Monday, June 25, 2007

TNT's Sonoma Coverage Has NASCAR Fans Still Steaming

The Daly Planet was overwhelmed with email and comments about the TNT broadcast of the NEXTEL Cup race from Sonoma, CA. Long after the race broadcast had gone off the air, fans were still steaming about a wide variety of issues. On NASCAR forums, chat boards, and blogs across the Internet, fans were letting it fly.

Here are some samples of the comments from NASCAR fans who watched the TNT telecast that were left on The Daly Planet:

"This just appears to be a three hour promo for TNT's primetime shows. They showed nothing but the top three cars for the last forty laps. No "through the field," no updates on the "road ringers," NOTHING! And they didn't have the courtesy to show us the results at the end of the race. HORRIBLE!"

"What looked promising a couple of weeks ago has gone horribly wrong. Bill Weber is not a play-by-play guy. I think he could do some great features, but he should not be calling a race."

"Biffle and Bowyer finish in the top five but its almost like they were never in the race. I barely recall hearing their names. I too was amazed that they did not show the finishing order when the race ended. As a new fan of NASCAR this year...I wanted to better understand who was gambling on fuel...especially in the top ten. I kept wondering how Harvick, Biffle, and Bowyer finished so high when they weren't even talked about for most of the race."

"After a huge pre-race hype about the twenty-four and forty-eight cars starting at the back of the field, did fans get to watch them drive forward? No."

"It still pains me that we only get to see two or three cars finish the race. We watch for five or six hours just to see who came in first and second? This is horrible."

"I would like to thank TNT for letting me watch a race in between their commercials."

"At least they could have checked in with Kyle one last time to find out how his race went. I'm assuming he ran out of gas because he finished thirty-ninth. I wonder how many other cars ran out of gas on the last laps. Thanks to TNT, we never found out."

"TNT bungled the close of their broadcast big time. They showed only the first two cars finish and went to commercial. They didn't fill us in on who ran out of gas and who made it. They didn't even tell us the fate of Kyle Petty, who was part of their broadcast. Their biggest blunder, however, was their failure to show the finishing order before they went off the air."

"TNT needs to figure out sometimes you have to find the race within the race and cover it. To be honest, I think the TNT crew was confused, and Larry Mac was too sick to straighten them out."

"For a network that claims "we know drama," they sure struggled to find a storyline during their race coverage."

"NASCAR wonders why the TV ratings are dropping and does not think its a big deal. Its obvious to me they are not watching the same thing we are watching. I doubt if they are watching at all."

The Daly Planet thanks the hundreds of fans who emailed and left comments with reference to the TNT coverage. Please feel free to leave additional comments on this post.

The story of the problems with the TV coverage appeared on very few media outlets other than The Daly Planet. Thank you for supporting our honest and open discussion about what you see on TV where NASCAR is involved. We will continue to post new columns each and every day until the end of the NASCAR racing season.

"NASCAR Now's" Breaking News Is Hilarious

As The Daly Planet mentioned some time ago, ESPN2 has tried desperately to switch the focus of NASCAR Now from "hype" to hard news. They have pushed their reporters over-and-over again to come up with "breaking news," exclusive interviews, and being first to uncover a story. Today, they pushed the envelope beyond hilarious.

Hyped as "breaking news" at the top of the one hour Monday show was the "story" that Hendrick Motorsports was not going to buy the "number eight" from DEI. That's right. That was the "breaking news" that lead the show. Dale Junior leaving DEI without his famous "number eight." No matter how much money Rick Hendrick and Dale Junior have, they simply cannot buy it. Wow, that does sounds like a big story.

Let's step back a moment. This story was breaking national news on the daily NASCAR show on ESPN. This is the Emmy Award winning global media company that is home to SportsCenter, ESPN News Network, and a host of programs that viewers nationwide have learned to trust for accuracy and integrity. ESPN is the "Worldwide Leader in Sports."

Host Erik Kuselias tried hard to "sell" the fact that ESPN2 and NASCAR Now were once again on top of a new NASCAR story. He had two expert analysts on the set with him to tackle this issue. But, there was only one small problem. It was the same problem ESPN ran into when NASCAR Now tried to be the "hype machine" of NASCAR. That problem is reality.

That reality is that NASCAR "owns" and assigns the numbers for the cars and trucks in their national racing series. They have for over fifty years. While certain teams have kept the same numbers for many years, they have never owned them. Never. The ability of one team to "sell" a number to another team has never existed. Never.

Once again, for some reason, Around The Horn's Tim Cowlishaw was on the NASCAR Now set. Cowlishaw is ESPN's "designated talker," and lived up to his Daly Planet reader tag as "Mr. Obvious." Glazing over the reality that there was absolutely no story here, Cowlishaw ranted that NASCAR needed to "step-in" and let Junior take the "number eight" with him for the fans. "NASCAR does many illogical things" said Cowlishaw. Not sending "the eight" with Junior would be just another bad NASCAR decision.

You have to wonder if NASCAR Now just discovered RaceDay on SPEED, and the obnoxious Ricky Rachtman's completely fake "Free the Eight" campaign. This issue, however, is not like voting Kenny Wallace into the All-Star race because he is a fun guy on SPEED.

The graphic on the screen in front of Stacy Compton said "Breaking News." NASCAR Now's "voice of reason" once again tried to put things in order, even as the ESPN on-air hype around him was still in progress. Compton simply said "they (DEI) don't own the number." Well, thanks for that Stacy.

Perhaps, if Compton had helped ESPN to understand this fifty plus year-old concept before the show, NASCAR fans across America would not be rolling their eyes once again at this nonsense. Those would be the fans not still howling with laughter.

How much longer is this new "twist" in NASCAR Now going to continue? Kuselias brought in by liveshot his reporters Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis. Strangely, he did not ask them about the exciting "number eight" breaking news that lead the show. Perhaps, that is because they both would have fallen off their chairs. No reporter even commented on the "lead story" of the show.

Earlier this season, ESPN tried to hype minor incidents between drivers, be it on the track or off. They found that did not work, because those things happen all the time...imagine that. Remember the "Kasey Kahne says David Stremme is fat" controversy? That will go down in ESPN's NASCAR TV history.

Once again, rather than offer a full plate of NASCAR for fans to digest, the program had to be "about" ESPN itself. They are trying desperately to get their credibility back in this sport. Now, there must be breaking news, they must be first to report, and they must have new "Insider" details.

Who are they kidding? ESPN ignored the entire NASCAR scene for six years while they pouted about losing the NASCAR TV contract. They cancelled RPM2Nite even though NASCAR itself was going strong. They said to America "if we can't show it, then you can't have it." Just like Jimmy Spencer, NASCAR fans never forget.

Now ESPN gets the rights to show NASCAR races, and suddenly there "needs" to be a daily show about NASCAR. What a strange coincidence. This is the struggle that NASCAR Now faces. One of credibility and loyalty to the sport. This new "breaking news" approach is not going to cut it with fans who relied on and the other racing sites to help them through the years that ESPN spit on NASCAR every chance they could.

With ESPN stepping-up and covering NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series in several weeks, the daily NASCAR Now program will be put under more scrutiny and pressure than ever before. New fans, media members, and Internet posters will be watching their news choices, their interviews, and even their choice of words.

I really don't believe that the NASCAR Now crew even understands what is coming. They are about to be thrust into seventeen weeks of non-stop national attention in a "playoff" and then "World Series" atmosphere that will make the Yankees vs. The Red Sox seem like a walk in the park.

Rabid fans will be hanging on their every word, and looking for a daily update on ALL the on-going stories in Mooresville, NC. Not just the one shop where Shannon Spake has been sent. Not just some chatter on the set from a Truck Series driver.

If the network continues to "create" news and promote only itself, they will have driven a wedge between themselves and the fans that is going to be tough to remove. Since February, NASCAR fans have given the biggest and most powerful sports network in the world the opportunity to deliver accurate and honest news and features on the NASCAR scene.

Now, it is late June...and this is what we get. The "breaking news" that Theresa won't sell Junior his number when he leaves DEI. Of course, there are those pesky details. She does not own it...he can't buy it...and ESPN made it all up. What will they think of tomorrow?

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