Sunday, October 4, 2009

Your Turn: Sprint Cup Series From Kansas On ABC

The Sunday afternoon Sprint Cup Series venue was the Kansas Speedway. Allen Bestwick led the TV team onto the air with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty joined Bestwick in the Infield Pit Studio. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage. Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Dave Burns and Vince Welch reported from pit road.

This was a fast race with lots of excitement on the track. There were many pitstops under both green and caution flag conditions. Several cars had mechanical failures and were out of the race, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.

This post is going to host your comments on the pre-race show and the race coverage. To add your opinion on these programs, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

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Sunday TV Marathon: 13 Hours Of Live Comments

ESPN2's NASCAR Now is the sandwich for Sunday's NASCAR TV programs. Mike Massaro and Boris Said start the day at 10AM with a one-hour preview show and end the day at 10PM with a review show of the same length.

On this Sunday, TDP is going to keep open a live blog for every single NASCAR TV show during this thirteen hour run. That will let you hop over and comment whenever the spirit or the TV program moves you.

While Massaro has Said in the studio, he also has Terry Blount and Nicole Manske in Kansas reporting. The big wheel of ESPN NASCAR personalities seems to never stop spinning. Perhaps, Marty Smith on-site would have been nice during the Chase.

RaceDay comes along at 11AM on SPEED. Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer each do a lot of talking on this program, but recently it does not seem to be to each other. Kenny has fallen into a habit of getting his time on camera and talking directly to the viewers. "Let me tell you something, race fans" gets a bit tiring in a two-hour show.

Hermie Sadler and Wendy Venturini have become a potent one-two punch for this TV series. The ability of both of these reporters to speak with anyone involved in the sport is never more on display than during this time of the year. While the ESPN pit reporters get short answers and tight smiles, this duo never fails to get the information while having some fun along the way.

John Roberts looks tired and there is certainly a good reason why. This is October and he has been sitting in that daggone SPEED Stage chair for eight months directing traffic on TV shows from RaceDay to NASCAR Smarts. His NASCAR Live shows on Fridays and Saturday are also key to the network's scheduling. Make no mistake, Roberts is the quarterback on this team.

Rutledge Wood is a role player on this show, but his role is still undefined. He acts the fool, shills for the sponsors and generally accomplishes nothing. That is a shame. SPEED had allowed him to report and contribute in a more serious fashion last season, but this year he is once again doing the things it appears no one else wants to do.

RaceDay is a formula show that suffered from being pushed back an hour and not going head-to-head with NASCAR Countdown on ESPN. That is also a shame. When put to the test, ESPN had to step up in order to compete. Now, the pre-race show is a scripted dance of talking heads, shallow driver interviews and little real content.

TDP will break off from this post to offer a stand-alone live blog on the pre-race NASCAR Countdown show at 1PM and the Kansas race coverage at 2PM. Once again, NASCAR goes against NFL Football in exactly the same timeslot.

After the race, it will be Ralph Sheheen and Leigh Diffey co-hosting The SPEED Report at 7PM. This is hands-down the most improved motorsports TV show of the season. The producing, highlights and reporting are outstanding. Bob Dillner will offer a NASCAR race recap with interviews from Kansas.

The new wrinkle at 8PM in NASCAR Victory Lane on SPEED is that Jimmy Spencer is out and Larry McReynolds is in for the rest of the season. As silly season continues on TV, Spencer has been added to the This Week in NASCAR panel and has to be back in Charlotte to tape the show on Monday.

McReynolds immediately changed the tone of Victory Lane from emotional to informative. His questions are those of a NASCAR TV veteran and show why he is featured on Fox, TNT and SPEED throughout the entire season. Kenny Wallace is working hard to figure out how to deal with this new show dynamic.

Dave Despain missed Danica Patrick and now is going to miss AJ Foyt. Once again on vacation from Wind Tunnel, SPEED has Robin Miller sitting-in for Despain at 9PM while Foyt will be back in his shop on a liveshot. Miller claims this is his first time on TV without adult supervision, so it should be interesting to see if Super-Tex makes it through the entire interview.

While Foyt is known for his open-wheel history, he has some remarkable NASCAR stories and experiences. His ability to transition between all types of racing cars may be one of the reasons his number is displayed on the side of Tony Stewart's Sprint Cup Series ride. Stewart was the 1997 IRL champ and won the USAC Silvercrown, Sprint and Midget titles in the same season two years earlier.

Retired motorcycle veteran Gene Romero of On Any Sunday movie fame is Miller's second guest. This colorful personality will be a very different interview and is active with motorcycle racing to this day. The movie is mandatory viewing for any race fan.

Massaro and Said cap the day off with one of the best NASCAR review shows on TV. The Sunday night version of NASCAR Now only runs during the ESPN/ABC races. That is another shame. There are lots of highlights, interviews and information in this hour. Since ESPNEWS does not cover the media center press conferences during the NFL season, this is the only place on ESPN to get NASCAR info after the race.

We invite you to stop by and post any comment during these shows. TDP is just looking for your reactions, both positive and negative, to what the two remaining NASCAR TV partners are providing to you. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for helping us out and taking the time to stop by.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From Kansas (1PM ET - ABC)

Kansas is a track that can come down to good racing or simply gas mileage. NASCAR needs some exciting racing on the track and ABC needs a good telecast to get back on the TV track.

Once again, it will be Allen Bestwick that wades into the 1PM timeslot and goes up against the early NFL games with NASCAR Countdown. Bestwick has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty along for the ride. Expect a recap of Edwards hitting the wall last season, Logano rolling over and the up to the second Chase points.

The TV team has one hour to fill on the pre-race show. Expect the relationship between the ESPN pit reporters and the drivers to be on display once again. After two hours of RaceDay, the different answers that drivers give to the ESPN team is fascinating. My theory is good questions get good answers.

Jerry Punch was off Saturday as Marty Reid called the Nationwide Series race. Punch walks into another tough situation with lower TV ratings and disjointed coverage plaguing this portion of the schedule. His knowledge of the sport is tremendous and he has two top analysts with him. The big pressure is not only on the Chase drivers.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree have formed a team. Unfortunately, Punch is not on it. The duo has worked with Punch, Reid and even alone this season. They have come to rely on each other on the air and let the play-by-play person do their own thing.

Kansas is going to allow the Director to go in-car a lot. This big sweeping track is so different from Dover that the TV presentation will feature a lot of looking for side-by-side racing once the field settles in. Expect lots of driver soundbites played back and the infield gang to get plenty of air time.

If this race turns out to be competitive from the start, it could be just what both the sport and the ESPN gang really needs. After the buzz from the Logano wreck and the hard racing last week, there is no doubt that some new eyes will be checking out the Kansas action once the race is underway.

Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Vince Welch and Dave Burns are the pit reporters. Tim Brewer rounds-out the on-air talent as he reports from the Tech Garage. This is ESPN's "A team" and they are all squarely in the middle of crunch time.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from the Kansas Speedway. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

The Island Of Brian France

In contrast to the growling and hands-on style of his late father, Brian France continues to appear in the media as an executive completely insulated from the reality of the world around him. Readers of TDP have seen France offer public words on topics from Mauricia Grant to NASCAR's drug policy.

Despite France's public assurances that Grant's allegations were completely false, NASCAR subsequently fired multiple employees and then settled with Grant out of court.

After Ryan McGee's interview on with former Camping World Truck Series driver Aaron Fike shook the sport, France defended the existing NASCAR drug policy. As we all know, NASCAR eventually changed to a modern system of testing that has resulted in multiple suspensions.

In 2007, France and NASCAR began a new TV contract that featured Fox Sports, TNT and ESPN splitting the Sprint Cup Series pie. Fox filled vacant weekends early in the year, TNT paid dearly to keep its toe in NASCAR and ESPN returned to fill the ABC Sundays without NFL Football.

Now, we are in the third season of ESPN covering the Chase for the Championship. This version of the NASCAR playoffs is the invention of just one man. Here is an excerpt from a Boston Globe story on the topic.

“It was actually Brian France’s idea,’’ said Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications, referring to NASCAR’s chairman and CEO. “He and Mark Dyer, who was working for us at the time, were at dinner one night and they were talking about different scenarios of some sort of playoff system. And Brian sort of said, ‘How about if we did this?’ and Mark says, ‘Well, it might work.’ ’’

“The biggest thing was that once we reached this part of the season, we fell off the radar as far as coverage,’’ Hunter said. “Once Labor Day hit, and a race would be big, it’d be page 8, three or four paragraphs, no big deal. TV would or would not even mention it. So the last third of the season, we were just nowhere.’’

“Brian started floating it with Mike [Helton, NASCAR president] and me and everybody else and we said, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ ’’ Hunter said. “Then his dad [the late Bill France Jr., NASCAR’s former chairman and CEO] was like, ‘Are you nuts?’ But he hung in there with it.’’

Now firmly entrenched, the Chase has resulted in some TV issues that are affecting the fan base. Teams not in the top twelve, no matter how high-profile, simply cease to exist on ABC unless they are in contention for the win.

There was no Chase when ESPN was last in NASCAR, but the company is familiar with all kinds of different playoff formats from the other sports carried on the ESPN family of cable and broadcast networks. Then what could be the problem?

There is one fundamental truth that France and ESPN have overlooked. NASCAR fans do not change their allegiance simply because their driver did not make the Chase. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth fans do not put on Jeff Gordon t-shirts and pull for the #24.

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500. The fundamental problem with that is there are more drivers outside the Chase than in it.

France's recent comments about the TV ratings and the Chase hold the key to his disconnect.

"It wasn't what we thought it was going to be, but that was just one race," France said. "The reality of it is the racing was probably the best that we've had at Loudon in a long, long time. The Chase has got the right storylines, the right things going on and the racing is very good. So we're very happy with it.

"We were up in August for almost every event and up in Richmond as well (last year's Richmond race was rain delayed). So we were a little bit surprised at that. It's one race. But if we keep having this kind of racing and the Chase unfolds the way I think it's going to, that will take care of itself. It just will. I'm not concerned about that."

Well, fans of the drivers and teams outside the top twelve are speaking with their TV remote controls. This Sunday the race from Kansas starts at 2PM ET, one full hour after TV viewers have been drawn into the early NFL games.

Should the NASCAR on ESPN team again structure the entire telecast around the Chase drivers, it may continue the run of poor TV ratings as fans walk away from a telecast that may never show the driver they have supported since February.

TDP welcomes your comment on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.