-and-over again they slowly build the thought that "Wal-Mart is all you need...period."

Over in "NASCAR land," the networks telecasting the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series races have a brief pre-race show from the track. They talk about themselves, ignore everyone else, and generally self-serve for thirty minutes or so. When it comes to TNT, Fox Sports, and ESPN...its all about them. This approach left a big void in what NASCAR fans wanted on a racing weekend.

Enter SPEED Channel and RaceDay. Slowly, the network has built a TV show that is almost as long as a Busch or Truck race. This weekly show provides a two hour uninterrupted platform for SPEED to put out a wide variety of all things NASCAR. It truly is the Wal-Mart of NASCAR TV. This season, RaceDay has finally hit the big time and finds itself on a par with SportsCenter.

John Roberts is your RaceDay "greeter," and he is the gateway to such an incredible amount of NASCAR News, features, and total chaos that some fans can't handle it. Just like Wal-Mart, some fans try to watch RaceDay and are simply overwhelmed. Others just can't wrap their minds around the fact that one minute Wendy Venturini is interviewing the pole sitter, and the next minute Rutledge Wood is asking fans about his impending jury duty.

In fact, SPEED has worked very hard to create an environment where any kind of fan can stop by, and be tempted to stay. They have assembled a cast of characters that runs from the credible to the incredible, and cover topics from the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous. The strange thing is, most of the time it works.

On the set, Roberts rides herd over Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. Both Wallace and Spencer have become media savvy by attending the "School of Hard Knocks." After defining their role on the program, both of these "driver types" have become flexible performers. One minute, they are addressing a critical NASCAR issue and talking in no uncertain terms about their strong feelings. Then, on go the white wigs and black robes and "SPEED Court" is in session to dole out justice to the whiny "NASCAR problem children."

Like the stern manager who is always true to the company line, Wendy Venturini has refused to join in the hi-jinks of the on-set crew, and instead continues to build herself a nice little reputation as a true journalist. She contributes one of the cornerstones of the show, entitled "The Real Deal," which features Wendy in an interview with a person of interest to the show or NASCAR.

Venturini's fearless patrolling of the garage area is in sharp contrast to the chaos of former MTV DJ Ricky Rachtman. Originally added to this show as a guest, the tattooed and obnoxious Rachtman has served as a total counterpoint for Venturini. Rachtman plays to the crowd with pre-planned "outrage," and has been responsible for influencing fans to vote RaceDay's Kenny Wallace into the All-Star race.

Now, Rachtman is leading a "free the 8" campaign supposedly created to urge Theresa Earnhardt to allow Dale Junior to take "his number" with him to Hendrick Motorsports next season. What Rachtman really wants to do is build his television career, and continue his designation as the "alternative" fan. On RaceDay, Rachtman has taken over the "clown" role originally assigned to Rutledge Wood.

Complicating Rachtman's recent antics is the return of Wood, who was off hosting SPEED's Road Tour Challenge. That show apparently had some big problems, and eventually faded away. Now, the RaceDay producers face the challenge of trying to fit two "clowns" into the same show. As the season progresses, the NASCAR issues on the table become more and more serious. Eventually, SPEED will have to decide who stays and who goes in the Rutledge vs. Ricky situation.

One of the best parts of this show is that John Roberts can deal with anyone at anytime doing anything...and has. From the cast of Fox shows "stopping by" to promote themselves, to the NASCAR drivers and owners putting on a headset and talking about their issues, Roberts is the star of this show. His calm demeanor allows a level of control that is critical to the success of this weekly "SPEED-a-palooza" festival.

As NASCAR makes the halfway turn for home, ESPN takes over the NEXTEL Cup coverage and also telecasts the remaining Busch Series races for the rest of the season. In a critical error, the network decided to base NASCAR Now, its daily racing show, from its Bristol, CT headquarters. Up to this point, the network has actually been flying in a General Assignment Reporter like David Amber or Wendy Nix to cover the NEXTEL Cup race. How incredible is that?

This puts RaceDay in its best position ever to assume total control of Sunday pre-race content relating to anything NASCAR. Their competition is an ESPN anchor standing in a High Definition Studio in Connecticut. Hopefully, SPEED will understand that this is an opportunity to emphasize the strong news and feature aspects of RaceDay, and tone down the pre-planned hype of Rachtman and company.

Without paying a dime for rights fees, RaceDay can bring SPEED front and center in the NASCAR world for the rest of the season without a Hollywood Hotel or TNT's "lazy Susan" infield set interfering. Beginning July 29th, RaceDay will be the center of pre-race attention for NASCAR fans all the way to the championship.

After all the hard work and dedication of the RaceDay production team over the last several years, these next four months will finally place them front-and-center as the source of NASCAR information every single...RaceDay.

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.


SonicAD said...

Quick correction: There was no problem with SPEED Road Tour Challenge, it was only scheduled for a limited run, and ran to its completion. I'm quite sure that all the way back at the first Daytona race they mentioned that they always planned for Rutledge to come back after it was done, near the end of the FOX season.

David said...

I never cared for Road Tour Challenge, may it and Rutledge Wood never return.

JD, your exactly right about the description of RaceDay, except that people don't view it as the "Evil Empire" of pre-race shows! Ha!

Sal said...

I really enjoyed RaceDay when it was an hour show. Now, they pad the telecast, running clips from many of the 'other' Nascar shows, or recaps of the past race. They cn get way off the topic of racing. I don't know why they think they need a 'class clown'. Neither the tattooed one, nor that Rutlege character add a thing to the show...except for filling time.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I thought the show had two of the four participants replaced and had some personal issues arise that affected the show. Since it did not relate to the actual racing, we did not follow it in detail this season. Thanks.

David said...

No John, there was only one and that was a result of some conflict between her and the other cast members as well as personal issues. I didn't follow too close either, but that was what I picked up along the way.

Tripp said...

"RaceDay On Speed" is a treat that ramps up most Sunday mornings with information, excitement, and fun, and that's a combination that's hard to beat. The on-camera talent each know that they need to do and put it all up on the screen for us to see.

I had a chance to watch the first hour of the show live in Loudon last month and the live show looks very much like what the viewers see at home. John Roberts, as ringmaster, clearly enjoys his work because he is constantly smiling whether they are live or away for commercials. Both Jimmy and Kenny were seriously focussed on the show notes in front of them when the cameras were not on them, but Kenny still had time to cut up with the crowd before they come back live. Even Rutledge was hanging with the fans before he went on. The look on Jimmy's face when the 20 pound lobster was coming toward him was priceless.

Everyone on the show contributes in their own unique way, and what results are some segments that would be quite at home on CBS's classy "Sunday Morning" program while others are reminiscent of the "Mighty Carson Arts Player" from the Tonight Show". It's quality "infotainment" that's a nearly perfect prelude to each week's Cup race.

Of special note is Wendy Venturini. Her rare gift brings out more in her interviews than more seasoned denizens of motorsport media. I learned more about Mario Andretti in the few minutes of her interview than I did in the hour he spent with Dave Despain on Wind Tunnel, and Despain's no slouch. I will also long remember her interview with Bud Moore and found Wally Dallenbach's chat with him this weekend quite thin in comparison. To be fair, Wally's not a journalist and he didn't so much interview Bud as meander down memory lane.

Both on the screen and in person, it's clear that RaceDay has the ephemeral combination of chemistry and quality that shows strive for, but rarely capture. "Inside Nextel Cup" snagged the magic lightning in a bottle that made it such a wonderful show for at least the first decade it was on the air. Let's hope that the "suits" at Speed Channel are smart enough to leave the stopper in the bottle for "RaceDay On Speed".

Anonymous said...

This show is just full of info that has already been covered and recovered in trackide live and tradin' paint. SPEED has lost its way since Fox took over, seriously how many hours of the Sprint Spec NASCAR series do they need to show.(I call it spec because anyone new would not be able to tell which car is which manufacturer from a distance.) Meanwhile us fans of other forms of motorsports are stuck having to watch hour long highlight shows during the series' offseason. Formula 1 is the second most covered series by SPEED, but even that pales in comparison to NASCAR's hours upon hours of coverage.

David said...

To the individual above me, there is a reason NASCAR is the featured motorsport on SPEED and it has everything to do with whom is bringing the dollars. In the U.S. all the other motorsports pale in comparison to the popularity of NASCAR. FOX owns the network, and in turn their close relationship with NASCAR means that NASCAR will be the featured centerpiece. SPEED is still doing the best it can to take care of the other series, but as the ratings seem to indicate, fans aren't as interested in F1, Indy Car, Champ Car, WoO, etc. Its the exact same phenomena when you talk about the Busch Series and the Cup Series. No one seems to care for Busch without the Cup presence, much is the same for the other forms of racing without a NASCAR connection. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, but the viewers have spoken and on the weekends NASCAR is the chosen entity.

Anonymous said...

In your comments about Rutledge and Rachtman, I would really hope that they keep Rutledge and give Rachtman a push out. He is so very obnoxious and know-it-all. He needs to go back where he came from. Rutledge is stupid acting, but can be very funny.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Every comment you have made about the networks besides Fox and NBC are dead on. When I watch a race on any network other than Fox or NBC it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I dread the end of the season coverage on ESPN/ABC. I can't watch more than 10 minutes of Busch series racing before Andy Petree's marble mouth jargon drives me away. Rusty isn't much better for that matter. I look forward to your comments on their attempt at doing it 'different'.

SonicAD said...

There were indeed 2 people replaced, but one was before the actual event started happening (and that's a fairly common occurrence for a reality show), though another did happen after Atlanta, I believe. I don't think it affected the quality of the show, it still got its full run, and they even threw in a reunion show back last Thursday.

Anonymous said...

I'll take Race Day over Countdown to Green or the other pre-race shows being offered up.

If they really wanted to make it better, they need to dump Rachtman.He contributes nothing to the quality of the show and in fact detracts from it. His deal with the #8 just proves how little he actually knows about the sport. DEI doesn't own the number, NASCAR does. So this should be aimed at the folks down in Daytona, not at the Garage-Mahal.

I liked Rutledge better when they just showed him cooking wursts. I thought he was well suited to that.

Anonymous said...

I probably could stand Race Day, if they would do me the biggest favor in the world and get rid of Jimmy Spencer, he is always begging for gift cards, candy, wine anything sponsors have to offer. I wish some one would take his hair peice off, and let the world see his ugly mug.

Anonymous said...

The show is just too long. Typical of Fox attitude, that more is better, and more of the same is cheaper to produce, and so you get more and more of less and less quality.
Sure FOX owns SPEED, and they sold the soul of SPEEDVISION to get a deal with NASCAR. But the commets by David show that FOX/SPEED out out of touch with true enthusuasts

SophiaZ123 said...

I also enjoyed RACE DAY better when it was just ONE HOUR LONG.

The puff pieces and rehash and junk is TOO LONG to sit thru before a race. I mean, we have to water the garden and do SOME things before the race eats up our afternoon, LOL.

And PLEASE, get RID of the TATTOO FREAK with the black Kiwi Shoe Polish hair. He makes me CRINGE. Rutledge is goofy but harmless. Rikki just CREEPS ME OUT.

I feel this show is way too long now and to sit thru 2 hours to get a SHORT interview by Wendy just isn't always worth it though I usually catch most of the show.

I also feel Victory Lane should be 30 minutes but what do I know.


Anonymous said...

I think RaceDay is a complete joke. Its nothing more then a 2 hour commercial. I think it needs to be said that its not a news show at all. All the "reporters" have their own sponcers. Its just a 2 hour tony stewart show period. I really think speed loses credibility everytime it airs.

Anonymous said...

The Raceday show is too long, I agree.

While we're at it let's all be glad Bill Weber is gone for a while. His incessant "Dale Earnhardt Jr in the 8, Kasey Kahne in the 9, Tony Stewart in the 20", etc.. lap after lap after lap has made me turn down the sound.

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion for all you people who complain about NASCAR TV coverage.(Too many commercials, I don`t like the announcers, RaceDay is too long, etc......)
Why don`t you all get a DVR or VCR or TIVO and record the pre-race and races and watch them later on that night. That is what I do. You can fast-forward through all the babbling and commercials. Works great for me and I have a good tan, a life and I am not fat from sitting on the couch for six hours every Sunday. Go out and enjoy the summer days and save the racing for night time.

Anonymous said...

Race Day on SPEED is another NASCAR anachronism. It is necessary because of its fan base.
As the world changes and the population of the NASCAR Nation becomes more in tune with the diversity of humanity, it may be necessary for shows which headline the likes of Jimmy spencer and Kenny Wallace to fall by the wayside. Very little about the SPEED Channel reflects reality, unless you believe that the entire world is made up of good ol' boys, country bumkins, ignorant racists and skinny, cheap looking white women.
Wendy Venturini, Krista Voda and Shannon Spake are some of the only bright spots and I like John Roberts, but he is one giant redundancy.
I won't even get started on Trackside. It is scary bad.

To each, his own......

I am grateful to have the option not to watch very much SPEED Channel Programming. It is much too unrealistic and far to demeaning to be worthy of my time.

Sadly, NASCAR contributes to the perpetuation of such myths.

Anonymous said...

It beats watching "Meet the Press" or "The PTL Club."

Anonymous said...

In Nascar everybody pays rights fees. Speed has a contract for over a 100 million to broadcast trackside and raceday and victorylane. Nobody gets to broadcast anything from a nascar track without paying the big bucks.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between Raceday on Speed and Wal-mart: Wal-mart sucks and Raceday rocks!

Anonymous said...

In defense of Ricky Rachtman the tatted guy. He does know a lot about Nascar in fact here in Phoexix we have been airing his radio show Racing Rocks with Ricky Rachtman for over 4 years. He also has been involved in the sport since his MTV days. Yes he has a style that may scare some away but I for one th I like the differences in all of the Raceday hosts and thank god Speed is doing something different then the vanilla broadcasters we get on the network

Anonymous said...

I guess Speed prefers gay to rocker
Rutledge in Ricky out