Thursday, April 9, 2009

Some NASCAR Series Still Get No TV Coverage


During a week where NASCAR needed as much positive energy as possible hopes were running high that in this third season of ESPN2's NASCAR Now there might be some changes. Unfortunately, there were not.

This past weekend, the Whelen Modifieds opened their 25th season of racing at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. Called The Icebreaker 150, this race would be a good barometer of the situation with regional racing in the northeast. The results were good. 35 teams and 5 thousand fans turned-up to watch open wheel competition.

Also last weekend, the Southern Mods were racing at South Boston, VA and the Camping World West Series showed-off before a sell-out crowd in Southern California. NASCAR veteran Steve Park will lead the Camping World East racers into their season opening this race next weekend at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

NASCAR Now is in the third season of providing coverage of the sport six days a week with solid results. This series has established itself with a great Monday hour, good preview shows Thursday and Friday and an outstanding pre-race show on Sunday morning.

Since there are sometimes news stories still unfolding from the weekend, Tuesday's show often has a strong lead and some good follow-up interviews. The glaring weakness in the line-up is on Wednesdays. This is the open day between reviewing and previewing races and Wednesday often has little NASCAR news.

Over the past two seasons, NASCAR Now has tried to fill this day with all kinds of different content. On this Wednesday, host Nicole Manske teamed with reporter Mike Massaro and ESPN.com's Ryan McGee to rehash the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series news of the week. Wednesdays have lots of hash.

Aric Almirola checked-in to repeat the story that his Sprint Cup team had suspended operations due to lack of sponsorship. AJ Allmendinger was on the show to say his season has been extended because of some additional sponsorship. Up next it was Justin Allgaier who previewed the ESPN2 Nationwide Series race on Saturday. Finally, Massaro interviewed Steve Letarte from the rainy tire test in New Hampshire to ask him even more questions about Jeff Gordon's season.

Amid all of this there was a missed opportunity. Wednesday is crying out for a feature on the regional NASCAR racing action. Even two or three minutes to recap what the Camping World and Whelen Series teams are doing and where they are racing.

In terms of video, click here for the link to The Hartford Courant's video highlights of the Thompson race and post-race interviews. Click here to get a feel for the show that the Camping World West Series put on in California.

NASCAR Now's airtime is valuable to the TV network itself, the advertisers and NASCAR. ESPN2 has been put in a position of representing the sport as a whole. That is the entire idea of a daily show.

Now into the third season of producing this TV series, the time is right for some attention to be paid to the teams and drivers who campaign regionally in the sport with the same dedication and enthusiasm as the "big guys."

Wednesday was a perfect opportunity to do just that. What a shame for the drivers, teams and fans that enjoy these series. Maybe with a little television exposure, more potential fans will pick-up and attend a regional race. What a concept.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for those single-A minor league baseball highlights on Baseball Tonight, too.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Nice try. Stick-and-ball does not relate in any way to this concept.

Spoken like a true baseball fan on a NASCAR blog.

No memories of "Open Wheel Wednesday" on ESPN for years?

JD

Mike said...

NASCAR Media Group (or whatever they call it now) should produce an hour-long weekly show for SPEED (maybe air it on Thursday nights at 7p.m. Eastern) where they cover all of the NASCAR series from Cup on down....Some of these races get recorded to be shown on Speed anyway, so they could skim some highlights from them. And the ones that don't get recorded for broadcast they could hire a stringer from one of the local television stations to shoot some highlights. Plus they could give a weekly rundown of how the top drivers in points in the Weekly Racing Series did the previous weekend. Then, have a segment that shows the top 10 in points in all of the series....and then wrap up the show with the upcoming week's schedule of events for the Cup, Nationwide, and Truck series as well as all of the Regional Touring Series. If I'm mistaken that's similar to how the former "This Week In NASCAR" and other magazine-style shows were handled in the 90s.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great comment Mike. Let's hope that happens quickly before things as we know them are changed forever.

JD

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

Anon 8:50PM,

I think you might be on the wrong blog. This is not stick-and-ball sports no matter how hard you try to make it so.

No one wants ESPN to telecast the race, SPEED has the TV rights to the Camping World Series and shows the races on delay.

NASCAR Now is a brand new TV series that ESPN has been tinkering with for the past three seasons.

Many times they have interviewed regional drivers, mostly in the ESPN studios in Connecticut.

They have also had the regional champs from both the Mods and the Camping World Series into Bristol for interviews.

This is a group of production folks trying to figure out how to deal with the regional series, in much the same way that RPM2Night dealt with the sprint and midget racing nationwide. They showed a highlight package on Wednesdays.

This is traditionally the slowest day of the week for NASCAR news and ESPN has reacted to this conversation by dipping their toe into the water each season a little deeper.

What we are pointing out is that this week would have been a great opportunity to begin a closer relationship with the NASCAR regional teams.

I think you can comment on that without calling anyone names or using stick-and-ball references.

JD

Dot said...

@ Mike, Ditto.

You can't compare minor league baseball and NASCAR. Don't the major leagues play many times a week? Same with football, only on the weekends. There's enough news for the week with those sports. Especially the criminal stories. CUP, NW and trucks are a weekly thing.

BSPN should devote the slow day(s) to NASCARs other series. It is called NASCAR Now. How are we supposed to hear about the next best thing since sliced bread before he hits the CUP series?

Anonymous said...

I think you really missed the impact of tonight's NASCAR Now. Even though the news on Almirola came out yesterday, it was confirmed today by the Ganassi people. Almirola was very honest and interesting in his responses to Manske's questions. Allmendinger's story is a very good one for Petty. This is good news for NASCAR and Petty. Allgaier is also a good story. Having a great season in Nationwide for a Nationwide-only driver and a rookie to boot. I must agree with the other anon posting about the single-A highlights. This is a National TV show. Not sure why you think ESPN needs to deal with single-A racing. Isn't that what the internet is for?

David said...

Now while you dont get single-A minor league highlights, you do get updates from time to time when something major happens down there like a pro going down or someone getting called up.

Steve Park in the CWE Series is a big deal. Former winner in the Cup Series, he is one of a handful of guys to win in all 3 of NASCAR's top series' and was a long time fan favorite. An update would be helpful. Highlight the regional series' wouldn't hurt on a day like today where the news was light.

Its disappointing to see them rehash issues that everyone sees as an elephant in the room. We know its there, we're aware of it, it's been pointed out, now time to talk about some other things. If your going to talk about economic issues, lets address the start and park teams at long last.

These are the days I miss RPM2Night. I really wish someone would pull their heads out of their rears and watch some old episodes and use that template now. A NASCAR show is great, but honestly NASCAR Now has never interested me because if all we're going to talk about is Cup with some Nationwide thrown in from time to time, the show is WORTHLESS.

I saw something the other day that bothered me. I caught the end of a Ray Evernham/Johnny Benson segment talking about aero push and whatever else they were talking about and it was horrible. I only caught 60 seconds but even that was tough. It felt rehearsed, scripted, and stale. What happened to the days where you let experience take over and let the explanation feel like a conversation where you felt involved instead of a "how to" video?

NASCAR Now is still tough for me to watch even after 3 years. Its made headway, but still not a fan.

John Lee, Hollywood winner said...

That's because those "junior" series are so much FASTER than Cup cars. And NASCAR don't predecide the winner like in WWFCAR. Funny how some teams bypass scrutineering (#3).

Anonymous said...

I have watched NN since the beginning. It was not good at the beginning and has improved a bit, but not that much. I bet their ratings are not very good.

I don't think bringing in the lesser series would do much to improve their tv ratings.

The Monday shows are the best, but even they are not always that interesting.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:23PM,

What you left out was Massaro's useless interview with Steve Letarte. Simply by dumping that piece and inserting regional highlights and news, both purposes could have been served.

Thanks for your comment.

JD

Daly Planet Editor said...

John Lee,

The picture on this column is from the Whelen Mods testing for their first race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Once they got the cars dialed-in, they were faster than any NASCAR national touring series at the track. BTW, that race has no TV coverage at the moment.

One thing does continue to be true where posts on this blog are concerned. We have never had anyone who attended a regional NASCAR series race show-up and say it did not deserve highlights on the only national NASCAR TV show.

JD

Anonymous said...

As you know JD, the bottom line is that if the racing is good, close competitive action with compelling personalities, it can work on tv.

Its also an embarrassment to NASCAR senior Cup circuit that Whelan modifieds can scream around any track FASTER than cup cars. Just as it embarrassed NASCAR back when the Trans Am series ran as support on road circuit weekends (Watkins Glen and Sonoma) with the Cup series. The Trans Am cars were MUCH faster than cup cars, so NASCAR dropped them as a support
series.

Anonymous said...

i really don't care about the regional series nor do i have interest in hearing result of them

when there is a specific individual story now and hem i'm fine but in general i prefer to see and hear from the big stars of Cup

cvt said...

JD, ESPN is not a racing network. Sometimes they give the impression they hold their collective noses when reporting on racing of any kind.They bid on the NASCAR package 'cause they acknowledge advertisers follow NASCAR Cup racing and it's business they can't afford to overlook.

This is not to suggest there aren't good,competent racing journalists at ESPN.

This cultural bias will never permit them to go "down market" and pick-up any of the lower ranks or regional series.

GinaV24 said...

Personally I would LOVE to see more about the other racing series. I became a fan of rally car racing because it was broadcast on Speed. I used to watch Open Wheel Wednesday shows and of course RPM2Nite. I think it would be a nice addition to ESPN, since I'd like a little less talk and a lot more action -- there are too many suits and too many talking heads for me. This show has improved a lot, but except for Mondays, I am not a regular viewer since it comes on before I get home so I usually have to record it and watch later. If they have more interesting stuff, I'd at least watch the recorded show, rather than fast-forwarding through it and erasing.

Charles Krall said...

Just a clarification: Steve Park has raced in the CWE Series for a couple of years now. He drove full-time last year in the No. 35 Waste Management car. I have always been a Steve Park fan but unfortunately the car he's in isn't one of the top cars in the series, although he does run competitively.

I too would like to see more regional coverage on the NASCAR news shows.

The days of SpeedWeek and Motorweek Illustrated are sadly long gone. It was really nice to see shows that talked about all major motorsports and not just NASCAR. RPM2Night was great because it gave us daily news from everywhere. NASCAR is great but there is only so much to talk about and to be honest many of the reporters on today's shows don't carry any credibility with long-time followers of the sport.

red said...

i would love it if NN could devote half of just one day each week to the regional racing series. there are so many great stories and, unlike anon@8:00am, i do want to hear about what's happening in the regional series beyond my area. this is where the next generation is racing and trying to make a name and it's some of the best racing out there. i've said it before: nascar fans need to begin -- or continue! -- to support the local nascar small track in their area! if you don't know where your regional tracks are, they're listed on nascar.com under "nascar home tracks" toward the bottom of the home page. get yourself on a mailing list, pick a favorite to follow and then head to the tracks. once you do, you'll understand why some of us feel very strongly that these racers deserve attention each week!

and the OTHER half of that broadcast needs to be focused on the camping world truck series! it's not "all cup and n'wide, all the time" out there in nascar-land! i am convinced that race fans would be drawn to the truck series if only those racers were highlighted each week and the series covered on a regular basis by NN, mid-week.

i understand that espn isn't about racing but when there's a show titled "NN," doncha think it should cover ALL aspects of nascar, not just cup?

@david and charles: thank you for mentioning steve park's recent racing at the regional level. i am so very glad to see him racing once again and his is an amazing story that would certainly draw fans to whatever track he's racing!

Anonymous said...

NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races at 100 tracks in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.

Where do you draw the line in what gets covered..seems it would be impossible to keep you happy with whatever coverage was shown.

I see only solution being NASCAR springs for it's own channel and even then I bet no more than 5% of results and highlights are shown from the 1,200 races.

Tracy said...

I'd like to see Wednesdays used for a journalists' panel. Get Nate Ryan, Angelique Chengalis, and two more rotating reporters, have the show on a regular basis and let them have it. It'd be interesting, you'd hear another take than that of a driver/crew chief, etc.

David said...

Anon:

None of us are asking for a full breakdown of a race from every series at every track, everyone here has enough sense to realize that is near impossible to do. What we are asking for is a preview, or review of 2 or 3 major touring events on a given "slow" news day. It doesnt have to be weekly, but it also shouldnt be so rare a solar eclipse occurs first...

Also on the remark about how lower series cars are faster then the Cup cars so NASCAR is suppressing their coverage, thats bogus. When you have a lighter car, with wider tires and relatively similar horsepower, that equates to more speed. Fact of life. Those cars dont make near as much power as a Cup car at Bristol, but are lighter, lower to the ground and have wider tires, therefore they can run closer to wide open. If a Cup car COULD run wide open they would blow those cars out of the water, and would even now down the straights. Those cars simply just have higher cornering speeds.

The faster the car, doesnt neccesarily mean the better the racing.

Sophia said...

Brief Digress

I AM SO DEPRESSED THE MASTERS is on ESPN THu and Fri. Golf with ticker on the bottom. Ugh. Used to be on USA during the week. Least CBS has weekend

re: NASCAR I think all series should be covered, especially during slow weeks..what would it hurt.

But what are we saying they don't even promote the TRUCK series and NW drivers in the NW series.

Anonymous said...

Speed, supposedly a motor head network, should cover these things more. ESPN covers all sports and cannot be expected to do blanket coverage on any one sport, but SPEED, the network started just for these type of things has dropped the ball big time.

Anonymous said...

Sophia said...
Brief Digress

I AM SO DEPRESSED THE MASTERS is on ESPN THu and Fri. Golf with ticker on the bottom. Ugh. Used to be on USA during the week. Least CBS has weekend

So sad you bash when you do not even know what your talking about. Coverage is on ESPN, but just like with USA it is all the CBS people and their cameras and no ticker.

Richard in N.C. said...

I really do still miss RPM2Night - a real racing news show. The only thing like it of which I am aware is the weekly SPEED Report, which I watch every week and enjoy but it can only cover so much in an hour. Regarding auto racing news in general, the SPEED Report is far superior to anything on EESPN until Monday after the races.

Rumor has it that EESPN2 carries NHRA, but you would not know it from watching SportsCenter. The only time I see any NHRA news on SportsCenter is if there is a flashy film clip available of a crash or explosion. To keep up with what has happened during the weekend in NHRA I watch The SPEED Report.

But then more and more EESPN is concerned with stories, not news.

Anonymous said...

Man, I wish we had a channel dedicated to auto racing, like SPEED. Oh duh, SPEED is a reality show station that pairs people with cars in crazy a** situations!!!! woowee. ***yawn***

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at April 8, 2009 8:24 PM...
As much as I agree with your Single A baseball analogy, please don't do that again. Dissenting opinions might drive Mr. Daly into retirement (again...).

JD:
I don't really agree with that guy about baseball. Just between me and you, I was only patronizing him. Please don't think I'm not a loyal minion. I don't want you to retire (again...).

Matt said...

What is with the "Stick and Ball" hostility? It really brings judgement into question sometimes.

No baseball fan would arguue that AAA baseball is the same as the majors except with "a seperate identity."

No rational hockey fan would push the point of view that ESPN or Fox were derelict in not covering the ECHL.

Few college football fans across the country are pinning away for the results from a particular week's slate of games in the Massachusetts Intercollegiate Athletic Assosciation to get run across the screen.

Pushing for coverage of the trucks (which as someone recently pointed out cost less to run in, pay out less, and draw fewer fans, just like lower level leagues in other sports) is one thing. Trying to advance the case the ESPN, FOX (always off the hook on this for some reason) and SPEED are not doing their jobs by not covering the regional series is just silly.

Every sport has levels, and in almost every case coverage of a sport declines rapidly from the top, with anything below the top two levels getting almost zero coverage outside the local market. Recognizing this does not make someone a bad nascar fan, a "stick and ball apologist" or anything else except a realist. I really enjoy your blog, but you're tilting at windmills and straw men with this campaign.

I vaguely recall "Open Wheel Wed." I also recall Aussie Rules Football, AWA Wrestling, Tractor Pulls and some other things that are no longer covered. Maybe those could come back?

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

Anon 9:26PM,

Your case is built on using the stick-and-ball world as an analogy to racing. It does not compute.

Regional racing is just that. It has been and always will be regional.

The slice of the pie that we are talking about is NASCAR, but there are tons of series from drag racing to open-wheel sprint cars that run regionally.

Those series don't even get a shot at this discussion because NASCAR Now is themed around one sport. Therein lies the rub.

The sport is not just the three national touring series. It has never been and will never be. ESPN continually talks about only a big slice of the NASCAR pie, but misses the fact that there is a pie at all.

SPEED has been pounded by TDP for three years about hosting a Truck Series weekly show, which is a fundamental failing that has deeply affected the exposure of this series for years now.

Fox, TNT and ABC are not in the mix on this issue. At least ESPN uses NASCAR Now to promote their own Nationwide Series.

ESPN has struggled to define itself in this sport since the beginnning. Nothing is a better example of that than the one hour Sprint Cup preview version of NASCAR Now at 10AM on Sunday mornings.

ESPN2 uses a ton of resources, has live reporters at the track and often a guest analyst in the studio. But, the nework cannot even bring itself to mention the start time of the race or the TV network carrying the coverage.

After three years, this show needs a push to get deeper into the sport at a time when NASCAR really needs it.

Thanks for the comment,

JD

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a driver turning down a full time Sprint Cup ride for a ride in one of the multitude of regional racing series.

There still are plenty of regional "stick and ball" leagues. There always has, there always will. Major League Baseball was never about just the one, and then two "big leagues". The fabric of baseball has always included the farm systems and independent leagues that play ball and bring enjoyment to millions across small town America.

Matt has some great points. The "stick and ball" hostility is rather overwhelming.

There is nothing inherently different about racing. Sure all the "teams" compete at the same time, not too much unlike golf. Though, everything boils down to it being just another form of an organized competition bringing people together on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that when the subject is getting NASCAR exposure on SportCenter, the feeling is that the CUP series should be viewed as on a par with the other 3 major sports, NFL, NHL, MLB. However, when the discussion turns to getting exposure for the regional series, then apparently, all racing is equal and the CUP series becomes just another form of motorsports.

Just saying .....

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:43PM,

There is no hostility. You are just wrong. How is that?

Your background, like so many others is stick-and-ball sports. We have been hearing your perspective for three years now.

This is not like asking for Toledo Mudhens highlights on Baseball Tonight.

NASCAR races thirty plus weekends a year, that's it. The regional series race even less. There are no Wednesday night games and no seasons with over 100 times to take the field. Nothing about the analogy to stick-and-ball sports works.

This is a daily show that is produced six times a week. Letting highlights of the regional series be given to ESPN for free to make one feature on a Wednesday does not seem like too much to ask in a NASCAR only program.

How about it, NASCAR Now? Highlights of Steve Park and the Camping World East series this week?

JD

David said...

Drivers have walked away from full time, or turned down full time Cup rides for lower levels because the opportunity was weak at best. So that remark makes no sense.

I dont honestly expect or necessarily want NASCAR Now to give equal coverage to all aspects of NASCAR. But like JD said, dont call yourself "NASCAR Now" if all your going to talk about is the Sprint Cup Series. This is where people get lost in the idea that NASCAR means Cup Series Only, and anything else stands on its own. NASCAR actually represents: Cup, Trucks, Nationwide, Modified, East and West, etc. all equally. However, people just apply the NASCAR stigma to Cup, which I feel ESPN did in this case as well. I am tired of the NASCAR comparisons to the major stick and ball sports because it doesn't fly and it never really has to me. Sure, the cup series is the top level, but Nationwide, and Trucks are their own professional levels as well which you cannot say about minor leagues in other sports. In NASCAR it is a tier system, but each tier once you reach Trucks, Nationwide, and Cup are professional levels. Arguing the ratings for Trucks and Nationwide could work both ways. They have lower ratings because no one cares, or perhaps no one knows what is going on with them because they aren't informed by other partners. FOX did a fantastic job with a NASCAR oriented show a few years ago (Totally NASCAR anyone?) but decided to kill the show for whatever reason they chose.

I dont feel as if a 5 minute segment a few times a month to talk about a specific East race, or West race or modified race would be harmful to the sport. For example, the fall race at PIR has a west race that runs Thursday, but would anyone know? Hardly because ESPN doesn't talk about it. Just a mere mention the race is going on could help boost attendence for that event because there could be fans that dont have the finances to attend the Cup race that maybe still want to go to the track and see some action that would go to a West or East event since some Cup and Nationwide drivers compete on these weekends and get their fix that way.

Highlights and race recaps and such are a stretch to ask for, but running a NASCAR motorsports calendar on the Friday edition of what is taking place this weekend and where would help bring more awareness to these series which are NEEDED to help sustain the life of the Cup series in the long run.

There is the issue of the dying local short track to address which without, you have no place to groom up and coming drivers without just throwing them to the wolves in a NW or Cup car now...which seems to be the case anyways anymore.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:59-
Snarkiness is not only unattractive, it's unwarranted. Say what you think without pseudo-cleverness or trying to be coy.

I'll bet your mother would tell you the same.

Matt said...

How does Cup-NW-CWTS-CWE/W-Wheldon-Locals is to stock car racing as MLB-Iternational-Eastern--Carolina-NYPenn is to baseball or as NHL-AHL-ECHL-OHL is to hockey not make a fair amount of sense? It's not exactly right, but it's far from wrong.

The biggest difference is that at the lower levels of Nascar you can hang on forever, as long as you can afford to run at someplace like Langley or another small track, but if you don't make it in other sports you wind up back in the official amatuer ranks of adult leagues with no prize money.

All I've heard is that Nascar isn't like the dreaded "Stick and ball" sports, but I haven't heard how. If someone wants to argue that at the lower levels it is more a hobby than a professional sport I can buy that, but I don't think it helps the "more coverage" argument. Now there are a lot of shows out there that have information on and coverage of hobbies and special interests (my wife, for example, is currently enjoying the heck out of the "Big Joe Polka Show" on RFD) but those tend not to be on the major channels like ESPN. Might have once been a good fit on Speed, but probably has to wait for Nascar to start it's own channel.

Actually just had a thought-why not direct this energy towards pushing Nascar to create a podcast or something on their website covering these series? I can't find a link to anything below the trucks on Nascar.com. Beating up on them is something I could get behind, but complaining about ESPN not covering the minor parts on Nascar when Nascar's own website doesn't think they need to be covered makes no sense. (NHL & MLB both link to the minor league affiliates at the bottom of their homepages-you have to look a little, but it's not hidden, just the last thing you see).

Anonymous said...

I am a longtime NASCAR fan, and I don't think the stick-and-ball analogies to minor leagues are that far off. The problem is that NASCAR has an entire channel - SPEED - to cover this stuff on and they don't do it. I really don't expect racings minor leagues to get any mention on ESPN - and that's probably appropriate. But SPEED, a NASCAR-owner property, is another matter.