Friday, April 24, 2009

What If The Truck Race Rules The Weekend TV?

All the media hype is squarely on Talladega this weekend as the ARCA/REMAX, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series race at the superspeedway. But, tucked away on the Saturday afternoon TV schedule is another event that might merit your attention.

The Camping World Truck Series is at Kansas Speedway for a race that will take to the air at 5:30 PM ET on SPEED. With the current economic woes, the CWTS is a rag-tag bunch of teams trying to scrape their way through the season. Some teams have fallen by the wayside, but others are continuing with the old racing spirit of operating on a shoestring.

SPEED has been the TV partner of the CWTS for a long time now and the telecasts of the series have developed almost a cult following. Many elements of the TV coverage are unique, from the simple and straightforward pre-race show to the consistent promise to treat every team equally when it comes to TV exposure.

The CWTS telecasts are stripped down and look a lot like the old-style NASCAR races that fans can stumble across on ESPN Classic or some of the regional sports networks. No gizmo's, no hype and no baloney. Just racing on TV.

Saturday in Kansas, the CWTS entry list is very interesting. The familiar faces like Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr. are there. But, from 57 year-old ARCA veteran Norm Benning to 23 year-old rookie female driver Gabi DiCarlo, the rest of the field is full of the very type of diversity that NASCAR has yet to accomplish elsewhere. Click here for a link to Jayski's Kansas race page.

By the time Sunday night at 10PM rolls around, there will have been over thirty hours of national TV programming originated from Talladega on four different television networks. Practice sessions, qualifying, news shows and preview programs will cover the weekend in-depth for the fans.

There will only be one telecast from Kansas of the truck race itself, no coverage of practice or qualifying. The race will come and go like a little blip on the NASCAR TV radar screen.

So, all of this begs the question. What if the TV coverage of the trucks in Kansas is better than either the Nationwide event on ABC or the Sprint Cup race on Fox?

Last week ESPN came to the table with a prepared script and followed Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in the Nationwide race from start-to-finish. Click here for the TDP story about the coverage. The only problem was that once again racing reality interfered with the network's plans. Carl was eventually parked in the garage and Kyle got in all kinds of trouble. Neither TV hero won the race.

The NASCAR on Fox gang showed-up for the Sprint Cup telecast and were immediately buried in commercials and sponsorship elements from the pre-race show through the checkered flag. At times, it was almost comical in the amount of commercial elements the network tried in every way to force into the telecast. The result was a total on-air disaster and even lower TV ratings. Click here for the TDP column on that issue.

As SPEED returns to action with the trucks, it may well be a very interesting TV moment. The underfunded and bare-bones SPEED TV team will host their own pre-race show without a Hollywood Hotel or Infield Pit Center. Two announcers and two pit reporters will handle the commentary. No Tech Centers or cutaway cars will be in the coverage. There are no animated woodland creatures.

On this weekend with all three of NASCAR's national series in action, TDP readers have a great opportunity to compare the styles of ESPN, SPEED and Fox in producing NASCAR racing on TV.

There is also no doubt that somewhere at the headquarters of several NASCAR TV networks, interested executives will also be keeping an eye on exactly the same thing. What changes may result is anyone's guess.

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

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


majorshouse said...

One more series covered by the Speed gang that was not mentioned was the ARCA race from Talladega as well. I watched the race and it got the same kind of coverage that the trucks get because it was the very same crew that does the truck series and did a bang up great job.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I agree, this column was trying to keep the NASCAR perspective and compare the big three series.

Schrader was fun in the booth and I am told that SPEED will soon be announcing additional duties for him with the network.

No clue yet on what they will be, we will keep you posted.

As I mentioned in the TV schedule notes, Rick Allen will do "a Bestwick" and host his own pre-race show from the Kansas track.

Krista Voda is in Talladega for Fox.


stricklinfan82 said...

Talladega should be the perfect place for Fox and ESPN to rebound after their Phoenix disasters.

The Herculean Task of a NASCAR production truck having to keep up with all the action of 43 different competitors spaced out all over a 2 mile 'playing field' that Mike Joy discussed during practice on Friday won't be an issue at this track with these cars this weekend.

Once the start-and-park cars leave the track, both races will feature 40 or so cars all running together in one big pack on the same spot on the track. Most, if not all, of the drivers in each race will get to spend some time at or near the front of the pack as the draft shuffles the running order around every lap.

The task seems simple from my outsider's perspective. Keep the coverage simple and stick to basic wide angle shots of the field. The viewers will see tons of lead changes and every non S&P driver in the field will get extensive "TV Time" when they take their turns at the front. Everybody wins. Drivers, sponsors, and most of all the TV viewers.

Here's hoping that the respective production trucks will come into these races with a relaxed approach and not ruin the viewing experience by covering up the greatest racing of the year with an overkill of limited-view gimmick cameras, video packages, cartoons, NASCAR 101 teaching sessions, "scripts", etc.

You have to try very hard to 'screw up' a Talladega race broadcast so I look forward to both networks taking advantage of this perfect break in scheduling to get back on track.

Dot said...

SPEED covers racing the right way. I mentioned this in the prior column. Pure race coverage. Just the way we like it. No scripts, no driver X all the time.

I saw that the NW race ratings @ Phx were the same as last year. I find that odd since the CUP race was down. Is it the fans or the broadcast?

Alert: the NW race overlaps the CWTS pre race. Set the VCR/DVRs in case there's a red flag when the trucks start racing.

Speaking of which, why does SPEED show the pre race at a separate time but, BSPN & FOX includes it as part of the race? Makes it impossible to record just that part of the broadcast for later viewing if you don't have enough room on the DVR.

KoHoSo said...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Schrader was fun in the booth and I am told that SPEED will soon be announcing additional duties for him with the network.
Schrader's performance in the ARCA booth at Talladega made me wish that one of the Cup broadcasting teams had an opening for a color commentator. He could easily become as widely beloved as Benny Parsons or Ned Jarrett if given the chance.

It will also be ironic to see Schrader get more time on Speed after being unceremoniously dumped from his long-time gig on Mondays. This is great news and I'll definitely be looking forward to reading more about it!

SallyB said...

I find it difficult to believe that anyone at Fox or ESPN will bother to take note of what happens with the Truck broadcast. They have managed to ignore what the fans have been 'telling' them with the ratings for a couple years now. much like Nascar and the 'chase' format. The mucky-mucks still think that THEY know what the fans want better than the fans. With attendance and ratings on a steady downward slide, race fans are voting with their wallets (or ratings), yet nothing changes. Why would they pay attention now?

red said...

stricklinfan: it seems so very logical and easy to do but somehow it just never seems to happen that way.

@dot: agree with your comment completely!

when i have the (rare) choice of n'wide or trucks, i always choose trucks. it's that wonderful combination of great racing and a terrific broadcast: the speed team has rarely missed the mark. i cannot understand why this series isn't given more attention from nascar media.

to those who say it's a third tier series and who compare it to AAA baseball: i won't enter that argument b/c i think it's irrelevant. the point is: the races ARE being broadcast and the truck broadcasts are far superior to what's produced by the n'wide and cup broadcast teams. trucks have not been able to afford the "bells and whistles" in which the other two series indulge, nor is there the "storyline" aspect of the broadcasts. just professionals, showing and talking about racing all thru the pack.

now if we could just get the cup guys to sit on their hands, stay outta the trucks and get some promotion of the series by the media, i'd be one happy camper! i'm going to buy my tickets to "dover truck friday" next week! we get to see drivers from all three series that day and cap it off with terrific truck racing!!

Sids04 said...

Plus there is no digger nonsense !

Anonymous said...

I watched the ARCA race, also, yesterday, and the coverage was so much better than our...."hi-tech-boys"...on the big networks. It was mostly just pure racing for a refreshing change.

I think the addition of Schrader and not having Waltrip there, was also a huge benefit. I am sure the truck-coverage will also benefit from not having the......"over-the-top.....Waltrip in the booth. About the only time I watch the truck series is when he is not in the booth.

I would gladly accept a trade----Schrader for Waltrip!

Anonymous said...

Great article by Krista as to why the truck series is the best series of the big 3. Too bad Fox/SPEED wouldn't fly her back and forth to Kansas.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ESPN will be working Jarrett and Petree on the Nationwide race and then flying them to Connecticut for the Sunday morning one hour NASCAR Now show with Nicole Manske.

I bet almost all those folks wish ESPN has invested in a small studio in the Charlotte area.


Vicky D said...

The ARCA race broadcast was super, unfortunately, it started early and we missed the begining 10 or so laps. I also enjoyed Schrader in the booth. How about the driver of his car is in his 50's!!! Looking forward to the best race broadcast this weekend - the trucks!

Anonymous said...

I have always enjoyed the truck series! The coverage is awful. No practice, not a mention of it, yet it truly is the best racing. NASCAR pumped it up to get the series going then just have ignored it since.

JJ Yeley is in the field and I am looking forward to seeing him on the track. New Team- so not expecting much, but I think this will be Very good for him!

SonicAD said...

I don't think it'll overshadow the Cup race for one reason: weather.

Right now there's a 50% chance of rain around 5PM Central, which is just about when the Truck race starts, and it's supposed to rain into the night. It's also supposed to rain all day tomorrow, including severe storms during the IndyCar race, which, as Kansas is an oval, cannot be run in the rain. Indeed, there are supposed to be severe storms all day Monday too, with Tuesday being the first clear day. The Trucks and IndyCars may not race until then

hotaru-raganbaby_6 said...

SonicAD- Thanks for the update.

Ever since I started watching the trucks in 2003, I have always considered them better than Cup, and I dislike them getting the short end of the stick as far as coverage goes.

bevo said...

Interesting that Versus is tape-delaying Indy Car qualifying to go head-to-head with the Trucks.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the ARCA race. What a concept! Just cover the race W/O all the gimmicks. They must have copied their truck coverage, & it worked well.
Ken. in the booth was a breath of fresh air. If they can ever pry him out of a race car. He would be great in the booth. Moer Ken, MUCH less of either Waltrip, would be my receipe for a more pleasing broadcast.


RacingIn, For Fans of Fast! said...

Unfortunately, with the trucks rained out until Monday, we won't get a chance to see the results.

However, a GREAT article that should apply a couple more instances in the next month or two... Please, keep an eye and let us know how it all plays out ratings-wise.