Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Survival Of The Fastest" Documents RCR's Talladega Woes


The wonderful TV series called "Survival of the Fastest" is produced by NASCAR Images for SPEED. Each racing weekend, this show airs with an episode documenting the experiences of one team during the previous weekend's race. Unfortunately, for the RCR bunch, NASCAR Images came calling on the weekend of Talladega.

Richard Childress is a self-effacing and down-to-earth guy who has been a pillar of the sport for a long time. His relationship with Dale Earnhardt Sr. was fantastic, and resulted in some of the best classic NASCAR TV moments of all time.

The sheer beauty of "Survival of the Fastest" is that it uses the words of the NASCAR personalities to tell the story. With limited narration, the series simply allows fans a "slice of life" view of the real experiences of NASCAR teams at the track.

The reality of watching the hard work of the RCR engine shop slowly go up in smoke was tempered by listening to the conversations of the drivers as they related the incredible RPM numbers the cars were turning, and their frustration with the single file racing.

Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Childress himself were also shown behind-the-scenes in family and recreational activities. This kind of thing is sorely missing from the other NASCAR TV shows. This tiny slice also showed a problem with this series. It needs to be one hour in length. Sometimes, the stories that really should be "paid off" by this series cannot be completed simply due to the length of the program.

SPEED airs this program during the weekend, but strangely does not repeat it after the Inside NEXTEL Cup show on Mondays. Viewers who only tuned-in for the races on the weekend might find a new favorite with "Survival of the Fastest."

One of the hallmarks of these types of NASCAR Images series is the building excitement toward the end of the race. In this episode, the thrill of Jeff Gordon's victory was balanced with the frustration of Chad Knaus over Johnson getting left behind. Once again, these were pictures that TV viewers had not seen during the ABC live coverage.

This program series on SPEED has been solid all season, and hopefully will suggest to the network that making a commitment to more NASCAR Images programs for 2008 would be a good idea. With the recent beginning of the "Chasing Glory" TV series from NASCAR Images on ESPN2 Wednesday afternoons, it appears that ESPN may now also be primed to increase its inventory of NASCAR "reality" series for next season.

Fans of SPEED remember the time when Monday nights featured a solid multi-hour block of NASCAR programming anchored by Inside NEXTEL Cup. Surrounding this show were wonderful NASCAR "reality" programs that gave the viewer an inside glimpse of the sport. Maybe next season NASCAR Images can extend their program production skills into the Busch and Truck Series to allow more than just one slice of the sport to be presented in this manner. It certainly would be welcomed.

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.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the "Powers that Be", in charge of NASCAR television programming, continue to underestimate the intelligence of NASCAR Fans ? It seems programming is continuously aired on a "Just give it to them...They won't know any better or expect any more....basis.

NASCAR Fans are neither insensitive nor stupid. What will it take to eradicate the negative stereotype that plagues the racing masses?

There should be more shows like "Survival of the Fastest" and they should be aired rather than empty, two hour pre-race wastes of time that feature sports wannabes and light-weights.

It is my sincere hope that 2008 will offer the introduction of more worthy NASCAR programming and higher quality on screen personality representation.

Anonymous said...

ABC/ESPN coverage of the race at Lowes Motor Speedway was so bad, I muted the channel, turned on the radio, and followed the action on my PC

Anonymous said...

Which teams have been covered by "Survival of the Fastest" so far this season? I didn't get SPEED until a bit after mid-season, so I missed all the early episodes. I know that Team Red Bull, Bill Davis Racing, DEI, Penske, and Richard Childress Racing have been covered so far.

Anonymous said...

If SPEED follows its usual procedure, it will replay all Survival of the Fastest episodes each weekday during the offseason. They've done that with Beyond the Wheel, 7 Days, and NBS 24/7.

And speaking of those three shows, I feel that Survival of the Fastest is a mix of all three: Wheel had the race footage, 7 Days had the personal life, and NBS 24/7 showed us shop life. But I also feel Survival of the Fastest is not quite as enjoyable or as well put together as any of the other three shows.

But the point in this column that SPEED should bring back its Monday night reality programs is a great one. As long as their lineup doesn't include the SPEED Road Tour Challenge - the worst, most mean-spirited reality show I've ever seen on SPEED (Rutledge and the contestants had a lot to do with that.)

Ironically, in my opinion it was the most heavily promoted reality show on SPEED; there was much more on-air promotion (incuding during the race preshows on Fox) given to that show than say, 7 Days or Beyond the Wheel.

It's the only NASCAR reality show that I stopped watching after a few episodes. I read about the guy who ended up winning; he was supposed to get a job with SPEED. I wonder if he really works there now.

Anonymous said...

I can't figure out what SPEED's doing with these shows. The network doesn't really promote them, so any audience they find is due to luck or word-of-mouth.

And I believe "Seven Days" won an award for best quick-turnaround series last year...and then it was canceled.

They've all been well-done, with video and sound we didn't see during the race, but SPEED seems to treat them like throwaways.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree that Survival of the Fastest is not as good as some of the similar Speed shows. It's not terrible, though. I can't say why it's not as good for sure, it just is choppier and more disjointed.

JHD said...

To Anon at 4;21 - every race shop has been covered so far except for Roush and Hendrick. I think they're going to divide the final 6 shows between the 2 shops, with Roush being featured this week.


I have 2 complaints about this show. One is that it appears that they didn't divvy up the shows all that well. RCR only getting 1 show while others get 2 or 3 shows seems unbalanced. I'm not sure if they didn't intend to originally focus on the bigger shops or not, but this cramming them all in at the end like this doesn't work all that well.

The other problem is that the race focus is completely different from the pre-race part of the show. The race winner almost never came from the shop they were highlighting that week, so it was a bit disjointed.

Survival should have been a one hour show, with the first 30 minutes on the race shop pre-race prep and the second 30 minutes on the race itself with the featured shop mixed in better with the winning team.

Or it should have completely focused on the race team, and there should have been another season of "Behind the Wheel" to show the race highlights.

I do wish SPEED would pick one or two of these shows and stick with them for more than a season.

Anonymous said...

Do people just not want to think or try to get info? Most seem to have to be told when things are on...Speed has a great website for racing news, but guess what...they have their complete Tv lineups listed by the day and month!!!! Most cable TV listings now have speedtv programing listed also.
It is really noot too hard to find out when shows will be on the tube.

ruddrpm said...

I think the point these folks are trying to make is that people simply don't even know that these shows exist at all. And with no promotion it takes word of mouth just to find out something new/unique/good such as SOTF IS on, let alone WHEN.

My problem with SPEED's program scheduling is SOTF has been moved all around on SPEED this year. One week it premiers on Friday at 4:00 in the afternoon, the next week its on Saturday, then it was moved before Raceday on Sundays(where it still re-airs), but now its back to premiering on Thursday evenings after The Chase Is On I believe. Kind of hard to keep up with a show that never seems to air at the same time from week to week without any promotion to inform you of the changes..........

And to answer the other poster it was Beyond the Wheel that won the Emmy last year for Live Event Turnaround......It was then "graciously" canned by SPEED.

Lisa Hogan said...

Survival of the Fastest gets a plug on INC on Monday nights and probably gets plugs on some of the weekend NASCAR shows. It certainly does not get the promo fest that Pinks or the girl in the short skirt get.

I usually catch this show on a weekend repeat. I've notice a bit of reused footage from last season.

I assumed that all of these shows just have a one year run.

Anonymous said...

Survival is being done by the same group that did Beyond the Wheel.

Lisa Hogan said...

Aren't all of these shows done by Nascar Images?

Anonymous said...

"Survival of the Fastest", a weekly half-hour documentary series, will air on SPEED multiple times during each weekend of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. It is the latest project from the production team behind 2006 Emmy nominee "Beyond The Wheel."

"The outstanding relationship between SPEED and NASCAR Images continues to produce NASCAR programming that puts viewers inside the sport like never before," says Jay Abraham, NASCAR Images President and CEO. "'Survival of the Fastest' is the exciting next step of that partnership."

"Survival of the Fastest" goes behind closed doors with NASCAR Nextel Cup teams as they plan and prepare to survive the ultra-competitive world of stock car racing, telling the story over a period of several weeks and from the perspective of several different characters. Unprecedented access to team meetings, strategy sessions, and radio communication gives a glimpse into the lives of the principal players, from team managers and crew chiefs to drivers and pit crews. "Fly on the wall" cinematography makes viewers feel like part of the team and living the NASCAR life. The result is a complete depiction of what it takes to compete in racing's top series, from checkered flag to green flag.

Anonymous said...

I know this article wasn't about the ABC/ESPN race broadcast, but I just have to add this, besides their announcing team, as whole, being downright awful, does anyone remember the last time they told us who was the "lucky dog" after a caution? I don't.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Hogan said...
I usually catch this show on a weekend repeat. I've notice a bit of reused footage from last season.

-NASCAR Images shouldn't reuse footage in these shows. It's one thing to present a show as a repeat so we know's it old and anything from crew chiefs to a driver's sponsor may have changed. But they present Survival of the Fastest and NASCAR: Chasing Glory as new shows when they aren't.

That leads to unfortunate incidents like last week's Chasing Glory. They spent a couple of minutes showing a driver hanging out in the motorhome with his girlfriend-but the footage was from last year and the woman is no longer his girlfriend.

ruddrpm said...

I'm not a fan of all the 7Days footage popping up in these new shows either, but I can't imagine these drivers want a camera crew following their every move while they are trying to focus on winning a championship. With that said I've wondered why SOTF hasn't just focused more attention on team members as they did earlier in the season. The drivers may not want you following them home, but I'm sure the crew/shop personel do interesting/fun/unique things as well that could illustrate how they cope with the championship pressures. I think thats where much of my appeal for SOTF stemmed from earlier this season. Getting insight into ALL the elements of the team, not just the drivers.

Anonymous said...

Beyond the Wheel ran for two seasons. NBS 24/7 ended mid-year last year, but was on Speed at least since 2004. I remember because Kasey Kahne was a regular on there in the Busch car from the Doug Akins shop that season. It was also his rookie year in Cup.

Anonymous said...

refering to to race coverage: Between Petree and Dr Punch, they just ooze Earnhardt macho, talking about when the #24 bumped him, it was clear that the #8 didn't get back on the gas as quick as the #24 had while in the middle of the corner, but they just kept playing up how Jr's gonna get him and how Sr would have told him to go get him, it got kinda sickening after about 5min but it went on and on until the #8 car faded abit...is this the best bunch of guys they could get to broadcast a race, no wonder the ratings are wavering, this broadcast crew doesn't inspire to bring anything new to the broadcast and appear to just show up and seem less informed than most fans...

Anonymous said...

"But the point in this column that SPEED should bring back its Monday night reality programs is a great one. As long as their lineup doesn't include the SPEED Road Tour Challenge - the worst, most mean-spirited reality show I've ever seen on SPEED"

Amen to that please don't bring it back, SPEED!. I would definitely watch a block of Monday night SPEED shows again...as long as they don't include Road Tour Challenge. Worst. Show. Ever. I can't believe NASCAR allowed itself to be associated with it -I don't think it originated from NASCAR Images but there were all kinds of NASCAR people who made appearances and they filmed at the tracks.

You knew the quality of that show was bad when the one who actually had a racing background, the African-American schoolteacher whose family built and raced a street stock, quit a few weeks in (as did I), leaving the MTV VJ wannabes to compete.

Ann_Ominous said...

to anonymous at 11:19:

Going to the Speed TV website doesn't work if you are still on dial-up. That site is too slow. I don't have a half an hour to find tv listings.

haus20 said...

I must say I definitely enjoyed Nascar Drivers 360, 7 Days, and all of the other behind the scenes Nascar shows. It also helps you to get to "know" the drivers.

Add me to the list of those who wish Speed would put together a "Nascar Block" on Mondays.

INC
VL replay
Survival of the Fastest - 1hr edition.

Lisa Hogan said...

haus20-
agreed!

ruddrpm said...

Add in a Tradin'Paint/Pit Bull style show to recap all the news stories/controversies/rants of the weekend that was into that Monday block! I know INC goes into this somewhat but a PTI style opinion show to recap the race weekend would be great on Monday. It could even coexist with INC.

Lisa Hogan said...

PTI
Isn’t that the show with the gnome and the other guy who yell at each other? I believe the gnome, when commenting on Jr.’s announcement that he was leaving DEI, griped that Jr. didn’t wear a suit.

I really don’t think that is the type of show to fit into a Monday night NASCAR block. I could be wrong; but, I think that “the one who yells loudest is right” theory is a guy thing. :)

Anonymous said...

ruddrpm: I know INC goes into this somewhat but a PTI style opinion show to recap the race weekend would be great on Monday.

Marty Smith and Shannon Spake had a show like this on Speed during the Chase in '05 (right after The Chase Is On) but it wasn't good because Shannon is not a good arguer while Marty is. Maybe you do need two screaming guys for it to work. :)

ruddrpm said...

I say just pick up Tradin' Paint & move it to Monday night. Its yet another show thats always seems to air at odd hours throughout the weekend. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't really even need to be shot at the track. Rather than waiting an entire week to "argue" about the issues from the previous race, why not do it Monday night right after the race weekend has ended? INC breaks down the race hi-lites from the drivers' perspective while Tradin' Paint delves into the controversies/silly season/rumors/etc. from a media standpoint. Thats just what I'd like to see anyways (minus the Shannon Spake this time around).

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous 1:32--I haven't heard the ESPN group use the term "lucky dog", but they do occasionally deign to tell us who gets to go a lap up. Very rarely, though.

I'm hoping for an article soon about this race's coverage!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the complaints about SotF being disjointed. There's some good stuff in the show, but it has no focus. Just when things start to get interesting with one subject, they switch over to something else. They are trying to cram three different storylines into a half hour show - the race prep for one team, the race for that team, and the rest of the race. There should be three different shows (or at least three separate half hours) to cover each of these topics.

My preference would be for a one hour show focusing on the chosen team, use the whole hour to cover their prep and their race. Make a separate half hour show for the actual race (without any special focus on anyone but the important cars in that particular race).

Anonymous said...

The one thing I've noticed with "Survival of the Fastest" is that the teams covered for a particular race/week tend to have bad luck ...

SotF is a jinx ... Like Jimmy "the jinx" Spencer in his fantasy league picks that he makes on NRD ...

Look at the problems RCR had when they were the subject of SotF ... Same goes for Ganassi & DEI ...


I just hope they air the HMS show BEFORE the race at Homestead ...

Anonymous said...

NBS 24/7 got changed to NBS 24/7 - The Rookies for the 2006 season ...

But, they canned it the week before David Gilliland won at Kentucky ... the first race not won by a Buschwhacker ... The last show aired the Monday before the Ky race ...

SPEED had a hard time explaining why they cancelled the show mid-season ... One explanation was that there were too many Buschwhackers in the series and not enough Busch-only drivers to focus on ...