Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SPEED Returning To NASCAR Practice And Qualifying Action

ESPN's coverage of practice and qualifying for their NASCAR properties has been a bit tough. The network decided to eliminate coverage of the first NEXTEL Cup practice. Then, they decided to run commercials over live Cup qualifying, rather than show every run.

Needless to say, this resulted in many missed runs, often including cars that wound-up in the top ten. Fans were not happy, sponsors were not happy, and the teams were not happy. After this weekend's road race, the sport heads for Michigan.

Also after Watkins Glen, the live TV coverage of practice and qualifying for both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series heads back to SPEED.

Over the last several years, the network has been able to hone its skills with these types of tricky telecasts. SPEED made a habit of showing every car during qualifying, and also created a tremendous graphics package that clearly showed items like the "go or go home" cars. It was easy to read a lot of information with qualifying in progress.

During both practice and "happy hour," the network would put a ton of great information about what was going-on in front of the viewer. Since they did not have to worry about covering "the leader," it was a great opportunity to talk about the real stories of the day, and the weekend.

SPEED's return to these "support" activities will be led by Steve Byrnes, who is clearly coming into his own as a major play-by-play talent and host. The Daly Planet has done several columns this season on Byrnes "other job" as the host of both Trackside and NASCAR Live.

Joining Byrnes will be the familiar duo of Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond. This threesome has proven to be tremendously effective at getting information across to the viewer because all three of these men have something in common. They are "self effacing," meaning that their on-camera presence is not "all about them."

NASCAR TV viewers can slowly page through their personal list of on-camera announcers and separate them into "all about me" and "let's have some fun" groups. The good thing about these three is they are always about having fun, and they have consistently shown it in their NASCAR on SPEED efforts for several years now.

Backing this team up in the garage area will be veterans Bob Dillner and Wendy Venturini. This is a good duo because they are so different. Wendy is a college educated television professional with a family background in ARCA and NASCAR racing. Bob is the son of a "grass-roots" New England racer and he began writing for various speed-related publications at the age of fifteen. He came "up through the ranks" and is still very well connected to the short-track world.

While the role of Randy Pemberton has not yet been released by SPEED, it is clear that he is another key asset in their line-up. Now returning full-time to the national TV media scene, veteran fans remember Randy from his early days on Inside Winston Cup Racing with Ned Jarrett and his long family history in the sport. It also does not hurt to have someone on staff whose brother is the VP of Competition for the sport.

Surrounding the live practice and qualifying, the network will also continue their Go or Go Home show centered around the cars outside of the top thirty-five who must make the race on speed alone. Also, SPEED will be returning The Chase is On for a third season. This show is about the final ten races and will be hosted by Steve Byrnes with his "driver partner" to be announced over the next several weeks.

The Daly Planet was started to detail the situations that would be taking place in 2007 as a the multi-billion dollar sport of NASCAR racing changed its TV package. Taking a step back, it has been a TV season so far of incredible stories of both success and failure.

From the surprising debut of Lindsay Czarniak to the quiet demise of Doug Banks, one of the most interesting aspects of the year has been the on-camera announcers. In both studio and on-site, we have seen a whirlwind of faces that have included a basketball player, lawyer, football announcer, and even "a Turner baseball guy."

As SPEED walks back into NASCAR on-track activity, the pressure on them to deliver is going to be intense. The reason why? Four little letters that strike fear in the hearts of every sports producer in America...ESPN.

Beginning at Michigan, SPEED's coverage will now be compared to ESPN's practice and qualifying coverage of their first three races. In "TV land," there is no greater pressure than that. Once hiding up on the cable dial in the "digital sports tier," SPEED is now out front-and-center as the network "taking over for ESPN." This may be the reason they invented Tums.

The Daly Planet will pass along additional details of this package, and before the emails start flooding in, please understand that ESPN does not "share" their announcers like the other NASCAR partners have done with SPEED over the years.

Once again, Andy Petree, Allen Bestwick, and Mike Massaro are among the "odd men out" as we will only see them for the pre-race show and the race itself. While their input will be missed, that is the nature of the beast with ESPN in the mix. It should be interesting to see how this dynamic unfolds over the next several weeks.

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 and leave your opinion.


Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what, if SPEED could afford to buy the rights to Cup races after Fox's half-season, we'd all be better off.

Vince said...

From what I've seen from ESPN so far this season I don't believe SPEED, Fox or TNT needs to be concerned about any "pressure" of following ESPN. ESPN so far this year has been a MAJOR disappointment in all areas of their NASCAR coverage. If it wasn't for AB and a few other long time NASCAR pro's on ESPN, they'd be totally lost. I second anonymous' idea above of SPEED buying out ESPN's second half of the season. ESPN so far has fallen flat on their face.

SophiaZ123 said...

SPEED will never get full coverage because it's not AVAILABLE everywhere of you have to pay thru the nose to get it on upper tier of cable with Timewarner. Digital cable is a pain with it's own BOX and REMOTE (I had the worlds BEST REMOTE with my 31 inch GE TV but that's another story! :-) )

But are you saying John that SPEED will have practice and qualifying THE REST OF THE SEASON? You said drivers and sponsors were not happy with ESPN coverage of these things! HA, no kidding.

I also believe you MUST be joking to think SPEED has pressure about TABLOID ESPN???

I am just HAPPY if it is INDEED TRUE SPEED will show Friday shows again. I got **** SICK of missing qualifying laps and when they WERE supposed to be on TV they had to show some lame interview or some other useless PRETAPED VIDEO.

IF SPEED IS BACK For good on Friday's please somebody, confirm this!!

Thanks John

Sophiaz said...

YES!!! Thank goodness for the Little League World Series. It looks like that is the reason ESPN2 isn't doing practice or qualifying shows, at least on Michigan weekend anyway (not sure what's going on the other weekends ESPN will be absent on Fridays and Saturdays).

Look at Friday's schedule on Speed at Michigan:

11-11:30 - NASCAR Live
11:30-1:00 - Cup Practice
1:00-2:30 - Busch Practice
2:30-3:00 - Go or Go Home
3:00-4:30 - Cup Qualifying
4:30-5:30 - Busch Happy Hour
5:30-6:30 - NASCAR Live
6:30-7:00 - Survival of the Fastest
7:00-8:00 - Trackside

It's like Daytona Speedweeks all over again, if anything's going on at the track Speed Channel is there to cover it. Plus no Rhianna, no Aerosmith, no general sports broadcasters, no interviews with X-Games participants, and no extensive video package for every car that is ever shown on TV. Thanks Speed!

Hey ESPN, please do what TNT did when they covered NASCAR this year. Show up on Sunday afternoon for the race and leave NASCAR fans alone the rest of the week. said...


According to ESPN here is a summary of their practice/qualifying coverage for the rest of the year:

Watkins Glen - qualifying and happy hour
Michigan - none
Bristol - none
California - none
Richmond - happy hour and qualiffying
Loudon - qualifying
Dover - qualifying
Kansas - qualifying
Talladega - none
Lowe's - qualifying and happy hour
Martinsville - qualifying
Atlanta - qualifying
Texas - qualifying
Phoenix - ?????
Homestead - ?????

I wonder if Speed will be allowed to cover happy hour or any of the morning practices on the weekends ESPN2 is only covering qualifying.

SophiaZ123 said...


Thank you for being a sweetheart to find the ESPN coverage listings. I so appreciate it.

We can only HOPE ESPN loses some of those qualifying gigs since they stink up the joint with their "coverage."

And also thanks for posting the Michigan week for us all here.

That schedule looks TOO SWEET!!!

projectpappy09 said...

^That's the site where you can find all of the scheduling for NASCAR events on the ESPN family of networks.

The SPEED team is fine, but where's Mike Joy and Dick Berggren. Didn't they used to do the second half of the season when they were done covering races?

Sal said...

I couldn't agree more that ESPN has been a huge disappointment so far. Their decision to not cover quals and practices is yet another example of how they treat race fans as third class viewers. I do have one bone to you can say that DW isn't 'all about me' puzzles me. In every broadcast I hear DW and Jeff Hammond talking about what they used to do, what they would do, etc. scattered amid plugs for Mikey and Toyota. Too often their 'humor' seems to take precedence over the actual race.

Anonymous said...

the way I saw it was that SPEED set the bar and ESPN was compared to SPEED and failed miserably.

I don't really see much pressure on SPEED being compared to the coverage we've seen on ESPN.

Anonymous said...

espn has taken race coverage to a new level and its so far below fox and speed it makes me sick they dont even show the race instead they show what producers think is important like interviews they did before the race that aready aired 3-4 times its disgusting

Bobby said...

I'll explain why I think ESPN2 is cutting back:

Michigan and Bristol - Little League Baseball Championships

California - College Football
Richmond - Friday afternoon events

Loudon-Texas: Qualifying on Friday. College Football on Saturday.

Talladega: Final practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday.

Lowe's: Qualifying on Thursday, Final Practice on Friday afternoon.

So much football on ESPN2 that they have to cut back on NASCAR's coverage. But NASCAR wants a network Sunday, so the series will be on the ESPN Broadcast Network.

There is some politicking with the cable system because some want Speed to be "upper tier" while MTV (which is another pain; they killed NASCAR fans with some of their betrayals) stays in the basic tiers.

Anonymous said...

I think that they need to just do away with espn they are boring and nascar now is a joke with people that don't know a thing about racing. I enjoy hearing the news of the day but the announcers don't even get the drivers names right. Just leave it on fox or speed. The perfect announcers would be the the three thats doing qualifying on speed and Darryl Waltrip Kenny Wallace and Jimmy spencer for the beginning of the races. Race day is so funny yet informative. I like announcers that like to have fun but also knows their nascar and gets correct information out to the fans

GinaV24 said...

There's no pressure on Speed from ESPN. Hands down the coverage of NASCAR is better on Speed. I'm really glad that qualifying and practice will be back on a channel that understands and respects racing, not one that is trying to sandwich it in between little league games. 2 races in and ESPN hasn't shown me any reason why I should waste a Sunday afternoon watching their telecast.

Ron P. said...

The pressure is now on ESPN, Sponsors will now see how Qualifying and Practice coverage can maximize return.
True SPEED will never have the whole race weekend due to limited brodcasting in some areas, but they will have the majority of NASCAR air time for these race weekends. This will amount to a big monetary hit to ESPN. SPEED will have more sponsor time (i.e Dollars) than ESPN.

With the head to head programing of Prerace action on Sunday SPEED contues the onslaught on sponser dollers. It is only a matter of time untill ESPN's sponsors realize they are not getting what they are paying for. ESPN's hype machine is starting to crack around the edges.

One can only imagane what ESPN will do with the Watkins Glenn coverage.

What prerace clap trap will be hoisted upon the poor NASCAR Nation now?

What humiliating music videos we will have to endure?

Who will be the "special guest looser" interviewed in the middle of the race by Basketball Boy and Football Girl, and UPS Man (sorry Dale, you know I still like you)?

WIll Brent sober up in-time to make inane comments about race attendence?

Tune in Sponsors for this weeks Train Wreck, and see how your money is being wasted.

Sponsors please continue to trow your dollars away on this sub par coverage as fans switch to diffent media outlets for there race coverage.

Don't worry I'm sure the IRS will let you deduct your NASCAR Marketing money as a loss.

If they give you a hard time just show them a clip of "Shut Up and Drive" and they will allow the full deduction.

I wish all the best to Marty,John, Wendy and the rest of Boys at SPEED.
Sponser dollars are waiting you at the end of the Broadcast Rainbow.

chase said...

What wonderful news!!! Maybe ESPN might just learn not to fix something that isn't broken. No more listening to the totally uninterested (and it does show ESPN!) announcers. Racing is a very unique sport with a great many things bubbling over, around, under and sideways. ESPN should just hire the right announcers and, although I do like Andy Petree and Dr. P, replace Rusty 'Whiner' with AB or Mike J. What a great combo that would be!!!! Thank you John for keeping us all informed - and don't leave us!

Gilbert Sam, Jr. said...

Thank goodness, SPEEDHD is coming to DirecTV next month. That's the only reason, I'm in favor of practice and qualifying on ESPN2 is ESPN2HD..

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, ESPN in all their CRAP NASCAR coverage, has just moved ESPN CLASSIC from normal cable to DIGITAL TIER on Time Warner!?

This will STINK for any rain outs that need to be moved to CLASSIC as folks who watch NASCAR will be gypped, just as the folks are who cannot get SPEED or don't want to pay the high fees.

I am kind of disgusted by this but the justification is for ESPNHD and ESPNU channels will be packages with CLASSIC.

I honestly think if ESPN continues to do so poorly and starts channel hopping for rainouts because they are busy showing POKER and BINGO and other minutia as a sport on ESPN1 and 2, maybe we can hope they shoot themselves in the feet as having too much stuff to shuffle.

Then they would lose the NASCAR contract.

Seems they are shooting their toes off one by one with their DREADFUL Qualifying and Practice coverages.


Anonymous said...


It wasn't ESPN who moved Classic on your cable system line-up. It was your cable system!

ESPN would prefer Classic to be part of basic.

Diehard Speed Fan said...

I'm ecstatic to hear that Speed is coming back with more coverage! ESPN has been extremely disappointing on so many levels! Speed Channel absolutely provides the best and most comprehensive coverage.

Anonymous said...

Thank you God!!!!

SPEED is sooooo far ahead of ESPN it's not funny.

As far as SPEED having pressure on them, you've got to be kidding. ESPN couldn't handle the pressure that SPEED put on them. SPEED RULES!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Is Steve going to do an NFL game this year like last year? FOX has 7 games on Dover weekend. (Week 3 of the Regular Season>)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great comments guys, and I dropped Steve an email about the NFL issue. I will make it a stand-alone post when he answers, but it might not be until Monday. btw...he is a great guy.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Yay SPEED. This means less talking, more drivers, more real NASCAR news, and NO DRAFT TRACK. I hate that, it's the biggest waste of time. I can see the cars moving in faster I don't need crappy computer graphics to show it. But the best part, SPEED comes on the air and doesn't go off of NASCAR for six hours. Love it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks again for your comments, please bear in mind that one derogatory comment can cause a post to be deleted. Why ruin your idead and opinions with personal attacks? TV industry insiders read this blog every day, and it is a great opportunity to get your true feelings across about the NASCAR TV partners.