Saturday, June 20, 2009

Truck And Nationwide Series TV Networks Awaiting Rule Changes

There was no better example of just how badly both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series need rules changes than Saturday's TV coverage.

SPEED was up first with what is left of the rag-tag truck series. On this Saturday, the flat track action on the historic Milwaukee Mile was going to be just what the teams needed to get some momentum back into the series. Then, reality hit.

The already thin field was scrambled by the pit stop rules that limit the stops to either tires or fuel. Combined with the restarts that keep the leaders single-file, the combination pushed truck-after-truck off the lead lap.

Rick Allen led Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip on a very good TV outing for SPEED. These three were focused on finding the racing in the field and getting it on-camera. This philosophy worked very well until the number of trucks on the lead lap began to dwindle to single digits.

Luckily, the story of Ron Hornaday Jr.'s birthday worked well for SPEED since he won the race. Without that, it would have been a rough afternoon. The shame of the thin field is that SPEED made great pictures, provided great sound and was solid from top-to-bottom.

Since TDP has pointed it out when Waltrip brings his over-the-top pitchman mentality to the series, we should point it out when he is on his game. Milwaukee showed Waltrip can be a partner in the booth and understand his role as the third man. On this telecast, he allowed Allen to call the action and Parsons to be the lead analyst. This trio clicked.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the trio ESPN put together to call the Nationwide Series event. The evening started well with Allen Bestwick running Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty through a variety of topics on the pre-race show. These three rarely leave anything on the table and Wallace clearly enjoys this role.

Wallace then moved up to the broadcast booth and was joined by Jerry Punch and Ray Evernham. While the NASCAR experience between these three is robust, the on-air dynamic was not. These three rarely work together and Punch's regular partners Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett were off.

Both Jarrett and Petree have gotten very good at generating the excitement in the broadcasts that Punch cannot muster. On this night, Punch was presented with great side-by-side racing, tense restarts and emerging stories throughout the field.

The only time Punch's voice rose above the monotone delivery of a news reporter was when he threw to commercial or read a promo. There was not a moment of excitement during the racing action. It was brutal.

Rusty Wallace tried to fill the air time, but by the end of the telecast he sounded like he had a very long night. Evernham is apparently used to being cued to talk and never was a factor in the telecast. Often, he simply agreed with Wallace.

The Producer tried to make use of Bestwick and the excitable Daugherty in the infield frequently, but when the telecast was returned to Punch the wind again came out of the sails. If there was ever a race where Bestwick and Punch could have traded places to see how it went, this was it. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

The shame of it all was that the racing was outstanding and the TV production by the NASCAR on ESPN team was solid from the start. The pit reporters hustled during the race, but a Kenny Wallace interview should have happened after he went to the garage with mechanical problems.

After the race, ESPN had almost forty minutes to fill and it was Punch and company who handled the post-race. Normally, this is a time for Bestwick and Daugherty to work with the pit reporters to chase down the stories. The infield gang only appeared for the last couple of minutes before sign-off.

Pit reporters Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Dave Burns unfortunately lapsed into the "how does that make you feel" and the "walk me through that" questions as time began to drag. But, it was nice to see some Nationwide faces on national TV after a race.

One big question for both of these TV networks is when will NASCAR change some rules? The trucks need the new restart rules and a second look at the tires or fuel pit stops. It just does not work at some tracks. The Nationwide Series race would have been much more exciting if the new restart rules were in place.

Several times on both broadcasts various announcers mentioned the lack of the new restart rules as a gentle prod to get changes. NASCAR needs only to look at the number of start and park cars and trucks to realize that those changes better come now. Smaller fields mean that the lapped cars and trucks really change the race dynamic on the restarts in the later laps. That was very clear to see for TV viewers.

Saturday was a big day of racing with good weather and another NASCAR TV doubleheader. These side-by-side comparisons between series and TV networks really give a good look at just how different the racing and the approaches to televising it can be.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on these topics. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Dot said...

Where to start?

DFRs would really help the truck series. What is NASCAR waiting for? The two pit stop has to go, and soon. Compared to the NW coverage, the truck race was better. Phil, Rick and Mikey do a great job. So do the pit reporters.

The NW racing was good, from what we saw. Wish I could say that about JP & Rusty. I think Ray was afraid to step in. (DJ & AP have it figured out). Ray was a guest so I'll give him a pass. Both JP and Rusty using their tired phrases, young man, cat, etc. Identifying drivers by car number only. I get confused too, but it's not my job to keep track of who's driving what. Rusty mispronouncing names. At least he corrected Stenhouse's name.

BSPN must quit with the script. How many times did we hear about the travels of Carl & Weed? That got old fast. What I found funny before the race started was JP saying "there's Kyle Busch in the helicopter" as it was getting ready to land. The next shot was Weed in the golf cart. Was that trick photography? Does the producer (or whoever it is) set JP up to look stupid?

In the past, I've said nothing bad about JP. Now I don't care if his feelings get hurt. Doesn't he know how bad he is? Peter Principle in action. I'm really looking forward to his replacement in July. Oh, how I wish it was for CUP too.

The interviews after the race. You said it JD, the feelings and walking throughs. Get creative, pit reporters. No wonder the drivers are vanilla. They don't get good questions.

Weed needs to go to charm school. He is really ruining the spirit of NW racing. Trucks too, for that matter. Someone said in the comments that any NW driver would give anything for a 2nd place finish. What they must think of him? What an ingrate. Bad sportsmanship should not be tolerated. This really reflects badly on the Gibbs' organization and NASCAR.

If NASCAR is wondering why the TV numbers are down, they don't need to look any further than their own stupid rules and BSPNs coverage. It's only going to get worse for CUP after TNT is over.

The Loose Wheel said...

JD, Kenny never fell out of the race. That was probably why they never got an interview, my guess that is.

As for the trucks I cannot speak as I did not see much of the event.

The ESPN telecast, ouch. JP just dropped the ball start to finish.

GREAT racing!!! I mean WOW, who would have expected THAT from Milwaukee of all places?! Darnell has proven himself a contender now every time he gets in that car, Stenhouse did a great job and seeing Carl and Kyle get through the field added to the zest for this show. Unfortunately JP just couldnt match what we were seeing on the screen. What else is there to say about it? Its beating a dead horse because if ESPN was listening and open to a change, it would have happened by now.

TNT, take notes on how to do a post race though when a race finishes inside the broadcast window. ESPN aced that test beautifully. However the "feel" questions still irk me.

majorshouse said...

We desperately need some changes in the pit rules with the trucks. I have not seen how this pit rule helps competition, NASCAR are you listening? I also agree that both series need the same restart rule as the Cup series and it would definitely make things much more exciting.
The broadcast on Speed for the trucks was much better now that Mikey has either been told or has figured out that his role is simply support and it worked well, I enjoyed the Nationwide race via MRN and it was great listening to Eli Gold and crew rather than the boring garbage I saw from JP and the gang on ESPN. They really need to take lessons from TNT of what to do and no wonder attendance and tv ratings are in the toilet if this is what we get to see when ESPN gets the rest of the Cup schedule.

Anonymous said...

Evernham has the personality of a dishrag. I don't know why they would put him in the booth.

Anonymous said...

The new restart rules have done little to improve the ratings on Fox / TNT for the Cup Series. Those still showed the same overall trend, downward of 12-15%.

I suspect changing the rules prove to fall in line with the Cup Series in terms of improving ratings, meaning absolutely nothing.

Daly Planet Editor said...


His car was in the garage with the hood up and smoke pouring out. He needed to be interviewed like he was a "real" driver.

SPEED celebrity or not, a driver is a driver.


Vicky D said...

JD - you are right about Kenny Wallace, when he was in the garage he could have had a little interview, but I guess ESPN was more interested in finding the Carl & Kyle show on the track. We watched the Grand Am race yesterday and those guys in the booth can make that series racing really exciting. They even interviewed many crew chiefs too it ws a great broadcast. ESPN should watch those races for ideas on how a race should be televised for the enjoyment of the viewers.

J_Fellenbaum said...

Punch just has to go. His lack of emotion just drives me away from watching espn broadcasts. I usually mute them and listen to radio.

Ray seemed to be really quite for long stretches during the broadcast. I'm assuming he's still trying to figure out broadcasting...I think he'd be better suited to learning the ropes with Jarret as opposed to Wallace who by now, I think everyone realizes just handle it up in the booth.

One huge Kudos to ESPN - especially considering TNT's attempts recently - was the post race show. While I guess some people can complain about the questions being asked (Jamie Little is the worst ever at this) it was great to see ESPN stick with the coverage and get to alot of faces we normally wouldn't hear from.

That was exciting and exactly what we need. Lets get the top 5 interviewed and get some of those "opportunity" guys and see what happened with their day.

Great job in that regard, the rest...well hoping one day they let Alan in the booth to call things.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with your analysis of the Nationwide broadcast. I really think Rusty is overly enthusiastic and can dominate the show. I also agree that Ray didn't add anything to the telecast and he seemed uncomfortable and a little awkward in the booth. Ray looks old and tired.

Wisconsin Steve said...

I will never be able to understand how someone with as much passion for NASCAR racing as Dr. Punch can sound so bored at the end of every race.

Anonymous said...

they just try way too hard in the espn booth

they say what THEY THINK THEY SHOULD say instead of what they're really thinking

And Ray, buddy! Learn the names and numbers in the series!!
C'mon espn, this is more basic stuff than TV 101

The pst race was un watchable

Anonymous said...

The Nationwide RACES was quite good. The coverage of that race was miserable.

It is a shame that ESPN can take a solid race and make it sound boring.

stricklinfan82 said...

It's a shame to see what's happened to the Truck Series. Fewer and fewer real teams and more and more start and park teams. The ridiculous pit road rules sure don't help the matter any.

As for the Nationwide Series, bringing ESPN back into the NASCAR world has certainly proven to be a huge mistake. Both Milwaukee practice sessions went untelevised. Qualifying was tape-delayed and editing once again made the coverage a debacle, particularly during the go-or-go-home portion. And the race coverage left much to be desired.

It sure will be a shame when these ESPN practice/qualifying blackouts and tape-delays cross over to the Cup Series in a few weeks.

On another TV related topic, congratulations to TNT. For the first time this year ratings for a Cup race (Michigan) didn't decrease from a year ago and there was actually an increase in viewership. Clearly word-of-mouth on the return of good TV coverage travelled fast, as it just took 2 weeks after Fox's exit for the viewers to come back. I can only wonder what excuse Hill has in store for that one.

Anonymous said...

I thought the broadcast was very good i do not agree with most on this blog. Ray and Rusty are two of the smartest guys in the sport.Quit bashing them they sounded fine.

Anonymous said...

Get a grip. JP aint going anywhere no matter how many times you whine, and he shouldn't.

dawg said...

With Punch you know exactly what you're going to get. ZZZZZZZZZZZ

alex said...

I'm surprised any of those Nationwide cars finished the race with all four wheels still attached. Rusty led me to believe that the drivers made all the wheels fall off the cars.

red said...

missed the trucks this week -- sorry to all those guys b/c they usually are the best show of the week!

n'wide was a cluster**** and completely frustrated, angered and depressed me. it was all i could do to even turn on the last 20-some laps of the cup race on sunday b/c of how horribly the n'wide race broadcast deteriorated and then just died on saturday night. left a very, very bad feeling in my brain by the end of the night.

carl&kyle & their amazing california adventure, cats and wheels being driven off as that young man dove into the corner, drivers' names being mispronounced or not used at all -- it just all piled up on me.

i wanted to hear more from evernham and less from wallace and anything from dr punch that could be called "doing PxP." i wanted what was being discussed to somehow relate to what i was seeing on the screen. i wanted the director and producer to show me the racing all thru the field and keep me interested in what was -- inevitably -- another n'wide race being dominated by cup drivers.

basically, i wanted a race broadcast of n'wide to be more like the tnt cup broadcast of the prior week (let alone to come close to the job tnt did on sunday!) it wasn't meant to be.

so, no more n'wide for me until marty reid hits the booth. i can't justify spending time away from my family, watching something that only ticks me off at the end of those 3 hours. life isn't worth sacrificing for such a poor broadcast.

and anon@6:29: with all due respect, having an opinion that is negative about someone is NOT "bashing" that person. "bashing" would be calling them names, making personal comments about them, being obnoxious and crude. saying that rusty overwhelmed the broadcast, that ray needed to step up and become engaged in the conversation and that dr punch is badly abused by being placed in his current position is not "bashing" them. they are likely fine people in their private lives but i'm only party to their broadcast work and it wasn't good on saturday. not in any way, shape or form.

Anonymous said...

the only problem i have with dale jarrett, is the love affair he has with toyota--it has been nice to hear ford, chevy, and dodge mentioned during the race since airing on tnt--just saying!

Anonymous said...

truck series is the best racing but have u noticed there aren,tnearly as many champ. contenders by the half-way point? how about a version of the "chase" ? call it a "re-load" or something- only tweak it to re-bunch the drivers below the cut-off point and add extra $$$ to those spots at year's end. Want to draw more competition? try PAYING MORE PRIZE $$$!!!- duh. fuel/tires stops are the pits. AND how can Johnny Benson the current champ not get sponsors? or Bodine for a few races too? I can see the fringe teams during the eco.-situ. having difficulties but Benson and Bodine?? Something more to that story.