Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday's Classy TV Presentation Of Two Struggling Series

It was a long TV day for many motorsports fans who watched a twin bill of NASCAR and then tuned-in to watch Danica and the IRL boys run in Richmond, VA.

Marty Reid joined the NASCAR on ESPN team as that group televised the Nationwide Series race from Loudon, NH on ABC. Things got off to a shaky start as one Nationwide driver asked an ABC pit reporter why the just-completed NASCAR Modified race was not televised on SPEED. At least it was a good question.

Things settled down a bit as Allen Bestwick handled the pre-race show. One big surprise was his cohort Rusty Wallace lowering the boom on Kyle Busch on national TV. Wallace explained that he did not like the way Busch had treated the media or the fans recently. Wallace said on TV what many fans had said online. Time for Busch to grow-up.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were both back from vacation and returned in fine form. Coupled with the veteran Reid, these three made a great combination on the air that may have raised some eyebrows back in Bristol, CT.

Reid led the two through the race by calling the action on the track and letting Jarrett and Petree stick to adding their expertise as the events unfolded. This new dynamic worked well because Reid also used the pit reporters relentlessly during the entire race. This may well have been the best event of the season for ESPN where information from the pit reporters was concerned.

Reid also established the tone by calling the start-and-park cars out every time one left the track. Although the producer chose not to follow-up with any interviews, Reid made it a point to explain to the TV viewers whenever a car went to the garage. This honest and upfront approach was very different from the head-in-the-sand world of other NASCAR broadcast teams.

The New Hampshire flat track once again featured passing on pit road during caution flag pit stops. ESPN has recently been struggling with this issue on TV and did again during this event. Basically, the network sets-up three cars in video boxes and provides a long view of pit road. Viewers watch the three cars get service and then are able to watch all of them race to the pit exit.

Now, ESPN cuts cameras inside the pit stops, completely losing any perspective that has been established for the fans and also missing the field as they leave the pits. For a TV network that prided itself on establishing this production piece, things have certainly changed.

Luckily, the on-air team continued to do a great job with the commentary while those pit issues were underway. The commercial timing was great and the pictures were once again super in HD. Speaking of HD, several emailers asked about a less-than-crisp audio mix during the NH portions of the race that cleared-up when ABC showed commercial breaks. My tech guru suggests some transmission issues may have compressed the audio.

The ESPN crew also has a very good two-box video effect used for many situations, including pit reports under green and also Tim Brewer's updates. Perhaps, prior to the upcoming Sprint Cup coverage, the team might consider keeping the racing in the big box and trying the reporters in the small one.

Even with the flat track and not a lot of passing, the commentary from all ten of the NASCAR on ESPN announcers made the race enjoyable. It was good to have Jarrett and Petree back in the booth and it was amazing how well they responded to Marty Reid. Ironically, a nice Kyle Busch interview was featured post-race. Maybe he did listen to uncle Rusty.

SPEED was up next with the trucks and Krista Voda was handling the pre-race show from a steamy Memphis. To her credit, Voda hung-in on pit road for the entire thirty minute show in blazing temperatures. Voda is a Pittsburgh resident, so that kind of heat is going to make for a good story in the off-season.

Everyone knows the trucks are struggling and SPEED updated the fact that a meeting next week may change the complexion of the series for 2010. The SPEED team has done an amazing job with this series over the years and hopefully it will be able to continue despite the tough economic times.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons were without Michael Waltrip and some of the excitement viewers are used to hearing from the SPEED team was lacking. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander did great work on pit road, but the field was dominated by Ron Hornaday and was just a bit thin to create any good battles on the track.

Once again, the TV cameras could not hide the fact that the crowd was small. Seven trucks pulled off before lap 30. Only 21 of the 38 starters were within 50 laps of the leader when the 200 lap race was over. Something is going to have to change soon to help SPEED get through this season.

Ironically, the IRL race was next on the Versus TV Network and immediately one thing jumped out again. The side-by-side commercials that allow the racing to continue on the screen and offer the sponsors additional signage while the spots play is outstanding. Certainly, for both the Nationwide and Truck Series this has to be considered soon.

It was a good double feature of NASCAR on Saturday, but we would like to know your thoughts on this coverage. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

To view the picture of Kyle Busch catching the checkered flag in New Hampshire, just click on it. Thanks as always to Getty Images for the help with great photos.

TDP will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race on TNT Sunday afternoon. Please join us.


Anonymous said...

JD - your comments on the races says it all. I couldn't believe how good the race sounded with Marty in place of Jerry! And he mentioned the cars "retiring" early. Awesome & deeply appreciated by this race fan. Can we get Marty for the Cup races too? Puhleeze.

The trucks - wow 38 trucks & a few w/o sponsors. And a few losing sponsors soon!
Those stands sure were empty. I couldn't help wonder if not only economy, but the recent disrespect shown didn't help people decide to watch it free as opposed to paying to roast in 100+ temps.

Why can't we have the same commercials as IRL? Why do they get innovations & we get Ozzie & Harriet era?

All in all I'm kind of in racing overloaded. Gotta get ready for Cupcars,

Dot said...

The booth guys were great today for the NW race. I didn't miss JP one bit. I bet DJ & AP like working with a competent co worker too.

I hope too that the racing is in the big box and the other stuff is relegated to the small box when CUP racing starts on BSPN. Maybe by then we'll get the true triple split pit stops.

Is it up to the PxP guy to mention the S&Ps? Or, did Marty not get the memo? I thought it was a secret.

I DVR'd the truck race but read the comments before I watched it. I knew who won but Dan didn't. That was a good race to FF through. It was kind of boring. NASCAR really should have changed their schedule this year. Again, someone had their head in the sand about this series. JD, your comments in the truck thread made sense. Keep it east bound and at companion races. Or, something to that effect.

I'm not a Rusty fan. Good for him to say what others won't about Weed. It is kind of a pots and kettles thing though.

I copied this from the other post.
While watching the IRL race and their side by side coverage I saw the Mobil 1 comml that is shown during our race coverage. Tell me why again the sponsors don't want this?

Read on Twitter from KP that Daytona on TNT is going side by side. True?

@ Jo, girl, you are killing me. Ozzie & Harriett, indeed.

Mike aka RickyBobby said...

I'll admit not having Jerry Punch was an improvement but other than that the telecast was still outright boring. ABC and Speed both had commercial overload IMO. The last ten laps of the Nationwide race still had no excitement whatsoever. At 6 to go the booth sounded just like when it was 160 to go. Marty Reid did give more general info then JP but pretty much any info is more than JP gives. There were way too many "umm, err, uhh moments for me.
ESPN and Fox really should have to face Nascar for actions detrimental to the sport. I've been a fan for about 12 years and every week i get closer and closer to just turning off the race. sorry for the long post JD but I had to vent.

Anonymous said...

I watched both races and enjoyed them. First truck race in a while as Michael Waltrip and his idiocy drives me away.I really wish SPEED would replace him. I know some people like him, but I also know many don't and I believe more and more are tiring of him.

50 yr. fan said...

Good for Rusty hammering the
"Irritator". Marty Reid was
like a breath of fresh air calling
the race.

Mary said...

Enjoyed both races and was glad Rusty had his say about KB - the 3 in the booth seem to have a good chemistry. I think the reason KB was nice in post race was because he won - wonder how he would have behaved if he came in 2nd?!

Anonymous said...

Marty Reid was an improvement, but the quality of all 3 races today was a lot less than "must see TV." I'm Tivoing all of these now and just fast-forwarding thru to see any segments of interest. So the advertisers are getting nothing from me. If there were some decent racing, that would change. And double file restarts alone aren't going to do it!

Daly Planet Editor said...

The side-by-side commercials on the IRL race just floored me again.

No matter what it takes, NASCAR has to get in there and make it happen.

dawg said...

YES! A Truck race W/O Mikey, & his overexposed sthick, is like a breath of fresh air.
The empty seats in Memphis were sobering. If they cann't draw at a stand alone date this doesn't bode well.
Someone on the truck broadcast teal is really challanged, in their understanding of fuel milage under caution, vs green.

West Coast Diane said...

Marty Reid was so much better than the good Doctor. The booth can't do anything about the racing, or lack there of. With Marty it was more like 3 guys watching a race together, not a "scripted" story with no real play by play.

Think about it. Marty comes in cold and does a thousand times better than JP. So we more time together it should only get better.

On a side note. Watching the really boring IRL race on DVR I had to stop when I saw the Go Daddy ad with Danica autographing body parts. I can not believe they got that on TV. Disgusting. How can you watch with children?

Steve L. said...

The NW race w/out Punch was great. It is PAST TIME for him to go bye-bye... The three in the booth sounded very good. The excitement was so much better than the past NW races.

Truck race, well for me, was one of the worst of the season for them. The Trucks have been the very best as far as TV coverage, but this one was a dud. It was like they weren't watching the track and missing things going on in the race. One time, they called a caution and then figured out it was a car in the wall, stopped, in turn four. Way after the flag was thrown. At least MW does look out the window and usually calls the problems as they are happening. He has improved this season, as far as self-promoting, and was missed in the booth yesterday.

It was also nice not to have Dweeb, Weed, or whatever we're calling him this week, to not stink up this weeks race. I'm sure the Truck Series regulars could use the purse money that usually goes to the Cup guys.

Lots of racing on TV since Friday, another weekend of not getting anything done around the house! LOL

bevo said...

@Diane- It wasn't a Go Daddy commercial. Boost Mobile was the culprit.

Vicky D said...

I thought the IRL commercial breaks were great but those Boost Mobile with Danica were absolutely awful. Like someone else mentioned, I guess Marty didn't read the memo about not mentioning the S&P'ers. There are lots of improvements for the Nascar races that they have to institute soon especially in the truck series. We liked our David Starr finished third too.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Interesting how many fans really appreciate the ole pro Marty Reid ...maybe they didn't know what to expect ...NHRA, Trucks, whatever race is at hand for Marty is a treat to watch ...I will be emailing my comments directly to ESPN ...suggest others do so, too

yankeegranny said...

It amazes me that the 3rd place driver got no air time after the race again. If Brad K sounded like an illiterate moron during an interview I could understand it, but he is a bright articulate young man who is projecting the image NASCAR wants the public to see. We rarely hear from his crew chief during the race either. I would love to hear an explanation from someone from the broadcasting network as to why the 88 team is ignored week after week. He is in third place in the standings,runs up front week after week. and is the highest placed Nationwide regular driver, but gets very little air time. How come?

Haus14 said...

I completely forgot about the IRL races since it is on Versus. I don't watch that channel much so I don't see the promos for the races. I wonder how many others are in the same boat.

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice any audio problems for the Nationwide race at NH. But the previous race at Milwaukee was horrendous. It was a HD problem as well because when I switched to SD the problem went away. The mixing between the booth crew's mics and the track noise (engines, track announcer etc.) was the problem. The track noise was way louder, almost to the point that you could barely hear what was being said.

Unfortunately, ESPN also had the coverage of the Indycar race in Iowa and it was even worse - I couldn't hear what the announcers were saying at all. I sure hope ABC/ESPN figures the audio out before they take over the Cup series or it is going to be a long second half of the season.

chad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

If Weber was told to go home, he must have done something really stupid. It will be interesting to see what that is and if he'll be back.