Tuesday, July 29, 2008
ESPN hired Dale Jarrett on a full-time basis this season to benefit from his experience in the sport. Two days after calling his first race at Indy, Jarrett made it very clear that he certainly had a lot to say on Tuesday's NASCAR Now.
"Total disaster," said Jarrett about the Indy race. Host Ryan Burr only had to mention the topic and Jarrett was off and running. The theme of his comments was that NASCAR fans deserve better racing that the COT was delivering on the track.
"We have to make some changes with this car," continued Jarrett. He is the first ESPN analyst to speak-out directly about changing the COT as soon as possible for the good of the sport. Jarrett aimed directly at the fact that regardless of the safety features, the COT had lowered the competition level on the track below what was acceptable.
"I'm not saying we have to get rid of it," said Jarrett about the new car. The benefit of having someone with Jarrett's stature in the sport is that he deals with top executives on these issues. Jarrett said he had personally called Mike Helton earlier on Tuesday to offer his own suggestions on what could be changed. Helton listened and then explained NASCAR's position. This is exactly the kind of direct communication and credibility that is going to vault Jarrett to the top of the NASCAR TV ranks.
Burr pinned him down on what specific things Jarrett wanted to change. Raising the splitter and letting the teams work more with the front end was his idea. In answering, Jarrett also confirmed that NASCAR is looking at a wider wheel for future events that would put down a bigger contact patch and lessen the sidewall problems.
Journalist Terry Blount came along next and he addressed the same issues. Blount tried to expand on Jarrett's comments by reminding fans that problems existed at other tracks this season with different surfaces than Indy. He also pointed out that for the first time NASCAR's Robin Pemberton said he may now be open to changing the body style of the car in the future.
Burr dropped a nice bombshell by announcing that Jimmie Johnson will be driving a Craftsman Truck at Bristol, TN later this season. It will be the Moss Motorsports entry that Johnson will pilot and Jarrett returned to suggest that perhaps Chevrolet "helped" Randy Moss make this arrangement.
Fan favorite DJ Copp was interviewed next by satellite and his comments were worthwhile. As an active crew member, Copp was interesting in explaining the how and why of the very long day for the teams. His point was that pitting every ten laps made the turn-a-round a lot shorter for the crews and that the tire dust was tough to take. Perhaps, some video of his day may have been helpful.
David Reutimann was interviewed from the MWR shops and he was candid in his comments about the COT as well. A bit more diplomatic than Jarrett, Reutimann felt this first year was going to continue to be tough for the COT down the stretch. There was really no reason given why Reutimann was on the show other than the fact he was going to race in ESPN2's upcoming Nationwide Series race in Montreal.
Tim Brewer rounded out the show with a preview of what would happen in Montreal if it rained. NASCAR has windshield wipers, rain tires and brake lights ready to go in order to keep the action going on the track. After what happened in Indy, watching big stock cars on treaded tires with cloudy windshields in the pouring rain on a road course would make this season even more memorable. If only it were for the right reasons.
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Every new large TV package goes through some growing pains and that has certainly been the case with the new NASCAR TV contract that began in 2007. Among the issues that NASCAR wrestled with was televising Sprint Cup practice sessions during the seventeen race ESPN/ABC portion of the schedule.
Last weekend we saw SPEED step-in and carry a Cup practice session from The Brickyard at the very last minute. Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds actually voiced-over the live track activity from the SPEED Stage outside of the speedway.
Today, SPEED has announced that they are stepping-in on a fulltime basis and carrying eight additional practice sessions to help fill-in the holes in the TV schedule. Here are the dates and times:
Pocono (Aug. 1, Noon ET)
Watkins Glen (Aug. 9, Noon ET)
Dover (Sept. 19, 11 a.m. ET)
Kansas (Sept. 27, 12:30 p.m. ET)
Martinsville (Oct. 18, 11:30 a.m. ET)
Atlanta (Oct. 24, 3 p.m. ET)
Atlanta (Oct. 25, 10:30 a.m. ET)
Homestead (Nov. 15, 1:30 p.m. ET)
During the Fox and TNT portions of the Sprint Cup schedule, it was SPEED that made the commitment to treating every practice and qualifying session with the same level of coverage that SPEED brings to the Craftsman Truck Series. The qualifying sessions on SPEED were simply outstanding and told the real stories of the upcoming race.
Kudos to NASCAR and SPEED for coming together to get this live content televised. Perhaps, the added value that this coverage will bring is exactly what the sport needs as it continues to recover from the Indy problems.
As fans who watched ESPN2 last season remember, that network is dominated by other stick-and-ball sports after August and NASCAR really took a backseat. Earlier this season, SPEED actually allowed ESPN to televise an entire race on the SPEED network due to a schedule conflict. That was amazing.
We will have more information on these new programs once they are added to the existing SPEED schedule and we will also update the announcers. For now, the good news is that cars at speed on the track will be televised as NASCAR's top series runs down the stretch to Homestead.
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