Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crunch Time

It's a NASCAR dynamic that has never been seen before. A moment that is going to be captured by social media in real time. It's history unfolding right in front of the reporters assigned to tell the story. It's pivotal words being spoken about the future in a building that celebrates the past.

Wednesday night at 6:30PM in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the sport's top executives will appear in front of the reporters assembled for the Charlotte media tour. Here is the line-up as forwarded by NASCAR.

Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO, who will be the featured speaker at 7PM.

Mike Helton, NASCAR President, who will no doubt be the focus of questions about changes within the Sprint Cup Series.

Paul Brooks, NASCAR Senior Vice President/President NASCAR Media Group, who controls all the television, radio and online rights for the sport. TV ratings are his job.

Steve Phelps, NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, who was featured on Undercover Boss. This gave viewers a small glimpse into the lifestyle of a top NASCAR executive.

Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR Managing Director of Public Affairs, who may field some interesting questions on the continuing diversity agenda.

Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway President, who is expected to focus on the upcoming Speedweeks and update the recent testing in terms of the new pavement at DIS.

Missing from this group are Robin Pemberton, the VP of Competition and Jay Abraham, the COO of the NASCAR Media Group. Also noticeably absent is the yet-to-be-named head of NASCAR's new Integrated Marketing Communications Department, the public spokesman for the sport.

Preliminary remarks are scheduled to get underway shortly after 6:30PM and the entire press conference will be streamed on the website. Click here for the direct link. Originally, was also participating but now only the official NASCAR site will handle the streaming.

At 7PM, Steve Byrnes will be hosting Race Hub on SPEED TV. That show will join the press conference live to get the France remarks and hopefully stay for the questions that will follow. Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond will be in the studio for reaction and analysis after France's remarks.

The reason for all this media focus is easy to understand. Even on Monday and Tuesday of this week, France was still meeting with Sprint Cup Series teams to talk about the season format, race points structure and several topics concerning the 2011 season. In other words, things appear to be last minute.

This past weekend, television viewers saw Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler leave a key game at a crucial time. On TV he appeared to be disinterested, arrogant and not in pain. The images presented angered millions of viewers around the world.

In fact, Cutler had been pulled from the game by the team doctor after a knee injury. In subsequent interviews, the coach and key players all called Cutler one of the toughest football players on the team. The back-up quarterback related that Cutler had been cooperative and helpful during the game. To many fans, it did not matter.

Just like that NFL telecast, NASCAR also ended the season with a perception and a reality. To the NASCAR executives, teams and television networks the season was a success. Three drivers were in contention for the season championship in the last race. In reality, it came down to the wire.

There is, however, a perception that lingers. It has to do with Darrell Waltrip talking over top of Mike Joy and dominating every on-air conversation. It has to do with the tired clown act of Chris Myers. It has to do with Phil Parsons conducting the worst pit road interviews ever seen on national television. It has to do with Marty Reid crumbling down the stretch. It has to do with horrible national anthems for a sport loaded with American pride.

It has to do with one-third of the racing being covered by commercials. It has to do with pictures framed so tightly viewers never see the actual race. It has to do with twelve on-air announcers all fighting to be heard while cars race under green. It has to do with men pointing to shock absorbers on-camera ten months into the racing season.

In short, this was one of the roughest NASCAR TV seasons of Sprint Cup Series coverage in recent memory. The ratings told the tale. So, what is going to change? FOX returns the same on-air line-up as does TNT. ESPN had Ray Evernham depart, but the rest of the group is back. ESPN announced Tuesday that Rusty Wallace had signed a four-year extension to continue as the Lead Studio Analyst.

The reality may be that the Chase worked well and the racing was outstanding. The perception is that the sport is drowning and TV is the anchor dragging it down. At the end of the year, the NFL pounded the Sprint Cup Series into the ground and enjoyed every minute of it.

It's up to one man to convince the fan base that the 2011 reality is going to be quite different. Wednesday night, France needs to offer changes that will excite the fans and create the kind of preseason buzz missing for years.

This one moment in time may be a determining factor for many fans as to whether they commit ten months of weekends to NASCAR or simply take a walk. We know the fans are out there because NASCAR enjoyed their presence for many years.

Low TV ratings aren't due to the economy, over-the-air television or Kyle Petty's ponytail. How many of us got into NASCAR through the old Nashville Network on this new thing called cable TV? NASCAR has been on cable since the 1980's.

It's the dynamic TV coverage of the sport combined with a set of rules that drives competition on the track in every race. That is the only recipe for recovery. France is first with his changes and then FOX, TNT and ESPN each must respond on the air with their new approach. The bottom line is that 2011 is crunch time and the season opens now.

We will have a live blog for your Wednesday comments on the press conference starting shortly after 6PM. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your opinion on the topics mentioned above. To add your comment, 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.


Anonymous said...

I heard DW and Jeff Hammond are going to appear on race Hub to offer their response. Really? I mean what are they going to say other than being cheerleaders.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, BZF has had a lot of coaching on what to say and how to say it. Your article is very clear on BIG problems with the tv coverage, but they do not believe them. I am starting to believe they will not change no matter what. nascar is going to status quo itself into a sad ghost of what it once was. Please let me be wrong. MC

larry said...

And speaking of many of the latest news stories are about increased sponsorship...

More "exclusive NA$CAR sponsors". New sponsorship for big teams with sponsors. Nothing for the smaller teams who NEED sponsors.

Sounds like nothing new on the NA$CAR front. Let's freeze out the smaller teams, and ignore any new startups.

Anonymous said...

I don't always agree with TDP, but this was a powerful editorial. It meets the reality of Nascar broadcasts head-on. Its incredible that Crusty's contract was extended. In the Corporate world, someone would say, "Rusty must have pictures....". Jeff Hammond's performance has never matched his ego. He comes from an era in Nascar that was crude compared to the technical sophistication experienced today. If DW just played it straight, I think he has a lot to add to the dialogue. I'm not expecting to be encouraged by tonight's broadcasts. We will see.

Anonymous said...

ya know...I know ten years is a long time in race terms, but Hammond was working in the Roush garage in the early 2000's...and I think he has kept his hand in in terms of technical knowledge. Not saying he's the most recent they could find, but it's not like he didn't learn anything after 1985. Not sure I really get the hatred for Hammond. I don't think he comes off as arrogant, certainly not in the way Waltrip does (which is kind of a driver thing...Rusty has it too...) But I guess it just goes to show you what we all argue about; everyone likes something different in a broadcaster/analyst. And I don't think any of them would bother us as much if we simply had good pictures and pxp to tell the story. I will be watching, but it might be to see how Brian comes across. Like MC, I'm wondering if he's had an image consultant or something work with him. The last few times have not been good....

MRM4 said...

When DW first got into calling races, he called it the way he saw it even if that meant rustling the feathers of NASCAR or fellow drivers. But now, he's too much of a "yes" man. If he'd get back to telling it like it is, Fox's coverage would be much improved.

I saw that Artie Kempner was replaced as director for the #1 NFL team this past season. I don't know if he worked any NFL games or not. JD, maybe you know more about this. He's also one of the problems with Fox's coverage with the tight shots and being really slow to change shots when the announcers have long since cars are spinning or wrecking.

GinaV24 said...

Another great article, JD, that hits all of the points. I just wish someone would listen. I'll tune in to Race Hub (assuming I can get home in time with all the snow)but I'm not expecting to be particularly convinced by any words of Brian France's.

I found disingenuous at the very least to hear all the interviews with drivers saying how wonderful the changes to the points system will be when it hasn't even been finalized yet.

ESPN renewed Rusty's contract through 2014 - wow, color me unimpressed. One more reason NOT to watch ESPN's coverage.

When I watch an NFL telecast, I see professional people doing a professional job. Watching a NASCAR telecast is a completely different deal. NASCAR fans get a disjointed mess with broadcasters who have too many conflicts of interest to be professional AND we get awful camera work.

I am now taking the position that "I'm from Missouri, prove it" to any words I hear from NASCAR, broadcasters or drivers.

51 yr. fan said...

As I have said before, the presentation is STALE. DW, Hammond, Wallaces, and Waltrips
have grown old to the fans. Why
not one new face to bring something
new to the table. Craven and Lajoie
could at least add something to
the table. Bestwick is not being
used to his potential. I guess
Rusty and DW do have pictures after
reading about the renewal and Hill's ridiculous comments.

Chadderbox said...

Speaking of the Cutler situation on Sunday...during the game current NFL players who were not in the game but were watching the game from home were tweeting comments about the Cutler situation as it was happening. Many of the tweets were not very nice (to put it mildly). The NFL has said they won't do anything about it, which I agree, the NFL should not try to police tweeting form players not in the game.
Can you imagine what would happen if Brian Vickers had tweeted comments from home about a Nascar incident during a race broadcast last season. How would Nascar react? I think we know the answer.
About the awful broadcasts - I used to think that Nascar and the Networks were not hearing us (the fans) but I do not think that anymore. I know now that Nascar and the Networks have heard us and they don't like what they are hearing, so they blame others and ignore it. The egos and the arrogance of those at the top of the Nascar and Network food chain is the problem. Kind of reminds me of the folks in our government in Washington, DC. Just plain OUT OF TOUCH!

Anonymous said...

Last year, NASCAR got the "Game 7" finish they had always hoped for.

And to celebrate, they're going to further change the way the champion is decided.

How moronic can you get?

Anonymous said...

Let me understand this. If you think Hammond is egotistical,it's an example of hatred? If you think Hammond is technically obsolete, it's hatred? Isn't that word a bit harsh?

sue said...

I for one will be watching and listening very closely. Nascar has made some big mistakes. From the chase, fake debris cautions and sending the boys to the big trailer if they smirked wrong were all brought about by Nascar getting too involved and in turn manipulating the outcome of races and championships. These were experiments that went way wrong and lost many fans in turn. In fairness they've also done a lot right.
Tonight I want to watch Brian France to see if he even "gets" it. I want to watch other Nascar executives to see if they even believe in the changes taking place. Since most of us watch on television I want to hear positive changes taking place. I would love to hear a Nascar executive say "Yes, I've watched a complete race on tv and the presentation needs a lot of work. So ok I can at least dream.
But tonight will be interesting television to say the least.

ps. I don't know if I will watch what DW or Jeff Hammond has to say but I do know for a fact that afterward's you will find a tweet or something from Michael Waltrip telling us how wonderful these changes will be.

mrclause said...

I'm waiting to see if the Czar comes up with anything matching or correcting, the fans displeasure and constant voicing of their complaints. I'm guessing that it will still come across as the fans being ignored or blown off.

We've seen in the past few days from the networks that DW is revered by Fox, Rusty has been rehired, why has nobody heard the fans opinions on those two. Well if you add Reid, Meyers, Brad, Mikey, to those two you might get some idea of why tv fans are bowing out. You've got Bestwick, Joy, Jarrett, Petrie, Kyle, that bring something to the show. Why is it that we have to suffer through hours of non-announcing, self promoting boobs when we should be given the same quality announcing/play calling as in every other sport out there? I love the trucks but if Mikey or DW are in the booth the channel gets turned. I refuse to listen to hours of their self promotion, their "I'd do it this way" crapola, their rudeness to their broadcast partners. A little tiny hint, the race is the show, not the announcers. But the announcers can make or break the show. How can these networks go from Parsons and Baker down to the level of the Waltrips, Rusty, Reid, Meyers, and Brad and not have it affect the viewers? Why can't we have professional announcers for a professional sport?

Anonymous said...

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Here comes the smoke and shadows.

Chadderbox said...

Glass Half Full.......
In regards to mrclause - I think that the networks HAVE heard what fans think about DW and Rusty. Either the networks hear much more positive things about those announcers from other fans who love them or they (the networks) just don't care about the complaints. I will admit that it's a possibility that the networks have thousands and thousands of emails from Nascar fans praising the job that Rusty and DW do on Sunday. If that is the case then I guess those of us sick of DW and laughing at Rusty are in the minority. Someone thinks Rusty is doing a good job, it's just not me.
Looking forward to hearing the BRAIN, one Brian France tonight. I believe Nascar can and will survive despite this clown!

Palmetto said...

I'll bet commercials won't occupy one-third of this broadcast.

OSBORNK said...

The Waltrips, Wallaces and directors have ruined the TV broadcasts of NASCAR racing. Most people decide to go to races live after than have watched them on TV. If they don't see a good race on TV, they assume the race is not good and decide to stay at home and save their money. The current booth bobble heads and directors make watching an entire race impossible to watch from beginning to end.

I work hard to avoid Waltrips and Wallaces. I think the popularity of racing would be far less if we did not have DVRs to avoid those has beens and never weres that the networks seem to love and most fans hate.

storkjrc said...

At the risk of incurring the wrath of JD and all of his loyal fans, I have to say grow up people.

Is the coverage perfect? NO.
Are you ever going to be able to satisfy everyone? NO.

There are never going to be commercial free races, there never have been. Has anyone ever clocked and NFL game? I can assure you the % of play versus commercial is at the very least comparative.

Many of the items in this editorial are very true. If you don't like the coverage don't watch. Go to the race, or listen on radio. As a FAN of Nascar, I would much rather have poor coverage, than no coverage. I love racing, and can't afford to go to every race. That's why I will continue to watch Nascar, no matter who the commentators are, or who is in the studio, or on pit road. Just like I watch the NFL, MLB and college basketball, no matter which channel, or who is calling the game. Some I like, some I don't.
Now if someone, say Nascar, were to start its own cable network, like the NFL. How much would you pay to watch a race, with no commercial breaks? I have a feeling that even then, there would still be complaints: too much in-car, to many this, not enough of that.
Are we that spoiled as a consumer that we have nothing better to do than deride the Companies that provide us a gateway to our sport? Lets all try to be a little more realistic. In a time of 10% unemployment and economic uncertainty, is Darrell Waltrip the biggest problem we have to deal with?
Anyway, I am sure I will get flamed for this comment, but as a blogger, and a Nascar fan since 1986, I will continue to support the sport I enjoy, and the drivers I cheer for, each and every week, no matter the channel.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:10...that comment wasn't directed just at this posting--probably should have clarified. It's been a number of comments over the last few weeks on this blog. Some guys like DW I think are really polarizing figures--love them or hate them or even something in between...but some of the intensity toward Hammond surprised me a bit. I'm just not seeing whatever it is, but as I said, everyone has something they like or don't like. If I had to choose between the two, frankly I'd get rid of DW before him. And btw--I do think there is a lack of respect for both of them, and Rusty, considering they had very successful careers. I don't mind comments criticizing broadcasters, but some people carry it off in an exaggerated direction.

Personally--while I was surprised at Rusty's extension, I think he could be good in the right capacity. That would *not* be live analysis or yucking it up with Brad in the studio using tired cliches.

I do agree in general with what 51 year fan says...we've been watching these same guys for 10 years and it is getting a bit old--I think Hill doesn't get that (that's the other blog posting, I know). But it all goes back to the fact that *those* are the two guys they picked to talk about the changes. I might have found someone else.

anon 8:38

Greta said...

Great article, John! I hope you are getting it in the hands of the right people. They clearly aren't hearing us and don't seem to care that there's a problem.

Mike (Detroit) said...

Going to get worse before it gets better. Yet another year of the same old same old. NASCAR changes everything that doesn't matter, to fix it's rating's. It won't be until almost no one watchs or cares till someone steps in and buys NASCAR and gives the customer what they want.

Nathan Brice said...

Have we officially confirmed that Chris Myers will be back?

Anonymous said...'s not going to change.
Either accept it or don't watch.
I for one don't watch. I catch the races on my Sprint phone.

I also listen to MRN, PRN etc...

We can hope for change..we can even call for change but the folks in Daytona are slow to respond and quick to sell.

Vicky D said...

It's really difficult to find the link on but I think we've got it! Why does Nascar make everything so hard???????

Chadderbox said...

JD provided a link on the right side of his blog home page.

Anonymous said...

I want to take the opportunity to commend anon 8:38 am for expanding on his original posting. I now understand the context. TDP is the only Nascar blog I read and wasn't aware of other threads on the topic. In a rush, it's easy to not provide all the insights you originally intended. Anon 7:29 am/12:10 pm

Anonymous said...

What little I watched during the Q&A session was about the point system.Did anyone have the GUTS to ask about tne networks poor telecasts?

Anonymous said...

When is somebody going to have the brass to question the "demaenor" of Brian France? Is he on drugs? Is he afraid of public speaking? Does he have a drinking problem? He doesn't articulate his thoughts worth a hoot, and he gives the appearance of someone wondering when and where he will get next fix.

MRM4 said...

"There are never going to be commercial free races, there never have been. Has anyone ever clocked and NFL game? I can assure you the % of play versus commercial is at the very least comparative."

storkjrc, the difference is no plays are missed during an NFL game. They have built-in time outs. NASCAR doesn't really have those, but maybe that is next.

Anonymous said...

storkjrc has a lot of good comments. Only thing I will say is the racing on Fox is much better since we discovered the mute button. No more nonsense from Darrel Waltrip makes for less frustration in our house. In our area we cannot get the race on radio so this is a good alternative.

jack shaftoe said...

JD writes: "It has to do with pictures framed so tightly viewers never see the actual race."

I've often wondered if this might be because the stands are not full, and nascar doesn't want that seen. I think things would be much different if the sanctioning body's owner didn't also own half of the tracks where the races are run.