Sunday, May 4, 2008
Normally, the SPEED program called Victory Lane appears shortly after the Sprint Cup race is over on Sunday. Recorded live from the Victory Lane area at each track, the show then appears on SPEED at 8PM Eastern Time.
When NASCAR schedules the Sprint Cup race to be held on Saturday, a strange thing happens. SPEED holds the show until the regular time on Sunday night. Fans searching for post-race TV coverage are drawn to ESPNEWS, a network that began covering NASCAR extensively this season. The network provides live coverage of the press conferences from the Infield Media Centers, and has done a solid job this year.
After all the action on Saturday night, fans tuning into Victory Lane on Sunday got a whole lot more than they might have bargained for. Host John Roberts and panelist Kenny Wallace were still stunned by the final turn of events on the track as the program started, but another panelist was ready to speak his mind.
Jimmy Spencer is far removed from his title as "Mr. Excitement." His presence on TV has been an interesting mix of colossal mistakes and fascinating insights. On this Sunday night, Spencer was about to have the best TV show of his entire career.
With Roberts and Wallace at a loss for words about the Busch vs. Earnhardt incident, it was Spencer who stepped right-in and began with a shot at NASCAR on Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip.
"What I heard on Fox was just political correctness. They are trying to make it right. Kyle Busch made a major, major mistake here. This guy (Busch) needs to respect the lead (of the race). He drove in the corner too hard and he took out Dale Junior. I think he went over the line and that is my opinion," said Spencer.
Victory Lane uses hard working Bob Dillner as a reporter. On this show, he delivered great sound with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and pushed him a bit on-camera. After Earnhardt delivered a patient answer about the incident, Dillner asked him about some additional team radio comments about Kyle Busch.
Junior responded "you just put words in my mouth trying to start some crap." Earnhardt then followed it up with what is destined to be a classic. "If I want to talk to Kyle I have to get in line," said Junior. Dillner has been outstanding on this series, and his ability to get in the media crunch and come out with the story was on display again Sunday night.
Spencer was on a roll, and he continued with his analysis of exactly what happened with Busch and Earnhardt. Spencer spoke directly to the fans in very plain and simple terms. He broke things down to the basics.
"He (Busch) overshot the corner. He drove in maybe fifty or seventy-five feet too far. Junior gave him the room that he needed and Kyle took too much. That is for me, disrespect for your fellow competitor. He just did not respect Junior enough to back down a little bit," stated Spencer.
It was Bob Dillner's turn again, and this time he had Kyle Busch exclusively for SPEED. Dillner set the table, and let Busch comment on the entire incident and what led up to the contact. Busch half-jokingly said this night might have ruined his career. Dillner allowed Busch to talk, and then asked him what he might have done differently. His answer was simple, just go into the corner a bit lower.
This was Victory Lane giving both drivers an opportunity to speak to the issue. It was also a perfect opportunity for Spencer to sum-up his thoughts. Spencer's point was easy to understand. In Busch's interview he spoke to many topics, but never apologized to Dale Junior for effectively ending his night.
"He is a talented driver and the sport needs him," said Spencer. "He will heal from this, he will win more races, he will contend for the championship. He just has to learn a little bit more maturity."
Kenny Wallace then said this could be the turning point in Kyle Busch's career. It was Busch himself with Dillner who suggested he might have ruined his career with that one move and the subsequent accident.
From start-to-finish, this show belonged to Jimmy Spencer. Love him or hate him, this is the role that SPEED hired him to fill. He provides analysis based on his many years in several forms of racing, and then adds-in a unique opinion that is often the most memorable of all the NASCAR racing analysts.
As this show continues to gain momentum, SPEED may reconsider a late night Saturday airing for the remaining night races. With Darlington looming, Victory Lane is set for even more fireworks under the lights.
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It was Nicole Manske hosting the Saturday edition of NASCAR Now with Lead Reporter Marty Smith on-site in Richmond. In the program, Manske introduced a "soundbite" from NASCAR VP of Public Relations Jim Hunter.
This very nice man has been the face of NASCAR for some time now. His dedication and knowledge of the sport is second to none. His control and influence over the traveling NASCAR media is legendary. As you may remember from the Tony Stewart "phantom punch" of Kurt Busch at Daytona, what Hunter says travels around the world on TV, radio and the Internet.
That is exactly the reason that NASCAR Now owed it to the viewers to present an expert's response to Hunter's Saturday comments. Right now, there are few topics on the NASCAR stove that are hotter than developing a drug testing policy for the sport.
Below is Hunter's comment on NASCAR Now in its entirety:
"Our Chairman Brian France put together a little inside group to really explore our current (drug) policy, which we think is very good. In lieu of things that have happened, as you are well aware of, I think it's important for us (NASCAR) to really look at it and if there is a way we can improve it...including random testing, getting all of our team owners to test everybody as well. Sort of getting everybody on the same page and figure out a way to eliminate the perception that there are any illegal substances in NASCAR racing. Because, we don't feel there are," said Hunter.
This was a combination of several different thoughts and ideas mixed together in one statement. NASCAR is now at least considering random drug testing or requiring employee drug testing to be implemented by the teams. It is clear that the Aaron Fike story by ESPN's Ryan McGee and the strong reaction by the Cup drivers set NASCAR on its ear.
The problem was that Hunter ended his statement by saying exactly why NASCAR might be open to a new drug policy. Why they "might" be open to it.
It was not to help those with drug or alcohol problems. It was not to safeguard the drivers, pit crew members or officials. It was to "eliminate the perception" that there were problems in the sport.
As Mr. Hunter clearly said, he and the NASCAR executives continue to believe that there is no one in the sport with an addiction issue.
Marty Smith was in the position of following this strong statement from Hunter. Smith said this issue "took NASCAR aback." While Smith suggested that NASCAR may even add a "drug czar" like other professional sports, he was unable to speak to the reality of the issue.
If this had been SportsCenter, First Report or ESPNEWS there would have been more to the story. What this program lacked was an independent voice that could address the drug issue from a professional standpoint.
It would have been mandatory if this had been the NFL or the NBA to have someone address the statement from a high-ranking official that the main reason to implement a drug policy was to clear-up "the perception" that there is a problem.
Across the nation, NASCAR fans are very used to being drug tested in the workplace. Those tests are more regular and more intense for jobs that require skilled labor and have a higher risk of injury or death if done impaired.
To suddenly be made aware that NASCAR's drug policy consists mainly of "somebody deciding that somebody else is not acting right" and reporting it to NASCAR was a shock to many Americans. Perhaps, Hunter's assertion that the primary reason for considering changes in the policy was simply to "prove" that the entire sport is clean was just as shocking.
Should NASCAR Now decide to follow-up on this issue, they need to bring the same attention to NASCAR that ESPN would pay to the other major sports leagues. Walking away from Hunter's statement without putting it into perspective left a major NASCAR story unfinished and incomplete.
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For those of you emailing about the final lap of the ARCA race, please feel free to post your comments here. This was a tough one, as SPEED flubbed the last lap and Joey Logano won the race. They did not even show his burnout.
The telecast was fine, and it was great to see Rockingham serve up some good and fast-paced ARCA racing. There were only about four or five cars on the lead lap at the end, and the fact that SPEED got lost and even confused the announcers was a shame.
Update: For a good explanation of what actually happened, click below for the COMMENTS section. Thanks to our friends at SPEED for helping with the details.
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The antics of several drivers during the Richmond Sprint Cup race were amazing in hindsight. Michael Waltrip and Denny Hamlin certainly have some explaining to do.
While Kyle Busch was pretty clear in his opinion of his tangle with Dale Earnhardt Jr., it should be interesting to get some additional information about the situation.
Normally, The Daly Planet is previewing the big Monday night face-off between This Week In NASCAR on SPEED and the one hour NASCAR Now on ESPN2. This week, however, is different.
With the races on Friday and Saturday night, there is no Sunday edition of NASCAR Now. The day belongs to SPEED, and the spotlight is going to be on that network to make some sense of the late race chaos that the NASCAR on Fox crew could not.
Michael Waltrip has deep ties to the SPEED Channel, and this Sunday he is a big topic of conversation. Waltrip will be on the TWIN panel with Chad Knaus on Monday, but the three hours of NASCAR related programming on Sunday night will tell the tale. SPEED can choose to bury this incident or report it completely and totally.
Denny Hamlin's dirty dealing was on TV for all to see. Despite the fact that the NASCAR on Fox gang chose not to deal with the topic, that is not going to be the case for SPEED. Hamlin's move to purposefully bring out a caution flag determined the events in the race after that point.
SPEED starts with the newly-renovated SPEED Report at 7PM Eastern Time. This show is one hour of general motorsports reporting that has been re-vamped since the "Drew and Nicole" days. A rotating panel of SPEED announcers fills the dual host role, and this approach has been quite effective.
It is nice to see some of the SPEED play-by-play announcers hosting this program, and other on-air talent like Adam Alexander have been doing a great job as well. Whoever is standing at the desk tonight has their work cut-out for them where NASCAR is concerned.
Normally, it is Bob Dillner who provides the post-race interviews for this show. It should be interesting to see what personalities talked to him, and what Dillner asked. Dillner also plays a key role in the next show in the SPEED line-up.
Victory Lane at 8PM is truly the "little show that could." A radical idea of putting three announcers quite literally in the Victory Lane area has proven to be a great success. On this show, we see Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer without the hype and noise associated with RaceDay. These two are on-the-spot with probing questions for the winning driver, his crew chief and owner.
This program will be the key show of the night for NASCAR fans in terms of having one hour of solid NASCAR to get the highlights replayed and the lingering questions answered. As many Daly Planet readers have pointed out, the practice of SPEED holding this show until Sunday night is not working out too well this year.
ESPNEWS has made a strong move to present a live post-race show immediately after the Sprint Cup race is over. The network includes the top three drivers comments from the Infield Media Center and mixes-in commentary from NASCAR experts who are often on the ESPNEWS set. ESPNEWS now takes the wind out of the Victory Lane sails when the show is held until Sunday night.
As usual, it is Dave Despain and Wind Tunnel that gets the last word at 9PM. Since he left his Monday night NASCAR duties, Despain has been back to his old self on-the-air and that is exactly what viewers enjoy. The self-appointed "old windbag" plays host to a variety of personalities from different forms of motorsports, and certainly NASCAR will play a key role in this show.
While The SPEED Report sticks to news and Victory Lane offers Spencer and Wallace, it is Despain that often has guests who offer editorial opinions and close-out the night in style for motorsports fans. Hopefully, he will be able to throw some light on just what really transpired in the closing laps in Richmond and what might happen in Darlington.
This should be an interesting evening of NASCAR TV. This post will serve to host your comments about The SPEED Report, Victory Lane and Wind Tunnel. To add a comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to come by and share your opinion with us.