Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fans In A Lurch With No NASCAR TV News

Last December, TDP talked about the role of the various NASCAR-related Internet websites when it came to keeping fans up to date during the off-season.

This December, with the issues confronting the sport and the nation, this high-tech supply-line of information has become vital to communicating the top NASCAR stories as the sport struggles to survive the troubling economy.

The real problem for fans is that NASCAR news coverage on TV comes to a grinding halt after the last wheel is turned at Homestead. Despite the coverage of the three national touring series banquets, the NASCAR TV partners are long gone as Christmas approaches.

A quick search of ESPN and SPEED reveals just how barren the landscape has become. There is no NASCAR-related TV programming scheduled and the 2009 schedules are not yet formulated because of the changes in the testing rules.

Last year, fans enjoyed several weeks of SPEED offering a January testing recap show that featured interviews and testing footage. This season, with no testing allowed, the first cars on the track at Daytona will be in February as Speedweek starts for the Daytona 500 build-up.

Both during this off-season and the last, there has been a constant stream of news and information coming out of the sport in general. Unfortunately, ESPN has packed up NASCAR Now and does not even offer a once-a-week thirty minute show. SPEED has no regular NASCAR news show and puts everything from the SPEED Report to Wind Tunnel on hiatus for the winter.

It certainly would be nice to see reporters like Marty Smith and Wendy Venturini talk about the news from Mooresville, NC. Even nicer would be personalities like Ed Hinton, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett talking about the wild changes in the sport right now and what it will mean for the future.

While the Sirius NASCAR Channel does a great job of involving the fans and hosting various NASCAR personalities, there is something very different involved in seeing a panel of experts rather than just hearing them.

No matter how much print and Internet content is created, there is a notable absence of personalities from ESPN, SPEED and Fox on TV during this time of the year. The only way to combat this in the future is to allow a news-oriented NASCAR TV series to continue through the off-season. Lack of racing on the track certainly does not equal a lack of NASCAR news being generated by the industry.

Click here to see the 2009 "silly season" team chart from Jayski that will at least give fans a thumbnail view of what the Sprint Cup Series will be putting on the track next season. This is exactly the type of information that should have a place on TV right now.

Perhaps, with the Grand-Am Series testing and racing in Daytona on SPEED in January, that network might revitalize a weekly show like The SPEED Report. Right now, the TV listings for SPEED in January have not yet been made public.

Over at ESPN, NASCAR is non-existent on that family of TV networks. This is the stick-and-ball time of the season and racing is nothing until Daytona in February.

ESPN.com has done a very good job of keeping on top of the NASCAR stories with a combination of writers, but none of them have turned their stories into video segments or aired them on shows like SportsCenter or even ESPNEWS.

This is only the second off-season of the new TV contract. It might be time for both SPEED and ESPN to take a long hard look at how NASCAR fans are being left out in the cold where news, information and discussion of important topics on television are concerned.

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Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. There is a missed opportunity here. Even the Speed Report is gone. Just don't understand .....

Richard in N.C. said...

It seems to me that reporting on NASCAR, in particular, and racing in general is down across the board this year. Maybe the reporting is not down- it's just that there is more going on now than at this time last year. I really don't recall The Speed Report going into hibernation at the end of 2007. If it exists, the programming logic at SPEED remains a mystery to me. I do believe MRN's RACELINE is still on, but I missed it this past week. All this makes TDP's soldiering on even more appreciated. Thank you JD.

Dot said...


I looked at the Silly Season chart. Now I have a headache. Someone needs to go on TV before the season gets started and sort out who's who in the zoo. A perfect job for Larry Mac.

majorshouse said...

I definitely would love to see some sort of television if it is only 30 minutes once a week and not even Speed has had the decency of running the Speed Report to keep us abreast of what is going on and if it were not for things like the blog here, we would be totally in the dark until February.

Anonymous said...

There's more off-track news going on right now than there is in a typical week during the season!
Seems like this would be a good time to make some money covering it...

Anonymous said...

A repeat of the plate and short tracks on SPEED would be a great addition to the offseason. They could do a 30min Speed Report at the end. Sure would make Sunday alot more enjoyable.

SallyB said...

Interesting how you can hear news about baseball during the off season, or any of the 'real' (according to ESPN) sports, but Nascar disappears? With ESPN investing so much financially into racing, it's inconceiveable to me that they virtually ignore racing and it's fans. There's even less excuse for SPEED and Fox to participate in this phenomenon. But then, since the they take their cue from the front office at Daytona, as far as attitude about the fans, should we be surprised?

JT said...

I would speculate that after Homestead, many of the guys and gals just want a break until after the holidays and I don't blame them. Most of us couldn't tolerate the travel and work schedule that they endure from February through November. By January, maybe they would be recharged and ready to start looking to Speed Weeks and giving the junkies a fix to hold them over to February.

Bobby said...

Not just off-track stuff, but there has been plenty of storylines already developing:

1. The Kyle Busch team disqualified from the Snowball Derby. Camping World East driver Brian Ickler drove the #15 KBM Toyota across the line first in Pensacola but was disqualified because of a brake cooler.

2. Race of Champions - Cousin Carl KO's Schumi in the first round, only to fall to Coulthard in the semis.

3. Who's going where? The Bobby Labonte saga is developing as is acquisition talk.

4. The 2008 NASCAR Camping World Series Toyota All-Star Showdown on January 23-24, 2009. This is for the 2008 NASCAR CWS season.

So many storylines, and nobody's discussing them.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that SPEED has not done more. They seem to understand the loyalty and dedication of the NASCAR fan better than the others, it would seem a golden opportunity to boost ratings and show advertisers that they can deliver, because if they air it 'we will come'.

Ken said...

As has been said, there is much going on that is not being followed. This is especially true regarding manufacturer participatation in racing. Honda is dropping our of F1 and both Subaru and Suzuki have now dropped out of the 2009 World Rally Championship. With the Big 3 Auto Bailout on the horizion, the conditions could easily stipulate that the automakers not spend any money on race related activities. Most politicians are not racing fans and they only pretend to be fans for votes. The people in charge of the bailout as it is now structured are not running for any office.

earl06 said...

"So many storylines, and nobody's discussing them."

These topics and more are being beaten to death on a regular basis on Sirius.

SPEED is several years removed from having much to do with racing. There is no financial motivation for ESPN to cover the sport other than what they are obligated to.

The problem with dwindling TV coverage lies with the fans. It seems that TV networks have pegged racing fans as:

1) mostly loyal diehards that don't have to be catered to. This is especially true with non-NASCAR racing like F1, Indycars, dirt racing, etc.

2) people who generally don't crossover to stick-and-ball sports. If ESPN knows race fans aren't going to watch basketball or tennis or whatever after the race, they have little reason to max out the coverage. If race fans were easily indoctrinated into the Sportcenter addict culture, there would be a whole lot more time spent on NASCAR.

3) hard to develop as new fans. Most people get into the sport via friends and family rather than crossing over from other sports. Why bother advertising race coverage during a basketball game to folks who think NASCAR sucks because Tony Kornheiser said so?

glenc1 said...

Seems to me it's always been this way--I know RPM 2nite used to go off its daily run during the off season--I'm thinking *maybe* they did a once a week? That doesn't mean, of course, that a change wouldn't be good. I think since they dished out all that money for NASCAR (which isn't worth that much now, in advertising terms) Speed & ESPN might be thinking about stepping it up to at least get their money's worth. Speed Report back on Sunday night to fill everybody in on the news--I think that would be sufficient. Most of us who care have already read it on the Internet anyways. Frankly, this is football season for me and I kind of welcome the break (even though I keep up.) I don't think (once again) that comparing to stick and ball sports is fair. They have hundreds, thousands of players and coaches with news, not a few hundred (because no one is going to care if tire changer A goes to team B.) It's simply a matter of volume of news, I think. Just wondering if 'Baseball Tonight' and those type shows run in their offseason, or if it's just 'Sportscenter' coverage. To be fair, I don't think/pay attention much to football in the offseason either; I have the NFL Network, but I don't watch it much til summer/training camp.

Anonymous said...

I think the old rpm2night show kept its weekend version on the air during the off season, but the weeknight show went on hiatus during the off season because there's not enough news to fill a daily 30-minute show.

Have a good holiday season!

Daly Planet Editor said...

We have seen both SPEED and ESPN create special shows for events or news items in NASCAR that needed special attention.

From Junior switching teams to Mo Grant's lawsuit and even Ron Hornaday's steroid "scandal," the NASCAR TV partners have covered the various NASCAR news this season.

To see reporters on ESPN like Ed Werder waste literally hours of national TV time reporting anonymous rumors about various Dallas Cowboy players while NASCAR twists silently in the wind is amazing.

Even more so is to watch SPEED completely ignore NASCAR both on the air and on the SPEEDtv.com website. Between the open wheel bias of the website and the on-air silence while the motorsports world turns upside-down, it really shows where SPEED's priorities lie.

$400 thousand is spent on each new episode of PINKS All Out. Makes one wonder how many real races and other NASCAR review programs could be funded for that much money.

Thanks for all the great comments on this topic, it is a hot one right now behind the scenes.


Photojosh said...

It's always been weird to me that Wind Tunnel or Speed Report aren't year-round programs. They can't cost much to produce and this time of year, they would have the whole audience to themselves.

Anonymous said...

$400 thousand is spent on each new episode of PINKS All Out. Makes one wonder how many real races and other NASCAR review programs could be funded for that much money.

An All Out event gets that in ticket sales for a 2 day event, plus 400+ cars pay registration and then the advertising on the show. I'm not sure how all this gets divided, but seems they take in a good amount of money.

Anonymous said...

Ummm ... Last time I checked, FOXSports.com had columns from all their TV guys all winter long and they have been on top of all the news all offseason long --- including the various firings throughout the industry.

Steve said...

The ON PIT ROW radio show, while not on TV, is heard on radio station and at onpitrow.com, 50 weeks per year. One of tonight's (12-16-08) guests is Dr. Dick Berggren from SPEED. The show is heard live from 5-7pm ET every Tuesday.

The show regularly has media guests; including Jeff Hammond, David Poole, Dave Despain, Wendy Venturinni, Dustin Long and Larry McReynolds along with drivers, crew chiefs and other NASCAR and ARCA notibles.

Anonymous said...

The problem is there hasn't been any real news. Brian France needs to get out of his guilded office in NASCAR's ivory tower and come out and make some news. Tell us what is going on. I'm sure he has a good idea on how many cars he expects to show up after Daytona.

If he keeps silent, there really isn't much to report other than rumors. And fair or not, NASCAR isn't at a level where it will grab headlines over the drama underway in Dallas. The NFL still rules this time of year, especially with the playoffs coming up.

Though, I really wonder what the cost/profit analysis is of producing a weekly 1 hour (or I'll be even thrilled with 30 minutes) NASCAR news studio show versus yet another Texas Hold 'Em poker show.

How much does producing an additional episode of NASCAR Now really cost? The studio sets, and production equipment are all probably bought and paid for. Other than labor costs (which probably gets spread across all of ESPN's studio show productions), and possibly flying people into Bristol or satellite time for remote feeds, what else is there?

Kevin in SoCal said...

John said: "$400 thousand is spent on each new episode of PINKS All Out. Makes one wonder how many real races and other NASCAR review programs could be funded for that much money."

I realize this is a NASCAR blog, but the NHRA and drag racing in general could use the good publicity from shows such as Pinks All Out. Here in SoCal alone, over a dozen drag strips have closed and there are only two 1/4 mile tracks left open to the public: Fontana (which is why I dislike the "California Speedway sucks" bandwagon) and Famoso. Pomona closed to us amateurs in 2000; only the pros race there now. Carlsbad closed in 2005 and LA County Raceway closed in 2007.
I'm guessing that the Pinks franchise makes a lot of money and has high ratings, which explains why its on SPEED so much, and why a NASCAR show is not. Ratings equal money, and we all know that is what makes the TV world work.

GinaV24 said...

Wow, Speed spends $400K on that show? Amazing, since I don't think its worth $.02. I'd like to at least see the speed report once a week -- that doesn't seem too much to ask.

there is a lot of news to be talked about -- its a shame that no one is covering it.

glenc1 said...

thanks, JK, that's sort of what I was thinking.

JD, what I see (and I think you alluded to this as well) as rather shortsighted on the networks' part is that they have an opportunity to build excitement, or at least to keep interest going. I know fans who've had their favorites leave the sport (all too often lately), and thus they lose interest, especially if they already didn't like the coverage or the COT or some other aspect. I think if you had a weekly show that spent some time focusing on the news, and then a 'personality' feature and some techno stuff (actually, Inside NASCAR was kinda like that, now that I'm thinking about it) maybe we wouldn't lose some of those people; they might see someone else with whom they find interesting, *including* the Nationwide, truck & CW series. I guess ESPN has so much to cover that they feel they don't want to take the time on lesser-watched sports, but that's kind of 'cutting off your nose...' when they have already paid for this deal; even if it tanks on them. Seems like a small effort & not a lot of expense.

I was looking for some VCR space a few weeks ago, and found an old Inside NASCAR with Ned & Stephanie...what a blast from the past that was!

Anonymous said...

I think the old rpm2night show kept its weekend version on the air during the off season, but the weeknight show went on hiatus during the off season because there's not enough news to fill a daily 30-minute show.

Maybe, but SIRIUS NASCAR doesn't seem to have much trouble filling a whole day, so seems like a 30-minute show ought to be possible.

Richard in N.C. said...

I believe it is fair to say that both EESPN & SPEED take racing fans for granted. I also believe it is fair to expect more regular coverage of racing news from SPEED than from EESPN - but then I'm only a fan/consumer/customer so what do I know.

In fairness I do believe NHRA gets more of the shaft from EESPN than NASCAR does since SportsCenter almost never carries any NHRA news unless there is a picture of a wreck or explosion to show.

I guess maybe Dave Despain, or the producer, is just too old to do WindTunnel more than about 40 weeks per year. I note that Jay Leno's new primetime agreement with NBC calls for him to do new shows only 46 weeks per year.

Newracefan said...

Do we need a 5 day per week NN or a 60 minute Speed Report probably not but NOTHING is ridiculous. There is at least 30 minutes of news each week. Between closing of teams, moving round of team members, drivers looking for work, Snow Ball Derby, etc it would be wonderful to see some video or at least a talking head like Marty Smith or Wendy, thank goodness for Jayski or Feb would be a shock for us all.

Anonymous said...

I was also thinking a half hour Speed Report would be welcome. They could rotate their hosts/hostesses and have guest commentators from various segments of the racing world; F1, I read that even Ferrari is laying people off, Honda has pulled back, Hobbes is always a treat. Audi is pulling back except for Le Mans. And not restrict the guests to just their field but open to comment on other types of racing also. The economic situation crosses all forms of racing and countries.
It would have to be doing Dave Despain and Robin Miller a favor. Can you imagine them not having any place to vent their spleen until February...! Holding their opinions and ideas in that long must be bad for their health! :) Marybeth

PammH said...

Richard-I just gotta ask. You use EESPN ALL the time & I have NO idea why the extra E! Can you enlighten me (us) please?? Sorry this is kinda off-topic, JD.

Dot said...

Unless drivers start shooting themselves at night clubs, we will never see or hear about them in the off season.

If Jayski can report items everyday, I can't see why BSPN or SPEED can't have a NASCAR hour at least once a week. They could start off with the crappy new rules of the Bud Shootout 2009, aka BS 2009.

Richard in N.C. said...

Pamm, I sort of stole the extra E from a recent column by a well-known sports commentator. In my view it should now be known as the Evil Empire Sports Program Network.