Friday, March 20, 2009
Things seemed a little tense on the Trackside set as Darrell Waltrip said he had something to clear-up right at the top of the show.
Waltrip wanted to address the growing issue about why he was not participating in the ESPN-televised charity race early on Saturday evening in Bristol, TN. Waltrip is the all-time winner at Bristol with 12 victories and a big fan favorite.
"I called my boss (at Fox Sports) and I want you to hear the message he left me," said Waltrip. He then played the song "I think you're crazy" back on his cell phone, much to the amusement of the panel.
"That put me out of business," declared Waltrip.
"I think we were all out of business with that phone call right there," said Larry McReynolds pointing at Waltrip and Jeff Hammond.
"We had a plan," said Waltrip. "But we have a man who is bigger than the plan."
About that time, Jeff Hammond jumped in and changed the subject. But, Waltrip had done what he needed to do in terms of getting the message out that he had been derailed from participating in this ESPN-televised race by his employers at Fox Sports.
TDP and many fans had been wondering why Waltrip had pulled-out last week after seeming to be very excited about this event and even being promoted as the in-race reporter.
Waltrip has appeared on ESPN many times for NASCAR conversations. He and Ed Hinton had a great appearance last season on NASCAR Now and Waltrip is often in demand as a spokesman for the sport, not just the TV network that carries some of the races.
If Fox executives David Hill or Ed Goren pulled Waltrip from this special one night event, they did so by choosing the interests of Fox over NASCAR and the fans. The Fox broadcast network only carries thirteen Sprint Cup points races and is then gone for the year.
At a time in the history of both the sport and the country when everyone is being asked to rise above petty differences and cooperate for the greater good, this smacks of selfish behavior and a very poor choice in priorities.
Waltrip, Hammond and McReynolds all seemed very discouraged that Fox had forced them to step away from this one night fun event at the very track where the NASCAR on Fox team will call the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. What a shame for all involved.
Updated - Thanks to Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip for reviewing this situation on the air Saturday afternoon. They explained it was Fox Sports Chairman David Hill who made the call that Waltrip should not participate. Joy also explained the decision had nothing to do with the ESPN coverage of the event. Classy touch by the Fox gang to update this info for the fans once and for all.
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Boy, you know you are in big trouble when a ton of email arrives and it all contains the exact same topic. A while back, we ran a column about NASCAR's marketing survey company asking questions about our friend Digger. Click here to read it.
Little did we know just how much we hurt the feelings of that fine organization. Apparently, the TDP column and comments have spawned an email that contains a brand new marketing survey tactic. That would be a direct threat.
Here is the email sent to NASCAR Fan Council members:
Welcome! As a reminder, being a member of the NASCAR Fan Council means you are part of a special group of NASCAR fans having the opportunity to communicate with NASCAR.
In other words, please continue to participate for free...but don't tell anyone about it. Gee, I wonder how that is working out?
It seems a tad ironic that the Internet is the technology platform by which the NASCAR Fan Council can gather data and attract new members, but somehow that same technology is supposed to be completely avoided when discussing NASCAR survey topics with friends.
Think these guys have heard of Facebook, Twitter and Rowdy? Between the millions of blogs and thousands of websites like this one dedicated to all things NASCAR, I think the veiled threat that somehow users will be banished from the Council if they leak the top secret info is going to come up a little bit short.
So, a word of advice to the fine folks at Vision Critical Communications Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia. When you act as the NASCAR Fan Council, there are some fundamental things to remember.
NASCAR fans do not and will not just shut-up. We like to talk, argue and then talk some more. If you want to ask questions about this sport or anything else, just assume that information will show-up online shortly after you post it.
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Wow! The fashion consultants at SPEED are at it again. After the 2008 winter white coats and the summertime puffy shirts with the 20-inch sleeves, it was disco time at the Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday and the glare was blinding.
Nothing says Tennessee and NASCAR like shiny metallic light blue long-sleeved shirts on middle-aged men in High Definition.
Even the rough and tumble Jeff Hammond could not pull this one off. Although Hammond added a white t-shirt, he looked ridiculous. What is going on at SPEED and who is in charge of making professionals like Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds look absolutely horrible on national TV?
Perhaps no one came up on the shorter end of the stick than veteran reporter Bob Dillner. At right around six foot six inches tall, Dillner patrolled the garage area in his shiny blue disco shirt with the cuffs tightly buttoned and the collar spread wide. If only Donna Summer had been blaring over the track speakers in the background the scenario would have been complete.
The new shirts actually defeated their own purpose. The sheen from the material squashed the red SPEED logo and made it unreadable, especially outside the announce booth and under the Friday sunshine. After watching this new production element in both SD and HD, one thing is clear. This was a bad idea from the world go.
Moving over to ESPN, emailers were asking if Brian Vickers had gotten a second job reporting for NASCAR Now. Nope. That was simply Marty Smith rocking a new red beard after some time off and having the guts to take it on-camera.
Once again this season, rather than letting Smith and Mike Massaro report from the tracks in NASCAR on ESPN polo shirts, both men were in full suit and tie for the Friday NASCAR Now program. How about giving these guys a break before the summer?
Maybe Smith is going to hold onto that beard in a silent protest over the network's dress code. After all, facial hair may be the only thing he can get away with in ESPN's strange world of formal attire.
Saturday features no NASCAR Now, a big sports car race on SPEED and the afternoon Nationwide Series tilt over on ABC. The new wrinkle is a charity legends race live on ESPN2 at 6PM featuring some big names and lots of fun.
For those who missed the disco shirts, rumor is they will be back at noon and 1PM ET Saturday as SPEED presents Nationwide Series qualifying and then Sprint Cup happy hour. Bring your sunglasses.
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There is only one Bristol. That sentence has been said by many race fans and TV commentators over the years. At this tiny and hypersensitive track, the practice sessions are sometimes filled with more drama than the race. The qualifying, especially for those trying to make the field on time, can be nail-biting.
Friday, SPEED and ESPN combine for eight hours of NASCAR TV beginning at noon ET. The NASCAR on Fox gang gets the day underway with live coverage of Sprint Cup practice. Mike Joy will then be joined in the booth by Jeff Hammond and Hermie Sadler for the Nationwide Series practice at 1:30PM.
It will be Steve Byrnes hosting NASCAR Live at 3PM as the track gets ready for the Sprint Cup Series qualifying. This show catches viewers up on the news and notes from the day. No doubt Tommy Baldwin's recent merger announcement might be a story for this program.
Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds join Joy at 3:30PM as the big boys get set to qualify live on SPEED. According to Jayski, there are 45 cars trying to make the field including nine that are not in the Top 35 and must qualify on speed. It will be Krista Voda and Dick Berggren handling the interviews from pit road.
After the drama of Cup qualifying, the always interesting Nationwide teams take to the track for "happy hour." This is the last time to make adjustments before Saturday qualifying and this 5PM session has proven to be both interesting and dangerous in the past. Joy will remain to call the action with Sadler and Hammond.
ESPN2 slips in the with now consistently solid NASCAR Now program at 6PM hosted by Nicole Manske. Mike Massaro will be reporting from the track along with Marty Smith. No doubt they will be hyping the live ESPN2 coverage of the Saturday legends charity race at 6PM. Ned and Dale Jarrett will be teaming up for the commentary.
It is still a shame that this program refuses to offer a promo with the correct time and TV channel for the Sprint Cup Series races. This is a glaring error and the only missing element in the newly revamped TV series. Someone on the NASCAR Now production staff simply needs to grow-up and it needs to happen soon.
There are a lot of potential topics to cover in the fast-paced Trackside show at 7PM on SPEED. From Darrell Waltrip's absence in the charity race to Mark Martin's awful season, this hour should fly by for viewers. Both Martin and Carl Edwards will appear on the show. No clue if Digger is along for the ride.
Steve Byrnes is the host and he tries his best to control Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds, Waltrip and the annoying Rutledge Wood. There are some big news topics this week and no doubt more stories will be breaking during the day on Friday. Trackside has done a good job of keeping viewers up to date as an end of the day wrap-up show.
This post will serve to host your comments about the Friday TV coverage on both SPEED and ESPN2. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button.
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