Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Wednesday afternoons on ESPN2 have become an exercise in technology for true NASCAR fans. The DVR's and the TiVo's are humming at 5:30 Eastern Time for a below-the-radar TV series called Chasing Glory.
This week, perhaps the best show of the season was on-tap with an in-depth professionally done profile of Tony Stewart. Produced by NASCAR Images, this show features their signature deep-voiced announcer and lots of great footage from the NASCAR Images Library that has not been seen by most fans.
This included a rare look at a Roush Racing meeting featuring Mark Martin and Jack Roush talking openly about the superior car that Stewart's team often brought to the track. Pat Tryson and others were just scratching their heads about what and how the Home Depot team had done to get themselves in this position.
Since the transition to this new TV contract, the one thing sorely missing from the scene has been more in-depth and behind-the-scenes programming. NASCAR Images provides Survival of the Fastest to SPEED, and Chasing Glory to ESPN, but that is a dot on the landscape. Neither the Busch or Truck Series have any on-going program series that focus on the hard work of those teams and drivers.
This episode of Chasing Glory had a clear vision of how it should present the complicated Stewart, and it did a tremendous job. From chasing the early fiery days of Stewart's growth in the sport, to talking about his re-location to Indiana and his new found maturity, NASCAR Images put on a great show.
AP reporter Jenna Fryer provided the background information and the media perspective about Stewart. Her information helped to fill-in the holes in the story that could not be done with comments from Greg Zipadelli or Stewart himself. She has proven to be an interesting personality in her own right, with a cynical and yet supportive eye on the sport.
There may have not been a finer thirty minute "glossy" NASCAR TV program series on the air this season, with only ESPN's limited Ultimate NASCAR series comparing in overall quality to Chasing Glory. That is why the same question is being asked by NASCAR fans nationwide.
What the heck is this wonderful NASCAR series doing on the air at 5:30PM on a Wednesday? That is 2:30PM on the West Coast. What part of this timeslot says NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Chase for the Championship? ESPN is the exclusive provider of The Chase races. Can't they spare thirty minutes of primetime once a week for NASCAR?
Hopefully, the wonderful quality of this series as a whole will encourage ESPN to re-air the series on ESPN Classic during the off-season. Maybe, during the post-season meeting between ESPN and NASCAR Images, Chasing Glory might get a promotion to a regular night of the week in primetime so fans who do not have recording technology in their homes can also see this very nice series.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS section below, or email email@example.com if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.
Flying a bit below The Daly Planet radar, we would like to thank the alert reader who informed us that ESPN's dynamic radio duo of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will be heading for the Texas Motor Speedway in a couple of days.
On Friday, November 2nd, the Mike and Mike in the Morning Show that began on ESPN Radio and has now migrated over to ESPN2 and a High Definition TV studio will originate on-location at TMS.
The program will air from 5AM to 9AM Local Texas Time, and will originate from the Speedway's Cafeteria in the infield. That seems to be a strange location, but I am sure it is due to weather and logistical issues.
The good news is that fans with an Infield Parking Pass can attend the live show for free. Once again, all infield campers are invited to show-up and have some fun with Mike and Mike live on both ESPN Radio and ESPN2. That should be interesting.
If a Daly Planet reader has the chance to attend, we certainly would like to hear about it and perhaps get some pictures for our site. These guys are very influential, and to have them on-hand will hopefully raise the profile of NASCAR to a new group of fans.
TMS has Eddie Gossage, who is a good promoter, as the head of the Speedway. Gossage cut his teeth with Humpy Wheeler in Charlotte, and hopefully he has made arrangements for some key drivers to stop-by and say an early morning hello.
With the right guests, and the friendly dynamic of the fans being there live, this could be a really good shot in the arm for ESPN just when they needed it.
Please feel free to add your comments below, just click on the COMMENTS button.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The rising tide of anger directed at ESPN after a weekend of problems and then a Monday night disaster has been spreading.
Stories on various Internet sites, including NASCAR.com and even mainstream newspapers have finally been reflecting the incredible frustration of NASCAR fans over ESPN's problems both at the track and in the studio.
Monday night, NASCAR Now never mentioned the fact that ESPN had pushed the Busch Series race completely off the air just minutes before it was about to begin. Host Erik Kuselias never apologized, never explained, and never even acknowledged that there had been a problem. That is simply unbelievable.
As the show progressed, NASCAR Now chose not to interview the first time winner of the Busch race that ESPN2 had carried live. Never followed-up on the great story of his car's design, the charity involved, or how this win so deeply affected his team. The fact that he had not been interviewed live after the race by ESPN apparently was completely ignored. Did I mention the word unbelievable?
Finally, Monday's NASCAR Now chose to ignore The Craftsman Truck Series race from Atlanta entirely. The tight points race, the veteran competitors, and the great racing made no difference. This race was on SPEED, and suddenly it did not matter that it was one of only three national touring series. The show had aired on another network, and as has happened so often this season, ESPN completely ignored NASCAR reality...because they could. Now, it had gotten mind boggling.
Tuesday's NASCAR Now brought yet another surprise. Viewers heard the familiar tones of ESPN veteran Marty Reid as the show opened, and found Marty hosting the entire program. As has happened so often this year, there was no mention of where host Erik Kuselias went, or why Ryan Burr was not hosting the show.
Marty Reid is one of the most hard-working and nicest TV personalities you could ever meet. Long before his high-profile assignments with IndyCar and the NHRA, Reid was knee-deep in mud with the off-road trucks, and has covered tons of racing of all kinds in his career. His appearance on NASCAR Now brought-up more questions than answers.
As had been the case with Allen Bestwick, Reid swung through the thirty minute show with good humor and the right attitude. He finally had a chance to talk with the NASCAR Now reporters, and they clearly enjoyed his presence. Marty and Allen both share the same kind of self-effacing humor with their TV viewers and broadcast partners. Its never too serious, its just racing.
Seeing Reid on the show brought to mind the sudden weekend appearance of Bill Lester a while back. Lester appeared, worked an entire weekend of shows, and then vanished. When The Daly Planet asked ESPN about it, they said it was a one time thing. Lester said nothing in the media about it at all. The word "audition" comes to mind.
If Reid was taking a moment to try-out for the host position for next season, sign him up right now. NASCAR Now has never been at a lower point than after the debacle of Monday night. Angry emails from fans flooded The Daly Planet, and the questioning fan emails posted on the ESPN boards were wiped clean almost instantly. Across the Internet, however, the screaming of the fans continued.
What else can be done to fans of this sport? One whole series ignored. A driver cast aside for college football is again ignored after his first win. The stories of a three race weekend are ignored for scripted hype and artificial excitement about a Chase that involves only two drivers.
How should David Reutimann feel about ESPN right now? Owner Michael Waltrip? Toyota? How should Atlanta Truck Series winner Kyle Busch feel?
Locked in an exciting points battle, how should Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday feel about no coverage of their sport? This is about their careers, their lives, and their hard work for the last nine months being ignored. Can things at NASCAR Now get any lower?
The only saving grace for this Tuesday was the smiling presence of Marty Reid, and the fact that he led this off-balance network through a good show. Marty has been ESPN's "go to" guy this season for Busch Series races, and now for their studio show. If Marty appears on Wednesday, maybe he will shed some light on why he is doing the show, and what changes we might be seeing for next season. Some kind of light at the end of the tunnel is exactly what ESPN needs right now.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and add your opinion.
We certainly have been having fun with this new feature of The Daly Planet. The way it works is that you get to ask us any question about the NASCAR TV partners, the TV coverage, or anything that has to do with what you have been seeing this season, and we will try to answer it right away.
This post will go up Tuesday, and we will begin answering your questions between 8AM and 8PM all day Wednesday. If we have some left-over issues, we will sort them out on Thursday and Friday until everything is done.
You have shown some great interest in having the "TV stuff" talked about and we have really been having fun trying our best to get you answers. We have several TV types who have been helping us out, and all we ask is that you do not attempt to answer any questions in this post as it gets the discussion off-track. If you would like to help, just drop an email to email@example.com and we can talk about it.
So, here we go. To ask your NASCAR TV question, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and then follow the easy instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not even require your email address. All we want is your questions. Thanks for helping us with this fun project.
Monday, October 29, 2007
This past weekend was big for all three of NASCAR's national touring series. It was also a big weekend for ESPN, who split their crews and produced two races. Several ESPN on-air talent flew from Atlanta to Memphis, and worked both the Busch and Cup Series events.
With a high-speed Truck Series race from Atlanta on Saturday as well, this gave NASCAR Now on Monday plenty of rich racing content to relate to viewers in this one hour show.
The Saturday Busch Series race was huge in so many ways. Finally, this series was able to run a stand-alone event that was free of the domination of the NEXTEL Cup drivers who cross-over and run Busch races. In addition, the Memphis track is perfect for these cars and their rough-and-tumble short track racing styles.
The field included Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and NASCAR veteran Sterling Marlin. Youngsters like Brad Coleman and Brad Keselowski were racing alongside of stars like Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray. Also in the field was a disappointed David Reutimann, who had failed to make the Cup race in Atlanta.
It was clear there would be plenty of stories for ESPN's Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace, and Randy LaJoie to follow during their live telecast. Allen Bestwick would patrol pit road.
On Monday evening NASCAR Now came out of a commercial break with heavy metal rock music blaring. Suddenly, there were video highlights of a race with cars crashing and spinning. One car ran through the mud. There was a picture of Jack Roush just standing there.
Then, there was a picture of David Reutimann very happy and climbing on his car. Program host Erik Kuselias said nothing. In-studio analyst Boris Said was silent. The screaming rock video was thirty seconds long. Thirty seconds long.
This was all that was to be seen of the Busch Series race from Memphis. ESPN's telecast crew had not submitted a "wrap-up" of the race. There was no mention that it was Michael Waltrip Racing's first win for Toyota in NASCAR. There was no mention of the fact that it was David Reutimann's first Busch Series victory in sixty-three starts. But, there is so much more to this story than just that.
As the race was telecast live on Saturday, ESPN2 chose to leave after the race and go directly to a live college football game which was not yet in-progress. The first win for MWR, the first for an MWR Toyota, and the first for Reutimann did not matter. Nothing was followed-up on ESPN News or SportsCenter. The distraction of a Busch race was finally over, and the network returned to stick-and-ball sports.
Now, it was Monday and the one hour ESPN "NASCAR only" show had chosen to bypass the single NASCAR series that ESPN carries from start to finish. No one from the ESPN crew at the track had interviewed the winner, no one had taken five minutes to send a "wrap-up" back to Bristol. No one had found Carl Edwards and interviewed the series points leader who had crashed in the event. No one followed-up on the rough driving penalties, the short tempers, or the fate of Dario Franchitti.
There are three races left in this season for the Busch Series, and NASCAR Now showed only thirty seconds of unexplained highlights with rock music replacing the announcer. Unless you had already seen the race, it made absolutely no sense at all. Then, as this program has done so many times this season, NASCAR Now added insult to injury.
After this Busch Series music video, viewers then watched a full one minute and ten seconds of a random NEXTEL Cup music video. It was complete with cars turning left, fans pointing at the cars turning left, and even Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon ducking in and out of the Port-O-Lets right before the race. Airplanes flew, pit crews huddled, and cute girls in the stands jumped up and down. One minute and ten seconds. On national TV, that is an eternity.
Had this time been given to ESPN's own Busch Series coverage, NASCAR Now could have saved a shred of dignity. Interviews could have been done, a "wrap-up" could have been shown, and with only a couple of races left, ESPN could have promoted the very series that they promised NASCAR they would build-up with the power of their ESPN brand. The power of the ESPN brand and NASCAR.
Saturday at Atlanta, the Craftsman Truck Series took to the track. With only a handful of races remaining, this series is a battle between veterans Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner for the championship. This has been one of NASCAR's most watchable series, and the racing at Atlanta featured an incredible feat by Kyle Busch.
As a "truck-whacker" with no points on the line, Busch held it wide open until he had a big problem. His window net was falling down, and he knew NASCAR would black flag him and bring him into the pits for repair. So, he did what any driver would do at one hundred and ninety miles an hour on a steeply banked track. He held it up with one hand and drove with the other until he got a caution flag.
"That was awesome" said fellow driver Hornaday. "He had that thing sideways driving with one hand...it was impossible...and he did it." With the net fixed, Busch pulled away from Hornaday on the final restart and won the race. The SPEED TV compound is right alongside the ESPN compound at Atlanta. The race was live on SPEED nationwide.
NASCAR Now decided that the best approach to this race and the exciting finish would be to pretend it did not happen. That's right, there was not one mention of the Truck race on the one hour weekend wrap-up show. A national points race coming down to the wire. Great action in front of an enthusiastic crowd. One of the NEXTEL Cup "Chasers" driving around Atlanta with one hand and then winning the race. They pretended it did not happen.
Last week The Daly Planet ran a column entitled "Ryan Burr Steps-Up To The Big Time." Burr hosted this very program the previous week and showed extensive highlights of the Truck Series race on SPEED. NASCAR Now even used the audio from the SPEED announcers in the highlights, and other show elements. The Trucks were presented as "news."
The program continued to sizzle with Toyota Shoot-Out highlights of NASCAR's Grand National Series finale which aired on SPEED. Burr interviewed young phenom and Shoot-Out winner Joey Lagano and led him through a fun conversation that promoted regional racing and let viewers in on this young man's plans for the future.
On this Monday, however, Erik Kuselias returned NASCAR Now to the disaster it has been for most of the season. Chad Knaus called-in by phone just like he did on Sirius Radio earlier in the day. Tired Boris Said talked in circles about racing that he has yet to conquer, and the "Insiders" once again responded to every scripted question with "I just talked to blah-blah today and..." Even for an entry level fan, this was tough to take.
Many Daly Planet readers had hoped that Ryan Burr would return for the rest of the season as the regular host of this series. At the least, he would return to bring credibility to the Monday one hour wrap-up show. It did not happen. News and information had left the building, hype and blaring music videos had returned.
Two of the three NASCAR series that tour the nation had been avoided, one of them completely. Every story from Toyota to MWR to Kyle Busch and the window net was untold, and unseen. David Reutimann did not even have his fifteen seconds to tell us about winning his first Busch race.
It seems ironic that when Reuitmann hit the wall earlier this year in California, NASCAR Now repeated that footage over twenty times in this very one hour show. Now he finally wins, and is ignored.
The season will soon be over, and memories of Doug Banks, the Eliminator, Driver Pick 'Ems, and Fantasy Editors will begin to fade. What this series accomplished for ESPN and NASCAR will remain a good topic of debate over Christmas. In January, we should know who will be hosting NASCAR Now for next season.
That announcement will finally tell NASCAR fans if ESPN is open to change, or if NASCAR will continue to be simply a source of amusement and curiosity for the Bristol, Connecticut network that holds the TV contract for seven more years.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
1 - Thank you for commenting over the last three days on the NASCAR TV activity. There will be a full week of columns beginning Sunday night about the issues involving all three racing series and the TV coverage of them by ESPN and SPEED.
2 - The dates of the postings did not match-up over the weekend as I was traveling and monitoring the site from the road. The dates will be correct starting Sunday evening. There are some things that even Google is not great at doing quite yet.
3 - We are talking about whether or not to continue the posting of comments as events are in-progress. This original forum has changed into two groups who are "taking sides" and "making statements" about the two TV networks currently involved in producing NASCAR TV programs and events. That was not the point of allowing these comments, and we will decide this week if they will continue.
4 - Jayski has been a friend to this site since it began in February, and there is absolutely no conflict between The Daly Planet and Jayski in any way. We stay in regular email contact, and he posts the stories that I forward to him in a timely fashion once he has decided they fit the criteria for his site. If you have a question or comment about Jayski, direct it to me by email at email@example.com please.
5 - This is crunch time for the TV networks. This past weekend was the result of nine months of preparation and practice by both the ESPN on ABC and the SPEED Network production teams. While ESPN used the Busch Series as "practice" for the NEXTEL Cup telecasts, SPEED has been producing the Truck Series and their weekly programs all season long. Over the next several weeks, we will be talking specifically about which of these programs and networks is currently serving the NASCAR fans, and what issues remain to be solved.
Please feel free to add your comments to any of the issues above. Thanks again.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
This week the ESPN on ABC crew continues their coverage of the NEXTEL Cup Series with a live telecast from the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The afternoon begins at 1PM Eastern Time with Brent Musburger and Suzy Kolber hosting a one hour edition of NASCAR Countdown. Alongside Kolber in the Infield Studio for this show will be Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace.
Race coverage starts at 2PM and is scheduled until 6PM on the ABC stations nationwide.
The ESPN on ABC broadcast team will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree in the announce booth. On pit road will be Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Jamie Little and Dave Burns. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Center.
This page will host your comments about the telecast on ABC. Please restrict your comments to TV-related issues, and read the rules on the right hand side of the main page before posting. To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and you do not have to leave your email address.
Thank you once again for taking the time to stop-by The Daly Planet and leave your opinion of the NASCAR TV partners.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Noon Eastern Time on Sunday will begin the two hour live RaceDay program on SPEED.
With the Martinsville show moved-up to an earlier timeslot because of a network scheduling issue, this show will now return to its normal schedule of competing head-to-head with ABC's NASCAR Countdown.
John Roberts hosts the program, with Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace alongside. Wendy Venturini reports from the garage area and pit road, and Hermie Sadler offers the track description and SPEED-1 ride-a-long camera car feature. Ricki Rachtman stops-by to participate in the RaceDay "office pool" and pick a race winner.
This page will host your comments about this two hour program on SPEED. Please restrict your comments to the TV issues associated with this show, and read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page before doing so.
To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not require your email address. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your TV opinion at The Daly Planet.
Saturday afternoon at 3PM Eastern Time ESPN2 continues its coverage of the Busch Series.
First up live from Memphis Motorsports Park is a thirty minute version of NASCAR Countdown. Then, at 3:30PM ESPN2 begins the race telecast.
TV veteran Marty Reid will anchor the ESPN2 coverage, with both Randy LaJoie and Rusty Wallace alongside for analysis. On pit road will be Allen Bestwick, Shannon Spake, and Vince Welch. There is no current info on who will host the Countdown show.
This page will host your comments about the ESPN2 coverage of the Busch Series in Memphis. You may add your comment before, during, or after the program airs. Please read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page before adding your comment.
To post your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not require your email address. We just want your opinion. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by The Daly Planet.
Saturday is a big day for SPEED and the Craftsman Truck Series coverage.
The network begins at 9AM Eastern Time with a thirty minute version of NASCAR Live, and then covers the qualifying for the Trucks live. That session is followed by another thirty minute NASCAR Live.
At noon SPEED returns to update events at the track once again from the NASCAR Live set, and then the Truck Series coverage begins at 12:30PM
Krista Voda hosts the Craftstman Truck Series pre-race show called The Set-Up first, and then at 1PM the race coverage begins. Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will call the action, there is no official word on whether Michael Waltrip will join them. On pit road will be Adam Alexander and Bob Dillner covering for the suspended Ray Dunlap. UPDATE: SPEED informed us Friday Dillner will not be working the Truck race this weekend. No replacement has been named yet.
This page will host the Saturday comments about SPEED's coverage of the Trucks. Please restrict your comments to the TV issues associated with the broadcasts, and read the rules on the right side of the main page prior to posting.
To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and then follow the instructions. Thank you for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion at The Daly Planet.
Friday evening at 7PM Eastern Time ESPN2 will present NEXTEL Cup Qualifying from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. This program is scheduled to run for two hours.
Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree will handle the announcing duties. Joining them on pit road will be Dave Burns, Jamie Little, and Mike Massaro.
ESPN routinely has chosen not to present practice sessions other than Happy Hour or to originate any additional live programming from the NEXTEL Cup venues. This two hour program is the extent of their on-site coverage for Friday.
This page will host your comments about the ESPN2 coverage of qualifying. Please restrict your comments to issues associated with the broadcast, and review the rules for posting on the right side of the main page.
To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Thank you for stopping-by and leaving your opinion on The Daly Planet.
Friday afternoon at 2PM Eastern Time, SPEED will telecast live the practice session for the Craftsman Truck Series. This show will be preceded and followed by a NASCAR Live thirty minute program updating information from the track.
Calling the Truck Series practice will be Rick Allen with Phil Parsons alongside. Bob Dillner and Adam Alexander will handle the reporting duties from the garage area. SPEED has not updated The Daly Planet as to whether Michael Waltrip will join this team for practice.
UPDATE: SPEED has just told us Bob Dillner will not be reporting at the Truck race. They will update us when a replacement has been named.
This page will host your comments about this SPEED telecast. You may comment before, during, or after the program. Please restrict your comments to the TV issues associated with the broadcast, and review the rules for posting on the right side of the main page.
To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENT button below and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not require your email address. Thanks for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.
This is a triple-header weekend for NASCAR fans with all three of NASCAR's national touring series underway. It should be very interesting for TV viewers.
SPEED handles the Craftsman Trucks from Atlanta early on Saturday afternoon while ESPN2 telecasts the Busch Series from Memphis later on Saturday. Finally, ABC hosts the NEXTEL Cup Series from Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.
There is live Truck Series practice on Friday featured on SPEED, and ESPN2 shows NEXTEL Cup qualifying in primetime Friday night.
Saturday morning SPEED handles live Truck qualifying, and then returns for the race in the early afternoon. ESPN2 has the live Busch Series from Memphis once the Trucks are done, if things go as planned.
The big race is Sunday afternoon for the NEXTEL Cup Series and it will feature the royal treatment from the ESPN on ABC gang. Brent Musburger will host the telecast which features the usual cast of characters.
For readers of The Daly Planet, this is a great opportunity to watch the way two very different networks cover the same sport. SPEED and ESPN are as different as night and day. One has a casual and friendly approach to the race viewers, while ESPN offers the more formal and grandiose approach of covering a race. The ESPN way is called "big event coverage."
The network uses tons of equipment, lots of announcers, and has news updates and features and walks the fine line of actually overwhelming the event itself. This has been the challenge of ESPN this season, how to "tone it down" when the ESPN executives are still wanting to "turn it up."
ESPN is "breaking off" a second crew to produce the Memphis Busch telecast. Both Rusty Wallace and Allen Bestwick are going to fly to Memphis from Atlanta for the race, but several other cast members are new.
Marty Reid steps over from both NHRA and IndyCar coverage to host, and he is going to be joined by the outspoken Randy LaJoie. It should be fascinating to watch the "booth dynamic" of Reid, LaJoie, and Rusty Wallace unfold.
The Daly Planet will have live event comment pages for every race and major program of the weekend. Please stop-by and leave your opinion about the performance of these NASCAR TV partners. Hopefully, with good weather, this should be a great weekend of NASCAR racing.
We welcome comments from readers. To add your comment to this column, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Thanks again for stopping-by.
The Daly Planet once called Tradin' Paint on SPEED "the little series that could." This show was once considered a throw-a-way and has now attracted the attention of a big number of NASCAR fans for one reason. That would be Kyle Petty.
His addition to Tradin' Paint has made this little thirty minute show a must-see for serious fans and media members as well. The format is simple. John Roberts is the host, he throws out the topics and then directs traffic. Alongside of Roberts is Petty, who is the "designated driver" of the series. He appears in each show. Then comes the interesting part.
The third panelist is a random member of the NASCAR "media." This season, the definition of "media member" has been expanded a bit, and with good results. Formerly limited to print and "deadline" media folks, this season there has been a mix of TV announcers and reporters in the Tradin' Paint soup.
On this weekend, a face appeared that was familiar to fans of an earlier show on SPEED called Pit Bulls. This series was an attempt to get multiple media members together and let them discuss a variety of NASCAR topics. First, it was entertaining, and then it was a disaster. Eventually, it was cancelled.
Mike Mulhern, a NASCAR reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, was an original Pit Bull member. After being introduced by Roberts on this episode of Tradin' Paint, he said to the panel "the last TV show I was on got cancelled because Brian (France) didn't like what I had to say." That is certainly one way to set the tone.
Robert pitched the "top 35" rule as the first topic. Petty, who is right on the "top 35" bubble, talked about his experience this season and then Mulhern stepped right in. Calling the rule completely obsolete, Mulhern got the Petty blood boiling in less than one minute.
"That's bull crap," said Petty. "Its to protect the teams that have run all the races!" Mulhern was not going to be swayed. Petty made the point that NASCAR teams are basically worthless when sold without any type of franchising, and this was NASCAR's only way. The points from the previous year helped the team's value.
Roberts led the now brawling duo into the "Car of Tomorrow Land" which Mulhern promptly called a complete "boondoggle" by NASCAR. Petty responded that it was the media to blame, and told Mulhern where the COT was concerned to "get off it." His point was to protect the sport and give the COT a chance to run its first full season.
The problems at Yates Racing allowed Mulhern to address a bigger issue when he called for Ford to "get their act together on things." Calling attention to Robby Gordon, Mulhern said "the whole Ford Motor Company (NASCAR) operation needs to be re-vamped." Petty himself was on the hot seat for his recent merger rumors, and he put them to rest by saying "we do not marry the first pretty girl that comes along."
Petty expounded that the nature of the current racing business forces the "four team" rule to be pushed in creative ways. Petty draws the line at housing more than four NEXTEL Cup teams under the same roof with one owner, no matter how "creative" the finances or ownership.
The strong words from Petty about Joe Gibbs Racing were interesting. In the on-going GM final year vs. Toyota future debate, Petty's point was that any in-house problems at Gibbs should have been discussed behind closed doors. "GM has the perfect right to be upset with Joe Gibbs," said Petty.
When the subject of impound races arose, Petty and Mulhern quickly agreed that NASCAR had to change the rules for next season. Both suggested either all races or no races being impound races was the only way to go. This one was easy.
John Roberts has been a workhorse for SPEED, and his preparation for Tradin' Paint is not exactly what it should be these days. How can you blame him with the way SPEED has squeezed every possible on-air moment out of him for the last ten months?
It may be time to consider a new host, like a Randy Pemberton or Wendy Venturini. This would allow some separation of Roberts from this one SPEED show, give another SPEED on-air talent a chance, and perhaps result in some more structured questions for the panelists. Roberts is great, just stretched way to thin by the network.
Tradin' Paint has gotten itself back on-track after a little excursion to "owner land" several shows ago, and that is great to see. Now, the only thing left is for the series Producer to pick top-notch personalities as guests for these last handful of shows. November should see this excellent series go out on a high note.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions to add your opinion. Please read the rules on the right hand side of the main page before posting, and thank for taking the time to stop-by and give us your thoughts.
The tale of Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED this season has been one of an up-and-down TV series. Sometimes informative, and sometimes way off-the-mark, this decade old NASCAR series was rumored to be on its last legs.
Monday night, as host Dave Despain welcomed his regular panel of Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, and Kenny Schrader, things looked to be a bit on the boring side after a single file Martinsville race that featured little racing and lots of bumping.
After the opening conversations, Despain brought-up the on-going story of Carl Edwards pushing around Matt Kenseth after the Martinsville Cup race. This was made more real for SPEED because it was reporter Bob Dillner's camera crew that captured the brief confrontation.
In most circumstances, the current INC panel has been a group of peacemakers who put the best interests of the sport and the sponsors ahead of any momentary loss of reason that may occur after a long and hot race. Not this time.
Once Despain showed the footage, and asked the panel about their thoughts, things took a very interesting turn. For one brief moment, the kind of frank and sometimes brutally honest comments that made this show a hit years ago rose from the ashes.
Greg Biffle was just back from being married, is a veteran Cup driver, and is a Roush/Fenway Racing team member. His response to Despain was fully expected to be coated in politics and cliches. Instead, what happened next was amazing.
"Carl came from a few rows back, bombed down into turns one and two, and door-slammed Matt up the racetrack. Then, to make matters worse, as they were on the corner exit ran him (Kenseth) off into the back stretch wall," said Biffle.
"If you drive like that, you have got to be able to take it," he continued. "You would expect that Carl would figure if he drives like that, somebody is going to race him the same way, especially a team mate. So, in the next corner...Matt just bumped the back of him and he lost two or three spots back to where he was," he stated.
But, Biffle and the panel were not done yet with Carl Edwards. Not by a longshot. Things were about to go from plain talk to harsh words. Greg Biffle ended with his parting shot at Edwards by saying of his actions after the race "I think the true colors (of Edwards) are coming out there." Then, in another moment that reminded viewer of the "old days," Michael Waltrip spoke-up.
"When I think about it, its disrespectful to Jack Roush," said Waltrip. "When Carl came up to Matt after the race with the TV cameras rolling and started pushing on Matt it really made me sick to my stomach. I'm a car owner now and I see it through Jack's eyes and I don't like what I saw," exclaimed Waltrip.
Kenny Schrader was to the point, as always. "They need to sit down and get over it, Carl didn't handle that right at all." His face told the story of someone who had been through a lot worse in racing, and thought Edwards antics to be ridiculous.
The remainder of the show was good, and it was good in part because Despain had stumbled across what former INC host Allen Bestwick knew so well. To get the best out of the three panelists, get them wound-up early on something they feel strongly about. Bestwick was the master at this, and he would then transition the panel into the highlights and things would take-off.
Unfortunately, Despain does not have this touch, and simply uses his monotone to read the script for the highlights, actively trying to quash all driver antics. In this show, the drivers continued to pour-out the good information, despite the repeated interruptions of Despain. He simply cannot lose "control" on TV.
The difference in this show was having Greg Biffle back on the set. On the subject of Tony Stewart, the panel again got Despain off-track and began a discussion of Tony "self policing" the Martinsville track. Said Waltrip, "there has to be somebody in charge." Biffle and Schrader were dialed-in to goofing around, and for once Despain lost his leadership position to good old INC laughter.
The panel was all over the correct information about the race, and several times corrected Despain while he was reading his script. Even teasing each other during their own highlights, Waltrip and Biffle were having a great time. Having a solid third panelist to join Waltrip and Schrader is a key to this series carrying on.
The candid comments and great information flowed better on this episode than they had in many shows. This was due in-part to Michael Waltrip keeping his head in the game for the entire hour, with no sponsor plugs and no changes of topic for reasons related to his team or manufacturer. What a difference a dialed-in Waltrip makes for the viewer.
Toward the end of the show, Waltrip stepped-up to offer the official explanation of the green/white/checkered flag finish. The panel led Despain through a recap of why and how things happened in the final three laps of the Cup Series race. Today, these guys were earning their money.
In a wonderful stroke of luck, the show came up "light," and this allowed the panel to talk about life outside of the NASCAR circle. Finally, it was clear to viewers how the personalities of these three drivers are so completely different. Waltrip talked sponsors and family, Biffle talked fishing, and Schrader said he was going out to eat later. This was the type of fun that SPEED viewers have been missing.
There are only a couple of episodes left for INC this season. After months of problems and turmoil, to see this type of free-flowing and orderly show clearly suggests that SPEED executives got involved and decided to put things in order.
If only for one night, the kind of casual and chaotic fun that allowed this show to become a hit was on display again. SPEED has not announced if INC will return for 2008, but with a fresh host and the continued support of the production executives, this franchise may have not taken its last breath.
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Monday, October 22, 2007
Standing alone in the ESPN2 High Definition studios, Ryan Burr had a big smile across his face. Finally, Burr was getting an opportunity to host the one hour version of ESPN's racing show NASCAR Now. He would make the most of this opportunity.
As The Daly Planet has mentioned before, Burr has solid credentials behind him in TV journalism, and is currently working as an anchor on the ESPN News Network. Many emails have come our way from former co-workers and associates of Burr that all say the same thing. Great guy and hard worker. Monday on NASCAR Now those traits certainly showed.
Burr works fast, and he launched into the Martinsville NEXTEL Cup highlights without gimmicks or hype. He followed the video with a replay of his interview with Jimmie Johnson from the track on Sunday night. Johnson enjoyed the interview, and Burr asked all the right questions. Then, he tackled the controversy.
NASCAR Now reporters Angelique Chengelis and Marty Smith stopped-by to deal with the frustrations expressed after the race by Carl Edwards. In the past, NASCAR Now would have been over-the-moon with Erik Kuselias and Tim Cowlishaw hyping this incident for the entire hour. Smith and Chengelis put this one incident in perspective and then moved on to other news. What an outstanding change of pace for this show. Kudos for Burr for mentioning SPEED in reference to the footage.
Moving on to the Johnson vs. Gordon relationship, Burr questioned the honesty of the seemingly mild-mannered rivalry. He pushed both of the reporters for answers, and got them in clear terms. This was exactly the way to use these "Insiders."
Veteran reporter Mike Massaro showed up next to present a feature on the Martinsville experience of Jeff Gordon. Massaro and Burr were standing in the Home Depot garage on the ESPN2 set. Interestingly, once again ESPN chose to use the outstanding radio call of MRN's Dave Moody in place of the ABC audio of Jerry Punch in the highlights.
With Burr and Massaro side-by-side, finally two TV professionals were interacting and talking on ESPN where NASCAR was concerned. What a breath of fresh air.
Amazingly, NASCAR Now freely used the call of the SPEED announcers when showing their outstanding video recap feature on the NASCAR weekend at Martinsville. This really added another element to the show, as many things happened and many incidents occurred in the Truck race on SPEED. It was great of ESPN to include the audio along with the video highlights.
Jamie Little's post-race interview with Carl Edwards went a long way to answer the question of what was on his mind when he manhandled the much smaller Matt Kenseth. This sound was part of a big Chase contenders recap that put a lot in perspective for fans who watched the race on ABC. That crew left a lot of information at the track, and once the telecast was over they really did not offer viewers any closure.
Shannon Spake returned for her usual Monday feature, but this time she was off the mark. Spake was once again covering a topic that is making NASCAR fans absolutely crazy. That is the two glamour boys of Hendrick Motorsports, and the eternal question of...when will they fight? Spake added nothing new, had no new footage, and ended with a rambling interview of Chad Knaus who affirmed no hard feelings.
The king of reality for NASCAR Now has been Stacy Compton. This time, he addressed one final time the Hendrick Motorsports reality of Jeff Gordon being Jimmie Johnson's mentor and friend. Stacy has been putting things back into perspective for the ESPN anchors and commentators on this program all season long.
The NASCAR Now reporters returned with multiple news updates. They covered Jeremy Mayfield, Bill Davis Racing, Jacque Villeneuve and the future of Haas CNC Motorsports. Smith and Chengelis work well together, and both are confident enough in their own abilities to share the spotlight with another reporter.
Burr continued the fast pace of this show with highlights of both the Truck Series and the Toyota All-Star Shootout. Both these events were on SPEED, and it was great to see ESPN stepping-up and showing NASCAR highlights without regard to which network televised the event.
After rejecting the regional NASCAR racing action earlier this season, Burr hosted driver Joey Logano and led him through a review of his season and the outlook for his future in the sport. "It was awesome" said Logano of winning the Toyota Shootout as he smiled broadly. Imagine, happy people on NASCAR Now.
Burr again asked the right questions, including the relationship seventeen year old Logano has with the older competitors. At the end of the interview, a smiling Logano said "thanks, man." This interview meant a lot to the NASCAR regional racers, and it ended the Grand National Series on a good note for ESPN.
After a concise preview of the upcoming Atlanta race by Stacy Compton, Burr made several indirect references to his opportunity to host this show, and then told viewers he would be back on Tuesday. While this is a positive turn for the struggling NASCAR Now, there was one thing Burr could not avoid. One thing even he must bow-down and pay homage to as an ESPN employee.
He took a deep breath and said the one word that has struck fear in the hearts of ESPN's NASCAR viewers since February. It was time for...Aerosmith. Well, the transition to the fifty-nine year old in spandex was rough, but the other fifty-six minutes of NASCAR Now on this Monday was worth a little pain.
Update: Burr continued as the host of NASCAR Now on Tuesday, and worked his way through a show packed with information. Once again, he correctly identified SPEED TV as the source of the Edwards vs. Kenseth footage, and used his reporters to follow-up on this story. The show contained a long fantasy racing segment, but also contained news and a Memphis preview.
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The ESPN assignments are out for this weekend, and one of them is very surprising.
While the normal NEXTEL Cup crew will handle the Atlanta race, the Busch Series is off at Memphis Motorsports Park for a stand-alone event. To the delight of fans, former Busch Series Champ Randy LaJoie will provide the color commentary. But, that is not the story that grabbed our attention.
Hosting the ESPN2 coverage and providing the play-by-play will be Marty Reid. Meanwhile, down on pit road one of his reporters will be Allen Bestwick. That is a stunner.
ESPN has stationed Bestwick on the Busch Series beat all season long. His duties have included play-by-play as well as hosting the Busch Series pre-race show for the telecasts where Dr. Jerry Punch handled the call of the race.
Several times this season, Bestwick has single-handedly hosted the pre-race show, provided the play-by-play, and then hosted the post-race activity on the Busch Series stand-alone races. He was ESPN's one man band for the Busch telecasts.
Why and how Marty Reid comes into play is unclear. Reid is the open-wheel and NHRA broadcaster who has only appeared in a vacation relief role on the NASCAR beat this season. Reid is certainly qualified for this challenge, but once again it appears that Bestwick has been left out in the cold when high-profile assignments for ESPN come around.
One other announcer note, Brent Musburger will be back for the Atlanta race on ABC since he has plenty of time to travel from his Saturday college football assignment.
Also, the fifth installment of the Chasing Glory series airs on Wednesday at 5:30PM on ESPN2. This quality series from NASCAR Images has followed the "Chasers" as they go through the ten final races of the season. It is worth putting on the DVR for later viewing.
Finally, if you missed the outstanding Ultimate NASCAR series on ESPN earlier this season, you have the chance to record two episodes. "The Explosion" episode airs this Thursday at 4AM Eastern Time, and "Greatest Drivers" airs on Friday at 5AM Eastern. This is a chance to see Dr. Jerry Punch doing what he does best...reporting and presenting feature material.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007
Short track racing brings a very different dynamic to the TV networks who try to cover the action live. Gone are the long pace laps of a Talladega, gone are the long caution periods of a road course. From start to finish, things on a short track happen fast, and demand the full attention of the TV crew until the very last corner.
The last several laps of the Sunday NEXTEL Cup race in Martinsville, VA summed-up the fan frustrations with the ESPN on ABC coverage this season. Under caution, the TV Producer chose to replay once again the previous close finish between Jimmie Johnson and one of his car owners, Jeff Gordon.
What they did not do was reset the field. What they did not do was reset the positions of "The Chasers." What they did not do was put their head in the game. It was elsewhere.
Once again, ESPN confirmed to sports fans that this "new ESPN approach" to all types of sports involves promoting the stars of the sport and trying to manufacture drama where, in reality, there is none. At seemingly the most critical times in live sports coverage, ESPN seems to step-out of the moment for the sake of controlling the action and creating their own reality.
Some of the top sportswriters across the nation are livid with this "new ESPN" and their "hype and drama" approach to TV sports coverage.
Phil Mushnick of the NY Post begs ESPN to try and fix Monday Night Football. He says this NFL Series under ESPN is "the most insufferable, big ticket live game series in National TV history."
Mushnick asks "why must every play signal the start of a windy, tortured analysis, lines drawn by Telestrator, the discussion of silly stats, forced cross-promotions, or a throw to Suzy Kolber on the sidelines?" He closes by saying Monday Night Football is "a must-see game delivered in a can't-stand TV package."
These are the same complaints of NASCAR fans with ESPN. Why all the hype? Why all the phony bells and whistles when what all of us came here to see is the race?
We came to see NASCAR racing before ESPN "re-arrived," and we also watch this sport when ESPN is not broadcasting it. Fans are here to focus on the race, not the fact ESPN is covering it. That message has fallen on deaf ears.
On the studio side, Richard Sandomir of the NY Times reviewed the new ESPN magazine show E:60 and found it to be a copy of HBO's Real Sports with "more bling" and hype. The ESPN content was flashy and dressed-up, but absolutely had no originality or exclusivity. The only thing it had was the fact that this time, ESPN was talking about it. How does that make it count?
ABC viewers had to sit through a NASCAR Countdown studio show from Martinsville that insulted the intelligence of even the most basic race fans. It actually included a re-air of a feature shown earlier in the week on NASCAR Now, ESPN's daily racing show. It was the driver's "race" to the airport when the real race was over. The thirty minute program was worthless.
The inane ramblings of Brad Daugherty mixed with the perky but un-informed comments of Suzy Kolber created a fatal mix for fan interest. The NASCAR Countdown show is a disaster that is continuing to implode.
Rusty Wallace sweats his way through a brief appearance and then flees for the relative safety of the broadcast booth. Wallace and Daugherty are not on the same page, and several times this season Wallace clearly restrained himself in his comments about the "analysis" of Daugherty. Even Dale Jarrett took Daugherty to task for his "knowledge" level.
Sunday at Martinsville, ESPN just seemed to be going through the motions. Dr. Jerry Punch cannot rise to the occasion when the intensity of a true play-by-play announcer is required. On short tracks, it is required a lot. Listening to both the radio call of the race and the TV commentary of Punch is mind altering.
What viewers are seeing and hearing on TV is often times completely the opposite of what the radio announcers are describing. This is the quandary of ESPN. The struggle with reality.
Rusty Wallace was the subject of rumors this week about being replaced. While ESPN quickly chose to assure viewers Wallace was "their man" in the booth, it is clear that the threesome currently announcing for ESPN is in trouble. Wallace and Petree disagree a lot, and in this race Wallace was exposed time-and-time again for having less knowledge about many aspects of racing than the experienced Petree.
It often seems that Punch is speaking to Wallace, and Petree is just an afterthought. In fact, it is the competency of Andy Petree that has kept many of these telecasts from becoming almost slapstick comedy. Earlier this season at Bristol, TN and this week at Martinsville, Punch was absolutely tongue-tied as to the action on the track. Only Petree's calm nature once again allowed the ESPN crew to sort things out and save face.
In the final laps at Martinsville, David Ragan spun to cause the caution that ended the race. Never was this addressed or replayed. Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled to the inside and never even re-started. ESPN never said why. As the field thundered across the start-finish line at full speed, the network never showed us that Ragan's car was still in the middle of the track.
At Talladega, on the final lap, ESPN missed the daring move of Jeff Gordon for the lead that eventually won him the race. A complete whiff. Sunday at Martinsville, ESPN never went "wide" and showed us the spun car, the pack continuing to race, or NASCAR waiting until the last moment to put out the caution. Nothing.
The network was obsessed with their own created storyline of Jeff vs. Jimmie for the win. They stayed glued to the leader and never left. Once again, what was actually happening in a sporting event was interfering with the storyline ESPN wanted to playout. They stayed with their reality, and missed everything on the track.
Phil Musnick's statements about Monday Night Football and Richard Sandomir's review of E:60 fit very nicely into this column about Martinsville. For whatever reason, the struggle seems to be between ESPN and reality right now. The battle over who will control the content of your sports TV broadcasts is new and confusing.
ESPN on Sunday got in all of their ABC commercials, all of their ESPN/ABC promos, all of their sponsored features, and all of their billboards for the various products. They showed us the Infield Studio, the SportsCenter updates, the Tech Center, and even the live "helmet cam" on a pit crew member.
What they did not show us was the race. What they did not follow-up were the stories. What they confirmed was that content is secondary and ESPN's network agenda is primary.
Emails and comments to this site contained phrases like "lost me as a fan" and "had enough for this season." One viewer wrote that he had been a dedicated fan since 1959 and "he was done" simply because of the "horrible TV coverage." One female viewer called it a "sad, sad mess."
ESPN and NASCAR need to roll-up their sleeves and step directly into this sinking ship of TV ratings right now. Regardless of the money, regardless of the egos, and regardless of the public humiliation, something must be done before things get even worse.
By the close of The Chase, the TV audience for NASCAR may have been so deeply affected by the poor coverage of TNT and ESPN that the sport itself may take years to recover. If it recovers at all.
Update SportsCenter: Kenny Mayne spent the NASCAR highlights portion of SC referring to Jeff Gordon as "Gordo." He referred to Jimmie Johnson's #48 as the "per diem car" because that is the amount of money ESPN staffers get to eat per day when traveling. When Gordon's catch-can slipped out, and the gas man was forced to stop fueling, Mayne said "he dropped the catch-can, whatever that is." The NASCAR highlights were treated as a joke from start to finish on this national show which was taped Sunday night, as repeated many times on ESPN Monday morning.
Please note: This column was linked by Jayski.com on his articles/links page. We appreciate his continued support and want to thank him for his help this season.
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It certainly has been one of the hottest topics for fans of the outstanding NASCAR coverage delivered every race weekend on SPEED. On one of the key weekends of the NASCAR season, SPEED chose to move their Sunday morning program called RaceDay.
This two hour live program is a mix of news, conversation, and features. It has struck a chord with fans, and this season has been scheduled in a position to overlap the ESPN/ABC pre-race show called NASCAR Countdown.
While SPEED has undergone many changes over the last several years, they find themselves in the position of continuing to host live Formula-1 coverage. Voiced-over in SPEED's network headquarters in Charlotte, NC, this series has a cult following in the US that is dedicated to the point of fanatical.
SPEED has clung to this base of fans, and often appears to cater to them more than any other fanbase on the SPEEDtv.com website. Prior to SPEED investing in the multiple at-track programs on the NASCAR circuit, it was the open-wheel and Rally coverage that kept the network on the TV map.
Sunday morning, SPEED faced a choice that ESPN had also faced many times during their first decade of growth. Two high-profile and successful programs were locked in a Mexican stand-off. Both wanted to be on the air at 11:30AM on Sunday morning.
Formula-1 had the promise of a season-ending championship fight. The drivers had been battling all season long on a wide variety of circuits and in very diverse weather conditions. It was going to be a great live event from Brazil.
RaceDay has come into its own this season, and has been a tightly-knit crew of TV personalities who have momentum on their side. The failure of the ESPN on ABC crew to present a viable pre-race show has played into the hands of SPEED who took a big chance when scheduling RaceDay to directly compete with NASCAR Countdown.
So, SPEED faced a tough decision anyway you cut it. This was a classic case of a TV program vs. a TV event. The program was RaceDay, which has no actual "start time" associated with it, where the F-1 race certainly has a scheduled race start.
Moving RaceDay later was not an option, as the NASCAR race would be underway. Tape delaying the F-1 coverage until 1:30PM Eastern Time would have disrupted a full season of live coverage on SPEED. There were two possible solutions.
One, move RaceDay up to 9:30AM and let it run until the F-1 program at 11:30AM. Secondly, make RaceDay available on a different distribution pathway. This could have been another Fox Cable Network like FX, Fuel, or FoxSportsNet. SPEED's decision was to move RaceDay to 9:30AM, and keep the Formula-1 race live at 11:30AM.
As The Daly Planet is NASCAR-themed, we are going to discuss how these changes affected the RaceDay program. Essentially, SPEED removed about four of the six bullets in the RaceDay gun with this change. Removed were the live elements that fans had come to expect, and remaining were the RaceDay on-set announcers and the pre-produced features.
John Roberts and his crew kept brave faces, and the NASCAR fans turned-out at the track, but the program was missing its soul. The production crew worked with the content and conditions they had, switching the focus of the show from live reporting to pre-produced features and conversation.
The single person who paid the highest price for this change was Wendy Venturini. Normally the centerpiece of this show, Venturini found herself working in a time frame where the cars were still in their garage stalls, and the drivers in their RV's. Her "target rich" environment was gone.
The show moved into a cycle where a feature was presented, then discussed. Solid taped pieces were used on a variety of subjects. Clint Bowyer, Junior Johnson and Doug Yates were all used for content. Hermie Sadler, Ricki Rachtman, and the RaceDay panel filled-in the blanks with extended conversations.
This edition of RaceDay had none of the spontaneous interviews and exciting background activity that fans have come to expect. Inside the track, Venturini did her best to arrange some interviews and update some news, but it was not the same.
NASCAR is high-profile and vital to the continued success of SPEED. RaceDay is the anchor of this franchise, and sets-up the other programs and personalities on the network. This program has been on-the-air every race weekend since February. Moving it with only four races to go was a tough decision.
Maybe Wendy Venturini said it best while she stood frustrated outside the driver's meeting all alone. "As soon as they get done with the driver's meeting, we are going to...um...maybe...we are running out of time...I do know that." There would be no drivers interviewed, no pit walks, and no real version of RaceDay this Sunday morning.
NASCAR fans got the short end of the stick from SPEED. This situation shows the network slowly growing into a TV outlet that is going to need a second pathway of program distribution in the future. Maybe, this conflict on Sunday helped SPEED to understand that their future as a big-time sports network may have finally arrived.
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Sunday afternoon at 1:00PM Eastern Time ABC will begin coverage of the NEXTEL Cup Series in Martinsville, VA.
Coverage will begin with a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Countdown, hosted by Suzy Kolber. Alongside of Kolber on this pre-race show will be Brad Daugherty, ESPN's "voice of the fans." In the past several weeks, Rusty Wallace has also joined the panel in the new ESPN Infield Studio.
At 1:30PM, Dr. Jerry Punch takes over and leads Andy Petree and Wallace through this classic short-track race. Supporting these announcers will be pit road reporters Mike Massaro, Allen Bestwick, Jamie Little, and Dave Burns.
There was no mention of Brent Musburger in the ESPN press materials for this event.
This page will host your comments on the pre-race show and the race itself. You can comment before, during, or after the telecast. Please limit your comments to television related issues, and keep your posts within the rules located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop-by and visit us at The Daly Planet.
This Sunday morning at 9:30AM Eastern Time SPEED presents NASCAR RaceDay from Martinsville, VA. This program is airing early because of the live Formula-1 race that SPEED is carrying at 11:30AM.
RaceDay is hosted by John Roberts, and features Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace as analysts. Hermie Sadler is used to offer the track description and the viewer ride-a-long in SPEED-1, the network's camera car. Ricki Rachtman appears on the program to participate in the weekly race winner picks.
News and features on the program are offered by Wendy Venturini. There are only several weeks left in the 2007 NASCAR season, and Venturini's name is all over the place when it comes to current and anticipated openings in "NASCAR TV land." She has worked very hard on this program, and it will be interesting to see what additional role she plays, or where she lands for next year despite her current TV contract.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007
Saturday night at 10PM Eastern Time SPEED will offer NASCAR's Toyota All-Star Showdown live from Irwindale Speedway in California.
Mike Joy and Dr. Dick Berggren will handle the announcing duties, with Ralph Shaheen and Jim Tretow covering pit road. The telecast is scheduled for three hours.
This special NASCAR event is the conclusion of the racing season for NASCAR's regional racing series. This Grand National Division showcases young and rising stars, as well as featuring the established regional stars from around the nation.
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The battle of the NASCAR pre-race shows is going to be shaken-up this Sunday at Martinsville.
RaceDay fans should note that this weekend SPEED has been forced to shift the program away from its normal start time of two hours before the event.
The Brazilian Grand Prix is is the final Formula-1 race of the season on SPEED, and it starts live at 11:30AM. This means no RaceDay, as there is no SPEED2 for simultaneous distribution of two different TV programs.
It is a shame that the Fox family did not simply move RaceDay to the Fox-owned FX Cable Network and let it air at its normal time.
So, an earlier edition of RaceDay is going to be on the air from 9:30 to 11:30AM on Sunday. It could make for a very different show with absolutely nothing going-on at the track during those two hours. This move is a huge impact to a major show on SPEED at a crucial time in the NEXTEL Cup "Chase for the Championship."
This change benefits the struggling NASCAR Countdown show on ABC, which hits the air at 1PM Eastern Time for a thirty minute program. If ESPN had been pro-active, this would have been a great day to have the full one hour edition of this show with no NASCAR TV competition. It will be interesting to see how all this plays-out.
The TV ratings for Charlotte show the continued decline in viewership for the NEXTEL Cup Series. This is not what NASCAR had in mind when they made a deal with the top sports television corporation in the world to telecast their "Chase for the Championship."
There have been hundreds of articles written this year at The Daly Planet about a lot of TV issues relating to NASCAR. We have talked about the Fox Sports, TNT, SPEED, and ESPN/ABC portions of the TV package. So, with only a couple of weeks left in the 2007 season, what can ESPN do right now to help their ratings?
Please think before you post, and keep your comments focused on this one question. I assure you that the key people from ESPN will read your comments. I think they will be amazed at the intelligence of the NASCAR fans and The Daly Planet readers. The time for change is now.
So, what would you do this Sunday at Martinsville to pump-up the ratings and get NASCAR fans and casual viewers interested in watching this sport?
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Saturday on SPEED the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will run one of their highest-profile events of the season. Joining the Truck Series regulars will be several Cup Series drivers and also several open-wheel stars continuing to make the transition to NASCAR.
SPEED will begin the day with NASCAR Live at 10:30AM Eastern Time to update the weather and the activities at the track from Friday. NASCAR Live is hosted by John Roberts.
The Truck Series activity begins at 11:00AM with live qualifying, which is scheduled for one hour. Later in the afternoon at 2:30PM, SPEED begins the race coverage with The Set-Up pre-race show hosted by Krista Voda.
The event coverage begins at 3PM, and features Rick Allen in the booth along with Phil Parsons as the analyst. On pit road will be Adam Alexander and Bob Dillner will continue to sub for Ray Dunlap who has been suspended by the network until the TX race. I do not have current information about Michael Waltrip's participation in the race coverage.
This page will host your comments about SPEED's Truck Series coverage. You may add your comment before, during, or after the programs. Please read the rules on the right side of the main page before posting. To comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not require your email address.
We just want your opinion of the NASCAR TV partners performance this season. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here are some items from SPEED about the guests for this weekend's programs from Martinsville, VA:
Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are going to be guests on Trackside. This program is hosted by Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond, and Larry McReynolds. Elliott Sadler is a panelist this season, and has done a good job.
Ryan McGee of NASCAR Images is the media guest on Tradin' Paint. This program is hosted by John Roberts and features Kyle Petty as a regular panelist.
More guest information will be coming along shortly.
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Friday night at 8PM Eastern Time, SPEED Channel will carry the season-ending Toyota All-Star Showdown from Irwindale Speedway in California. This is the finale of the NASCAR Grand National Series and hosts drivers from all parts of the country.
Mike Joy will be calling the action for SPEED along with Dr. Dick Berggren in the booth as the analyst. On pit road will be Ralph Shaheen and Jim Tretow.
This program is scheduled to run three and one half hours in length, and last season featured some very good short track pavement racing.
Note: There will be another page for comments about Saturday night's big finale at 10PM Eastern Time. Thanks for your emails on that subject.
This page will host your comments about this program on SPEED. You may add your comment before, during, or after the show. Please read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page, and thank once again for stopping-by The Daly Planet.
Friday afternoon at 3:30PM Eastern Time, ESPN2 will present qualifying for the NEXTEL Cup Series from Martinsville, VA. This program is live and is scheduled to run for two hours and then join the Friday thirty minute edition of NASCAR Now.
On-hand to do the commentary will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree. Reporting from the pit road will be Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Jamie Little and Dave Burns. The ESPN announcers have often been located in the Infield Studio for this program, which restricts them to watching the TV monitors for the action.
This page will host your comments about this program on ESPN2. You may add comments before, during, or after the live qualifying. Please read the rules for posting located on the right side of the main page, and restrict your comments to the TV personalities and issues associated with this program.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007
There have been flashes of what ESPN2's daily show NASCAR Now could be several times this season. In between the struggles with the on-air talent, the format, and several high-profile drivers, the program has provided a platform for ESPN to promote its NASCAR involvement.
In this first season, there was no doubt that many things involving the production of a seven day a week TV series were going to need to be addressed. ESPN addressed one concern when they brought-in ESPN News veteran Ryan Burr to be one of the hosts.
Burr has a fast-paced "news sense" about him on the air, and this thirty minute program picks-up steam when he is leading the charge. Thursday night, NASCAR fans got a glimpse of what this program could eventually mean to the sport every day. Burr put on the most outstanding thirty minutes of NASCAR programming ESPN has seen this season. I am only going to say this one time. It was fantastic.
One of the struggles of NASCAR Now has been how to deal with SPEED Channel, the TV network that produces the Craftsman Truck Series, and other special NASCAR events. Originally, the Truck Series was ignored until Craftsman came on-board with a sponsorship that guaranteed highlights of every Truck race. Unfortunately, most of the races in the series were not promoted in advance on the show.
This situation seems to have been addressed on Thursday's show, which featured Burr giving a lot of time to the Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday at Martinsville. Along with promoting the high-profile Cup drivers who will be entered, Burr also interviewed Justin Labonte. Terry's son has been a journeyman in racing, and was making a comeback of sorts at Martinsville.
Labonte was a good interview, and Burr referenced Justin's lack of high-profile rides recently in NASCAR. This exposure was very positive for Labonte, and Burr kept his questions rapid-fire and on-target. He covered the issues about the Cup stars, the Truck Series regulars, and finally what the future held for this young man. It was a good interview that promoted the race and showed another family connection in the sport. This positive moment, however, was about to be topped.
Without missing a beat, Burr dove into NASCAR's Toyota Showdown championship race this weekend at Irwindale Speedway head first. ESPN and The Daly Planet have been clashing all season long about NASCAR Now ignoring the NASCAR Touring Series, but now Burr directed the attention of this high-profile show in exactly that direction. Could this show get any better? You bet it could.
Turning to the TV monitor wall in the NASCAR Now studio, Burr welcomed in NASCAR regional drivers Sean Case and last year's Showdown winner Matt Kobyluck. That's right, in advance of the Toyota Showdown which will be live on SPEED, two of the key players were on NASCAR Now via satellite.
Clearly not TV veterans, these two drivers were well taken care of by Burr. Both were asked good solid questions, and Burr even got Case to speak about Joey Lagano and their Busch East Series season. To wrap things up, Burr promoted the event once again.
This interview was a tremendous step for ESPN in patching things up with the racers and fans involved in the NASCAR Grand National Division who have been ignored all season long. Perhaps, next year will see a wider scope of coverage that includes regional results and highlights.
With the narrow Martinsville pit road looming, Burr welcomed the surprise of the season on this show in the presence of DJ Copp. This soft-spoken DEI crew member has put out great information about the pit crew dynamics at the various tracks, and has proven to be a solid TV personality. His Martinsville information continued to be first rate, Burr's questions were focused, and the results were top-notch.
The past racing shows on ESPN often contained a "kicker" story meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek. NASCAR Now has not only struggled to keep a sense of humor, but it has struggled to maintain a viable contact and on-camera presence with the main ESPN NASCAR announce team of Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree. Finally, someone on the production team got it right. The results were lots of fun.
NASCAR Now used Punch and company to pretend and call an ESPN NASCAR race at Talladega. Only this race was the one to the airport by all the NASCAR drivers. The ESPN team at Talladega used their facilities, their announcers, and their graphics to put together a hilarious feature. The "race" to the airplanes showed fans some seldom shown footage of the reality of NASCAR life.
It also did one more thing for the ESPN2 viewers. It finally lightened the heavy mood and tension that has been a constant companion of this series since February. When was the last time fans were watching NASCAR Now and calling their friends to say "are you seeing this?" My one word answer would be...never.
Burr had reporter Angelique Chengelis with all the top news stories. Justin Labonte then promoted the Truck race, which was on SPEED. Two NASCAR Grand National drivers then promoted the Toyota Showdown which was also on SPEED. Boris Said predicted Martinsville and DJ Copp reviewed the pit situation. Finally, Punch and company showed us the driver race "out" of Talladega.
There was not much more that could be packed into this thirty minute show, and if ESPN executives want an example of just what this TV series could be they need look no further than this one episode. NASCAR Now could easily become "must" viewing for fans who would gladly put this series on the DVR or VCR every day.
After an episode like this, and a host like that, ESPN can finally have something very solid to smile about in this first tough year back in NASCAR.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email email@example.com if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.
Since everyone seems to be very active right now with their thoughts on the entire NASCAR TV package and the issues involved in it, let's channel that momentum.
Right now, just give us your comment about one thing at this time that has stuck in your mind about this season's TV coverage of your favorite sport. This is like open mic night at the club, except our rule is "no poetry or singing."
Keep your thoughts focused, as people respond well to points made clearly and concisely. OK, its "open post night," let them rip.
To post your comments about NASCAR TV coverage, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the directions. The rules for posting are on the right hand side of the main page, and thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts in these final weeks of the season.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Last Saturday night, as the field sat waiting for a fluid spill to be cleaned-up, there were many things going through the minds of NASCAR fans. Everything from Jeff Gordon's fuel level to Ryan Newman's restarts was fair game for conversation. It had been an action-packed NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race, and it was just what the ESPN on ABC TV crew wanted.
As the clock struck 11PM Eastern Time, the field was just about to crank it back-up and put the topper on three hours of live NASCAR racing on ABC. The Lowe's Motor Speedway looked great under the lights, and this race was going to help decide how the Chase for the Championship might be decided.
In Topeka, KS the NASCAR fans were watching their local ABC station KTKA. This station prides itself on serving the public interest, and was recently named the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Station of the Year for 2007. Quite an accomplishment.
Across the country, as NASCAR fans began to sit-up straight and get ready for the Trophy Dash, things in Topeka took a strange turn. The scoreboard at the Speedway showed six laps to go, but in Topeka there was only one thing on the minds of the staff at KTKA. It was time for the Channel 49 News at 10PM Central Time.
On the air came the dynamic weekend news team at KTKA, despite the fact that everyone at the station could see on the incoming ABC Network feed that the live NASCAR race was still clearly in progress. One simple touch of a button would have moved KTKA viewers back to the live NASCAR race. It never happened.
On the 49abcnews.com website, all hell broke loose. Here are some comments:
"Never have I been so shocked and livid at a TV station. To not show us the end of the race is absurd. Sorry Clint (Bowyer), we cheered you on as long as we were allowed. ABC owes us more than a small apology." (beckyandron)
"Two times in the last three weeks this station has ended their coverage prior to the completion of the race. This is clearly a sign of the times and really leaves me wanting the coverage of the races to go back to NBC." (anon viewer)
"Good thing I have Sirius Radio so I could hear the last laps of the race as it was running. Would you have done this during a Chiefs (NFL) game?" (anon viewer)
"Way to go and p**s off a bunch of potential (news) viewers KTKA! Station of the Year, huh? Were you just trying to get ahead of viewers switching to another channel?" (newhorse49)
"Does anyone really know what happened Saturday night? Please give us a truthful answer. Over three hours waiting to see the outcome and some incompetent...turns over to the news." (hillbilly)
The race coverage never returned. The newscasters never even mentioned the race. Later, the station released the following statement. "49News wants to take a moment to apologize to all the NASCAR fans in Northeast Kansas who did not get to see the end of Saturday's race."
In terms of dealing with the TV reality, the station was a little bit less than forthcoming. "An error between ABC and KTKA caused the last ten laps of the race not to be shown. ABC went to "black" for a longer than usual time, so we "took" the feed for the 49News at 10PM, even though the race was not over."
Despite the fact that one Master Control Operator might have switched the station over to the news, there was every opportunity to stop and switch back. In taking a look at the TV content in question, the choice between a live NASCAR race on ABC and the weekend news in Topeka should not have been a tough one. The big problem was not the first error, it was the refusal to fix it.
Complaints against the ABC Television Stations at first began to trickle in to The Daly Planet, and then it began to pour. Pre-empting the first thirty minutes of the night races for news, inserting sponsored news breaks on red flags, and leaving at 11PM Eastern Time for news regardless of whether the race was over or not were the common themes.
KTKA is only one example of stations in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Florida, New York, and Idaho that have had problems carrying the ESPN on ABC NASCAR package this season. Why this simple and straightforward sports feed has been a problem is a mystery. The one thing very clear is that these problems are real and continuing.
Clint Bowyer is having the season of his life. His run at Charlotte kept him in The Chase and really showed that he has come into his own in the NEXTEL Cup Series. Unfortunately, the people in his close-knit community of Emporia, KS did not have an opportunity to see the hometown boy finish the race. Along with many others in that part of the country, they were watching the Channel 49 Weekend News on KTKA...The TV Station of the Year.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not want your comment to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.