Monday, January 28, 2008

ESPN Classic Learns A Lesson: More NASCAR

The power of classic NASCAR races on TV was never on display more than Monday afternoon at 2PM Eastern Time.

With Mike Joy and his veteran announcing crew calling the action, fans got to sit back and re-live an incredible moment in NASCAR history.

New fans or old had to experience a very deep emotional connection to the one man so vocal in his frustrations about not winning the Daytona 500. In Victory Lane at that speedway many times before, Dale Earnhardt Sr. had never been able to capture "the big one."

Fans who have been watching this on-going six weeks of historic NASCAR races on ESPN Classic had already witnessed the ultimate moment of frustration for Earnhardt as his tire went down and Derrike Cope sped-by to victory.

Now, there would be no problem and no issue in the way for Earnhardt. Ken Squier put the previous races into perspective while cameras showed a walk down the beach by the great NASCAR champions of the past. Highlights then showed the classic Daytona 500 finishes up to the 1998 race.

The CBS crew included Ned Jarrett. It seems to be appropriate that Ned's son Dale was just named as the lead analyst for the 2008 NASCAR races on ESPN and ABC. In this program, Ned teamed with Buddy Baker in the booth to offer the "old school" type of open and honest commentary sadly lacking in today's telecasts.

Mike Joy split the spotlight with Ken Squier, as Joy was being eased into the play-by-play role that Squier made so famous. In this race, Joy was simply outstanding. He seemed to be inspired by the great racing and good company in the booth. Over-and-over again he demonstrated the key ingredient to his success.

Joy could both direct traffic and call the action with a fluid ease. Like veteran announcers Eli Gold and Barney Hall, Joy can get your attention immediately with a simple change in the inflection of his voice. This was a NASCAR race that fans actually wanted to turn...up.

The CBS trademark style of using the cameras as wide as possible and then zooming-in only when needed continues to be the most remarkable change between the coverage of the past and today's "tech dominated" broadcasts were the cars appear between multiple on-screen graphics.

The program Director skillfully used the "video boxes" to keep interviews and on-camera pit reporters from dominating the screen. It was clear for the entire program that the focus of all the TV activity was the race itself.

As Earnhardt continued to be in contention, Joy slowly began to build the excitement. An interview with Richard Childress heard him say that his heart was with Earnhardt, because we all knew what this one race meant to him.

Inside of twenty laps to go, everyone knew just who the story would be. Jarrett began to raise his voice, in anticipation of what he knew would be coming. That was success or failure once again for Earnhardt.

With ten laps to go, Joy let loose. He began to recap the stakes for the drivers in the front of the pack, with the focus on Earnhardt. CBS made sure to show brief shots of the crowd, which had begun to surge in anticipation of a possible Earnhardt victory.

The CBS in-car cameras showed Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield trying their best to catch Earnhardt. With only five laps to go, the CBS cameras kept almost twenty cars in the camera shot, and told the story of the entire field.

As Earnhardt took the caution flag with one lap to go, CBS stood back and let the reality of the moment unfold. Earnhardt had finally won. In the now famous shot, CBS used several cameras to document the crew members from every team standing patiently in line to congratulate Earnhardt as he made his way to Victory Lane.

Veteran NASCAR fans could only take a very deep breath as an excited and humble Dale Earnhardt stepped from his car to thank a lot of people. With so little footage of this late driver seen on TV, it was emotional to see the big smile, the big moustache, and the big heart of this man on display once again. This truly was a moment in time to remember forever.

The power of these telecasts is apparently lost on both ESPN Classic and SPEED, as neither chose to show any classic NASCAR races during the off-season. It was only a sudden switch of the programming schedule several weeks ago that brought these six Daytona 500 programs to the air.

ESPN Classic has twenty-four hours a day to re-air taped programming to tens of millions of viewers nationwide. With their eight year investment in NASCAR that cost billions of dollars, it is a shame that more powerful and classic races do not appear on-air. This one program might be the most dramatic NASCAR race...ever.

There are a couple of weeks left in this six week series that airs on Mondays at 2PM, clearly intended to be recorded for later airing by NASCAR fans.

The feature presentation on Monday night on ESPN Classic in prime time...was an old American Gladiators episode.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the simple instructions. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


SallyB said...

As the fans have been saying for the past several years...the excitement is (or should be) on the track. Nothing points out how little a race needs an infield studio, silly grapshics, or even an cutaway car. Those really aren't what people tune into a race for. Since I no longer get ESPN C on my cabl provider, I'm very glad that I taped so many 'vintage' Nascar races over the years. Whenever I get too disgusted with the hyped up announcing, in car camera shots that isolate you completely from the race acion, and trying to see through all the graphics and clutter on the screen that block the actual race, I pull out one of those old races. All the networks (and yes, I certainly include Fox on that list) need to watch and listen to those old tapes. That's how to televise and commentate so the viewer at home really feels a part of the action...all of it.

Skip said...

I wish I'd seen this broadcast. This, quite literally, was the race that got me started watching NASCAR. I hadn't watched very much of it before then. They'd recently built Texas Motor Speedway nearby, but I really wasn't following it. The emotion and the excitement got me.

Now ten years later, I'm a diehard fan and a season ticket holder at TMS.

SophiaZ123 said...

Yep! Caught the last part of this (THE BEST!!)

I also continue to be astounded at the HORRIBLE CAMERA work in today;s modern NASCAR coverage. MORE WIDE CAMERA ACTION!!


Less crap on the screen. Geez, I could not believe all the stuff on the top of the screen for the Rolex.

SPEED also clutters up their truck races badly.

Back in the day THESE OLD races are FANTASTIC but hard to watch without a knot in your stomach (and today's repeat, a lump in your throat)

Today's repeat was great and I would love to know WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE CAMERA MEN and producter/directors who USED to run the show.

They are sorely missed.

NASCAR is so lost in it's own hype, as is ESPN, Fox and SPEED, that the chances of us seeing real racing ever again is long gone.

I do miss the cleaner screens so the focus was JUST THE CARS!!

I had seen this race segment before with ALL the pit crews lined up to congratulate Dale. It was one of those shows where i wish I had seen the it was a once in a lifetime action of all on the track.


And CLASSY guys calling the race.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Good post. Do you have any idea why ESPN quit showing "old" races on Classic about the time it got its current piece of the NASCAR TV contract? I know I've seen the last race at Riverside on Classic at least 4 or 5 times in the last few years as I would stop and watch Benny P, Rusty, The King, DW, and others for many, many laps every time I ran across the race. When ESPN got back in the NASCAR deal I expected to see more "old" Cup races on Classic.

Daly Planet Editor said...


When ESPN got NASCAR they stopped showing the Classic races and they also stopped showing the Media Center press conferences after the races live on ESPN News. Go figure!


Vince said...

Sorry I couldn't watch this one again. ESPN Classic is on a premium tier with my cable network and I don't feel like giving them any more money than they already get.

But, I WAS at that race in person. Up in the Lund Tower on the Superstretch. It was a great race to see in person, that was for sure!

I sure miss Earnhardt. I'd love to hear what he'd have to say about the COT, current TV coverage, all the "furin" drivers and all the other changes in Nascar since he left us.

I wish ESPN would rebroadcast this series of classic races on ESPN or ESPN2 during the overnight time period when they aren't showing anything worth watching anyway. I could at least DVR them and watch them later.

ESPN/ABC, FOX, Speed, and TNT watch these classic races and how they were done. And learn! Less is more. Call it retro race broadcasting.

Bobby B. said...

Ah, yes, such a classic race. The one thing Mike Joy did that stood out to me was giving Dale's stats from previous races as the laps wound down. For example, when it got to 20 laps to go, Mike mentioned how many times Dale had led the 500 with that many laps to go, and he continued it as the finish drew closer. By the way, if you want the whole race, a company put it on DVD several years ago, and the DVD shows the entire broadcast. You can search for the 1998 Daytona 500 on eBay or Amazon. I bought one at a local DVD store when it first came out, and the DVD is fantastic.

SophiaZ123 said...


How wonderful to have witnessed that race IN PERSON.

I also think Mike Joy mentioned how twice, while leading under the white flag, Dale at lost the Daytona. I remember seeing the interview after one of those races....don't know if that is the one from last week as I missed that race.

I also think ESPN should see fit to put these great races on ESPN1 or 2.

I am saddened I missed out on the Dale Sr far the sport has sunk with his full of can only imagine what he would have to say.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post JD. Way to contrast the 1998 Daytona 500 on CBS with the current way NASCAR races our presented.

Even though TV production technology has improved considerably over the last 10 years and the networks are now broadcasting races in HD, I would rather watch races like the ones presented in 1998 on CBS over the current FOX/TNT/ESPN broadcasts ANYDAY!

Bobby said...

Keep in mind too that race was full of TNN production crewmembers and was not a #1-type crew because of the odd situation of the Daytona 500.

Because of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, that year, much of the top CBS brass who usually worked NASCAR was not there -- Mann, Fishman, and the rest of the top staff worked other events.

One thing is evident: Mike Joy has always used the statistician in the booth, and that race was evident how he uses that fourth man to help him when he wants.

That statistician mentality showed last year when Joy treated Mark Martin with that same treatment of his heartbreak as the cars crossed the 500-mile mark, headed towards Lap 202. Imagine if it happened with the #8 and Fox talks about all of Mark's heartbreak at Daytona, and the 500.

For the most part, the 1998 500 was a TNN-produced race, as the top CBS staff was doing Olympics.

Anonymous said...

This great race comes as a seperate DVD in the CMT boxed set of the DALE movie (avail at Walmart only). Yes, it's great.

I have races on VCR tape going back to '96, and even some old RPM tonight broadcasts with Kenny Mane, and even the commercials for the Nascar ride along program. The broadcasts were much better back 10 yrs ago. What's happened since then? Way too much! And we all know Dale wouldn't like much of whats happening now.

JD, thanks so much for this blog. I never miss a day.

GinaV24 said...

I have this race on DVD and I enjoy watching it for the great work in the booth and the fantastic camera work. Geez, I sure do wish some of the current broadcast and production personnel would go back and watch these races -- maybe they would learn something. How to be professional in the booth AND show the racing on the track. So nice to see wide shots, not just one car in the shot. Somewhere back in the day with comcast they must have been advertising Classic because I know that I did see several of the races (and taped them thank goodness) since Classic isn't part of the deal with my cable provider. If Speed and ESPN (not just on classic) would show NASCAR programming mroe in the off-season, think what a lead in for the upcoming season it would be -- of course, they'd have to use the Classic races because otherwise it wouldn't work -- all the fans would be asleep! LOL

Mike 24 said...

This was awsome, back when race coverage wasnt about how much Hollywood and drama you could inject into a race but when it meant covering the race with passion, detail, a true knowledge of the field.

Sophia hit the nail on the head. "NASCAR is so lost in its own hype".

This will be the first year in the past 6 I'll not attend the Daytona 500. And if the poor coverage, commericials, cost, etc. continue on their downward slide the only place you'll find me is on my boat fishing on Lake MI. The radio will be my source of NASCAR I cant take this Hollywood crap any longer!!

At 57 yrs young and an avid race fan for a long time.
It disgust me watching my beloved sport fall dowhill because of the Hollywood effect, and a bunch of CEOs that could care less about what the fans think. I wont go into how many races Ive attended or watch on TV "to many to count", but trust me that number will also go downhill if things dont CHANGE. Oh DAMN there's that word again.

Having said that I'll give Brian France the benefit of the doubt as he claims to be getting back to the good ole days. If not...see ya on the Lake old friends.

Anonymous said...

Bobby...your TNN comment is not true. Yes, Eric Mann was not there but Lance Barrow - who is currently CBS Coordinating Prod on golf and NFL lead Producer - produced that 1998 race with other CBS personnel in the truck. The only TNN person was the Pit Producer who was the TNN producer at the time.

steadicam_clay said...

The 1998 Daytona 500 is included in two versions (flag to flag complete coverage and a highlights version w/ comments) on the six disk "Dale" DVD collection from ESPN. My wife got me a copy for Christmas as an unexpected surprise, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it.

dvd addict said...

FYI - A couple people have mentioned that this race (1998 Daytona 500) is on DVD. The 1979 and 1997 500's are also available on DVD. All three are in their broadcast entirety from beginning to end. The sections where the commercials were are just edited/spliced out.

dvd joe said...

Geez, that sounds like a profitable deal. Put classic/notable NASCAR races out on dvd. Anyone listening?

Anonymous said...

That's probably why you can get them on DVD now, like they guy above said.

Desmond said...

Boy, I wish I taped that race to my DVR. To make matters worse, I watched the Super Bowl hype on NFL Network. Shame on me!

Anyway, this race may air again over the Daytona 500 weekend if it gets enough votes in the fan poll online. I hope it does so I can take advantage of the second chance.

By the way, another poster mentioned that the race is on DVD. Where can I buy it?

SophiaZ123 said...

Can somebody PLEASE post the link where I can VOTE on the favorite races on Classic>

I read jayski and did a search and could not find it.

If they want us to vote, I need breadcrumbs to find the link.


Anonymous said...

Great column JD!

Question, who owns the rights to old Nascar races and how much do you think it costs the networks to broadcast them?


Vicki in Columbus

Anonymous said...

Here you go sophiaz123

Daly Planet Editor said...


Prior to the creation of NASCAR Images and NASCAR taking back their ability to control the TV contracts, believe it or not the rights to the race footage belonged to the individual TV networks.

The amazing thing is that the rights to the races themselves belonged to the actual track operators. The TV guys had to negotiate with all the track owners one-by-one.

Since then, just like the NBA with NBA Entertainment or the PGA Tour with PGA Tour Productions, the footage of all on-track activity and races belongs to NASCAR Images after a set period of time.

Any way you slice it, the NASCAR Images guys in Charlotte are absolutely doing a poor job of creating new programming across new networks and other non-linear platforms (mobile/Internet/VOD) as they remained fixed on selling DVD's at Wal Mart.

There should be a website right now like Veoh where you can go, pay a price, and watch any NASCAR race or program from the past. It is AMAZING that the only place to get online long-form NASCAR video is non-NASCAR websites.

Now you got me started! This might be a column shortly! :)


Brian said...

Mike Joy was then, and still remains the best EVER at NASCAR TV PBP.

steadicam_clay said...

Desmond asked...
"By the way, another poster mentioned that the race is on DVD. Where can I buy it?"

My guess it's only available at Wal-mart. My copy came from Walmart.

"Anonymous said...
This great race comes as a seperate DVD in the CMT boxed set of the DALE movie (avail at Walmart only). Yes, it's great."

Daly Planet Editor wrote... "Any way you slice it, the NASCAR Images guys in Charlotte are absolutely doing a poor job of creating new programming across new networks and other non-linear platforms (mobile/Internet/VOD) as they remained fixed on selling DVD's at Wal Mart."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response JD!

I look forward to a column, if you choose to write one. I'd be interested in knowing how much Nascar charges to broadcast these old races and if the current networks tried to negotiate airing them in their current TV contracts.

It seems kind of odd to me that Nascar wouldn't utilize the old races to educate newer fans to the great history of the sport we already love.

Thanks again and keep up the great work that you do!

Vicki in Columbus, OH

Anonymous said...

What upsets me is that I thought since ESPN was back on board, that they would have their marathon NASCAR broadcast during the holidays. I don't know if anyone remembers but they would always have about 24 hrs worth of NASCAR races during Christmas and New Years. I sure do miss that. It was the teaser that would get thru till Daytona. Oh well, guess I'll have to break out the ol' VHS and watch tapes.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 1979, 1997 and 1998 Daytona 500 on dvd, you can get them from Amazon ($22 a pop). After you go to Amazon do a search for NASCAR Daytona 500 dvd and you will find them. These have been released by a few different companies in the last several years so be sure to find the $21.99 one's as they are the one's you can buy new.