Monday, September 7, 2009
Panelist Greg Biffle normally spends a significant amount of time on This Week in NASCAR trying to finish a sentence. The enthusiastic and overbearing Michael Waltrip has struggled this season to manage the transition between working with Chad Knaus and Biffle.
On this Monday, Waltrip changed his tune. From the drop of the green flag by host Steve Byrnes, Waltrip was silent when he was supposed to be silent. The good news was that he still brought the positive parts of his unique personality that have served him well on Monday nights for over a decade on SPEED.
What Waltrip found, either on his own or through some encouragement, was that television works much better when everyone on the program is respected. Biffle has been one of the most patient men on NASCAR TV this season. Coming off an exciting program with Chad Knaus, Waltrip would find that Biffle was easy to domninate and that is normally exactly what happened.
Let's give some credit to Biffle, he is not a natural showman like Waltrip or a trained TV veteran like Byrnes. It has been a struggle for Biffle to get to the point where he is right now on TV and viewers have been able to watch him along the way. On this night, he was informative and interesting with his well-placed comments.
Without having to wrestle Waltrip, Byrnes hosted a fast-paced program and TWIN showed the potential it really has with this combination of host and panelists. Certainly, a third voice on the panel that had a slightly different perspective than a current driver or crew chief would be an improvement. But, what viewers got was good.
When Knaus is on the show, the combination of the analytical crew chief and the spontaneous Waltrip simply makes for good TV. The challenge for the NASCAR Media Group production team was to define what to do with Biffle. They finally seemed to have solved that problem.
Late in the show, Byrnes revealed that Jimmy Spencer will be sitting in for Waltrip next week with Chad Knaus on the panel. That should make things even more interesting. Waltrip is on the way to Italy after Richmond on a trip for SPEED.
TWIN was finally the enjoyable hour of NASCAR information and entertainment that many of us thought it could be.
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Sunday night ESPN handled the Sprint Cup Series night race from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Allen Bestwick opened the show from the Infield Pit Studio with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty, and Ray Evernham. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage.
Up in the broadcast booth was Jerry Punch along with analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Down on pit road was Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.
This was a very long race that started in the daylight and transitioned to night. The challenge for the TV team was to balance calling the race while keeping things in perspective for the Chase for the Championship.
ESPN continued with the colored graphics, emphasized the Chase drivers and was faced with a very interesting tire situation.
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Leave it to good old Ed Hinton to cut through the clutter and innuendo that was floating around the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. The topic was Danica Patrick's NASCAR plans and Hinton just spelled it out for NASCAR Now viewers on Sunday morning.
"A source who is golden tells me that her NASCAR schedule will be a learning schedule next year," said Hinton to host Nicole Manske. "It will be built to accommodate her full IndyCar schedule."
"She is going to do a significant number of Nationwide Series races, she is going to do some truck series races, she is in this to learn," continued Hinton. "Tony Stewart is almost certainly going to sign-on as her partner and mentor in this venture."
On the subject of who would provide cars and trucks for her next season. "I am hearing more and more that Kevin Harvick fits the bill because KHI fields both trucks and Nationwide cars," said Hinton. "She will do it very much like Tony did it in 1998. He ran the full IRL schedule and 22 then Busch Series races."
On the subject of funding for Patrick's NASCAR efforts, Hinton continued to make himself very clear. "Sponsorship is not going to be an issue for the top female driver in the world," said Hinton. "Chevrolet appears to be the leader in the club house (with both SHR and KHI in Chevys). Whatever manufacturer signs Danica, that is going to be a huge branding boost for them."
Like a good veteran journalist, Hinton closed with a recap of this high-profile story. "I have been told it is all but certain that she will be in NASCAR next year," he said.
Update: Click here for a direct link to the ESPN.com version of Hinton's story.
Hinton has not had a high-profile place on ESPN's TV coverage of the sport, but he is slowly coming around to television and how it works. His weekly debates with Marty Smith on NASCAR Now are entertaining, but in the mid-week shows and during the one hour Sprint Cup pre-race programs, more of Hinton would be a good idea.
It will take a little while for the Danica news to sink in, but there is going to be a very big change taking place in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Track promoters and TV networks are already looking to 2010 as the time they can promote that Danica will be racing at their track and on their network.
TDP will be following this story completely as it will have such a huge impact on the TV and media coverage of the sport. Just consider Patrick entered in both the Daytona CWTS and Nationwide Series races driving for DeLana Harvick and KHI.
We always ask for your comments on these issues, but perhaps you could try to think about how the media will be impacted. Danica on Sirius Speedway, Danica on NASCAR Now, Danica and Ray Dunlap doing pit road interviews on SPEED's truck coverage.
Tony Stewart's transition from dealing with the IRL media and then coming to NASCAR was aided by the fact he was a veteran sprint car driver. Patrick is cool to the media and is about to get quite a wake-up call when everyone from Wendy Venturini to Marty Smith is ringing her phone and wanting some TV time.
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