Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Memphis Almost Falls Off The NASCAR TV Radar

One quick zoom around the Internet will tell the tale. Over at NASCAR.com, the TV listing for the Nationwide Series race this Saturday in Memphis says ESPN Classic. Sliding over to ESPN.com, the listings expand to ESPN Classic and ESPN360, the online streaming service.

ESPN bumped the Memphis event to the back burner after the Breeders Cup horse race joined the ESPN Saturday sports TV party. The Breeders Cup will be on ESPN while live college football will be on ESPN2, ESPNU and ABC. The Memphis race was left to the limited distribution of the ESPN Classic Network.

As veteran fans may remember, ESPN Classic is not a suitable network for NASCAR where distributing a live race is concerned. In a repeat of an earlier ESPN Classic situation, NASCAR turned to SPEED as a viable alternative. Already the home of the Craftsman Truck Series, SPEED agreed to simulcast the ESPN-produced race from start-to-finish.

Unfortunately, ESPN did not seem to get that message. Sunday on ABC, Allen Bestwick signed-off the NASCAR post-race show from Martinsville by promoting the Memphis Nationwide race as being only on ESPN Classic. NASCAR Now host Ryan Burr did exactly the same thing on Tuesday while viewers saw an on-screen graphic that also did not mention SPEED.

Last year, the opening prayer before the Memphis race was suddenly yanked off the air for a college football pre-game show. NASCAR fans spinning the dial among the ESPN family of networks found themselves surrounded by college football and horse racing. NASCAR had been taken off the air completely only minutes before the race was to start.

The TDP column that talked about that moment was called "ESPN Pushes NASCAR To The Back Burner." Click here to read that 2007 entry in its entirety. In the end, getting the Memphis Nationwide Series race on the air came down to a nice open-field tackle by a young man from the Iowa Hawkeye football team.

ESPN veteran Marty Reid and fan favorite Randy LaJoie provided the Memphis commentary last season and will do so again this weekend. Last year, Reid was unable to say even a word to the fans before ESPN pulled the plug. This year, the race broadcast will thankfully be seen from start-to-finish by most fans thanks to SPEED.

The other big benefit of moving this telecast away from the main ESPN networks is the post-race. In 2007, ESPN left immediately after the checkered flag without talking to the winner David Reutimann or explaining to TV viewers why some fans in the stands appeared to be crying. There was also a lot of emotion among the Reutimann pit crew.

Click here for the video that will explain the reason why fans and teams were so deeply affected by this victory. This follow-up report was put on-the-air by the NASCAR on ESPN crew several weeks later to apologize for the Memphis fiasco.

Again this year, the young patients at St. Jude's have designed the paint schemes on eight cars in the race. The Design A Dream program is being coordinated by Leverage Sports of Charlotte, NC. If that name sounds familiar, it should. That is the same company producing the Three Wide Life TV series. Click here for a link to that show.

ESPN has covered the Nationwide Series faithfully since February. SPEED has helped out as well, but the NASCAR on ESPN crew has put a lot of work into these telecasts. Often, the Saturday race is better produced and gets a much better reaction from the TV viewers than the Sunday Cup event.

This week Memphis is a stand-alone telecast with Rusty Wallace, Shannon Spake and Mike Massaro working hard and then boarding a plane back to Atlanta. Chances are it will be Rusty Wallace at the controls. Vince Welch will round-out the Memphis TV crew.

ESPN has a tremendous opportunity to make-up for last year with this telecast and with 50 cars trying to make the field it should be a fascinating mix of drivers and teams. Practice will be shown at 4:30PM on Friday and qualifying will be live on Saturday at 10:30AM. Unfortunately, both of those sessions will only be on ESPN Classic.

The Craftsman Truck Series race on SPEED at 1PM precedes the 3:30PM Memphis event, so NASCAR fans will get a nice double-dose of racing on Saturday.

Needless to say, the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show on ESPN Classic will not be carried by SPEED. If needed, SPEED will fill any time between events from the SPEED Stage in Atlanta and then join Reid for the call of the race.

Either way, the people in Memphis and the children from St. Jude's get a fair shake this year after a little cooperation between two key NASCAR TV partners.

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alex said...
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alex said...

Nice article JD. SPEED is doing ESPN a favor, I'm surprised they haven't mentioned the simulcast on any programs.

I looked at Jayski, and they haven't listed the green flag time for the Memphis race. I'd like to think that ESPN Classic will have a half hour pre-race, and hold the green flag until the SPEED broadcast joins up half an hour later.

What if the truck race has a long red flag or cautions? There's no rain in the forecast for Atlanta, but it's possible for the truck race to run long. Do you think they would hold the green flag in Memphis until the the Trucks are finished and SPEED joins ESPN???

Anonymous said...

NN did not mention Speed would be showing the race,and I know this is off topic, but I thought the interview with Junior Johnson was very good. I'm sure Ryan Burr may have heard his name before, but not a clue about his history in the sport. Not sure if they knew his response to the questions, he would have been on.

Speedcouch said...

The race is listed on my Tivo guide as being on Speed at 4:00 Saturday. If the truck race from Altanta runs long, I'm sure they will probably hold the start for a short while so Speed can carry it. If Atlanta has a long rain delay, it might be another story though.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a Saturday that won't aggravate my last nerve! A day of two races on SPEED and no ESPN for me! Can life get any better?

Yes, I get ESPN Classic, but given a choice between SPEED and them, you gotta know I'd take SPEED in a heartbeat. Now if we can just do more of this "double coverage"....

Anonymous said...

If ESPN can't or won't fit NASCAR into its schedule on one of its primary channels, then it should not have bid on the NASCAR package.

I have no idea why these people spent so much on a sport they really don't seem to want.

Vicky D said...

Hopefully the Nationwide broadcasts will go off without a hitch since I'll be out of town. I have set the TIVO but if there's rain or a delay of any kind - I'll be a very upset camper when I return home. This is always a great race - I think Marty, Randy & Rusty (as long as he keeps the volume down!) will do a good job.

Anonymous said...

J.D.,thanks for the video link.I haven't seen it before.

midasmicahone said...

My apologies. but I need to put something out there. I've been reading Jayski for years and about a week ago I had trouble finding the articles/columns, blogs section. Being an avid reader and responder I kept looking for the section. They put it way down at the bottom of the page. Why? Are they tired of people voicing their opiniona? This has to be ESPN beings they pretty much run jayski now

Anonymous said...

The operative number here, is not the cars trying to make the race.
It will be the number of cars still on track, after 10 laps.


midasmicahone said...

na$car had to know this kind of crap would happen when they brought ESPN in the broadcast (or narrowcast) their races. ESPN has made it REAL clear that na$car takes a back seat to other sports, including the wonderfully boring breeder's cup. Gimme a break.... breeders cup!!!!This is a total insult to any diehard race fan. If I have to search all over the tv schedule to find the nationwide race, that makes it more and more likely that I WON'T watch it. Strange. Or is it. This is the reason that many of nas$car's fans are leaving. TV ratings are down. Attendence is down. And it's not just the economy. They've priced many of their most faithful fans out. What a way to run a business. But the France family has their billions. Go ahead, na$car. Keep dumping on what's left of your die hard fans. Don't blame anybody else when your cash cow dries up.

Penny said...

Great article. Even tho I Have ESPN Classic, I will watch the truck race and stay with SPEED for the Nationwide race. I know we won't have any of SPEED's announcers doing the broadcast,but I will stay with SPEED to show them my support for doing a job that they don't have to do.
THANKS SPEED you are the best.

Speedcouch said...

Really the only reason to watch the Busch race on Speed vs. ESPN Classic is the possibility it will be in HD on there. The ESPN crew will be doing the broadcast regardless of which channel you watch.

I have DirecTV and we have Speed HD, but not ESPN Classic in HD (though I doubt it is in HD anywhere).

Dave S. said...

Here's a thought: Maybe, somehow, the contracts can be renegotiated so that Fox takes over Nationwide races in October/November.

Fox has no regular-season college football, and it would make a great lead-in to its postseason baseball coverage...ESPN can run another college football game, which it clearly prefers.

Think of what it would be this Saturday...Memphis race, followed by Game 3 of Phillies-Rays.

Daly Planet Editor said...


This week they have to qualify and actually make the race. I have a feeling that a lot of the "start and park" set this week will only be parking and not starting.


Drop Jayski an email about the change if you want, remember that you can always bookmark this site and come to it directly.

Anon 9:46AM,

You are welcome. The folks at Leverage Sports worked hard on that whole program and then ESPN did not say a word about it during the entire on-air broadcast.


NASCAR Countdown begins at 3 and runs for thirty minutes. This usually means that the green is around 3:45PM. Should be interesting to see if NASCAR will hold for SPEED even though the TV rights to the race belong to ESPN and they are not showing the Trucks.

Anon 12:25AM,

Ryan Burr has come a long way from his issues of last season. I think being on the road and meeting everyone face-to-face really helped. He handled Junior Johnson really well and that interview really told the tale of why we need more of Junior, David Pearson and other retired veterans to speak-out on the sport regularly.

Thanks for the great comments,


majorshouse said...

I think that Speed should get all of the races and sadly NASCAR really doesn't care anymore like they used to care about the fans and it is all about money. I found last night's interview with Junior Johnson really refreshing and we need more of that and that is why I love it when people like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Tony Stewart either go off on NASCAR or a Goodyear because they don't care what the sanctioning body is going to do to them and we need more drivers that just don't take the status quot.

Anonymous said...

talk about conspiracy theories...midas, there is a link at the *top* of Jayski on the left side of the front page to get to the articles. Jay has often rearranged things because of the large volume of info he has in there. If it bothers you, just bookmark the articles area. It has nothing to do with us criticizing ESPN, and as JD said, you can bookmark TDP directly also.

I just hope for a good broadcast. I do have to echo the sentiment of 'why did ESPN bid for it if they didn't want it?' TNT might have made the most sense of all since they don't have much sports to conflict.

Dot said...

I'll be watching the NW race on SPEED Saturday. I want to show my loyalty to a channel that cares about racing fans. On the weekends, that is.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It is my hope...that if ESPN puts the awards show on ESPN Classic again this year that it is simulcast on SPEED, as the Memphis race will be! This shows that it can be done! :)
Thanks, Marybeth

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...
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Anonymous said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

Since ESPN bid for and won the right to pay to carry the NASCAR Nationwide series, I believe the N-wide series was invited into the ESPN world rather than intruding. A guest should not be invited to the party and then told there is not enough room for said guest.

Anonymous said...

I won't watch either race. I only watch High-Definition.

Anonymous said...

SPEED IS IN HD (where available) and Classic is not. Do not understand last post.

Direct TV is the way to for NASCAR fans - guess Dish would also work. anyways- DTY has all networks and all except Classic in HD.

Anonymous said...

ESPN classic had the 2000 fall race from Atlanta on yesterday (an ABC telecast back then) and it was interesting to see pit reporter Dr Jerry Punch interview Crew Chief Larry McReynolds in the Skinner pit.

Anonymous said...

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Same goes for SPEED's HD coverage. Hardy any cable company carries it.