Monday, December 10, 2007

Final Busch Series Banquet Tuesday On ESPN2

With all of the changes taking place in the sport, it almost hasn't sunk in yet that the good folks at Busch Beer are gone. Anheuser-Busch has a long history in NASCAR of all types of sponsorships. Now, seemingly everything is changing.

Just when fans are coming to grips that Dale Junior walked away from the Bud car, now they are faced with the fact that the fun and fast Saturday races will be themed around insurance and not adult beverages.

The final one of the three televised NASCAR Banquets will be on ESPN2 at 7PM Eastern Time on December 11th. It will be the final Busch Series Banquet. As with most everything else associated with this "little brother" series, it will be the shortest of all three. The edited program will be only one hour in length.

The good news is that Allen Bestwick and Shannon Spake will be hosting the event, which was held this past Friday at the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, FL. Comedian John Pinette and the lead singer of Five for Fighting, John Ondrasik will be performing.

This series is a bit different, for a couple of reasons. First, as most fans know, it remains open to the NEXTEL Cup drivers who routinely dominate the races when their schedule allows them to participate.

Secondly, this was the first year that the entire series was on the ESPN family of networks. That is the important point for this TV column.

Back on February 8th, the ESPN press release announcing the coverage of the Busch Series was very definite in the commitment of the network to building this "brand."

"Having the NASCAR Busch Series entirely on one network is going to serve the NASCAR fan and allow us to tell a story all year long." said John Skipper, ESPN's VP of Content.

"With ESPN's full-season broadcast of the Busch Series, I believe it will help more owners secure sponsorship dollars." said Busch Series owner Kevin Harvick. "I also think that ESPN will bring a lot of new features to their broadcasts that will entice more fans to join the world of NASCAR."

The press release goes on to emphasize the manner in which ESPN will help to grow the series "brand" through their programming and technology. In addition to all 34 NBS races, the ESPN networks will also televise 17 sessions of practice and qualifying, the Banquet, and a year-in-review special.

As most fans know, the year-in-review was a thirty minute program featuring absolutely no one from the ESPN on-air staff. It was shown in non-primetime with almost no promotion. This coming Tuesday, the Banquet is sandwiched between College Football Live and a billiards show.

ESPN's two primary support programs for their season-long commitment to the Busch Series were NASCAR Countdown and NASCAR Now. Countdown was the pre-race show that featured the ESPN Infield Studio and the pit reporters. NASCAR Now was the network's daily show from the ESPN HD Studios in Bristol, CT.

Back on April 28th, The Daly Planet ran a column that got a lot of email. It was entitled "ABC Busch Series Pre-Race Show Never Mentions...The Busch Race." You can read that column by clicking on the title.

Basically, the ESPN on-air crew did a full thirty minute Talladega pre-race show for the NEXTEL Cup race the next day, which was on the Fox Television Network. The cast of characters ESPN had assembled for this big telecast on ABC was impressive. Brent Musburger was hosting the Infield Studio, and alongside was Brad Daugherty with in-studio guest Jeff Burton.

They talked about Tony Stewart's Sirius Radio show, and about "the big one" at Talladega. The prospect of a "big one" really got both Brent and Brad pumped-up. Daugherty related how he had spoken to Jimmie Johnson about how hard the racing was going to be on the drivers. Johnson was not entered in the Busch race.

Dr. Jerry Punch showed-up with his whole ESPN broadcast crew and they discussed deal making, restrictor plates, and then Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Talladega history. Junior was not in the Busch race.

The big feature of the show was Junior visiting a US Navy ship, because they were his new Busch Series team sponsor. His Busch Series driver Shane Huffman came with them on the trip. He was never seen or heard from during the TV feature.

Back in April, we wrote that Huffman was like the Busch Series itself. Nothing more than a Wooden Indian standing by the door. Everyone walked past...and no one cared.

ESPN's Mike Massaro "tagged" the feature piece live with a Dale Junior interview. Massaro asked Junior about contracts with DEI and Sunday's NEXTEL Cup race. Massaro never mentioned the Busch Series Talladega race. He was standing on the Busch Series starting grid.

The ultimate shame of this ABC and ESPN moment in time was the young man standing at the very front of the grid. Nineteen year-old Brad Coleman had wheeled his Carino's Italian Grill Chevrolet onto the pole for the first time in his career. A Busch Series "regular" was going to lead the entire field to the stripe live on national TV in only thirty Talladega.

Young Mr. Coleman was never interviewed. He was never shown. He was mentioned once. Two hours later, he finished ninth on the lead lap behind Kevin Harvick and Juan Montoya. Next season, he will run the full Nationwide Series schedule with Brewco Motorsports with the aim of winning the series championship.

After the Saturday races, NASCAR Now had a one hour Sunday morning program and another one hour Monday evening wrap-up show. There was just one little problem with both shows. Usually, they refused to show Busch Series race highlights, the winner interview, or any additional "soundbites" with other Busch Series drivers.

On April 15th, even before the Talladega race, The Daly Planet ran a column entitled "ESPN's Sunday NASCAR Now Sputters Badly." To read it, click the title. It sums up the frustration of ESPN not reviewing their own race from the previous day, and focusing on previewing the NEXTEL Cup race which they were not even televising.

This was the ESPN TV fate of the Busch Series all season long. In a word...short-changed.

This Tuesday, that treatment will surface again. NEXTEL Cup driver Carl Edwards will walk away with the Busch Series trophy. Featured will be the NEXTEL Cup owners who "dabble" in this series, and the other NEXTEL Cup drivers who "have fun" Busch racing before they go to their "real job."

The longtime title sponsor of the series is gone. The number of teams for next season is unknown. Attendance at tracks like Phoenix was so bad it was not even made public. Finally, a NEXTEL Cup regular won the title again.

Back in February, ESPN President George Bodenheimer called the Busch Series "one of the jewels in the rough of the (NASCAR TV) deal." The press release reminded us of ESPN's seventeen Sports Emmy Awards for NASCAR, and the fact the network was credited for popularizing the sport in North America.

Now, after a full season of exposure on ESPN and ABC, the question is simple. Is NASCAR's second-tier national touring series better off now then it was on February 17th when the first race hit the air on ESPN2?

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


Newracefan said...

The only bright spot for tomorrow is AB hosted. Thankfully I will not be home and will have to resort to taping the banquet. I'll add extra time in case they stick in an unscheduled Sports Center again. ESPN never stepped up for the Busch Series in any resect. Perhaps if they highlighted the Busch only (sorry Nationwide is way to long to type) drivers on a regular basis sponsers would be willing to step up and the races would be better attended. I know I enjoyed seeing the guys on NBS24/7 back in 2006 and I started watching Busch on a regular basis. What I know about those drivers now is much less since the show was cancelled, I try to pay attention to them during the race but we all know how easy that is when ESPN covers a race.

Busch Series Fan! said...

I don't believe ESPN did anything to promote the Busch series and that is why the ratings are down this year. I hope Nascar and ESPN wake up before it's too late. This series in previous years had been fabulous and since not concentrating on regular Busch drivers and more of pointing out the cup drivers, they are losing teams, and fans as well. Where are those old rivalries back in the 90's that we all loved to watch on the track?

Todd Crane said...

Thanks E$PU, and we couldn't even get the Cup banquet....Go figure

Anonymous said...

Just tuned in...what's up with Carl's mom....she will not let Carl have his own spotlight always hovering (in my mind a tad too close for comfort)the talk show format for talking with Kennesth & Greg Biffle is brutal (clothes/honeymoon questions freaking weak...)

Anonymous said...

WHY is the banquet not in HD?!?!?!?

SophiaZ123 said...

well, the commercial breaks were LOTS LESS annoying than SPEED.

Shannon Spake questions were insipid/or cringeworthy...and why the 'hairpiece'? Sorry that girl does nothing for me and she always appears to be gushing over the guys. She could learn from watching Wendy on video and her style.

This show was at such a quick pace, there seemed to be few punctuations at the end of sentences. Still, it's always fun to see the guys dressed up.

Carl's mom is a helicopter mom and is beyond weird the focus on her.

AB did a good job..and once again Brian France rushed OFF stage again!?

The camera work was awkward as it appeared Carl was talking or going to embrace the head guy from Busch and the camera guy switches to the crowd...sheesh..just like the races...bad camera work.

I REFUSE to mention the station by name that covered this show..that's how much I loathe and detest them.

oh, it was NICE seeing Reutimann in second place and I saw more of his VL drive than we did after the race (and that HORRIBLE FIASCO of leaving the race early and NOT showing the car designed by a sick child from St. Jude)

So, as far as butchered editing and commercial, this show was better than the Truck awards...but that's about it.

They should drop Shannon next year..AB was fine handling it all himself.

PammH said...

I thought it was pretty well-edited, compared to the truck banquet.

elena said...

I'm always happy for those getting their time in the spotlight.

Howere, I think they failed miserably in is in the presentation of the checks and trophys. (It was actually the same in the Cup banquet.)When the driver left the couch AB just said "that's yours" and pointed at the trophy. Wow! It is really wonderful for the driver to be presented the award and have his family be able to take a candid picture of the occasion. Just like Bobby Hamilton, Jr said, they need to cherish each moment.

I was glad Mike Helton was the one to present Carl with his championship ring. He was cordial and gave Carl a chance to put it on. (Unlike the Cup race when some gal handed the jewelry boxes to the Johnson's as Brian ran off stage.)

Did not care for the music.

But if the drivers enjoyed themselves, then that's fine with me.

Anonymous said...

Banquet telecast was pretty good, Allen is a good host.

Carl's mom? Not too surprising she was there, but Carl brought his girlfriend to the Cup banquet, not his mom. Either he didn't want to subject his girlfriend to being the focus at the Busch banquet (while his mom is very comfortable with that). Or his girlfriend - who is a young physician - may not have been able to attend for job scheduling/time off reasons.

Anonymous said...

I just got to watch my recording of it, and overall I think they did a good job, especially considering they had to compress a 3 1/2 hour banquet into 44-48 minutes of content for the program.

I think the format used for the Truck and Busch Series banquets is the best. It allows for the drivers to be more relaxed, and it gives an opportunity to add another dimension to the drivers apart from what we see when the season is going on. From what was shown from all 3 banquets, the audience seemed the most engaged at the Truck and Busch banquets.

Anonymous said...

Busch banquet the best of the lot even though the camera work was still the same as in the races (panning away from wrecks as they start or moving away from a pass that is starting),just plain awful. I am sure that the drivers were more relaxed and showed more of their personalities than at the Cup Banquet. To bad we only saw short PC segments. I am sure most of the guys are a hoot, something we may never get to see except on Hot Pass or another PPV.