Thursday, October 30, 2008

Craftsman Truck Series Poised For Big TV Ratings


Talk about the little engine that could. A few weeks ago, Internet sites were talking about the potential demise of the Craftsman Truck Series after this season. Short fields, team sponsorship battles and the pending departure of Craftsman after more than a decade told a dismal tale.

Now, after another strong TV ratings weekend in Atlanta, the Truck Series has a new multi-year title sponsor and a new lease on life. Friday night, free from the competition with major college or pro football, the Series will be live on nationwide TV. It could be a huge ratings night for NASCAR.

This turn-a-round has been spectacular in a season known for flat TV ratings and more driver-swapping than good racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Once again this year, the Nationwide Series is featuring two Sprint Cup cross-over drivers battling for the title. Only the Trucks have really forged their own identity, despite the occasional Cup driver appearances.

In some way, the wild drives by Kyle Busch in the Truck Series this season have added to the fun. The series "regulars" don't treat Kyle with kid gloves and several times this season Busch has made his way to his transporter very promptly after a race. He was sometimes trailed by other drivers who wished to continue an on-track conversation.

The reality of this series is that it has a bunch of "old school" racers who fans simply appreciate. Ron Hornaday, Johnny Benson, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague are just a few of the easily recognized names of drivers in the series. Others like Rick Crawford, Todd Bodine and David Starr are perhaps best-known for their truck careers. It is truly a series of diverse personalities.

SPEED has become part of the story in just the way that NASCAR really enjoys. The TV coverage has quietly let the racing do the talking and kept a sense of humor and simplicity along the way. Krista Voda has been a key part of that for several years now.

As the host of the pre-race show, called The Set-Up, Voda and her Producer stripped everything away this season and simply put Voda standing at the head of pit lane. During her thirty minutes, officials and team members walk by doing their jobs and curious fans snap pictures. Voda is un-fazed by it all, treats everyone like family and handles the elements like a trooper.

Rick Allen was plucked from Nebraska of all places and brought-into the Craftsman Truck Series as a relative unknown. Since that time, he has worked very hard to master his role as the play-by-play announcer for SPEED. Allen has kept things in perspective and shares the same gift with Voda. They let others shine.

The beneficiary of Allen's style has been Phil Parsons. In much the same way that Larry McReynolds seems to be a part of every single Sprint Cup Series race, Parsons is the single best source of Truck Series information on TV today. Showing the same relaxed and well-mannered style as his late brother Benny, Phil has cemented himself a place in this series with his hard work over the years.

Adam Alexander and Ray Dunlap cover pit road and report for the series during practice, qualifying and the pre-race show. Alexander is a quick study and has stepped right into this series without missing a beat. Dunlap continues to be the character that everyone loves to discuss. Although he has toned-down his off-beat antics, Dunlap is still opinionated and colorful as his recent appearance on Tradin' Paint confirmed.

The powers that be at SPEED put Michael Waltrip into the broadcast booth of this series to add some excitement. At the time, Waltrip was so over-saturated on SPEED and on NASCAR TV in general the move did not go over well. Waltrip did not help himself by shilling for Toyota and generally talking over-top of everyone.

This season, Waltrip has improved tremendously and that might be to the credit of Steve Byrnes. On Monday nights, Byrnes hosts This Week in NASCAR where Waltrip is a regular panelist. As opposed to the mild-mannered Allen, Byrnes is not afraid to step right in and stop Waltrip in his tracks when he is off on a tangent. The result has been that Waltrip has learned to listen.

As a group, the SPEED team has shown time-and-time again that less is often more on TV. Without the flashy graphics or the fancy features, SPEED has let the racing on all kinds of tracks lead the way. My belief is that is why the series has experienced a resurgence this season. Fans get the race and not the hype.

This Friday, the Trucks get the big Texas Motor Speedway to themselves in primetime under the lights. Voda hosts the pre-race at 8:30PM and the race kicks-off shortly after 9PM. Adding some spice to the Texas mix will be the fact that sports car ace Max Papis, Red Bull's chosen son Scott Speed and the one and only Kyle Busch will all be racing along with the series regulars.

The Daly Planet will be live during and after the race for your comments. As the season comes toward the end, perhaps you can use this post to offer your views on the coverage of the Craftsman Trucks Series this season on SPEED and suggest any changes you might like for next year.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rick Allen said...

Appreciate your kind words JD. Three to go!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:23PM,

As I said to you in an earlier post, the Atlanta TV trucks were not ready for Thursday TV in TX.

SPEED owns the series TV rights and always tries to get as much of it on TV as possible because it is the only NASCAR series they carry.

Any TV network wants to sell more ads and carry more content of something they have already paid for. Your argument makes no sense.

As you may have noticed, SPEED is also covering Nationwide Series practice and qualifying this weekend.

JD

AMS fan said...

I look forward to the trucks the most.
Good no nonsense commentators, well except for Mikey, hard racing, and the races are not to long.
Rick and Phil work real well together no matter who the 3rd member is.
I watch practice when they show it.
I watch most every qualifying show.
I even watched most every minute of rain delay coverage. (I know I need a life)
Really enjoy the trucks!!!
I just wish someone would run a live leaderboard. I'm not coordinated enough to watch a ticker and the race. Also, it's to easy to miss something looking at a ticker.

Sophia said...

I love the TRUCK races!!

and if that is really the real 'rick allen'...please tell your music producers to TURN DOWN the loud screechy guitar music when you boys are talking before the race.

That is my MAIN gripe, if only gripe, with the Truck broadcast. ;)

I would rather hear the dulcet tones of your voice and the other boys rather than that NONSENSICAL loud music that covers up most of what y'all are saying.

Sophia
:)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Rick,

Just so you know...she is always like that. We switched her to decaf earlier this season.

JD

batchief said...

John you talk about how Krista's and Rick's style are similar, couldn't be that Midwestern up bringing could it? Krista from Iowa and Rick from Nebraska. My experience with most folks out of the heartland is that they are friendly, respectful and have a good sense of humor. I think people tend to gravitate to good people like that. Oh, good upbringing doesn't hurt either.

Daly Planet Editor said...

batchief,

That certainly is an interesting concept. Must be something in the water.

JD

Aven said...

I hope it goes well in the future but manufacturer parcipitation may determine whether it stays viable or not. When you're trying to market a product that has fallen out of favor in the eyes of the general public, it's hard to convince the bean counters to spend money. When they introduce the TOT in a couple of years, the differences will disappear but it will be "safer". When the power grab gets started in Cup, it never stops as it trickles down.

Anonymous said...

Truck racing is the best of the three series these days, at least on TV. (Actually, it's the bst in real life, too.)

Thanks, Rick, for helping to make it that way!

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy the truck races - they're the only racing that keeps me excited about watching! SPEED does it right in all categories - now if we could just get the cable companies to carry the SPEED channel without charging extra, life would indeed be good. And need I mention, the ratings would be higher also.

stricklinfan82 said...

Count me as one of those that absolutely love the Truck Series as well. I love the racing, love its seperate identity from the Cup Series, love the on-air crew, and love the race fan friendly approach of the production truck.

Just to throw out a thought, I think it would be great if the powers that be at Fox/Speed would reward these Truck Series guys and gals for their great work by letting them handle the Cup All-Star Race broadcast on Speed next year. Rick, Phil, Adam, Ray, Krista, and the entire production truck / behind-the-scenes crew. In my mind they are certainly deserving.

bevo said...

I'll be out there tomorrow for practice and qualifying, I'll see if I can hack the the track's wireless and stream with a webcam :)

Looking forward to the race Friday night. They always put on a great show here.

Anonymous said...

I love the truck series, Rick, and Phil, Mikey not so much. I think the broadcast is better with just the two of you. If you need a third person, maybe try someone else in 2009. In time I think Doug would have been good, but he is a crew chief now. It was good to see Camping World come on board, because things did not look good for the series to continue.
Thanks again Rick, and Phil for a great job.
bryanh

Anonymous said...

Sorry Krista, I did not mention you. I have enjoyed you, and your work since the Totally Nascar days.
I'd hate to see you leave the truck series, but you would be a great fit in a lot of other roles if you wanted them.
bryanh

Dot said...

I love the Truck series.

I think one reason the TV numbers are up is because NASCAR hasn't tainted the series with a bunch of BS changes. The trucks are pretty much the same as when they started years ago. It's what Cup racing used to be like in the 90s. I hope they continue to drive under the radar so the Emperor doesn't fix something else that isn't broken.

Nice to see a celebrity (Rick Allen) write in. That's so cool. JD, you've hit the big time. First John Kerner and now Rick.

Anonymous said...

John

Isn't it the height of irony that the very drivers and types of drivers that bring SPEED such success in this series are THE VERY ONES and types that SPEED have unceremoniously dumped from their network!! Johnny Benson!! Ken Schrader!!! Dropped from the air by a pompous, self centered, arrogant baffoon Chris Long and replaced with such stellar personalities as Brian Vickers and Greg "swing-and-a-whiff Biffle.
We're surprised Chris Long isnt at ESPN....his personality fits

3bud said...

Once again the best racing period. Rick ,I think you guys are great. The whole SPEED team treats fans, drivers and teams with respect. Krista is a sweetheart and I always look forward to The Set Up. Real glad about The Camping World Truck Series. One thing I might suggest is more promoting, we see the commercials, but more mention on the other SPEED shows would be good to get to more people who may not realize they are missing the best racing, broad cast and all around production in racing. O.K two things ,maybe more Krista in the pits. She is great,and has a knack to relay things. Teams trust her which would translate to good info. Not that Adam and Ray don't do a great job too,just more Krista. Friday night I'll be watching with my 6 year old grandson, looking forward to it.

bevo said...

Perfect weather for qualifying today. Clear blue skies, 75 with 40% humidity and a light breeze. Looks like that all weekend.

chase said...

Boy, you said it John! The Truck racing continues to be the BEST racing on TV -- as I've mentioned before, I find myself watching all the Truck racing and I am not disappointed, feel no need to 'surf' channels, feel no need to nap or do anything else except watch and listen to the astoundingly good coverage from Rick, Philly and Mikey - and, as always, great coverage by Ray. Thank you SPEED for the excellent coverage and thank you CTS owners and drivers for extraordinarly racing!

red said...

i cannot say enough positive things about how speed has handled the truck series broadcasts this year. each element of the program meshes, the on-air talent are stellar, the work by the production truck spot on! when i despair about the state of nascar broadcasting every sunday, along comes thursday and friday and "the truck gang" and i become optimistic once again.

one aspect that i would like to spotlight is voda's "the set-up": it is so clean and professional, no gimmicks, no tape packages, no bells and whistles. just a skilled reporter, walking pit road, telling the stories. it simply does not get better than that.

the "voices of the race" have matured this year and the effect is remarkable: men speaking about the entire track, all the teams, offering insight and concrete information, all while working with the producer and director to get us the best shots possible. the cameraderie is obvious, as is the respect among the partners.

many of us have said that the trucks are the best racing out there and it's rewarding to see that being recognized. there are clearly lessons that could be learned by other nascar broadcast partners if they have the desire to improve their productions. i suggest that the entire truck series package is the best place to start the class!

many thanks to everyone -- and i mean EVERYONE! -- involved in bringing us a truly wonderful and professional product each week.

(of course, i have to miss all things racing this weekend as i'm at election headquarters from friday morning thru tuesday night, pretty much non-stop. keep the blog humming so i can catch up after election day, gang! thanks.)

Anonymous said...

Hands down!!!!!! The truck series offers the best racing in na$car. We actually get to see side by side races and close finifhes.

Anonymous said...

Speaking strictly for myself. Mikey adds nothing to my enjoyment of the truck series, but that's just me.
Knowlegable race fans watch the trucks, watch the trucks, for one reason. It's simply the best racing of the 3 touring series.
The trucks series is what the Busch series was supposed to be. A legitament development series. True the races are mostly won, & championships contested by veteran racers, but by, & large, the drivers who have distinguished themselves in trucks have gone on to be more sucessfun in Cup. than the Busch has produced.
The one big surprise for me this season, was Scott Speed winning a race. I knew he was outstanding, you don't get where he has been without the tools. To step in a truck, & win like he did showed me that the transformation to NA$CAR type racing is coming along just fine.
It would seem like Speed could promote the series a little better.

dawg

Anonymous said...

I think one reason the TV numbers are up is because NASCAR hasn't tainted the series with a bunch of BS changes. The trucks are pretty much the same as when they started years ago.

Yes, and that must frustrate the heck out of Brian and Company. I hope they don't break this series by trying to "fix" it.

Lisa Hogan said...

I am also a huge fan of the truck series. Because of the excellent job that the SPEED crew does in covering the races, it's almost as good as being at the track. :)

I agree with Sophia about the annoying guitar music that is being used as "foreground" while the announcers are talking. I don't understand the purpose of drowning out the announcer's voices with music.

Since I am hearing similar comments from female friends about the painful music being used, I have to wonder if this is a gender issue. Female fans are hearing the painful high notes and male fans are not. :)

Thornton, Colorado said...

I have watched every truck race, and I have to tell you: The announcers make you feel like you are sitting in the 5th row at Darlington on the frontstretch on the last lap! I am on the edge of my seat with every lap count. These guys simply get it. The old phrase goes, "Let the music do the talking." If I am running to the kitchen for a cold one, and something happens on track, I almost sprint to the living room, what with all the excitement the booth announcers generate.
And when it's all said and done, and I am completely exhausted and need a nap, I watch ESPin's coverage of the Cup Series. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than Jerry Punch.....

Anonymous said...

I love the trucks and the SPEED
programs but I change the channel
when they BLAST their commercials
as if everyone has suddenly gone deaf.

Gymmie said...

Hi Mr. Allen!

@ams_fan--if you find that life can you send some of it my way! I picked my 4/10 shift on purpose so I'd be free on Fridays :). But yup I'm tuned into it all as well :).

I do wish we'd get more practice/quals but I do understand the logistics issues. I don't know how long it takes to tear down/set up but I do remember that picture you posted a few months ago of just *one* truck. You have zillions of wires to put in the correct slot and I'm sure they have an order so they make sure the right blue wire is in the right blue spot. And of course putting them away in the correct containers. And then the travel to each location.

Anonymous said...

I usually do not like "me too" posts, but what the heck...Me too!

The SPEED Truck broadcast team is the best NASCAR production currently on TV.

fbu

theangryengraver said...

Excellent Post!!

Yeah, everyone was digging the grave for the truck series when Craftsman announced they were done, and also over the past few years.

The broadcasts are the best of the 3 series. No nonsense, none of that glitz too.

The truck series kinda reminds me of Nascar's past, and is the most exciting series of them all.

Anonymous said...

SPEED should have manned up and got its production trucks out there by now. It may have meaned some people may have had to work on their off days, but that comes the the territory.

I want to see practice and qualifying live.

Steve L. said...

I have been watching the Truck Series faithfully for a few years now. They just seem to get better and better at bringing the best coverage.

Like Thornton said, with the Cup coverage, JP's voice just puts me to sleep. And with the monotone voices you can't tell when there's any action on the track.

With Allen, Phil, and Michael, you KNOW when somethings happining or about to happen! Camera shots are wider so you can see more than one or two trucks on the screen, and the sound is so much better than ESPN's.

All that, and drivers that "drive'em like they stole'em", there's no wonder the ratings are up there!

Thank you Speed for your great coverage and thank you Camping World for stepping in with your sponsorship.

Ben in NC said...

Finally got Speed in HD yesterday. Can't wait for Friday night! Love the coverage and the Trucks are the best thing going right now on the track and in the booth. the one series that I don't mute the tv and listen to MRN.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:44PM,

Of all the things that you could have contributed about the NCTS on this page, you continue to push an issue that has been fully explained in a series that has done a better job of covering practice and qualifying than either the Cup or Nationwide series.

That kind of makes one wonder what your real motivation is and why you continue to hide behind your Anon tag.

JD

Newracefan said...

Love the trucks, I started watching because I recognized Mikey's voice and have stayed because of the racing. Speed does a great job and maybe someday I too will get to see them in HD.

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

Let's try this one last time. ESPN has the final 17 Cup races out of 38. They also show all the Nationwide Series races.

SPEED handles ALL the Truck and Sprint Cup practice and qualifying from Daytona in February until the ESPN Cup coverage begins with the Brickyard in Indy. Got it?

ESPN decided to drop coverage of the early Cup practices in the first year of the TV contract. Know who stepped-in and picked them up this year? That would be SPEED.

Of the final seventeen race weekends, SPEED also steps-in and handles both Nationwide and Sprint Cup practice and qualifying on agreed-upon dates when ESPN has a programming conflict.

SPEED covers the entire Truck Series from start to finish. In this case, the quick turnaround from Atlanta to a Thursday in Texas did not allow the equipment to be set up to show anything on track, including the Trucks.

How you are unable to process this simple issue continues to confuse me. You can mix metaphors and use any out of context quotes you would like, but two things are very clear.

SPEED has been the home of practice and qualifying for all three series on a very regular basis this season once again.

That should help you to understand that if SPEED had the logistical ability to show the Trucks on Thursday they would have done so. They already paid for the right to show them.

Trying to somehow link this to an ESPN issue makes no sense at all. That network only does 17 races at a very busy time of year and they struggle to do that.

We got your point, try to get the TV trucks to TX and set-up faster.

Thanks for the comments, they have been very interesting. If you have any additional comments on this, just drop me an email so we can stop tying up the comments section.

JD

Ziggy said...

Add me to list of enjoying the trucks more. One thing the trucks have that the other two series do not have: The greater potential to have different winners each race. Flat out tired of 'Cup finishes that closely resemble the chase standings.

Vicky D said...

Definitely best racing around! Good column JD too. We are on vacation and the hotel doesn't have Speed TV and forgot to set tivo so I guess we'll miss the race this week. Watching Nationwide series is like watching cup race too. Back home tomorrow.

Richard in N.C. said...

In my view, Ray Dunlap is the best pit road reporter in NASCAR racing.