Sunday, March 13, 2011

SPEED Makes A Statement In Darlington

This is year five of anger and frustration with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series television coverage.

This year, NASCAR on FOX has decided to only show the winning car finish the Sprint Cup Series races. The sheer arrogance of FOX in terms of selecting pictures to simply show a race to fans on TV is off the chart. Sunday afternoon, FOX will present a review show of the Daytona 500. Replaying video of what actually happened is something the NASCAR on FOX production team knows how to do very well.

Over at ESPN, Marty Reid is lost. He is not just a little bit lost, he is off the beaten path and looking for a way out. Reid does not know the history of NASCAR and that lack of perspective has crushed him in terms of credibility and on-air comments. Meanwhile, Allen Bestwick continues to quietly try to steer the ESPN ship from the infield.

Since 2007 there have been hundreds of posts and many thousands of comments on TDP about the struggles of FOX and ESPN. From the screaming favoritism of Darrell Waltrip to the decimation of the Nationwide Series when ESPN's college football starts, it's been a TV mess.

Meanwhile, hardcore fans have found a fix. Quietly carving a niche on the TV landscape is SPEED's coverage of the Camping World Truck Series. The network's own production team handles the producing, directing and announcing. When Darrell Waltrip was loaned to SPEED at Daytona he promptly returned the favor by screaming overtop of announcer Rick Allen on the closing lap. Truck series fans noticed.

The theory of racing TV is to show up, introduce the participants and let them race. While FOX now has two pre-race sets including the Hollywood Hotel, SPEED has none. While ESPN uses three or four announcers strictly for the pre-race show, SPEED uses one. The winner of the pre-race show sweepstakes is SPEED.

Host Krista Voda has offered a consistent and informed pre-race show for years. Standing alone, Voda walks viewers through the topics in the news, then shows a feature and sets up the field. It's simple, straightforward and effective.

Here is a comment from a TDP reader on the Las Vegas race coverage from FOX:

As a fan of the sport, it is painful to watch it presented like garbage. FOX presented this race like a practice session, hopping from car to car to tell a story and move on. Tight shots and in-car cameras robbed viewers from experiencing many race changing events live. FOX had to resort to replay again and again. I changed the channel about a third of the way through. When I turned the race back on with 15 to go, nothing changed. FOX showed Edwards win and blew off the rest of the field.

Saturday afternoon SPEED telecast a one-day stand-alone show by the truck series from Darlington, SC. One hour of qualifying was followed by the thirty minute pre-race show and then the race. Once again, it was a step back to what racing used to be on TV.

The network had Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Larry McReynolds in the booth. McReynolds was subbing for Michael Waltrip. Voda handled the pre-race show while Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap were the only two pit road reporters.

SPEED has understood for some time now that just telling the stories and letting the viewers judge is the ticket. Instead of cherry-picking the top drivers like ESPN or forcing agendas on fans like FOX, SPEED treats drivers equally on the air. It's a concept that has clicked with fans.

At Darlington, wideshots from the director were used to show the relationships on the track between trucks. Establishing that perspective is key to understanding the actual race. Then, the stories of a fuel run or time between cautions can be told. Without taking the time to let the field sort-out, jumping to a close-up ends any sense of what is actually happening in the race for the viewer.

Here is a fan comment about SPEED with the Darlington race in progress:

It's so refreshing to be treated like an intelligent fan by this booth tonight. These guys have brought their "A" game and I'm enjoying it.

Allen, Parsons and McReynolds took turns speaking, respected each other and wound up presenting an outstanding telecast. Excitement from Allen blended with the driver perspective from Parsons and the crew chief comments from McReynolds. From beginning to end, these three worked without an embarrassing moment.

Despite many accidents, cautions and even a red flag there was no problem with information from pit road. Sadler and Dunlap chased the stories, grabbed the drivers out of the race and followed-up on topics raised by the TV booth. In the post-race show, the two reporters put out a ton of information and talked to the key drivers.

Both FOX and ESPN have four pit reporters. The issue isn't their ability to get to the story, it's the problem with funneling that story through to the air. ESPN's Nationwide Series agenda has classically been driven by interviewing and featuring Sprint Cup Series drivers. FOX's broadcast network time crunch often collides with Waltrip's desire to have the last word.

SPEED has perfected the art of enabling others to take center stage. Over the years in the truck series post-race it has been drivers, crew chiefs and owners emotionally telling viewers what the race meant to them. SPEED has used the microphone and camera as they are intended, to relay what is actually happening and not interfere.

Here are just two of many comments from TDP readers after the Darlington race telecast was over:

Perfect coverage. Anyone who does not understand the complaints many members here have with the FOX & ESPN coverage needs to see this race. The flow of the coverage was smooth and relaxed. The camera did not have to jump from truck to truck. The director found the racing, saw when there was about to be trouble. The reports and commentary were informative, not dumbed-down lectures. We all got to see the entire field rush to the finish line, bouncing off the wall and each other. Great job by everyone at SPEED!

Entertaining race, informative coverage. Worth the while when production team knows their job and gets it done, such a pleasant way to enjoy a broadcast.

It was back in July of 2007 that TDP featured a column titled "Craftsman Trucks On SPEED Are The Best Show In Town." Even then, we focused on the professional tone set by Voda, the fairness to all the competitors and the open style of the directing.

Both ESPN and FOX are heading to Bristol, TN. After an off-week, the opportunity to continue the momentum of the sport is going to be in the hands of these two TV networks. Bristol is a track where good directing is key, words chosen by announcers must be brief and action happens without warning.

After SPEED's performance in Darlington with the trucks, this season's benchmark for professionalism and production has been set. It should be interesting to watch how ESPN and FOX respond to that challenge.

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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Sally said...

Last week ESPN stepped up to the placte and gave excellent coverage of the Natiowide race. They consistantly gave viewers a perspective of what was happening on the track...a huge change from their norm. It makes me think someone is actually listening to the home viewers. Speed has given consitant excellent coverage of the truck races, which is one reason it is so enjoyable to watch. With the monotonous looming of all the 1 1/2 mile cookie cutter tracks in the future, Fox may have a hard time keeping the ratings upswing going. Their inability...or should I say refusal to give viewers at home the experience of being able to see what fans at the track see, it's hard to believe they will outlast the change in weather for the rest of their season.

Rockin Rich said...

I am very apprehensive about the future of Speed's race presentation model.

Isn't Fox's David Hill now the overall manager at Speed? Hasn't he voiced his desire to focus on particular drivers? Hasn't he declared his admiration for Jaws Waltrip? How long will it be before he begins molding Speed's race TV presentation in the image of the Fox model?

As Peter De Lorenzo over at the AutoExtremist site likes to say, this could be a big bowl of steaming Not Good!

I certainly hope things don't play out that way.

It is incredible that Fox and BSPN continue to ignore the negative feedback from so many people. Are there so many more people out there that LIKE their presentation model? There must be some other influencing factors that we don't know about. I would think that, if anything, the dramatic loss of TV audience in the face of the NFL's increase during these economic hard times would be a very clear wake up call. Apparently I think wrong!

Don B Morton Grove, Ill. said...

Great story, Speed can cover a race with 4 hours of closeups.constant pitbox shots,or cartoon rodents. ESPN's coverage is just bland.Do you honestly need that many people to cover a race? You never get a true flow as you have so many people talking. The best part about Saturday was the total lack of anyone named Waltrip with a microphone in attendance.It has gotten so annoying to hear the screaming,constant plugging,and over the top hucksterism that I am officially starting a BOYCOTT NAPA campaign until the scourge that is the family not named Green or mayfield from Kentucky disappears from the human conscience.

Lou said...

Hi JD,

Not going to rehash all the good things. But, again this is the way a race needs to be presented to us on TV. All the way from prerace show, the race, and post race.

I miss SPEED and TNT for Cup races. Maybe if Fox and ESPN presented their races this way I would not fall asleep on the couch during the race and miss all the good commericals.


52 year fan said...

Best presentation of the year.
As said, the announcers seemed to
be feeding off each other in lieu
of stepping on each other, i.e.
Waltrips. Even Larry Mc (hizself)
was much more insightful. The long
camera shots, along with some split-screen views were a welcome
change. Keep this team together!

OSBORNK said...

The truck race coverage proves that less is more. If they would think about it, they could save half of their personnel budget and improve the product. In addition, they could get rid of the gadgets and the personnel needed to make and operate them (digger, etc) and save even more money.

I didn't post yesterday because I was happy with the coverage as it was presented. A low number of posts can be either very good or very bad. The posters don't post a lot because they like what they are seeing or they gave up and turned the TV and computer off.

Anonymous said...

The race coverage on Speed was really great. I truly enjoyed the enthusiasm of the guys up in the booth. I wish that Fox and ESPN could do that. I enjoy Mike Joy, he is great, DW can be, he needs to think a little before he yells. I really enjoy Andy Petree and DJ on ESPN, but need to have Alan in the booth calling the race. Also need to get rid of Rusty and Brad.

NASCARtheoldway said...

Question: How/Where do you get your Pre-Race Photos of the Booth Announcers before they get on the air each weekendd?


Anonymous said...

I like Mikey on the Truck races. He is a fan. Most people who watch the truck races are knowledgeable fans. The best TV race crew for me in recent times was Mikey and Alan Bestwick on a Nationwide race. It was like they were sitting on the sofa with me and we were enjoying the race together. Fox/Sprint is trying to pick up the not-so-knowledgeable but we have Raceview to keep up with everything.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Twitter is loaded with pics, links and direct conversation with NASCAR drivers, teams and media members.

You can go to to check my account.

I urge every NASCAR fan who uses online technology to sign-up (it's free) and use Twitter for NASCAR news and information.

During the truck series race from Darlington, Rick Allen was tweeting from the TV booth. Also Krista Voda, Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap are on Twitter.

We TV folks also have fun with the SPEED truck series director, producer and several crew members interacting with fans and sending pics from the TV compound and inside the TV trucks.

Rick Allen sent the picture we used on the live blog during the rehearsal time for the trucks at Darlington.


Palmetto said...

JD, I've been highly skeptical of Twitter. Part of the reason is I have trouble finding people who don't post more about their personal lives than their professional ones. I realize many people are interested in what Driver A says he had for dinner or where Announcer B had airport problems, but I'm not one of them. When I do find someone worth following, I inevitably find their blog has more detailed content and is more informative (kinda like your blog here!)

(This isn't a NASCAR-specific issue for me. As a computer support professional, I haven't found anyone worth following in that area either.)

With that in mind, can you recommend who to follow?

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Hey everybody

Speed made a huge statement at Darlington that is for sure.

Wide shots. Seeing all the cars finish. No constant bouncing of in-car cameras. Enjoyable viewing.

Fox & ESPN can follow those simple things to satisfy teir viewers but i know they won't. They only care about money.

JD, you don't know how much I thank for this site. I have made many friends here. I know sometimes i can be a pain in the butt but i love you guys and love to give opinions.

Thanks for giving us a place to vent and give our side of the story. Hope the momentum of Speed at darlington keeps up all season.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Palmetto, just click on who I follow and that will give you a good list to start.

There are many tracks, teams, sponsors and media folks who offer great links and pics.

NASCARtheoldway said...


Do you also Tweet with the FOX/TNT/ESPN Directors, Producers, and Crew Members?

GinaV24 said...

IMO Speed provides the best coverage of NASCAR racing on TV. I sat in my living room on Saturday and saw the race - I didn't mute the TV, I didn't have to resort to using my computer to follow the race - I enjoyed the race coverage.

Larry McReynolds stepped in on Saturday and meshed easily with the regular team. For me, one of the big pluses of the coverage yesterday was the ABSENCE of anyone named Waltrip in the booth. When they are there, both insist that they ARE the show, instead of the race, its one of the reasons that I'm not a regular viewer for the trucks.

I'd love to see the Speed production crew do the Cup races on Fox. They could give the Fox crew lessons and we wouldn't get a disjointed - "what the heck is going on now" - broadcast.

kang said...

Great coverage by Speed.Let me add the time interval was on screen the whole race.Thats something Fox has been unwilling to do for 10+ years.Someone at Speed knows how to cover a race.Perhaps that person could go across the street and show Digger and his colleagues how to do the job.

Dot said...

SPEED's race coverage was great. I hope how they showed the finish catches on. Why do we have to see the crew and/or WAG? I'd be OK with seeing them on replay.

The one thing I dislike about SPEED is the ticker. Way too hard to read. Other than that, I'm happy with them.

bevo said...

Excellent post JD. I second everything you wrote with one little difference - I prefer when it's just Rick and Phil in the booth.

I had to catch the race on Tivo and never fast-forwarded through the cautions.

I hope everyone connected with SPEED's coverage every week understands how much we enjoy and appreciate their hard work and dedication.

As for those in charge at FOX and ESPN as well as the thin-skinned hosts at Sirius NASCAR Radio the next time you cry about how critical JD and the commentators here are and how we couldn't possibly understand how to produce race coverage save this article and read it daily.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Sure do! Here is a list of those on Twitter. Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX PR and Krista Voda for FOX.

We have Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Vince Welch, Jamie Little, Nicole Briscoe, Ryan McGee, Marty Smith and ESPN PR on Twitter as well.

Expanding every day, it's the place to be and it's totally portable and free. Phone, laptop, desktop or iPad.


KoHoSo said...

Mr. Daly, I believe this is without question your finest piece of work ever placed on this blog.

The only thing I can add is that I do not see Fox and ESPN stepping up to the "challenge" (as you put it) of Speed. On Fox, ratings are up and ol' DW just got a contract extension so there is no obvious motivation for change there. For both channels, they obviously have a completely different agenda; one where they want to decide what fans should care about instead of simply presenting the story of a sporting event.

This whole situation makes me think of those old Highlights magazines that seemingly used to be in every doctor's office and, specifically, the Goofus & Gallant cartoons. Speed and TNT are Gallant while Fox and ESPN are Goofus...and it appears that the latter will be eternally so just like the cartoon until that glorious day comes when a channel that gives a flying rat's you-know-what about NASCAR gets the contracts for the Cup and NNS series.

Anonymous said...

For all the complaints to the networks about the coverage it is like talking to the wall. To have any real effect would entail something that no one will do, that is to redirect the complaints and any actions to the sponsors. If enough people would complain and quit using sponsor products, that would make a difference.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Don't be confused when networks use the catch phrase "ratings are up."

Last year we had the Winter Olympics up against the early races and the NASCAR ratings were horrible.

This year there is no such problem so the NASCAR ratings are back to being just plain low.

The only thing that will return the hardcore fans is to change the TV presentation since there is no alternative.

If FOX tries the same old in-car and close-ups it could be a very long Sunday.


longtimeracefan said...

In an article by Erik Swanson on dated 1/28/11, SPEED Exec VP, Patti Wheeler, was asked: "What can TV do to help bring the sport back?"

Her reply: "I personally started my Anti-Blather 2011 campaign. What I mean by that is we need to dig deeper. Asking how your car is or asking what do you think you're gonna do for the Daytona 500 is going to result in blather, most of the time. So I'm literally getting a sign made for my office and I'm considering making T-shirts that are Anti-Blather. So everybody working around me understands that it's no longer good enough to just ask the same stupid questions."

Well said.

This lady is a sharp tack. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, an even greater opportunity for her will open up at FOX or ESPN.

Looks like the NCWTS on SPEED will indeed be the program of choice for fans of the less is more style of race coverage.

Now if only could add some live timing to RaceBuddy . . .

cdh said...

The Trucks on SPEED broadcast was great. The reason is because they haven't sold the entire show to sponsors like FOX. If a sponsor came through and offered millions to have their name and logo plastered all over the screen I can guarantee you that SPEED would be as bad as FOX. Money talks and FOX has taken every cent because being the top series they can charge a higher price. The Trucks broadcast can't bring in those major dollars so you only get minimal sponsored mentions. The lack of in-car video is because they haven't sold that package to a sponsor. The lack of ZOOM CAM is also missing for the same reason. I can't even name the major sponsors on most trucks by memory. What does that tell you? I can name almost every car sponsor in CUP easily. If the ratings for Trucks ever skyrockets then we'll be in trouble.

Moe Foe said...

I've been squeaking (like tweeting, but nobody listens) about the Fox/ESPN blather (I like Patti's cut of jib) on their broadcasts for a couple of years. the wide angle is the key to showing the race. Close-in, bumper, driver, and animal shots cover up the racing. Racing is, by definition, a contest BETWEEN CARS. Not showing two or more cars is not showing the race. NASCAR is gonna find themselves without an audience if they don't start setting standards for the TV coverage. SPEED didn't set any new marks with their truck show, but they DO show how to do a broadcast properly and consistently

Terry G said...

Sure do! Here is a list of those on Twitter. Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX PR and Krista Voda for FOX.

We have Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Vince Welch, Jamie Little, Nicole Briscoe, Ryan McGee, Marty Smith and ESPN PR on Twitter as well.


Wendi Venturini is also on Twitter.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The only reason I omitted Wendy is because she does not work on the FOX, ESPN or TNT packages.


KoHoSo said...


I am painfully aware of all of those facts but thank you for bringing them up as I left that angle out in the name of brevity (as I still do try on occasion to not make everybody's eyes bleed from my usual lengthy comments).

To clarify my point, perhaps I should say that it's more of the spin being given out on the ratings that they are up. Sadly, in today's world where far too many people take things at face value, that seems to be the buzz -- NASCAR is righting its ship and making a comeback as far as interest goes.

You, I, and the other Planeteers know that is baloney. However, when I see how Fox and ESPN so often buy into their own spin of the facts, I still have my doubts that they are going to make any significant changes no matter how much we here laud Speed's truck series coverage and denigrate the confusing swill being churned out by NewsCorp and Disney.

Zieke said...

Well said Gina V. I could also appreciate the trucks alot more, but not as long as the Waltrips are in bed with David Hill or somebody. Even Larry Mac does a great job in the booth when he isn't trampled by the Waltrip's shilling and blather.

old97fan said...

I find it very ironic that what we see on Speed now is very similar to the way ESPN used to do races "back in the day". There are some ominous portents for Speed's coverage with the upper managment changes that have happened. The one hope that we have is that the award winning Mr. Goldberg is out due to his personal excesses and maybe we will see some of this arrogance and ignoring the consumer start to be replaced with more of what the fans want to see instead of what the mutual admiration society at the top of FOX and ESPN thinks is the current state of the art.

As a side note, it was very interesting to see how much better Kurt Busch was treated over on the drag racing scene and how much more comfortable he was on air over there then he is on Nascar broadcasts. Love him or hate him, you can't help but wonder if this doesn't highlight not only how tightly controlled things are in Nascar broadcasting, but have to wonder if it doesn't play a part in how uncomfortable most of the drivers seem on Nascar broadcast interviews, popular or not.

Anonymous said...


Are you talking about what I call "hit & run Tweets". Famous/celebs/sport types that Comment/Tweet only NEVER to respond to it or anybody else it seems? Or do you mean drivers that actually interact back & forth. Many drivers have 'ghost tweeters' which is obvious when they tweet during races! :-D Somebody POSTS as a driver but it's never really the driver. Then the ones that did do their own tweets, I got tired of their drama or non stop yammering over one man's garbage is another man's gold & all that.

This is why I follow very few drivers. Either Ghost Tweeters or Hit & Run types..but you just figure it out after awhile.

You can always UNFOLLOW people that yap too much about personal stuff. BUT if the driver is interactive & you can communicate with them, learning about their personal life can be fun...they share pics of kids, wife, pets, etc'

I for one am thrilled Max & Tati Papis' 3 missing cats were found alive & well last wk. These two communicate with you on twitter about races & pet/family stuff.

Then again, do NOT follow too many writers or your twitter stream will be full of 85% DUPLICATED statements during the races.

I use Twitter leanly for NASCAR these days...lost interest in the sport (as noted here) & instead love the nearby city connections I've found for news, weather, sports, food ideas, photo/computer tips.

If you would've told me 3 yrs ago when I signed up for Twitter I'd been doing this (USING it and LOVING it) I would said you were crazy :) It's got something for EVERYBODY.

re: SPEED!! Sorry I missed the Truck race ...Dvr'd it and then DELETED it before realizing it was the Truck race. DUH. ONLY race that weekend. Not first time I've accidentally deleted the wrong thing off the DVR but I wildly digress (DVR's need a recycle bin)Kicking myself after seeing the reviews.

But if we start saying how much we love the truck races, i look for things to get messed up. I remember a few races last year where things were shaky....