Sunday, March 23, 2008

"NASCAR Confidential" Brings Down The House

The debut of the new program series from the NASCAR Media Group filled a void that fans had been asking SPEED Channel to fix for several years.

Few things can be better than Ken Squier as the first voice fans heard on NASCAR Confidential. Squier set-up the debut as a slice-of-life program following several different and diverse personalities on the Daytona 500 weekend.

For the past several years, the official TV production arm of NASCAR was called NASCAR Images. Originally a joint venture with Fox, the company is now part of a broader organization called the NASCAR Media Group and is totally owned by NASCAR.

The organization is diverse, and provides everything from on-site TV production services to NASCAR home videos. One other thing the company provides is outstanding post-produced TV series. Several networks have provided the outlets for this type of product, but things have been a bit slow over the last several years.

ESPN has almost no room for additional long-form NASCAR programming like NASCAR Confidential. They have added a ton of NASCAR content with races and a daily news show called NASCAR Now. The burden of carrying additional NASCAR content like this really falls to SPEED.

With 24 hours dedicated to motorsports, SPEED has been focusing their NASCAR efforts on programming that originates from the track. Ironically, it is the NASCAR Media Group that produces all those shows seen on SPEED from Raceday to Victory Lane. Finally, SPEED has decided to add this new six episode series.

“SPEED knows how devoted NASCAR fans are and how much they want every tidbit of information and insight they can get their hands on,” said Steve Craddock, SPEED Senior VP of Programming. “NASCAR Confidential will give viewers a different take on the behind-the-scenes workings in NASCAR. It will bring NASCAR to the fans in more depth and detail than they’ve ever had before.”

In this first program, cameras followed T. Taylor Warren, the photographer who has chronicled in photos every Daytona 500. Also, DeLana Harvick, wife of 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick and Jay Howard, president of JHE, the company in charge of pre-race entertainment were featured. Finally, both Ryan Newman and Michael Waltrip showed-up as drivers with unique perspectives going into this event.

The stories of each of the participants were told in slices and were weaved together quite well. The pace was fast and this series was different than the single-theme programs we have seen from NMG in the past. It was refreshing to once again be able to see behind-the-scenes in a realistic way the sport that contains so many diverse human interest stories.

Perhaps, you could tell us what you thought of this pilot episode. The show will re-air on Monday in the TWIN timeslot at 8PM Eastern Time on SPEED if you missed the original airing. Maybe SPEED could be persuaded to continue this series beyond the original six episodes ordered so far.

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Newracefan said...

LOVED this show. Who know there was an 82yo taking great pictures at Daytona. I have always liked seeing the drivers as people and this show gave it to us without being totally interfering in their lives. The other insiders were also fun to follow. This show definately deserves more than a 6 show run.

Anonymous said...

I liked NASCAR Confidential a lot....once I figured out what to compare it to. I was thinking (hoping!) it would be more like "NASCAR Drivers 360" or "7 Days". Those programs show a little more of the personal side of the participants in their daily lives for part of the show, then show them during the race they were participating in that week.

In my view, NASCAR Confidential is actually an expanded version of "Beyond the Wheel". It took a race and looked back on the ins and outs of it as it happened. The difference in NC and Beyond the Wheel is that NC is expanded by time (30 minutes more than BTW) and by showing people other than drivers, crews, owners (wife, photographer, NASCAR employee).

So when I looked at it as an expanded "Beyond the Wheel" (which was more impersonal than the other shows because it was almost all racetrack-based), I thought it was very good. Sometimes transitions were abrupt, like when they jumped out of the race to examine the Kurt Busch/ Tony Stewart "feud", but overall it meshed well. The music included when they were getting ready to start the Daytona 500 was really stirring -good choice.

My suggestion would be to imitate the past programs like NASCAR 360 in captioning the audio that is difficult to hear. There were several comments that were difficult to hear because of muffled audio, and previous shows added captioning to those moments to make them clearer.

I will continue to watch the show.

Still hoping there's room out there for a revival of NASCAR Drivers 360. Last I heard, ESPN owned the rights to air it as "NASCAR Drivers Non-Stop". ESPN2 aired four episodes of NASCAR Drivers Non-Stop series on Sunday evenings (10 PM) in fall 2006. Hope they jump back in this game too.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed it! It was a neat "behind the scenes" perspective!

I loved learning about Mr. Warren! That's great that he's been doing it for so long!

I hope they do more shows! I think this will be a winner if the others follow as well :)

Anonymous said...

For you early birds, this program also comes on again at 4 AM EST and 8 AM EST today before tonight's replay. Also midnight and 8 AM Tuesday. Good job SPEED in showing multiple replays.

Interesting show; I'd vote for it to have more than six episodes. What I might change is maybe they should have focused more closely on four people instead of six. The victory lane guy didn't get much time. If they were going to focus on him, I would have liked to have seen how he works before/during the race-does he have hats from every sponsor of every driver ready for the photos or what? He also sounded like he was coordinating with the TV crews -how does that work? Who sets up the placement of elements in victory lane? That kind of thing. He just sort of appeared at the end of the program.

And also perhaps spending more time on the two drivers. I don't think we heard one word from Ryan's wife or saw more than one or two glimpses of her. It would have been nice to see exactly what she was doing while Ryan was at the driver's meeting, or as Ryan was fulfilling all the media duties after winning.

Anon@10:36 said:
"Still hoping there's room out there for a revival of NASCAR Drivers 360. Last I heard, ESPN owned the rights to air it as "NASCAR Drivers Non-Stop"."

I'm still hoping with you, but I've got a feeling it's not coming back. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

Loved it!! It reminded me of NASCAR Drivers 360, which was "must see TV" for my household when it was on. I was wondering if it was a one shot deal--glad to see there are 5 more episodes.

Hopefully our positive comments on this type of programming will have some effect on the powers that be. If you program this type of show, WE WILL WATCH.

Anonymous said...

I hope they do more shows! I think this will be a winner if the others follow as well :)

Of course what I MEANT was "...if the others that follow are just as good"

@anon 10:36--yes I agree about the BTW comparison.

@anon 12:18--yes that's AWESOME that they did so many replays! So taking over the VL and TWIN replay spots :). Yes I hope they talk more about VL and some other things that require coordination in the upcoming episodes. I *think* it was either the 7 Days or 24/7 show that had an episode on the fly-over coordination. Having the aircrafts in the area early enough but not too early and then negotiating them in so they'll hit the track at the right time.

@Lisa--Yes I wish the 360 aka Non-Stop would come back! It was fun seeing what they did in their free time and see how busy many of them are!

Kathy said...

I totally enjoyed this show and would love more of this type. I have always enjoyed seeing what goes on behind the scenes and to meet the people involved in making the races go off smoothly.
I was a big fan of "7 Days" and hope this will be a big success.

Ritchie said...

I caught this show by accident after all of my Easter activities, so I had no preconceived notions prior to watching it. I enjoyed the show and its glossy, magazine feel.

I agree that it would help to back the number of personalities that are being covered down to about four. I also would rather they not cover drivers. We really don't need another SPEED program about Michael Waltrip. He is reaching the overexposure point quickly.

I think hardcore fans want to see more of the personalities that work in the background of the sport. The camerman and victory lane coordinators are stories that you can't see anywhere else. I vote for more of this.

Julie said...

Mr Daly, perhaps you can help the fans out on this one...

Most people really enjoyed "360" although it was a limited run show with few episodes. Now we have "Confidential" which has a similar feel but once again it is slated for very few shows.

Are these programs just too expensive and too complex to produce more episodes? Speaking only for myself, I'd much rather watch this type of program than "Pinks" or "Setup" (although I do enjoy both of those programs on a limited basis) and it seems that with hundreds and hundreds of stories in the garage every week the potential is endless. Why are networks reluctant to give us this type of programming and when they do, only in limited quantities?

Daly Planet Editor said...


SPEED has tried to figure out what that network should be between Monday and Thursday for years now.

Do you remember all the time and effort on the motorcycles, only to have that whole thing cancelled?

Remember Wind Tunnel every night of the week when it featured folks from all types of racing? Gone.

We have been suggesting for some time not that SPEED and NMG get together for a Monday night "theme block" of NASCAR.

Now that NMG is no longer partially owned by Fox, everything SPEED asks them to do involves real dollars.

At the present time, SPEED is continuing their dogged pursuit of a "fan base" of young non-NASCAR or open wheel fans. Sometimes, they are called the "import crowd" because of their cars.

Shows like Living the Low Life and NOPI Tunervision are extensions of this group. The success of PINKS as an entertainment property has forced development of real racing shows to the back burner.

Imagine NASCAR looking at the Craftsman Truck Series on SPEED and seeing nothing but a pre-race show and the races themselves. That series needs additional weekly programming to grow, and SPEED has not filled that void.

With the struggles of TWIN on Monday as the lone NASCAR program on SPEED, it should be interesting to see how this season plays out.


Anonymous said...

I think the last 2 "PINKS" live shows had bigger crowds at the track, than the stand-alone NASCAR Trucks get?!

Anonymous said...

Great show. Hopefully they will do a few more.

Also, a few more episodes of The Humpy show would be nice. An episode featuring Jeff Gordon and David Pearson would be fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Ritchie said...
"I think hardcore fans want to see more of the personalities that work in the background of the sport. The camerman and victory lane coordinators are stories that you can't see anywhere else. I vote for more of this.

March 24, 2008 7:29 AM"

The problem with aiming at hardcore fans: the reason that "NASCAR Drivers 360" was such a huge success is because it drew in casual fans (many of whom became hardcore fans - I know a few of them!) Several articles about new NASCAR fans (especially women) specifically mentioned they really got into the sport for good by watching NASCAR Drivers 360, which was about the drivers and their lives.

These shows absolutely need drivers in them to be successful. "7 Days" had a nice mix of maybe two episodes focusing on driver, wife, well known crew chief, or owner, then an episode on a true behind-the-scenes person. That worked also - but drivers are essential to gaining an audience for this show or others like it. They need to be in the show every week.

I do agree with you that Michael Waltrip is a little overexposed!

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! This was a well done documentary much like survival of the fastest.
Obviously, there is a need for more NASCAR oriented programming and SPEED must step up to bat.
Me and my 8 year old sat motionless for an hour, which is indeed a miracle for him.

Anonymous said...

Julie said...
"Are these programs just too expensive and too complex to produce more episodes?"
March 24, 2008 9:22 AM

I don't know about Beyond the Wheel, NBS 24/7 or the new NASCAR Confidential, but NASCAR Drivers 360/NASCAR Drivers Non-Stop were more expensive than usual to produce. They came from a Hollywood production company (working with NASCAR Images) and the main guy had been an executive producer on the FOX series "24". So real top-shelf stuff.

I think the fact that it was on FX and not SPEED or ESPN2 may have helped with the quality; no doubt FX added in some budget money for the production. When "NASCAR Drivers 360" was announced, the FX president said they were treating it like one of their regular primetime series.

When 360 moved to ESPN as "NASCAR Drivers Non-Stop", I'm not sure the same production team remained, since ESPN didn't list credits on Non-Stop - but it seemed as high quality as ever. But they only created four episodes for Non-Stop (as opposed to the eight per season for NASCAR Drivers 360),so I'd guess some cost cutting was involved there.

I know some people think that drivers no longer want to commit to filming that type of show, but I don't think that's the case, because as recently as fall 2006 Drivers Non-Stop had Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Brian Vickers among others. Jeff Gordon made a cameo appearance on camera when he had several people over for takeout food at his highrise apartment (Mears and Vickers were attending, so it was in the show). So I don't think the drivers are all that hesitant as long as some of their privacy is kept. Like we saw Jeff Gordon's living room and kitchen but not the more private areas of his home.

Newracefan said...

I liked having the drivers included and seeing Michael Waltrip as a person instead of the funny guy was insightful. I think the reason we did not see more of Ryan's wife was because he was added after the 500 was over, let's face it it would have been unbelievable luck for them to have picked the driver who actually won the 500. I wonder if it will always be 6 people or if just for the first show? I could be ok with less than 6.
I think for the hat dance the teams supply their sponsor hats so they always have to have a supply on hand just in case they get to go to victory lane. Hats specific to that race are the only ones supplied by Nascar. I seem to remember this from a different Nascar show that was similar to Nascar Confidential .

Anonymous said...

Newracefan, good point in suggesting they probably added Ryan Newman after the fact and just rounded up any coverage they had of him. I was wondering how they ended up so lucky to have the Daytona 500 winner, out of the two drivers they chose to profile.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out when NASCAR Confidential is coming on again or what its weekly timeslot would be. I looked at listings through Monday, April 7.

After the 8AM replay tomorrow, it doesn't appear to air again until March 31 (Monday) and April 4 (Friday). Both airings are in mid-afternoon and only air once, so I certainly hope those aren't new episodes in those timeslots.

I thought perhaps it would air for the next five weeks after TWIN, but next week and April 7 Super Cars Exposed is on after TWIN.

Bummer. Debuting NASCAR Confidential as a pilot and then not airing a new episode for at least a few weeks (and not saying at the end of the show when the next episode airs) isn't going to help it gain a regular audience. Let's hope it doesn't come and go like The Humpy Show pilot.

Unknown said...

As a NASCAR fan of 30 years, I found this show to be wonderful. I like the inside world that we were permitted to experience. The ups, downs, questions, answers, you had it all. Racers, crews, photographers, the complete package. I can't wait for the next episode.


Anonymous said...

JD: I think Ken Squier's time may have passed. He was doing the PA at Atlanta Motor Speedway and made a couple, ahem, gaffs, both during the Cup event:

1) Here's Clint Bowyer, the Emporia, VIRGINIA driver of the 07 Jack Daniels Chevy"

2) Early in the going, there was a restart and he mentioned a battle for second between two drivers (one was Harvick, I believe). One problem, the other driver was one LAP down.

Anonymous said...

I was just scrolling through the guide last night and saw this show, so tuned in about 10-15 minutes after the start. It was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as Beyond the Wheel. The distinctive style of NASCAR Images was present (which I enjoy a lot), but I wasn't that impressed with all the subjects of this week's show. Really enjoyed the photographer, but didn't find any interest in the chorography behind the scenes of the concerts and Victory Lane. Delana Harvick has been featured way too much in documentaries IMHO.

I like this style of show, but really don't understand why SPEED dropped Beyond the Wheel as it was excellent and won some Emmy Awards. Why do they keep repackaging these shows with new names? The "confidential" part of this show's title really turned me off as it sounded too soap opera-ish for my tastes. I wouldn't go out of my way to record this show, but if I happened to catch it on again, I'd probably watch it.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about the show is that Ken Squier actually only spoke at the beginning and end. The worst thing is the medias continuing fascination and inclusion of Michael Waltrip in everything they do. Enough already. I did enjoy the show however oeverall and have the TIVO set to record them all. Now I know who is responsible for all the mind numbing musis we are subjected to for 4 hours before the race.

Anonymous said...

When are you guys at Speed going to realise that the most of the NASCAR fans cannot stand Michael Waltrip. Especially if they know anything at all about NASCAR racing. If you want to keep people watching then get rid of the MUG.

Anonymous said...

Michale Waltrip is and will continue to be a very popular driver in Nascar. I always enjoy seeing him, at least it wasn't Jr., Jeff, Jimmy or Karl Edwards, now we have had a overdose of those guys, and yes the talented Kyle Busch, who is very annoying, they all have their fans, you love them, hate them, or just have no opinion. But this was a nice show, look forward to seeing future shows.

Daly Planet Editor said...

In this program, I understood the MW presence because of the issues that his new team had last season and the fact he rebounded with his qualifying effort.

I completely understand the over-exposure issue. If I was his agent, I would make a plan and slow things down.


Anonymous said...

Michael Waltrip appears to be one of the dependable folks for these NASCAR documentary shows. Meaning if you don't have someone available you call call on them because they are comfortable with the cameras. Same with Jeremy and Shana Mayfield, Buffy Waltrip, and DeLana Harvick (the latter three all had their own episodes of 7 Days along with Shana and DeLana being on NASCAR 360). I enjoyed them all, but also like to see different perspectives from others.

So I agree it's better when they go out of the box a little and show some other drivers/wives. 7 Days had a few that didn't normally get followed - Newman, Sadler, Boris Said, Hamlin, Truex -and hopefully NASCAR Confidential will be able to do that.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about the NASCAR Confidential made me pull out my tape of Drivers Nonstop (Yay to all my fellow Nonstop fans!). I only watched one Nonstop episode tonight. But yeah, the distinction between Nonstop (360) and NASCAR Confidential is striking. NASCAR Confidential ends up looking "pretty good" as opposed to "excellent".

One contrast is the unusually superb editing. Shana and Jeremy Mayfield have indeed done a lot of the reality shows, but seeing them on Nonstop (recorded right after Jeremy got fired from EMS) was really different and something you don't get to see all the time - A driver who is stuck at home against his will. I'll describe it a little, because from what I know a lot of people saw 360 but hardly anybody saw Nonstop, thanks to ESPN not showing repeats.

The episode had Mayfield, Yeley, Bowyer during the week of the Fontana race. As the race began, the editors compiled a 10-second shot - of cars going off pit road, then to Bowyer's crew chief, then to Yeley's crew chief - and finally to the Mayfields watching the race on TV, looking completely forlorn, as the green flag fell. It was an AMAZING shot - you felt exactly how miserable they were, in three seconds of looking at their faces.

The show ended with showing Bowyer and Yeley postrace, but the final shot was Mayfield. He couldn't deal with watching the race and went outside to fish. The final shot was of him in the pitch dark, at his fishing hole. Again, amazing.

That's what NASCAR Images/NASCAR Media group is capable of - showing the mostly good but also a little of the downside of racing and making both COMPELLING. (Jeremy was cheerful and having fun most of the episode before raceday, so it wasn't as if they were making him look bad.) It would be great to see them hit that standard again, in a variety of programming for the networks. It would be great if the networks welcomed NMG and its ideas with open arms (and money).

Anonymous said...

As a fan of Michael Waltrip, I loved hearing and seeing Mikey in this show. I also liked seeing the other aspects of the show. Anyone can get overexposed. Jr., JG, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and the usual suspects definitely do get overexposed.