Sunday, June 7, 2009
Kyle Petty Leads TNT Into A Challenging Sunday
This week, the TV network televising the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races changed. Gone is Fox with all the good and not so good things they brought to the table. Starting a six race run is TNT. The star of their coverage is Kyle Petty.
This year, Petty decided to ride his motorcycle to all six races with SPEED's Rutledge Wood stowed in the sidecar. On this first trip to Pocono, he decided to make a couple of stops. One was very special to him for a simple reason. Petty loves guitars.
That is Petty above at the CF Martin Guitar company holding up a hand-made guitar that will retail for over one hundred thousand dollars. It is clear to see that this stop was a great call. The smile on Petty's face could not be any bigger.
Sunday, Petty gets to walk into a sport that had a very tough weekend so far on TV. Friday's Sprint Cup activity from Pocono was washed away completely. The Friday night Camping World Truck Series race from Texas featured a starting field of 33 trucks. 10 of them pulled off the track and headed straight for the garage before the first pit stop for fuel. They were fake teams with no agenda of ever racing.
Saturday brought a Nationwide Series qualifying session that was started late due to live college baseball on ESPN2. It was not switched to ESPN Classic, but instead was collapsed in awkward style by simply dropping segments of the program. It made the announcers, the network and the sport look ridiculous.
Hours later, the Nationwide Series race from Music City USA (Nashville, TN) was run live with the TV theme that a new face was going to be in Victory Lane. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch had flown from Pocono to race, so the Nationwide regulars only had to get by two Cup drivers to win.
Kyle Busch then dominated the race, decimated the Nationwide regulars and lit his tires on fire doing a burnout. But, he saved the very best for last.
He then stepped into Victory Lane and smashed one of the most treasured trophies in NASCAR to pieces. It was a guitar. Artist Sam Bass had hand-painted a custom-made Gibson Les Paul model guitar. It is a trophy as historic to Nashville as the grandfather clock is to Martinsville. Instead of appreciating it, Busch broke it to pieces on national TV.
The ESPN telecast crew did not know what to do or say. Busch is a talented driver who works for Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the most respected teams in the sport. ESPN let Busch completely off the hook and closed the show without a moment of explanation to the shocked TV audience.
Into this mess steps Kyle Petty. While he is joined by Bill Weber, Wally Dallenbach and Larry McReynolds, it is clear that Petty is the show. TNT has 90 minutes of pre-race programming before the Pocono race. The first hour features Petty and McReynolds.
Kyle cut his TV teeth on the now cancelled Tradin' Paint show on SPEED and also on his six race TNT assignment. On this Sunday, a lot of eyes will be on him as he wades through the mess of this very strange weekend. The good news is that Petty has the capacity to handle it and the experience to be credible when he does.
This first Sprint Cup race without Digger, Darrell Waltrip or the Fox attitude could not have come at a better time. The TNT crew handled the Cup happy hour telecast on Saturday and it appeared that they had not missed a beat since last year. NASCAR needs a change of pace, a breath of fresh air and a TV perspective that is not tainted with team ownership or sponsor commitments.
TNT has all kinds of video features ready for the pre-race, from Petty's ride to the track to a profile of NASCAR legend Dave Marcis. Reporter Lindsay Czarniak goes fishing with Ryan Newman and his dad near the track while Wally's World goes green screen. This year, Dallenbach is going to be superimposed on each track to explain the specifics of what to watch for in the race and how to get around the different circuits.
TNT hits the air at 12:30PM with NASCAR on TNT Live and then at 1:30PM with Countdown to Green. Race coverage starts at 2PM. TDP will be live blogging the race telecast, please join us.
NASCAR fans can get the early news from NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 10AM. Mike Massaro is in the studio with Boris Said while Angelique Chengelis and Nicole Manske will be reporting from Pocono. RaceDay on SPEED starts at 10:30AM and Jimmy Spencer is back on the set. His reaction to the Kyle Busch incident might be well worth watching.
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