Sunday, October 25, 2009
Live Blogging "NASCAR Now" and "RaceDay" (ESPN2/10AM - SPEED/11AM)
This is a tough weekend for the NASCAR TV gang. Rain washed out almost everything on Saturday and left Martinsville a muddy mess. There are three hours of pre-race shows before the 1:43PM green flag.
NASCAR Now on ESPN at 10AM will feature Nicole Manske with Boris Said in the studio. Reporting from Martinsville will be Marty Smith. Perhaps, Said is not the short-track expert one might like to discuss Martinsville, but maybe his testing experience will serve him well.
Manske has lots of topics to choose from as the NASCAR news this week has been all over the map. From Elliott Sadler in a Ford at Talladega to the continuing dominance of Hendrick Motorsports equipment, the hour should be easy to fill.
Smith is in Martinsville and it will be interesting to see if he responds to the Jeremy Mayfield appearance on ESPN's Outside the Lines this morning. Smith has been solid for ESPN all season long and continues to navigate his way through the twisted world of the NASCAR garage.
This preview program is better when Ricky Craven is in the studio, although Said has certainly improved his TV skills. Craven is the outstanding studio analyst for ESPN and the network better lock him up for next season.
The franchise is up next for SPEED. RaceDay is as close to a Sprint Cup Series points race as the network will ever get. The Daytona twins and the All-Star race are nothing compared to an entire season of two-hour pre-race shows.
When this program was moved an hour earlier to avoid TV network conflicts, it changed rather dramatically. There is now little opportunity to build-up the excitement as the race gets set to begin. Instead, lethargic drivers step out of buses for interviews and the driver's meeting is often the highlight from the infield.
This put the focus back on the main panel that consists of host John Roberts with commentators Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. As we documented last week, things are fractured right now as the panel does not know whether to have fun or address serious issues. The resulting mix is a mess.
One minute Wallace is table dancing and the next Spencer is calling NASCAR out on a very serious issue. Both men have good opinions on various racing topics, but they have stopped interacting and now speak individually to the fans. "Let me tell you something" is heard by Wallace almost every time he tries to change the tons from comical to serious.
Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler continue to be the foundation of this program in terms of NASCAR content. Venturini is long overdue to increase her time on SPEED, but has not been seen on Race Hub, TWIN or The SPEED Report. Sadler did a solid job as an analyst on SPEED's Nationwide Series coverage of practice and qualifying. It seems he has an eye on the TV booth for the future.
Rutlege Wood is also featured on the program, handling the entertainment and sales features. Wood has made himself into a character and now often seems to be trying to keep his TV image intact. It's been quite a while since he was a fresh face on the scene.
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