Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Camping World Truck Series Can't Catch A TV Break
After losing Saturday to rain, the Camping World Truck Series took to the track Monday in front of a small crowd on a chilly day in Martinsville, VA. The good news is that the live SPEED telecast of the race was solid and the trucks put on a great show. The bad news is that almost no one saw it.
A silver lining did exist, however, because both NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and This Week in NASCAR on SPEED would be on the air later Monday to review the action.
As luck would have it, Kyle Busch was once again in the mix and the finish of the truck race would be memorable. After the race, the SPEED cameras captured Busch running down pit road, jumping the railing and leaving the premises without talking to anyone.
What a great tie-in to his struggles in the Sunday Sprint Cup Series race as those highlights would be the centerpiece of the two NASCAR TV shows on Monday. Since there was no Nationwide Series race, the Sprint Cup Series and the Camping World Trucks were the only game in town. This would be great TV exposure for the truck teams.
Mike Massaro was in for Allen Bestwick and it was clear from the start that a lot of the Monday NASCAR Now program was going to be focused on the Sprint Cup Series. Ray Evernham, Ricky Craven and Mike Wallace offered good comments about the drivers, the action and the results.
Since there was no live guest scheduled, there would also be plenty of time to talk about the only other race of the weekend, the trucks. Including this series in the NASCAR Now program used to be a battle. Apparently, that battle is not over.
Massaro introduced an embarrassing highlight package that included him naming the wrong driver, not knowing Todd Bodine's truck and finally getting lost in his commentary during the final pass for the lead.
The package ended with Kyle Busch slamming down his HANS Device and helmet. In this one hour show, the trucks got 55 seconds of coverage. Instead of turning to the "expert panel" for follow-up, Massaro led directly to commercial. His words were ironic.
"And we'll talk a little bit more about Jimmie Johnson...coming up," said Massaro. It was time for the ESPN.com poll results on whether Johnson can win another championship. The blue states and the red states were battling it out. One thing was for sure, the trucks were done on NASCAR Now in more ways than one.
Later on Monday, Steve Byrnes led a rowdy Greg Biffle and Michael Waltrip through the same Sprint Cup Series highlights and explanations on This Week in NASCAR. This crew has a very different style and the first-hand accounts of the Sunday race were outstanding from both panelists.
The good story here is that Waltrip called the truck race for SPEED, so he had the inside scoop. Byrnes introduced the highlights and SPEED gave their only major NASCAR series 75 seconds of highlights. That's right, less than 90 seconds of highlights from a Monday race which most fans had not seen.
Not only did this highlight package not tell the story of the race, it contained no post-race interviews from SPEED's own live Monday telecast. SPEED approached this race as if it had taken place on Saturday and fans had already seen the highlights several times. With the race actually airing at noon on Monday, nothing could be further from the truth.
It seems like the Camping World Truck Series cannot catch a break where NASCAR TV is concerned. The series has no weekly TV show, no regularly scheduled features on either TWIN or NASCAR Now and only a thirty minute pre-race show for exposure. On this Monday, even that was cancelled.
One key goal of the NASCAR TV partners this season was to help the Nationwide and Truck Series survive these tough economic times. While this message resonated earlier in the season, Martinsville proved to be a complete failure where both SPEED and ESPN were concerned in terms of the truck series.
While the Nationwide Series continues to be populated by Sprint Cup regulars, the Camping World Truck Series teams are holding on by their fingernails right now and several are about to fall by the wayside.
What will it take for these two TV programs to wake-up to the fact that the NASCAR TV partners have to be actively involved in helping all three national series in the sport survive this crisis?
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