Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SPEED's Vegas Testing Shows: Where's The Beef?

Like lots of fans I turned on the TV Tuesday night very excited to see a whole slew of COT cars on the big fast Las Vegas Motor Speedway. SPEED was on-hand to document the continuing testing and now had good weather and a fast track.

Unfortunately, the coverage of the actual on-track activity was more than a little light. It was non-existent.

While testing may be old hat to Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and the TV gang, the fans tuning-in wanted to see only one thing. That would be cars on the track. What they got was everything else under the sun.

Certainly, this is a first time effort, but one fundamental truth remains. It is as true for the fans that braved the cool weather at Daytona several weeks ago to sit in the stands as it is for the viewers who rushed home to turn on their TV sets Tuesday night.

They did not come to see the announcers on-camera, even more driver interviews, or fancy graphics. What they came for was to see lots of COT cars going around Las Vegas very fast.

SPEED did a good job at Daytona, and then jumped-in and gamely covered the Media Tour. But, those two things were different.

NASCAR fans knew this Las Vegas test would be very important to their favorite drivers and teams. They knew the Las Vegas oval would prove to be tricky for some drivers in these brand new cars. They were ready for action.

After the Tuesday evening show, the only question to the SPEED guys was "where's the beef?"

The video highlights of the Tuesday morning session lasted less than two minutes, and the afternoon session less than one. While there were "cut-a-way" shots and footage used for "B-roll" during driver interviews, there were no full speed laps shown and no groups of cars shown running together.

Fans got the impression that there was limited acivity on the track. Meanwhile, the NASCAR.com website reported that during the morning session there were 76 cars running. In the afternoon, there were 74. That does not match what fans saw on TV. It is not even close.

As if to add insult to injury, the SPEED crew then pointed out that Dale Junior had run perhaps the most laps of all. If so, where was he?

One lap at Las Vegas is about thirty seconds. Even a big field of cars or a line of team cars would still be lapping at thirty seconds. So, even one minute would buy almost two full laps of COT cars at SPEED for the fans at home. One minute.

Don't get me wrong, the info from the announcers has been outstanding. The tire story, the wind on Monday, and the high number of teams made for good content.

But, the Vegas test is a huge story and perhaps focusing on full laps with McReynolds providing information on what teams are doing during the run would work better than "SportsCenter style" highlight packages of the sessions.

There was no "at the track" feel to the Tuesday program. It was a NASCAR Live style show with video highlights, some driver interviews, and a feature thrown-in from both McReynolds and Dillner. It had the SPEED Stage vibe without the crowd.

There were lots of comments on earlier posts about this subject, and almost everyone said the same thing. We are happy to have this coverage, we applaud SPEED for "upgrading" the pre-season testing commitment, but...where are the cars?

Some viewers suggested that if time is an element for the coverage, the network should consider one hour testing shows that could mix the action and the features.

SPEED has committed to running a historic Daytona highlight, they have a daily Tech Tip feature, and they also produce a specific driver interview. Along with the promos for the track's ticket sales and the multiple SPEED program promos, thirty minutes goes by pretty fast.

Maybe "fast" was the wrong word to use. It seems a tad ironic that "speed" is the one thing sorely lacking in this otherwise solid testing coverage.

Wednesday will bring another 7PM Eastern Time program from Las Vegas, with the testing coverage moving to Fontana for Thursday and Friday.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply cick on the COMMENTS button below and follow the simple instruction. Thanks again for stopping by.


Sophia said...

Well, I am happy to see this article JD.

Did SPEED hire somebody from ESPU to run their shows???

I turned OFF this show to fix dinner. I am sorry but I can't STAND seeing the talking heads all the time. I like these guys but want to see the CARS!

Also, much like ESPN likes to yap and pretend the track is not even nearby, there is that ANNOYING CRAWL at the bottom of the screen CONSTANTLY.

Have we NOT griped about all the junk on the screen from ESPN?

Have we not griped how during practice and qualifying, ESP U shows the commentators too much and too little track?

It may be boring to some but I would like to see the practice.

I am worried this is more than pre season minutia, JD, but perhaps, SPEED for some sicko reason, wants to duplicate PeeSPN.

I will not be tuning in anymore. I will stick with reading your columns.

Enough with the yapping. SPEED could've saved some money and just made this an audio show for free on the SPEED website.

Sorry to be so negative but I am tired of the lack of cars on my screen.

Thanks for the column.

I agree, where's the beef!??

Anonymous said...

JD, I realize the problem, but you fail to mention why there was no on track footage. You did not even seem to ask or try and find out why we saw no on track footage. Could it have been a technical issue? A tactical issue? I am leaning towards one of those two, but from reading your article, you make it seem as if SPEED left out on track b-roll "just because".


Anonymous said...

WOW..what's with all the negativity? Not watching the show anymore just because of this?? And is the ticker really that annoying? Tired of the lack of cars...from just one episode? I sorry but it seems that some are now becoming unfairly critical.

Sophia said...

just for the record, I have tried watching these shows and seen LITTLE on track footage, period. I am not flipping out over one show.

I will wait until we get closer to Daytona to turn the tv back to SPEED channel. I can read online what I need to know. :-)

Unknown said...

After a 2 month drought of no Nascar coverage, personally I would rather see Speed talk to the drivers and talk about Nascar than see a bunch of gray cars with numbers taped to the side doing laps. I enjoy Nascar for the racing and the Drivers, not for the cars just going around in circles.


Anonymous said...

Love the idea of these shows.

The execution of them, however has been less than stellar.

I have yet to understand why each show features about thirty seconds of video from the AM practice session, then another 30 from the PM...and that's it. The rest, while interesting, isn't as interesting as seeing the actual cars running.

Maybe they do need an hour-long show, if the problem is trying to fit all the rest of the material into the alloted time.

Anonymous said...

IMO, if we've only got half an hour I'd rather see informative features that tell us what the teams are learning -- who is fast, how the tires are doing, and such news.

I wouldn't object to seeing cars going around in circles, but when they aren't *actually racing* news is preferable to pretty visuals.

What seemed to me to be missing wasn't so much simply raw visuals of cars driving in circles, but rather following the lap with an emphasis on analyzing the track or the particular car's handling.

Anonymous said...

Speed is at the tracks every week and they see how many fans come in to the stands to watch practice. I go to a few races and the stands have nobody in them, and there are many 10's of thosands of people right at the track camping. They must think if people don't want to watch pratice or testing in person, who wants to watch it on the TV. I can tell you without a scanner it will put you to sleep!

I don't understand the person who complains about tickers, these give you good info on times, which is what these sessions are all about. If the tickers were not there, all the info would be given by the hosts, which would cut out many features and interviews.

Daly Planet Editor said...

It certainly is interesting how one comment about a sports ticker, not included in this column, has gotten a life of its own.

While ESPN and other networks that use a ticker focus on providing info and results from other sports, the point about SPEED in the pre-season is that there are no other racing results.

The information scrolling on the bottom of the screen is the same info contained in the program being watched.

The comment about tickers in the ESPN Classic column was the fact that ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News and ESPN.com all offer instant information in the same manner.

Every NASCAR fan who recorded Dale Earnhart Senior's win at Daytona will now have old scores from college basketball games and news from the NBA that they will be watching as well....forever.

If we need to create a new column about tickers because there is a lot of interest, I would be happy to do so. If you would like me to do that, just drop me an email so I can get a feel on that topic.

Please don't get confused between questioning TV issues and being negative. TV is subjective, with few rules. That is why this type of site gets very diverse comments.

If you like the coverage, like Bill and some other posters, just say so and the reasons why. He raises some good points.


Anonymous said...

When SPEED announced that they would be broadcasting the tests from the track, many fans were excited for an upgrade to previous years' coverage. The way it has turned out, these shows could have been done from Charlotte.

What SPEED might have done was to spend money on cameras going to the tests and gathering footage (on-track, garage, and interviews) rather than doing the show as a remote. Having the show live from the track doesn't seem to add much, other than the couple of on-set interviews from Daytona.

I was in an obsessive-compulsive mood the other night and timed how much "show" was mixed in with the promos, fillers and commercials. 17:45 min. SPEED's getting some bang for the buck there.

Anonymous said...

John Daly wrote: The information scrolling on the bottom of the screen is the same info contained in the program being watched.

Exactly! This is the kind of overkill that the TV networks do so much lately and drive the viewers crazy!

Anonymous said...

I have watched all of the "Thunder" and have enjoyed them.

I would have liked to see at least a couple of laps with multiple cars on the track. It seems that SPEED sent a minimal crew on the western swing and they did their best with what they had on hand.

Again, I say thanks to SPEED for helping us through our withdrawal pains. :)

Anonymous said...

Lower-third crawls came into widespread use on 9/11/01 and, sadly, have only become more common since then.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I have, as others mentioned, attended testing in person. I used to play hookey from work to enjoy a day in the sun. But I'd bring magazines with me because it is incredibly boring at times (a few primer cars going around figuring stuff out is not my idea of exciting, even with a scanner--and you do hear funny stuff you can't say on TV...).

I'm thinking they could have showed a bit more on-track action, but let's not overkill with an hour of this. It's cars NOT RACING around a track. To be honest, unless you're the crew chief or engineer, I can't see that you're going to gain a lot from this. I'd rather see some good interviews and some tech talk...I totally agree with the 'at the track' feeling though. To have them out at a desk with their hair flying in the wind is more immediate (I've always been glad Krista Voda isn't a primadonna in that way for the Truck race show.)

Kevin in SoCal said...

Thanks for the info on being prepared at the testing. I'm going to CA Speedway on Friday and since its my first time going for testing, I will bring more than just my video camera and a sharpie.

Anonymous said...

Having been to testing here in Ca and Vegas, It's boring! The cars go out make few laps,come back in for adjustments and go out again. Yes a few of them will bunch up to see how the cars handle in dirty air, but they are all being cautious. No Racing going on here. Right now I'm more interested in what's oung on with the cars and teams. Makes a difference on how I pick my fantasy teams. I think speed is giving some good info in a short period of time.We got 36 weeks of racing coming up to watch the cars rewoeucally run.

Newracefan said...

I WANT to see cars on the track but I Need information. So if I have to choose I'll take Larry Mac and company over primer gray. Many here have said that watching testing is boring, I guess if they showed some cars, and explained no one was really running close therefore there wasn't much to show us I'd accept it. Right now what many of us are picturing in our heads is probably not what is happening on the track. I also believe there may be a limited numbers of cameras there since all the car shots appear to be from the same area on the track. It is a wonderful thing we actually have a show watch and if it never becomes more than it is right now I'll still be happy that Speed thought fans were important enough to show them the information they could dig for on the net.

PammH said...

I'm quite thrilled w/Speed's coverage. I see cars on the track, but I want to hear from the drivers & Larry Mac's good info. I am happy Speed didn't bail on us after Daytona testing!!
And JD, ignore the trolls-they are baiting you. Myself & many others appreciate what you have created for us here & hope that you can keep it going!! It will be missed if you don't...:(

Anonymous said...

Great Article!!! Thanks!

"They did not come to see the announcers on-camera"

DW & Larry are ok, but enough is enough, we tune in for the racing, not to see the Three Stooges!!!

SPEED, Go back and look at 2001 coverage, before these three thought they were it!

Anonymous said...

I take it nobody is intelligent enough to realize that during these test sessions there are no "packs" of cars on the track. These are single car runs... yeah, I'd love to see more cars too... but anin't gonna see packs.