Sunday, April 26, 2009
Friday And Saturday TV Wrap
Kenny Schrader set the tone for a solid presentation of the ARCA/REMAX Series race from Talladega on Friday. It was nice to see Schrader back on SPEED and like many fans I certainly hope SPEED considers adding him to the Monday TWIN show.
The veteran perspective of someone who is not active in the Sprint Cup Series would be a very good fit to balance out the current cast of Michael Waltrip, Chad Knaus and Greg Biffle. Schrader has the knowledge without the on-going agenda of the other panelists to hype their own teams.
The ARCA race ended a long Friday of sometimes tedious and sometimes exciting coverage from Talladega on SPEED. The single car runs of qualifying vs. the door-banging laps of practice made for two very different styles of TV coverage.
The NASCAR on ESPN team returned for the Saturday afternoon Nationwide Series race on ABC and immediately set the agenda by again focusing on Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch as if the calendar said October and not April. This is the time of the season to talk to everyone and feature as many teams as possible on TV, not the time to pretend that a championship is at stake in the race.
The action on the track proved to be the saving grace for ABC. Michael Waltrip was spun by Joey Logano at high speed in what many know as a Talladega-style racing accident. ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little interviewed Waltrip outside the Infield Care Center. Normally, this would be a positive sign that the telecast was improving by following-up on drivers out of the race.
Instead, Little repeated to Waltrip a radio transmission overheard from Clint Bowyer. It was taken completely out of context, just like the incident last season created by ESPN. Bowyer remarked that it was Waltrip in an accident yet again. Little confronted Waltrip who had not yet even seen a replay of the incident.
"What's your defense?" Little said to a puzzled looking Waltrip. This bizarre sequence of events was a reminder that ESPN can and will create controversy when it fits the network's agenda. This is not the question you ask a man who has just crashed at almost 200 mph. Little was off-base and so was the producer who made her ask the question.
Even as the racing continued to be red hot, the ESPN coverage showed the remaining problems in the broadcast team. Remember, this is the group that will take over the Sprint Cup coverage in July and bring the series all the way to Homestead.
Amid the great triple-split video on the pit stops, the wonderful graphics and the fantastic HD pictures there was the continuing problem of Dr. Jerry Punch trying to deal with accidents and spontaneous incidents on the track.
Punch is a reporter and his nature is to observe and then discuss. Mat Kenseth received a shove from his Roush teammate David Ragan and started a lazy spin down the backstretch. Instead of blowing some tires and coming to a halt, Kenseth's car turned over and began to roll violently.
"Over on his roof," said Punch. That was all he said from the time the incident began until the time the car came to a halt. "A wild ride for the Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth," stated Punch once the car stopped. As a reporter, Punch's first thought is to identify everything.
Adding insult to injury, the ESPN Director unbelievably cut to a shot of a pregnant Katie Kenseth crying as she walked off pit road arm-in-arm with Ryan Newman's wife, Krissie. This was before viewers or the TV team knew that Matt was not injured. Why and how this happened is something the ESPN TV team needs to discuss. Whether or not ESPN offers an apology to Katie Kenseth, this was the ultimate in tasteless TV.
As the race came down to a green/white/checkered finish, the duo of Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree had once again saved the day for TV viewers. These two step right in and supply fans with the information that Punch just cannot seem to get out of his mouth in a timely fashion. There was no better example than the final lap of the race.
"Here they go three-wide," said Punch as the TV cameras showed only two lines of well-formed cars. As the pack approached the finish line, there was a mad scramble at the front.
"Junior up high, David Ragan is there," stated Punch. "And here comes...David Ragan."
That was the entire call of the ABC play-by-play announcer at the end of a live Talladega race as it was won by inches.
How much longer can this go on? Punch used to be one of the most respected reporters in the sport, but his return to NASCAR after a long hiatus has not been kind. Instead of handling interviews in the Infield Pit Center and leading discussions among his colleagues, he is expected to perform in a position he cannot handle.
NASCAR fans can hear the excited voices of Mike Joy, Rick Allen and Dave Moody almost every racing weekend. The memories of Bob Jenkins, Eli Gold and Allen Bestwick are still fresh in the minds of many. A good play-by-play announcer leaves a legacy of words that can still produce chills years later.
Speaking of Allen, it was a short appearance by Allen and his telecast partner Phil Parsons as they had the Camping World Truck Series race interrupted and then delayed by rain. The action on the track was good and the coverage solid, but unfortunately the entire team will have to wait until Monday morning to finish the event.
The Friday and Saturday race coverage was interesting and showed the various approaches to producing NASCAR on TV. Did you watch the races? Please share with us your opinion of the coverage from the NASCAR TV partners.
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