Saturday, September 1, 2007
Tonight ESPN2 presents the Camping World 300 Busch Series race from Fontana. It is scheduled to begin at 9:45PM Eastern Daylight Time.
This post will host the comments about the TV coverage of the race while it is progress and also host the post-race comments.
The rules for comments are on the right side of the main page. To post a comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below. Thanks again for leaving your opinion.
Its just hard sometimes to write another column about the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series coverage on SPEED TV. This network is just completely comfortable with this series, its personalities, and the racing. Its just good TV.
Krista Voda has taken recently to sitting behind a movable set that is positioned right on the grid in front of the two pole-sitting trucks. Her pre-race program, called The Set-Up, is a family oriented show that is easy to enjoy.
The duo of Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander has been the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis of this series for quite a while now. Alexander is the straight man, and he is usually all business in getting his information across. Ray Dunlap is always willing to poke fun at himself, and has done so in the pre-race show on many occasions.
SPEED has taken the approach with this pre-race show that the Truck Series is a family, and they treat the content of the program with dignity. No one is called out, or spoken to in anger, even when tempers at the track are sometimes high. Voda has the same calming effect as Wendy Venturini, and her professionalism cuts right through any potential ego or personality problems.
Part of the success of The Set-Up has been the willingness of Series Director Wayne Auton to be actively involved. NASCAR has worked hand-in-hand with SPEED in putting this coverage together,and the results have been fantastic.
Seemingly each race, the Trucks put on a good show with exciting racing and memorable characters. Imagine seeing stars like Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague, Johnny Benson, and Ted Musgrave run in competitive races all the time. Incredibly, its almost a forgotten franchise as far as ESPN and its daily show NASCAR Now is concerned.
As NASCAR enters what is being called its "golden years" by some writers, it seems strange that often the two most exciting races of the weekend are the Craftsman Trucks and the Busch Series. While the Busch Series just moved exclusively to ESPN, the Trucks have certainly found a home on SPEED.
Once again, Rick Allen and Phil Parsons talked viewers through a fun race with good information and a great story at the finish. Parsons is much more effective when he is not joined by Michael Waltrip, whose personality distracts from the focus that Allen and Parsons bring to the Trucks. While another announcer in the booth might be a good addition, it certainly needs to be a Jeff Hammond or Larry McReynolds type. The only additional thing this announce booth needs is a crew chief perspective.
As the Craftsman Truck Series begins to wind down for the season, SPEED has proven that they can handle a major event series at tracks big and small with the same professionalism of the TV big boys. Now, the heat is on ESPN to put some effort into the Busch Series, and see if they can measure-up to the quality of racing and commentary on SPEED.
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SPEED is presenting the Ram Tough 200 Craftsman Truck Series race from Gateway International Raceway at 5PM Eastern Time today. It will be preceded by a thirty minute edition of The Set-Up, SPEED's regular pre-race show.
Krista Voda anchors The Set-Up, with Rick Allen and Phil Parsons hosting SPEED's coverage of the race.
This page will host any comments about the TV coverage of the race while it is in-progress, and a full column will follow the event shortly after. The rules for comments are on the right side of the main page.
Thanks again for stopping-by, just click on the COMMENTS button below to add your post.
After a stellar performance from a TV engineering standpoint this season, ESPN's NASCAR efforts are hitting some speedbumps in the parking lot. Friday's NASCAR Now featured reporter Terry Blount speaking about the news on Joe Gibbs racing and Toyota. Well, he spoke for a little while.
Twice in his on-camera report, color bars appeared on the video from the track, and eventually the network lost Blount's audio as well. Show host Erik Kuselias said it was so hot in California, even the TV equipment was melting. All this while SPEED was originating twelve hours of live coverage from the same location.
After the network lost its entire race feed from Bristol last Friday night, you would think things like this might be high on the agenda to fix. Several viewers emailed The Daly Planet about other glitches like a missing Kyle Petty interview teased twice by Kuselias. No explanation was offered about why Kyle went missing.
ESPN just seems to love NASCAR violence, as it proved earlier this season in California. NASCAR Now replayed David Reutimann's crash over fifteen times in thirty minutes the day after it happened. In any other sport, an unconscious or injured athlete would be shielded from the type of tabloid exploitation ESPN has become infamous for in their first NASCAR season back in TV land.
With the series returning to California, ESPN dug out the footage once again so we could all see Reutimann in the car not moving. Then, the network forced normally reliable reporter Shannon Spake to make a complete fool out of herself on national television. Apparently, since ESPN is signing the paychecks, she had no choice.
"Last time this series visited this track, we can all remember images of your horrific accident in Turn 3. How often do you think about that?" asked Spake dramatically. Reutimann got a look on his face that TV viewers have come to know as the "ESPN reporters are idiots" look. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and many other drivers have worked hard this season on perfecting this half-hearted smile mixed with the "I am going to remember this one" look.
"Not until somebody brings it up." was his response. Even though Reutimann clearly said no, it was not enough for ESPN. They want an answer that fits their agenda. So, Spake continued on with "do you think about it when you get onto the racetrack?" Reutimann said simply "no." He should have said, what part of no don't you understand?
Friday's show continued with the "human TV content generator" Tim Cowlishaw from Fontana looking once again like he had a very long night in adult beverage land. Kuselias then hosted an interview with Ricky Rudd that had the driver taking deep breaths and answering the kind of questions that would be asked by a local station TV reporter about his past and his future. What a shame.
The Friday version of ESPN's NASCAR Now is the "kick-off" show for each NASCAR weekend. Now, it can be compared to ESPN's College Gameday "kick-off" show for college football season. For NASCAR, an acknowledged racing illiterate host standing in front of a video wall in Bristol, CT. For college football, an entire remote TV crew and custom-made set on-site in Virginia with hundreds of live fans screaming and cheering.
The treatment of NASCAR this season by ESPN, except for the live racing itself, has been second class and they know it. ESPN certainly knows how to produce live events, and certainly knows how to write press releases saying how great things are. Now that college football season is underway, and the NFL season is on the verge of starting, NASCAR may shortly find itself relegated to an even more "back-burner" position on the ESPN stove.
Next week, ABC Sports is showing the Oregon vs. Michigan live college football game before the NEXTEL Cup race from Richmond, VA on Saturday night. Should this game run long, both ESPN and ESPN2 are already showing live college football. With nowhere to go, NASCAR will race for the fans in the stands, on the radio, and on the pay-per-view TV packages.
Beginning September 22nd, live college football precedes the Busch Races on Saturday afternoons on ESPN2. This will continue for the rest of the season. NASCAR is discovering that this is not Fox Sports, not TNT, and not even the old NBC days. This is ESPN, and NASCAR is just another sport sandwiched in between established events that have been on the network for many years.
As rain-outs, red flags, and even lots of caution periods begin to show live racing's problems with TV coverage, it should be interesting. There will be a lot of decisions to make over the next couple of months for ESPN and ABC on-the-air. Maybe with a little more heat on the burner, NASCAR can get moved to the front of the ESPN stove.
In closing Friday's edition of NASCAR Now, ESPN took it upon themselves to show Reutimann's crash once again. There he was, possibly hurt and unconscious in High Definition. This time, it was in a music video. Nice touch.
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Concluding the long Friday at Fontana, CA was the SPEED Channel coverage of qualifying for the NASCAR Busch Series. In the past, we have seen the regular announcing team of Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds, and Jeff Hammond calling the action. With that trio working down on the SPEED Stage hosting Trackside, it was up to SPEED to cover the action with some fresh faces.
Bypassing both Randy Pemberton and Wendy Venturini, SPEED put veteran pit reporter Bob Dillner in the play-by-play role. Alongside Dillner was the RaceDay duo of Jimmy Spencer and Hermie Sadler.
NASCAR fans who hung-in and watched SPEED's day-long effort from Fontana had earlier seen John Roberts hosting the NEXTEL Cup qualifying with Spencer and Sadler. That effort fell short of professional because of Jimmy Spencer's habit of quickly speaking out whenever he felt a need. Time and time again, the very patient duo of Roberts and Sadler would take a deep breath, and wait until Spencer was done.
As the Busch Series program rolled around, things were a bit different. With the multi-hour NEXTEL Cup effort under their belts, Spencer and Sadler had established a much better rhythm and were no longer talking over each others sentences. The key to this was the fact that Spencer had calmed down a bit, and used his sold knowledge of racing to contribute good insights.
Hermie Sadler's experience in the Busch Series made him much more suited for this level of coverage than NEXTEL Cup. His personal interaction with many of the drivers, and his stories about previous races showed fans that Sadler is going to have a future on the TV side of the NASCAR business.
Bob Dillner has been a polarizing force in the NASCAR garage for a while now. Some guys love him, and some guys...not so much. His stumbles with "breaking news" and other specific news items have been well-documented over the past several years. In passing over Randy Pemberton for this position, SPEED gave Dillner a good opportunity and he made the most of it.
Unlike the ESPN crew, who struggles to even identify the drivers in the Busch Series, SPEED has always been fair to all three levels of NASCAR's touring series. Dillner was on-target with his names, sponsors, and general information about the on-track activity. It was a pleasant surprise.
Jimmie Johnson appearing in the Busch Series was a big deal, and SPEED made sure to show his qualifying effort and explain why Johnson was in the race. Spencer used his enthusiasm in the right way when describing the Johnson effort, and then quickly stepped aside to allow others to continue the commentary. He's learning.
Wendy Venturini put in a long day on pit road and in the garage, and really continued to be SPEED's "go to" person for any news or interviews. Her on-air approach and professionalism cuts through any ego problems with the NASCAR gang. Unlike some other reporters, she is never put on the spot by the network and forced to ask embarrassing questions for the sake of hype or controversy.
Rany Pemberton continues to be solid in his comeback effort after being signed by SPEED to a contract through the rest of the season. He worked hard as a reporter, but did not assume any other responsibilities this weekend. Perhaps, the network might let Pemberton host an episode of Tradin' Paint or NASCAR Live before the end of the season.
Unlike ESPN, who hides details from viewers, SPEED never hid the fact that only forty-two cars were entered for this race, and that these drivers were only chasing pole position. From the beginning, they described the fact that this was an impound race, and some teams were choosing to set-up their car for the race, and because of that just ran slower. This is the type of honest and up-front information that SPEED has been applauded for this year.
The comments of the announcers about Steven Wallace were on-target, and had to please Steven's dad and ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace. Spencer and Sadler were positive in their comments about the young driver, but included his struggles and incidents this season in their conversation.
Kudos to SPEED for mixing things up this week, and allowing announcers who have paid their dues with the network to spread their wings and try something new. Viewers who watched the Busch Series qualifying found a comfortable crew who knew when to crank it up and when to lay-back and talk racing.
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