Saturday, September 1, 2007
Bob Dillner Hosts Busch Series Qualifying
Concluding the long Friday at Fontana, CA was the SPEED Channel coverage of qualifying for the NASCAR Busch Series. In the past, we have seen the regular announcing team of Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds, and Jeff Hammond calling the action. With that trio working down on the SPEED Stage hosting Trackside, it was up to SPEED to cover the action with some fresh faces.
Bypassing both Randy Pemberton and Wendy Venturini, SPEED put veteran pit reporter Bob Dillner in the play-by-play role. Alongside Dillner was the RaceDay duo of Jimmy Spencer and Hermie Sadler.
NASCAR fans who hung-in and watched SPEED's day-long effort from Fontana had earlier seen John Roberts hosting the NEXTEL Cup qualifying with Spencer and Sadler. That effort fell short of professional because of Jimmy Spencer's habit of quickly speaking out whenever he felt a need. Time and time again, the very patient duo of Roberts and Sadler would take a deep breath, and wait until Spencer was done.
As the Busch Series program rolled around, things were a bit different. With the multi-hour NEXTEL Cup effort under their belts, Spencer and Sadler had established a much better rhythm and were no longer talking over each others sentences. The key to this was the fact that Spencer had calmed down a bit, and used his sold knowledge of racing to contribute good insights.
Hermie Sadler's experience in the Busch Series made him much more suited for this level of coverage than NEXTEL Cup. His personal interaction with many of the drivers, and his stories about previous races showed fans that Sadler is going to have a future on the TV side of the NASCAR business.
Bob Dillner has been a polarizing force in the NASCAR garage for a while now. Some guys love him, and some guys...not so much. His stumbles with "breaking news" and other specific news items have been well-documented over the past several years. In passing over Randy Pemberton for this position, SPEED gave Dillner a good opportunity and he made the most of it.
Unlike the ESPN crew, who struggles to even identify the drivers in the Busch Series, SPEED has always been fair to all three levels of NASCAR's touring series. Dillner was on-target with his names, sponsors, and general information about the on-track activity. It was a pleasant surprise.
Jimmie Johnson appearing in the Busch Series was a big deal, and SPEED made sure to show his qualifying effort and explain why Johnson was in the race. Spencer used his enthusiasm in the right way when describing the Johnson effort, and then quickly stepped aside to allow others to continue the commentary. He's learning.
Wendy Venturini put in a long day on pit road and in the garage, and really continued to be SPEED's "go to" person for any news or interviews. Her on-air approach and professionalism cuts through any ego problems with the NASCAR gang. Unlike some other reporters, she is never put on the spot by the network and forced to ask embarrassing questions for the sake of hype or controversy.
Rany Pemberton continues to be solid in his comeback effort after being signed by SPEED to a contract through the rest of the season. He worked hard as a reporter, but did not assume any other responsibilities this weekend. Perhaps, the network might let Pemberton host an episode of Tradin' Paint or NASCAR Live before the end of the season.
Unlike ESPN, who hides details from viewers, SPEED never hid the fact that only forty-two cars were entered for this race, and that these drivers were only chasing pole position. From the beginning, they described the fact that this was an impound race, and some teams were choosing to set-up their car for the race, and because of that just ran slower. This is the type of honest and up-front information that SPEED has been applauded for this year.
The comments of the announcers about Steven Wallace were on-target, and had to please Steven's dad and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace. Spencer and Sadler were positive in their comments about the young driver, but included his struggles and incidents this season in their conversation.
Kudos to SPEED for mixing things up this week, and allowing announcers who have paid their dues with the network to spread their wings and try something new. Viewers who watched the Busch Series qualifying found a comfortable crew who knew when to crank it up and when to lay-back and talk racing.
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