Friday, May 18, 2007
SPEED returned to the air Friday night with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. After a long break, it was nice to see exciting NASCAR racing once again on SPEED. This evening's presentation began with a solid pre-race show, included a great race with super pictures under-the-lights, but ended with a puzzling tribute to the NASCAR on Fox gang. It was a tribute that left race fans howling mad...again.
Krista Voda continues to be a key piece of the future puzzle for both SPEED and Fox Sports. Returning to her pre-race hosting duties, Voda understands how to handle the show by letting the information flow from the field reporters, and the drivers themselves. Tonight, on a pit road set, she brought viewers up-to-speed on the happenings of the series, the news of the week, and did it all in a classy style that has become her trademark.
For some reason, SPEED continues to place Michael Waltrip in the booth alongside Phil Parsons. With the mild-mannered Rick Allen on play-by-play duties, this gives Waltrip a lot of room to talk over-top of anyone and everyone. Tonight, he took all the room that was given to him. Long before Michael was a gleam in the NCTS eye, Phil Parsons was working hard to give this series credibility and class. All of his patience was put to the test tonight as Waltrip forced Parsons into playing "second fiddle" once again. Luckily, Parsons kept his cool and stayed low-key and focused. He truly is the brains of the series, and has great perspectives on both the veteran drivers and the newcomers. Phil Parsons is the real deal.
SPEED made good use of the "flying boxes" effect from Fox Sports that allows viewers to watch two battles on the track, or one interview and the race. It was used well, and really played a role on this tight track as the field spread out. The pit reporters worked well, but they are still not operating at a level that allows for free speech and good coordination. Often, Michael Waltrip continued his comments when he should have given the focus to a pit reporter who was familiar with the driver in question. Perhaps, one too many voices in the announce booth.
The Truck Series continues to be one of the most "TV friendly" series in NASCAR. With higher bodies, the trucks provide better angles for in-car camera shots, and lend themselves better to the drama of night racing. Somehow, after watching a good Craftsman Truck race at night, its tough to go back to aero-oriented Busch and Cup cars running single file. Especially, since many of the drivers...are the same.
Unfortunately, email began arriving again at The Daly Planet even as this column was being prepared. Once again, after a super race on a fast track, the TV Producer and Director decided to show only the winner cross the finish line. Can you believe it? This was a tremendous let-down as the entire field was thundering to the start-finish line after a "green/white/checkers" re-start. It was almost cruel, as Ron Hornaday actually crossed the line unchallenged and very much alone.
NASCAR fans just seem to be confused. Why would they watch a two hour race only to see one truck cross the finish line? Did the rules change? Are there no points for anyone other than the winner? Did the SPEED production team not see the entire field bumping and grinding their way to the stripe? What gives? Why would any fan be interested in only seeing one uncontested truck finish this race and all the others excluded?
This issue has been front-and-center since the NASCAR on Fox gang began doing it earlier this season. We actually missed Dale Junior finishing at both Bristol and Martinsville. The biggest star in the sport, running in the top five, and his car does not deserve to be seen finishing the race on national television? Needless to say, the "Red Army" was not happy and deservedly so. By the way, Junior was in the company of Tony, Juan Pablo, Kyle, and Mr. Harvick. We missed them as well. What are the TV guys thinking? This isn't the Super Bowl, its one race in a series and NASCAR fans want to see the lead lap cars or trucks finish the race.
As one viewer wrote "what TV network would show only the winning horse finish the Kentucky Derby?" Without the "place" and "show" horses, the TV coverage would be ridiculed. How then, can up to 41 cars be "left out" of the TV coverage just because they did not "win?" NASCAR has lots of "place" and "show" horses.
To solve this problem, let's do what all good senior TV executives do when faced with a fast-paced crisis that calls for immediate attention.
To: All NASCAR Network Television Partners (SPEED, TNT, Fox, ESPN, ABC)
From: NASCAR Fans (A whole lot of them)
Date: Immediately Through November 2007
Subject: Last Lap Of Races (NEXTEL Cup, Busch and NCTS)
Effective immediately, all networks will cease the attempt at creating drama on the last lap of any race. Fans have been watching the race since the beginning...and they know what is going on!
People across America, wearing their driver's colors and loyal to that team would like to see their driver finish the race. Even if the battle for the lead is side-by-side, when those guys finish...there are a lot more on the way!
In reference to the people that you show on TV instead of the other cars finishing, the crew chief, the pit crew, and the girlfriend/wife. We will be seeing them again shortly...in Victory Lane. We do not need to miss the finish of every other driver in the race to see them now.
ps - If Dale Junior finishes in the top five and you do not show him again...we are coming to your house. Look for the large red swirling mass.
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