Friday, December 7, 2007

"Chasing Glory" Goes Out On A High Note


It certainly has been an interesting year for the powerhouse NASCAR Images media production group. Sometimes, it must seem that they are running a high-volume electronic cafeteria and we are all customers that want to eat right now.

I am not sure that short-order cook is in any of the job descriptions down in Charlotte, but that is exactly what a whole lot of the NASCAR Images staff has been for NASCAR fans this season. We want our shows...and we want them now.

Along the way, there have been some orders that were not exactly cooked the way the customer wanted. Needless to say, some complaints were filed with the management. As most of our readers know, two of the biggest complaints came about the Chasing Glory and Survival of the Fastest TV series.

This week, the final installment of Chasing Glory aired on ESPN, and it was a good way to mend fences with the fans. NASCAR Images camera crews showed us exactly what we all wanted to see. From the drop of the checkered flag at Homestead, fans got a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes reality of the business of being the NEXTEL Cup Champion.

Instead of the grandiose booming voice-over announcer, the Images guys toned it down to let us in on everything post-race from the long interviews and picture taking sessions right up through the scene in New York City at Champions Week.

Unfortunately, things continue to be produced very "formally" in a time when Internet reality videos and "HD handicams" set a very informal tone for most sports-based reality style shows. The old "NFL Films" approach did not allow for an element of humor and fun to be inserted in this program in the amount that it could have been. Everything was very serious in a sport where many things...are simply not.

It was nice to see Eli Gold on-camera again, and also Jimmie Johnson and the other drivers interacting with the NASCAR print and electronic media they all know so well. This is a slice of the everyday NASCAR pie that fans would like to see a lot more. Put the NASCAR media on-camera and let them talk, instead of the dominating NASCAR Images scripted announcer.

Seeing Clint Bowyer riding around NYC on a tour bus was just fun. Hearing Tony Stewart and Matt Yocum doing their Sirius Satellite Radio show was lots of fun. Watching the practice for the NEXTEL Cup Banquet was priceless. Kudos to Images for allowing fans behind-the-scenes for this fascinating moment. I have the feeling many fans had no idea there was an official practice for the Banquet.

This brings-up the one main theme of this column. That is, what else have fans been missing? With the "old footage" issues explained, NASCAR Images faces another serious crisis in the off-season. That is the overall lack of post-produced long form programming provided by that company this year for ESPN and SPEED.

Certainly, Images has a lot on its plate with the live shows from the SPEED Stage at races, the TV compound duties, and its production of magazine style shows like Inside NEXTEL Cup for SPEED. While that is certainly an impressive workload, it is no excuse for the overall lack of availability of NASCAR Images programming on various cable television networks.

This off-season is a virtual NASCAR TV "dead zone" when it comes to keeping fan interest alive during this three month period. What a great time to dedicate one timeslot a week to a carefully chosen programming line-up that can slowly build-up to Speedweeks. Both ESPN2 and SPEED have plenty of timeslots that can provide a set time when fans can record programs for viewing. It does not have to be primetime, just a set time each week.

As a pure motorsports TV network, SPEED has especially taken the heat from fans for simply walking away from the sport once the NASCAR Truck Series Banquet takes place. Why not partner with NASCAR Images to create some retrospective programming for fans during the winter? What a great time to "empty the vaults" of fun and interesting footage that maybe did not have a place during the very competitive regular season.

Sometimes, NASCAR Images struggles with the fact that fans don't always need racing or a racetrack to be involved in NASCAR TV programming. This sport, this industry, and this lifestyle is big enough to allow new TV program ideas to flourish, and they have not. This new partnership between NASCAR Images, SPEED and ESPN has simply not resulted in the kind of quality post-produced programming we have seen from Images in the past.

Let's hope that next year, after the Banquets are over, there is at least one dedicated network timeslot for continued NASCAR programming during the off-season on both ESPN and SPEED. The ability to re-live, expand-on, and even to finally explain some of the things that went on during this ten month season needs to be given to those that lived it, and offered to those who love to watch it.

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.

13 comments:

SallyB said...

Thanks again for this wonderful website with a wealth of information and a place for fans to vent! It always amazes me that Nascar virtually disappears from television during the (very short) off season. For almost any other 'major' sport, there is year round information to some degree...except Nascar. If Nascar is indeed going after the 'casual' fan it seems they should be doing everything they can to keep those fans interest honed in anticipation of Daytona. I guess Fox and Nascar haven't figured out how to 'activate' their sponsorship to maximize their impact.

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Newracefan said...

Count me as a fan who did not know there was a banquet practice. I very much enjoyed watching this Chasing Glory and remember thinking at the time that this is what I want to see. The guys having fun and an inside view of their banquet week. Low pressure, not scripted, hey I really love my job kind of show.
Along the same lines, it was so nice it sit down on friday night and watch the trucks. The year end summary was well put together (except maybe the part on Todd Bodine which was definately taken from something else cause it had that voiceover guy) and look it was an hour show (Busch and Cup only got a 1/2 each) I realize the banquet was just excerpts but the comedian had everyone laughing so hard they were crying including me. (Kevin Harvick's machine gun/sprinkler was priceless). Ron Hornaday's long rambling speech was great cause it was from the heart and cudos to Speed for playing the entire thing. Are you going to do a piece Speed's friday night shows including the Bobby Hamilton piece (I think it was new, I remember seeing something shortly after he died but I don't think it was this, and even if it was it deserved to be shown again).
I agree JD there needs to be at least one show on during the off season, even if it is using previously shot but not seen footage. How about a show about the crew guys whose's only off season is the week they get between Christmas and New Years. They are busting their butts right now. I would also watch all the Nascar Performance and INC shows over again (hey how about showing really old ones that would really be fun to see).

Daly Planet Editor said...

If you would like to address a topic not included in this specific column, please utilize the email link on the main page.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

There will be a column up this weekend about the Truck Series banquet telecast.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- If ESPN Classic now serves an uncertain purpose, why do you think ESPN does not replay episodes of "Chasing Glory" and old W-Cup races on it, especially during the off-season? I presume NASCAR now owns the rights to all races broadcast under the unified broadcast contract so ESPN cannot re-broadcast 2007 races without paying NASCAR. As part of the new contract with ESPN did NASCAR obtain the rights to the old W-Cup races broadcast on ESPN? I don't recall seeing any old W-Cup races on any ESPN channel on my cable guide in months. Thanks.

Daly Planet Editor said...

richard,

One of the biggest questions is why both ESPN and SPEED are not actively involved in promoting NASCAR TV programming during the off-season.

It would give the very same advertisers that spent millions during the racing season an opportunity to promote Christmas sales and then the Superbowl and finally Daytona.

We all know TNT hates any kind of NASCAR programming other than their live races, so that network is not an issue. But the other two certainly are.

This is the first off-season for ESPN in a long time, and I think they just did not have an "exit strategy" from a programming perspective.

You would think ESPN Classic would be loaded right now with everything NASCAR, and instead we find old college football games and other junk that the network owns and can simply playback for free.

NASCAR Images is at the center of this entire issue, and if I was Brian France or Paul Brooks, I would bring in those guys and ask some hard questions.

As Ricky would say, "somebody got some 'splaining to do."

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Since I obviously don't understand the TV programming mentality- if I were at ESPN and want to continue to use Rusty as my prime expert, and have the re-broadcast rights to, I would replay on ESPN Classic old races showcasing Rusty's career, especially any involving battles with Dale E.

DT said...

I definitely miss Nascar programming during the winter months. I've always thought this would be a good time for SPEED or someone to have a program showcasing what goes on in the offseason. Maybe similar to the "survival of the fastest" format. Go to a different race shop each week and show what the crew guys are up to in preparation for the coming season, and maybe even check out what the drivers are doing. I think that would be a really interesting way to keep fans up to date during the winter.

hawkeye said...

I would definitely watch a program that focused on the drivers and/or car owners who dedicate their time and money through their foundations and charitable affiliations. I think it would make for great TV and give these people an opportunity to spotlight their interests outside of NASCAR,

Anonymous said...

I missed this! JD, do you know if they will re-air this episode? There are 2 Chasing Glory's listed before the Busch Awards on Tuesday, but I can't find any description of them. Are they replays or new episodes? Thanks!

Jo said...

Hey John, why has ESPN been so reticent about advertising "Chasing Glory"? I stumbled upon the second one, never saw the one about my favorite driver, and have NEVER been able to find any site that can say what content will be on in any particular issue. If ESPN wants to build a market, these would be great tools to use to encourage viewership, but they're absolutely punting the opportunity. And opportunity costs!

Thank god for YouTube. At least we can go back and see some racing highlights since ESPN and SPEED have decided that NASCAR fans hibernate from December to February. You're right--htey've got a market sitting right in front of them and they're ignoring it.