Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Pimp My Ride" Marathon On SPEED

Stop the email! I surrender. Yes, we know that SPEED could be using this Sunday to show all the episodes of NASCAR 39/10 or other NASCAR programming right before Daytona.

Instead, we welcome Pimp My Ride to SPEED as the network continues to define itself by non-racing lifestyle programming. Enjoy the 27 episode marathon this Sunday up against the Super Bowl and other NFL programming.

Click here for the link to the air schedule for this program series on SPEED. On one hand, the network has the perfect right to show whatever programming it chooses anytime.

On the other hand, some Camping World Truck Series highlights, some NASCAR Confidential programs or even a recap of the NASCAR 39/10 series that was only aired once at noon on weekdays might have been a nice touch.

SPEED begins the many SPEED Stage shows (minus Tradin' Paint) from the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.

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"NASCAR Wives" Now All Headed For Daytona

When the TLC network announced a new series called NASCAR Wives, eyebrows went up all around the town. Coming to mind right away was the group pictured above.

Bravo Network has The Real Housewives of Orange County as a reality TV hit and that program is now going into its third season.

As the cast of this NASCAR project that TLC is calling a docusoap was announced, it was certain that if nothing else the show was going to make for some good gossip around the garage area.

Now, with Speedweeks approaching, there are actually several juicy storylines unfolding that may make NASCAR Wives a show that gets an audience, even on a mainstream TV network like TLC.

In fact, the producers at The NASCAR Media Group and TLC decided to delay the premier of this series until the Daytona experience could be edited into the show.

That made a lot of sense because just this week it was confirmed that every member of the NASCAR Wives cast is now going to be heading for Daytona.

Everyone knows Kelley Earnhardt and DeLana Harvick. Earnhardt plays a key role in managing the business affairs of her brother Dale and was front-and-center during his transition from DEI to Hendrick Motorsports. Harvick has been active as an owner for several seasons and brings a strong racing heritage to the TV series.

While DeLana and Kevin remain a happily married couple, Earnhardt has just gone through a divorce from a well-known NASCAR personality and is now dating someone else who is involved in racing. This contrast and the real life moments that come with both situations should make for some interesting TV.

The Scott Speed story appears to be coming directly from central casting, with a Euro-influenced highly-regarded driver making his way into the Sprint Cup Series for the first time.

Speed will be joined on the Cup circuit by fiance Amanda Mathis, who is yet another NASCAR Wives cast member. Mathis also has racing in her family, along with a NASCAR public relations background.

Recently, veteran driver Jeremy Mayfield announced that he was headed for Daytona with his own Sprint Cup team and has every intention of campaigning for the full season. That allows another cast member, Jeremy's wife Shana, to be in the racing mix for this season. Shana and Jeremy are no strangers to NASCAR reality TV as SPEED viewers can attest.

That left only one cast member out of the Daytona mix. Angie Skinner is the wife of Camping World Truck Series veteran Mike Skinner. This season, Mike was out of a ride and only a last-minute deal would get him on the track in Daytona.

Enter perhaps the most unique owner in NASCAR, NFL star Randy Moss. His single-truck operation was set to campaign in 2009 with young Tayler Malsam running for rookie of the year. As Dave Moody reported on The Motorsports Soapbox, Moss decided to expand that operation to two trucks just a short while ago, but he needed a driver.

The phone call went out to Mike Skinner who took the job. That puts Angie back on the racing circuit for the season and also brings her over to the Daytona International Speedway. The Skinners are full-time Daytona residents and well known in the community. That will be another wrinkle as the TV series unfolds. Not everyone lives in Mooresville or Concord, NC.

At the present time, TLC is suggesting that this TV series will begin in early March and continue through the season. We are still waiting on the actual number of episodes, but are told each one will be an hour in length. The episode with the Daytona footage will kick things off.

This series will be a new experience for TV viewers as NASCAR moves away from the sports TV networks and migrates over to the land of What Not To Wear.

Perhaps, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly will put on some NASCAR t-shirts and head for Daytona to get in touch with the new members of the TLC family. Now, those two walking through the garage area would be something to see.

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ESPN2's "NASCAR Now" Stepping Into Chaos

Update: Many thanks to ESPN for putting out a media release on Wednesday with additional information on the NASCAR Now series for 2009. This column is now updated at the bottom of the post.

It will be Monday, February 2nd when ESPN2 resumes the almost daily show called NASCAR Now. In 2008, this program series found its legs and became a solid link between the sport and the fans.

NASCAR Now's basic format is to provide a one-hour talk show-style program on Mondays and then four or five daily thirty-minute shows leading up to the race weekend. Before ESPN takes over the Sprint Cup telecasts, there is only a preview version of NASCAR Now on Sunday mornings. During the final 17 Cup races, the network adds a one hour review show on Sunday nights.

This ten month series is a considerable undertaking that began in 2007 with severe growing pains and has now slowly become a show that works well the vast majority of the time. The glaring issue for ESPN2 is that every episode of the program originates from Connecticut.

SPEED has just relocated that network's headquarters to the heart of NASCAR country. Now, the new SPEED HD studios are just a short drive away for the NASCAR personalities. This new access became apparent during the Preseason Thunder series where NASCAR guests were plentiful.

This year, however, all the suggestions that ESPN invest in a Mooresville area studio are being put to rest rather quickly. Tough times are upon the nation and there are new priorities being established almost every day.

It is into this NASCAR environment that Allen Bestwick, Nicole Manske and Mike Massaro must walk. This trio is supported by Lead Reporter Marty Smith and will also make use of the NASCAR on ESPN personalities throughout the year. This is the first season for Massaro as a full-time co-host and the second for Manske.

Bestwick is the captain of this ship and played a role in revamping this series over the last several seasons. At a time when the program was floundering with bad talent choices and poor story selection, Bestwick provided an example of how to put together a straightforward NASCAR news program by simply doing it himself.

Click here for the 2007 TDP column titled "Allen Bestwick Rocks NASCAR Now To Its Core." That certainly was a moment in NASCAR TV to remember.

Now, Bestwick hosts the expanded Monday program simply called the roundtable. Over the past season, guests too numerous to mention have flown to the ESPN2 Connecticut studios and participated in a conversation about the weekend's racing.

ESPN gets credit for stepping-up, admitting some problems and working to fix them. Manske was a big question mark after coming over from SPEED, but she hit the ground running and never looked back. She established herself as a credible, hard-working host and interviewer. She did have some memorable moments in 2008, but the good news was none of them concerned her wardrobe choices or social life.

Massaro was originally a semi-regular guest on the Monday hour shows and something within him just took to the studio right away. This season he and Manske will rotate hosting the shows in the studio and flying out to report from the race tracks. It should be an exciting year for a guy who has seen it all where both ESPN and NASCAR are concerned.

ESPN is famous for big editorial meetings where lots of topics are discussed and on-air stories are selected. Those meetings are not always quiet, but they are usually very interesting. Trying to figure out how to step back into the NASCAR sandbox this season should be a challenge.

The news and issues in this sport never slowed down after the Homestead race last season and are now at a fever pitch as Daytona Speedweek approaches. Fans cruising the Internet for NASCAR news get all kinds of content from a wide variety of websites. Sometimes, it seems almost overwhelming.

The challenge for NASCAR Now is to sort this upcoming season out for the fans by looking at the three national series and speaking the truth. This season more than ever before it will be up to NASCAR Now to provide daily updates on the health of the sport in general.

The growing perception that the Sprint Cup Series superteams are again going to dominate must be discussed openly. The current overall status of both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series for 2009 has never been mentioned by SPEED during two weeks of programming and desperately needs to be put in perspective for fans.

While Bestwick has certainly been a NASCAR favorite for many years, he also has the ability to ask very direct questions of the analysts and reporters on his panel. The task of talking about the health of the sport is going to fall to folks like Dale Jarrett, Ray Evernham, Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace.

Reporters Marty Smith, David Newton and Terry Blount are going to be very busy sorting out the specifics of who is where and what exactly NASCAR is going to be putting on the track for fans in just a couple of weeks.

Update: Allen Bestwick will have Ed Hinton, Marty Smith and Boris Said on the Monday one hour program to kick-off the season at 5PM ET. The series will offer a special report on NASCAR and the economy next week and all shows during that week will be an hour in length. Thanks again to ESPN for the timely release of this information.

Please let us know what you think about the return of NASCAR Now and what you are looking for from this TV series in 2009.

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Anyone Watching "NASCAR 39/10?"

The big 2008 Sprint Cup Series recap show produced by The NASCAR Media Group is called NASCAR 39/10: Reviewing the 60th Season.

SPEED has been airing this program on Wednesday and Thursday of the past several weeks at noon Eastern Time. Did we mention noon?

Needless to say, for most of us the only option is to try and remember to record the ten shows. Since each show is three hours in length, the commitment to watch them all is sometimes a bit tough.

As it turns out, each program in the series has proven to be fun and very entertaining. Instead of just on-track COT highlights, the shows feature content from all the different NASCAR TV and radio partners.

Fans are just as likely to hear Dave Moody and the MRN gang or see Bill Weber and Kyle Petty from TNT as they are the infamous "voice-over announcer." The series producers also used lots of content from preview and review shows like RaceDay and Victory Lane.

Some of the moments from the SPEED Stage and infield studio shows are just as memorable as the actual racing or the crew chief and spotter footage. This blend turned-out to be just the right way to craft a very large TV review series of this kind.

Each program does have an on-camera host who appears several times, but the stars of the show are the voices and faces from last season. This is truly a memorable review of the ebb-and-flow of an interesting and sometimes confusing NASCAR year.

As we mentioned earlier, the only drawback to this TV series is that it does not re-air on SPEED. Catch it at noon on a weekday or it is gone. Unable to push aside PINKS, Wrecked and Unique Whips, SPEED could not give NASCAR even one night a week in primetime for this project.

Next week there will be the last three episodes of this series, which should be well worth recording and viewing. On Wednesday at noon the highlights of the September races at Richmond, Loudon, Dover and Kansas will be featured.

On Thursday there will be a doubleheader opening the monster overload of NASCAR programming on SPEED during Speedweeks. The noon episode will feature the October races in Talladega, Charlotte, Martinsville and Atlanta. The final episode at 3PM will round-out the year with a review of Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. That show will also offer a wrap-up of the 2008 season.

If you have been following this series, please let us now what you think about how it was presented. If you have not, please let us know the reasons why.

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No DirecTV News Yet For Daytona

Thanks to all of you who have been emailing and asking if DirecTV was going to follow through on their promise to add new NASCAR video features for 2009. Since the Hot Pass service was cancelled, there has been no news from the company.

The VP of Sports for DirecTV is Chris Long and he indicated that the company was working with NASCAR to get something going for this season. Obviously, DirecTV wants to ride out this tough economic time and try to get Hot Pass back up and running for 2010.

"NASCAR and DIRECTV made the decision to evolve HOTPASS into a new product that will be available to all DIRECTV customers at no extra charge in 2009," said Long. "We are finalizing the details now and will unveil the new service in the next few weeks."

Well, that was December 10th of 2008 so hopefully DirecTV will be updating the situation over the next week. There are lots of options, but they all certainly will wind-up costing DirecTV some additional money and that is what they just do not have right now.

DirecTV recently left the IRL as a presenting sponsor and just like many media companies there is a hiring freeze in effect for the DirecTV folks in California and Colorado. Click here to see just how remote the DirecTV Colorado facility really is from Google maps.

Of course, the ultimate irony is that DirecTV is still the title sponsor of Speedweeks at Daytona and we will be hearing that company name a lot on both SPEED and ESPN right up to the big race.

TDP will update any news on this issue that comes along as soon as possible. Again, thanks for the email and please feel free to offer your DirecTV comments on this post. To see the Hot Pass truck full-size, just click on the picture.

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Your First Reactions To The New NASCAR Website

The brand new website is out and the Turner Interactive folks are very proud of the work they have put into the redesign.

The site has a better flow and the appearance of what may be called a blog in many ways. The video player is upgraded and a lot of the front page clutter has been eliminated.

Crafted around a broadband connection, video is going to be a major player this season as is going head-to-head with the NASCAR TV networks in terms of original content.

Here is a section of the press release:

NASCAR.COM is also pulling out the stops with enhanced editorial coverage in 2009, debuting several new features such as Inside NASCAR, a weekly in-depth feature that highlights untold stories both on and off the track; Five Things About, personality driven quick hits about NASCAR drivers, team owners, crew members and officials; and No Margin for Error, comparing and contrasting two drivers every week in their quest to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and hoist the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy.

TNT announcers Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds are among those who will contribute new regular columns and video commentary, while during the network’s six weeks of racing NASCAR.COM will also once again employ RaceBuddy, an animated online companion that provides viewers extended race coverage on-air and online.

As users can see from the video page, Riki Rachtman is still alive and well in cyberspace. Once again this season, This Week in NASCAR and other SPEED programs will be contributing additional content to the site as well.

Please let us know how you like the new and if you feel that the Turner designers responded to the issues we raised in our earlier discussion of the old website. Many of those problem elements seem to be long-gone at first glance.

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