Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sprint Cup Series Final Race On ABC From Homestead-Miami Speedway
The NASCAR on ESPN crew is at the end of a seventeen race Sprint Cup Series TV assignment. They began in July with the Brickyard in Indy and now find themselves in South Florida to crown a champion.
While there has been a relatively short string of races on the Cup side, this same ESPN crew has been working the Nationwide Series events since February. The coverage of the Nationwide race on Saturday showed a very tired Dr. Jerry Punch who could not muster even a moment of excitement during the event.
As the final three laps rolled by, it was Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree who once again jumped-in to add a description of what was actually happening on the track. It was Petree who said "two to go" as the cars flashed across the start-finish line. After the excitement of the Craftsman Trucks on Friday, this was tough to take.
That is the Sunday challenge for the NASCAR on ESPN team. Keep the energy and excitement high for this final time as two races unfold in front of the TV viewers. While drivers battle to lead and win the race, Jimmie Johnson will be battling to keep himself in the right position to win his third consecutive championship.
In the Saturday race, the long green flag runs resulted in limited exposure for Allen Bestwick and the Infield Pit Studio crew. Bestwick will start the day with NASCAR Countdown at 3PM with a 45 minute show. If long green flag runs are again the order of the day, his crew may be heard more than seen all race long.
ESPN has again expanded the infield staff by adding Ray Evernham to the mix. That puts him alongside of Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Bestwick has to manage three opinions and personalities in every segment now instead of two.
The pit road reporters were frustrated on Saturday. Only once were they allowed to do a reset of the field and it was much shorter than needed. Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro have lots of information and just needed some time to relay it to the audience.
ESPN has changed the racing philosophy and now interviews drivers who are out of the race even though they are not Chasers. The pit road crew has become more in-tune with speaking directly to the crew chiefs rather than relying on scanner chatter and what they observe to offer facts to the viewers.
Tim Brewer was another participant who could have just taken a nap once the Nationwide Series race started on Saturday. Fast laps and lots of action on this multi-groove track left little time for the Tech Center. Long green flag runs and few engine problems on Sunday may afford Brewer another long rest.
Just as ESPN's SportsCenter has grown from two hosts showing highlights to a seemingly endless crew of talking heads offering opinions, this network philosophy is being reflected in ESPN's NASCAR coverage. This race will have twelve announcers all trying to contribute to a fast-paced live sporting event with no scheduled time-outs or halftime. That equation is perhaps not the best.
Keys to watch will be when and how the Producer integrates the various announcers and the role that the infield plays in the overall program. Which pit reporters have Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards will also be important. Look for just how often ESPN offers "up to speed" segments where the field is reviewed.
On Saturday, ESPN often went to the in-race reporter or inserted a feature instead of resetting the field after a caution flag and pit stops. This left the TV viewers relying on the silently scrolling ticker at the top of the screen for any information on the vast majority of the field. It was fundamentally poor TV producing.
Pay attention to how often Punch resets the field after a caution or a commercial break. This is the final race and there are a wide variety of reasons teams are going to be racing. Driver championship, Top 35, Rookie Points, Manufacturer title and many other issues will all be playing out on the same track at the same time.
Homestead is once again making great pictures and sound. With no grandstands anywhere but the frontstretch, this track has great camera placement and offers fantastic aerial views. Tough to catch for the Director sometimes is the long pit access road. Pit road, however, is great for viewers and the race off is going to be exciting.
The final lap coverage is always tough as so many things are happening at the same time. Race winner vs. Chase winner might be a tough call. After the final lap, NASCAR has a script that the TV network follows in terms of race winner first and Chase winner second. Keep an eye out for how that shakes-out live.
This is the final in-progress race post for 2008. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you again for taking the time this season to stop by The Daly Planet.