Tuesday, September 11, 2007

TV's Strangest Bedfellows Prepare For New Hampshire

There is absolutely no doubt about it. This weekend in New Hampshire will be one to remember. It will not be for the beautiful scenery, the flat track racing, or even The Chase finally getting underway. In "TV land" it will be remembered as the time SPEED and ABC both produced live NASCAR races head-to-head at the same track.

That's right, SPEED will produce the New Hampshire 200 for the Craftsman Truck Series on Saturday, and ABC will have the Sylvania 300 for the NEXTEL Cup Series on Sunday in Loudon. Both TV networks will be sharing facilities, manpower, the TV compound, and the attention of NASCAR fans nationwide.

Normally, SPEED is relegated to the "SPEED stage" for its wide variety of live programs, and sometimes the network produces the live practice and qualifying shows. ESPN, however, holds the rights to all of the Busch Series races and is now into the portion of their TV contract where they exclusively air the remaining NEXTEL Cup events on ABC.

Early on, ESPN casually brushed aside SPEED as a digital pay cable network high-up on the dial that did some shows from the NASCAR tracks. In the past several weeks, however, all that has changed. As The Daly Planet mentioned in an earlier article, ESPN now looks around at the NEXTEL Cup venues and finds itself literally surrounded by SPEED shows and personnel.

Recently, in the biggest shot fired across ESPN's racing bow this season, SPEED moved the times of NASCAR RaceDay so that the final hour of this live program overlapped with the entire NASCAR Countdown pre-race show on ABC.

That was a bold move heard around both the NASCAR and sports TV communities. Even the drivers and teams watching TV at the track must choose...SPEED or ABC.

While several high-profile drivers have made no bones about the fact they are not happy with ESPN's reporters, SPEED continues to maintain great relationships in the garage for one reason. They are everywhere. Larry Mac here, Jeff Hammond there, Wendy Venturini walking and talking, and even Hermie Sadler taking laps in SPEED-1.

In this very strange NASCAR TV season, this weekend brings an added twist. Instead of a Busch Series race, the Craftsman Trucks are the support series. As race fans know, along with the Trucks comes Krista Voda, Ray Dunlap, Rick Allen, Phil Parsons, and Adam Alexander. SPEED's all-star crew has strolled into town, and things should really get interesting.

ESPN2 will show NEXTEL Cup qualifying on Friday afternoon from the track, and has Happy Hour scheduled on Saturday at 7PM between live college football games. Meanwhile, SPEED has two and a half hours live on Friday, the Truck race live on Saturday, and goes head-to-head with pre-race shows on Sunday. Then, after the NEXTEL Cup race, SPEED starts recording Victory Lane while ABC is still on-the-air live.

With the Truck Series taking center stage on Saturday, it is going to be easy for TV viewers to compare the laid-back "family style" of the SPEED event with the formal and "glamorized" ABC style on Sunday. With the Busch Series off this weekend, there are no other NASCAR distractions. SPEED and ABC will be the only shows in town.

On NASCAR Now, ESPN2's daily NASCAR show, they like to play a little game called "driver pick'em." The theory is to toss-out two names, and then quickly pick the one you like for that weekend's event and why. Today, we are going to play some "Daly Planet TV pick'em" for this weekend as well.

First up, Krista Voda or Suzy Kolber? Both anchor the NASCAR pre-race shows for their networks. Kolber has the new ESPN Infield Studio set, and Voda hosts her show outdoors from the starting grid behind a big desk on wheels. Kolber is the sideline reporter for Monday Night Football. Voda is a NASCAR veteran who currently reports from pit road for the NASCAR on Fox telecasts. Your pick for pre-race host?

Next, its Rusty Wallace or Phil Parsons? Rusty does the color commentary for both the Busch and NEXTEL Cup races on ESPN and ABC. Parsons does the color announcing for the Craftsman Trucks on SPEED. Rusty did the IndyCar Series last season to prepare for his NASCAR assignment, while Parsons has been working the Truck Series for many seasons. Both are former drivers, and both had or have other family members in the sport. Your pick for color commentator?

Finally, its Ray Dunlap or Dave Burns? Dunlap reports from the pits and garage in both the pre-race show and during the race for the NCTS on SPEED. Dave Burns reports from the pits and garage for ESPN on their Busch and NEXTEL Cup races. Dunlap is the former PR Director for ARCA, 1997 Electronic Media Personality of the year in motorsports, and is a TV grad from Bowling Green State U. Burns used to work the NBC and TNT NASCAR package for the last several years, was the former public address announcer for the ASA series, and you may remember his swamp buggy racing coverage from the old TNN. Your pick for pit reporter?

So, as you watch the races this weekend take a moment to compare the program content, the on-screen graphics, the directing, the fancy video effects, and even the relationships that the announcers have with each other. This is going to be an interesting lesson in what these two very different TV networks have in common, and what they have chosen to do very differently.

Then, when both races are over, you can return and play the ultimate "Daly Planet TV pick'em." SPEED or ABC for best race telecast of the weekend? We will post a new page for that little contest immediately after the NEXTEL Cup event is over. Make sure and bring your reasons why, and some examples to back it up. This should be one interesting weekend in "TV land."

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.


SophiaZ123 said...

Love the Bob & Carol, Ted & Alice photo. Blast from the past!

I better be taking notes this weekend.

stricklinfan82 said...

Give me Krista Voda, Phil Parsons, and Ray Dunlap for Announcer Pick'em.

It's just a shame ESPN can't do what's right for the sport by cooperating with the other NASCAR TV networks. The only people that lose when ESPN can't be adults are the NASCAR fans. Yet another week of no practice coverage on Friday and Saturday morning, and now we're flashing back to 1999 with tape-delayed happy hour coverage on espn2 on Saturday evenings. If college football runs long enough we might not even get any coverage at all, or maybe a chopped up 15 minute broadcast before the next college football game comes on.

Why can't every week be like Bristol, Michigan, and California when Speed channel provided LIVE coverage of EVERY Busch and Cup practice and qualifying session and ESPN only showed up on race day?

Thanks ESPN.... for your continued abuse of NASCAR fans everywhere.

SophiaZ123 said...

Why can't every week be like Bristol, Michigan, and California when Speed channel provided LIVE coverage of EVERY Busch and Cup practice and qualifying session and ESPN only showed up on race day?

GREAT IDEA but ESPN would NEVER allow this because they think THEY KNOW WHAT WE WANT BETTER THAN THEY DO.

But a person can still dream.

Stricklinfan, I TELL YOU WHAT, can you imagine 8 years of this ES P U coverage????????

SophiaZ123 said...

Aaack...hit the wrong button.

MEANT to say ESPN thinks they know what WE want better than WE do.

In other words, we are not supposed to know their FLASH AND DASH and OVER USE of GRAPHICS and that &^%$#^@ "draft tracker thing" (CERTAIN to be a major BUZZKILL at TALLADEGA) is junk.

ESPN THINKS they are doing a GREAT JOB with the gimmicks and the horrible camera work.

Why should they give us FUN GUYS, who LOVE racing, who ENJOY each others company, AND MOST ALL THE CARS on the track for Friday and Saturday practice/quals??

The ARROGANCE of ESPN and the flipping of the finger of NASCAR AT THE FANS for ALLOWING ESPN to stick it to us is getting harder to stomach each week.

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

I accidentally came across about 3 minutes of NASCAR Now on Tuesday night. Erik hyped up the possibility of tire issues at Loudon this week going to a commercial break, and what video did they use to back up this possibility? The spring race at Loudon when Joe Nemechek had his left rear tire fall off.

Yes, that's right... according to ESPN Goodyear is apparently putting the teams in danger this week because their "Loudon tires" aren't dependable enough to stay attached to the cars, as Joe Nemechek clearly displayed in the spring race at the same track.

MAYBE they meant well by trying to associate the tire failures from Richmond this past week with a similar tire compound that will be run this week at New Hampshire. If that's what they meant (which I highly doubt but I didn't stick around for the actual story later in the show so I don't know for sure), then shouldn't they have used videos like Joe Nemechek's and Robby Gordon's tire failures at Richmond to go with the story? Obviously, but instead they created ridiculous hype by associating "tire problems" with the horrifying video of a wheel falling off Joe's old car at Loudon in the spring and nearly entering the grandstands. That incident was clearly caused by loose lugnuts but I guess that it makes a better story to associate this weekend's potential "tire problems" with wheels flying off of racecars. I guess they think they'll get more casual viewers if they are promising tires falling off of the cars and flying all over the track Sunday afternoon. Ugh.

cwebs said...

Of course, I'd take the SPEED personnel over ESPN's almost without question! I would hesitate just a little with Ray Dunlap, as I think he's a little buffoonish at times, but I'd still end up taking him over Burns!

I agree with sophia about the B&C&T&A photo. I think it's perfect! The way I figure it, Elliot Gould represents John Roberts, the late, great Natalie Wood (insert wolf-whistle here) is Wendy Venturini (another wolf-whistle), Robert Culp is Rusty Wallace, and Dyan Cannon is Jamie Little. Strange bedfellows indeed!

As far as NASCAR Now goes, it’s been a train wreck for two days in a row.

On Monday night, we were treated to another tape glitch during a highlight segment as they went to the first commercial. Later on, Klulesas told us something about the Whelen Modifieds, except that he pronounced it “Waylon”. When reviewing the results of the viewer poll on possible Junior car numbers for next year, he noted that not many people voted for #28. Somehow, I’m pretty sure he has no idea why that number might not be the most appropriate choice.

On Tuesday night, Klulesas stepped into the “Home Depot Garage” to speak with Tim Brewer. You might think that Brewer was present in the studio to take advantage of their new cutaway car, but no, he was just being talked to over some sort of remote video connection. Yep, Klulesas was standing in front of the car, and Brewer was somewhere else. I guess this must make some sort of sense in the world of ESPN, but it seemed ridiculous to me. Anyway, Klulesas asked Brewer what he thought would be the biggest concern for the crew chiefs at Loudon. Apparently, the NN gang had already decided that tires were the “concern”, because a graphic appeared stating “Tires biggest concern at Loudon” before Brewer even started speaking. Then, after Brewer rambled on about everything but “tires”, Klulesas got impatient and said something like: “Yeah, Tim, but what about the tires?”

Earlier in Tuesday’s show, Terry Blount was making an interesting point about the 2008 Daytona 500 field possibly containing more Indy 500 winning drivers than the 2008 Indy 500 field will have. Unfortunately, the graphic at the bottom of the screen was making a completely different statement about the 2008 Daytona 500 field having more Indy 500 winning drivers than Daytona 500 winning drivers (a dubious proposition, at best).

Several times on Tuesday’s show, I heard NHIS being referred to as “The Paperclip”. I think both Klulesas and Boris Said used this moniker when talking about Loudon. Now, I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but isn’t it Martinsville that’s called “The Paperclip”??? I know NHIS is considered to be a “larger version” of Martinsville, but I don’t recall it having the same nickname…


cwebs said...

Oh yeah, stricklinfan, I forgot to include this bit of text in the above comment:

Even after Klulesas finally got Brewer to focus on "tires", all he did was talk about matching codes and checking performance during practice. So, after the "BLOWOUT CONCERNS" tease before the previous commercial (during which Klulesas promised an explanation for why "12 crew chiefs would be staying up at night worrying about tires"), they never really even addressed any such BLOWOUT CONCERNS.

I can't believe that ESPN is forcing this glorified intern and his posse on us for a whole season...


Anonymous said...

Can't believe NASCAR did not mandate that ESPN carry all the elements of the weekend's racing, and carry them live, in the contract.

Maybe NASCAR assumed that, with the money ESPN paid for the deal, they'd want to show it.

Anonymous said...

Is anybody still watching "NASCAR Now" these days?

Well, people look at car crashes, too, so suppose so.

GinaV24 said...

Well, I definitely vote for the Speed TV crew for coverage over ESPN, hands down, no contest. I saw an article on Jayski saying that ESPN/ABC is "pleased" with the tv ratings so far. Glad they're pleased, cuz I'm not pleased with what I'm seeing on ESPN. I watch Raceday on Speed rather than ESPN's countdown, even though Jimmy Spencer does drive me a little crazy, it's still not as bad as listening to people who don't know anything about the sport. Rusty Wallace needs to get over some of his bias from when he was a driver -- his dislike of Jeff Gordon shines through loud and clear -- it's as annoying as DW's cheerleading for Junior is as an announcer. What happened to some professionalism here? The good news is that I'll be at the race in NH, so I can watch the actual race from the track, not having to use Sirius or MRN and Pitcommand to replace the information that I'm NOT getting from TV.

Anonymous said...

Krista Voda is not only the hottest race announcer on TV, She knows what she's talking about!

Batchief said...

Nothing against Suzy personnelly but the only thing Suzy Kolber has over Krista is 10 years in age. When it comes to Nascar reporting she is way behind Krista and, for that matter, Wendy. Speed definitly has the two best female reporters in Nascar.

Anonymous said...

I think Speed should start covering college football and then we call it even.

Anonymous said...

I was STUNNED to read, a few days ago, the ratings were UP 29% for Richmond!?

Guess Casual fans don't know what a restart is...cause if that among other things, honked them off, think they will still watch this weekend? Course I realize being on network helped...as folks stumbled onto a race.

Nascar NOT has become must miss tv. Do we think ESPN or Erik have a clue that different tracks have different set ups, different kinds of tires, pressure if more of a big deal some places..others not.

See, that's the problem with folks who do not know NASCAR doing a show about------Nascar.

Also, am I the only one, the rare times I am forced to see Suzy on TV, is it just ME or do other women feel the need to comb her hair or pull it back or something

I said that the first day she was on the tube. Her stylist looked like he cut her hair with the lid of a coup can. She is an attractive woman but nobody seems to notice that middle layer around her face.

See, on guys, that would not distract me. Ok. well, then we have Rusty..but.

never mind.



SlithyBill said...

I would choose Krista and Phil from Speed, but Dave Burns over Ray Dunlap.

By the way, my favorite non-race moment so far this year was Wendy Venturini walking among the starting grid at Bristol interviewing any and all drivers she could. Very exciting and spontaneous live TV. Speed kept the camera on her and she asked intelligent and specific questions of every driver without having to refer to her notes. I couldn't imagine ESPN ever doing anything as spontaneous as that, unless Alan Bestwick finally lost it and chucked the script highlights he was given and just went wild.

Anonymous said...

Isnt it funny how bedsheets are never long enough to cover a guy's chest, but they are just long enough to cover a woman's chest?
I am not surprised that ESPN is doing college football over NASCAR practices. John talked about this all year. Take a guess which one gets higher ratings. And ESPN is probably tired of SPEED outclassing them so they decided not to let SPEED show the practices, which, as was said, only hurts us fans.
Kevin in SoCal

Sal said...

WOW! The opportunity to 'get even' with the "Fan Pick'em" is just way too tempting! It will be about as meaningful as what ESPN does on that sorry excuse for a nightly Nascar show!

JHD said...

Add me to those who would take Krista Voda and Phil Parsons. But I'd take Dave Burns as the lesser of two annoying choices. Never knew Dunlap went to BGSU (CKS), but I'm sure it has subliminally colored my perspective on him all along (Go Redskins/RedHawks!).

I hate to admit that I'm one of the 5 people left still watching Nascar Never, but I keep thinking that one day they'll get it right, and I want to be able to see it if it ever happens. I will say I usually FF through the program on the days Erik is on, and watch the entire show when Ryan is on, if it helps to justify things any.

But watching is good for amusement, like the Shakespeare/Dickens goof of Monday. And yesterday, I got the giggles seeing Erik stand in front of the cutaway car while Tim Brewer is completely off on another location talking about engineering issues. All Erik needed was pair of antlers and to be standing directly in front of the car's hood in order to complete the deer in the headlights image. It was clear Erik had no idea what Tim was talking about, and wouldn't have been able to use the car to point out Tim's explanations.

Garry said...

I have to comment, after my laughter, to anonymous about Speed covering college football. That's way too funny! But, I am willing to bet they put to shame current coverage now. If Speed covered lawnmower races, they would make it watchable- Oh, wait. They DO cover lawnmower races and make it watchable! By the way, can anyone tell me why during the showing of the movie "Dale", that all the Simpson logos are blurred out of both Senior and Junior's firesuits, but other drivers in the film are not???? Please tell me that Teresa is not that boneheaded as to believe that Bill Simpson killed her husband! That song played out years ago, and they proved that Dale liked to "adjust" his lap belts, against NASCAR's recommendations, I might add. Some help?

Anonymous said...


Neither Rusty nor Phil. If DJ doesn't qualify, use him. Otherwise fill the seat with a bottle of BP's wine. Please, not Mikey; he's best in small doses.

From the pits, I want Allen Bestwick.

darbar said...

John, I have a question. Why is the Nascar season split up in the first place? Why does Fox get it for a few months, then TNT and then ESPN? Why doesn't ONE network have the entire package (Fox, please)? It can't be because Fox starts their baseball coverage in June. That argument doesn't hold water because ESPN/ABC starts football coverage in September, just when the racing becomes really important. I just don't understand why Nascar has three networks doing the coverage.

AndyPandy said...

slithybill - that Wendy segment in Bristol is exactly what opened my eyes to her talents. She was stopping at driver after driver, asking good questions (not "how do you think you will do tonight") and listening to their answers. But the best part was that she really knew what she was talking about and was obviously having fun doing it, and the drivers seemed to notice that and played along really well.

Forget about more cowbell - NASCAR's got a fever, and the only prescription is more Wendy.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Here is the quote from the AP Story when the contract was announced: "Spreading the (NEXTEL Cup) content around was the only way NASCAR could make deals affordable for its partners. Both Fox and NBC lost money on the last deal, and in declining to extend its contract, NBC said the value the network put on the NASCAR package was far less than the asking price."

Essentially, Fox likes the first part of the year because they have program conflicts with baseball and NFL football on their one broadcast network. ESPN/ABC likes the fall because they have no Sunday NFL, but they do have college football and hoops in the spring.

TNT essentially begged to stay in the mix, and paid a huge cash price for their six races. The nugget for them is the Pepsi/Coke/Firecracker/Your Logo Here 400 on the July 4th weekend. This six race package gives them a platform for on-air network promotion that they could never have anwhere else. Who can forget The Closer, Bill Engvall, and some strange Holly Hunter cop show?

While NASCAR has managed to move the Trucks and Busch series to one consistent network, their highest level of racing which they want on broadcast TV (which is TNT's problem) will probably always be in pieces.

Your post has given me an idea, and I think I will be asking for any questions about NASCAR TV stuff on Monday and Tuesdays, and then answering them on Wednesdays.

That might be fun while we run down the end of the season. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

The only reason ratings were up is , everyone wanted to see if Jr. made it into the chase. That's the omly reason

Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...

The only reason ratings were up is , everyone wanted to see if Jr. made it into the chase. That's the omly reason "

And this is exactly ESPNs mentality for their 'all junior, all the time' philosophy.

I actually wasn't shocked that the ratings were up. It's on at night, in primetime on a Saturday, and the most popular driver had a hair of a chance of making it in. Less to do with production quality than circumstance.

Dot said...

@ Anon 9/12/07 12:44p
Regarding your sheet comment. The sheets are specially made into a L shape to cover the woman's top and the man's bottom. I had always wondered about that too.
Regarding John Daly's contest, it's SPEED channel hands down.

Prospector said...

Could it be payback time? In spite of the huge dollars spent on the contract is ECPN/ABC/Disney getting back at NASCAR for the abuse they suffered when the first TV contract saw them expelled from the tracks by providing coverage now that is, or should be, totally unacceptable to everyone.

I am getting tired of complaining and reading complaints. It is what it is, and and it is obvious that we are not going to change it.

Lets just sit back and enjoy the Chase as much as we can under the circumstances, through which-ever media source provides the best coverage.

Richard in N.C. said...

I did watch about 4 or 5 minutes of NASCAR NOW Tuesday - just enough to see Terry Blount attribute to Dario Franchitti EXACTLY the oposite of what Dario F. said in answer to Dave Despain's question about his wife's concerns about IRL and safety. Curious. At a minimum, Blount obviously did not try to check with Dario Franchitti before "reporting" he is leaving IRL for NASCAR because of his wife's concern about his safety. ESPN's credibility is dissolving in plain view.

Anonymous said...

With all our complaining and suggesting to ESPN, John says they are listening to us, but they still havent given us more Ryan Burr in place of Erik Kuselias. Perhaps Erik has blackmail on ESPN? We have gotten Rusty Wallace to tone down his "I'll tell you what" and other crazy comments, though.
Kevin in SoCal

SophiaZ123 said...

richard in n.c.

What did ESPN ask or say about Dario and Ashleys' comments. On WT Dario said his wife was supportive.

Did ESPN imply otherwise??

I am so glad I no longer even TRY to watch NN..maybe on the nights I have the tv on at that hour, I might channel surf across it.

I enjoy reading about it here.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, ESPN had the best NASCAR coverage and their RPN (?)Tonight was one of the best 1/2 hour shows on TV.

Best I can tell, ESPN is now directed toward the casual NASCAR fan and SPEED is directed toward the regular fan.

I resent the lack of practices, etc. It is my understanding that ESPN's view is that, if we see too much leading up to the race, we won't be as excited about watching the race.

The announcers are okay with me. Back in the day, Punch was a favorite as a pit road guy. But I want to throw up when some of their announcers have to look at notes for names or sponsors or owners and can't get through ten minutes without showing their ignorance.

SonicAD said...

I'm just happy because my local cable provider FINALLY added ESPN2HD today, so I can catch the HD feed of all of the NASCAR programming on there now. Like it or not, I try to watch it all, so it's better if I can get it in HD.

Anonymous said...

John. Back to that question about the TV contract. Wouldn't it have been a better idea for NBC to air six races instead of TNT? It wouldnt have cost NBC as much money and they still would have gotten exposure.

I know turner sports has been a NASCAR network for what, 22 years now. But it has to end sometime.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good suggestion, but NBC did not want to participate. When I worked on the first Homestead race for NBC Sports, one of their executives told me "we are only doing this until we get NFL football back."

You have to love TV executives.

TomB said...

The worse mistake NASCAR allowed was for ESPN to take over the telecast of the races. I still watch RACEDAY on SPEED, but usually fall asleep watching last half of the first green lap after a caution due to commercial overruns, Wallace's boring repeat after repeat commentary, was glad last year when he was covering IRL races,)(now I turn to watching IRL races if on during ESPN NASCAR telecasts) and that stupid "dirty air" demo which is about as confusingly stupid to even those of us that know what a draft is and how it works. Come on SPEED, up the ante next time and get your teams together and bring us the whole thing. If NASCAR wants to "up" their ratings they need to put you guys back on.

Desmond said...

The "pit road walk" that Wendy did at Bristol should be part of every NASCAR pre-race show from now on!

wickedj said...

i gotta vote for Krista...Suzy might mess her hair up if she goes outside..

Rusty or Phil..uhm...thats like root canal or prostate exam...can i pick DW? please?

Ray or Burns..i really liked Dave Discovers and all the goofy crap he did on NBC..but alas Ray brings us stats that not even Racing-Reference.info knows and Ray also brings us breaking news so vote for Ray

SophiaZ123 said...

Just a quick off topic...NOTICE Dyan Cannon in the pic on this page...it has been Photo "chopped" as she looks like her arms/shoulders are not big enough..like she is a 'little person.' In other pics, they are all about the same level head wise and I dont' know who did this cover.

I just got the DVD from my library with the SAME EXACT photo. Can't believe somebody ok'd that for sales! I still remember her laugh on Johnny Carson show years ago and hair that was awesome and curly.

But I can NOT even remember this movie about "strangest bedfellows". So thanks John for the stroll down memory lane.


Oh, I will still be picking SPEED over all things ESPN.

Anonymous said...

anonymous wrote in an earlier posting: The Cup drivers may have gotten used to feeling like the reporters and anchors on NBC/TNT, Fox, and Speed are their friends, and if a new person from ESPN comes in and just asks no-nonsense questions like they would of athletes from other sports, they get upset.

I think the problem is Espn reporters ask stupid questions. Thus getting poor answers and bad looks from drivers. That's why the drivers have gotten upset and started to boycot certain people like Mike Massaro. Did anyone not watch the pathetic Junior marathon after the race Saturday night?