Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SPEED Expands "Race Hub" To One Hour


The saga of the only NASCAR news show produced by SPEED continues to unfold. The network announced Monday that beginning June 28 the Monday through Thursday Race Hub program will expand to one hour in length.

It was very clear before the season that SPEED had goofed with the original thirty minute format. ESPN's NASCAR Now uses an hour on Sundays to preview and an hour on Mondays to review the Sprint Cup Series races. While the Tuesday through Friday NASCAR Now shows are only thirty minutes, the emphasis of the Bristol, CT gang is very different.

SPEED made it clear from the start that the focus of Race Hub was to exploit the network's Charlotte, NC studio location that is just a short drive from almost all of the major NASCAR teams. SPEED has made good on this promise with a parade of NASCAR personalities from president Mike Helton to rookie drivers in the truck series.

Thirty minutes of TV is only about twenty-two minutes of actual content. Chop that up with four commercial breaks and what is left is five little pieces of program. Now that SPEED has committed to a hour, that brings a much more flexible platform for a new program format.

Just like ESPN's SportsCenter, SPEED can now set up regular features on the Monday through Thursday Race Hub shows. In addition to bringing some added sponsorship, there are all kinds of possible content ideas. Social media feedback, fan photos, video replies to Jimmy Spencer and a featured crew member of the week are just a couple suggestions. The possibilities are endless.

Hopefully, SPEED will also work on revamping the Race Hub studio. All this standing around in blue jeans is getting a bit old. Some new set pieces are needed in support of the much larger one hour effort. It should be interesting to see what emerges.

In front of the cameras, there have been some surprises. In terms of studio analysis, Ray Dunlap and Jeff Hammond have been super. Dunlap has mixed it up with the truck guys and does not pull punches when he is talking about issues. Hammond has been great in the spotlight and shown a very different side than the one fans see on the FOX telecasts.

Recently, SPEED has been trying Jimmy Spencer in his curmudgeon role on the program. Spencer needs a little more structure and guidance, but his personality is the kind that drives fan feedback and that is exactly what the series needs right now.

Finally, it's time for a host. A lot of the SPEED on-air talent have taken a turn hosting and it's not hard to see who fits in this format and who does not. Veteran fans know the studio show backgrounds of Steve Byrnes and Krista Voda. Other favorites include Wendy Venturini and Ralph Sheheen. Someone has to take the lead and hosting four hours of NASCAR TV every week in primetime is a pretty nice job.

It's great that SPEED has made this commitment. Now, it's time to see if they can step up and offer hard news and opinion instead of more NASCAR marketing and PR. That is always the temptation, especially in this highly-charged media "happy talk" world that exists.

There is absolutely no reason that the expanded Race Hub cannot quickly become the flagship NASCAR news program that SPEED has needed for years.

We welcome 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. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

29 comments:

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Daly Planet Editor said...

Sorry for the spam! It happens.

David said...

I am in a take it or leave it role. I will admit I have watched a little more NN than Race Hub this year, but really neither is close to a must watch for me. Far cry from the RPM days and even Totally NASCAR. Regardless how both networks try now, those shows (in my opinion) were tops for NASCAR news/information and everything since has been trying to re-invent the wheel.

Not really bothered by Hub's format, set, host rotation since I think their whole game is to be the anti-NASCAR Now. Having a full-time host and going to a more conventional look really sends the message that NN has the better idea which I don't totally agree with.

We'll see though. 1 hour isn't a horrible idea by any means.

Tony said...

I'm glad that they're expanding to an hour, but I certainly wouldn't mind seeing it resemble what the old Totally NASCAR was. I thought that was the best 30-minute show ever produced.

Steve Byrnes should definitely be the full-time host, but I guess that isn't possible when he's at the track 38 weekends/year as it is.

trophyguy™ said...

I'm glad they are expanding to an hour. The show is very informative without a lot of fluff. I'm watching it almost every night.

I too wish they would have a permanent host.

Tom said...

I really do have a different take on this, something that I have been thinking about since the ratings started dropping, and I think it is overexposure. I have actively followed "Cup" racing since 1982, and I would agree that by and large, the racing is better today than it used to be. But my interest in watching it has gone down. Keep in mind that back then I was a teenager/20ager who had a lot going on, single, nice vehicle and freedom! I still made it a point to watch the race every week, and the half hour of SpeedWeek or Motorweek Illustrated. That was all we had, and we made damn sure we watched it! (ok maybe IWCR on TNN too). I am now in my mid 40's, do not do a lot on weekends, and I rarely make it a point to watch the track every weekend. Part of this can be put off to the generally horrible coverage we currently have (previous to TNT) and some to NASCAR'S Koolaide drinking, WWE-like shenanigans, but really, why don't I watch? I still tape or watch live all Sports Car, IRL or F1 races. We currently have some of the best broadcasts we have literally seen in years, but the ratings continue to drop.
Now, we have a minimum of 1.5 hours of NASCAR programming each day. NOT Race news in general, only NASCAR. Is this overkill? I think it is. I want good original programming wherever it comes from, but I think that this will ultimately harm the sport. Many of the driver appearances during the week are sponsor driven, and I think right now there is a backlash against the crass commercialism that NASCAR is known for.
Essentially, why would I tune into a race for 4 hours on a Sunday when I know that there will be a "feature" race sometime in the last 20 laps? Why should I tune in when I know I will see all the great highlights starting that night and EVERY night for the balance of the week?
Look, I am a huge race fan and I always will be. Perhaps you see flaws in my argument, but I just believe that in our quest for :more" we may be shooting ourselves in the foot.

Tom
Inverness, FL

GinaV24 said...

I think it will give them more options with it being an hour instead of 30 minutes. I've always liked Hammond and felt that he was underutilized at Fox. I'd like to see Wendy, Krista or Ralph as the host since Steve Byrnes is already doing a lot of things. I like Steve, but I feel like he's already spread pretty thin.

They do need to up the ante on the content here to bring in drivers, owners and crew chiefs to leverage the fact that this show originates from Charlotte and not Bristol, CT. I kind of feel like Tom -- in some ways NASCAR has reached the point of saturation for me - and the information that is being presented doesn't interest or excite me the way it used to, just like the racing doesn't hold my attention in the same way as 10 years ago.

I do DVR both the shows since they don't come on when I'm home and I'm not willing to make my life fit the TV schedule -- I watch when I want to now.

Donna in FL said...

I've loved Race Hub from the premiere and I absolutely welcome an expansion, as long as that doesn't mean 20 min of commercials ;p

I DVR both NASCAR Now and Race Hub every day they are on. I still would rather the two shows be complementary rather than competing, but we'll see next week exactly what SPEED/FOX has in mind. I'm fine with anyone they pick as host... well, ok, anyone but JSpencer. And don't even breathe Waltrip :)

Anonymous said...

What is your complaint with Hooters? (saw your tweet last night) It shows a bias against a really good company.

Nobody complained when Mr. Brooks stepped in and helped Alan Kulwicki to the 1992 Winston Cup Championship.

Seriously, maybe you should take 42 minutes and watch the Undercover Boss episode on Hooters here:

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/undercover_boss/video/?pid=bcJKZ1a40XeUAraELQJHzyiRHA7fVnZx&vs=Default&play=true

Undercover Boss - Hooters
Air Date: 02/14/10
Full Episode 42:58

"When Coby Brooks, President and CEO of "Hooters" goes undercover in his own company, he finds himself struggling to keep up in a fast-paced kitchen and is, later, forced to take immediate action when a restaurant manager steps out of line."

It gives a new prospective on the company in whole - not just the Hooter Girls.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon,

I appreciate your views on Hooters.

Hooters was involved with Kulwicki in 1992.

If you Google Hooters+bankrupt you can see the current state of the franchise.

The NASCAR fan is not a teen, but much older with a family and kids. This is not the type of sponsor that serves the NASCAR TV viewer, SPEED or "Race Hub" IMHO.

Thanks,

JD

Dannyboy said...

Having some serious schedule conflicts, I was unable to watch the race this weekend. I did manage to catch most of the late rebroadcast of the Victory Lane show, and most of Monday's editions of both Nascar Now and Race Hub.

Nothing has made me more aware of the void left by the cancellation of TWIN (and all its earlier incarnations) than these two shows.

ESPN's buttoned-down approach has turned the hosting duties of NN into a mere figurehead who, while he/she may engage in conversation, that conversation's structure is extremely limited. I found it hard to tell the difference between Mike Massaro and Alan Bestwick, as far as hosting goes. I have come to love Ricky Craven's comments and I don't dislike Ray Evernham's contribution, but even a phone-in from Chad Knaus couldn't bring the kind of relevancy to this show that it is completely devoid of.

RACE HUB featured a lot more exclusive content, and it will be interesting to note how the expansion fares, but it still leaves one with the impression that, "Haven't I heard this before?"

When most of the same personalities we see on race broadcasts are the commentators, we face the oversaturation issue.

With its Charlotte location, I hope SPEED can arrange some panel discussions with drivers and try bring back at least SOME of the spark that is missing from all these news/analysis shows.

I also must agree with Tom in Inverness that overexposure is a serious possibility.

JD: I saw your comment regarding Hooters, and while the merits of them sponsoring vs their image can be debated, I think you might revisit your research regarding financial issues: while there are some independent franchise operators in trouble, these are isolated problems and don't reflect the overall health of the company as a whole. In fact, as of this year, the corporation is reported to be for sale, and the asking price is $250 million.

GinaV24 said...

I agree with JD on the Hooters sponsorship. As a female viewer, it jars me every time I see it - just like the various male enhancement product commercials and salacious GoDaddy commercials that NASCAR has in its telecasts.

NASCAR says they are "family friendly" yet they continue to promote things this way. Having it front and center on a TV program during prime time just bothers me.

Anonymous said...

The dilema I see with Race Hub is its lack of structure and a clearly defined format. At times, it reminds me of repetitive "fill" like you often get on the Friday night Trackside show. The host should be knowledgeable about the sport. Hammond is doing better this year,but his ego has always been a turnoff for me. Technically, I always considered him "McReynolds Lite". The sport has changed drastically since Hammond was a crew chief. For me,there's no comparison between him and Larry. Sheheen or Rick Allen might be a good fit. The set continues to be lame.

Bucky Butler said...

I'm in total agreement with Tom from Inverness. I am NASCAR'd to death to the point, it's driving me away. I'm still waiting for my nightly general motorsports show, somewhere. I wish Speed and Race Hub good luck though. At least some race fans are getting a nightly fix of news and information.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your suggestion to Google "Hooters+bankrupt" - most of those are franchisees, not the company itself. That is not a fair statement to apply only to Hooters in this economy. That can apply to many franchisees in different industries.

If it wasn't for Alan's plane crash in 1993, a group of us would have been a franchisee in the Bristol area. After the crash on approach to Tri-Cities Regional Airport, we put those plans on hold.

Mr. Brooks and his son Mark, (who died in that plane crash with Alan), were classy individuals.

Regarding "Hooters is inappropriate for NASCAR viewers" - have you been in a NASCAR infield lately? The Hooters girls are much more attractive and represent their company well. Is that what bothers some people?

SPEED has some other questionable advertisers to say the least. Most of their ads are for fraudulent repair your credit companies or for bogus auto warranties. To criticize Hooters for supporting and advertising on a NASCAR show is hardly fair.

Our local Hooters carries all NASCAR broadcsts on Sunday along with the DirecTV Hotpass channels. They also have free wifi for customers and their laptops. It is also a "no smoking" establishment. You should see the diverse clientele at Hooters on a race day. It sounds like you would be VERY surprised at the demographics.

Anonymous said...

Since I don't tweet or have access to it, I did not see the Hooter's remarks. I need to comment though. Nascar has a double standard. Family oriented (?) versus alcohol ads, sex oriented products and a myriad of other questionable family (?) sponsors. Anyone ever notice that the women associated with Nascar drivers and teams are almost always dressed like proper ladies? If you watch NHRA then you see those women all dressed in tight tops with quite a bit of chests and cleavage showing. Maybe Hooters should be involved in drag racing?

As far as the other race shows, I agree with Tom. Overload....in fact why even watch a race when you can get all the recaps, etc on the other shows?

GA Red

Richard in N.C. said...

Except for Monday's, if I can only watch/record one then it is Race Hub since I figure that substantially everything on N-Now can also be found elsewhere. I do hope Race Hub will include some coverage of other racing series besides NASCAR when it goes to 1 hour.

When there are Golf, Tennis, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL channels, I find it hard to say that NASCAR is being overexposed. If I'm not mistaken, EESPN2 carried NFL Live during primetime Monday, but bounced NASCAR Now to midnight, and then let college baseball take part of the time.

West Coast Diane @ Laguna Seca said...

Watched Race Hub for the first time, last night, since the week it debuted. Unfortunately something happened with the DVR (or me) and the Sears Point race didn't record. Major disappointment since my husband races there twice a year. It's fun to watch a place you are familiar with and my husband likes watching the race lines they use. So watched RH and NN, even VL to see what happened.

Which brings me to...Yes, to overload! Part of the reason is there is so much repetition. We can find out so much on the internet, by the time it comes to TV it is old news.

Also, very time consuming. Used to love watching practice & qualifying. Now I fast forward thru most of practice, stopping when something looks interesting or it is about the drivers I follow most. Qualifying I tend to watch, but have started fast forwarding through cars that do matter to me. Really has to do with too much time in front of TV!

Plus, for me at least, too much going on in the world (and my family) right now. I use the races as an escape, but the shows during the week, not so much.

Also, fine line between knowing "everything" about the "players" and having some mystique. KInd of like the heyday of Hollywood when the actors seemed so glamorous and mysterious and lived lives we could only imagine. Now you know everything....and lots of it not so good. Bloom is off the rose. Same with sports and for me NASCAR in particular.

Not sure what the solution is.

Will say I watched NASCAR Hot Wired last night and did enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

I think the show is best left at 1/2 hour since there isn't really anything interesting in the sport anymore that would warrant a full hour of coverage.

Anonymous said...

The show works at 1 hour for me as long as I don't have to see or hear either of the Waltrip huksters. Voda does a good job and is clearly well versed in the sport.

David said...

I also have to disagree on the Hooters knock, I don't find it any different then having cheerleaders for NFL/NBA teams, why can't a family friendly sport have Hooters involved in it?

I don't see anything that Hooters has done as being out of line, in fact they have been a strong supporter of the sport having been involved for close to 20 years. That type of loyalty is hard to find from ANY company anymore.

NASCAR is overexposed, I agree and it has turned me OFF badly.

Hub so far seems awfully pre-produced which sucks. You have Miss Sprint Cup clearly doing a piece like she read it right off the screen, the promos for segments sound corny, Spencer...again sounds totally read.

Darcie said...

I find Race Hub to be disjointed at times. While it's not a bad show, it's not nearly as good as it should be.

As for the Hooters thing, as a woman I find their entire premise to be insulting and degrading to women. But as long as the men who run those kinds of businesses, and make their female employers believe that their only worth is to be paid for their large chests and round behinds, we'll have to put up with that stuff. To me, the whole Hooters premise is just as bad as Danica and her pimping for another nasty male pig, the president of Go, Daddy. I have no use for such companies and will not support them.

BTW, did you all hear that Randy Lajoie has been suspended by ESPN for a positive drug test? He apparently applied for a job with Joe Gibbs Racing, and as such had to submit to a drug test, which he failed. Lajoie admitted he did smoke pot, once (yeah, like I believe that), hence the positive test. ESPN suspended him indefinitely.

RAEckart said...

Sorry to ask here. Any word on LaJoie coming from ESPN?

And, anyone see Heartland Thunder on Discovery?

Richard in N.C. said...

Randy was on Eli's MRN show tonight and discussed his suspension by NASCAR and EESPN as a consequence of failing the NASCAR test - and to me sounded sincerely remorseful. I understood Randy to say that he had taken a drug test a couple of weeks earlier (don't recall purpose) and passed it. From what I have read I take it that he was suspended by EESPN because he was suspended by NASCAR. I am not aware of whether EESPN makes its drug policy public or not.

Wasn't Randy scheduled to be on N-Now Monday? If so, I wonder whether his absence was a result of his suspension. I did not hear an explanation for his absence from N-Now, but I did not get the whole show recorded since the college baseball game ran over.

Anonymous said...

"All this standing around in blue jeans is getting a bit old."

Say what?

Donna in FL said...

I've said this before and will forever stick with it. I've patronized Hooters Restaurants from Day 1 in Clearwater FL and never thought them to be an inappropriate NASCAR sponsor, in fact, I thought their dedication to the sport was entirely commendable. Kulwicki was one of my fave drivers. I have no problem with the advert on SPEED & I would love to see them get seriously involved again with a NASCAR Hooters car or Truck back on the track.

Anonymous said...

What David said. Plus, no one yet on any show has replaced Schrader.

I'm a woman, and the Hooters "more than a mouthful" ad is just too lewd. Double entrendres are cute in some circumstances, but not on a Nascar news show. At least the frozen smiles of the scantily clad Hooter girls are no longer staring back at us from the background as Adam Alexander, etc., try to talk about professional stuff.

Let's be honest: Hooters was designed to appeal to men. Women and families are not the target audience, at least, they weren't.

Can you see Wendy Venturini pushing Hooters as a sponsor? Wendy, the ultimate professional woman! She'd be great as a regular on Hub.