Friday, September 26, 2008
Kansas TV Coverage Suddenly A Second Priority
The hard-working NASCAR press corps has been trying to focus on building the excitement of The Chase this season. Topics from Greg Biffle's resurgence to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s struggles have been all over the radio, TV and Internet. Now, the media's hard work may simply not matter.
The crisis on Wall Street may be hard to understand for those without portfolios or a stockbroker. It gets a little easier to grasp when your local bank goes under, local restaurants close and another friend loses his house to foreclosure.
Suddenly, priorities change. NASCAR and sports in general begin to fade into the background. Many families have simply switched to "survival" mode.
ESPN, SPEED and NASCAR go into the Kansas weekend on the heels of President Bush's televised news conference about the economy. Bush did not mince words on the impact of this crisis when it comes to regular working Americans. What Bush did not mention was that lots of those Americans are NASCAR fans.
There have been times during a crisis when NASCAR has served as a rallying point to restore confidence and faith in the country and the American way of life. Somehow, the current situation does not have the feel of something that can be fixed in this manner.
Across the country on this weekend there is the very real possibility that people are going to be concentrating on putting the financial pieces of their life back together. Many folks simply seem to be shell-shocked over just how fast this financial crisis has taken the country to its knees.
Both ESPN and SPEED are going to have to be very mindful of the new financial reality of many NASCAR fans as both networks roll-out the usual schedule of practice, qualifying and racing.
This weekend, perhaps more than ever before in NASCAR history, there are a lot of fans looking at deep changes in their lives that they cannot control and unfortunately cannot escape. None of those changes are pleasant.
ESPN2 is first-up at 12:30PM ET with Sprint Cup practice. Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will call the action. This trio hands-off to SPEED at 2PM when John Roberts will host NASCAR Live. Hermie Sadler and Randy Pemberton will be the reporters handling the interviews for this thirty minute show.
The TV coverage goes back on the track at 2:30PM with SPEED covering the Nationwide Series practice session. Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will have the call with Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner reporting from the garage area.
The "big show" is next at 4PM when ESPN2 rolls-out Sprint Cup qualifying. Punch, Jarrett and Petree will again call the action. ESPN has struggled with this coverage and will try to put the emphasis back on the cars on the track as opposed to interviews and features while cars continue to qualify in the background.
ESPN2 winds-up its Friday Kansas coverage with the Nationwide Series final practice at 6PM. The day ends with a 7PM edition of NASCAR Now from the ESPN studios.
SPEED also ends the day at 7PM with the one-hour Trackside show that will feature Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip as guests. Byrnes, Hammond, McReynolds and Elliott Sadler make-up the panel as this show continues to be a fan favorite.
With many Americans glued to the TV and radio for continuing news of the American financial crisis, both SPEED and ESPN certainly have their work cut-out for them. Commentary this weekend is going to have to be put in a much broader perspective in order to keep the TV viewers. Depending on what happens with the economy during the day on Friday, this weekend could be one to remember in more ways than just one.
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