Friday, November 20, 2009

Truck Series TV Team Says Goodbye


There are many interesting features on the current NASCAR TV landscape, but none is perhaps as unique as the work of SPEED's Camping World Truck Series TV production team.

Over the past three years, TDP has referred to them as "the little engine that could" and as producing the best NASCAR series to watch on TV. We have argued with Rick Allen over start-and-park trucks, howled with laughter at the Halloween costumes and watched Michael Waltrip tweet with the fans during the race.

Producer Keith D'Alessandro has put together quite a little group. To say the productions are old school is putting it mildly. His focus on the teams, personalities and actual racing is evident from the start of practice through the final lap of the race.

Over the years, Krista Voda has hosted truck series pre-race shows from pickup truck beds, desert mountains and the infield among the fans. TV viewers have seen her in the freezing weather of a February night in Daytona and standing in the pouring rain at Martinsville.

Voda is the perfect opening act for the truck series. She is knowledgeable, professional and personable. The most interesting part is that she is alone. Voda's strength is that what you see is what you get. Her fearless approach to TV comes across as someone who truly enjoys what she is doing and is simply there to get fans caught up on the news before the race.

Her cast of characters features pit reporters Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander. This duo has an amazing amount of information about the teams, drivers and personalities in the truck series. Their reporting style during a race is much more of an ongoing conversation with the crew chiefs along pit road. The bottom line is, even with just two voices, it works.

Even after several seasons as a regular in the TV booth, Waltrip is still the new kid on the block. This year has seen Waltrip settle down and put the emphasis of his excitable commentary on the drivers. Although an occasional moment of "sponsor-itis" still breaks out, Waltrip's perspective and personality have been good for both the series and the broadcast.

The team of Rick Allen and Phil Parsons is always discussed together. They have worked on this series for many years. The combination of Allen's personal passion for the competitors and Parsons knowledge of the happenings behind the scenes is a huge part of SPEED's success.

The contrast between the high tech and theme-driven coverage of the Sprint Cup Series by ESPN and the low tech race-driven coverage of the trucks from SPEED is amazing.

This season, even with the loss of several key teams and dwindling numbers of trucks actually racing, SPEED managed to grow the series TV. Through the Fox and TNT portions of the Sprint Cup Series season, the trucks fit right in.

It was only when ESPN took over the Cup coverage that the contrast in production styles of race coverage lept off the TV screen. The old school truck series approach just let things happen and then followed the action. ESPN's tech-driven coverage played back team radio conversations, replayed pit stops for analysis and reflected a race theme that had been selected in advance of the green flag.

D'Alessandro and his team stuck to their guns this year despite some challenges and in the end it paid off again. Going into the final race Friday night in Homestead they have been the most consistent and enjoyable TV team of the season.

The only thing lacking has been some additional programming support from SPEED. That issue might have been solved this week when the network confirmed that the Monday through Thursday program series NASCAR Race Hub would be returning for 2010 starting January 11.

This should finally give the truck series a true TV home for mid-week news and interviews away from the track. Ironically, SPEED seems to be gravitating toward one main host for the program. Her last name is Voda.

Have you watched the Camping World Truck Series this season on SPEED? This is a great opportunity to give them some feedback about what you liked and what you think could or should change for next season.

To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks once again for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

The truck series is bizarre.

They produce some of the best racing telecasts, but no one watches.

They provide some of the best on-track racing, but the stands are empty.

They have personalities galore, but none of them can sell a souvenir to save their life.

It's weird -- the truck series honestly seems to offer just about everything the fans claim they want... but the series cannot draw eyeballs on TV or in person no matter what they do. Is it any wonder NASCAR doesn't listen to our complaints about Cup both on-track and in media? Honestly, if the fans lined the stands for the trucks (which honestly, has some of the best racing anywhere) or even provided good ratings, maybe someone would notice.

Jojaye said...

JD - you forgot Kristas most fearless feat of daring do! Remember when she walked up the steep embankment at a track in stiletto heels?

The truck series is the only series I'm still watching & taping. They are really gonna be missed in the off season in our house.

Its a real treat to kick back & watch a race unfold, to have all the trucks shown & you can follow the on track action just by watching the TV.

Coherent questions from reporters to drivers & CC - you can tell they respect each other. Do you think for 1 minute drivers would have gone along with the Halloween show for the other network? Oh I forgot it wouldn't be in the script.

Thanks SPEED for a great year of racing again!

Dot said...

Of all the races on TV this season, I'm going to miss the CWTS on SPEED the most. Good camera people catching the action as it's happening, excitement in the booth, Krista on the pre race show, Ray & Adam in the pits, I could go on and on.

How is it that Keith and Co can produce great race coverage with less, and BSPN can mess it up with more? You'd think NASCAR would be paying attention to the ratings, up for trucks and down for CUP. Something's not right.

Debbie said...

The trucks are my favorite. I love the guys in the booth and the racing on the track, any track. We'll go to Daytona in Feb and only go for the duels and the truck race. I don't like all the hype and other bs that goes with the 500. I love the trucks!! I'm in Homestead now just to make sure we get to all the truck stuff tomorrow. Hey, they were practicing when we pulled in, nothing like setting up camp to the sounds of trucks on the track!

Sophia said...

Anon

I think a huge issue is SPEED (CRAPPY channel during week primetime!!) is on digital for many of us and after this week, it's gone for us on a budget cut. :-( It should be on basic cable=more eyeballs. Some lucky ones have it on basic.

I also enjoy these races the best of all for the reasons JD mentioned.

Loved the guys in the booth...Yep Mikey can get hyper at times but has indeed, settled into letting it be about the drivers on the track mode. & I love his passion for the sport, like the other guys in the booth have.

LOVE the camera work for the truck races and may it NEVER BE JUNKED UP & GUNKED UP with excess gizmos!

Also i wish ALL NETWORKS would do away with the crawlers during the races & the tracker on the top screen some of the times.

THEY ALL take up too much real estate on tvs but I digress.

The truck series is like NASCAR was before I started watching (2004) I'll bet and before RhymingSighingTrying Brian (France) took over.

Anonymous said...

The best racing telecasts that any NASCAR series has.Too many reasons to list why it's so good,too many reasons to list why Cup broadcasts aren't even close.

RPM said...

Without a doubt the CWTS is consistently the best racing in NASCAR. It's the most fun to watch and the SPEED crew does a fantastic job start to finish.

For the life of me I can't understand why this series can't get fans in the seats or higher ratings. That would bring sponsors which would bring more teams and even better racing.

majorshouse said...

I have to echo the sentiments of everyone here. I love the truck series because of the old school approach to not only the racing but the telecast on Speed. I like the simplicity in the telecasts and wish that the other networks especially ESPN would see that less is definitely more.
The announcers are definitely more exciting and that makes it more exciting to watch.

3KillerBs said...

This didn't happen in 2009, but I think it perfectly reflects the difference in attitude about the truck series.

Ray Dunlap needed an interview with Kyle Busch, who was working on his truck at the time. So he got down, crawled under the truck with his microphone, and got his interview.

Can you imagine a Cup or Nationwide team trusting an ESPN reporter enough to let them that close to their cars?

The Speed truck coverage gives off a "we're all in this together working to do it right" feeling. The ESPN approach is downright adversarial.

ri88girl said...

The Truck series races have been the most consistant and fun races to watch for the last three seasons.

What ever other issues people have with FOX, TNT, or ESPN be it digger, DW camera work, pit reporters etcetera, This can not be said about the Trucks. People love to hate or hate to love Mikey, but that's it. And if that's ALL we have to complain about then they are doing the best job out there.

Anonymous said...

The best coverage of the three series, hands down! I feel like I have come to know the drivers throughout this season because of the fine reporting. Thus, the races are always interesting, no matter who is out in front. This is what ESPN does not know how to accomplish and what the fans want.

red said...

ahhh, the trucks! i've decided that the next time i want to get someone involved in nascar, i'm using the truck races as the "vehicle"! anon@11:14pm has put it perfectly: great telecasts, amazing racing, wonderful drivers and teams.

i confess, there have been times this season when i've actually shut down the laptop and just watched the race! the broadcasts are so respectful of the racing, offering me information and insight as well as energy, excitement and old-fashioned hard work without bells and whistles.

when i tune in, i know what to expect. i know voda will do a brief, concise, informative pre-race, treating teams with respect and being treated with respect in return. as a result, she is able to provide interesting information about the series and that day's race. she knows the sport and demonstrates it each week.

i know that reid and parsons will anchor a booth centered on what's happening on the track, not on statistics or truck numbers or drivers' ages. they blend together into a seamless unit that tells me what's happenng and putting it into context. they know the sport and demonstrate it each week.

i know that dunlap and alexander will ask intelligent questions and give me an idea of the various strategies that were forced on the teams this year due to that inane two pitstop "tweak." they'll also break away from their commentary if the on-track action requires that. they know the sport and demonstrate it each week.

i know that PapaTruckTV respects our sport and uses his experience, knowledge, talent and passion to show me the best images he can find on the track. his team responds to the action quickly and relies on great broadcasting skill to do their jobs. they know the sport and demonstrate it each week.

and that's the bottom line: everyone involved in the broadcasts knows the sport, respects it, and brings me the most satisfying "old school" event each week.

thank you, camping world, for stepping up and giving this most amazing team the financing needed to bring this series to me each week.

and my deepest thanks of the racing season go to the outstanding team that executes a professional, intelligent and respectful broadcast each week. you guys are the gold standard and YOU, i will miss terribly during the off season!

CWTS Fan said...

CWTS is the only NA$CRAP Series worht watching anymore.... I'll miss it. And to Anon 11:14PM biggest problem for the Trucks Companion races are on Fridays.... people work, at other tracks they are paired with IRL or other series that just don't draw, and like Sohpia said, it's on extened cable service, not a lot of people have the bucks right now.....
Still it is the best racing next to your local short tracks.
see ya'll next year.

Vicky D said...

Even last night's truck practice was enjoyable to watch. We didn't see any scripted items just watched and heard the teams on their radios trying to get their trucks better for the race this evening. Also, we didn't see any pre-recorded interviews jump out at us, and have them broadcast several times during this coming weekend either. I think these are the only races that we'll miss til February.

glenc1 said...

I think 11:14 is right, and it's not just about it being on Friday (although I think CWTS fan has lots of good points.) Just my wild opinion, but I think it has to do with the fact that mainstream people 'know' that it's the lowest tier of the major NASCAR series, and therefore, beneath their notice. Lots of fans root for the 'big name' drivers and, to be honest, for many of them it's about the cult of personality, not the racing. They're the ones I think of as 'driver fans', not race fans, and the truck series is just below their radar screen. As much as I find the little twerp annoying, I do think it's good to have Kyle there because he draws attention, same with Harvick. Now if we could just get Junior or Kasey or HMS to get into the series...I know, even Roush is pulling out next season, and it's a shame, but I get that the economy is hurting it. It's just hard when you have everything about it that's good, and people don't watch, even with a great broadcast.

If I can shed a little light on what Sophia mentioned about digital...I think it's largely timing. Back around 2000 I mentioned to an online pal from the midwest that we didn't have Speed. He said, you just mean you don't want to pay extra for that, and I explained, no, we don't have it at ALL. He was shocked. When they finally added it a year or two later, of course it went on the digital tier. I think that cable systems that already had a spot for it on the middle tier left it there, and those who didn't have it at all put it on the digital one, probably many areas which were newer to national racing series (almost everywhere has had local racing forever, so I think it coincided with the hot rise of NASCAR series in the early 2000's), if that makes sense.

Donna in FL said...

I LOVE the Trucks! anymore, it's what I think of when that TV commercial "My - Your - Our NASCAR" plays. It's that whole perception thing again. The Trucks are "real racing". The Trucks have "real drivers". The Trucks are FUN! And if that weren't enough, the Truck races are presented almost flawlessly by an involved, enthusiastic and actually- cares- about- what- they- are- doing- TV channel & crew, SPEED. All hats in the air for them! I'm thrilled to see the numbers grow for the Trucks (heck it was just a bit ago where we were wondering if there would even BE a Truck series next year) Still alot of sponsor money missing but I'm very hopeful for next year. Just keep my Trucks "rough n tumble" NASCAR, they don't need mainstreaming!

50 yr. fan said...

CWTS is the best racing going on
now. Some of the late start times
were a disadvantage for east coast
working viewers who are the nucleus
of the fanbase.

A race at the North Wilkesboro track would be a great addition.

Anonymous said...

While it's difficult finding ratings information on the Truck Series, it's the only one of the three big NASCAR racing series whose ratings have increased this season. And it's been increasing over the last couple of years in part due to the poor coverage and boring racing of the other NASCAR series.The best Truck races this season had Kenny Schrader or Johnny Benson in the booth instead of Motormouth Mikey. Still, I can't wait til next season when the trucks roll out again. That's at least one race on the weekends I'll enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I love every thing about the truck series. They don't just talk about one or two drivers, they try ot cover them all, a breath of fresh air. NO Tim Brewer, thank the good Lord for that.

bevo said...

I echo the comments about what a great job the Speed team has once again done with the Trucks. My one question is what in the heck happened a couple of months ago with a few of the telecasts when they all of a sudden did ESPN-style races.

Smiff_99 said...
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Anonymous said...

I enjoy the truck series the most of the three series. Speed is on a sports tier on my cable provider. Every time I think about cutting back on expenses and dropping the sport tier, I don't do it because of the truck series on Speed.

Anonymous said...

Best nascar show on tv

Dannyboy said...

A word for SPEED (dare I say it?): DON'T CHANGE A THING!!!

Rick, Phil and Michael have the kind of bona-fide chemistry that comes from people who truly like each other and what they do. Krista and the rest of the gang have locked in the production values that make race-watching a must. The length of the races keeps you interested for the whole time, and the rules package creates terriffic on-track action.

When NASCAR announced the Craftsman Truck Series all those years ago I thought it was a joke. RACE TRUCKS??? The day and start time of races are a big problem for us here on the left coast, so I didn't pay much attention at first. Then one Saturday I managed to catch a race (it was a short track - I think was in Tennessee) and I was blown away. The racing was lap by lap exciting and with the old rules (one pit stop, I think) concentrated on racing instead of strategy. Who'd a thunk?

A few years ago when Bobby Hamilton, Todd Bodine, Ted Musgrave, Benson, Hornaday and Sprague were duking it out every week it was racing nirvana. I still don't remember any series topping that era.

Nowadays I tape just about every race. I'll be craving until they return.

Tim Bob said...

The truck series has always had great racing if you're a purist and enjoy it for what it is. They are obviously hard to drive and dance around a lot in the corners, so drivers have to be good to manhandle them. My only criticism of Speed's coverage is "play-by-play" man Rick Allen's tendency to suddenly burst into his over-the-top "track announcer" style of narration and voice. He doesn't do it all the time, but when he does it sounds like he's trying to over-hype something that doesn't need it. He should stick to his normal voice and narration. I fully expect him to scream out at any moment, "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" or become some similar announcing caricature. Not a good tactic for him. Stick to his normal voice and knowledgeable, friendly demeanor. Please!

Anonymous said...

I like the series but Waltrip ruins ever race. I have to turn down the volume and listen on the radio.

GinaV24 said...

I have enjoyed the truck series racing on Speed. Voda is absolutely great and the pit reporters (who actually KNOW what they are doing obviously have the trust of the racers) The guys in the booth (with the exception of Waltrip - who I just will NOT listen to) make this the best series to watch on TV.

I would love to see some of these races in person but because of the scheduling (on Thursday or Friday nights at most tracks), I simply cannot work it in for any of the travel associated with Sprint cup weekends, too and its a darn shame that it doesn't get a bigger crowd.

Congrats to Ron Hornaday and I hope that we see this series on Speed again.

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David said...

Annon, that factoid about the truck series is indeed bizarre but its actually not that far fetched. They race on Friday nights, and there are several people that have other plans on Friday nights. I know a guy who only watched when Kyle Busch races, and to be honest this series has dropped off a bit over the last 5 years. It still probably has the best competition of the 3 week in and week out, but I remember the years where there were week in and week out photo finishes and dramatic endings.

Also, they are on SPEED. Not a channel everyone else has. They have been the only series showing ratings increase every week though. That is something that really makes me thrilled to hear!

Rick Allen has really shown his ability to be a true play by play guy and has been lights out this year. Phil Parsons is a great analyst and addition to the series as well.

Mikey is Mikey.

Jeff said...

If the higher-ups really do check out our comments, then read this: PLEASE KEEP THE TRUCK SERIES THE SAME! If it weren't for my Friday night racing with Rick and Alan and crazy Mikey, I might drop NASCAR altogether. They do such an excellent job of production and race coverage, they are the gold standard in my eyes. Great points, JD!

Gymmie said...

Yes LOVE the Pick 'em Ups on Speed. They totally pwn!

@red--agreed! they let the story play out instead of manufacturing some script. There may be some :"Hollywood" nicknames out there but this isn't Hollywood regardless of what BSPN thinks!

And how many races where there's been 3 and 4 wide finishes! Heck darn near every year Daytona is a 3 wide finish!

Chris from NY said...

Long live Speed, their coverage, and the Truck Series. The Detroit bigwigs once wanted the axe wielded on this series, the only REAL racing series left in NASCAR's big 3, but no one will let that ever happen.

But when it comes to the other two of the big 3, the TV producers have seemingly either been dropped on their heads or have had them in the sand for too long.

In other words, the Cup and Nationwide Series are money-grubbers, the Nationwide Series especially because it's no fun anymore, except at either Daytona, Talladega, or somewhere where Kyle Busch is sure to destroy his car. The Truck Series is for those who actually give anything. I'd give anything to get a rare diecast version of the trucks of Bodine, Skinner, Malsam, Braun, Scott, Peters, and whoever else, because I know whenever I'd buy something like that, I'm supporting REAL racing, not money-grubbing.

I think they should get all of the Saturday afternoon races on the schedule moved to FOX. That would be a ratings booster, if FOX will cut out the Digger clowning just for a few races, at least.

Anonymous said...

I'm a NASCAR Fan for many years. I've been to several tracks on the east coast. But I've never seen a truck race . I do however watch every race including the truck races. THey are enjoyable to watch. The announcers are really good including Mikey. I do receive Speed on the basic cable, but that might change. Krista voda is a great addition to the team. I'm already counting the days that the truck race and the other racing will return. I hope Speed doesn't that change the truck announcers. WHy spoil a good thing