Friday, January 16, 2009

"Preseason Thunder" Drifts Off Course


Let's all take just a moment and say it together. There is no testing at Daytona this season. That means SPEED's TV series called Preseason Thunder relocated from the Daytona International Speedway to the SPEED studios in Charlotte, NC for the past four days.

Normally, this series provides a wrap-up of the Daytona testing activities, an overview of the NASCAR news and a featured interview with a NASCAR personality. The program serves to get fans back into the NASCAR groove before the real racing gets underway in February.

While SPEED's new studios are pretty and it is nice to see the NASCAR announcers once again, things on the air seem to be drifting off-course rather quickly. Sometimes, this happens when there are lots of cooks on-hand to stir the pot.

So far this week, the Preseason Thunder hosts Steve Byrnes and John Roberts have followed one theme. They have asked Jeff Hammond, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Michael Waltrip and Larry McReynolds about the fact that there is no testing this season in Daytona.

While Byrnes and Hammond included a brief review of some real NASCAR news, Preseason Thunder has now turned into an exercise in political correctness and a promotion of SPEED programs. Nothing illustrated this point better than the Thursday evening broadcast.

It was McReynolds' turn to talk about the fact there was no testing and he did so right at the top of the show with Roberts. McReynolds effectively covered the exact same ground as the other guests from the previous three days. There was no hard news, no tough questions and no reality check about the health of the sport.

In the Wednesday program, Roberts had mentioned that veteran reporter Ray Dunlap would be on the Thursday show to finally talk about the Camping World Truck Series. This is the only NASCAR racing series carried on SPEED and recent reports in the media had as few as ten trucks with sponsorship for the season.

Fans of the truck series have been waiting for someone like Dunlap to step-up and talk about what is going to happen with the series, the TV coverage and the quality of the racing on the track. Unfortunately, those fans would have to wait just a bit longer. It was time for a "Mall Cop" movie promotion.

Comedian Kevin James was next on a satellite hook-up from Los Angeles where he talked about his new movie and tried very hard to offer as many NASCAR tie-ins as possible. He gave a great starting command in the 2008 season, admitted he was not a NASCAR fan before that moment and then tried to promote a future race by calling it "this one coming up."

James is going to be the grand marshal of the Toyota All-Star Shootout later this month on SPEED and apparently is going to make a pace lap on his Segway, probably dressed as the "Mall Cop." This looked like it was one of several hundred TV interviews James did on the "Mall Cop" satellite media tour.

Now that McReynolds had reminded us that there was no testing in Daytona and James had promoted his movie, Dunlap finally appeared to talk about the truck series. He was on location at the Germain Racing shops with their driver, Todd Bodine.

It was apparent from the start that Dunlap was there to interview Bodine and nothing more. A review of Bodine's 2008 season and a preview of 2009 was interrupted only when Bodine related that Lumber Liquidators had left as the primary sponsor and even this top-notch team was without sponsorship with Daytona only weeks away.

Dunlap said nothing about that issue and sent it back to the smiling Roberts in the studio who promptly promoted the Camping World Truck Series race from Daytona on SPEED. It was as if two different agendas were in-progress in the same TV show.

Maybe this is what SPEED wanted, to avoid the reality of a sport in crisis even as it swirls around them. Throughout this program, SPEED's own lower third "sports ticker" talked about big stories like Michael Waltrip splitting the #99 car with Scott Speed, Furniture Row Racing back with Regan Smith driving and the fluid situation at the Yates shop. These are the stories fans tuned-in to hear about, not movie promotions and fluff.

Clearly, the biggest disappointment of the day was Dunlap and his lack of any type of perspective on the Camping World Trucks. SPEED itself is counting on this series being healthy and taking to the track for another season of competition. Why this topic was not important to SPEED's only NASCAR TV show currently on the air is mind-boggling.

Preseason Thunder takes a day off and returns on Saturday. Perhaps, between then and now, the SPEED executives can get together and decide if keeping their heads in the sand should continue or if the network should step-up and follow the critical issues underway in the sport right now.

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37 comments:

Kyle said...

I have nothing to add, agree with you 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000% (BTW, there are 24 zeros, making that a Septillion.)

Anonymous said...

I thought you were complaining about no NASCAR programing during the offseason?

This is exactly why SPEED and ESPN did the right thing by NOT having a daily or weekly NASCAR show during the offseason.

All of it would just be a rehash of what was said previously. Nobody would watch it, and you'd just bash it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:01PM,

Are you serious? There are a ton of NASCAR news stories out there right now and SPEED made a conscious decision to avoid them.

This may be the most crucial couple of weeks in the modern history of NASCAR. Are you not tuned into that?

JD

Matt said...

This is what I expect all year long. There will be a bunch of smoke and mirrors and barriers put up by the media to say "move on, nothing to see here" as fields shrink and tracks remain empty. NASCAR and it's partners think that just like the COT, if they don't mention the poor economy, it will either cease to exist or the "dumb" fans won't notice.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, Might this be referred to as whistling past the graveyard?

I am really disappointed since I made sure to tape PT to make sure to catch Ray D's update on the Trucks. At least SPEED is several laps ahead of EESPN.

Dot said...

I haven't watched today's show yet. I'll tune in later.

I did notice the ticker on Mon-Wed shows. You're right, that's where all the real news is. Who dictates the content of this show? Is there any input from BF & Co?

Why aren't the people being talked about being interviewed? Bobby Labonte? Now David Gilliland who lost his ride? SPEED did move to Charlotte didn't they?

How sad that SPEED didn't make better use of the CWTS segment. Weren't their ratings up like 150% because of truck racing? I hope they're not taking lessons from BSPN.

cdh said...

I love SPEED's race coverage but their tv programs are usually cheesy and dumbed down so I didn't really expect much. This show is pointless the way its being presented. Looking back, NASCAR NOW was much better than this crap. I could seriously use some NASCAR NOW with Nicole Manske asap.

Daly Planet Editor said...

cdh,

Wasn't it scary that parts of it were very much like the old NASCAR Now? Celeb interviews and hype.

JD

SallyB said...

Speed has really missed the boat here. With so much up in the air with racing this season, this would be the prefect time to examine some of the issues. But, keeping the 'smiley face' on is what they are all about. Since the bottom crawler disappears int the bottom of my screen, I missed any REAL news that might have been displayed there. As great as Speed is covering the truck races, they never have been exactly focused on really examining the sport. What a shame.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- With the NASCAR media tour coming up shortly, do you think that contributes to teams and drivers wanting to "save" news and interviews for it and to reporters marking time as far as trying to sniff out news?

Sophia said...

well I was gonna cut and paste my comments elsewhere but I can't find the article.

MOST DISAPPOINTING as you all mentioned.

But let's face it, times are tough...are these hosts REALLY gonna risk their jobs in this economy to give us the truth. Not if the SUITS forbid it.

Sad, really.

I still say the cameras make everybody's eyes look creepy...superwhite eyeballs (like painted with white out) and striking color of the eyes with too much light reflection.

Never noticed that last year...all that expense in a new studio just to deliver more minutia.

God I hope Steve and the boys on TWIN can TALK MORE THIS YEAR.

I have missed them..but not if the suits push more celebs/promo/video in that show....sigh.

AMS fan said...

I haven't seen the need to watch any this week, until today. I caught the first few minutes, seemed dull, I already knew what they were talking about.
13 minutes in I gave up. Nothing new, just filling time is my thought.
There has been SO SO SO much going on, you would think they would have some good topics to discuss.
Maybe next week will be better.

Gymmie said...

@Kyle--I want a septillion bucks :)

@Dot--I know it's so sad. They waste time doing silly stuff when what they should be talking about is scrolling by on the bottom of the screen.

Yes there's a time for fun and promoting but time is of the essence here. We only have 30 minutes and nothing is being covered :(

I don't recall them wasting time in the past when there's been action on the track. They covered the action and kept us up to date on the changes of the day and updated us.

I don't understand Kevin James' purpose. Yes the Showdown is a great race but there didn't seem to be a need for him to be there. That 3 minutes or however long it took to do the segment could have been better served by talking about the headlines scrolling by. I can read fine, I want to know more of what's going on with those headlines. I want to hear from the headline makers.

I want to learn something I didn't know when I tuned in.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

Tried watching 39/10 and when it started out just rerunning Shootout and Duels, they lost me (after I fast forwarded to the JR passing/winning parts...LOL). Now I read about PreSeason Thunder doing celeb stuff and ignoring real race stories. So many things have changed with the demise and or merging of teams they could do a number of shows just on those topics.

I hope I am more excited when we get to Daytona. Driving 3500 miles is a long way to go to not be excited!!

bevo said...

Sounds like someone in management is dusting off the bogus "casual fan" concept again. They had best realize that there is no such person, it's a fantasy. The way to increase the audience is to deliver real information about the sport. Treat us like intelligent consumers.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard,

The media tour was done last season by SPEED and it was very basic team stuff. No one talked about anything of consequence.

This is an approach to NASCAR that SPEED has used in the past when controversial issues or troubles were on the front burner in the mainstream NASCAR media.

I just do not think it has hit them yet that this entire sport is in need of every single bit of energy that can be mustered to save itself.

Fans needed to hear from Mike Helton or Wayne Auton on the truck situation and someone official about the sport as a whole.

When SPEED goes to Daytona next week for the Trackside shows, exactly who do they think is going to be showing up at the track?

Preseason Thunder is staying in the Charlotte studio and has an opportunity to become a force in getting the news out to fans about the sport.

I have so many emails asking if the Truck Series is shutting down, and these are fans who were thinking about buying tickets and planning a trip to see the series. How can SPEED just blow that issue off?

It is the producers from The NASCAR Media group that handle the shows from the SPEED stage, they are not employed by the network.

Maybe this is a different crew from SPEED trying to produce these preseason shows in the studio.

Either way, something needs to change pretty quickly.

JD

Rockin Rich said...

In as much as I seem to contribute mostly negative comments, I decided to wait and see what others were saying first.

I watched the initial Monday edition, and didn't come back. I didn't come back for all the negative reasons cited in the comments about the four shows, and JD's reviews.

I will say this; at least the on camera crew doesn't exhibit that awful, forced, acting, (poor), joking camaraderie that we see on the BSPN productions.

I refuse to give up watching the daily news programs between 6:00 & 7:00 PM to see this type of "lack of information"/"BS entertainment" show.

Too bad. I had been looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

Mr daly

Your comments from 5:00 am this morning are spot on.
When Honda recently announced its departure from Formula one, F1 management wasted no time addressing the issue in the press.
Here, it seems that NASCAR just bury heads on the sand and hope that either the problem will just go away or if they ignore it long enough, people will stop asking about it.
Certainly, no rational race fan expects that the economy won't somehow effect the sport this year. Everything from F1 to motorcycling is in trouble.
I was unaware that NASCAR controls the studio productions on SPEED. It is apparent that there is no journalistic talent involved in the venture-for which NASCAR SPEED and FOX should be ashamed.
For all of the criticism ESPN receives-some of it warranted- at least they have the ability and the sense of duty to the fans to cover stories about NASCAR as news items and not sugar coated feel good drivel that is thinly veiled propaganda.
This insular behaviour from NASCAR is surprising in its naivite. Could it be that they've become so accustomed to merely counting money that they've never developed the expertise to manage money? They certainly don't seem able to manage fan expectations!!
They could take a lesson from Bernie Eccelstone

rich said...

JD, I agree completely with your assessment of the show. If todays is not better I will probably cancel the season pass on the DVR

Garry said...

Have you noticed that the only guests, save Kevin James, are the same ones that WORK for SPEED? All they are trying to do, among other things, is promote themselves.
I guess a historic race team that has been around for 60 years, and sinks into the sunset, is not a story. I guess ten truck teams with sponsors, and 26 more without is not a story. For Gods sake, Speed and ESPN, report the damn news!
As far as Anonymous 9:01 p.m.,there was more hard news to report from November to now than ever before. Recession, bailouts,storied franchises becoming non-existant, even deaths within the sport get glossed over, as if they would bring the Plague.
John Roberts has always been the smiling face, even when reporting tragedy. When he announced Bobby Hamilton and Benny Parson's passing two years ago, you could have sworn he was selling used cars, with his demeanor.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why SPEED and ESPN did the right thing by NOT having a daily or weekly NASCAR show during the offseason.

All of it would just be a rehash of what was said previously. Nobody would watch it, and you'd just bash it.


Based on what I read and what I hear on Sirius NASCAR radio, there is a LOT going on right now.

There's plenty of news to cover. IF they'd just cover it instead of doing these silly promos instead, that is.

Daly Planet Editor said...

New article on Fox Sports from Lee Spencer about potential changes in the truck series. These may include going back to the old days of no green flag pit stops.

Head over to Fox Sports to read the column by Spencer.

JD

amy said...

It is sad that NASCAR is so insular and afraid of its own shadow. The France family has never let in the light of day and I don't see them changing. They have a long history of cowing the media,as the run-in with ESPN a few years ago shows. It is unfortunate that the media lets them do it. But really, it is no different than the rest of the media. The news is dictated by what the Powers That Be want it to be, and we are left to wonder what the reality is.

Jason in PA said...

Completely agree... I am a nut for racing, so I'll tune in regardless. But I wish they'd make an effort to talk about Allmendinger, and Riggs, and Yeley and all the drivers who are getting the shaft right now. I want them to ask Ganassi what the he** is taking so long to name a driver, go to GEM and find out the "real" story why AJ is getting the shaft AGAIN-
I want answers!!! Accountability! I wanna know if there will be more thn 20 trucks at Daytona, (newsflash*** truck series is fun to watch!!)
Nascar needs to step up and pay more money to the kitties of these truck races to make it worth while. Just my take, there are sooo many potential stories out there no one is bothering to ask about it makes me crazy!!

David said...

I really think that sometimes these announcers are so close to these teams we will never get anything more than fluff. From working for MRN some weekends or being a car/owner/brother/worked their last year I think there is a huge objectivity issue with most of these shows and the people on them. I keep seeing Ken Squire ask Lugs Harvery and Stroker Ace what happened and they say everything is fine. One of these days, is what Squire says. NASCAR is just like Lugs and Stroker and the shows that are out now let them slide and press no one on any questions. I have really had enough of all the banter with no substance..

Daly Planet Editor said...

NASCAR has just changed the format of the Bud Shootout and the details are available on various Internet sites.

It does seem that there is a lot of NASCAR news out there right now.

JD

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

JD, amazing how the Bud Shootout change just happens to be a way for Tony Stewart to get in the race.
I'm just sayin..:>)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:33PM,

There is a Tony Stewart teleconference tonight at 7PM.

I will keep you all updated as to what Tony says and what the media members ask him.

Also, Chili Bowl pics tonight on TDP.

JD

darbar said...

Anon 9:01

You don't get it. We want Nascar related shows, not entertainment shows that touch on Nascar. Kevin James has hundreds of shows to promote a silly movie, which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with Nascar. Why Speed felt the need to put this guy, and promote a very silly movie, on a show that SHOULD be about Nascar is beyond me.

There are tons of issues going on with REAL implications for Nascar. What about Home Depot cutting a lot of their outside the box programs because of the economy and will Nascar be next? What about Toyota announcing they're cutting back on their Nascar programs? How about talking about the merry-go-round of drivers/teams/crew chiefs? How about doing some in depth interviews with teams that are struggling to find sponsorship? There's so much going on right now in all of Nascar's racing venues that could keep them occupied for more than a few hours. But to take time and allow Kevin James to promote another inane movie is just stupid programming.

Anonymous said...

I think Ken and Barbie must be in charge Nascar and the media
Grami Girl

Anonymous said...

Franchising is the way to go. Brian France has his head in the sand. He is an idiot if he doesn't think the overall team funding is broken beyond repair.

He uses the lame excuse of "well, we survived well over 50 years without it". The horse and buggy worked quite well for centuries. Why do we need an automobile or an airplane to get around?

TV needs to do more on challanging NASCAR's positions. That would have to come from ESPN. SPEED is in too much of a mold of the traditional NASCAR media of being scared to offend NASCAR.

ESPN shoots from the hip. They don't care about the consequences, albeit T.O. or Ron Hornaday. We need more of that type of jornalism squarely focused on Brian France to try to rip him to shreads.

Richard in N.C. said...

Objectivity at EESPN is a long-lost art. I find a little something on SPEED, finally, is better than nothing about NASCAR on EESPN.

I've never understood this idea of NASCAR's cowing the media. I've seen Mulhern, Lee Spence, and Ed Hinton accuse NASCAR of everything up to causing global warming. At some point in the 1990's the print media decided that negative articles on NASCAR sell and it continues to today.

Yes SPEED has been shying away from the big issues - but I've heard nothing about NASCAR or F1 on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNEW since the banquet, except for "NASCAR settling the Grant suit," even though NASCAR apparently is significant enough that a clip of Johnson winning the Cup is part of the lead-in to SportsCenter.

AMS fan said...

I'm starting to feel bad for those of you that don't have Sirius.
I feel up to date on what's happening.
But, I also don't have a job so I can listen to Sirius NASCAR radio a little to much.
Earlier this week Mike Helton was on one night for an hour. A week or two ago John Darby was on for an hour. I didn't listen due to the show host, I just can't seem to listen to her kind of journalism, but they were available.
During banquet week Brian France even called in one evening and spoke of the sport. I don't remember what all he said, but I remember thinking that he and the rest of management has their eyes on everything, working together for the good of all.
Speed may have dropped the ball, but the folks at Sirius NASCAR Radio have been beating every bush and keeping us as current as they can.

Daly Planet Editor said...

AMS fan,

That is a big problem with Sirius not being available online.

Only 20 million Sirius subscribers and many of those never use the NASCAR Channel 128 at all.

Meanwhile, 70 million cable TV households for SPEED and the network tries to bill itself as the source for NASCAR TV.

What a swing-and-a-miss on this one.

JD

Anonymous said...

No testing..........what a joke for the talking heads. Alhough the economy is pointed to as the culprit, Nascar was too milk toast anyway. Shows with fluff, no real content or cutting edge.....waste of time in other words. The only weekly show that was ever worth a flip was Inside Winston Cup with Ned Jarrett back in the day on TNN. Since then, everyting is over produced hype over nothing. We have been bombed with McReynolds, Hammond, all the Waterlips family and Wallace, Spencer and the balony burger boy Sadler. These shows all suck. BS programming which allows me to actually do something instead of watching nonsense. (Despains Wind Tunnel is about the best out there though)Hope I didnt offend anyone:-)

GinaV24 said...

well, the good news is that you've made it easy for me. I don't even have to watch the shows I recorded. I can just delete them to make space for other things. So many things going on in NASCAR right now and its not being reported on TV? How really off that is. I have sirius and I listen to the show on my drive home from work, between that at the internet, I can follow what is going on, but Speed is seriously missing the mark with their decision to ignore what is actually going on in the world. I guess "don't talk about it if its bad news" is the current mantra. At least Kevin James admits he never paid any attention to NASCAR until he was asked (paid) to do the gig at the race. Cross promote the race series, not the movie crapola.