Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TV Reality Sinks-In With Daytona Just A Memory

Three of NASCAR's four network TV partners had quite a weekend. Fox Sports, SPEED and ESPN produced many hours of all types of television coverage. Now, the reality of a ten month season is staring them all in the face. It begins with four races in the next four weeks.

The Wednesday version of NASCAR Now sits all alone like an island in the middle of the week. Daytona has been reviewed countless times, and the action in California does not start for several days. So, what to do?

Well, if it was Daytona that can only mean one thing, penalties. On a day that NASCAR Now has sometimes struggled to fill, it was NASCAR itself that provided the content for the top story with reporter David Newton. His rundown of all the penalties was factual, but was not really breaking news. Time for the old fact check.

Jeff Burton stopped by via liveshot, but violated the ESPN "no sunglasses" rule. Not seeing Burton's eyes during this entire interview was tough, and the rule has been there for many years for a reason. Burton finally explained what the issue was with his final Daytona restart and ultimately his disappointing finish.

Burr did not ask about the footage showing Burton confronting Clint Bowyer after the 500, and instead used Burton's knowledge to preview the California weekend. ESPN also allowed Burton to promo the re-paving at Darlington, and sent him on his way without a whole lot accomplished.

Brad Daugherty was not in the ESPN2 studio, and appeared next via liveshot to speak as a commentator about a wide variety of NASCAR topics. The role of Daugherty in this on-air scenario is not clear, and he just seems to speak generally about NASCAR like a fan. Maybe, that is the whole idea.

ESPN has needed to increase exposure for the Nationwide Series, and Tim Brewer filed a "tech feature" from Rusty Wallace's shops. It was nice to see Harold Holly on the show, and the veteran crew chief backed-up Brewer's information.

Jamie Little stopped by next and for some reason was in Las Vegas. Bryan Clauson, the Nationwide driver who ESPN chose not to interview after the Daytona race, was again promoted as the future of the series. Perhaps, if he continues to do well he will rate a post-race chat with Little in-person.

The demise of Jacques Villeneuve as an active Sprint Cup driver was fundamentally strange. His videotaped explanation of that situation on the show was even stranger. Perhaps, this was something that could have used David Newton's expertise to explain. This veteran open-wheel racer was clearly moved out of his seat, without a good reason really being given by anyone.

For a Wednesday slim with news, the program worked its way through thirty minutes at a fast clip. Over the past season, this day has seen regional NASCAR racers as guests, extended debates between in-studio analysts, and endless hype by the host to try and stir-up any kind of controversy no matter how silly.

As the season rolls-on, hopefully ESPN will begin to use Wednesdays to bring fans the stories that are off the beaten path. There are plenty of regional racers that deserve an interview, an "old school" historic series is starting up and lots of good Nationwide Series stories like Bryan Clauson that deserve more than lip service.

The old RPM2Night had "open-wheel Wednesday" to fill the gap between big series races on the weekend. If NASCAR Now encourged regional series to begin to provide race video, no matter how raw, they just might stumble into a new Wednesday feature that would endear them to a whole new group of fans.

This TV series has shown amazing change in the past several weeks, and continues to be free from the problems of last season. Burr can certainly host, but he needs his reporters and analysts to be involved in the topics being covered throughout the show. On the whole, things in NASCAR Now land are looking good.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for stopping by.

ESPN Classic Offers "VCR Theater"

Get your sophisticated video recording devices all charged up. The folks at ESPN Classic are slipping some NASCAR product into their line-up that normally features the original American Gladiators and endless World Series of Poker episodes.

The 1999 California 500 from Fontana airs on Thursday, February 21st at 2PM Eastern Time. Next-up is the 1994 Food City 500 from the wonderful Bristol Motor Speedway. That show is airing Friday, the 22nd at 3AM Eastern Time.

We can only encourage this network to come over to NASCAR, and continue to insert more weekday programming that fans can watch and record. Thanks ESPN Classic.

Recap of Recent Columns

Here are some direct links to recent columns for easy access. All of them are still open for your comments. Thanks.

"Ryan And Ryan Put On A Good Show" from 2/19/08

"Meet The Original Gopher Cam" from 2/19/08

"Allen Bestwick Emerges From The Shadows" from 2/18/08

"SPEED Drafts A New Quarterback" from 2/18/08

"Sunday Night Post-Race TV Coverage" from 2/18/08

"NASCAR Wall-To-Wall At Daytona" from 2/17/08

Thanks once again for taking the time to stop-by The Daly Planet.