Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Byrnes And Hammond Wrap Vegas Testing

With the SPEED crew working their way to Fontana, the Pre-Season Thunder series moved into the network's Charlotte, NC studios.

Steve Byrnes and Jeff Hammond have worked with each other for years, and they know how to put out a lot of information and have fun at the same time. This Wednesday night show was no exception.

Hammond again addressed the fact that this is going to be a first-time COT experience for teams at several tracks, and Byrnes reminded viewers that the original COT switch was supposed to be 2009. Instead, NASCAR decided to implement the change right now.

Bob Dillner reported on the final day of Vegas testing, and wrapped that test by comparing it with the earlier Daytona dates. As Dillner concluded, there was no comparison. The Vegas test was absolutely critical to the COT learning curve.

The featured driver interview was Denny Hamlin. His comments that the "switch to Toyota" was easy certainly set the tone for an optimistic interview. Hamlin's close to the season was tough, and even he admitted "they peaked too early."

Hammond followed-up with the fact that the key element to the ease of the Toyota change was the COT. No body or car issues, just basically new motors. The Gibbs teams have already shown plenty of power in testing. Hammond suggested that the Gibbs information was "filtering down" to the other Toyota teams.

Byrnes tried to pin Hammond down, and the question was "will all three Gibbs teams will make "The Chase" in 2008?" The answer was yes. It should be interesting to watch this very different Toyota dynamic play out in just a couple of weeks.

Larry McReynolds made his appearance to bring the Tech Tip. His information included the fact that the teams are quietly selecting primary and back-up cars for Las Vegas and Fontana. Regardless of the fans who insist testing is boring, they are not understanding that this COT test is different from all earlier testing.

Hammond and Byrnes made sure to point-out all the cars that had incidents during the test sessions, and talk about how it deeply affected the teams in continuing the high-speed testing. There are just not a lot of COT cars available to the testing crews, and the teams now down a car will have to be very careful at Fontana.

Once again, SPEED chose to use the "highlight package" format for on-track testing action. This allows more information, but less action and footage to be included.

As SPEED bounces back-and-forth between the studio and the tracks in terms of hosting the shows, it also allows viewers to see something else. This network has two of the most professional and versatile announcers in sports TV today with John Roberts and Steve Byrnes. Both of these men host an incredible amount of live national TV throughout the season, and are expected to shoulder the load for SPEED once again in 2008.

Hammond closed with an overview of what teams are doing right now for the Daytona 500. Even as one crew tests out West, another crew continues to be focused on the new dynamic for the COT, the restrictor plate, and the 50th running of the big race.

One has the feeling that there is a lot more NASCAR TV content out there during this week, and we might see SPEED thinking about expanding these shows to one hour for next season. Showing the balance between the activity at the tracks and the activity in the shops might be an fascinating off-season TV idea for the fans.

As testing shifts to Fontana, it will be interesting to see how SPEED closes out their Pre-Season Thunder series. This new and expanded coverage has gotten fans in the "TV mix" a lot earlier than before, and with very good results.

As we know, NASCAR really needs a "kick-start" for the season. This big commitment by SPEED in terms of travel, manpower and facilities might have done the trick.

ESPN returns NASCAR Now with new host Nicole Manske on Monday, but they have not provided a lot of NASCAR pre-season coverage other than some Marty Smith reports from Daytona. SPEED continues with team previews each night at 7PM Eastern Time beginning on Monday.

So, two more days of testing coverage on SPEED, and then the real build-up begins.

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Anonymous said...

I thought today's show was good. I don't mind the "Highlight format" you mentioned.

Also, JD, Since this is a SPEED article I thought I should add this: My cable company will not add SPEED HD until late spring or early summer. Unless anything changes, that would mean I will miss all of speedweeks and possibly the all-star race in HD. I have a feeling this may be a trend among most cable carries. What is SPEED doing about this?

Newracefan said...

Enjoyed the show today. Speed certainly has the right people in the right places. 3 excellent TV guys in JR and Steve and 2 very informative former crew chiefs who help me understand what is really going on. Keep it up I'll keep watching. I wonder if they will cover any of the Nationwide testing that is also going on aside for the ticker at the bottom with the speeds?

glenc1 said...

"Regardless of the fans who insist testing is boring, they are not understanding that this COT test is different from all earlier testing."

I have to take exception at this...I think most of us are bright enough to understand the *importance* of the test for the teams and that the COT hasn't been used at the faster tracks which make up much of the schedule. But an average viewer is not going to be able to discern this watching footage of cars going around a track on a 32 inch TV screen even if you showed nothing but that for an hour or two--perhaps if you had the engineers talking about what the cars are doing, but you won't because they keep that stuff secret (they don't even talk much about it on the scanners). I certainly don't think it's boring for the *teams*'s just not 'hot' viewing material. That said, I enjoyed last night's program and thought they did do a good job. Made me miss the old days of a daily show, that's for sure. Finally someone mentioned Mark Cronquist, who many believe is of major importance in the acquisition of the Gibbs team by Toyota. They also mentioned the importance of wrecking a car between Vegas and CA when you can't just 'go back to the shop' to get another. They covered it all with a comfortable familiar style.

elena said...

I guess what make Jeff a fan favorite is his positive attitude and the way he expresses it.

In his column today he just wrote about all the good things we can look forward to this year. He also mentions all the times in the past when fans thought it was the end of good racing.

It sure is nice to have a such a positive voice for the sport I love.