Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fontana Testing Worth The Wait


Two final shows are going to close-out SPEED's pre-season testing coverage. John Roberts, Jeff Hammond and Bob Dillner were at the Fontana Speedway in California to cover the first day of the COT cars on that track.

Located on pit road, with cars on the track behind them, the trio kicked-off the coverage with morning session highlights. Continuing in highlight format, the coverage finally showed multiple cars on the track, but continued to "capsulize" the on-track action.

Driver "soundbites" worked well to whip-a-round the information about the different approaches and goals for the teams. From Mark Martin to Ryan Newman, the drivers seem to be very comfortable with the SPEED crew and their open and honest comments have been a foundation of this multi-week coverage.

The afternoon session had good highlights, and also raised an interesting question. Will the COT cars draft well in Fontana? Eventually knowing if the COT can provide the frequent passing and the abililty to raise the excitement level will be critical to helping the struggling California Speedway to survive. That area of the country is still a big problem for the oval version of NASCAR racing.

Bob Dillner was once again the garage reporter, and raised several good points in his report. The fast cars from Vegas were not the fast cars in Fontana. That was a surprise, but this was the first time with these back-to-back tests.

Dillner follow-up by reinforcing the interesting struggles of some high-profile teams. The big grip and banking of Vegas did not translate well to Fontana. Hammond talked from his crew chief perspective about why and how this situation occurred.

Roberts continues to be a key utility player for SPEED, and he worked his way smoothly through this next-to-last session. He introduced Hammond's Tech Tip, which showed very clearly some of the challenges facing the crew chiefs in dialing the car in at Fontana. Hammond's gift is his plain-spoken manner backed-up by a good knowledge of the nuts-and-bolts of racing.

The featured driver was Dave Blaney, who struggled last season constantly with the top 35 rule. Blaney was once again realistic about the Toyota issues and the fact that his team is working hard, but not yet come into its own.

The Pacific Time Zone pushed the afternoon session right into the SPEED show, and the drivers were going to be staying for an evening session. Hopefully, highlights of that activity will be included in the Friday coverage.

Lots of teams will be leaving early on Friday to head back to Charlotte, and it should be interesting to see what final conclusions Hammond and Dillner come up with in terms of this COT on these two tracks.

SPEED now has testing down to a formula, and it has worked to relay a good amount of information to the viewers during the off-season. Once the week is over, perhaps the network will sit down with their team and make some notes about next season. This coverage is here to stay, and will probably be expanding in the future.

Daly Planet readers have made some great suggestions about one hour TV formats, coverage back in Mooresville of the shop activity, and increasing the role of the Engine Builders and Crew Chiefs in terms of participating in the program on-camera.

Toward the end of last season, Brian France made it very clear that he wanted more original NASCAR-themed programming from his cable TV "partner" SPEED Channel.

This brand new coverage of testing and the media tour, including studio-based review shows on the off-days has gone a long way toward satisfying that goal.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks for stopping by.

19 comments:

Truck Series Fan! said...

JD good reports from California by Dilner & Hammond and at least we saw more cars on the track than previous shows. Blaney seemed almost melancholy about the car and his chances for 2008.

Newracefan said...

Great show and we did see more cars and they were all doing single car runs but it was still fun to watch.

Vince said...

Another good show. Only one minor complaint from me. I know they were doing single car runs today, but they are still using a lot of the tight car shots that show nothing. Back the cameras off and show some more wide shots and you guys at Speed would be great.

Did anybody catch Roberts coming out of a commercial saying that the tickets for the Fontana race were selling out fast and to call the 800 number before the good seats were all gone? I busted a gut over that one. Has Fontana ever come close to selling out? I think not.

Robyn said...

It was a welcome change for SPEED to focus on one of the drivers that doesn't get a lot of attention. We always hear about the top teams, but hardly ever about anyone else.

Truck Series Fan- Not to start any arguments, but what you saw is how Blaney usually is in interviews.

Anonymous said...

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?

SophiaZ123 said...

Did not bother tuning in but thanks for the read.

Glad to hear they showed cars but my gripe woulda been the same as Vince's about tight camera shots.

*Sigh*

WIDE ANGLES, guys! Watch the ESPN CLASSIC races. Learn something. :-)

been editing photos all night and missed the show and I guess the repeat.

Thanks for the full report.

Bill H said...

JD

I wonder if the show Speed will have on 2/7 (9pm est) after the Bud shootout selection, "Nascar.. In Thirty Seconds", a show about commercials featuring Nascar drivers, fits in with "Toward the end of last season, Brian France made it very clear that he wanted more original NASCAR-themed programming from his cable TV "partner" SPEED Channel. ?

The show looks like it will be an interesting take on teh subject we all hate, commercials.

BillWebz

Anonymous said...

I like the way the cars are shot during practice and testing. I can see how they react to the surface of the track much better when they're up close instead of wider.

If there's only one car on the track, that's what I want to see. I don't need to see the empty track around the car, the empty seats, and the rest of the stuff that doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SPEED for all of the testing shows. I've recorded and watched all of them. Great idea to start the season.

Quote: 'The show looks like it will be an interesting take on teh subject we all hate, commercials.'

That show is probably more a publicity show for the commercials to be featured during the Daytona 500. They'll probably interview the drivers about their upcoming new commercials the way they preview the Super Bowl commercials.

Related to that, Dale Jr.'s new AMP Energy commercial must not have tested well with focus groups. It was created to possibly be used during the Super Bowl game, but it was just announced it is airing in pre-game and another AMP Energy commercial - without Dale Jr - will be aired during the Super Bowl. I'm not sure if pre-game ads get rated by viewers/adtrackers.

Dale jr. was very excited about possibly having it on during the Super Bowl. Maybe next year. Carl Edwards' ad for Under Armour shoes made it to the Super Bowl, but he's in it with a lot of other athletes.

TexasRaceLady said...

That was a good show. Lots of information. I didn't mind the tight shots of the cars because as someone else said, I can see the way the car is reacting to the track.

SophiaZ, would you send me an email, please?

JD, I hope my email reached you, also.

JustBill said...

Roberts saying that the tickets for the Fontana race were selling out fast. You can go to Stater Brother markets and buy $55 worth of stuff and get a free ticket. They may give away enough free tickets to make it look full.

San Diego Gary said...

"That area of the country is still a big problem for the oval version of NASCAR racing."
As a resident of Southern California, I want to say that the fans here aren't the problem, the TRACK is the problem. Put Texas Motor Speedway on this site, and watch the place sell out.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Southern California, I want to say that the fans here aren't the problem, the TRACK is the problem. Put Texas Motor Speedway on this site, and watch the place sell out.

Oh, sure, you guys are given race days taken from classic tracks, and now you want to complain about the quality of your TRACK?!

Tell you what, we'll take your Rockingham date back right now.

JP said...

Good show. I was at the track and watched them doing it and watched the tivo when I got back.

The free tickets are nice until you see where they are (first ten rows).
I think $210.00 for one ticket (you have to buy one for Saturday also), and $20.00 for a beer and a burger has a lot to do with not selling out.

JP said...

The $5.00 donation for infield parking and pit road access for both day's of testing is nice though. :)

San Diego Gary said...

anon @ 12:53-I personally thought Rockingham was one of the best tracks on the circuit. But they didn't even draw the crowds California does. The same goes for Darlington (which I've been to and LOVE.) They only started selling out after it looked like they would close that too. Are the fans in that area the problem too?

Richard in N.C. said...

My understanding is that the Cal. Speedway did used to come very close to selling out - when it had just one Cup race. It always fascinates me when the media makes an issue of the lack of sell-outs for Cup races in Cal. that they conveniently fail to mention that LA is the largest market in the U.S. that cannot support an NFL team.

elena said...

Another detail that is often not mentioned about Fontana, is that it has a large purse. Drivers sure like that, $342,,316 for winning. Compare that to Martinsville @ $200,000 or as low as $179,400 at Bristol.

I wish they would trade their last race for a date in late fall (Nov). It's miracle they can get 80-90,000 fans to watch a race when the temps are over 110 in the shade!

JP said...

Fontana sold out the first seven races they had there. Then came the second race and it hasn't sold out since. I have been to every race held there,but that have to end due to the cost.