Monday, November 16, 2009

TV's Rock And A Hard Place


Well, this is it. Probably the final time for the 2009 season that we will state the case of why ESPN, The Chase and NASCAR fans are just not getting along.

"TV Troubles With Chase Easy To Understand" was TDP's column back in mid-October on this issue. Click the title to read it and make sure to scan the fan comments. They tell the true tale of the struggles with this format and getting it to translate to the TV screen.

The Fox and TNT networks have a distinct advantage in the Sprint Cup Series coverage they produce. There is no Chase, so each network is free to simply tell the story of the race and follow the action on the track. They have a single storyline to follow.

As we have seen with ESPN over the past three seasons, the biggest struggle down the stretch is to try and satisfy three different agendas on TV during each of the final ten races.

First, NASCAR fans across the nation are sitting in front of the TV and waiting to see their favorite driver. It does not matter where he is running, how he is running or if he made the Chase. Fans of a certain driver want to see that driver on TV, period.

Secondly, the actual race is underway and the dynamic of the fastest car is being played out at the front of the pack. There is a story unfolding about who can win the race and who hopes to challenge before the day is over. That has to be followed.

Finally, NASCAR created a playoff points system that demands that 12 cars be treated differently by ESPN for one simple reason. Those cars are now the only 12 that can possibly win the season championship. NASCAR has added a third storyline that trumps the first two and skews the final ten races for many fans.

Since ESPN returned to the sport, this last issue has been both the biggest challenge and the network's biggest frustration. Fans wearing Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth or Michael Waltrip gear are almost certain not to see these drivers unless they challenge for the lead or crash. Non-Chase drivers disappear when the playoffs begin and stay out of sight.

That is not what Brian France had in mind when he created the Chase. He was simply trying to put an additional spark in a sport that lost some of the national spotlight when the NFL began play. Over the last three seasons, that has not happened.

ESPN has been between a rock and a hard place and the results have been rough. The network puts the Chasers first, the race leaders second and the fans third. Rather than setting the points before the event and offering normal race coverage, ESPN skews the entire race telecast toward offering live electronic updates of the Chase points at that moment.

The problem is that this is motorsports. Bill Elliott had a commanding lead one year in Homestead only to blow a tire on the final lap. This reality shows just how ridiculous the entire "championship points right now" scenario really is on TV. Other than the final race, it makes absolutely no sense in the live racing coverage.

The key agenda of any primary sponsor on a Sprint Cup Series team is to get TV time for the car and driver. During the Chase, cars in the lead group that are non-Chasers can expect lip service at best. The agenda is Chase first and race second. How many times during this Chase have drivers cracked the top ten in a race and never been mentioned?

The foundation of the sport is the fans in their t-shirts and hats who are rooting for one team and have been doing so since February. Many have been pulling for the same driver for years. The most frequently received email at TDP is from fans who watched an entire race and are upset their driver was never updated by ESPN. How does that happen, they ask.

TV coverage has added a silent ticker that scrolls the positions of the drivers. Sometimes, it adds other information in regard to time behind the leader or laps down to the field. That software does not tell the loyal fans of Kenseth, Logano or Waltrip what happened to their driver after the green flag fell.

ESPN has used this technology as a crutch to prop-up its refusal to reset the field after cautions or at regular intervals under green. The only thing updated is the Chasers.

So, the now familiar pre-Homestead discussion has come around once again. What can ESPN do to change this downward spiral of fans of non-Chase drivers walking away once NFL football begins? The answer goes right back to the fans.

The latest NASCAR Fan Council survey contained the following questions:

Have you ever watched a race on TV with the sound turned down and listened to the radio broadcast at the same time?

In a typical season, how many races do you watch on TV with the sound turned down while listening to the radio broadcast?

Why do you watch the race on TV with the sound turned down while listening to the radio broadcast?


Those questions relate to something NASCAR fans have known for years. It is a formula used by both of the radio networks that cover the sport. Once the race begins the priorities are to call the most exciting races on the track regardless of position, update every car on the track as often as possible and then let the Chase implications come into play as the drama of the post-race.

The only way to keep all the fans watching and listening on TV is to prioritize the excitement of racing for position. Then a fan's favorite driver may pop up at any time while trying hard to get a top ten or even a top twenty position.

With Chasers and race leaders now totally dominating the audio and video portions of the Sprint Cup Series TV coverage, fans leave simply because their driver does not fit into either category. The bottom line is that what kept fans coming back is now gone; that is the fact that every Sprint Cup Series driver will be treated equally on TV.

How many of the nine Chase races did you watch? Did you leave because of other sports, turn on the radio to hear driver updates or multi-task online? If your driver is a Chaser, what did you think of the focus on only those 12 cars?

This post is not about the Chase itself, the COT or any other internal NASCAR issue. Just like the Fan Council, we are trying to get a feel before this final race of what fans think at this moment about the TV coverage. ESPN has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this product and the results have not been what the network expected.

To add your opinion on this topic specifically, just click on the comments button below. There is nothing to join and we do not need your email. We just want your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments in this forum may be moderated.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share your NASCAR TV opinions with us.

69 comments:

Kenn Fong said...

J.D.,

I watched 5 of the races live and 2 more on DVR. I deleted one unwatched when my friend told me the Stepford Driver dominated. Last weekend, the Stepford Driver crashed early and fooled me into thinking there might actually be a different Cup Champion than the preordained Mr. Vanilla aka the Stepford Driver aka Jimmie Johnson.

Boy, if you poured a quart of boiling crankcase oil down his firesuit do you think he'd jump up and down and curse? Or do you think he'd say:

"sorry folks, for the inconvenience. Would you mind taking me to the hospital? I think I might have third-degree burns. Sorry to be such a bother."

Meanwhile, what happened to Robby Gordon? Max Papis? Bobby Labonte? Michael Waltrip? For crying out loud, Junior didn't get any coverage!

I am not even going to record the final race. My season ended last weekend. And I know next season I'm not going to devote as much energy to watching the events leading to the 5th coronation of the Stepford Driver.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

P.S. Thanks everybody, I've enjoyed your company.

David said...

Hear hear! I saw Gluck say something about asking if we wanted to hear the battle for 28th place on the radio or not...

My answer: If that is the best battle on the track then ABSOLUTELY! Sorry, but this is something the old ESPN actually did. They found battles as they were ongoing and tried to find the best image rather than show you a single file parade up front. How often will a driver tell you that racing in the top 5-10 is MUCH easier than racing in the back of the pack? The reason why is the guys in the back are desperate and are trying to go forward with suspect cars while the folks up front are just putting themselves in position for the end of the race. Its not rocket science. Shame that its become news to people that the top 5-10 doesn't always have the best racing or most competition at times.

Homestead is Homestead. I fully expect this race to have alot of points talk in it and I accept that with it being the final race of the season. But from the second ESPN came on the air at Indy you would have thought every week was Homestead with the "If the race ended now..." and "Here are the points as they run with xxx laps remaining" lip service.

The Chase IS important, as is the championship, but so is the race going on that particular weekend. As much as Mikey can wear me down, I sure hope they pay him some mind Sunday...

Anonymous said...

About 3-4 years ago, the last 10 races of the Chase were THE big event in our house. Big screen showing the race, surround sound on, cooler full of brew on ice, and so on for each event.

Now...the Nascar race gets relegated to the second TV with the sound on mute while an NFL game gets the big screen treatment. And, instead of gearing up with beer, chips, and pizza, I basically use the race to get some work done on computer and just kind of follow along with the race as it happens.

While part of the problem might be The Chase itself, the car, or the #48's dominance...I truly believe that ESPN is the ultimate problem.

Because 3-4 years ago, the Chase was still there, Johnson was beginning his title run, and I was into every race as if nothing else existed in the world around me.

Now, however, with such poor coverage and the lack of racing being shown, the ESPN races just don't get me all that interested. And this is coming from someone who went to Daytona, Indy, and Chicagoland this year and took a Monday off to watch a rained-out race during the middle part of the season.

Yukstin said...

I don't post a whole lot on here, I mostly twitter my thoughts but I feel like I should chime in with something longer than 140 words!

I honestly don't mind the ESPN coverage. I'm a newer Nascar fan meaning while I've watched the sport before I didn't really get into until early last year and now I follow it regularly (both cup and nationwide).

I don't really have a favorite driver and I'm really more interested in the big story lines which honestly are the chase and who is going to win the championship. Maybe it is my dediction to more stick and ball sports where even if your team is eliminated in the playoffs or doesn't even make it to the postseason you still tune in to see who wins that respective title. I know I do.

With that said I enjoy the ESPN coverage because they dedicate time to the chase which is the point of the system and they show the people fighting for the championship. To me that is most important. Maybe if I had a favorite driver it would be different, but if he wasn't in the running for the championship why would I expect him to be shown on TV unless he is running up front for the race?

Am I just out of my mind?

Dot said...

What's going to happen at Homestead and "the points as of now" script? JJ has it in the bag. Some of the drivers in the middle could change positions, are they going to show them constantly? Or fearing now the coverage will be all about 50 year old Mark Martin being the bridesmaid again.

I can't get a radio station that plays MRN/PRN to come in clearly, so no, I don't listen with the TV turned down. I don't listen on the computer either as I would have to wear headphones. As I have said before, Dan watches on TV. I do keep him informed via what I read here and on Twitter during commls.

If not for RaceTrax, I would not know where anybody is and the intervals. That is not perfect either. It's at least 2 laps behind and does not show those out of the race, just many laps down. Speaking of which, I did see the ticker on TV and saw that Mikey was 60ish laps down. I swear I never heard that he was back in the race. Did I miss it? That's the one bad thing about multi tasking, my brain can only do so much at one time. Blaming old on that.

I follow Marcos on Twitter. You guys are surprised, right? Lol. A comment posted was that they were adding another dimension to the TV coverage. I tweeted back that they were the "only dimension" as Marcos rarely gets TV coverage. He got lucky yesterday when he was driving near Jr before Jr spun out. (I saw the replay on SC last night and I swear they did not touch).

Sadly, NASCAR and BSPN are in a bad marriage and even if they could get divorced, it would be very costly. I don't think FOX and/or TNT is in the position to buy out the contract. (would that even be possible?) It's too bad that they can't get along for the sake of the children, AKA we race fans.

Here's my early New Year's resolution to JD and the Planeteers. I will not complain about Digger on TDP in 2010.

Dave in California said...

SO MANY times the silent ticker only shows the top 12 or so,then dissapears only to reappear about#38 or so if at all.Even CNBC keeps the bottom and top ticker on screen during most commercials.And the lap counter on my 26" screen is too small to read.
Dave in California.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, NASCAR needs a director who knows what images to show on the screen and when, and he needs an effective on-air announcing team to call the action, tell the stories, and heighten the drama.

ESPN doesn't have either of these things. And what's more - they don't even know there is a problem. Three years of highly critical columns from this well-read website have fallen on deaf ears. If they can't watch one of their own disjointed races and not see the problem, I don't expect media and fan criticism to sink in, either.

I remember back in April, Digger was wearing thin, Darryl Waltrip's routine was wearing a little thin, and I was wondering why FOX seemed to have it out for NASCAR so much that they wouldn't fix these problems with their product.

Well forget that. Let them run the animated Gopher all day long. I will take FOX and Digger 100 times out of 100 over the boring golf-broadcast of Jerry Punch and the ESPN director randomly switching cameras. I mean, FOX has some problems that really annoy fans, but presenting an exciting race isn't one of them.

I can't wait for February --- after the waterboarding of Jerry Punch, even Chris Myers is welcome back in my book.

bevo said...

This season is the first time that I have either missed or barely watched the last races of the year. The only reason I've watched as long as I have is for the community here on TDP. For me the best thing about listening to MRN is their knowledgeable pit reporters. You get insight on strategy and follow-up on incidents during the race. ESPN might as well save money and eliminate their pit reporters. I really don't need to hear about how a crew chief went fishing with a buddy during the week and caught a five pound bass.

For ESPN the race itself is just so much background noise ruining their wonderfully scripted Chase symphony. If they could just get rid of all those pesky cars they could produce a great race broadcast.

tom in dayton said...

JD:
This last third of the racing season presented by ESPN has been, to me, an absolute horror. I'm a racing fan reared in a racing family in SCCA and short track dirt racing who spent most of the month of May, in the old days, at The Motor Speedway getting ready for the Indy 500 and, as a teenager during vacations in the South, going to stock car races.
I'm used to watching a race and am interested not only in watching the leaders pack but also racing throughout the field.
FOX and TNT at least cover the races in this manner.
ESPN, from their beginning race at the Brickyard to the finale at Homestead, does not.
I have learned that my multitasking is minimal up until Indy, but is essential during ESPN's coverage because without the multiple sources of race coverage, I would be unable to follow the race each weekend and understand what's happening.
Strangely until this year, I didn't realize that during ESPN's coverage of the Sprint Cup races, I find myself attending more races in person seemingly out of frustration of being left so high and dry when my attention should be focused on the championship segment of the Sprint Cup season.
It isn't the dominance of Hendrick or JJ any more than the dominance of New England or Dallas in the NFL or Duke or UNC in college bb. In each of these cases it is simply because they are at the top of their game and deserve to win a championship, and that doesn't drive fans away. Bad coverage for the fans at home will drive those fans away and you see it happening even more this year with ESPN's coverage of the Chase.
Back in the '80's I worked for a man who had a routine when traveling. After the takeoff and after he attended to current business, a few of us would go to his cabin and sketch out a fictional baseball game, always in the seventh inning, with the most impossible situations and he would go into a radio broadcasters routine until the game's conclusion(and sometimes into overtime depending on the flight's destination). We sat in facination as this fiction game was played out through this broadcaster(who learned his trade before going to Hollywood on a different career)and at at the conclusion(before which bets were being passed as to which team would emerge victorious) be completely entertained by this passage of time.
So it is during the ESPN segment of the Sprint Cup races. I find myself going to the RADIO to "watch" the race as the script generated by ESPN leaves me, as a fan, desolate, disappointed and yearning for Digger and DW.(Don't take me wrong DW - you're among the greatest(I rank you close to AJ Foyt!)).
Simply, follow the entire race. Look for racing occuring throughout the field and trust that the Chase competitors will come to you throughout the broadcast.
One final note: look at the sponsors, primary and secondary, on each of the 43 cars in the field. ESPN's advertising department has a huge farm of possibilities of on-air commercials if only they would show cars sponsored throughout the field. It can't be rocket science to figure that exposure on ESPN would be valuable, even if you(the sponsor) is not on a "Chase" car and ESPN couldn't figure that out!
Why do they think in the way they think...

Anonymous said...

While reading this column, I noticed Kenny Wallace's tweet. He said we should all give thanks to NASCAR because we all watch it every week. Once again, Kenny gets it wrong.

I have been following NASCAR longer than Kenny Wallace has been alive. Brian France's creation of the chase and ESPN's emphasis on the championship has resulted in terrible television coverage of the racing. I have always followed racing because I enjoyed the car to car, driver to driver competition. I have never cared much about championships, and the artificial chase has made it even less significant.

Sorry, Kenny, I stopped watching the races because of the terrible coverage. Unlike many TDP regulars, I will not multi-task to try to get race coverage. It is well within TV's ability to provide the complete story of a race, and we are certainly not getting it from ESPN. I have quit watching the races in favor of other activities. I have no interest in football, and ESPN only has to compete with yard work and home repair projects. ESPN and NASCAR have lost the battle.

Watching ESPN produces a mixture of disgust, contempt, and anger at their production choices and incomptence of on-air personnel. My handyman projects produce more enjoyment and satisfaction.

In their pursuit of the casual fan with the attention span of a fruit fly, NASCAR and ESPN have alienated many long-time fans like me. I'll give the other networks a try when they return, but ESPN is a lost cause as far as I am concerned. I won't bother with them again until I read in TDP that the network has made substantial changes in on-camera personnel and behind the scenes changes in production/direction.

I understand Kenny Wallace's attitude. Where else could he get a comparable job that pays as well while giving him an ego trip? If he had been a cabin boy on the TITANIC, I have no doubt his lips would have still been firmly planted on Captain Smith's butt as the ship slipped beneath the waves.

Count_Culo said...

I WISH I could watch the TV coverage and listen to the radio coverage, but where I live (just west of ATL) I can't tune in a radio station to listen on!!... the signal from the only station carrying the races in this area is as weak as the general press coverage of racing in the ATL media... sketchy at best, mostly non-existent...

I had such high hopes when ESPN was coming back to NASCAR... what a disappointment they are with their "scripted" show about their commentators... NOT about the race...

just my opinion, probably wrong..

Count_Culo

larry said...

I won't watch the final race. I just want this season to end.

I'll watch the first few races next year with hopes that NASCAR and the TV coverage will finally respect the fans. That's a rather forlorn hope, I fear.

Jim said...

The problem is Jerry Punch. He can't handle multiple agendas.
I didn't get sick of hearing about the "Chase" cars, but I really was tired of NOT hearing about the other 31.
That,and ficticious "debris" cautions have diminished my loyalty more each season.
Well, you asked!

RobFromToronto said...

I cant buy into the changing coverage style due to the chase format..as in "the old days" you still have a couple guys near the top within reach..and a buncha other guys lower down trying to move up for that extra bonus etc..its still the same..label it chase or not..therefore..the coverage of "the old days" would work just fine and dandy thank you.
Back in "the old days" of espn telecasts of nascar..the guys in the both had thier heads on swivels..you'd regularly hear Ned shout out oh no crash in turn three or Benny shout out..smoke coming from Marlin's car..and the camera would whip round and catch it lickity split..the guys in the both actually watched the race..and worked well with the camera guys to try and get every thing happening that they could.
Nowadays..you have 3-4 yawning mouthpieces in a booth looking at video monitors that show what the truck wants them to see..they comment on what they see on "T.V." and on the odd occasion you have Dale or whoever(never jerry) mention something happening on the track..we wait..and wait..and if we are lucky..the guys in the truck determine it dosnt stray too far from the script and can be seen. THAT is the problem now..the guys in the booth arent watching the race..they are watching T.V. and thats just lazy

Bill B said...

I've watched all but one race this year. The race I didn't watch was the rained out event at Watkins Glen that was run on Monday. I was at the beach and it was sunny so I listened to that on the radio.

If there was a station that carried the MRN broadcast in the Baltimore area I would watch every race with the sound turned down and the radio on. The television audio is insulting to the sport, the fan and the drivers. The television broadcasts seem to have an agenda which supercedes the actual race and that is the problem.
As boring as some of these single file races have become the television crew could conceivably show every pass during the race but that would require they cover action throughout the field and not just at the front.
When the double file restarts started and the wave around rule came about that was a cue for the tv coverage to make an adjustment. If they can't update the viewers about the lucky dog and those that used the wave around rule to get a lap back then they are useless.
I don't know, I am just totally fed up with everything NASCAR right now. The lack of side by side racing, the poor coverage, bogus debris cautions to bunch up the field, the chase, the COT, etc, etc,. It all adds up. I am tired of watching the race and yelling at the tv because of poor coverage of everything happening. Too many weeks I walk away angry after watching a race and wasting 4+ hours. I have no sadness that this season is coming to an end and I am no hurry for February to roll back around.

Anonymous said...

I have been frustrated all year with the tv coverage, but most frustrated by ESPN/ABC. There are certain things that should happen during the broadcast that make complete sense to me, but obviously not to the commentators. One example is during wrecks. If a chase driver is in a wreck, the commentators will spend the rest of the broadcast talking about that single incident, however, if someone back in the pack wrecks, the commentators will mention a wreck has occured, but many times this season, we had to wait until after a commercial to find out who was involved, what started it, etc. There were even some incidents that were initially mentioned, but then no more information was given to let the fans know what happened.
I have given up on the tv broadcast. I have started listening to radio coverage and listening to in-car audio on Trackpass. It is expensive, but it is the only way that I can keep up with the drivers that I am interested in.

Ken said...

I've watched parts of every race only because of a back injury followed by back surgery. I tune in to watch a race but see a scripted show with the race in the background. You are not seeing the race when you only see the leader riding around the track alone. I want to see the race like I would see it if I was at the track. The constant close shots don't give any feel of the race or how the drivrs are struggling.

The Chase coverage should be shown as an addition to race coverage and not as a replacment for Chase coverage.

glenc1 said...

There was a moment recently when the camera showed Bobby Labonte walking away from a wreck...and as his 'Taxslayer.com' logo showed on the back of his uniform, I thought, well, at least his sponsor got some coverage....

I have watched part of ALL the Chase races. I shared it with football and some other things at times, and I follow TDP and a message board for my driver (someone who has the Hotpass or whatever updates on him, because I would *never* know from ESPN.) I have been a fan pretty seriously from the late 90's. I pretty much watch all the races if I'm home, including many (though not all) of the NW & Truck races, plus Grand Am. Now, that isn't to say I'm glued to the TV set. I do chores & stuff around the house, even outside with the radio on or the TV loud.

I am sick of the argument that if your driver needs attention he should win a race. Well, how is that going to get any easier with the money/attention all going to the Chase teams, and more and more sponsors leave the sport, leaving even fewer sponsors for the Robby Gordons or RPM's of this world. The most interesting stories in sports are the 'underbirds' (with homage to Alan Kulwicki) and they get nothing from ESPN. Jimmie & Chad are doing nothing wrong--they're doing their jobs, I'm not a 'hater'. But that does not mean I want to see them 24/7 on a race. ESPN troubles are far beyond that, lackluster analysts and lousy camera direction, poor use of the technology at their hands. But...it's enough to make me turn the sound down much of the time. Fox has issues too...but their broadcasting crew makes up for a lot of it. Speed, in fact, using many of the same people, does the best job with probably the fewest resources. And we saw how TNT gave us a brilliant but all too brief flash of real *race* coverage. I didn't think I had so much to say, but that's about it. As I said before, I don't think it's asking too much to cover the race, the whole race, and not just 12 cars.

West Coast Kenny, thanks for the laugh...I like Jimmie but your review is hysterical.

Anonymous said...

Yukstin...you aren't out of your mind, but you are the rarest of rare, the 'casual fan'. There's nothing wrong with you feeling that way. But just be aware that it isn't just about having a driver to follow, it's covering all the stories. Yes, stick & ball has its stars, but the Detroit Lions got a lot of press last year for going 'defeated'. So the story was still covered. Likewise, other stories within the games are covered...steroids, firings, arrests, etc. And the scores are reported and updated during the games, even when they're out of playoffs in a meaningless game.

Anonymous said...

Out of the last ten I've watched all but one (Phoenix) and that one I DVR'd and couldn't continue the punishment.

It's not the chase that impacts the TV coverage. Essentially the chase is no different than it was 15 years ago. You still had anywhere from 2-5 cars in the hunt. You had Kennseth wrapping up his title with 3 races to go. You had Kulwicki win it on the last freakin lap!!

It's not the format, it's the presentation.

How many on the board have had to endure a boring power point presentation with good information but presented by someone with the personality of a potato?

My Hand is up!

Spouting off the exact same information that is up on the screen and not deviating from it.

Sound familiar?

Around our office when we're enduring this kind of presentation We all hold a up fork.

Because sticking a fork in our eye is better than having to listen to the presentation.

The same applies during the ESPN/ABC portion of the schedule.

Dave in Milwaukee

Anonymous said...

I can hardly wait for FOX to come back! Then I can leave my TV sound turned up and watch the race too. After the first race shown on ESPN this season, I muted the sound and listened to MRN instead. Brian France started screwing up NASCAR and ESPN finished the job. This week's TV ratings proved what the fans have been saying all along.

SrRaceFan

Tom said...

anon 3:46 has it completely right.

I don't watch football or anything else on Sunday....NASCAR included. I am not even DVR'ing it anymore. JJ isn't the most exciting guy, but he is solid...we get that. Try following some other stories on track. Get a new crew in the booth.

Anyone one else checked out the "classic" points? It had the potential to be quite a barnburner on Sun!

Tom
Inverness, FL

Donna in FL said...

Let's get right to it. I didn't get a Fan Council survey so let me state categorically that, in ESPN's case for the Chase, I watch the TV pictures and use radio & apps for the audio, and internet for stats, because I get better coverage of the RACE. This past Texas was disappointing, in particular, because the race on TV and the race on the radio were 2 entirely different presentations, and I preferred radio because I was interested in THE RACE.
How many of the nine Chase races did you watch? All of them, either live or DVR.
Did you leave because of other sports, turn on the radio to hear driver updates or multi-task online? YES, all of the above.
If your driver is a Chaser, what did you think of the focus on only those 12 cars? My driver is Tony Stewart, and he's been pretty ignored since falling short almost as much as my other drivers who are not Chasers. It's been my impression that focus has been 80% on HMS drivers and Montoya, great stories sure, but certainly not the ONLY stories! Kurt and Denny have managed to get time by winning Chase races, otherwise I think they would be as ignored as Tony. Newman got time with a terrible accident. Edwards & Biffle got time by not winning. Vickers & Kahne got time by wrecking. Poor Jamie McMurray, trying to find a job next year, in my perception hardly a blip that he won Talladega. Kyle Busch grabbed some Texas TV time trying a 3-race win.

Lack of decent PxP commentary aside, I believe the main problem with ESPN's Chase TV coverage is perception. A better balance needs to be struck between Chase coverage and RACE coverage.
We went to both Daytona but are not going to Homestead this year. I will give it my attention on TV and radio, just to grimly finish what I started in Feb.

Vicky D said...

I can't believe all these comments were very passionate against ESPN. I have always felt the chase is about 12 cars and 12 cars only the heck with the other 31. For my two favorites Matt & Jeff Burton these last chase races they aren't mentioned. Actually in Phoenix, Jeff Burton was shown because is was running in the top 5 but poor Matt he was down in the teens and didn't get a little nod. That's what is wrong with ESPN's coverage. I wonder if TNT or Fox had the last races, whether they would do the same thing. If I have favorites who aren't in the chase, most of the other viewers do too so no wonder people don't want to watch.

JohnP said...

I've missed more Nascar coverage on TV in the past 6 months then in the past 13 years combined. And that's just telling it the way it is for this household. Loyal full time fan since 1996. Till Now. As a fan of the sport the coverage is horrific. There are 43 cars on the track. Cover them. As previously said, the coverage this Sunday was slightly better. But not enough better. I can't wait for Fox's coverage. I sure hope they have the Daytona 500. I think they switch back and forth every other year? Digger is horrible, but I'll take it just to get better coverage. Been to many races, and yes, there is almost always a race to follow and not just watching a driver out on a cruise when in first. Which seems to be the norm now. Get in front, stay in front. ESPN does not only, not cover the non-Chase drivers. They don't even cover the Chase drivers. Just the Hendrick cars. As a Stewart fan, that's fustrating. The wife follows Carl Edwards. She's watched Nascar full time since 1996 also. Won't even come in the room except for updates now. So sad what the ESPN/Nascar mix has accomplished. It was a sport that we enjoyed together. Now it's gone gone gone.

Tracy said...

How many of the nine Chase races did you watch?

Zero - in their entirety. Maybe the final 50 laps or so. In our house, Nascar Sundays were, at one time, sacred. Family knew we were glued to the TV for the duration of the race. Once ESPN took over, we made other plans. Now, we've found we can use Sunday afternoons for running errands and listen to the race on the car radio and get a great experience. When we would return home and turn on the race, we'd feel as if the radio and TV worlds were two different planets with nothing in common.(no pun intended, LOL) MRN rocks.

Our drivers aren't chasers, although I'm interested in their results. It's so sad that Sundays no longer mean "must see" Nascar. However, the great job done televising the truck races compensates somewhat for our withdrawal symptoms.

Anonymous said...

I have been an avid racing fan for more than thirty years. I don't care if the race is for first place or last place, I want to see it. ESPN doesn't show the race. I can't get a radio broadcast so I DVR the entire race. I watch 90% of the race in fast forward. I only slow down when there is something to watch. I can't wait for FOX and the season to start again. If ESPN and restrictor plate racing went the way of the dinos I wound not miss them!

GinaV24 said...

JD, I attended 3 of the races in person but I didn't DVR them since I no longer bother to do that. I watched part of the other 6 races but that was with the sound down on the TV, with MRN on for sound and my computer on to figure out where the drivers were actually running. That ticker ESPN uses is useless. It appears and disappears and changes form like it has a life of its own. During the races that I was home and could have seen, I flipped to other channels or did chores around the house only glancing at the TV once in a while in the hope that it might reflect what I was hearing on the radio -- most often, not.

My driver is in the chase and so gets coverage, but I would really like it if ESPN would just SHOW me the race instead of focusing on any particular group of drivers.

I won't bother watching Homestead. My brother wanted to go -- he's a 48 fan -- I said fine, but I'm not wasting my money to watch Johnson win the chase again. For me, the racing season ended last week. Yes, I'm sure if you're a Johnson fan you'll be interested in Sunday's event, but for anyone else, it's over.

Keith said...

'Dega is the only race I watched start to finish. Watched all of about 10 minutes of Phoenix. CHASR sucks.

goat said...

I agree that the fundamental problem here is ESPN. However, dropping the Chase would have a couple of effects: 1) it would likely tighten up the competition, because the 48 would not be at as much of an advantage, and 2) it would remove a crutch that ESPN is relying on as a "story."

NASCAR really needs to pay attention to this problem, because in addition to the dropping ratings, their inattention to non-Chase cars is widening the competition gap (because non-Chasers are going to find it increasingly difficult to get sponsorship, and therefore less funding for competitive cars).

David said...

WCK, I have to really fight you on the Stepford Driver thing. Jimmie HAS a personality, I just point the finger squarely at NASCAR for watering their drivers down. Jimmie walks the line for his sponsors and as a representative for HMS. He learned it from Gordon who was his mentor....it stands to reason why he is that way. This is the same guy that without that HMS PR train behind him bowed after wrecking at the Glen, I see sparks of personality from Jimmie and wish he would let loose but the PC'ness of the sport prevents that.

Another reason I honestly feel the ratings are dropping too. Kyle tries to be a personality, he tries to make it interesting and gets flamed for it. Yet if he were like Jimmie, he'd get bashed for that too. You can't win with anyone and its unfortunate.

Points, points, points...sponsor, sponsor, sponsor...I appreciate the sponsors as much as any fan but at the same time the world we live in now just confuses the heck outta me. They turned a hardnosed competitive sport and have tried to no end to make it as family friendly as possible which is good in so many ways yet creates the Stepford-ness of it all...

Sorry, somewhat OT

Zieke said...

I believe the Most irritating thing that ESPN does on their broadcasts is the constant updating of points standings during races. Do these people not understand that this very annoying habit means Nothing until a race is finished? Are they really that STUPID to think the fans need to hear this or are they just out of things to do like really airing a race? I can't believe ESPN is this bad. They have learned nothing since they started doing races again. SAD.

Anonymous said...

The TV coverage is boring to the point that I have watched the start of the race on TV, left to do other things, and then return to watch the last 30 laps or so. I do not watch the preshows or postshows as I'm interested in the racing not the particular comments of individuals. I do try to watch Wind Tunnel as I enjoy Dave and he covers different tyes of racing including motorcycles. I thought Benny Parsons did a good job broadcasting races on TV. I do not like DW or Mikey on TV even though I think DW does have a passion for the sport. The run for the champonship has hurt the overall TV racing coverage. Prior to chase, the emphasis was not so much on who was going to win the champonship but more on the individual race and track. Most fans didn't know or care who was ahead in the points. Now the whole TV season is geared on the chase and that is boring unless you are a Hendrick fan. I agree, the MRN coverage is better than TV. I have been a stockcar fan since the 50's and watched the first TV broadcast of the Daytona 500. Other changes in this world bother me too!

Ritchie said...

I have watched every lap of every race by using DVR. There have been times when I have been traveling that I have listened to the start of the race on MRN/PRN, then watched the DVR when I arrived home.

While I do agree that there are issues with ESPN race coverage, I believe that most of the problems stem from Jerry Punch. Great guy, I just don't think Play-by-Play is the job for him. Creatively moving him to another position would probably clear up a lot of other issues that, in reality, are somewhat trivial.

Although every driver has fans, it is simply unrealistic to believe that TV can cover all 43 cars. For instance, Sunday's race was about three hours long, or 180 minutes. If every driver got equal coverage (180 minutes/43 drivers), that would be four minutes of coverage per driver. That wouldn't make for an entertaing broadcast.

The other thing that bugs me about the criticism is people saying that ESPN isn't talking about other issues. For example, they spoke about Scott Speed and John Andretti's battle for 35th in the points, they spoke about Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, and others throughout the broadcast.

That doesn't mean ESPN has a great broadcast, just not quite as bad as it is being made out. Its just that people become initially bored by Punch's poor performance and don't even pay attention when Jarrett and Petree talk about other things in the broadcast. If you can stay awake, they actually do talk about the things people say they want in a broadcast.

sue said...

I'm with Larry and won't be watching Homestead and I barely watched Phoenix. ESPN is not the reason why I won't be watching though. Watching the same team win week in and week out because they have mastered chase tracks makes it extremely boring. So I'm not going to blame ESPN on this.
But since you asked about the televised racing here is what I think.

ESPN concentrates on just 1/4 of the field and if your driver is not in the top tier usually they won't get mentioned but a few times.
ESPN treats Nascar like football. Having a play be play guy with 2 color commentators. Nascar is not football. What makes MRN so successful is that they have announcers reporting from the corners. Where do many passes/accidents occur? In the corners. Where does ESPN have their announcers? In the backstretch. Where does ESPN put their football announcers? On the 50 yard line. Yet in football everything happens within 100 yards. But in Nascar with tracks 1/2 mile to over 2 1/2 miles in length having all the announcers sit in the middle of a backstretch so much is missed. Could you imagine ESPN seperating their announcers so the racing on the whole track could be covered. You have announcers who know this sport inside and out so covering the whole field shouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

I DVR'd all nine of the chase races and watched 4 (each in 90mins or less). I erased five without watching at all. Been watching and attending NASCAR races since cable came to Chicagoland. Never been so disinterested. The reasons which have already been sufficiently described in this space. Good news is found other interesting things on which to spend my time, energy, and money. Brian France is a hopeless case and I expect NASCAR will continue to decline because of his direction as well as tuff economic times. Toxic combo it is.

trophyguy said...

I usually watch most of the races or DVR them. Why do you say? Because I usually end up taking a nap during the broadcast.

ESPN needs someone other than Dr. JP in the booth. He constantly brings down Andy & DJ it seems. They are all excited about something, then the drone, dull voice of JP kicks in.

IMHO, if he wasnt there, the broadcasts would be totally different. DJ and AP have a wealth of knowledge of this sport and it's drivers. Imagine them with someone more upbeat in the booth? I betcha I wouldnt fall asleep.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I was talking to my dad last night about Nascar racing and he made the statement that something is wrong with Nascar right now in that the races are boring. I asked him if it was the tv coverage (as that is how both he and I watch the race.) and asked him what he would do to change it and he said that he didn't know. He just said that he is an avid Nascar fan and that the last few years it has become boring.

He mentioned Bristol becoming boring as well.

Neither he nor I have any suggestions as to what to do to make it more exciting.

I will add to the chorus of fans of Mikey in that I hope that the networks make some noise this weekend being Mikey's last race as a full-time driver. I can also empathize with the fans of the drivers not in the Chase or at the top of the points system in that our drivers are not really shown much.

These are just some of my thoughts.

alex said...

Hello friends. I haven't commented in months. The prime reason is that due to ESPN, I just don't care anymore. Instead of watching 3 races a week, it's just one race every week or two. The lack of a tight championship chase certainly affects the viewing habits of many fans, myself included, but it can't be the only reason. While there are a couple things here and there I like about ESPN's Nascar (or their sports 'coverage' in general), they haven't done much to help Nascar. I was right there for FOX and TNT, but with ESPN I can't watch. I'd rather have the FOX mole running around the screen during green flags than watch ESPN. The coverage is physically and mentally draining to watch.

*Insert common ESPN complaints*

There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said about ESPN and the coverage. I'm just ready for them to bring it back to 90's level coverage, or just go away.

I'm so put off by ESPN, I'll be lucky if I want to watch racing again when Daytona comes around in a few months.

Anonymous said...

One might argue that ESPN does not even follow ALL the Chase competitors. It has been all JJ all the time. When was the last time they followed Tony Stewart up through the field? How about Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, anyone non Hendrick for that matter. Even when Johnson did not have the points lead, it was all about him because that's what their "script" has been the past 10 races.

I wonder how messed up their script would be had jimmie faultered and only be in 5th place in the points instead of 1st.

People are not turning their TV's off because JJ is winning, they are turning it off because the product on the track is terrible and to top it off, all we see during the race is Jimmie Johnson.

ESPN's love for him is really getting quite sickening. By watching the telecast, you wouldn't know there were 40 other cars out on the track.

If any of you watched qualifying at Phoenix, when Jimmie got the pole (at the time) in his qualifying run, there was an excitement I hadn't heard from Punch all season. So much for being told to tone it down by the powers that be.

I sometimes think that ESPN is purposely putting on terrible broadcasts to either get out of their contract due to the on-track product being so bad or because they simply could care less about nascar. When they don't have the race coverage, very little is spoken about the sport.

Either way, they should be ashamed to call themselves the "worldwide leader in sports" for those telecasts.

Anonymous said...

Something is very wrong when Race 26 at Richmond (last race before the 12 Chase drivers are set) is the most watched race of the entire season with tv ratings dropping each of the last races of the season. (and should hit a new low this weekend.)

Once again we will be beaten to death with constant scrolling point standings and following jimmie riding around by himself for the majority of the race, constant dissecting of his pit stops along the way. The rest of the time we will be following Mark Martin. All other drivers will be non-existent unless they are in the same picture as those two.

If there is a god, Jimmie will blow his motor on lap 20 and Martin will finish Top 10 stealing the Championship. That would be some good tv right there.

Sophia said...

To Compare what's wrong with ESPN. Jimmy has the Cup Ch.


So does Ron Hornaday in Truck but how many will watch the truck race? I certainly will. Why, the STRIPPED down coverage, more wide angles, more coverage of ALL in the race. Thus the season's winner is not shoved at us adnauseum like BSPN does the CHASE & JJ when they take over.

We see great race FINISHES ON TV with trucks, little commenting here. No multi tasking much needed.

It could be so EASY to fix things but when the EGO-ESPN is bigger than the sport, and they, the suits think their camera direction is all that and a bag of chips, well....there is no changing that.

ESPN is ADDICTED to tight camera shots/bumper cams. As in any addiction, DENIAL is the first symptom.

ESPN has denied for years problems with their coverage and Brian France is the king enabler.

Can't wait for the trucks at Homestead, I won't be watching NW or Cup.

P.S. oh, and it's long been a no brainer if sponsorship is a problem the MORE ALL the peeps in a race should be mentioned. Common sense 101.

West Coast Diane said...

Like many I have found other ways to enjoy the races. I had HotPass when you had to pay for it, so was disappointed when they stopped the service. I tried the free version in the beginning, but TV & Scanner were played over one another. Impossible to understand. Then I read here on TDP that they switched out the TV audio for MRN/PRN. Checked it out and was sold.

OK, so some time the radio exaggerates a bit, but that is the exception rather that the rule. The key is they make it exciting.

The ESPN booth is just boring...plain and simple. They may mean well, but it just doesn't matter. How anyone can watch racing and do so in monotone voices with no emotion, not even when there is a big incident is beyond me.

I will put up with some Digger & DW's occasional over the top antics any day compared ESPN. TNT this past year, set the gold standard.

Unless ESPN makes some major changes, I doubt I will even attempt to watch them. Hopefully HotPass will return. Otherwise, guess I will just have to read TDP to find out what happened.

JD...don't leave us stranded next year!!

Oh, just a note on "points as of now". If they would only bring it up if something major happened, like what happened to Jimmy, I would be ok with it. But when
it's every time someone gains or loses a postion it's meaningless.

Steve L. said...

I have watched every race this year. All the Truck, Nationwide, and Cup races shown on TV for the last several years. I am a NASCAR race fan.

I am also a photographer and go to 10-15 races per year to shoot for a web-site who I write for and publishes my articles and photos from those races. While at the track, my DVR is at home recording the practices, qualifying, and races so when I get home I can watch back the race and see what I may have missed.

While at the track, I use a scanner to listen to the teams and also listen to the radio and TV coverage to try to keep up with the race while busy doing my job shooting.

When I get home and watch back the race on DVR, I'm always wondering why the telecast didn't catch the big battles I saw back in the pack or why they seem to make the race sound so boring. The race live was so much better than what I saw on TV.

But when I listen to the radio at the track, it sounds so exciting, they let me know where every driver is on the track every few minutes, and you knew the SECOND there was a problem on the track by their raised voices of excitement and tone.

That's what we, as fans, want. To watch a race on TV and get the feeling we're at the track. We want to see what the fans at the track are seeing. ESPN is NOT doing this. There's times when you don't know if you're watching a race or watching qualifying because of the tight shots on the cars running up front.

I'm a NASCAR fan, I don't need to be reminded what the car number is every time one of them is mentioned. We just want to see the racing action on the track whether it's in the front of the pack or the back.

There seems to be a problem with how the announcers are being provided information as to what to talk about. In other words, they are watching a monitor and doing PXP from that monitor. They are at the mercy of the shots on that monitor and could therefore be in another state and call these races.

Get them back to the window of the suite they're in and call what they see on the track and let the cameras follow their lead for a change. That's how it was done in the 'old days' and it worked very well.

The way it is now, they are sitting at their monitors missing all other action on the track. I can count on one hand how many wrecks they have actually caught live, on camera, this whole season. Most wrecks we've seen this year have been on replays. They miss it because they're in a tight shot of a leader whose 4 or 5 seconds ahead of the entire field.

We all know what the biggest problem is but ESPN just doesn't care what we want. Dr. Punch has got to go, period. His monotone voice puts us all to sleep every week and it has got to stop. And the one calling the camera shots to be on screen must be replaced. It is not acceptable. We want to see the racing, and that means all the cars, not just the chase cars.

Kenn Fong said...

@David, don't misunderstand me. What the 48 team is doing is fantastic and we're witnessing history. But I'm just bored by the Robo-Driver. (Bear with me, J.D., I'm bringing this back to topic immediately.) Other drivers do have personalities but they don't have to destroy trophies or spin out other drivers. As I said on NASCAR Insiders, I don't hate JJ, I just have an absence of like for him.

It's like a "chicken and egg" argument regarding the Chase and ESPN. Their incessant coverage of Jimmie Johnson to the exclusion of nearly everyone else except for Mark Martin only heightens my alienation. (There's a guy with a personality and he doesn't have to be a jerk.)

@Donna in FL: We went to both Daytona but are not going to Homestead this year. I will give it my attention on TV and radio, just to grimly finish what I started in Feb. That's sad commentary on the state of NASCAR and the coverage.

WCK

JOhnP said...

goat said:

"NASCAR really needs to pay attention to this problem, because in addition to the dropping ratings, their inattention to non-Chase cars is widening the competition gap (because non-Chasers are going to find it increasingly difficult to get sponsorship, and therefore less funding for competitive cars)."


Great point. Why would companies pay money to sponsor a car when the broadcasters refuse to show them. Lowe's, Dupont will anti-up. They win. Jack Daniels is out. They loose. Go figure. Last I heard it cost about 20 to 25 million for a primary sponsorship for a year. That's just the last I heard. Been awile. It's just not worth it for corporations to put that much of their advertising budget into advertising that is not seen on TV. The sponsors might as well just buy commercial time in another avenue of programming. Or maybe still advertise during the Nascar race during commercials. The rates of those commercials are directly tied to viewership. The less people watch, the commercials get cheaper.

alex said...

One more thing: After 15 ESPN races (and the whole first half of the season), do they honestly think that we need to be reminded of car numbers? We rip on Dr.JP for PXP, but a lot of that is having to deal with the script and protocol. Changes in 2010? Doubt it.

chris e said...

I only watched the Talladaga race live till they wrecked and went to FB. All others were DVR and ff. Ever fall asleep with the DVR in ff? All the races were pretty lame.

I do love racing and have for over 40 years. I am not Nascar first but since its really the only game in town, thats what I watch. I did catch all the IRL this year, even if I used the DVR. Really like the coverage, same with F1.

Here is what I do not like with the broadcasts. They (all) seem to do this over and over. Pan a corner with 6 or 8 front runners, then zoom in on one or two cars, pan back out, switch to the next turn and repeat. Some laps may have had as many as 10 camera angles. You simply cannot follow anyone but the leaders.

If a camera was allowed to stay in a corner or straight for 10 seconds or longer to catch everyone as they come by you can get a feel for the race, and see the other drivers. Especially on restarts or small tracks.

Ever watch a car camera and they show maybe two seconds and just about the time you figure out what your looking at it is switched to the rear of the same car and then switched again. Drives me nuts.

Ever find yourself leaning downward to see what is happening under the scroll. Sometimes as much as 40% of the picture is cut off. Not necessary to show the scroll all day long.

I tune out the commentators for the most part and MRN doesn't have a carrier in Brewtown. But if in the car and I grab the XM I listen. Wow that race is exicting! Get home and fall asleep with the DVR.

I NEVER watch prerace anything (sorry Kenny Wallace) or any other Speed NASCAR new shows, they are not very good. I used to watch RPM because it was about all racing. Then NASCAR took over.

I have no idea how to produce a TV show but certainly they can take a cue from Versus and F1. Personnally I cannot pick on any network more than the other, they are all kinda weak. The best races I saw this year was the 1st Talladaga race and the Indy 500 (IRL). Watched maybe live 5-10 cup races, DVR the rest. Saw a few good truck races and have enjoyed the heck out of Shubbery-someone who actually gives 'er.

Hopefully next year will be different but JJ will likely be going for 5 straight. yawn

chris

Anonymous said...

goat said: "I agree that the fundamental problem here is ESPN. However, dropping the Chase would have a couple of effects: 1) it would likely tighten up the competition, because the 48 would not be at as much of an advantage, and 2) it would remove a crutch that ESPN is relying on as a "story"."

I'm not a 48 "fan" However, I highly respect and admire what that team has accomplished. I for one expect Chad and Jimmy to start talking about one for the thumb!

My point is...

What advantage does the 48 team get from the Chase Format?

Let's take quick look back at the start of the last 4 chases:

2006 JJ 2nd Kennseth 1st
2007 JJ 4th Gordon 1st
2008 JJ 3rd Kyle Busch 1st
2009 JJ T-2nd Martin 1st

What "advantage" did he have?

The chase format is not the problem. All cup drivers and teams have the same rules at the start of the season.

Black helicopters not allowed to speculate on supposed favoritism.
Afterall, if that was the case JR would be the champ every year.

You want to be the champ? You have to beat the champ.

And to further my point only once in the last 5 years has the driver leading the points at the start of the chase actually won it. Tony Stewart in 2005.

Isn't that what the chase was supposed to be?

If we're talking advantages, Shouldn't the unbeaten NE Patriots have been the Super Bowl Champs in the 07-08 season?

As far as ESPN using the 48 dominance as a story crutch, IF true, that's just pathetic on their part. There's certainly enough material throughout the garage to "find" the stories and report them.

Unfortunately either ESPN won't or can't "find" anything to report unless it comes out of the pre-production meetings.

Photojosh said...

I never thought I'd be saying this, but I sure have skipped or fast forwarded through a lot of races through the chase this year. If I got a MRN/PRN station where I live or if Sirius offered the races via computer, I might have watched more of them. But the ESPN cup coverage is just a big yawn for me. I don't mind JJ winning 4 in a row (other than the fact that he isn't my driver) I just mind not hearing anything about the other drivers. I've never been a Jr fan as much as the rest of the world, but heck, that's the most popular driver in the sport and he is flailing like a fish out of water. Shouldn't we be hearing more about that? If it weren't for Montoya, we wouldn't get much interesting at all to follow from the ESPN storyline.

What is odd is that I feel like the Nationwide coverage, while not perfect, has been getting better this season. But the cup/chase broadcasts has finally moved the NFL to live TV and the race to DVR. And once it's on the DVR, chances aren't good that I'll get around to watching it before I find out the race story. And with sunday/monday night football filling up my TV time, that's pretty much an impossibility these days.

I'll be watching Homestead because it's the finale of the season. But *yawn* wake me when it's Fox/TNT time. I'll even be halfway happy to see that rat Digger again.

Marcus said...

I'm a huge #48 fan, and even I have been turned off by the coverage of him and the "Chase."

When JJ wrecked out in Texas, while I was concerned about his ability to return to the race, I was extremely disappointed that "the four-letter network" chose to spend all that time and attention on the team's garage activities and less on the actual race. I'm a race fan first - who choses to support the 48 team.

I've honestly had some of the shine of my favorite driver's incredible accomplishment taken off by awful TV coverage...

Anonymous said...

It used to be that I turned on the TV to watch the race being broadcast. What we get now is "the show" with a bit of racing thrown in.

I watched Rusty and Jarret while they were driving, I have no desire to watch them in the broadcast booth.

Give me race coverage, split screen for commercials and cut out all the extra crap like the cut away car.

Robert Upchurch said...

I have to admit that I haven't listened to ESPN's coverage of the Chase this year. Why? Because I've discovered the HotPass feature of DirecTV. First, they show the in-car view of your selected driver (four choices offered each week) - as a racer myself, it's the view I prefer to see: "from the driver's eye". I don't think the TV producers use that view enough, and it was a revelation to watch Talledega that way...it certainly wasn't the boring race everyone else complained about because there was always something to watch from the in-car.

Second, while they show a window of the ESPN video feed, they replace the ESPN soundtrack with the MRN or PRN feed. Nothing against ESPN's announcing crew, I just like the radio "style" of race coverage better, with full-field rundowns and less promotional BS. I will be glad to use this next year for the FOX portion of the season so I don't have to listen to their horrible announcing crew (and "digger".)

So while I vote with you, in that I think the broadcasters should not put so much of the focus on the chase, I'm glad that I have found an alternative. I also vote with others here who wish that all TV broadcasts need to do a better job of following things that happen farther down the field.

Thanks, J.D.!

Delenn said...

I started watching Nascar in 2000, and watched the entirity of every race from 2002 to the end of TNT's coverage this year.

I rarely watch the races live, so I am unable to multi-task during the race. The TV is all I have, and the "fast-forward" button, which these days is used more than it is not.

It was a struggle at the end of last year to keep going with ESPN, but I just about managed. This year, I really couldn't be bothered. The tracks I like I DVRed, and watched on fast-forward, which means 5 races got a fairly full viewing, 2 got no viewing at all, the rest were heavily edited.

ESPN can read the review of every race to see what needs to happen.

To summarise:
1. Switch Punch and Bestwick.
2. Show what's happening in the race. If ESPN can't cope with that, use MRN/PRN audio and take picture cues from them.
3. Show all 43 drivers. Interview them if they crash. Check they are OK, regardless of who they are, regardless of whether they are in the chase. Full field rundowns, Through The Fields etc.
4. Cut the pictures better. If in doubt, hire the entire crew from TNT, who appear to know what they are doing. Use in-car cameras sparingly and only when they are needed.
5. Drop Brad, Brewer, the Tech Center, Full Throttle, Full screen interruptions during green flag racing.

Do that lot, and you would improve a lot.

I have stopped watching Nationwide completely. I may watch to see if Danica crashes and burns, but otherwise I am out of Nationwide for good, especially with a CoT coming. I watch trucks because of a decent telecast. Cup races - I will start with Fox and TNT, then see how I feel when it comes to ESPN.

The time to change is now. DO IT!!!!!!

Lynne said...

Interesting indeed! I have not read one good comment about the TV coverage from any core race fans. Count me in that mix. I hope Nascar and ESPN can extract plenty of money to line their pockets from the few casual fans.

Had I received a Fan Council survey I would have had a problem. The first question did not have the choice: Did you have your TV turned on during race coverage? My answer would have been NO. Yes I did let the radio be my eyes and ears. I followed a few drivers on Trackpass and used that site for my statistics as the race was going on. I already know what the 48 car looks like, and had I wanted to see it I could have just put a picture up by my computer. It sounds like that would have given me the same effect as the ABC/ESPN coverage this season.

Nascar allows 43 drivers in each Cup race. It takes all 43 drivers to give us a race. If Nascar changed to follow the TV format they would only need to start 5-10 drivers in each race. How interesting would that be? Are all the other teams and sponsers wasting their money and us, as fans, wasting our precious time and money to follow the sport we love?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Sorry friends for the late posting of commments. We were dealing with some flooding problems that are now over. Thanks for your patience.

JD

Anonymous said...

ESPN had the best coverage for racing when Bob Jenkins and Lary Nuber were calling the event. They told you what was going on and covered everything. The reason they were so good is that they knew they were not the entertainment the race was and they did not try to steal the spotlight they were true both professionals.

Damon said...

Lynne said: It takes all 43 drivers to give us a race.


You don't need 43 cars to have a race, F1 doesn't have that many and that can put on some interesting races, same with the IRL (save the 33 at Indy). Since when did Nascar mandate that we MUST have 43 cars?

Much like the ridiculous start/parks in Nationwide, the "need" for 43 hurts the product, it doesn't help it.

Bruce Ciskie said...

I think both NASCAR and ESPN are in a tough spot.

NASCAR moved to the Chase format to increase interest, but between the flawed format of the Chase and the extremely flawed racecars they're using in Cup, interest has waned.

Also to blame for this is ESPN, though it could be argued that they're not in a desirable position.

Yes, hardcore race fans might care about the race for 28th place. Heck, I'll admit that there are times I want to see that. However, there are also times where I don't want to watch anything outside of the top 10-15 cars.

Not only that, but part of ESPN's duty to the sport and -- more importantly -- themselves is to get more people to watch the race.

However, the thing that will get people to watch is solid coverage of good racing at the front of the pack.

ESPN's coverage isn't solid, and there is too often not anything exciting going on up front.

ESPN would probably be screwing this up if the product was at its peak of awesomeness, but the reality is that NASCAR is not in a good place right now.

NASCAR isn't helping ESPN much right now, and vice versa. The network has to make some personnel changes to freshen things up on the air and help bring the coverage to a level fans deserve. Hopefully, that's just the start of significant changes to help the sport.

Richard in N.C. said...

I continue to find it amazing that virtually no one in the mainstream NASCAR press connects EESPN's performance to falling ratings, even the few who dare to criticize EESPN. The ratings fall off seems to always be protrayed as an indictment of NASCAR.

I believe it should be possible to pick up MRN for Homestead online off WBRF FM or WTQR FM.


JD, hope everything is OK - and many thanks for all your efforts.

Kyle said...

To go along with David 12:01.

I too would rather hear about 28th than see one car go around the track.

Anyway, during the last two races I've had trackpass audio (scanner) and radio streaming into headphones. I wear them with one side and one side out and listen to the tv at the same time. It can get kind of hairy with three audio feeds going into your head, but I get the most information. However, if had to choose, radio would win.

Anonymous said...

Given Jimmie's commanding lead in the Chase, I hope ESPN decides to throw caution for this race and just call it as is, without focusing on the Chase.

Glenn said...

JD asked: Just like the Fan Council, we are trying to get a feel before this final race of what fans think at this moment about the TV coverage.

I've cared so little I've actually missed completing 2 Fan Council Surveys. I hate missing them. I take those surveys very seriously. If NASCAR is willing to spend the money and take the time I feel I should contribute, good or bad. Everyone involved with the council does not get every survey, so when it's my turn I think I should complete it.

The little I've watched on ESPN, it's awful. (I want to use other words but they're childish).
I have no use for ESPN NASCAR coverage. I've missed more Nationwide races this year since I got involved in 2005. I have only watched 2 complete chase races, listened to every one on Sirius NASCAR radio. It's a shame here in the Atlanta market there is no regular radio station that will carry the races. Here on the east side the small po-dunk station that carries them is so small the wind has to be blowing the right way for it to come in at my house. I hate hearing it's just about the same elsewhere.
I've got so used to crappy ESPN coverage I forgot to watch Speed's coverage this past week.

Yea, I'm ready for the season to end. The agenda, script, and self promotion of this final network has me just wanting it to end.

BRING ON DIGGER!!!!!!


Digger can do more good than 1 ******** tv network, 4 pit reporters and one pxp person ever thought of doing their current jobs. (just fill in the blank)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I gotta say, after sitting through these 9 Chase races (yes, I watched them all with ABC audio only), I almost feel embarrassed for how big a stink I made about Digger earlier this year. No question, I still hate that rodent... but overuse of an 8-second animation is NOTHING compared to the damage being done to NASCAR on a grand scale by the likes of Jerry Punch (aka Mr. Bingo Numbers Caller) and the ESPN director, who doesn't know what camera to call or when.

Seriously, I will even tolerate Daryl Waltrip in a Digger hat ... just get ABC OFF THE AIR!

Anonymous said...

Only one more ABC race to go. Thank heavens.

I remember when the Fox guys signed off mid-season and were saying "See you in February." It seemed like such a long way away. Now, thankfully, it is almost here.

One more race of "There's the 48 car of Jimmie Johnson, sailing into the corner alongside 50-year-old Mark Martin, who is now being shown in the Fourth Position" and then I can take a long, well deserved ESPN vacation.

Anonymous said...

How many times this season have we seen this on ABC/ESPN:

A car pulls into the pits for a crucial pitstop. His team rushes around the car to change the first two tires. ABC puts up a timer accurate to tenths of a second that starts ticking. Can they do it? What will their time be?

Eh, who cares. The ABC camera cuts away before the pitstop is complete so we can see another driver pull into their pit and begin their own stop. Was the first pitstop successful? Did they get out in 13 seconds or 18? What was the result of that timer? We'll never know, because now we're watching a second pitstop.

BUT at least we will get to see this second full pitstop, even if we missed the first. The clock ticks... 10... 11... 12... and then BOOM the camera cuts away again to see the "race off pit road". How did that second pitstop end? On ABC you will never know.

I take that back. If a car ends a pitstop with a penalty requiring a pass-through, we will find out how the pit stop ended.... about 40 laps after the car mysteriously went from 3rd to 25th. Only then can we find out how the pitstop ended.

Digger is a joke, but there is a difference between a joke and a discgrace. ABC is an utter disgrace.

Adam said...

Well, of what little coverage I turned into, TNT has it right ever since they put Ralph in the booth.

Every other network except SPEED and TNT have been a disaster.

Chris from NY said...

ESPN puts the fans in 3rd priority? They don't even give two unspeakables about what we want.

FOX's crew is fine, except for one problem, Digger.

Digger is in the wrong place. If it was happening somewhere other than a live NASCAR broadcast or broadcast of ANY sport, it would be a whole different story. But the Aaron's Lucky Dog puts this guy to shame. I'd vote the Lucky Dog over Digger for best mascot in racing any day.

As for ESPN, us and the Fan Council should make an official petition calling for ESPN to get run out of town and for NASCAR to go back to the pre-2006 TV lineup.

The current contract expires in 2014, but if I were NASCAR, I'd forget it. I'd tell ESPN to beat it more times than Michael Jackson ever did.

ri88girl said...

If Nascar wants me to stop lisening to the radio and multi-taksing during a race, and keep watiching racing after ESPN takes over; then here is what needs to happen for me.

1 no more single car shots

2 no more side by side with a single car and the crew chief of that car in the other box.

3 no more bumper cam, in car cam stuck on the drivers face for six laps.

4 Follow the race off pit road. if you must pick three to put in the boxes, then follow all three all the way out of the box and to the line at the end of the stops.

5 wide shots on and off pit road in one box with the three box next to it if you have to.

6 No split screen during green flags unless to show 2 seperate battles OR racing (IN THE BIG BOX) and an unscheduled stop, spin, wall slap etc. in the small box.

7 No FULL SCREEN preproduced feature packages on drivers, tracks or anything else during green flag racing. EVER!

8 The Play by Play guy MUST keep track of who retires or is off behind the wall and why, who pits on what lap and where they come back out. Who's on new tiers and so on.

9 Everyone in the booth MUST look out the WINDOW and the production truck better know which camera to hit when someone yells " OOOOh trouble in three".

10 Mandetory top twenty rundown every 50 laps, full field rundown after ALL pitstops regardless of rotating under green or yellow. Full field rundown at least once in each half of the race.

11 If the vewier can see a car slowing on the track, smoking, out of shape what ever! Then the PXP guy MUST tell us what happened. We saw it so they better know what we saw.

12 for the final three laps GWC if you must do a shot of the leader, then please do a shot of the full field IN THE BIG BOX! Wide shot coming to the line and don't leave until the last cars cross! PERIOD!

13 Get some real pit reporters. I point you to Ray Dunlap, Wendy Venturini, Bob Dillnor et al. A real group of pit reporters will be all over what is going on with the track and can answer any of those peskey "why is he in 15th now" questions the booth might not have an immediate explination for.

14 YOU MUST PUT ALLEN BESTWICK in the booth. He will do most of these things I've listed for you, without having to think about it. Including knowing how to get the info he needs from the pit reporters.

If, dear ESPN, you would let your talent both in the booth and production truck do their jobs, Brian France can have his Chase, the drivers can get the air time they deserve fans will see a race; and we can ALL complain about how bad the CoT drives.