Saturday, November 15, 2008
Brian France On TV Sunday Afternoon
It seems only fitting that NASCAR CEO Brian France appear on SPEED's RaceDay this Sunday afternoon from Homestead, FL.
Over the course of the last two seasons, TDP has referred to RaceDay as the "SPEED-a-palooza festival" and "The Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR." Both of these terms refer to the fact that although the program is sometimes difficult to even explain to those outside NASCAR, most fans know that if they watch there will eventually be something for them.
Since Daytona, this TV series has tackled the obvious, the hilarious and the serious. There have been moments of total anger, mind-numbing lunacy and good conversation. Along the way the duo of Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer has pandered, badgered and preached.
Sometimes the awkward ridiculousness of Rutledge Wood has only been topped by the sudden lack of long-term memory on the part of Spencer. Both Rutledge and Spencer often play "the fool" on this program. The difference is that Wood's role is by design and Spencer's is often self-induced.
The RaceDay production team knows how to use the parts and pieces they were handed to create this huge series. Two hours live each raceday on national TV for thirty-eight weeks is a task that would make most producers cringe.
The saving grace of RaceDay is that all the pieces come together in a cohesive manner. The professionalism and poise of Wendy Venturini works well with Spencer and Wallace because they respect her work. The newest addition, Hermie Sadler, had to gain his fulltime slot through a season of track descriptions and part-time assignments. Now, Sadler has established himself as a viable TV presence and has been rewarded with roles on other SPEED programs.
There are a lot of jokes about RaceDay host John Roberts being so tightly-wound he could spontaneously explode on-camera at any minute. SPEED viewers, however, have come to trust the hard-working Roberts as the best "TV traffic director" on the network. He might be a tad high-strung, but Roberts has emerged as one of the most recognized and trusted figures on the NASCAR TV scene.
This Sunday, RaceDay offers three different sets around the Homestead Miami track for an expanded crew of on-air personalities. The trio of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will be joining the five RaceDay regulars for a Noon Eastern Time live show.
While Venturini has Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson together in her Real Deal segment, this year has pushed the championship a bit off the front burner. Even Tony Stewart appearing on the program before his final JGR ride and Johnny Benson stopping by to celebrate his Craftsman Truck Series Championship are not the top stories. That one is easy to guess.
NASCAR's Brian France as a guest on RaceDay tops the chart. Normally, France operates in the cozy confines of the Infield Media Center or in controlled environments. This time, he will be neck-deep in the reality of the NASCAR fans and live TV.
Rarely over the last decade has there been this type of generalized depression about both the sport of NASCAR and society in general. France appears after backing the losing candidate for the Presidency, cancelling all testing for 2009 and with the car count for the top three series the source of endless speculation.
As this column (click here) recently asked, how can the reality of what NASCAR fans see be so very different from what they hear from NASCAR itself?
This is going to be a key interview for the sport of NASCAR in terms of the fans returning for 2009. RaceDay will need to step-up and ask the most important questions about the sport and what direction France has decided to take the three top series for next year.
In a recent interview, France admitted that the Truck Series may not make it through the off-season. Yet on Friday, SPEED unveiled the new Camping World Truck Series logo with great fanfare about a new multi-year deal. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the Nationwide Series was not financially viable for any team and NASCAR's response was to delay the Nationwide COT until 2010. These conflicts make no sense.
Bill Davis, the Wood Brothers, Petty Enterprises, Hall of Fame Racing and others seem to be within days of facing dire consequences. DEI and Ganassi trying to frantically merge two different brands, two different shops and two completely different cultures has finally shown NASCAR fans the reality of this downturn. The company that Dale Sr. built is in trouble.
France has avoided ESPN's NASCAR Countdown, avoided the daily NASCAR Now show and not appeared on Trackside or Wind Tunnel. This will be perhaps the first and only live public appearance on national TV of the CEO for the season. The scripted nonsense of the Sprint Cup Series banquet certainly does not count.
What comes of the France interview will be discussed long after Jimmie Johnson lifts his trophy and the race highlights are run endlessly around the nation. Once the final lap at Homestead is done, NASCAR becomes just another big business suddenly struggling to remain viable. France is the face of that business.
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