Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mark Cuban's HDNet Increases NASCAR Presence

While many cable TV viewers may not be familiar with HDNet, millions of others have been enjoying this service for years. Created by maverick businessman Mark Cuban, HDNet replays the full-length races from the Sprint Cup Series in HD on Thursday nights.

Launched back in 2001, HDNet has been slowly inching into the NASCAR world. This season, the service will partner once again with SPEED to carry a good chunk of NASCAR's Regional Touring Series action.

Here is the official information:

High definition pioneer HDNet will broadcast 16 races, continuing a partnership with NASCAR that began five years ago and provided the NASCAR Camping World Series with its first live television package. HDNet coverage will begin March 29 with the NASCAR Camping World Series opener at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif.

It includes the first eight races of the NASCAR Camping World Series West season, as well as the season-finale Oct. 18 at the new Kern County track in Bakersfield, Calif. The NASCAR Camping World Series East broadcast schedule on HDNet will pick-up with the July 19 race at Music City Motorplex in Nashville and run through the final seven races of the season, culminating with the live broadcast at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway Sept. 28.

HDNet’s broadcast schedule will also include the mid-season combination race between the East and the West at Iowa Speedway May 18. Last year, viewers watched then 16-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Joey Logano out-race 2007 Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick in a thrilling duel.

"HDNet is proud to continue this successful partnership with the NASCAR Camping World Series," said Mark Cuban, president and co-founder of HDNet. "NASCAR's stars of tomorrow have given us some great action over the years and we can't wait to offer race fans more of the same on HDNet this season!"

Cuban has some work to do to raise the profile of HDNet, and this type of creative partnership with SPEED and NASCAR will go a long way in that direction.

SPEED will re-air all of HDNet's sixteen races, and will produce another eight on their own. This combination is great exposure for the hard-working regional drivers.

The NASCAR Camping World Series is the top level of the NASCAR Developmental Series and is made up of two regional tours, the East and West, competing with identical race cars. The cars are similar in appearance and design to those cars used in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The cars are powered by 350 to 358 cubic-inch V-8 engines. The series travels to many of NASCAR’s most historic short tracks as well as making several appearances in combination events with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

With SPEED now in over 75 million TV homes in North America, perhaps shows like RaceDay and This Week In NASCAR will take a moment to highlight the regional racing action this season. This would now make more sense than ever with all of these regional races airing on SPEED.

Last year, The Daly Planet pushed ESPN2's NASCAR Now very hard to include the regional series, including the fun NASCAR Modifieds who often race almost in ESPN's own backyard. Maybe this season NASCAR Now will take the plunge.

The regional racing series starts March 29th and runs through late October, with the big finale called the Toyota All-Star Showdown carried live on SPEED. You can check the regional racing series schedules at several Internet websites including Perhaps, you can attend a regional race in your area and say hi to the HDNet crew for The Daly Planet.

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"NASCAR Now" Has Real Breaking News At Last

Of the three co-hosts of NASCAR Now, Ryan Burr is the one with the real experience in breaking news. The former anchor of ESPNEWS has been on-the-air with all kinds of sports stories that were in-progress. Wednesday, Burr put his training to good use.

Penalty news was flying as NASCAR Now hit the air at 6PM Wednesday with a live show. Burr quickly offered an update on Carl Edwards and his big penalties.

Fans of the show must have been thinking about the strong statements made on Tuesday by ESPN's Rusty Wallace. He called Edwards problem simply an accident and a mistake. Rather than heeding Rusty's advice, NASCAR instead lowered the hammer. There was only one thing to do.

That would be to bring Wallace right back on the program again and ask him about it. Burr did exactly that, and Wallace did not disappoint. Saying NASCAR threw everything including the kitchen sink at Edwards, Rusty stood-by his statement that the entire situation was a mistake.

"I think this is very, very harsh," said Wallace. "It was just unbelievable. I don't think there is any compassion here. I don't think there is even any common sense in this ruling."

Burr interrupted Wallace for some real breaking news. It was Lead Reporter Marty Smith over at Robby Gordon's shop saying that sources there had just told him Gordon's penalty has been rescinded. While a financial fine was kept in place, Gordon did not lose his points. This was NASCAR Now working overtime, and showing the resources that ESPN brings to the table.

Wallace was quick to point-out that this decision by NASCAR made sense, but was also quite a different issue than the Carl Edwards situation. He also backed-up Smith's report and comments about the harsh financial reality of Gordon's team situation.

After a quick wrap-up of testing from Phoenix, Burr assembled both Wallace and Smith for a conversation about NASCAR topics in the news. This trio is intense and fast-paced when it comes to NASCAR issues. The personality differences between these three NASCAR Now on-air "talent" made for interesting conversation.

Smith has the formal news training, the college education and the dry sense of humor. Wallace has lots of experience in the real world of NASCAR and is just now finding his TV niche. Burr loves to direct traffic, and it has been interesting to watch him learn the sport.

The conversation about the open-wheel drivers having problems, including Team Penske, was fascinating and informative. Wallace talked very frankly about his former car owner struggling with Sam Hornish. Smith suggested that Montoya's early success led to false expectations for the many other open-wheel stars. Both of these were great points.

Finally, Robby Gordon appeared in-person live to sum-up the hearing that he had just left. There was no doubt that Gordon was relieved, both for his NASCAR future and the very survival of his racing business. Smith was very professional, and his questions about the fan perception of Gordon and his team were right on the money.

How does it get better for fans than this? A driver straight from a NASCAR hearing walks back into his own shop and ESPN is there live. Wallace even got a chance to ask Gordon questions directly, and was as plain-spoken as usual. Two ESPN personalities asking questions of Gordon about one of the biggest news stories of the week. This TV series has truly come a long, long way.

This weekend in Atlanta, Burr heads-out to the track for the first time as the on-scene reporter, and Nicole Manske comes back to anchor the weekend shows in the studio. Allen Bestwick returns on Monday for the one hour roundtable.

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