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 NASCAR.com 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.
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