Sunday, November 21, 2010

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Homestead (12PM ET - ESPN2/ESPN)

The 2010 season draws to a close with the final Homestead race telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN. Due to NFL programming, the one hour pre-race NASCAR Countdown show will be on ESPN2. The race coverage at 1PM will be on ESPN and the green flag waves at 1:15PM ET.

ESPN has twelve voices working today in South Florida. Allen Bestwick hosts from the Infield Media Center with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. Marty Reid will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Down on pit road are Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

The pre-race show will have a familiar theme, it's one of the best Chase for the Championship finales in history. Three drivers, three crew chiefs and three owners will get the spotlight for the hour.

The trio in the TV booth will once again be torn between the race and the Chase. Lots of teams are ready to race hard with nothing to lose while the three top contenders have to mix a cautious approach with the reality that this is the final event.

It should be interesting to see how ESPN chooses to frame the coverage with this tough task on the table. Cover three different cars on every lap in case something happens. At the same time, cover the battle for the lead of the race and the stories that play out once the green flag flies.

ESPN's "micro-coverage" approach has featured small clumps of cars chosen by the producer for TV viewers to watch. ESPN has dictated who will get the TV exposure, despite the reality of what is happening on the track. It's been a great debate for years. Does TV have the right to exclude the best racing in order to follow a script?

Lots of questions should be answered today and it should be fun to watch. This post will serve to host your TV-related comments on the final Sprint Cup Series telecast of the season. 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 for this final live blog of 2010.

Sunday Morning TV Showdown

The normal Sunday morning TV script for a racing weekend reads like this. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 9AM for one hour, then RaceDay on SPEED at 10AM for two more hours. Finally, a third hour of pre-race show from the network actually televising the race. If that sounds like a lot, hold on.

This final Sunday in Homestead is going to see SPEED expanding RaceDay to three hours in length. That means both NASCAR Now and RaceDay start at 9AM ET. Let the fun begin.

Nicole Briscoe will anchor NASCAR Now from the Infield Pit Studio. Field reporters are Mike Massaro and Marty Smith. Briscoe can also draw from her infield companions Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham. As this is the final race of the season, perhaps a Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree sighting is also possible.

Allen Bestwick, who will be hosting the race and post-race is the key to the ESPN franchise. He has proven himself to be a steady voice amid chaos at times in both the TV booth and production truck. Bestwick has been there and done that for many years on both TV and radio. His love for NASCAR is real, his devotion to selling it to the fans is easy to see and if he is not in the ESPN TV booth next season calling these races it would be a crime.

Massaro and Briscoe have kept the NASCAR Now franchise on point this season during tough times. ESPN2's scheduling issues where NASCAR is concerned are well known. Smith and other on-air personalities like Ryan McGee, David Newton and Terry Blount have served the sport very well even while often delivering tough news.

The 9AM NASCAR Now and the 12PM NASCAR Countdown show may look quite similar. There are only two sets of stories to discuss. One is the Chase and the other is the race. Most fans know where the drivers are going next season, what kind of cars they are driving and who are the sponsors.

That means a pretty intense focus on the three drivers left in the Chase for the Championship. ESPN presents a rather formal show with on-air talent in suits and ties both in the studio and out in the field. It's a network thing, so look for a well-produced but rather scripted hour at both 9AM and noon.

RaceDay is actually produced by the NASCAR Media Group for SPEED. This is a much different scenario than programs like Race Hub, The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel that are produced in-house. RaceDay is in many ways a third-party show.

TV veteran Patti Wheeler has recently taken over the production and programming departments at SPEED. There is little doubt that one significant change is going to be the balance of power between programs produced by SPEED and those "packaged" by third parties, including the NASCAR Media Group.

RaceDay currently features John Roberts hosting a panel that includes Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace. Sunday, FOX favorite Darrell Waltrip will also be added to the main panel for the full three hours. Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler are the infield reporters.

Another addition for Sunday is the trio of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds holding court on the man-made beachfront in the infield. These three join the discussion on various topics and also handle some sponsor elements.

Over the past four years we have called RaceDay the Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR, the Speed-a-palooza festival and several other terms that do not bear repeating. Basically, RaceDay is controlled chaos mixed with a dash of opinion and a smattering of news.

Fans have recently discovered that unique signs held behind the set get the attention of folks on websites and those chatting online. Keep an eye out for what is being displayed behind the panelists on Sunday. "Nothing says team like ditching your crew" was the best sign recently at Phoenix.

Venturini has been a part of this show for a long time. Now on the verge of delivering her first child, Venturini has once again proven to be an outstanding example of a television professional. Nothing has slowed her down this season, but the loss of her acclaimed "Real Deal" interview feature sure put a big dent in the program.

Hopefully, Venturini can migrate over to SPEED's Race Hub and also perhaps get an opportunity to host The SPEED Report in the 2011 season. Whatever needs to be done, it's going to be important to keep Venturini in the TV family even as her own family expands.

Friday night, Darrell Waltrip was added to the TV team for the truck series race and dominated the commentary. Rick Allen was unable to add his normal level of excitement to the race because Waltrip threw-off the rhythm of the on-air crew. It should be very interesting to see if Waltrip steps into RaceDay and tries to take over. Perhaps, Petty might have a little something to say about that.

This post will serve to host your comments on NASCAR Now and RaceDay. To add your comment on these two programs, 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, we will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race on a new post at noon ET.