Saturday, July 19, 2008
The double-edged sword that is the relationship between SPEED and The NASCAR Media Group is going to once again be on display this Sunday night.
With the Sprint Cup Series taking the weekend off, SPEED is going to fill the Victory Lane timeslot with a special program. NASCAR Confidential will come along at 8PM Eastern Time.
This series is another one from the official television company of NASCAR, called The NASCAR Media Group. Before the recent title change, they were called NASCAR Images. Lots of the older programming from that group still bears that company title.
NMG is right up the street from SPEED, a network that moved to Charlotte with the intention of becoming an all-NASCAR 24 hour TV network. The partnership between these two companies was supposed to supply the programming that would fuel the network. Things did not work out exactly that way.
Now, several years later, we see the weekends on SPEED continuing to reflect these NASCAR roots with shows like RaceDay and NASCAR Live. The network covers much of the Sprint Cup practice and Nationwide Series qualifying sessions for two-thirds of the season. SPEED also handles the entire Craftsman Truck Series and the All-Star race in Charlotte.
Sunday nights, SPEED is allowed unprecedented access to create the Victory Lane show. Coupled with studio shows like The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel, SPEED seems to have NASCAR covered Friday though Sunday.
As most sports TV viewers know, Monday through Thursday on SPEED is a very different story. The network transforms into a lifestyle channel with programming that somehow is connected by a very fine line to the word "automotive."
Earlier this season, SPEED announced the creation of NASCAR Confidential with NMG. While fans may have wanted a new episode every week, SPEED ordered six shows in total. That would be six shows over forty weeks of the NASCAR season.
This Sunday, the new episode of the program will feature the Sprint Cup Series Race Control at the Lowe's Motor Speedway for the Coke 600. NASCAR Confidential uses a point-of-view perspective and will show the crews setting up, the race control in action and then the crews tearing-down the "nerve center" for NASCAR.
No doubt the fun will be seeing many officials at work for the first time in this setting. NASCAR is unlike almost any sport as once the action begins there is no clock and the only controlling factor is the weather. Many calls during the race are made on-the-fly aided by TV replays, video monitors and the available technology.
There will be lots of other perspectives thrown-in while the race is underway, including glimpses inside the NASCAR on Fox TV production truck. Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby and his staff are pretty buttoned-up, so it should be fun to see how all the information and coordination gets done on race day.
The downside of all this is that SPEED continues to exclude NASCAR from its new lifestyle programming ventures. Having just launched Wrecked, the series about a tow truck company in Chicago, the network has decided to walk away from real racing and imitate other networks like A&E, Discovery and even MTV.
The original lure of SpeedVision was the mix of racing that showed fans the wide variety of competition that existed around the world. At that time, the network had limited distribution and struggled with ad sales. Now, with the universe of homes for SPEED at almost 80 million, times have changed.
Perhaps, as SPEED continues to diversify the weekday programming line-up there might be an opening for other NASCAR-themed professionally produced TV series like NASCAR Confidential.
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Dr. Jerry Punch gets to carry the combined load of hosting the pre and post-race shows along with calling the action of the Nationwide Series race this Saturday night. Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty have the weekend off, so the Infield Pit Center is officially closed.
Punch will be joined by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree to form the team that will call the next seventeen Sprint Cup Series on ESPN and ABC. This night race from Gateway should be a good warm-up for the action at The Brickyard next week.
Saturday night from St. Louis, Punch and company will be joined on pit road by Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake. Jamie Little will enjoy a weekend off.
Continuing on the vacation theme, it will be NASCAR Now regular DJ Copp standing-in for Tim Brewer in the Tech Center. Copp has worked hard with his TV career, and his plain-spoken and unassuming manner has been a hit with the fans.
ESPN2 offers qualifying coverage at 5PM and the NASCAR Countown show starts the night race coverage at 9PM ET. With the Infield Pit Center closed, Punch and company will handle the pre and post-race shows from the announce booth.
This is the final weekend for ESPN to get the house in order before making the change to cover both of NASCAR's top series for the rest of the season. Hopefully, the Nationwide Series gang will put on an exciting show and send the network off to Indy on a good note.
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The evening of NASCAR racing begins with the NCTS qualifying from Kentucky Speedway. It continues with The Set-Up pre-race show and then the race itself.
Qualifying comes along at 3:30PM, right after the mid-season recap show. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip call the single truck action on a track that has proven to be a handful since the teams arrived. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will cover pit road and the garage area.
After a short break, things continue with Krista Voda hosting The Set-Up at 6PM. She will have Randy Moss alongside talking about his new involvement in the series. Parsons and Waltrip will talk about the season-to-date and there will be a fun feature about some announcers trying their hand at driving "race" cars.
This will be a one hour special edition that leads directly into the race coverage at 7PM. This track is great for the trucks and an enthusiastic crowd often makes this one of the best NCTS races of the season. It certainly does leave one to wonder what the Cup cars could do on this oval.
The entire gang returns for the race coverage and this time Voda gets to continue on-the-air as she will join the telecast as a third pit reporter. If SPEED could continue to add this additional reporter as the series heads down-the-stretch it certainly would help the overall telecast.
For the past several seasons, the NCTS on SPEED has been the most consistent NASCAR TV product on-the-air. It is not sliced-up among three networks like the Cup Series, and does not suffer from the program conflicts that have mangled the final three months of Nationwide Series coverage on ESPN2.
SPEED has time to devote to this coverage and has provided an "old school" NASCAR telecast that lets the action on the track tell the story. No one on these telecasts, including Waltrip, speaks as if they are superior to the drivers, owners or crew chiefs. Parsons does a very good job of keeping everything in perspective.
While the mid-season recap show is a good step, SPEED would perhaps be wise in considering the addition of a weekly show to update the stories of the series and profile the many new faces who begin their NASCAR careers in a Craftsman Truck.
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As the Craftsman Truck Series makes the turn and starts down the road to the second half of the season, SPEED offers-up a mid-season recap show at 3PM ET on Saturday.
The show will feature a fast-paced look at the first half, including the perspectives of many top drivers and also the series director, NASCAR's Wayne Auton.
Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will anchor the show, which should be well worth watching or adding to the DVR/TiVo line-up. If you are unable to get things organized by the original airing, the program will also re-air at 1:00 AM Sunday morning for your recording pleasure.
The Trucks have delivered an outstanding TV product this season and there is little doubt that this mid-season recap show will not be just another generic show. If you watch this special, please feel free to post your comments right here.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.