Friday, August 1, 2008

SPEED Opens-Up "NASCAR Confidential"

Fans that tuned-in on Friday at 6PM were greeted by a very different episode of NASCAR Confidential. This program was opened-up to include live guests at the SPEED Stage in Pocono speaking with Fox and SPEED analyst Larry McReynolds.

In the past, NASCAR Confidential has been a slickly-packaged look at a NASCAR event from several different perspectives. These have included a selection of very different people from team owners to track photographers. This time, the pre-produced segments were wrapped-around on-camera question and answer sessions.

This approach worked very well to deal with a lot of outstanding issues about the Indy weekend. Seeing a slice of the reality and then having those involved talk about it on-camera is a format we see on reality-style programs on all kinds of TV networks. This time, it proved to be very effective.

While McReynolds is sometimes a cheerleader, he is also a straight-shooter when it comes to issues on the track. In this program, McReynolds spoke with NASCAR President Mike Helton, Goodyear's Stu White and NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler.

Helton is a much more effective spokesman for NASCAR than Robin Pemberton or Brian France. He speaks in terms that fans can understand and his lifetime commitment to the NASCAR world speaks volumes about his experience. In this special episode, without his customary suit and tie, Helton answered every question from McReynolds without hesitation.

Perhaps, the best part of Helton's interview was that it finally put a "human face" on the TV experience of the previous weekend. Without its own TV network, NASCAR relies on its TV partners, cable networks and local TV stations to offer video to fans nationwide. The experience during and after Indy was often disjointed and offered various versions of the racing reality.

Stu Grant from Goodyear was thorough in his explanation of what the company had done before the race, what they experienced after the practice sessions and what they intended to do to solve this problem in the future. Grant was much more effective than the on-camera company spokesman of the Indy weekend and his detailed explanations tied-up some loose ends about the Goodyear issues.

McReynolds used Elliott Sadler to relate the driver's perspective. Sadler is a regular on SPEED's Trackside show during this time of the season and has worked hard on his TV skills. His explanations of when and how teams knew this problem was going to be really big worked to add another perspective to the troubled weekend.

This episode of NASCAR Confidential was added only this Wednesday to air on Friday. Whoever made this decision did fans a favor by pushing this type of content onto the airwaves at a time when long-form NASCAR weekday programming is at an all-time low.

The downside is that fans now know what they are missing in terms of hour-long NASCAR programs that really capture the feeling of the sport through first-hand experiences and the outstanding TV production skills of The NASCAR Media group.

This single episode served as an effective TV-based message to the entire nation of NASCAR fans. It put content that will not been seen in the current NASCAR TV programs on-the-table and asked McReynolds to follow-up on the issues that arose. What a good combination of post-production and the topical use of live interview content. This program will re-air on Saturday at 11PM Eastern Time on SPEED.

The Daly Planet welcomes your comments on this program. To add your TV-related 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 taking the time to drop by and share your views on NASCAR Confidential: What we learned at Indy.


red said...

hey all. i left this comment earlier so just did copy and paste to add it here.

red said...
well, that was . . . interesting. i hadn't expected there to be a live component to this edition of nascar confidential but i give larry mac props for how he handled his hosting duty. i didn't expect any tough questions and i don't believe he asked any. perhaps that wasn't his role tonight? maybe he was just there to set up the predetermined answers? either way, he handled the transitions and guests fairly well.

interesting blend of live guests and i did learn some stuff i hadn't known before tonight so that's a plus. i enjoyed the footage from practice and it was interesting to watch various crew members' reactions to what was happening. as always, the actual race stuff was strong: good camera shots, solid mix of team communication and narration.

as jo noted, it would have been nice to see any one of the three men in charge actually look directly into the camera tonight and say "i'm sorry. the race was clearly not our best effort and i personally apologize to you." but at least they showed up and answered questions: i guess that counts for something.

by the way, third guy was Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood III. wonder how he's feeling about being tossed under the bus by nascar and goodyear? his track hadn't changed since the last time nascar raced on it: nascar's car changed. and that is the root of the whole hot mess at indy. it was also the 300 pound gorilla in the room. not the 600 pounds it was earlier in the week b/c hammond did place some blame on the car design itself. but no one went far enough in my opinion and so the somewhat smaller gorilla lurked in the shadows, behind the sofa, as 'twere.

bottom line for me: a good effort, nice mix of live and film, still lingering questions but a decent show. i may even make time to watch it again.

August 1, 2008 7:50 PM

Rockin Rich said...

As I said in my brief comment on the original NASCAR Confidential post; I was very disappointed in this PR puff piece.

I rarely miss the 6:00 PM local news, and 6:30 PM national news broadcasts. I switched over to the national news at 6:30, and had been surfing back and forth between Confidential, and local news after about 15 minutes into Confidential. I was that disappointed in it.

I didn't see a single apology. Until the Hammond cut-away car segment, I didn't see any attempt at an explanation for why the day went down the way it did.

I felt the practice, and race footage were fillers to take up the hour's time.

I didn't hear a single "hard" question asked. Yes, I didn't see most of the 2nd half hour, but that was because of what I didn't see and hear in the 1st half hour. They lost me.

I was expecting an analysis, not a replay of what we had already seen on Sunday. Maybe they were attempting to appeal to people that hadn't seen the race. Still, the only real analysis I saw was Hammond's segment explaining the changes on the COT that altered, (drastically I might add), the right side tire loading.

I have seen/heard in more than one place that the tire compounds were the same, but the tire construction, (sidewall maybe?), was not. All that I heard the Goodyear guy discuss was the identical compounds.

My take is that NASCAR, and Goodyear get some really BIG bucks to do this stuff right. Both of them failed to do their job in the face of long known differences in the behavior affecting changes in the car. Hammond spelled it out pretty plainly I thought. I didn't hear anyone address the fact that the long known differences coupled with an apparently somewhat changed tire should have been more carefully considered, and tested.

Whew, so tell us Rockin Rich,how do you REALLY feel??

red said...

and can i just add, apropos of nothing:
i feel so much more patriotic just looking at that photo of larry mac and that big ole flag over his shoulder!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rockin Rich - pure PR spin. I have to admit I turned it off before the last ten minutes. The footage from during the race was too focused on Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team instead of having the main focus being the tire wear issue implications all up and down pit road. I scanned enough driver radios during the race to know how many drivers were alerted by their crew chiefs after pitting that they had about half a lap left on that tire before it would have blown. I heard guys saying they were racing at 75% because they didn't think the tire could handle more. These are things I wanted to hear more about - not how well NASCAR supposedly handled the whole situation. I wanted to hear what these drivers and crews - the guys out there in these conditions - were having to do to cope with the issue.

Also I was very annoyed in the post race driver footage they showed - they sure clipped some of those down and made sure to only use the "positive" guys. I read enough post race quotes all over the web that showed how frustrated/disgusted numerous drivers were - including Newman, McMurray, Gordon, Vickers, Kyle Busch, ect. They varied from calling the race "stupid" to "embarrassing", to "that's not racin". But of course those viewpoints were swept under the carpet.

Also a direct apology would have gone a long way and bringing the COT issue, which many crew chiefs and drivers have said played a part in it would have been appreciated.

Can't say I was surprised at the slant, but I was hoping they would actually give an even slightly more unbiased view.

Rockin Rich said...

Anon @10:24 & others:

I was going to also complain about the driver clips, but I came back to Confidential after those had started, so I didn't know who they had shown before I started watching again. I didn't want to complain about not showing the upset & angry drivers that had made negative statements if they had been shown, and I had missed it.

That said, when I saw just the drivers making nice about NASCAR,and Goodyear, that is what tipped me over to start making my comments.

This was a major failure in planning, analysis of known performance differences, and race preparation in my opinion. That was not addressed in a program that was billed, (hyped?), as doing just that.

Everyone makes mistakes. I have no doubt that some lessons have been, and will be learned from this. Hopefully what will come out if this is an acknowledgment the new car needs some additional engineering, and that Goodyear is brought into that process.

What exercises me is the constant spin that "we did the best we could". In a narrow sense, that is generally true in terms of the race day efforts. That is certainly not true in terms of the efforts leading up to the race. Unfortunately, NASCAR doesn't seem to lose much of its hubris despite many opportunities in past to learn from. That was on display again in this program.

Regardless, it's over now. It's time to move on. I think Pocono, and particularly the Montreal race should be fun to watch.

Lou, from NY said...

The previous posters make some valid points. If I agree w/them or not, is not the point of this comment.

What I did enjoy was the surprise of the live segments and the previously produced segments. I think that if it can be done for this. Then why not on a regular schedule/basis. And we are being short changed if this is something that is easy to produce, if not then I can accept it.

I do think though that there was way to much 48 stuff or race stuff. And not enough of what was really wrong and how could we(NASCAR) not see this comming. I realize we all make mistakes. But w/the millions(MILLIONS) that are spent, could we atleast have something more than a Saturday night short track race. From what I have read this track has not changed for a few years, but the car on the track has.

Not a 48 fan, but glad he won under the circumstances the race was controlled. Since he did seem to have the fastest vehicle over the weekend.

It was good to hear M. Helton live. I thought he was honest when he said something to the effect that, I can not guarentee this will not happen again, but we will do the best we can to avoid it. I do not remember the exact words.

Vince said...

I agree with rockin rich. This show was pure fluff. A PR puff piece. More spin by the Nascar spin masters. I don't fault Nascar for the job they did last week under difficult conditions. But I expected more from this show. Larry Mac, Hammond, Sadler and the rest are all to close to Nascar to do any real hard journalism. You're never going to hear them ask anyone from Nascar a controversial or pressing question.

And I still have not heard or seen one Nascar official apologize directly to the thousands of fans that spent their hard earned money to attend this race.

I also can't believe with all the technology we have now, that somebody from Goodyear didn't see this coming before Sundays race. Yes this is the first race at Indy for the COT, but the COT has been around all year and part of last year. It's not like they introduced this pig of a car last week. Duh! Goodyear, have you ever heard of R & D?

This whole episode has been a major black eye for Nascar and Goodyear. The Indy race is right behind the Daytona 500 as the biggest race of the year and all we got was a glorified tire test. I know the race is over and in the past, but I have heard nothing from Nascar or Goodyear to keep this from happening again. They have no plan. Nascar designed the COT. Did they include Goodyear in that design??? I kinda doubt it from what I've seen and heard so far this year.

One last thing. Can someone please tell Hammond to stop saying to the fans, "you gotta understand". He says it constantly. And he's "gotta understand" I'm getting tired of it!

Newracefan said...

I see several of the posters where not happy with NC but I enjoyed it. I knew exposure of the smoking gun was not going to happen so I wasn't looking for it. Goodyear answered the question I had- Was there anything different with what went into the actual tire NO and what they are looking at to prevent it. Helton was a well appreciated addition, leaving the tie home was a good idea on his part. The format wasn't what I expected but it made sure we heard from Helton, GY, and the track so I'm OK with that besides I love Larry Mac. The 48 won the race and in somewhat dominate fashion so you expected them to concentrate on someone else? That part actually remined me of Beyond the Wheel.

Hey JD do you know if INDY was one of the planned 6, they seemed to pick "big" races. I know it wasn't planned for NOW but perhaps it was suppose to be shown later in the same format as the others. If it was one of the 6 what will happen now? Will they present it again after it's modified to the traditional NC format?

Daly Planet Editor said...


This was a special added program. SPEED will get me the updated schedule for the remaining programs this week,


Anonymous said...

I also agree with rockin rich. NASCAR Confidential was a fluff piece, just as last weeks turned out to be also.Last weeks program about the Coke 600, we got nothing new. The only clip seen from the officials pre race meeting was," O.K people, 400 laps, 600 miles, this is our longest race of the year" No kidding we already knew that. Or in the tower, " Ok put it out" that's all we saw.I think Speed is coasting and not working to improve. Like yesterday, both Larry and Hammond were confused about the 48 car changing a transmission and having to start at the rear. Even I knew they could change it and not be put to the rear. This is very basic info that these so called experts should know. They need to do more preparation as I would expect them to know something like this.

Dot said...


You mentioned that Helton speaks better than Brian France. You are correct. However, BF should've addressed this issue himself by now. Arrogant a**.

With the IRL series perking up, I hope Tony George tells NASCAR not to come back. I won't miss it.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather have Mr. Helton be the "voice" than BF. Only because EVERY SINGLE news conference I've seen BF looks half asleep, looks like he'd rather be elsewhere and can't answer one question intelligently.

Richard in N.C. said...

I found it telling that Mike Helton said Goodyear still does not know why the tires threw off dust and there was little or no rubbering-in. It seems to me there still is no answer to why the 400 turned out the way it did.

Kenn Fong said...

J. D.,

First, thanks very much for the head's-up earlier which alerted us to this special edition.

I was only half satisfied. I wanted one of the experts -- not Joie Chitwood, whose IMS was not at fault -- to turn to the camera and say, "We screwed up." In simple, plain language. Not, "obviously the track failed to rubber up as we expected."

D'OH! It's obvious that the expected did not occur. What I'd like to know is why didn't they take the worn right-sides from the April testing and run a number of "worst-case scenarios."

My grandfather told me, "If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail."

I'd also like to know why Larry Mac didn't ask both Helton and the Goodyear mouthpiece why they didn't look at last weekend's practice tires and say, "What can we do to save this race?" By bringing in the Pocono tires, they were telling us they already knew that Sunday would likely be a disaster, and they had no intention of trying to avoid it.

Why didn't NASCAR and Goodyear borrow a bunch of back-up cars and run them for hours after the final practice, in an effort to rubber up the track. There have to be other qualified drivers available such as Hermie Sadler, Kenny Wallace, Jimmie Spencer, Rusty Wallace, and I'll bet at least a dozen more. Perhaps throw a couple hundred pounds of ballast into the car, run them at 3/4s speed, and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? You've told the fans at the track and at home that you care, and at least you've tried to do something.

Somebody needs take a baseball bat to the back of Brian France's head. It's like the story about how you motivate a donkey.

First you have to get his attention.


Kenny - Alameda, Calfornia

Kenn Fong said...

J. D.

I forgot to give MAJOR KUDOS to the NASCAR Media camera operator who composed that terrific shot of the Goodyear hauler seen through the center of a wheel.

You labor in anonymity, madam or sir, but your artistic eye has not gone unnoticed! Thank you very much.

Kenny - Alameda, California