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 Antiquated, outdated and unmotivated describes the vibe that jumps out of the TV when images of Pocono hit the screen.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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