Thursday, April 3, 2008

Texas Raindrops Solve TV Problems

The graphic on the screen said "live" and the location was clearly the Texas Motor Speedway. The time was just a couple of minutes after 7PM Eastern and on-the-air at ESPN2 was host Ryan Burr and NASCAR Now.

On this day, the Nationwide Series cars sat under their car covers as the moisture from the sky continued to fall. This reality went a long way to saving face for both NASCAR and the NASCAR TV partners.

Originally scheduled to get underway at 7:05PM was live Nationwide Series qualifying. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and series regulars like Marcos Ambrose and Bobby Hamilton Jr. were ready to roll. Had the first car pushed off the line on time, it would have been very interesting.

As The Daly Planet pointed out on Wednesday, both practice sessions and the qualifying session for the Nationwide Series at this exciting racetrack were not on TV. They were not live, they were not tape-delayed, and they could not be seen later in an edited program. As they say in the business, Thursday at the track was "dark."

It was Burr who first raised the subject when he started the show by calling it "the Nationwide qualifying edition" of NASCAR Now. Perhaps, word that the entire practice and qualifying sessions were "dark" for the only NASCAR series that ESPN telecasts in its entirety had reached certain levels at both ESPN and NASCAR.

Certainly, Andy Petree appeared from Texas and there behind him was the track with the Nationwide cars on pit road. If not for the rain, the first engines would have been started and the first tires turning on the track. Regardless of the series, the TV value of the top drivers in NASCAR qualifying at Texas is significant.

It was Lead Reporter Marty Smith who took viewer's minds off this problem for several minutes with one of the best interviews of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in quite some time. It should be noted that Smith and Junior are friends, and once Smith asked Earnhardt how it was going over at Hendrick, Junior was off to the races.

In a wonderfully exclusive interview for NASCAR Now viewers, Junior took a very deep breath and just layed it all out on the table. His words about his personal feelings and his new team and car and expectations just flowed. It almost seemed that he was getting a lot of things off his chest and wanted fans to know very clearly what was going on in his life on-and-off the track.

One could not help but laugh when Earnhardt said he "did not know what Human Resources was until this year." It was great to see a smiling and happy Junior opening-up to race fans once again. What an interesting moment for this show.

Andy Petree is having a great season on TV, and this includes his appearances on NASCAR Now. Petree spoke to the value of the Nationwide race in Texas, and the fact that sixteen top Cup drivers would be participating. He pointed to this race as a good challenge for the Nationwide regulars to step-up and go head-to-head with the big boys on a high-profile exciting track.

Burr filled the show with interviews of Clint Bowyer and Jason Leffler from Texas. DJ Copp appeared once again and offered another interesting feature, this time on the updated wheel components that were aimed at helping pit crew members on tire changes. Somehow, his topics are always good.

"We had hoped NASCAR Now would be all about qualifying," said Burr as the cameras panned the soggy speedway. He told viewers that ESPN News would be updating the qualifying if and when it happened no matter how late in the evening. That was a nice touch for a network chasing a story that would ultimately affect their Saturday race.

Thursday at Texas certainly was a learning experience for all involved. The good news is that NASCAR Now continues to be a solid show and the integration of the at-track announcers like Petree is a great feature. This season, the ability of NASCAR Now to go live from the track shows a new level of commitment to the sport.

Look for the issue of "no TV for Texas" to be solved before long, and for ESPN to re-think their approach of not televising Cup practices when their portion of the schedule comes along. Between the COT, the new Toyota dominance and the re-emergence of Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans are going to demand that Cup practice be televised live as it has been for years. The decision should be interesting.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply 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 taking the time to stop by.


Newracefan said...

Based on the lack of canned video clips (Cobbs's was the only one and as usual it was good) and the long driver interviews, can you say we need filler, it appears NN intended this show to be all about qualifying. That was a good move and throwing what should have been the end of qualifying to ESPNnews was also a excellent way to help make up for this mess. My only issue is there was no discussion about practice, it seems the Kasey crashed, did they mention about back up car? Did I miss it? There also were no clips from practice so I am assuming that ESPN did not have cameras there. I guess they made the best of a bad situation and at least there were camera's there for qualifying along with Andy who does a great job.
Did anyone switch to ESPNnews, they announcer's discussion with Andy was certainly different. What do the drivers do during a rain delay to keep focused. Focused, I don't think so how about go back to the bus and play Guitar Hero, However Andy's answer was an excellent unlike mine.

Anonymous said...

Hats to ESPN for trying to give us some Nationwide qualifying, even if Mother Nature didn't cooperate. It would have been interesting to see how ESPNEWS would have covered qualifying had it been run. Would we have seen cars qualifying or just updates? No matter what, great attempt ESPN!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

I have to give ESPNEWS the nod for re-running the story that Nationwide qualifying has finally been rained-out.

It is so nice to have that network committed to keeping NASCAR fans updated when NASCAR programming is not on the air on the other ESPN networks.


Anonymous said...

JD- Does this mean that apparently ESPN would have had the facilities in place to televise or record Nationwide qualifying, if the scheduling and contractural complications had not existed? I was under the impression that coverage of qualifying was probably impractical financially because it would have required adding an extra day at the track for ESPN.

stricklinfan82 said...


I certainly hope you're right that the NASCAR TV partners have learned their lesson and will never let another NASCAR TV blackout happen again.

I can at least understand when other live sports programming on every available network conflicts with NASCAR and we absolutely have to lose TV coverage of a practice/qualifying session for that reason, but when a situation like today could have been easily remedied by pre-empting blocks of old re-airs on ESPN Classic or Speed Channel in the absence of ESPN or ESPN2 being available, it's a very tough pill to swallow as a NASCAR fan.

Some situations like last year's Memphis race are unavoidable, but this was clearly a case of NASCAR-neglect today from my perspective. There were outlets available to both Speed and ESPN, and both decided not to utilize them.

Anonymous said...

If Thursdays NASCAR NOW show was supposed to center around Nationwide qualifying, why wasnt the show done at the race track ?

Why did ESPN even need Ryan Burr in Bristol ?

All of the elements for the show were in Texas. Made more sense to have a host LIVE IN TEXAS.

But then again, maybe Jerry Punch still needed more time off.

Anonymous said...

The Dale Jr interview today was very good. He paused so much I wasn't sure where he was going with his thoughts, but he looked like he was enjoying an interview for once.

I stumbled upon some new ESPN ratings news today though I am not the regular ratings anon person or persons who has posted some good ratings info the past couple of weeks. (thank you persons!). It was a April 2 press release by ESPN saying it had its best first quarter ever.

What surprised me is how few people watch ESPNNews, since it's being discussed for the rain delay coverage. I get the channel so no problems there, but an average 62,000 households watching? It was an increase from 56,000 and set a record, but that doesn't sound like many people at all and makes me wonder how many -or how few - people have access to it.

Sadly no NASCAR related News in the press release, though it said the IndyCar race Saturday got its highest ratings ever for a season opener. (815,000 households). It worries me a little that they mention IndyCar but not Nationwide for the first quarter.

Karen said...

Saw on another post that NN would not be repeated at 12:30, although my Brighthouse guide said it would be. Very disappointed to see boxing instead of the great Junior interview I wanted to see. Infuriating actually.

Sophia said...


I agree. I am ALSO INFURIATED no repeat of NN. I only caught part of the Jr interviw and am livid after watching the soccer, they said "classic boxing" next??????????? Heck there was OLD boxing on ESPN CLASSIC. WTH was this boxing match about?Now fricking basketball.

Of all NN to NOT repeat...Jr fans are screwed. I am still not in the habit of taping this show as it is all over the schedule.


thanks for the write up about the BEST JR INTERVIEW IN YEARS, apparently...

Anonymous said...

I read the comment in the Whelan Modified NASCAR Now blog comments about tonight's schedule being changed and I got boxing too. At least I was prepared. Still was listed on onscreen guide as NASCAR Now.

I don't understand why they would go from live soccer to boxing. The event that is on now - Slam Dunk from Final Four - is tape delay.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The NASCAR Media Group coordinates the TV coverage from the tracks and cooperates with all of the NASCAR TV partners.

I am sure that with top drivers in the sport on the track at these speeds and also going for the Nationwide pole, all the facilities were ready to go by Thursday.

As for the ESPN re-air, perhaps they will make Marty Smith's interview available as an Internet video resource either on Jayski or soon.


PammH said...

link to Jr. interview!

Anonymous said...

It is funny that mother nature has a way of evening the plying field (track actually) in situations like this. NASCAR TV does not televise NNS qualifying and it gets rained out.

Reminds me of a few years ago when TNT was going to tape delay a Busch race- and it got rain delayed. When they went on the air they televised it live and it has never happened again.

Anonymous said...

so, jd? can you work your magic & find out why NN wasn't re-run at 12:30 am & we had classic boxing in it's place? MLS ended about 2 minutes after the hour & they ran wrap-up for about 4 more minutes. so there was plenty of time to run the NN re-run. it sounds as if the network never intended to run the NN at 12:30 and i'm curious as to the reasoning behind that decision.

by the way, comcast programming continued to have NN listed, despite the announcers at the end of the MLS match telling us it would be classic boxing. in fact, even as boxing was on, my channel guide scroll still identified what i was seeing as NN.

i'm certainly hoping there is some logic behind this decision. and thanks to pammh for providing the link. based on this column, i was interested in watching how earnhardt, jr did and so i appreciate pammh's link!

Anonymous said...

As I was driving my remote, I happened upon Nascar Now a couple of seconds before the Jr. interview. I was glad that I got to see it. As soon as Marty said, "Dale", I started laughing. It was obvious that those two had been clowning around right before they went on camera.

Marty seems to have a good relationship with everyone in the garage and it is apparent during all of his interviews.

Anonymous said...

Marty Smith continues to impress! The interview with Dale Jr. was indeed a gem. Marty asked just the right questions and it was very thoughtful and revealing.

Tracy D said...

My cable company (Comcast) lost NN-HD about five mins. into the program, so all my Tivo caught is black air. Happens all the time on HD. Thanks to whomever posted the link to the Jr. interview with Marty!

Anonymous said...

How does ESPN learn anything from this again? The event was rained out. They never been overly excited to show these things in the first place. I don't see where they dodged a bullet, and will change their ways going forward. Its not like the information doesn't get out through other means.

Sophia said...


Thanks for the link to the Jr interview!!

The folks on this blog are great!

Karen said...

SophiaZ123 said...


Thanks for the link to the Jr interview!! The folks on this blog are great!"

Many thanks from me, too.

PammH said...

Karen-glad to help everyone out! But I really am a Pamm w/2 M's!! :)