Friday, November 7, 2008

Trucks Create A Made-For-TV Final Chapter

When championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. spun and was collected in the very first lap in Phoenix, it was possible that the story of the 2008 Truck Series was over. While Hornaday limped around PIR, his counterpart Johnny Benson merely had to keep his nose clean and collect all the points possible during the race.

As veteran fans know, things in the Truck Series are rarely that simple. Benson himself was subsequently caught-up in an accident that resulted in hard contact with the retaining wall. Benson then had to leave the track for repairs.

Meanwhile, still making laps was the battered truck of Hornaday. As SPEED's play-by-play announcer Rick Allen called the action, Hornaday actually passed Benson on the scoring sheet while Benson sat helplessly in the garage area.

It was SPEED's Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons who were still reeling from the turnabout in fortunes for both Hornaday and Benson. No one could write this script, with two veterans both getting caught-up in situations of their own making live on national television in the next-to-last race of the season.

Meanwhile, back on the track and running at full speed was the normal compliment of Truck Series regulars and Sprint Cup cross-overs. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were tussling with Todd Bodine and Eric Darnell. "Mr. Red Bull" Scott Speed was going toe-to-toe with hard-nosed rookie Brad Keselowski. It was just more good Truck Series racing.

This entire series has been a goldmine for SPEED in 2008. With the COT creating rather boring racing and the Nationwide Series nothing more than Clint Bowyer vs. Carl Edwards, NASCAR fans found the trucks. TV ratings for this series have been through the roof, including a 38% increase for the last race from Texas.

Producer Keith D'Alesandro has lead a focused team this season that is a combination of the TV folks who work for The NASCAR Media Group and a select group of SPEED professionals. All of the folks in the TV compound seem to have a blast working on the Truck Series races.

The SPEED presentation is straightforward and upbeat. Pre-race host Krista Voda, seen last week in green make-up as the Wicked Witch of the West, was Friday standing on Rattlesnake Hill with a beautiful sunset behind her. Her pre-race content was simply dedicated to the event and the championship race.

Originally, NASCAR was set to unveil the new Camping World Truck Series logo for SPEED viewers, but that has been moved to next week in Homestead for the final race weekend. That might be a nice way to set the table for next season.

Once again, SPEED opened-up the cameras and the Director chose to show fans the racing on the track regardless of what position the trucks were chasing. This resulted in an action-packed telecast that was topped-off by the well documented struggles of the two point contenders. Nothing was missed from start-to-finish and there were more than enough replays to go around of every incident.

Despite covering more than 30 teams on pit road, reporters Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander seem to be everywhere and asking the right questions. Alexander's interview of Kevin Harvick in Victory Lane was outstanding. He continued by talking to both Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. after their tough outings.

SPEED will kick-off coverage of the final racing weekend from Homestead, FL at 7PM on Thursday, November 13th with Truck Series practice. The network returns at 5PM on Saturday for live qualifying. Voda hosts the pre-race show that same evening at 7:30PM and the race follows with Allen, Parsons and Waltrip at 8PM.

What a year to remember for the Truck Series. A new multi-year sponsor, TV ratings up across the board and a championship battle separated by only 3 points going into the final race. It has just been a bonus for fans that the TV coverage this season has been outstanding. On to Homestead for the SPEED gang.

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Anonymous said...

I didn't comment during the truck race ( or all day) we had a house full of friends who winter in Florida so we were catching up. Some stayed after dinner & watched their first race of anything NASCAR. It was the trucks. Krista & the pre race show was wonderful intro. Then came the race itself. Wonderful Coverage from Speed.
They had a good time, & have a new sport to watch. They are considering "going live" in Feb to Daytona. They liked watching the race coverage.

Thank you Speed for a great night of racing.

alex said...

It was a really good race, and I liked the Setup show on the hill. If I remember correctly, ESPN once produced a segment up on the hill. It was the Rusty Wallace/Bill Elliott "duel" segment. I believe it was 1988 (maybe '89) but those two were in almost as close a battle as Hornaday and Benson. Kinda corny to have a "wild west shootout", but it was fun to watch, just like tonight's show.

SPEED did a great job of managing the balance between covering RH/JB and the rest of the race. This is a nice change from the Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards show we're used to seeing. To top it off, all of the trucks were shown crossing the line at the end.

Overall it was a great race, and even better production by SPEED. I just hope the truck series producer can bring his talents to the rest of Nascar.

Dot said...

Wow, what a race tonight. Tell me, what are the odds that Ron and Johnny would both have problems?

I bet this is killing the Emperor to have the truck series be so exciting going into Homestead. And to think, no Chase involved.

Props to SPEED and Keith to put on great race coverage week after week. And why weren't there any people in the stands? I would think if you are there for race weekend with all three series there, wouldn't you go to the truck race too? How do those ticket packages work? We had a good crowd here (LV) in Sept for a stand alone race. I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

We watched Cup qualifying on tape, then turned to the last few laps of the truck race. What a difference. As the race was ending, I was thinking, and my husband said, "I wish this crew would work the Cup races." Are you listening, ESPN?

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that just showing the racing and just covering whats going on in a race does for viewing. No draft track, inrace interviewing, huge reporting group.
Just a few smart announcers and 2 pit reporters. Imagine that. Basic coverage of real racing. No 3 reporter studio to intro the 3 reporter race studio to introduce the large pitroad interview staff to intro the tech center segment to explain what gets explained every week. No built up fake fights.
It's as close to 'real' local racing you can find. Without being treated like a special needs student throughout the race then repeated race after race.
The cup should look at the truck coverage and racing and learn a thing or 20.

Great blog. Always like reading the insite.


bevo said...

I just finished watching the rerun of the race. It seemed to me like Waltrip was having more problems than normal during the coverage but other than that another fine production by Speed. They obviously have a crew that "gets" racing. It's always a pleasure to watch.

Rosemary said...

The first poster's comments speaks volumes about what converts new viewers into racing fans. Friday night's truck race was exciting, and the coverage by SPEED made it a lot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

Best TV coverage of the year! The
director must be a real race fan
because he was on top of all the
action. It was great to be relieved of the canned aesthetics
during the race.

3KillerBs said...

Speed's truck broadcasts set the benchmark that the other broadcasts, especially ESPN, fall short on.

And its all so simple -- the story of the race IS THE RACE ITSELF.

Speed simply tells the story of the race -- presented straight and leavened with just enough good humor to make you feel like you've gone to the race with some friends who are insiders.

One would think it was an easy recipe to follow.

ri88girl said...

What an incredible race! There is no better racing. The SPEED crew did the same outstanding job as always. Thanks speed.

PS read on here that ESPN acutually covered cars on the track during quals. I missed it since I didn't bother to watch anymore. It's a little too late in the season to convince me ESPN has any other must see tv except the race itself.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the whole truck race coverage, from Setup to Post-race.

If ESPN would just use SPEED's work as an example of how to cover a race, we'd have no reason to complain anymore.

midasmicah said...

Hand down, the trucks series brings the fans the best racing in na$car. This is great. A championship coming down to the wire and sis by side racing. And SPEED knows how to share the wealth as far as giving coverage to someone besides one or two drivers. Man, I wish we could get the same treatment from ESPN. This is racing.

TexasRaceLady said...

I'm a day late, and more than a dollar short --- but here's my 2 cents. LOL

I never made it here last night during the race --- because I was glued to the TV watching a fabulous race. It was so good, I felt as if I were at the track.

Thank you, SPEED, for giving me a RACE !

Tracy said...

Ditto what TexasRaceLady said.
What a series! What racing! Its coverage was super. Can't ask for much.

3bud said...

Thanks SPEED,this crew just gets it. Hornaday has problems they follow that and the race. Benson has problems they follow that and the race. They know fans want to see all the action that goes on during the race not just what some script might say is going on. They know situations change and Keith and the SPEED crew go easily with that change. From The Set Up, to the race,and through the post race SPEED is simply the best. They have the best racing and they know how present it, maybe some other network could take a cue from The SPEED crew. And Krista on Rattle Snake Hill the sunset and great information, another top notch production.

majorshouse said...

As usual, we saw a great race from Phoenix and great coverage from the Speed gang too. I loved the pre-race with Krista on top of Rattlesnake Hill and that sunset was gorgeous. I think that both Fox and ESPN could really learn from the Spped crew because they are not afraid to show us the real racing all the way through the field as well as giving us the stories as they happen. It would be great to have Krista in the Holloywood Hotel with Jeff Hammond next year on the Fox broadcasts as well.

Broomfield, Colorado said...

Outstanding race! And my wife who normally naps, was on the edge of her seat! Great racing with excellent broadcasting. Hmmmm. What a novel concept.
The only probem I had was the incessant need for Michael Waltrip to absolve any thing Kyle Busch did. Lap after lap after lap he apologized for Kyle. Constant excuses that he did nothing wrong. It got to a point where I no longer felt it was Kyle he was excusing, but another Toyota driver.His constant grandstanding for his manufacturer grates on my nerves. Hey, Michael, I got it. O.k.? No use pounding down the point.
Other than that, what an excellent Friday night shootout.
Of course, now I get to watch paint dry Sunday afternoon with the bad doctor, uh, I mean good doctor.......

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the daytime TV on Saturday.



Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

Just leaving Las Vegas (in the motorhome) after attending the SEMA about automobile sensory overload!!

We watched the truck race on TIVO last night. My husband, who races and has a hard time sitting still to watch racing, loves the truck racing. We both turned to each other and said "Nascar needs to make the COT race like the trucks and ESPN (and Fox and TNT, but not as much) need to watch the SPEED broadcast, to call a race like they do. No gimmicks, no "groups" of people making inocuous points, no one driver all the time, no one car shots or bumper cams. JUST RACING!! ALL OF IT!!

Can't wait for the the truck race at Homestead. The NW and CUP...I am not sure I care. Never thought I would say that. The sound of JP's voice when I turned on the qualifying just depresses me. Even AP and DJ are starting to get on my nerves.

Anonymous said...

I have not been a fan of the trucks until only this year. I really just never paid them any attention. But all year, it has been the best racing of the entire series.

If the Cup Series races were as fun and exciting as the truck races, the ratings would double even if Jerry Punch called every race by himself.

Robyn said...

Great race and coverage.

JD I have a question. A few weeks ago we complained that the truck series practice wasn't going to be covered on Thursday night in Texas. The answer you gave us was that the tv trucks could not get there in time. But now you say that SPEED will cover Thursday night practice in Homestead. While, I am grateful for that, how are they going to to make it? Last time I checked, Phoenix to Homestead is about 3 times as far as Atlanta to Texas.