Saturday, September 8, 2007

SPEED Channel's Three Hours Of "NASCAR RaceDay"

Back on July 15th, The Daly Planet published a column about the RaceDay program on the SPEED Channel. The idea was that SPEED had hit on a combination for a NASCAR pre-race show that the actual networks showing the races had not found.

Simply by putting everything under the sun into RaceDay, SPEED was able to expand it to two hours in length. Then, when the program continued to remain strong, the network made one of their biggest programming decisions in their history.

SPEED decided to change the time of the show and schedule it so that the final hour of RaceDay overlapped with NASCAR Countdown. The Countdown show is the pre-race program for both ESPN and ABC.

After multiple problems establishing a host, the ESPN family decided on an in-house selection. They pulled Monday Night Football sideline reporter Suzy Kolber over to NASCAR Countdown. The results have been mediocre at best.

This weakness was quickly exploited by SPEED. The network poured a lot of additional resources into this program, and it began to show. SPEED already had an established host in John Roberts, and a trusted reporter in Wendy Venturini. What the network needed to do was get Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace focused on their roles in the show.

Both Spencer and Wallace have "grown-up" on SPEED in their TV experience, and now it was time for the network to turn them loose. This unlikely pair has become cult celebrities among NASCAR fans, and are enjoying much greater popularity on the TV side of the business then they ever did as drivers.

Along the way, both Spencer and Wallace have stuck their collective feet in their collective mouths, but that was also part of their role. No one has said that these two will be performing brain surgery anytime soon, so the expectation of their role is some veteran perspective and then some good old-fashioned fun.

After the first couple of weeks overlapping ESPN's coverage, SPEED found that ESPN did not respond with any additional features or resources, they just kept to the entertainment-style formula that ESPN seems to be forced into this year.

SPEED mixes the outlandish with the honest. They work the outrageous comments right alongside the serious interviews and news items. This fluid movement between the over-the-top commentary of Spencer flowing right into a serious "Real Deal" segment with Venturini makes this program work. Viewers never know what is coming next, but they want to see it when it does.

This Saturday, as ABC took over the NEXTEL Cup television for the rest of the season, SPEED again stepped-up to the plate. This time, they swung for the fences. It was the final race before The Chase, it was at night, it was in Richmond. SPEED decided it was time for a special three hour version of RaceDay.

This extravaganza played up against a thirty minute abbreviated version of ABC's NASCAR Countdown that experienced big problems. Few of the top NASCAR stories were mentioned, ESPN's fascination with Dale Earnhardt Junior continued, and a rock band performance was inserted into the shortened twenty-two minutes of pre-race show. This was the worst NASCAR Countdown of the season by far.

SPEED, on the other hand, brought-in their Trackside team to bolster the announcing corp and establish a second on-location set at the track. Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond, and Larry McReynolds bring a tremendous amount of NASCAR credibility to the airwaves, and their appearance in this special RaceDay worked well.

The one common thread noticed by viewers watching SPEED's NASCAR coverage is that no one takes anything too seriously. Certainly, hard news and personal stories of struggle are covered honestly, but there is always the feeling that fun is lurking right around the corner. Even the good natured teasing between the regular RaceDay and Trackside crews on this show was just fun.

In the end, SPEED had pulled-off a live pre-race program that was longer than many of the Busch races. Fans who like the Wal-Mart approach to TV while they are waiting for the actual race continue to be attracted to RaceDay. There is always something for everyone, there is plenty of time to enjoy it, and when its think it might be fun to do again soon.

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.


projectpappy09 said...

SPEED, 3 hours? Seriously? Come on, this race was important, but not 3-hour prerace important.

Anonymous said...

3 hours was fine. I like this SPEED program. Also, as others have said, most would rather watch SPEED then ABC.

Anonymous said...

I always SPEED RaceDay. I have been to the track at Richmond countless times to see it live. Kenny, J.R.,and Jimmy have something ABC/ESPN will never have: a sense of family. They make you feel like YOU are a part of the family, too. :-) -janel

SophiaZ123 said...

I love Race Day but honestly, 3 hrs was too long, though I had it on except for about 40 minutes...but was busy making dinner and doing things around the house and had it on when I was near the digital TV.

But they always provide a fun atmosphere. I love ice cream and cake but I don't need three servings at a time everytime I eat them.


And I worry they will be super possessed on the Chase. But that is part of the HYPE I refuse to get sucked into myself.

But I love the trio of JR< Kenny and JImmy. Wendy does great interviews.

Even though at times the show is too long with it's WASTED SEGMENTS on that tattooed freaky guy, it's always an upbeat FUN show to watch.

Anonymous said...

SPEED understands what we want and Raceday is the result. If they would boot Despain and put Wendy Venturini hosting INC I could put away the remote and stay on SPEED.

Busch Series Fan! said...

We always preferred AB as the host of INC including Schrader and Waltrip. They need another personality not Vickers or Biffle though. A type like Dale Jarrett who can keep his end up with interesting tidbits, etc.

Anonymous said...

I will never watch the Speed show again. Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace both get on my nerves. Whatever ABC or ESPN has is better that those two.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Race Day. I am totally sick of the actual race coverage that we now have. The only bright spot for me this year was when Kyle was in the booth for TNT. If I hear boogity boogity boogity ever again I swear I'll puke. As for ABC & ESPN I don't switch to the race until I am sure the green flag has dropped. Unfortunately I have to listen to them during the race. Yes Rusty we heard you the first 30 times you mentioned the vrakes were going to cause the tires to blow, can't you find something else to talk about? Sorry for ranting on and on...Too bad the Speed teams don't cover the actual race.

Anonymous said...

I will take "raceday" over the actual broadcast anyday. Rusty Wallace was a great driver, but I am not that fond of him as a broadcaster . It seems he is the equivalent of broadcasting herpes. He has infected many of those around him with the phrase "right now". It seems he can't come up with anything else to say to he throws that in every sentence, or so it sounds; It's ANNOYING. If they can't put tape over his mouth, they should send him back to the IRL.

SophiaZ123 said...

Well the IRL announcers have never been very good either but no more Rusty. Argh

Rusty DID get rid of the phrase I TELL YOU WHAT.

Now, how do we get him to STOP SAYING "aero loose."

Race Day is far better than anything on ESPN but I realize the hosts are not everybody's cup of tea.

AndyPandy said...

What do I like about RaceDay? Wendy Venturini, John Roberts, Wendy, Jimmy Spencer, Wendy, Kenny Wallace, and Wendy. Three hours was not too long at all. I was hoping that nobody would notice and they would roll right into race coverage so I wouldn't have to switch to The Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Anonymous said...

Five minutes of the country bumpkin, illiterates....Hyper-active Wallace and sartorially challenged, ignorant Spencer are enough to drive anyone with more than three brain cells away. I will never again watch any show which stoops to include throwbacks to a time when this country was still being settled.
NASCAR does nothing to improve its image by having the views of the sport expressed by people so rough around the edges. Why not just invite the Ku Klux Klan ?

Anonymous said...

The reporters on SPEED are very good--they don't treat me like I know nothing about racing. While I can't stand Two-faced Jimmy, I'll tolerate him while waiting for everyone else to appear.

I like having three hours available to me if I choose to watch it. I don't turn to ESPN/ABC until the invocation.

Anonymous said...

Why not just invite the Ku Klux Klan ?

Are you suggesting Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer are racists? I've seen no evidence of this.

Anonymous said...

I love NASCAR racing but I have been forced to watch TV(on mute) and listen to the race on the radio

Anonymous said...

I love RaceDay. I thought it was good on Saturday but I'm not a fan on the Trackside announcers. The Trackside group aren't as honest as RaceDay's. They seem to be in Nascar's pocket. ABC/ESPN are so bad. They aren't focused on the correct things or cars. It's so ridiculous that I watch the cars on Trackpass. I don't think that I will be able to watch it thru the end of the season.

Ku Klux Klan?
Why imply that about the announcers. However, the rest of that post about illiterate, country bumpkins etc is interesting for two reasons. One, I think certain political minded people strongly dislike Nascar fans because they think they are of a different political mind. Second, ESPN does a live blog during the race. I read it a couple of weeks ago and their comments and statements were insulting to the fans that were at the track that day. I'm sure that will change after this post but it showed the mindset of the people that cover Nascar for ESPN. They are not interested in Nascar, they think they are 'better' than Nascar and they think Nascar fans are just a bunch of drunk, redneck hicks.

Skeet said...

I could set here and just copy everyones positive comments about Race Day. What I like about it, is its informative, it has some terrific stories put together with class and it has a whole bunch of fun. What more does a race fan want? Race Day is a must for any race fan to get to know the teams, the drivers, the people who report the races and showing all of us that we too can make fun of ourselves and have a great time doing it.

Desmond said...

Whoever implied that the atmosphere on RaceDay was akin to a KKK meeting was out of his/her mind! Yes, NASCAR is more diverse than what some people at ESPN think it is, but NASCAR is still better with that "rough edge" that the old-time drivers and broadcasters had. I cannot believe how much NASCAR wants to run away from its roots! Of course, the TV networks are complicit.