Friday, February 1, 2008
SPEED Wraps Pre-Season Testing Coverage
The testing programs that made-up a big part of SPEED's Pre-Season Thunder concluded on Friday night.
Running from January 7th through February 6th, this new commitment by SPEED to expanding pre-season coverage of NASCAR has yielded very positive results.
Other than two days of coverage showcasing the annual Media Tour in the Mooresville and Concord, NC area, the remaining shows in the schedule focused on testing.
Viewers saw the SPEED crew follow the teams to Daytona, and then move out West to the Las Vegas and California Speedways. In addition to the Sprint Cup testing, SPEED also covered the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series testing at Daytona.
Right off the bat, SPEED showcased John Roberts who once again hosted the on-track programs. Roberts really came into his own last season, and because he is on the air so often for the network, transitioned right back into the NASCAR scene without missing a beat.
Although he often flies under-the-radar, he actually handles one of the heaviest workloads of any national sports TV personality now working. Tradin' Paint, NASCAR Live, Victory Lane, Pre-season Thunder and a little show called RaceDay take up his time.
This former lawn care worker is living out a dream by anchoring some of the highest-profile programming on SPEED. This season just might be a break-out year for Roberts, with broader TV opportunities on the horizon. Maybe that's the reason he is always grinning.
In support of Roberts, SPEED used a wide variety of individuals in this series. Steve Byrnes hosted the Charlotte-based shows, with Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds offering Sprint Cup analysis from both the SPEED studios and the tracks.
When Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series testing rolled around, SPEED brought Phil Parsons along to handle the analyst role. Parsons has been the "TV face" of the Truck Series for many seasons.
Splitting the reporting duties from the garage area have been Ray Dunlap and Bob Dillner. Dunlap is as outspoken as ever. His "in your face" style has endeared him to some and alienated him from others, but he is a character who can be both entertaining and informative. His Truck Series bowling feature will live on my DVR forever.
Dillner is working hard to create a bigger role for himself at SPEED, and the network has allowed him to be placed in the co-host position and also be used as the third man in the booth during Pre-Season Thunder. He has responded with a good on-camera presence and solid up-to-date information about the test sessions.
Wendy Venturini and Randy Pemberton returned briefly for the two days of Media Tour coverage, and basically went along for the ride. Their reporting was more from the perspective of a reporter on the Tour as opposed to a TV network covering it "as an event."
SPEED left something on the table with that effort, and although both Venturini and Pemberton came through with good information, it was basically the same content being pumped-out by the other reporters through their own media outlets. Look for SPEED to take a different slant on this "press junket" next season.
The Daly Planet has written several columns about SPEED's approach to "packaging" the testing shows. The network lays it out like a mini-RaceDay or NASCAR Live program.
The single host is joined by one or two others on the set. There is a garage area reporter, who also prepares a featured driver interview along with a daily news summary. Drivers are often shown in "soundbites" answering questions without the reporter having to appear on-camera. The "lead-in" or "intro" is handled by the host.
The analyst in the booth also prepares a "tech tip" and lends his knowledge in the "voice-over" of the morning and afternoon testing sessions. The summary segment at the end usually includes all three on-scene personalities, and closes the show.
SPEED has integrated significant "promos" into the show, including the Rolex 24, the All-Star race, SPEED in HD, the new SPEEDtv.com website, the 100 Hours of NASCAR and even ticket promos for the racetrack where they are located for testing.
This package has been well-received, partly because it is the only game in town in terms of on-track NASCAR action. The fact that the network stepped-up and committed these resources is impressive, but the fact that they pulled it off completely and professionally is the point to be remembered.
Over the last several weeks, you have heard me ask for more on-track footage and more non-driver interviews. I felt showing come complete laps would be beneficial, and introducing us to the engineers and the engine builders would be interesting.
As SPEED now looks back at this first effort, what do you think of this coverage and what would you like to see included for the future? We have had some interesting ideas on previous posts, and now that testing coverage is over I can't help but think we have some good opinions and suggestions just waiting to be added.
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