Monday, January 21, 2008
SPEED's "Monday Thunder" Covers The Bases
John Roberts and Ray Dunlap kicked-off the week for SPEED's continuing NASCAR Pre-Season Thunder shows. The duo never mentioned the absence of Phil Parsons, normally the analyst for the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series pre-season shows.
Dunlap provided a lot of information from the analyst chair in the studio, and showed-off his vast knowledge of the personalities involved in the sport. It was nice to have Dunlap to guide viewers through many of the new faces who will be involved in the series for 2008.
Roberts gave Dunlap free reign to present the news, and his work resulted in a very interesting profile of the new Nationwide Series. Several topics were covered, including the focus of the series as new driver development and the potential issue of an age limit increase for the Sprint Cup. These were the drivers most affected.
Then, Dunlap broke out the big issue. He said that it was going to be next to impossible for an independent Nationwide team to compete against the "super teams" of the Sprint Cup owners.
He acknowledged that even with the advent of the COT in the Sprint Cup series, fans were probably in for another year of dominance by those drivers in the second-tier Nationwide tour. Carl Edwards was interviewed, and he once again committed that his "super team" was going for the Nationwide championship.
It was nice of John Roberts to have a video update of NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton announcing the change in the Sprint Cup qualifying. It was bold of Ray Dunlap to immediately say NASCAR "almost" got it right. Dunlap pointed out that the non-top 35 cars need to qualify before the rest of the field in case of rain. That certainly seems like a common sense issue.
Give credit to SPEED for showing the weekend testing highlights of the Nationwide action. This extra bit of effort really helped. Dunlap also presented the regular "tech tip" and updated viewers on the new restrictor plates that will be used on the Nationwide cars during the season.
In The Daly Planet Sunday column previewing this show, we suggested that it was going to be important for SPEED to "take the temperature of the Nationwide Series, and then report honestly on the overall health of the patient."
As John Roberts closed out the show with Dunlap, he asked Ray "what is your opinion of the health of the Nationwide Series?" You really can't get any better response from a TV network than that.
Dunlap acknowledged that there will be less than full fields this season, and suggested that NASCAR scrap their previous practice of "assisting" some teams to get to the racetrack so the field would be full of 43 cars.
Dunlap suggested cutting the fields to 36, but keeping the prize money the same and distributing it to the smaller field. He also reminded viewers that in 2009 this series would go to their own version of the COT. The tough issue this season for owners is that every current Nationwide car will be off the track next year.
This was a well put together show by SPEED. It updated the weekend action, as well as the Monday happenings. It contained video from The Media Tour, a Bob Varsha promo for the Rolex 24 and lots of good driver soundbites, including the series champion Carl Edwards.
Very quietly, SPEED has made something very interesting out of what most of us thought was boring. That would be pre-season testing. By combining the production resources of the network as a whole, these weeks of coverage have become solid programs that are "can't miss" viewing for fans waiting for the season to begin.
There is one more Nationwide testing show on Tuesday, and then SPEED steps into first-time TV coverage of the Charlotte Media Tour. The Tuesday program is at 7PM Eastern Time.
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