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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