Sunday, September 16, 2007
"RaceDay" On SPEED Hosts A New Hampshire Party
As the two hour live program called RaceDay continues its tour of NEXTEL Cup weekends, there has been a very strong fan reaction to what the network offers. Over the course of this season, The Daly Planet has referred to this show as both "the Super Wal-Mart" of NASCAR and the "SPEED-a-palooza Festival."
Both of these terms refer to the fact that SPEED has finally hit on a winning combination for a program they schedule head-to-head with ABC's NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.
This week at NHIS, the network was surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic fans as John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, and Kenny Wallace anchored the program from the SPEED Stage. On a beautiful day, Wallace was once again driving in the race, and was replaced for several segments by Hermie Sadler on the panel.
Sadler has done a great job of working hard on his TV skills, and focusing his comments on the issue at hand. His SPEED-1 reports about the track and the race specifics have become a valuable feature on this program.
NEXTEL Cup drivers have been happy to appear on this show, knowing they will be welcomed as professional athletes, and not stabbed in the back by tabloid style reporting. Even the determined Wendy Venturini can get to the bottom of news and personnel issues without stepping on toes or embarrassing the individuals involved.
One of the hallmarks of RaceDay has been the fact they go to the track already loaded for bear. The production team puts a lot of effort into "pre-production." That is the week leading up to the event, where lots of features are edited, lots of footage is screened, and lots of interviews are done. The key to RaceDay is that only a part of it is actually done at the track.
This week was no exception, with lots of things seemingly "in the can" before the show. From in-depth glossy recaps of the previous race to the key footage used as B-roll for the live interviews, this type of preparation is the signature of a veteran TV crew.
Even the small "in-bumps," those footage and music segments that are rolled coming back from commercial break, set a tone for this show with great music and a welcoming feeling. Watch for this element as the show counts down The Chase.
Every show features a Real Deal segment reported by Wendy Venturini, who carried the title of "news woman" on this series. She has quietly used her hard work and tenacity to raise her TV profile on SPEED. It will be interesting to see what she winds-up doing next season, as both SPEED and big brother Fox Sports looks to shake-up some parts of their line-ups.
Somehow, Jimmy Spencer has found his "center" at a very good time for the network. Spencer has still been having fun, but he is seeming to finally understand that his words carry some big meaning with both the fans and the NASCAR community. This week, he directly addressed the IndyCar owners as having "ego problems" and contributing to the reason several open-wheel stars are moving to NASCAR.
In a strange way, Spencer has been put front and center as the expert and analyst on this show. Kenny Wallace continues to routinely drive in most NEXTEL Cup races, and his presence on this show has diminished. This singular focus on Spencer may have actually helped him with his on-camera presence.
Spencer is still a tough sell to some race fans, but his continued work on this series and the Victory Lane show is working well for him. Maybe some additional exposure on Inside NEXTEL Cup or even an episode of Tradin' Paint might be good for him before the season is over.
RaceDay is still struggling to connect with the fans at the track. Maybe, in a two hour live show, there might be an opening to do something with the fans other than zoom the camera past their heads twenty times in a row. Let them read the billboards, let them tape an in-bump, or find the fan that came the longest distance. In the era of interactive programming, this is still a letdown.
This week, with The Chase underway, RaceDay limited some of the extraneous hi jinks that had been throwing the show a bit off-balance. No Rutledge, one quick Ricky Rachtman sighting, and no "role playing" from the panel. This is exactly the way SPEED needs this show to remain down the stretch.
Once SPEED committed this show to going head-to-head with ABC, there was no going back. RaceDay is now the highest profile show on SPEED, and it should be interesting to watch them respond to this challenge over the next nine races.
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