Monday, January 7, 2008
SPEED Officially Begins The 2008 NASCAR TV Season
While SPEED has been covering Daytona testing for several years now, there was certainly a new look on Monday as John Roberts took to the air.
From the Daytona Infield Studio, Roberts introduced Jeff Hammond and quickly began a recap of the day's activity at the track. Just like that, NASCAR was back.
In the past, Bob Dillner has provided a wrap-up of testing as a one man band. SPEED decided last month to step-up their level of coverage. In addition to Roberts and Hammond in the studio, the network will add testing from tracks other than Daytona as well as coverage of the January Charlotte Media Tour.
What this all boils down to for fans is that NASCAR programming will be available on SPEED almost every day from now until Speedweeks begin in February. After the Sprint Cup sessions this week, SPEED will bring out Phil Parsons and Ray Dunlap to cover both the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series testing.
Unfortunately, someone at SPEED or in the Fox Master Control Center made the ill-advised decision to insert a large graphic in the upper right-hand side of the TV screen which remained for the entire show. It contained a big promo for the Gatorade Duels and also huge SPEED and NASCAR logos.
As viewers could plainly see, there was already a lower third "ticker" on the screen complete with a SPEED logo that could easily been used to offer this exact same information. The insertion of the big graphic appeared to be done without the knowledge of the production team in Daytona, so it often covered the faces of the reporters and drivers. What a shame that a good first show should be compromised by such an easy thing to fix. It should have been removed after the first segment.
Bob Dillner returned with his usual good information, and SPEED was on-the-spot with interviews from Dale Earnhardt Junior and Kurt Busch. Junior was especially candid in his comments about being in Daytona despite not being on the track, and his concerns about coming back in the COT when it is his turn to test. For many fans, it was nice to see Junior once again after his issues last season.
Dillner scored a key interview with Kyle Busch in his first day on the track with Joe Gibbs Racing in a Toyota. Kyle sounded like a man on a mission, and he really made a statement by saying he didn't want his two teammates to win the Bud Shootout. His reason was simple. He wanted to win his Gatorade Duel race and be the first Toyota winner in the Cup Series. Welcome back Kyle, we missed you.
Hammond was a little bit slow getting up to speed, but he is always better with Steve Byrnes and Larry McReynolds. Once the fun starts with that bunch, it is tough to stop. Hopefully, Hammond will get comfortable with Roberts as these shows progress. Roberts is a ringmaster on RaceDay, but these pre-season shows just need him to relax and show viewers his good sense of humor and calm manner.
As a show close, the "whip-a-round" of the new teams and drivers was perfect. This show contained a great mix of hard news, interviews and commentary. Hammond's closing commentary about the fact that the COT had fundamentally changed testing was right on target.
This investment by SPEED is going to pay-off in spades. All alone without any competition, the network gets the opportunity to shine at a time when fans are looking for any scrap of NASCAR TV. As the shows progress, it will be interesting to see how they grow in production value and information.
This was a solid start to a long season for John Roberts and a welcome sight for the fans. NASCAR on TV is back.
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