Sunday, November 8, 2009

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series Race From Texas (2:30M - ABC)

Three races remain in the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season and all of them will be on ABC.

Allen Bestwick leads the NASCAR on ESPN team on-air with NASCAR Countdown. He will be joined by Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace. Tim Brewer will contribute from the Tech Garage.

Jerry Punch is calling the play-by-play action from TMS. He has Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside of him for the race. Down on pit road are Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

This race is fast and dangerous. Accidents happen very quickly and the on-track action under green leaves very little time for features and the playback of recorded material.

It is hard to use the in-car cameras at this track live because there is almost always passing and action going on somewhere in the field. The aerial shot is effective and really puts things in perspective in terms of track positions. It should also show the double-file restarts quite well.

The low angle "speed shots" at TMS work quite well to deliver the reality of the speed to the TV viewers. They are most effective on restarts when the pack is still bunched together and coming up to speed.

Pit stops under caution should have the normal triple-split video coverage. The race off pit road is key once again. Green flag pit stops demand a split screen, as the action continues at full speed regardless of the cars cycling through pit road.

There has been great sound and pictures from TMS on Friday and Saturday for the truck and Nationwide Series races. With all the TV toys available to them, it should come down to smart choices being made by the ESPN producer and director to keep the focus on the racing and update the stories unfolding during the event.

Live Blogging "RaceDay" On SPEED

Fans have been outspoken in email about this two hour live show on SPEED. This TV series has been around for years and has a familiar format.

John Roberts hosts Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer at the SPEED Stage. TDP spoke about this program a while back and how the activity at the stage had changed. Both Wallace and Spencer now spend a significant amount of time speaking directly to the fans.

This perhaps does not have the same approach as having the panelists compare opinions and have discussions on NASCAR topics. Spencer has been having a particularly tough time recently. He makes bold statements that confirm his opinion as the right one. Wallace is not allowed to disagree.

The change in the dynamic of the panel has drawn Roberts into some discussions as the voice of reason. Often, Spencer's statements are so out of line that Roberts must offer a gentle corrective comment to get things back on track. Why Spencer has taken this approach of always being right is still a mystery.

This week, Jeff Gordon is the subject of Wendy Venturini's "Real Deal" feature. This is the only regularly scheduled TV feature that presents a timely focus on a single subject. Venturini is an established presence on RaceDay, but has not appeared on Race Hub or The SPEED Report. Time for that to change.

Hermie Sadler continues to move between three roles. He has been a reporter, an analyst on the SPEED Stage and a commentator in the TV booth working practice and qualifying coverage. Not bad for a guy who fans have watched work his way into the TV line-up starting as the guy presenting the track descriptions.

RaceDay continues to be scheduled earlier to avoid any conflict with the Sprint Cup Series TV shows. At this time of the year, it might be healthier to have two competing pre-race shows live at the same time. It should also be interesting to see what the RaceDay panel has to say about some of the issues that occurred during and after the Talladega race.

Thanks to Steve Langley at for the photo.

This post will serve to host your comments about NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED. 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.

Three And Out For ESPN

This is the third time the NASCAR on ESPN team has covered the Chase for the Championship. Instead of growth and success, the production team has been struggling with a clash of agendas. Last week at Talladega, things came to a head.

ESPN was clearly upset with the periods of single-file racing. This has been seen before at Talladega, but that was not the real issue. Instead of simply covering the race as it was unfolding, the single-file racing was presented to TV viewers as an issue happening to ESPN. It was blamed on NASCAR directly. Dale Jarrett even suggested the single-file racing was a driver conspiracy over reinforced rules on bump drafting.

After the race, the sanctioning body's frustration with ESPN boiled over. NASCAR's Director of Corporate Communications, Ramsey Poston, offered these words:

The ABC broadcasters certainly weren't happy with the race and they felt compelled to remind viewers of that virtually every lap. Along the way ABC missed a lot of very good racing.

Regardless of how you may feel about the on-track issues, it is very rare for NASCAR to publicly criticize a TV partner, much less one that handles the Sprint Cup Series. The real reason for this clash is easy to understand.

ESPN has been having trouble assimilating back into a sport that is used to leading the way and having the TV networks follow. In the "New World Order" of ESPN, the TV coverage is the star and the sporting event takes a backseat.

Personalities like Dick Vitale, Brent Musburger and Chris Berman are used to being the show, not being at the show. In 2007, ESPN brought so many gizmos, so much hype and so many misplaced priorities to NASCAR that fans were shocked. The term for this is called "over-producing." It may be the reason that many of you stopped watching SportsCenter. Just too much stuff.

All year long, ESPN drags a Tech Garage, Infield Pit Studio and eleven on-air announcers to the tracks for the Nationwide Series races. It made no sense back in 2007 and it still makes no sense today.

From February through July, ESPN's frustration level builds covering Jason Keller and Kenny Wallace on the track instead of Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. As fans know, ESPN clings to the Sprint Cup drivers who race in the Nationwide Series as security blankets during the live telecasts.

This year, the type of Sprint Cup Series TV coverage ESPN would provide was made clear from the opening moments at Indy. After talking for hours about the critical battle into Turn 1, the network missed showing it. It went downhill from there. Click here for a review of how the ESPN Sprint Cup Series season started. Please make sure to read the fan comments.

Here is one fan's Indy comment that sets the tone for the issue we are discussing:

ESPN just absolutely drains any joy out of the race. No one sounds or acts like they enjoy racing. They trudge in, punch the clock, do their work by the numbers and wait until it's time to punch out and go home. It's depressing.

Now, fourteen races into ESPN's third Sprint Cup Series season, ratings are down and tempers are tight. NASCAR wants the races to be "the show" for the TV viewers. ESPN itself wants to be "the show" and then present a race for which NASCAR is responsible. Any way you cut it, this partnership is wearing thin. These are two agendas that simply do not meet.

The race in Texas looms with two very powerful companies at odds over how a product in which they are both heavily invested is presented on national TV. If ESPN returns to the monotony of Jerry Punch, the endless in-car cameras and the total disregard for the race as anything but background noise, this is going to get ugly.

NASCAR is currently locked into a multi-billion dollar contract with ESPN as the primary TV partner. The company produces all the Nationwide races, the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races and a daily NASCAR TV show. ESPN International distributes all NASCAR races worldwide. The partnership extends into online content and other new media platforms.

Getting this problem solved in the off-season may well be a key issue for a sport currently reeling from sponsor woes and fan unrest. Ignoring it for another year may continue to drive fans away from the sport at a time when NASCAR is gaining a handle on the COT and growing a diverse driver pool.

Every sport has crucial moments in time for a variety of reasons. Where NASCAR and ESPN are concerned, that moment is now.

TDP welcomes 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.