Sunday, August 2, 2009

The 24 Hours Of Pocono Is Calling


Let's begin with the easy questions about Pocono. Yes, NASCAR was just there a short while ago. Yes, it is going to rain. Yes, there are four hours of pre-race TV. Yes, there are no lights for night racing. Yes, the drivers and the teams hate it.

So, there you go. As a fan there is just not a whole lot that motivates you to watch a live race from this track on TV. Antiquated, outdated and unmotivated describes the vibe that jumps out of the TV when images of Pocono hit the screen.

Into this fun steps ESPN with one hour of pre-race coverage at 1PM ET and then live race coverage from 2PM until, well, it's all over.

Rusty Wallace had to be happy as he flew his airplane back to Pocono from the Iowa Speedway. The track that Wallace built hosted its first Nationwide Series event on Saturday afternoon. The Iowa area turned out 56 thousand fans for a track with only 25 thousand permanent seats. Is there such a thing as a double sell-out?

The temporary stands worked just fine and Wallace watched his track host side by side racing and draw rave reviews from the teams. Now, Wallace will join Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty for the long day's journey into the Pocono night. These three will handle the pre-race show and then get ready to fill a lot of time if the rain showers arrive. TV viewers may get to hear a whole lot about Iowa depending on just how wet it gets in Pocono.

After a rough Indy race, Jerry Punch leads the NASCAR on ESPN team onto the air for what is a very challenging telecast. Especially with the COT, the racing at Pocono tends to take place on pit road and restarts. With long green flag runs, it just might be time on pit road that produces a winner.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree seem to be having a blast. They tolerate Punch, but often take over the telecasts and try to get the excitement of the racing relayed to the TV viewer. At Indy, these two answered endless questions from Punch throughout the telecast while the action on the track went virtually unnoticed.

Look for Petree to be especially vocal about the different ways that crew chiefs have gone about setting up their cars and how the strategies unfold on pit road. No Larry McReynolds on this broadcast, just Tim Brewer in the Tech Garage pointing to shocks and springs as if fans just found the sport yesterday.

The Saturday ARCA race at Pocono showed the good and bad side of this track on TV. Shooting the long frontstretch from the Turn 1 camera allows viewers to watch the field widen-out as they all pick up speed. Unfortunately, the second and third turns of this triangle are flat and boring.

It takes a good aggressive director to keep fans interested through the mixing of aerial shots, in-car cameras and low angle speed shots. Once the field sorts out, the only way things do not go downhill fast is with the TV crew keeping the pictures interesting.

ESPN drown viewers in pre-recorded soundbites from drivers during Indy that played right over the live racing in the background. The network also put Brewer and his tech explanations front and center, again with the race in the background. It seems that the fundamental issue of the race being the most important thing is still being missed.

The IRL, ARCA, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Trucks all presented races on Saturday that did not feature an infield studio set. The action on the track was the theme of the show. ESPN will have eleven announcers once again on the race telecast and this is simply proving to be too many.

Trying to get the broadcast booth, the Infield Pit Studio, the Tech Garage and all four pit reporters time on the air is hard to do. Add in the sponsored features, the commercials and the result is that ESPN finds itself in the same situation it did last season. Ten pounds of NASCAR TV in a five pound bag.

TDP will start a live blog during the day to follow the weather and the pre-race TV coverage. After the Connecticut-based NASCAR Now show at 10AM, RaceDay on SPEED has two hours to fill outdoors in Pocono rain or shine. Depending on how bad the weather is, there could be lots of changes to the TV schedule. Our first update should be at 9AM.

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12 comments:

KRBama said...

The last Pocono race was absolutely the best nap I've had in a while.... The sound of the cars, the drone of the announcers voices, the cloudiness where I live......it was great. Since DVR is my best friend, I saw everything that was interesting in about 30 mins since I skipped commercials....so...I kinda like Pocono. =)

Anonymous said...

I'm already fading ... zzzzz.

This track is just HORRIBLE. Please get at least on of its races sent to Iowa (good NWide race today), Nashville (ok Truck race), or Kentucky (AWESOME IRL race tonight).

Karen said...

Why, oh, why does Pocono get two races when they're the most boring ones on the schedule? Truly, mind boggling.

red said...

not a fan of pocono track in any way: have sat thru a few races there and i remember thinking "when will this be over?" i love racing but pocono is truly a long string of cars going left all day and it is usually won on pit road. but, as i say: it is racing (after a fashion) and i watch it twice each year.

except this year. i don't have the ability to sit thru another espn-botched race broadcast. the tipping point was last week's mess at indy -- and i only caught the last part of it. so, no race broadcast on tv for me today: i'll likely listen on the radio.

and next week isn't looking so great for me, either.

of course, it's likely all a moot point as it's rain all day today in the philly area and north into the mountains and monday's forecast is significantly improved.

and for the record: i agree w/folks about the future of this track. take one race date away and give it to, oh, i dunno? iowa? nashville? kentucky (but not until they fix those weepers!) just doesn't merit 2 dates any longer (if it ever did.)

Bill H said...

I watch TV and talk about what I am watching all the time. Can I get a job like Punch?

Anthony said...

Don't be so hard on Pocono. Yeah, the track is big, but it's practically the same way that Indianapolis is. I think the issues with this race are the new car and the TV presentation. We know the issues that the CoT have presented. Between that and the gear rule that prevents the shifting, these two races have become tougher to handle.

I live 2 hours from Pocono and have been there twice. I've loved both times a lot! It's not a bad race when you're there. With the new car and rules package, however, it might be time to make the races 400 miles.

I don't agree with getting rid of the dates. This is the closest track to New York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia (though Dover's pretty close, too). It's a unique track and definitely better than the "cookie-cutters" that dominate the schedule.

Bottom line: Pocono's a great track. NASCAR needs to change some of the packages with the cars and ESPN needs to do a better job presenting the race.

Daly Planet Editor said...

9AM - Rain in the area and very wet at the track. Not looking good for racing at 2PM.

red said...

@anthony: i also live w/i 90 minutes of long pond and i have also been to several races there: different seats, different locations -- all of that. and i respectfully disagree about this track.
i agree the COT just stinks on a track this big. but the older car wasn't any great shakes there, either.

the backstretch is all but invisible from the grandstands b/c you can't see over all the coaches in the infield to that backstretch. and i have personal experience w/the differing weather patterns just from the frontstretch and the backstretch: pouring rain on the backstretch and sun down the frontstretch -- and a red flag thrown as a result.

best seats are across from the pits b/c that's where all the action happens. sit anywhere else and you're watching single-file racing for a very long time.

i agree that the track folks and the amenities are good: what other track has that incredible line of restrooms?!? and i don't fault the track personnel for my less-than-stellar visits there. they care about the track and the fans. (of course, the parking is a gigantic failure but that's not unique to long pond! and if folks could just learn that they need to form THREE lines when leaving the track by car, we'd all get out of there much sooner!)

but it's a big ole track with limited sightlines and even the unique aspect of the triangle track can't save that for me.

i hit dover at least twice a year, sometimes doing trucks and n'wide or trucks and cup in the same weekend but always getting there for one of the races that exist for each date. monster mile is further away for me to drive but i know i'll get good parking and a great seat anywhere i choose. and, i've seen some amazing finishes there, like the kenseth/burton finish a few years back.

as i say: we can agree to disagree bc that's what makes racing discussions great. but i still say long pond needs to give up a date.

Newracefan said...

Well as I sit here under the lights at 10 in the morning due to thunderstorms I am not happy since I'm 90 minutes away from Pocono, hopefully the mountains break this mess up. I would like to see Pocono shorten the races before they lose a date. I have never gone to Pocono because I know I can not see all the race from my seat like I can at Dover so I choose to watch on TV. That said if comes to a choice between Dover, Richmond and Pocono; I pick Pocono to lose the date.

If ESPN continues to cover the races like what we enjoyed last week, I'll give up watching on TV too.

Anthony said...

If you sit up top, you can see the whole place. Otherwise, red, I completely agree about the actual visibility being tough. It's not the only place like that, though, so that's a minor setback.

I have sat through the dreaded rain in turn 2 and sunshine on the front stretch ... what a pain! I'm not even gonna comment on parking, either.

Nice thing about Dover is that it sits, literally, off of Delaware 1. Pocono's too far from I-80.

The racing at Pocono is definitely not the best there is, but it's uniqueness is what keeps me excited about it each year. 400 miles would make it a little more interesting, though. Not much, but a little.

If Pocono ever lost a date, though, I wouldn't mind seeing it go to a place like Iowa. That could be the next place for a Sprint Cup race.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up to track the Pocono rain.

Anonymous said...

The only racing, is racing the rain
Dump both races there