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.
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