Saturday, August 18, 2007

ESPN's Busch Series On-Air Meltdown

Back on June 19th, The Daly Planet wrote a column that asked if NASCAR coverage this season would result in ESPN having to create an ESPN3 Network.

Well, for all practical purposes, ESPN3 went on-the-air Saturday at 3PM. No matter if your channel guide said ESPN Classic, NASCAR fans knew only one thing. This was the channel that was carrying the pre-race show.

As we predicted, the on-air operations problems of trying to carry all the live programming on ESPN2 has resulted in trouble. Without ABC available, ESPN faced the very real problem of having only two cable TV networks for three programs.

Saturday, the Masters Tennis coverage ran long, forcing ESPN into a tough decision. Either delay and then cancel NASCAR Countdown, or have it air on another ESPN TV outlet. The choices were ESPN News, ESPNU (college sports), or ESPN Classic.

The company made the decision to use ESPN Classic as the conduit of coverage for this third event. Their bold move insured no violation of their NASCAR TV contract, but also showed exactly where NASCAR sits on the food chain at ESPN.

ESPN itself would originally not cancel their feature presentation of...scrabble. That's right my friends, the Busch Series could not replace one hour of scrabble. Racing was banished to ESPN Classic with absolutely no warning other than the crawl at the bottom of the screen. Cliff Drysdale, who hates NASCAR, was very pointed in his banishment of viewers to Classic "if you were here for racing."

At 3:28PM, boxing suddenly returned to ESPN Classic. Where did NASCAR go? Tuning back into tennis, the crawl at the bottom of the screen now said NASCAR was on ESPN. Scrabble has been bumped. Things were certainly getting fun now. ESPN had just angered the scrabble fans, and we know how ugly they can get when miffed. The worst part is, they know big words.

NASCAR fans watching ESPN Classic had no idea of what just happened. At least if they did, I certainly missed it. NASCAR was now on ESPN, scrabble fans were crushed, and "Mister Cliff" and his buddies were still playing tennis on ESPN2. Did I mention this was fun?

The poor victims of this were the fans and the NASCAR on ESPN announce team. Jerry Punch and friends had no idea of what was going on, and if they did they certainly did not apologize to the fans or help them understand what had happened.

At 3:44PM, the tennis finally ended. Guess what popped-up? NASCAR was now being simulcast on both ESPN and ESPN2. NASCAR had gone from being delayed and not on the air to being shown on ESPN Classic. Then, without warning, it was switched to ESPN. Then, when tennis ended, it was being shown on both ESPN and ESPN2.

At 4PM, the ESPN network returned to regular programming with a brief and ill-informed word from Jerry Punch. You have to wonder exactly what the producer told him was going on. Let's face facts, this was a meltdown of the highest order.

If this type of situation is happening to the Busch Series now, imagine when the college football season starts in a while. ESPN will have golf, tennis, and college football in progress on Saturdays along with NASCAR. If you thought today was fun, I am certain ESPN has a lot more in store before November.

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 stopping by.


SophiaZ123 said...


YES!!!! I understand why you left.

The bigger question?


As you said, things will ONLY get worse. In my area, ESPN CLASSIC is disappearing off regular cable to be BUMPED up to digital.

If NASCAR ratings are worse this year, just WAIT until ESPN finishes the season?!


I just went to the car to search out ALL local AM stations that carry sports and NO BUSCH race nearby today.


This so STINKS.

And I do not have ESPNU Or that other ESPN station.

As far as ESPN.

Its' most lik ES P U as in STINKS.

They should start a Septic Tank company because that's where the ratings are going.

John, if there are not at LEAST SIX Other articles online on Monday addressing this, I will think the world has gone mad.

NOBODY has the GUTS to take on ESPN and I WANT TO KNOW WHY.

I would go on and on as I am ignoring the race for now but I have taken up enough space on this blog today and am tired of hearing my own voice...or words as the case may be.


p.s. I DO think this site has saved more heads from exploding. And you thought N NOW TICKED PEOPLE OFF. That ain't nothing compared to this nonsense.

David said...

This is why I wish they wouldnt have left in the first place. They have no clue what it takes anymore. The band went their separate ways and the few that still remain cant salvage this.

Anonymous said...

What just happened? I thought I was going to watch a race and all heck broke loose.

When I finally noticed the instructions of where to find the pre-show it was almost over. I had to add the classic to my channel lineup on my TiVo and by then I was directed to go somewhere else.

I missed the entire pre-show and darn near missed the start of the race. I did get there in time to hear the Canada National Anthem. What the heck was that about? Last I understood, Michigan was in the USA.

And already the director is missing camera shots. The 42 was starting to spin out, you could hear the tires screaming as they swiched cameras.

I can't stand this, I'm going to go mow the lawn. I'll FF through it later on TiVo.


"Almost former NASCAR Fan"

Anonymous said...

Better yet, what do you think will happen if a NASCAR race runs long because of cautions and delays, and it runs into a Notre Dame college football game window?

SophiaZ123 said...


I had to comment to your BAD PRODUCTION comment..are you speaking of when the 42 car hit the wall, lost the back bumper and then STARTED to spin and the camera guy does to the piece of car lying on the track so once again, WE MISSED THE LIVE SPIN OUT.


Oh, and I hear MANY CANADIANS attend this race as it is very close to Canada...Windsor for one. So with NASCAR now in Canada, perhaps they do that for respect for the fans or they did it last year and I forget.

Sorry for your aggravation.

This is TOTAL BS.

And if all the ARTICLES on JAYSKI IGNORE this on Monday, I will truly write Robin Miller and Dave Despain and ask them if they can ADDRESS this on Wind Tunnel. I realize they will not want to TRASH ESPN but if the fans get outraged, somebody better give them a PLATFORM.

Steve in Indiana said...

I think it is quite comical that this actually bothers people. If the worse thing that happens to me today is I have to flip channels a few times to watch a race I will consider it a pretty good day. :)

Anonymous said...

O'Canada has been played at Michigan since 1968. Larry Lopatin's sec'y was Canadian and lived across the river in Canada, and that's why it was originally played.

Larry Lopatin, Les Share and Sol Cohen were the original owners of the Track. said...

Don't you think ESPN should have had a plan in place in case their live tennis coverage that started only 2 hrs. before NASCAR Countdown ran long? It didn't sound like they were prepared at all with their bouncing back and forth between 3 networks.

Hey ESPN here's an idea. If tennis runs long just tape the Busch race and air it in its entirety immediately after the conclusion of the tennis match.

I personally got home at about 4:30 and fired up the DVR to watch the Busch race, only to see the tennis running long. I saw the crawl that said to tune to ESPN or ESPN Classic but there was nothing I could do because I only DVRed ESPN2. Thankfully Federer won 5 straight points to close out the match in just enough time for ESPN2 to be able to switch to the race in time for the start.

Do you guys agree that a tape-delay would be a much better way for ESPN to handle situations like this? I certainly think so, and especially for the benefit of those of us that couldn't watch it live and didn't have the options of changing channels.

I'm cringing in anticipation for college football season, especially if rain gets involved and delays a Busch race for several hours.

Karen in CA said...

ESPN needs to move into the new era of the DVR. If I hadn't been at home today I would have been furious to come home and find that my Tivo had only recorded a portion of the live racing that was scheduled to be recorded. This is completely unacceptable. In this day and age, if they are going to bid on a television contract for the most popular sport in this country, they need to air the race on the channel that it was scheduled to be on aired on, at the time it was scheduled to be aired. I do realize that there are people in this country who are tennis fans, who would have been furious if they had cut over to racing in the middle of the final match. However, what I don't understand is why, when they have 4 channels to televise programming on, they have to run live shows back to back. As someone who was a great fan of the racing coverage that ESPN used to have, I am saddened and angered by their current coverage. (On another note, I am much happier watching NHRA coverage now that they have John Kernan on their raceday coverage.)

I'm so sick of watching of ESPN's coverage of the Busch series that I'm about to purchase a Sirius radio for my home so I can just listen to the race on the radio in the comfort of my own home rather than chasing the racing all over the dial.

Matt said...

Usually, networks would stick with the current programming and switch the new show to another network. This was not a surprise. What was was they went to ALL 3 ESPN networks! That is just unacceptable for a network that has been on the air for almost 30 years.

As for DVD/VCR customers, tennis people would have been just as upset if they switched tennis to another channel when they had been recording ESPN2. Just because NASCAR is our sport doesn't mean that NASCAR should get a higher priority than tennis. I have no problem with ESPN switching networks until ESPN2 is available, I just wish they would do 2 things. 1) Pick a network and stick with it until ESPN2 is available and 2)Replay the entire race, including pre/post race coverage on ESPN2 at another appropriate time.

Anonymous said...

Entertainment Scrabble Programming Network....sigh

Anonymous said...

Hey, come on, guys, ESPN does this all the time with football. Why, just last season, they showed one quarter of a a game on ESPN, the second on ESPN2, the third on ESPN Classic and the fourth on The Ocho. The post-game was on ESPN-U.

One more time: why did they spend the money on NASCAR if they don't want to run it?

Anonymous said...

One more time: why did they spend the money on NASCAR if they don't want to run it?

Why do businesses buy their competitors? For the same reason. They don't like the competition. They're keeping NASCAR from going to the competition, meaning that they have less sports competition on Saturday afternoons. Who cares if it means that it gets bumped around to four or five networks in the meantime?

Anonymous said...

Last year I stomached Happy and Flipper winning every other week in the Busch series and still watched it. This year I just can't get past the ESPN broadcast and watch the race. I have seen maybe 5 races all year. Now that the Cup is on there, the only thing keeping me watching is that my Favorite driver is in 1st, otherwise I might do on Sunday what I have started doing on Saturday, yard sailing with the wife. Doesn't NASCAR care that a TV network is undoing what they have been tring to do for years, make NASCAR more mainstream?

darbar said...

NASCAR, do you see what's happening? ESPN is absolutely incapable of programming their network and Nascar is going to be the one who suffers. In what insane universe did you agree to a contract with this incompetent organization? And, the biggest question is, what are YOU going to do about it?

Once football starts, it's only going to get worse. The other thing I cannot understand is why Nascar is broadcast among three networks? Are your lawyers unable to negotiate a sane contract with ONE network, one that cares for racing?

NASCAR, this is totally wrong. I cannot imagine your sponsors are very happy either. If you cannot demand that ESPN cover the races in their correct time and channel, it's time to break the contract and find a network that has the ability to program their shows. said...


I agree with your point that ESPN2 should have stayed with the tennis match until its conclusion. Yes I'm a NASCAR fan but I agree with the basic principle of sticking with the original program until its conclusion. I don't know if anyone here's a hockey fan but I am and NBC dumped an NHL playoff game earlier this year as the game was about to head into overtime to begin 75 minutes of pre-race coverage for a horse race, so I can imagine how tennis fans would have felt if ESPN2 dumped out of that match to show a NASCAR pre-race show. NBC did move the coverage to Versus, but I had no access to that channel thanks to where I was at the time. So why the Ottawa Senators were scoring the winning goal in OT to propel themselves into the Stanley Cup Finals (which they ultimately lost to my Anaheim Ducks :) ), I was watching NBC reporters conduct features on jockeys' outfits and a compelling story about the fact that it was drizzling outside.

That's why I proposed the idea of taping the Busch race and airing it in its entirety on ESPN2 after the conclusion of the tennis tournament. Tennis fans would have been happy with that and I don't think NASCAR fans would have minded either. That would have also been the best solution to please the fans like myself that weren't home to change channels. We only got to see what aired on ESPN2, because that was the only channel we recorded. If the tennis match had run 2 minutes longer we would have really been screwed because we would have missed actual racing, in addition to the pre-race coverage.

Tape-delayed broadcast on the original network = all of the fans win.

Anonymous said...

Here is a way to let Nascar know how you feel. I have used it before and someone does actually read the e-mails or they fake the reply real good.

Carl in Alaska said...

My letter to NASCAR,

Just how in the heck does a long time NASCAR fan complain to NASCAR about ESPN’s television coverage? I just set down to watch the Busch race which I recorded on my Dish DVR. Well I was home when the race started or was supposed to on ESPN II and caught that they were still covering tennis. They said coverage was now on ESPN so I made and adjustment to the DVR to record the whole race on ESPN. Now I see after about 10 minutes or so on ESPN they switched back to ESPN II and I DON”T get to see the race.

By far this is one of the worst seasons for coverage of NASCAR and I lay all the blame on ESPN. They have no vested interest in covering racing they way it should be. If NASCAR wants to keep the television audience they better get ESPN’s act together or lose viewership. Once upon a time ESPN meant NASCAR but no longer. FOX and SPEED have set the gold standard and that is what fans deserve. If you don’t care just let them continue the way the have been. Viewers will vote the off switch on the remote and I’ll be one of them.

An Alaskan NASCAR Fan

SophiaZ123 said...

Darn it!

Stricklanfan, I posted to you earlier today but it's not here!

Sigh...Don't remember what I said now but in general...I agreed with you.

I am sure I had other things to drone on about but it's not here.

Geez, I posted so much today, maybe this word verification thing thinks I am a spammer !!

CRIPES this word thingie in front of me is distorted as all get out and setting off my vertigo.

HOPE THIS POSTS!! I agree, tape delay and show the ENTIRE RACE ON SAID NETWORK!!

And set your VCR for 6 hours and DVR lots of extra time.

This is all a sham and NASCAR TRULY needs to look at the numbers.

Without a road map and a compass, ESPN is making the races MORE DIFFICULT to find.

The ratings have been falling in the last year. Do TPTB think this channel roulette is HELPFUL???

THIS will indeed, be an ongoing thing.

I just watched my hometown Little League World series on ESPN tonight (we WON!!) and of course it ran OVERTIME so the Baseball tonight game was delayed. So we got no sounbite from the coach or anything when the game ended.

But honestly, why does ESPN CRAM so many live broadcasts.

NASCAR HAD to be aware of their scheduling history. I hardly EVER can remember watching ANYTHING on ESPN and now I know why.

It's incestuous. It's a show that enjoys selling itself and breeding itself into more diluted, homogenized SPORTS.

Their talking heads all have smarmy complacent attitudes.

And the Bingo tournaments..and the SCRABBLE DEAL TODAY??? YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

What's next...who can take the cotton out of a case of aspirin bottles the quickest??

Wait...don't tell me...they already do that.


Carl In Alaska said...

Followup reply from NASCAR.COM to my letter and yes is an option.

"Dear NASCAR.COM Customer,

Thank you for contacting While I do empathize with your feelings on the coverage of races by certain networks, we do not control when they air the races, or the content they choose to air with it. All complaints about networks should be directed to the appropriate contacts for that network. Your time to send us your thoughts and opinions is appreciated. Feedback should be sent directly to This is the best way to ensure that your opinions are heard. Thank you for your support. In addition, to share your opinions with other users and fans, visit our feedback message boards at In order to post feedback, this link will most likely take you to the NASCAR.COM Member Services login page. Please login and go directly to the link above.

Thank you,
NASCAR.COM Customer Service"

I was especially suprisised at the second sentence and the word 'empathize" that was used. It was kinda a rapid response for a near midnight posting. Maybe someone is listening, what do you all think? Could we be finally poking a nerve with someone who gives a rat's butt and in a position of power?

Oh yeah ESPN2 is doing a full replay now and by the way its after 12:30 am on the East coast.

Disgruntled Alaska NASCAR Fan

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, nice try writing to but their response is passing the buck and showing they don't care.

Maybe if the SPONSORS involved see folks are NOT seeing their commercials?

If this is TRULY how NASCAR/and the FRANCE family feels, this just confirms my suspicion.

They got their money, to hell with the fans.

That is my take on their verbose reply.

Maybe I am missing something.

ALways a possibility. :-)

Carl in Alaska said...

Also sent original email to CARFAX the sponsor of the race. They can reached at CARFAX Consumer Affairs []. They are the ones that need to hear and have the grief directed.

Still a disgruntled Alaskan NASCAR fan said...

I've sent numerous e-mails to ESPN over the years on a wide variety of subjects and never got more than an automated response so good luck to anyone that tries complaining to ESPN.

I have a feeling that any question/comment that gets submitted under the category of "Complaint" is automatically deleted.

ESPN obviously does things their way and they don't care what the fans or anyone else thinks. The best example of that is on their FAQ page, in response to a question concerning where fans can send ideas for future programming or story ideas:

"ESPN's policy does not allow us to accept for review or consideration any ideas, suggestions, or creative materials not solicited by us or our subsidiaries."

Does ESPN still have their "NASCAR Now Inbox" where Erik Kuselius encourages the fans to "just say hi" to them or did they get rid of that idea too because they don't want listen to ideas from the fans anymore?

champ said...

I guess I'm losing interest in NASCAR...

When I turned on the TV and saw tennis, I just turned it off and did some other things. I didn't watch tennis long enough to even know that there was a crawl directing me to another channel.

NASCAR obviously doesn't care, why should I?

NASCAR doesn't care about their fan base. ESPN doesn't care about NASCAR fans. Why should I care about NASCAR or ESPN?

I can listen on Sirius if I care enough, or watch the complete race on

At least foxsports will tell me where my driver is in the field when he isn't leading the race.

I think I'm becoming a former NASCAR fan after almost 40 years.



Anonymous said...

My plans were to watch tennis and then the Busch race (I guess I am the only tennis and Nascar fan). ESPN should know that tennis is one of those sports (just like Nascar) where you do not know how long the match will last. To schedule something that tight is crazy.

Anonymous said...

ESPS stinks. Every week it is another issue. NA$CAR will get just what they deserve - lost fans. Oh wait, they will not lose a thing - they have all the $$$ for the duration of the contract. My friends it is pure GREED. Our cable only carries ESPN & ESPN2, so we got left out of the mess. I certainly was confused and hate ESPN more every day. They just cannot get it right. Dread the race today (probably will not see a race because of rain). Guess I'll have to do laundry, which will be more exciting than listening to Rusty.

Anonymous said...

i just wish speed had the whole thing! to think we have 8 years of this. i don't think i can hang..

Anonymous said...

I don't get ESPNCLASSIC on my digital network, there are most likely others in the same boat, my point is NASCAR is loosing viewers to the fact there are too many commericals during a race (down 20% from 2 years ago) every raceday there is at keast one hour of commericals during the race. Why can't these other networks do like TNT did with the split screen? They do it for IRL and F1-- like you would miss something in one of those follow the leader "races".

Anonymous said...

The only effective way to get NA$CAR's attention is to vote with your remote, don't go to the ISC tracks, and don't buy official sponsor products/services of NA$CAR or the race teams. When you hit them in the wallet, you get the attention of both NA$CAR/I$C/France Family and the sponsors.

SonicAD said...

I'll note first that they DID note on the ESPN Classic broadcast that they were moving over to ESPN.

Unfortunately, I had to be into work at 4, so I missed the jump to ESPN. Given that they'd started to put it on ESPN Classic, I figured they'd keep it there until tennis was done, before returning to ESPN2. THAT was the bad call. They should not have moved it twice. Fortunately, I had another way to get the time in between the cut to ESPN and the end of tennis, so all I missed were the first couple minutes of pre-race (since I was watching the Busch East race on HDNet at the time, and only decided to check if the tennis ran over a few minutes into Countdown). Trying to put the pre-race on SOMEWHERE was commendable, but playing musical chairs with the channels after that just made for a mess. At least they were able to go to the race on ESPN2 before the green flag.

Anonymous said...

Now ESPN will have the NEXTEL MIS race Monday on ESPN2. Why not on ESPN. Cause of the 8th repeat showing of Sportscenter!

disney 81 said...

yes John. you are correct. they handled it poorly. thanks to having direct tv the channels were close and i just flipped til i found the race. espn was no help. and to think we have many more years of this. how sad.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has truly made a debacle of the coverage.However,since I have decided to not watch the "races" as often as I once did,the fallout is less painful for me.I'll close with this comment--Rusty Wallace has without question,made a horrific career choice with his attempt at broadcasting.His voice has the effect on me as fingernails on a chalkboard. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone say ESPN 8 "The Ocho"

Anonymous said...

The only thing worse than ESPN's broadcasting of NASCAR is their NASCAR Now show. Rusty should have taken the job for RCR.

Anonymous said...

Question for Mr. Daly

Will Monday's 3M Performance 400 (now on ESPN2) be the biggest sporting event ever on ESPN2?

I remember years ago when they bumped a rained out Indianpolis 500 from ABC to ESPN and head outrage. This is probably not that big (between cable rather than off broadcast) but still significant.

Anonymous said...

Have a lot of mixed feelings on this one. I had no problem following the channel switches--I think (couldn't swear to it) that they told us what to switch to each time, including on the tennis broadcast. But if not, how hard is it to read a crawl??? Isn't that the first place you look? I'll admit it was a bit comical, though. I do, however, sympathize with those trying to record, but this is nothing new, has happened to other sports on many networks (well, maybe not the hattrick...), and isn't even new to ESPN's *old* coverage. I remember a Busch race being moved to ESPN 2 for golf, maybe, I think it was, back in--98 or 99? So I had golf on my VCR.

I think they do, as someone mentioned, schedule too many 'live' programs back to back on the same network, but on the other hand, that's kind of what we expect from a sports network, isn't it? However, I don't know why they can't plan better on what to do if the 'insert other sport here' runs over so they don't have to make the multiple switches. And yes, I do sympathize with those who do not get all the networks; I didn't get the first races on FX either because we didn't have it available. But as a race fan, I made to choice to 'upgrade' to get all the programming I could. I have a lot more issues with other programming choices ESPN makes rather than where it's found....they have much bigger problems than that.

Dot said...

In response to tape delaying the Busch races. Don't give ESPN 1 or 2 any ideas. When's the last time anyone watched a drag racing live?

Andrew said...

As for DVD/VCR customers, tennis people would have been just as upset if they switched tennis to another channel when they had been recording ESPN2.

Andrew said...

Sorry folks I hit the wrong button...

Anyway, Matt had said:

As for DVD/VCR customers, tennis people would have been just as upset if they switched tennis to another channel when they had been recording ESPN2.

I think he meant DVR customers.

When he put it that way, I can see that switching either way would anger people who were recording one event or the other.

Now, I happened to be home long enough to get through the channel flipping before I went back to doing other things. (For the race anyway, I missed the pre-race.)

I always add time at the end in case the race runs over for whatever reason, but my VCR or DVR cannot handle this. You would think that the networks and the DVR/VCR manufacturers could get together and agree on a standard so that you wouldn't have to guess what channel your event was on or how long to record. I program computers for a living so I know the technology exists but I don't think anyone wants to pony up the $$$ to do it. (Plus, it wouldn't help anyone who has a current recorder.)

I also agree with the posters who said that with all those networks, you'd think ESPN could do a better job of scheduling. Or, since they seem to be in control of when things start, why didn't they have the Busch race start 1/2 hour to an hour later?

I paid for my DVR so I wouldn't be tied to the TV at a certain time. If ESPN can't get into the 21st century, then they deserve to lose us as viewers.