Sunday, March 29, 2009

Michael Waltrip Set For Monday TV Dash

Look for a blur somewhere on the highways between Martinsville, VA and Charlotte, NC on Monday afternoon. Michael Waltrip will be trying to do a TV "double dip" that may prove to be very interesting to watch.

The Camping World Truck Series race was moved to Monday by rain. This shifted the coverage from Fox to SPEED and also changed the announce team. Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will be joined by Waltrip to call the race. Once the checkered flag falls, Waltrip will be heading for the parking lot at a high rate of speed.

As most fans know, Waltrip is the only remaining member of the Monday TV franchise on SPEED now called This Week in NASCAR. It has been more than a decade since then Speedvision Executive Producer Bob Scanlon first launched Inside Winston/NEXTEL/Sprint Cup Racing.

The CWTS race begins at noon ET and should wrap-up about 2 hours later. Waltrip will then drive the one hundred or so miles between the Martinsville track and the SPEED TV studios near the Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Concord, NC area. Add some HD make-up, a fresh shirt and Waltrip will join Steve Byrnes and Greg Biffle for an hour of This Week in NASCAR.

Monday nights on SPEED are hard to avoid. Byrnes has worked hard to make this program fun and has succeeded. After some early struggles in 2008, this year TWIN has become a show that offers inside information and honest emotion. While Biffle and Waltrip are fun to watch, the new all-star on the program is Chad Knaus.

Waltrip, Knaus and Byrnes have summoned the old spirit of Allen Bestwick, Kenny Schrader and Johnny Benson. The SPEED programming execs have also allowed The NASCAR Media Group that produces the show to re-organize the program and capitalize on the momentum of the weekend. It has made all the difference.

So, this week's show should have some fun stories to tell from the Waltrip and Biffle experiences at Martinsville to the post-truck race dash through traffic. The program airs at 8PM Monday night on both SPEED and SPEED-HD.

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Live Blogging The Martinsville Sprint Cup Race on Fox

After a rainy and messy weekend, the sky has cleared and the Sprint Cup race from Martinsville will be run as scheduled.

Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond will start the day in the Hollywood Hotel at 1:30PM. Darrell Waltrip will join them for the pre-race show and then scoot up to the announce booth to join Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds for the 2:15PM race.

This day is being featured as the 25th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick has already appeared on the other NASCAR TV programs, so look for him on the Fox pre-race show. It should be interesting to see who asks the questions.

Down on pit road it will be Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum, Krista Voda and Dick Berggren reporting. These four will be on the spot today because of the potential issues on the narrow and dangerous Martinsville pit road.

The track is green and no rubber down may contribute to single file racing and lots of arguments over space early on. It is easy to get a lap down and the fight in the back of the pack with the leader approaching is going to be a story for most of the event.

Martinsville has a great track level camera angle, where we will no doubt be seeing Digger appear. Using this effect under caution is great, but inserting the Digger animation during green flag racing can cause viewers to miss almost an entire lap. A lot can happen very quickly at Martinsville.

Fox switched to a triple-split on the caution flag pit stops. This use of three video boxes instead of four allows the TV viewer to see the pit road live while also watching the stops of the top three contenders. What a great move.

In the middle of this event, the grind becomes apparent and the TV crew has to search for stories to keep the viewers interested. The challenge for Fox this season has been to tell the stories of the cars outside of the top twenty. Just because a team finds themselves racing from the back of the pack should not mean they become invisible.

Everyone races the last lap like a heat race and the brand new Fox approach of showing a camera wideshot with live graphics as the field races to the finish line has been a welcome improvement this season. Hopefully, that will continue.

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