Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NASCAR.com Misfires In Bristol


It's taken a little while to sort out the emails, tweets and Facebook messages sent by angry fans over the weekend. They were not about a driver, a team or even a TV commentator. They were all about the various services offered by the NASCAR.com website.

It seems ironic that NASCAR.com does not offer a live leaderboard for the Camping World Truck Series. This past week, NASCAR.com RaceView was the primary sponsor on the winning truck from Kyle Busch Motorsports, pictured above. It was the only positive night for NASCAR.com of the three racing dates at BMS.

Turner Sports Interactive out of Atlanta, GA operates the NASCAR.com website. It paid NASCAR a hefty fee to operate the site and maintain total Internet exclusivity for NASCAR video and audio content.

Trackpass is the gateway to the three pay services NASCAR.com offers. RaceVew, Pit Command and Scanner each offer various applications for a monthly or annual fee. RaceView has all the bells and whistles, including team scanners, real time data and virtual video that allow fans lap-by-lap tracking of teams.

There have been several redesigns of the NASCAR.com website and upgrades of the three pay services. The current homepage resembles many sports blogs with an emphasis on key news stories combined with advertising. Video elements have recently been integrated effectively into the site and include contributions from TNT and SPEED personalities.

The history of fans upset about NASCAR.com goes back years. It's easy to find forums online full of conversations about problems. Recently, the issue has flared again as some current technology is having trouble dealing with the Trackpass applications.

When Apple released the iPad, it did not support Flash technology. That is the basis for the Trackpass applications. While the leaderboards worked, the remainder did not. That put iPad users out of the NASCAR.com mix for this season.

The most recent problems happen when fans try to log on for a Sprint Cup Series race. This was especially prevalent at the Michigan and Bristol race weekends. Amid the bevy of browsers, operating systems and Internet Service Providers, it's understandable that some problems would arise. This situation is perhaps a little different.

A key issue repeated by frustrated fans is summed up quite well in this blog post from NASCAR fan Mark Headrick:

I don’t mind troubleshooting problems. however I do not want to do it during the actual race! It totally ruins the fan’s experience. How can you expect fans to search knowledge bases and forums, reinstall Java, plug-ins, audio and video drivers, and do whatever else might be potentially involved?

It boggles my mind that there isn’t a race simulator that we can test these applications with during the week. If I was a NASCAR website/TrackPass developer I’d scream for this. I am quite sure the NASCAR.com website team has no desire to fix the software during races. Normally I wouldn’t give a flying fruitcake about it, but I am paying more for TrackPass than I am for my webhosting.


Headrick's point is well taken. Fans experiencing problems have to step away from the race to troubleshoot the problem and often find they are in a long helpline at the website. Picking up the phone is even more interesting.

The NASCAR.com phone calls are answered by the International Speedway Corporation operators in Daytona Beach, FL. Needless to say, this is not the Geek Squad. Fans who called recently found sympathy, but little help.

One fan emailed NASCAR.com and got a nice little admission about the Bristol weekend in return. NASCAR.com customer service responded with the following:

"There was an issue for both race series with all of the Trackpass products from those races. It was actually a server issue and the technical team had to reset the servers and this was not done until the end of the Cup race on Saturday."

Well, that's mighty nice but did not actually help the situation as the races were in progress. The problem with that answer is NASCAR.com is a pay service. Ultimately, good customer service and reliable products are the only way to keep fans coming back.

Twitter has been in use by many NASCAR fans for some time now. Saturday night, I was so overwhelmed on Twitter with fans asking me for help I contacted NASCAR directly and asked what was going on. After a short time I was told by NASCAR from the track that all the online troubles were sorted out. It certainly did not look that way.

For hours on Saturday, it was easy to watch the endless tweets from upset fans missing the online part of one of the most exciting night races of the season. Add to that the fact that some key TV markets were showing NFL preseason football instead of NASCAR and the mess just gets bigger. No access to NASCAR.com's online pay service and no live TV. That is a bad combination.

Perhaps you could take a moment to tell us your experience with NASCAR.com, the customer service and the products. It would help to put things in perspective after a Bristol weekend that left some fans rather steamed.

To add your opinion on this topic, 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 Daly Planet.

31 comments:

Bill H said...

I stopped paying for it this year which is a shame because I have since learned without the scanners the races are not as enjoyable.

As for the problems this week with Trackpass / Bristol, it happened last year at Bristol and the year before. I recall being on the nascar.com chat room last year and the the year before when it was happening. Their solution at the time is exactly what you stated, reinstall plugins, reboot, clear cookies etc. Not widthstanding that it happened on multiple systems using different combhinations of browsers and operatings systems. Or even the simple idea that the exact same system had worked fine the week before with Trackpass.

Nascar.com has a great idea with the trackpass/ pit command (not sure about the race view) but they need to put some forward thinking into supporting it instead of trying to milk the nascar community while the milking is good. They have only had about 10 years to get it right.

Bill H

51 yr. fan said...
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Anonymous said...

I had used all three services for several years. There have been problems with them from time to time, and in a couple of them, had no service for most of the race.

Just try to get a credit when this happens.

So I cancelled. If that's their idea of "customer service," I won't deal with them.

Terri said...

I paid earlier in the year for Pit command. It's never worked on any of my five browsers. I finally just gave up. Trying to find help on their help page is impossible. Now I just get the scanner and only on Google Chrome. So next year I'm downgrading to just the scanner. I don't have the patience to mess with it during the races.

Their webpage has been a glorified mess for years, and I don't go there to get my Nascar information, becuase everyone writing their drinks the Nascar Kool-aid.

Jojaye said...

I use the Pit Command - or rather I tried to use it this week. Every time I thought it was fixed yes another issue popped up. I went so far as to ditch Firefox, and use IE. Didn't help.

Mike Headrick has it right, this is not how I want to spend a race.
And every BMS race has issues, the NASCAR folks told me last year it was the mountains, I pointed out Mountains have always been there, please fix your apps during the week, as this %^$# thing only has to work on Raceday. I got a free month. Still didn't fix the issues. I canceled Trackview & spend less for the Pit Command this year, I voted with my Visacard.

Also I pay yet they don't turn it on till the race has begun, yet RaceBuddy is free & I get pre race too.

I keep it just because it is better than without it, not by much this week. I have an idea, please fix it during the week, so it works during the race. Thank you. Oh, btw, the mountains haven't moved yet.

GuardWifeL said...

For me, it started with the "free" NNS scanner, which was completely inoperable. So, OK. Free. I was ticked off but I wasn't paying so could deal. (It just so happened that you could hear Dale Jr through the Sprint Cup scanner on Martin Truex Jr's number 56. What??)

Then, the Sprint Cup scanner refused to launch without a lot of issues for me and I pay for that thing. Had to refresh a bunch to get it to load. After that, it did work for me. I don't do anything but the scanners so can't offer info on the other features.

I like this product, but it seems really hinky and if I'm paying for something, I expect it to work.

Also, tried to get video from the media conference center that week and could NOT make that happen. I wasn't alone... many other fans weren't getting video or audio either.

All around, the online experience for the Bristol weekend was a cluster-you-know-what.

Surely do miss RaceBuddy right about now....

Skip said...

I've had the services for a couple of years, and I really like them...when they work. I'd say most of the time there's no problem, but it's not terribly unusual to be without audio, say, for large portions of the race. And I've learned that backing up to rewatch what caused a caution is a recipe for disaster. That almost never works, and you may not be able to get it back to live without closing and restarting everything.

Mike (Detroit) said...

NASCAR is one of the only sports I can think of that interrupts live action to go to commercial breaks. That being said, I understand that they can not stop the race to do commercials. That being said, I can't believe they don't have a free and working way to keep up with a race on the internet for all of these deticated fans that week after week try to keep up with a race. Maybe side by side during commercials. I was hard cord NASCAR for about 12 years but got so frustrated with trying to watch and keep up with NASCAR racing back in 2005, that I gave up and moved on. They have a product that is to hard to follow and understand what is going on during a race. For NASCAR to charge for these services is just mind boggeling to me. It's not up to the fans to pay just to keep up with a race. It's up to NASCAR to make their product fun and easy and entertaining for the fans.

Mike

GinaV24 said...

Nascar.com is one of the worst websites out there. It is the last place I check for information on NASCAR, not the first. The site is too busy, takes too long to load and usually starts up with something that I don't care about or blares sound at me. I always mute my volume because if I happen to look at it during work hours, the last thing I needed is to announce to the world that I'm not NASCAR.com

That said, I do have trackpass, have had it for years and will probably continue to keep it so I can hear MY driver during the race.

I was having trouble during the Bristol race and was more than a little frustrated about it. I was one of the lucky ones since after logging off and rebooting my computer twice, I did get the application to come up so I had trackpass all night. I don't usually bother with their "help" desk services as it is very seldom quick or helpful.

When I've had trouble in the past, I've called on Monday or early in the next week and talked to someone then. I've usually gotten satisfaction at that point, but it doesn't make me any less annoyed that when I needed it, things didn't work right.

the fact that a change to a plug in or to java can change the access is just stupid to me. Heck I get updates to "flash", java, and whatever on a weekly basis. I agree with the person who said there should be a test that could be run before the race each week then it wouldn't be a total crapshoot each week.

GinaV24 said...
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Donna in FL said...

RaceBuddy is the best online product, and it's FREEEE!!!
I tried out all of the NASCAR.com race assist products but have only kept paying for Trackpass, driver audio is the only service I felt was worth the money. THEN I found out that they are now delaying & editing HUGE disappointment!!!! C'mon I at least want to be able to get what you can get at the track. So I'm not sure I'll renew next year, the scanner feed should be completely raw & untouched by anyone... static, swearing & everything else intact.

PS I'm loving all the attention future NASCAR Hall of Famer Kyle Busch has been getting, he seems to come up with *something* to keep his name- and sponsors- in the news every week, hmmm? :)

Matt Phillips said...

I thoroughly enjoy the Raceview and Scanner products ... when they work. Which seems to only be about every other weekend. I'm an IndyCar fan as well and indycar.com allows fans FREE access to a comparable product. It also gives fans FREE video feeds of qualifying and practice. Too bad nascar.com can't offer at least scanner audio for free. I tell all of my friends that the only way to truly appreciate the sport is to hear the teams talk strategy during the race. NASCAR could expand it's fan base if they offered at least 1 free limited use product.

Patti said...

I have had TrackPass for years now and I'd never go without it.

That being said, I've become a pro at diagnosing issues, and there was a server issue with it this last weekend. I just refreshed and it worked.

Typically when they give it away for free it goes to hell. I hate that. So I think they should give the audio away for free but there needs to be a more robust server system.

Then they need to offer a paid service to those of us willing to pay that is better than the free service. Better server system, more features, etc.

Melissa said...

I used to have Raceview to follow my driver. After the year he has had, it wasn't worth it anymore. When it came time to renew, the credit card they had on file had expired. I chose not to give NASCAR.com a new number.

While I miss the scanner, i'm not sure that it is worth the money, especially when service is not consistent. Trying to get onto any of the products during a free trial weekend is impossible.

Photojosh said...

Trackpass is terrible. I've tried it and even paid for it for a few months. But I won't give them a another dime for the junk they are trying to sell. Particularly when we all know what they COULD be selling us after two years of RaceBuddy.

Offer me the TV broadcast of the race and I'll pay for it. Offer me RaceBuddy and I'll pay for it. I'm not paying for a bunch of cartoons to chase themselves around a CGI track. Particularly when the system is as terrible and bug filled as NASCAR.com's is.

Amid all the other legitimate complaints, NASCAR's continued ignorance of how the internet wired world works is one of the most baffling. It's as if they are saying "Aw, none of our fans use that internets anyway. They just love the good old TV". We get mad at the rest of the world when it looks down on NASCAR fans as bumbling hillbillies. So why do we accept NASCAR doing the same thing?

Kim said...

I had no services whatsoever. Every time I tried to access, I'd get a window telling me there was an error with the service.

With my Mac, I have a hell of a time getting the in-car audio to work. Haven't had in-car for weeks even though I have all the right software.

And I do NOT want to troubleshoot during the race. When I tried to contact them during the week, they told me to sign into the site, which I couldn't do because there was no race on!

Ugh! So very, very frustrating.

LVI56 said...

I have used each of the Nascar.com features when they would be offered for free, such as during the Duel races. I liked them, but I'm not ready to pay for them. Now if Racebuddy was offered for a small fee for each race, I'd pay for that. I love Racebuddy, though I found it was often out of sync from real-time activity. Fix that and it's golden, though I can understand why that would be difficult.

Anonymous said...

Mine worked ok (I use pit command and listen to my drivers audio through there). I've also had it for several years and tend to do my own diagnosing. Some weeks I have to launch a couple times to get it working initially and occasionally it will "hiccup" during the race but usually comes back quickly. That said I can only use mine on Internet Explorer browser; it never works right with my preferred browser which is Firefox. And I always get a message that it needs to use an older version of java but I just tell it ok and then it comes up and works fine.

Now i did have some issues with the Nascar apps on my sprint phone the last couple weeks sometimes with driver audio feed and sometimes with leader board feeds etc. I assumed they were having some type of issues and since I was almost home both times I didn't worry too much about it.

I do think though that any paid service Nascar offers should be reliable and that when there are issues they have representatives in place that are knowledgeable in how to fix the issue as well as ones empowered to immediately give fans credit on their accounts when the issue can't be fixed quickly and they end up not being able to use the product during a race. That is just good customer service.

a Robby fan said...

I have been a paid subscriber to Trackpass since its inception, I upgraded to Raceview when nascar.com began the service. It is tedious to delete cookies and temp files from the Internet Options and Java, make sure Java has been updated prior to every race. It is tedious to know exactly where to go to submit a ticket when there are issues like there were for the scanner for the Nationwide race at Bristol. I will continue to subscribe to Trackpass, it is truly the only true way of knowing why start and parks are out of the race and Raceview is the only true way I have to follow my driver, see his time pit stops, etc. Every race I have two scanners up one for the officials and one for my driver.

I do continue to wish that the people operating nascar.com improve this service, but I hate to think of what my raceday experience would be like without it.

Just not into it... said...

Photojosh & others...I work for a Fortune 500 company that makes PC related equipment. We have two systems (one for financial processing, one for personnel) that can use different versions of Java. And if you update Java, you are messed up big time because one system requires an older version. A tech has to put the right version back on our PC with the right settings. Likewise, our videoconferencing has never had its software updated regularly and is rather in disarray. We make products our customers like, but we can't do it right internally. If this can happen at a big company like mine, what hope does NASCAR have, LOL.

I would never pay for stuff like that. No, I don't know the exact times of my driver's every pit stop, but no, I don't care. Apparently some people are just more obsessed with those details. I'd want to know if there was an issue though (which does not always happen.) What gets me is people who pay $100 for a race ticket, then watch it on their tiny little Fanviews. That's just ridiculous.

Gymmie said...

I wouldn't have it if I didn't get it free. Years ago there was a promo to get it free if you had High Speed Internet.

@Terri--if there's anything on there I ever need I Google search it. That site is a hot mess! I always scream at that commercial "Yes LarryMac it MAY be on there IF you can find it in all that hot mess!"

Mary said...

I don't know about this weekend as I was fortunate to actually be at the race (what an awesome experience).

However Kim I am right there with you regarding the audio on the Mac. I usually end up stealing my husbands laptop for the audio and watching raceview on the Mac.

What really annoys me is paying for the service and it not working and also the fact that when they have free weekends it seems to be even worse.

FloridaMatt said...

I've spent too many years in customer support and systems administration to be able to tolerate nascar.com. I simply don't go there. Bad for my blood pressure.

Tripp in MS said...

It's all about the content. I don't pay for any content on the web. Maybe it's my stingy New England upbringing. Maybe it's because I'm old. I don't think it's all really ready for prime time just yet.

As much as I liked Race Buddy, it got to be a PITA after a while. Streams breaking up. It's OK when it's free, but I wouldn't pay for RB either. Alternative camera views are nice, but... A good, real-time leader board is all I need.

Content, for NASCAR and everyone else, is at the crux. Those with the content want to control and/or profit by it. That's fine. Capitalism built America and lets people with the bright ideas to profit. But before anyone can charge for the frills and dressings, you have to satisfy the basic customer needs. Not providing a leader board for the trucks is neglecting the fans. It ain't that hard to do either.

Turner also does the NBA, which streams all the D-League games online for free. I know a lot about this because I was the Technical Director for the broadcasts of the games in Portland, ME. Putting these games up takes very little effort for the NBA center in New Jersey and for Turner in Atlanta. Three camera guys and I put up the games and aside from the infrastructure, and our time, there was very little cost.

Applying what I know of this to the Truck Series, the infrastructure is there. The race data is already pouring out of a computer, feeding scoreboards and Speed Channel. How tough is it to flip the switch on a leader board on NASCAR.com. I suspect, not very.

We want NASCAR to give everything away and they want to make money. Unfortunately, not everyone in the mix will ever be happy with this situation. Especially if the chargeable stuff doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a massive conflict of interest in NASCAR sponsoring a competitor in the field?

Newracefan said...

I have been using Trackpass for about 4-5 years now and occasionally have problems but most of them have been this year. We had the race where the scanners didn't kick in until the green flag so I couldn't tell if it was them or me. Another time the scanners were again not working and while I was in the help Q (about 30 deep) it kicked in at least 20 minutes into the race. I have started contacting JD while waiting in the Q, he seems to get a faster response. This past weekend I was only live for the cup race. I kept getting that red flag error screen. Being the impatient and somewhat resourceful person I am I started looking for a way to fix it. I logged into trackpass first, then clicked on the free NW scanner (which of course didn't work since the race was the day beofore) found another pit command link at the bottom of that page which actually worked. This was after trying multiple other links for pit command all over the web site. Have no clue why that one worked but I guess I was just lucky. I don't know why we are having more problems this year but it is a mess. I have tried to use the free race view a few times and 9 times out of 10 I can't get it to load. I usually open Pit Command 15-30 minutes before the green flag and click on radio to make sure I have sound and them change it to my driver and hope for no problems.

Anonymous said...

I've had Trackpass for a few years now and up until this year, it's always worked fine with either browser that I use. This season I have experienced numerous issues and it no longer works with one of the two browsers. With the other browser, it either stops completely or lags so bad I have to reboot. This takes several minutes so I miss a lot of my driver and his team on the scanner. I'm not sure I'll keep Trackpass for the rest of the season, either, once the current billing information they have for me expires. I MIGHT renew for next year but right now it's not justifiable when considering the level of service. Or lack of.

GinaV24 said...

@just not into it -- LOL -- I am so with you. I amazes me when I'm at a race at a track small enough to have a good view of the whole place and people are sitting there watching the race on their little handheld TV that they paid for!

That might be helpful at daytona, talladega or the road courses, but me, I want to look up and SEE the cars myself.

I tried the raceview upgrade when they offered it on a trial basis and it was such a disaster that I didn't even wait for the trial period to expire, I went back to pitcommand. That gives me scanner and all the info I need about my driver's day. Still laughing about the cartoon cars - you are so right there.

Anonymous said...

I have used trackpass for a couple of years and added raceview this year - they are the only reason I watch a race live. It seems like I have far fewer problems than others that have posted, so I would say I only have minor technical issues that at least I can deal with. I didn't have any problems with Bristol and my dad didn't either.

I participated in a beta for raceview enhancements that will probably roll out next year, on the QA at the end my general comment was "I can't verify my system will work until race time which is too late."

Like I said at the beginning, without trackpass I can't follow my drivers so there is no reason to watch live. When I watch the recording it takes maybe 45 minutes to fast forward and catch the hi-lites. Cut out the commercials and the single car shots and there really isn't much left. I will say my favorite broadcast is TNT so I do spend more time watching their recorded races than I do with FOX or ESPN/ABC.

--mike in redondo beach

NorCalFan said...

Ditto for me to Newracefan's comments. I learned a long time ago to log into PitCommand at least 15 minutes before the green flag in case I run into error problems and need to restart the computer or reinstall plugins. I do not understand why it's always a crapshoot picking a PitCommand link on the homepage that actually works. Why can't they ALL work?

IMO the Nascar.com website hasn't been user friendly since Marty Smith was on staff. I stopped using the site for information and entertainment purposes when he and other writers left for employment elsewhere. Maybe they saw the writing on the wall.

Kiboe said...

I mainly joined nascar.com trackpass for the MRN Audio, at the time the station here got sold to a christian ministry and the contract with MRN, PRN and IMS expired at the end of the 2007 season

few people realize this but stations have to renew the before the start of each season, otherwise they stop reciving the Ku-Band signal.

with that said, i'm really close to considering signing up for the Ala Carte service on Sirius and picking like comedy, sports, music and talk, which is really all i need, lol, i do not need the fru-fru like howard stern (honestly, i can't stand the man, i appreciate free speech, but some things are better left un-said)

but, at the time i signed up (may of 2008, already passed by 2-year membership mark) that was all that was avalible, Sirius and XM hadn't merged until late 2008