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.