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.
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