Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dover Biggest TV Challenge Of 2008 Chase

The unique layout of Dover where visibility and TV coverage is concerned should make Sunday's race the most challenging of the ten Chase races for the ESPN on ABC gang.

Veteran NASCAR fans know all too well the struggles of the TV networks to keep viewers informed during this fast-paced event. Simply remembering the single big accident of the last Sprint Cup Series race at Dover will serve to tell the tale. Cars continued to pile-into an accident seemingly forever and the resulting mess challenged the network to keep-up with the action.

ESPN is a TV crew that works to manage an almost scripted performance. The focus and emphasis of the NASCAR telecasts have been long since decided before the pre-race show hits the air. The on-going struggle for ESPN is to manage the clash between what the network wants to cover and what is actually happening in the race.

Even the dependable Allen Bestwick must follow the scripted performance where the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show is concerned. Although still light years ahead of the Hollywood Hotel, Bestwick has dutifully been spouting "The Chase" in every sentence and leaving the actual stories of the racing behind.

On this weekend, NASCAR has already run both the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series races. There is a big change in the controlled substance policy for the sport. Another discrimination lawsuit has been filed and one of the top team engineers in Formula-1 racing has left the sport to join Michael Waltrip Racing. All of those stories should have a place in Bestwick's pre-race show. It should be interesting to see how many of them make the script.

Dr. Jerry Punch had a tough time in Saturday's Nationwide Series race trying to pay attention to both the TV monitor in the announce booth and also look out at the track. It was often Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree who first saw trouble and reported where it was to both the audience at home and the TV crew in the truck.

That was during a race that had 200 laps. Sunday, Punch faces 400 laps with both the story of the race and the story of The Chase running side-by-side all afternoon. The grind of The Monster Mile calls for a level of determination and intensity that Punch has not yet displayed this season. Jarrett and Petree have become critical partners in keeping the ESPN viewers informed of even the most basic information.

Saturday's race also saw a new commitment by ESPN to interviewing the drivers involved in accidents as they exited the Infield Medical Center. Pit reporter Shannon Spake did a solid job of simply being on-scene and letting the drivers talk. Hopefully, this continues on Sunday with the Cup Series drivers. ESPN has been recently eliminating this practice unless a Chase driver was involved.

Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro face the challenge of calling the action from one of the worst pit roads in NASCAR. A simple mistake by a team or a driver on pit road in Dover can be catastrophic where a chance to win is concerned. That was never more evident than in Saturday's Nationwide race where two of the top contenders collided exiting the pits.

ESPN had a fantastic telecast earlier this season from Bristol, TN. The production team recognized that the action was so frantic on the track that changes needed to be made to what the viewers saw. Tim Brewer and the Tech Center was essentially out unless he could appear during a caution or quickly coming back from break. Bestwick and his infield team could be heard, but did not need to be seen once the green flag waved.

These changes resulted in the emphasis being put back where it belonged, on the racing. This week, 43 teams are going to enter an endurance contest where pit strategy and sheer luck may have a strong role in determining the winner. The same approach is needed.

The TV crew will be ducking a bridge over the track on every lap. Cars will constantly be racing on the front and back stretches simultaneously. Accidents happen so quickly that the car is often already at the bottom of the big Dover banking before the Director can call for the right camera.

Upcoming tracks like Kansas and Talladega are going to seem like heaven to this TV crew after a Dover weekend. With all the wrecks and laps under caution, this race has been referred to as "the 24 hours of Dover." Everyone on the ESPN crew is going to know they have put in a full day's work when this one is over.

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kang said...

The loons at ESPN may have beat me to this one but here go's.Since G.Biffle is starting 5th and the 48and 99 are 20th and 22.See where I'm going folks? ESPN can run the stupid "if the race ended now" during the parade laps.Biffle is the new points leader!

Daly Planet Editor said...

kang...too funny!

Anonymous said...

"Approx. 6:00PM: ESPNEWS coverage of Infield Media Center press conference from Dover. Top three drivers, winning crew chief and owner."

I appreciate your very helpful listings for us, but IMO this one shouldn't be listed, because ESPNEWS hasn't lived up to this promised scheduling and showing of post-race press conferences in weeks.

As a matter of fact, the current listings on show "Ryder Cup Closing Ceremonies" in the ESPNEWS timeslot at 6-7 PM, followed by "The Blitz" from 7-11 PM.

As far as Sunday's coverage goes, I want to see some info about the three Doug Yates engines getting stolen from their facility. I saw a mention of it on the local news in Charlotte on Friday, but none of the NASCAR media followed up. The Jayski mention from Friday listed the website of the local Charlotte TV station.

Even tonight (we were out all day today), I'm looking at what happened at the track today and I see only one story about it, on only one of the big NASCAR sites ( I taped the NW race but not Countdown. Did Allen and Co mention it?

This a huge deal for some thieves to steal three $50,000 Nationwide/Truck Ford engines from Doug Yates!! Can you imagine if $150,000 of equipment was stolen by thieves in another sport, after said thieves broke into a pro team's facility? We'd be hearing about it nonstop. We better hear more about it Sunday. Sometimes I just don't understand what the NASCAR media chooses to cover.

"NASCAR team owner Doug Yates said it appears the thieves who broke into the Roush Yates Racing Engines facility in Mooresville, N.C., recently and stole three engines “knows the facility and knows the engines.”

The break-in took place Monday at the shop located on Mazeppa Road. The engines, valued at $50,000 each, were built specifically for use in the NASCAR Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series. (snip)Mooresville police say a cargo van, stolen from another race team, was used to transport the engines and then dumped.

Anonymous said...

The difference with today's race compared to other Nationwide races is that the number of Cup drivers was low AND about 8-10 cars were 'start-and-park' drivers. ESPN only had to monitor 35 drivers compared to 43 and they could only hype Busch, Bowyer, Edwards, and Logano...since Chase drivers like Burton, Dale Jr, Kenseth, Biffle, Stewart, Kenseth and others who normally appear in these races were only running on Sunday.

There were still several drivers who were rarely if ever mentioned, and some of the guys who wrecked and were interviewed were not previously mentioned on the broadcast.

What I don't understand is the lack of actual play-by-play being left out of these races. Simply describing the action on the track shouldn't be so hard. "There's the 20 car..." and "for you fans of so-and-so there he is in 7th spot" is not play-by-play. ESPN needs someone who can describe what is on the track with a touch of excitement to it. Otherwise, MRN is the best option for audio - heck, I could mute the sound and try to call the action myself and could probably do better.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see that kang!

@anon 1:49--totally agree! I didn't tape it after the changes for Richmond due to other conflicts, but I did last week and "The Blitz" didn't mention anything about the race until about the last 2 minutes of the 6 pm show and that took up about 30 seconds into the 2nd show. No sight of the Media Center at all...and when ESPNews came on nothing about NA$CAR...if it was shown it was in the time it took me to blink because I didn't see a thing.

I don't recall any mention of the Yates engine theft. Due to football we lost 10 minutes of the show, but I'm not sure if it would have been mentioned even if we had the full 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because NASCAR Now is on again at night after the race, the espnnews channel doesn't feel obligated to show the drivers live interviews any more.

Anonymous said...

In yesterday's Nationwide race,Harvick had a right front wheel bearing burn up. I don't want to pick on Tim Brewer,but he may want to rethink what he said on TV. He said the bearings almost never fail and implied that some crew member might be at fault. In Tim's day, maybe that was true,but not today with coil bind, shock packers,etc. Jeff Gordon had a similar problem last year on one of the short,banked tracks and wrecked hard. The #24 Team concluded that the coil bind setup allowed for no 'give' in the right front suspension putting extraordinary loads on the bearing/hub.Tim knows what he knows, but I don't think he's on top of all the new technical stuff. For what it's worth...

bevo said...

The coverage has to be first rate from the start to hold the attention of the audience with football and the Ryder Cup going against it.

As far as post-race coverage I wouldn't hold my breath with those two things going on today. They might not even be the number one motorsports story for the day if John Force wins. That's the kind of story ESPN loves.

Thornton, Colorado said...

As far as the stolen engines story: Because they were from Doug Yates' shop, it will never get any mention. ESpin doesn't even know who Doug or Robert Yates are. If it was a Hendrick or Childress motor, then it will be a story. The only thing that might get a mention is that they are "ROUSH"- Yates engines.
By the way, Kang got it right: If the race ended now, at 7:33 a.m. MST, whichever team hauler is at the track first; that's who's leading the points. ESpin will be all over that......

Anonymous said...

Thanks John for the daily schedules,very helpful and we use them every day.
Tks.J.D Ron Il.

Newracefan said...

JD a somewhat off topic question but it is on TV now. Why does the asphalt under the cut away car always look wet for the Nascar Performance show? At first I though it was because it rained but now I realize it is always like that.

Bill H said...


They probably put down a liner so that you don't see the ground under it.

Bill H

Anonymous said...

@ newracefan: the crew pours water on the ground before they start taping Performance so the ground looks better on camera.

As far as the Yates engines being stolen all the media can report is that the engines were stolen. What else can they say? The police are investigating but that is it.

Daly Planet Editor said...


I will ask them that. The Producer is married to a friend of mine and he works so hard on that show. I think it might be the best 30 min show on SPEED.


Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for your comments on NASCAR Now and RaceDay.


Newracefan said...

Thanks all for the answer to my question

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:52, I believe the point the OP was trying to make is the reporters have not reported about the Yates engines, or I guess only one website did. It wasnt something you see everywhere. I didn't know about it until I read it here.