Sunday, March 2, 2008

The TV Weekend NASCAR Really Needed


There may have been a lot more things coming together for NASCAR this weekend than just the COT and the weather. While a big crowd at the track enjoyed some great racing and the Las Vegas sunshine, NASCAR fans watching on TV also got a treat.

For the first time in a long time, the NASCAR TV programs offered by Fox, ESPN2 and SPEED all hit a home run. Anyone who struggled through some of the offerings of last season had to be smiling at both the quality and the quantity of the NASCAR TV over the last few days.

The SPEED and Fox announcers combined forces to handle the Las Vegas practice and qualifying sessions, with Steve Byrnes and Mike Joy hosting the shows. The casual atmosphere and the day-long commitment to the on-track action is exactly what fans needed. This group has shown the true spirit of cooperation this season.

Capping the evening on Friday was another edition of Trackside. This program has become a mini-version of RaceDay, with the big crowds and the top drivers. Having Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards stop-by was exactly the right touch going into the weekend and it paid off in an outstanding interview with Busch.

Still in his driver's suit, Busch was on his game and sent a message to the 2008 NASCAR fan base that this was going to be an exciting year and he was going to be the one to make it that way. Love him or hate him, this supposed "cast-off" seemed to be enjoying his new role in the spotlight.

SPEED then returned to handle the on-track duties right up until the Nationwide race. With another seamless transition, the re-vamped ESPN2 crew took up the challenge of fixing the mess they created last season with the Busch Series.

Dale Jarrett has been a beacon of light for Jerry Punch in the announce booth. Punch is still working to define himself as a play-by-play announcer, and DJ sometimes prods him back into that role when he strays. Both of these men kept the information flowing and the issues with the track and tires center stage in this event.

Andy Petree gave his strongest performance to date as an analyst, and seems to be enjoying this change in the booth. Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham were not involved in this weekend's telecast. ESPN will continue to rotate the on-air announcers throughout the long season.

As Sunday rolled around, NASCAR fans had a good look at two very different network styles that both get across good information. The more formal style of ESPN was on display as Nicole Manske and Boris Said hosted NASCAR Now from the ESPN2 studios. Manske has been nothing short of totally professional since she set foot in ESPN, and her hard work at Daytona really set a tone for this series.

ESPN said in the pre-season that they were going to work to integrate all the NASCAR announcers into one big team, and they have kept their word. Manske had most of the members of the ESPN2 broadcast team on the show, along with Marty Smith and the news.

A short time later, SPEED unleashed another live version of RaceDay. Once again serving the role of the "Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR," this two hour show contains news, features, interviews and sometimes mind-numbing treatment of the English language.

From the college-educated and professionally trained Wendy Venturini to the pride of the Berwick High School Bulldogs Jimmy Spencer, RaceDay truly has something for everyone. John Roberts is a very busy traffic cop as he maintains control while simultaneously trying to encourage Spencer and Kenny Wallace to occasionally use punctuation.

The interesting thing is, both RaceDay and NASCAR Now cover the exact same stories and work in exactly the same manner. The only thing separating them is their on-air styles. ESPN reflects the overall on-air look of a big media company with lots of rules and regulations about being on-the-air. SPEED reflects the dress and tone of the NASCAR garage area.

When RaceDay steps aside, the highest profile TV team in NASCAR steps-in. Mike Joy used Las Vegas to remind us once again of why he is simply the best in the business. Keeping track of the race, the TV components that must be integrated and also directing traffic between eight other on-air announcers is no easy task for three hours. The NASCAR on Fox leader was great in Vegas.

Despite an extended pre-race show, fans needed a good race with good weather and good TV coverage to get things back on-track for the season. Fox made great pictures and put out great sound to thrill the HD crowds around the country. The fact that the race contained all kinds of drama and action really capped the day in the right way. Even adding a replay of the finish worked to emphasize the fact that the Fox crew was aware of the issues of the past.

Even as Joy was signing-off, Victory Lane on SPEED and live post-race coverage on ESPNEWS was beginning. Fans had their choice of live interviews in the Media Center or Spencer and Wallace talking about the race from the infield.

This has been a weekend where individually all three of NASCAR's TV partners were outstanding. Fans had a tremendous amount of live on and off-track coverage of the sport since Friday. As we have said before, the combination of good TV and good racing can bring this sport right back to the forefront.

After the performance of this weekend, and with the fast and exciting Atlanta track looming, NASCAR fans can finally be optimistic that the TV woes of 2007 are on their way to becoming just a memory.

Monday night brings the one hour NASCAR Now at 5:30PM on ESPN2 and the brand new This Week in NASCAR on SPEED at 8PM.

Please feel free to add your TV-related comment about this past weekend's NASCAR coverage. To add your opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for dropping by.

38 comments:

TexasRaceLady said...

A "homerun" indeed, JD.

My thanks to all the hard-working, dedicated crews of FOX, SPEED, and ESPN for bringing first-class TV into my living room.

Way to go, ladies and gentlemen.

SophiaZ123 said...

Yes, it was a good weekend of racing..though I was leery of some things.

Living here in the gloomy midwest where the sun rarely shines for DAYS at at time; and then when it does you look up and wonder "Hey, what's the bright thing in the sky casting shadows across the landscape and improving my mood?"

I felt the same way at the END OF THE FOX RACE!!

When Carl Edwards came across the finish line, I then saw this wide angle lens of cars moving towards me. Great googily moogily! FOX SHOWED the cars crossing the finish line (granted no finishing list but babysteps, folks!!)

Then they showed a replay a few minutes later with more cars!!!

It took awhile and then I remembered, THIS WAS PROOF the race had ended.

No more orchestrated, pre thought out last minute WWF finishes. Just honest camera work by many folks at the track. GREAT decision and restored my faith in human kind.


Ok, at least the producer/director of the FOX RACES!

But this cranky wench NOTICED and appreciated it.

That's a good thing.

Thanks to all for making NASCAR fun to watch again instead of a constant ranting/kvetching fest.

A big Salute to John Daly as without this site many TV's may have had books, shoes, coffee cups, beer bottles thrown at them in frustration. But instead, we drove each other crazy here and tried our best to give CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM but know, we often go over the line.

Thanks to JD (and the NASCAR folks who READ here) for realizing we say things in frustration.

As folks feeling cheated in our living room about how the race is presented, sometimes we get hyperbolic and gripey.

I am sure there have been many times JD wanted to just shut down the site or wondered, 'what kind of monsters have I created.'

But in the long run, we are seeing improvements and that's a HUGE THING.

I am also realizing some of the kinder, gentler anons are folks in the know and I APPRECIATE ALL OF YOU.

Especially the one who posted here until 2AM EST last week.

Another salute to you guys who travel the road to bring us the races to us.

Soph

Anonymous said...

I only saw part of qualifying and then the Cup race, but what I saw was very good.

I did appreciate Dr. Punch, DJ, and Andy putting together a highlight package for ESPNNEWS for the Nationwide race and ESPNNEWS for airing it. I missed the race, and in the past have had to listen to the anchors stumble over the highlights when I miss races. Much preferred that they "toss" it to the the tape of the trio in the booth.

I am curious about Ray Evernham, who has been missing completely from ESPN since Daytona. Just speculation, but I'm wondering if his new job is being vetted by GEM and by Dodge and when he's back on the air he'll be more careful with what he says. He didn't do himself any favors (with them) by picking a Hendrick car or a Toyota to win the Daytona 500 on NASCAR Now - then a Dodge won and six Dodges (including two of his) placed in the top 10 later that day.

Anonymous said...

My only real complaint is the hour long pre race show today.

FOX needs to follow the lead of ESPN/ABC (NASCAR Countdown) and TNT (Countdown to Green) and distinguish between pre race and the race in TV listings. It's really not building much goodwill for FOX when those who tune in to see a race at 3:30 don't see it begin until 4:50.

Sometimes those other pre race shows are an hour long instead of 30 minutes, but that timeframe is clearly noted in the TV listings, so viewers have a choice whether to watch or not. It shouldn't be hard for FOX to do this; their NFL pre game show is clearly marked as such in the TV listings.

I'm not a casual fan, but as some race thread commenters pointed out, casual fans who might have flipped over to see the race would probably tune out after 15 minutes or so of not seeing anything looking like the start of a race.

stricklinfan82 said...

It was definitely a great week of TV coverage. I very much appreciate all of the TV networks listening to the fans and putting forth their best efforts to make these broadcasts much more enjoyable this year.

I know a lot of us spend a lot of time complaining about the coverage and don't always take the chance to thank the many great people that work so hard to bring the sport we love so much to our living rooms each week. Because of that I just wanted to recognize all of you great people that don't get enough recognition for everything you do for us - Mike Joy, Larry Mac, DW, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, Matt Yocum, Dick Bergerren, Chris Myers, Jeff Hammond, John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Wendy Venturini, Randy Pemberton, Hermie Sadler, Dr. Punch, Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty, Ray Evernham, Dave Burns, Mike Massaro, Shannon Spake, Marty Smith, Nicole Manske, Ryan Burr, Boris Said, Tim Brewer, Rick Allen, Phil Parsons, Michael Waltrip, Ray Dunlap, Adam Alexander, Ken Schrader, Greg Biffle, and all of the behind-the-scenes people on every network that we never see on the air and rarely get recognized for their contributions to these broadcasts. If I left any names out I'm sorry, it wasn't intentional and your contributions are also greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the guy that's probably been your biggest critic on this site, I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOU.

JD, thank you as well for all your hard work and for giving us all a place to converge when the TV cameras are rolling at a race track.

Anonymous said...

While I applaud the coverage (except for the ridiculously overstuffed pre-race show), I have to say that the racing at the track wasn't very good. I do applaud the coverage for emphasizing how many wrecks and accidents there had been over the weekend before the start of yesterday's race.

When three former champions (Gordon, KuBusch, Stewart) take exceptionally hard hits and come out talking about how it was the hardest hit he'd ever taken (Gordon) or that his legs are numb and tingly (Stewart) or look plain groggy getting out of the car (Busch), I just don't like it.

I can't help but think if it weren't for the COT and the carbon seats they have now, this column about the coverage could have possibly had a much more tragic tinge to it.

Until they get the racing, tires, track, and safety up to par, the TV coverage can only do so much to make the actual LV racing entertaining/interesting. Honestly, I don't remember much about how exactly Carl Edwards won this race yesterday and that's a shame.

SallyB said...

All in all, race coverage has been much better this season. It still bugs me that the Busch series 'regulars' are virtually ignored during the broadcast of the race, but we all know that is n't going to change. The overuse of gimmicky camera shots during the Cup race was extremely frustrating. When will the guys in the truck realize that those shots are useless when showing a pass? All those 'clever' camera angles just take away from the overall ability to see things in the proper perspective...like the cluster of shots from pit stops that don't show where cars are in relation to each other.

Mike Joy continues to be impressive, and overall the announcers were excellent. Now, if someone would only tell Chris Meyers that he is not a comedian....

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed SPEED, ESPN, and FOX this season. I also like the way they seem to be cooperating with each other and acknowledging that each other exists.

If I had to point to one thing, I'd say I enjoy the Sunday edition of NASCAR Now a lot more. It's not perfect, but much better than last year.

anon@12:15 said:
I am curious about Ray Evernham, who has been missing completely from ESPN since Daytona.

Yes, I've been surprised I've not seen him on anything ESPN, even via remote. I thought he was supposed to be a contributor to NASCAR Now and ESPN News, etc. Then again, I'm unsure if a Sprint Cup/Nationwide car owner (even if he now owns 20 percent or less) should be commenting on the series his cars compete in.

(Yeah, I know Rusty does it, but that doesn't make it right to add someone else to do it, plus Rusty doesn't have Cup cars. And if I recall, Rusty said he was told by ESPN he couldn't own Cup cars when he signed on with them. He may have had to sell some ownership/equity in Penske, but I'm not positive about that. If that's true, I wonder why they made an exception for Ray.)

RevJim said...

I noticed that the television coverage has been better all around so far this season, and agree with you that coupled with the excellent racing, this should help put the sport back in the forefront. It is about time ESPN did something about the way they promot and present NASCAR.
The Fox camera coverage is fantastic. It puts you right on the track, and the producers are showing what is happening elsewhere on the track other than the race leaders.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey Guys,

An update from ESPN. Ray will only be doing a handful of races, his main contribution will be on other shows. Monday night, he will be on the roundtable panel of the one hour NASCAR Now at 5:30PM.

This program is from the ESPN2 studios and is hosted by Allen Bestwick.

Thanks for the questions about Ray, and thanks for the prompt response from ESPN.

JD

ri88girl said...

The TV coverage will never be perfect, and if it were there would be no further need for this blog so be careful what you wish for!

The most important thing in my mind is that ESPN and FOX listened to what we all said and responded. That is an amazing achievement for the blog, but also for big media companies.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ri88girl,

The original idea for this blog was to talk about the first season of the new multi-billion dollar NASCAR TV contract.

We never had any idea that instead of talking about the new technology or the good interviews we would be talking about horrible TV coverage and announcers who had never been to a race.

If the TV coverage is perfect for the rest of the season, this blog will finally thrive. I can hardly wait to get out from under the pressure of dealing with the type of issues we saw last season.

There is an entire agenda of things that has not been completed because of the train wreck that was NASCAR TV in 2007.

The "up-side" of TV sports is much more interesting than the problems. I assure you that establishing a direct connection between the multiple networks producing the NASCAR TV product and the fans through this blog will continue to pay dividends for some time to come.

JD

Speedcouch said...

I know Earnhardt was running up front at the end, but even when he wasn't, FOX simply showed him running alone when I could hear on the radio there were drivers racing for position up front and elsewhere. The height of absurdity though was near the end when he didn't pit. When Fox showed their stupid 4-way split of pitstops, they had a box devoted to him even when he wasn't pitting. That confirmed my opinion that they have several cameras devoted to him even when the situation doesn't fit. And the people in the truck didn't seem to be smart enough to realize they were showing a driver still on the track in the one box! It's bad enough, we can't see the overview of pit road, but now they are wasting one of the four spots on someone not even pitting??

Fox also insisted on showing a ridiculous amount of gopher shots throught the race. So they have reached the absurd level with their graphic toys now, when cartoon figures take the place of real race coverage! Then we have the in-car shots of the sides fenders when a pass for the lead was happening at least once.

And the return of the dreaded 3-D "view" at least once during the broadcast.

So even without having to hear DW and Larry's rambling, the Fox broadcast was still bad. Thank goodness for PRN!

Anonymous said...

Lots of people had comments about Fox's preshow yesterday. I have one too. :-)

I've seen TV footage of plenty of drivers visiting kids at schools, and the results are always entertaining and it's nice to see excited the kids get. Every visit I've ever seen is unscripted.

So I didn't understand why Fox had to insert obviously scripted questions for kids to read to Kyle Busch (about DW and why they say he's three wide by himself, and so on). Kids ask funny and interesting questions of drivers by themselves - they don't need prompting. The first scripted question was OK, then it started to get slightly annoying.

That's the thing Fox needs to work on. It's almost as if they can't let something generate on its own (kids asking their own questions of Kyle), they have to "inject some entertainment" into it as if we won't watch otherwise. They seem to do that with everything, including the gopher cam.

Brrrn Rubber said...

Anonymous said...
If I had to point to one thing, I'd say I enjoy the Sunday edition of NASCAR Now a lot more. It's not perfect, but much better than last year.
March 3, 2008 7:33 AM


Agreed. I think the Sunday and Monday NASCAR Now shows win the Most Improved Award from me.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:49AM,

I thought that twist of making the little kids read adult questions totally ruined what could have been a great piece.

You know, kids say the darndest things.

JD

earl06 said...

I thought this weekend went well for the TV guys with a few exceptions:

Jamie Little - getting worse, not better.

GopherCam - An overused novelty view + stupid cartoon and name.

"Let's Go Racin' Boys" - I know Fox is trying to get a lot of mileage out of this one, but I'm very tired of it already. You just shouldn't inflict the same song on the viewers over and over and over...

batchief said...

I enjoyed the race and the Fox crew including the pre-race show. I thought they covered the end of the race very nicely, including a rerun of it. I see now someone is complaing because they couldn't see the numbers on the cars. What a shame (sarcasm intended). I would like to see a dropdown of the cars positions as they cross the finish line, at least the top 10 or 15. As the first poster stated it was a first-class TV presentation of Nascar this weekend. Thanks to all involved.

Anonymous said...

"Let's Go Racin' Boys" - I know Fox is trying to get a lot of mileage out of this one
-----------------
It's available for purchase on iTunes! Sorry, but I'll hear it enough through the spring on TV involuntarily; I'm not going to spend 99 cents to put it on my iPod.

It's not a bad song, but it's overplayed, including in the ads. I noticed SPEED has pulled back some on "Be There" and mixed in other songs, FOX should do the same.

Anonymous said...

I set the recorder for tonight's NASCAR NOW and I'm looking forward to watching what has been a good program to finish off the NASCAR weekend.

My hope is that they also look at some of the other stories beyond Carl and the usual Gibbs/Hendrick roundup. (Will it become the usual Roush/Gibbs/Hendrick roundup as of today?)It would be great to see an interview with Travis Kvapil, who finished 8th in an unsponsored car. Has he been interviewed by anyone this year?

Also would like to see some followup on the AP news that Red Bull is probably going to pull Allmendinger and replace him with a veteran (Benson, Skinner, Stremme, Marlin). Is that going to make 'Dinger's likely jump back to open wheel happen much faster now?

I'd sure there's something I'm not thinking of, but I'd like NASCAR NOW to continue to look for stories beyond the obvious ones.

Anonymous said...

Good coverage throughout the weekend by all networks.

Although I'm surprised FOX seems to be getting a virtual free pass for running an F-bomb from Vickers' scanner on Sunday.

Granted, TNT did it on tape last year and I assume FOX was running the scanner live (which seems kind of idiotic to me) but isn't the FCC going to have something to say about this?

Tripp said...

I watched the coverage intermittently over the weekend so I cannot comment on most specifics. However what made me sit up and take notice was the finish line replay in the Cup race. I think that went beyond what the fans have been clamoring for. They showed, and listed verbally the finishing order of at least half of the lead lap cars. A nice job by Fox in stepping it up a notch.

Sean said...

The coverage was great this weekend, but Dr. Jerry Punch is still the weak link in the ESPN booth. There was some dramatic racing at the end of the race and there was no excitment whatsoever. I think it's the play by play announcer's job to pump up the excitement and get the other commentators fired up. The Doc is still struggling calling a full Nationwide race. Just wait till he has to call a 500 miler in the chase

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:58AM,

I would not speak for Mike Joy, but I do think that he believed the audio was muddy enough that the word slipped by a lot of folks.

Normally, he has immediately apologized when it had happened live and was clearly heard. I think we will see some changes in the open use of the radios like that after an incident.

JD

GinaV24 said...

I watched most of the Cup race this weekend, but one thing I'd really like if they'd tell you exactly when the race is going to start, not include the pre-race as part of the schedule for setting up my DVR. I knew pre-race was going to start at 3:30, but the race finally started at 5:30. Since I no longer find the pre-race junk interesting, I had time to watch 2 other things that I had saved on my DVR and part of a 3rd before the green flag finally waved. I thought the coverage was pretty good, but I must be tired of all the old shtick because my patience with Chris Myers and DW has really worn out. Honestly though, I'm not sure why, but I just didn't find the race that interesting and I can't quite pin it down. A friend of mine called about mid-way through and said -- why am I not excited? Plus, I realize that this race was in Phoenix so it was a later start time, but it was almost 5 pm EST when it started and I took a break and made dinner at around 6:30 because I couldn't wait until 8 to eat after the race ended.

Anonymous said...

I was so happy to have nice weather for the race that I didn't care about the TV coverage as much as usual. It was good to me. It would be cool to hear a report on NN this week if some of the tracks are now going to pad their inside walls with SAFER barrier if they haven't already.

I saw some talk about Kasey's new Allstate commercial in the in race posts.
I totally agree you have to watch the 60 second one, they shouldn't have cut it to 30 first time around. It's silly but really good. They MUST use that paint scheme for a real race this year, ha.

The 60 second version is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5225ZQCek8

There's no copyright violation -The Allstate people don't mind their commercials being on YouTube. In fact that lady in charge got an award from NASCAR for best advertising last year (or maybe year before?) and in her speech said the amount of times the commercials were clicked on YouTube. There's like seven versions of this commercial that have been posted today.

---Signed, Vanessa

GinaV24 said...

oops, my bad, the race started at almost 5 pm, not 5:30 as I said earlier.

I also found Digger very annoying! Although the camera shots weren't too bad. Hey don't you know, it's all Jr all the time?

Anonymous said...

FOX:

The Good:

- Showed the field crossing the line.

- A great pre-race show

- The pit reporters and Larry Mc

- No Jamie Little on FOX

- Great replays of the Gordon accident and the breakdown of safe walls in that area.


The Bad:

- That stupid DW song

- Not a lot of post-race interviews, but I understand the race went long, so I'm OK with it this week.


Overall, thanks for all the hard work the past few weeks while traveling back and forth from coast to coast. I'm assuming they didn't stay on the west coast the whole time.

Grade: B

Josh from VA

Brian said...

I know I'm in the vast minority, but I like the Gopher-cam graphic. I'm sure I'll be over it by the end of the year, but it still makes me chuckle, especially when the announcers refrence him by name when a wreck occurs over it.

Brett Baldeck said...

I know I'm in the vast minority, but I like the Gopher-cam graphic.

No your not alone, I like the graphic too. I also like the song. I could listen to it all day. lol.

I think im the vast minority. It took all my courage to actually come out and say I like the FOX SONG AND GRAPHIC! lol

Anonymous said...

One other thing I noticed about the race coverage yesterday was the use of the time interval ticker. Especially when they returned from a commercial break, they didn't necessarily re-set the field, but more times than not, they started the time interval ticker so I could get an idea of where drivers were on the track.

I also noticed that when the ticker was obviously wrong (showing the 8th placed car a lap down) by the time the 10th or 11th car crawled across the screen, the time interval was removed, fixed, and then they started the ticker over - from the 1st starting position. That attention to detail was much appreciated by this viewer.

Newracefan said...

Overall I enjoyed my Nascar TV weekend. There were a few glitches along the way, all of which have been discussed on other posts on this blog. So aside from ALL my drivers doing horrible I was happy. Lets hope next week is even better, good TV and drivers doing well.

Anonymous said...

Some one tell Jimmy Spencer to knock off the jelly donuts.
It is obvious he can't fit into a race car anymore. It sounds like all that sugar has gone to his big mouth.

Anonymous said...

True.
These announcers think the show is in the booth and not on the track.
Their babble of nothing
pertinent through out the race is annoying and is wearing out my mute button!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

You could at least take the time to spell check.

Anonymous said...
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