Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unique Challenge Awaits SPEED And ESPN

There are just not that many new things out there for NASCAR's TV partners to cover. Drug testing was a new topic this year and the Jeremy Mayfield show was interesting for a while. However, most of the other stories like silly season, sponsor issues and the Hendrick dominance are old hat.

Both SPEED and ESPN have an opportunity to be involved in something tremendously historic. It may not seem that way right now, but five or ten years down the road what happens at the Charlotte Convention Center on Wednesday will be huge.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France is set to unveil the first class of Hall of Fame inductees shortly after 4PM ET. Both SPEED and ESPNEWS will carry the announcement live.

Mike Massaro and Brad Daugherty will handle the ESPN telecasts. After the announcement on ESPNEWS, the duo will return at 5PM for a regular edition of NASCAR Now with additional interviews and information.

Update: Massaro and Daugherty will be joined by Jerry Punch, who is also a Hall of Fame voter.

As one might expect, SPEED has a cast of thousands split between their North Charlotte studios and the TV trucks parked outside the downtown Convention Center. They also have some surprises in store as Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty take center stage on the coverage.

The network starts with a morning warm-up at 11AM. The familiar team of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will be in the SPEED studios. At the convention center will be DW and Petty. That combo should get things warmed-up for later.

After a replay of the California Cup race, SPEED goes live at 3PM for three hours. A one hour final preview of the nominees will be followed by the announcement and then tons of interviews, reactions and memories. The guest list should be pretty special.

In addition to the TV team that handled the morning show, SPEED will add Mike Joy, Ken Squier, Wendy Venturini and Randy Pemberton. Joy and Squier will provide the historical perspective while Venturini and Pemberton provide the interviews.

Voda and Byrnes put a cap on the day at 7PM with a one hour version of NASCAR Race Hub. This casual show is brand new and trying to make a dent with a new spin on racing conversation and news.

The publicity surrounding this announcement will be a real shot in the arm for the sport at a time when one is desperately needed. Media outlets that have routinely ignored the Chase will be carrying this NASCAR story about who has made the first Hall of Fame class.

TDP will start a live blog at 10:30AM and continue it throughout the day as the TV shows continue to unfold. We welcome your comments on all the NASCAR Hall of Fame coverage. We will also be providing updates on Twitter.

You can access those free of charge at http://twitter.com/TheDalyPlanet anytime. There are hundreds of NASCAR teams, drivers, journalists, bloggers and thousands of NASCAR fans who use Twitter everyday. I encourage you to take a look!

Thanks for taking the time to read about the big Wednesday for both the sport and its TV partners. It should be fun to watch.

All Hands On Deck For "NASCAR Race Hub"

This major shift in programming direction at SPEED still makes little sense but NASCAR fans can just sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday evening debuted NASCAR Race Hub. This new series will run Monday through Thursday, but the network is vague on what will happen once the season is over. While this Wednesday's edition will be one hour long starting at 7PM, the show will usually air at 7:30PM for thirty minutes.

Krista Voda and Adam Alexander co-hosted this first show and it was quickly apparent that SPEED had all hands on deck. Richard Petty did a quick interview with Alexander focusing on the upcoming Hall of Fame announcement and then the floodgates opened.

Jeff Hammond stopped by in his casual attire, which is the theme for the show. Voda christened the on-set sofa as the "Couch of Tomorrow" and the program took off. Hammond is much better in this setting with Voda than he ever was in the Hollywood Hotel.

The familiar voice of Ralph Sheheen was next as he delivered a SPEED Report update covering the NASCAR news of the day. Suddenly, Ray Dunlap appeared as he was reporting from Rockingham where two open-wheel stars were trying to test a Camping World Series truck. Unfortunately, rain cancelled the effort but Dunlap interviewed both Vitor Meira and Nelson Piquet Jr.

SPEED's Randy Pemberton was next, taking a position at the "Hub Pub" and talking NASCAR with Alexander. Pemberton is another on-air talent on the roster that would probably be right at home in this setting. Veteran fans may remember that Pemberton cut his teeth on Inside Winston Cup Racing back when it was hosted by Ned Jarrett and appeared on TNN.

Since TWIN now follows this program, Steve Byrnes, Michael Waltrip and Jimmy Spencer made a brief appearance at the Race Hub pinball machine as a promo for the upcoming show. Greg Biffle was nowhere to be found.

The show closed with the five SPEED talent on-camera and viewers still looking around at all the different features built into the new set. As with many multi-purpose sets, there are several interview areas, host positions and video monitors.

TDP readers already noticed the struggles with some lighting, make-up and audio issues. Certainly, these problems will be addressed as the show moves forward. Richard Petty cast a big profile with his cowboy hat and he also cast a big shadow as he wore it and sunglasses inside.

Race Hub crammed a lot of information, interviews and talking heads into thirty minutes. Tuesday, Voda will host a broadcasting panel of Mike Joy, Rick Allen, Doug Rice and Ken Squier. All of these men have a NASCAR Hall of Fame vote and Voda will let them voice their selections and the reasons for choosing them.

Wednesday the show will be one hour beginning at 7PM and cover the big Hall of Fame selection announcement. There will be plenty of announcers including Kyle Petty on that show. Kudos to SPEED for making the investment. It looks like a lot of fun.

Earlier in the day, Mike Massaro ran Ricky Craven, Ray Evernham and Randy LaJoie through a stellar hour of NASCAR Now on ESPN2. This was Massaro's best show filling in for Allen Bestwick on a Monday. He kept the pace quick, interjected his own opinions and respected all three men on the panel.

This program walks the politically correct line quite often and did so on several race topics from the weekend. Jimmie Johnson called in as the guest and answered a good mix of questions from the panelists. The highlights and soundbites were crisp, which is an ESPN hallmark.

The day ended with This Week in NASCAR on SPEED. Biffle knew he was going to be on the hotseat and Byrnes put him there quickly. Biffle originally went for the excuse that a bumpy track caused him to squeeze eventual race winner Joey Logano up against the backstretch wall in the Nationwide Series race. He later admitted it was basically payback as everyone already knew.

Biffle recounted his post-race encounter with Tom Logano, which immediately incensed Jimmy Spencer who still enjoys a good fight. Of course, Spencer is now watching them rather than participating in them, but it's the thought that counts. Biffle said the elder Logano gave him the traditional NASCAR symbol of greeting and then continued running to Victory Lane.

Poor Biffle then had to hear it again as the panel watched him crash first with Denny Hamlin at the end of the Nationwide race and then with Kasey Kahne in the Sprint Cup Series event. He looked and sounded like a man who knew his Chase hopes were over.

Richard Petty then joined the panel as an in-studio guest and once again Jimmy Spencer was bounced from the set. Some TDP readers suggested taking up a collection for another matching studio chair. Making Spencer leave when a guest arrives is nothing short of ridiculous.

Byrnes also pinned Petty down on the Yates merger and the King was not happy to be put on the spot. Once again, the irony of possibly being named to the Hall of Fame at a time when things are going horribly wrong behind the scenes was on display.

As a TV veteran, Byrnes calmed things down and let Petty and Waltrip swap some stories. The Petty history is nothing short of amazing and NASCAR fans would be better off if this kind of legacy had a place on a regular TV series sometime soon.

It was a heavy Monday for NASCAR TV and we would like to know if you watched. Please add your opinion on these TV shows. Just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. As usual, we appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

Your Turn: Sprint Cup Series From Fontana On ABC

This is an opportunity to voice your opinion on the ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Fontana, CA on Sunday afternoon.

Allen Bestwick hosted a one hour pre-race show with Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace from the Infield Pit Center. The focus of this show was the Chase for the Championship.

Jerry Punch called the racing action with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the broadcast booth. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Center. On pit road were Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

This big and fast track demands that the TV coverage goes back through the field to tell the stories and show the racing. In-car cameras used live are tough because the action happens quickly.

ESPN uses a scoring ticker on the top of the screen. Green flag pitstops are often the case at this track. Cars can come through the pack with new tires and some good adjustments.

What did you think of the TV coverage? 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 do this. Your comments will be read by thousands of Internet users over the next several days. It is important to make a record of what happened right after the race.

TV Troubles With Chase Easy To Understand

NASCAR has always prided itself on the ability to change to meet any situation. Rules are constantly updated, procedures are constantly changed and conversations about what can be done to make the sport better go on endlessly.

In the meantime, the sport is feeling the ill effects that The Chase is having on TV for the third straight season. What started as new and fresh is simply now stale and boring. No matter who tries to spin the reality, the results are clear in the TV ratings and ESPN's coverage.

Last week, we published "The Island of Brian France" to bring the genesis of the Chase format into perspective. The initial efforts of this new format to get attention away from the NFL, Major League Baseball and college football were clear and made sense at the time.

As we wrote last week, there was one big problem that remained:

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 the Chase is there are more drivers outside of it than in it.

This season, we have been trying to convince ESPN that by putting the race first and the Chase second they could attract the fans that left NASCAR after the "regular season." This has not gone over well with some in the NASCAR media.

Click here for the recent article by Jeff Gluck from the scenedaily.com website. Gluck contends that the Chase drivers deserve the lion's share of TV coverage. Here is a quote:

The bottom line is that if you want your favorite non-Chase drivers to get more coverage, he’s going to have to do something to deserve it. In the meantime, the focus is where it should be: on the drivers running up front and competing for a championship.

The problem with Gluck's argument is the same one that France and ESPN seemingly cannot understand. Regardless of a driver's position in or out of the Chase, the fans are still focused on the same team they have pulled for all season long.

Putting the national TV spotlight endlessly on the chosen 12 eliminates the remaining fan base from watching the races. The position of the cars on the track makes absolutely no difference to fans of drivers like Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton or Michael Waltrip. They want a race story told to them that is all-inclusive, not purposefully selective.

During the Kansas race, ESPN rarely even reset the field after the caution periods. Stories that involved non-Chasers were routinely allowed to fade. The forced emphasis on the chosen few never allowed updates on fan favorites who were having a non-Chase season.

Once again in Kansas, listening to the radio coverage painted a completely different race picture than TV viewers were experiencing. The inclusive nature of radio continues to shame the TV coverage where the lonely scrolling ticker is often the only source of information on favorite drivers.

Certainly, the Chase drivers deserve emphasis at this time of the year. However, choosing to eliminate the other teams, drivers and sponsors from national TV exposure is once again teaching NASCAR and ESPN a valuable and rather expensive lesson.

We would like your comments 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 The Daly Planet.