Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ESPN Riding Out A Bumpy Week

It was back in early February when NASCAR confirmed that there would be a TV network switch for the Nationwide Series race from Richmond, VA. Normally, all the races in that series appear on ESPN2 or another of the ESPN family of TV networks.

At the time, it seemed simple enough. ESPN2 was going to be smack dab in the middle of the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday night, April 29. The company's other two networks, ESPN and ABC, were also tied-up.

All eyes immediately turned to SPEED. The network would already be on-site providing the kind of "support programming" it has offered for years. In addition, the NASCAR on FOX team would already be there for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race.

SPEED has produced the Camping World Truck Series for years. In addition, the Gatorade Duels and the All-Star race air on SPEED with a hybrid team of announcers and production staff. One Nationwide Series race certainly would not be a problem.

After NASCAR made the switch to SPEED official, things quieted down rather quickly as the season got underway. Now as the race approaches, business is picking up where the topic is ESPN and the Nationwide Series coverage.

Click here for the Bob Pockrass column from Here is an excerpt:

"But the switch (of networks) comes across as a sign that ESPN doesn’t care about the Nationwide Series and that other sports programming comes first."

This frustration is born out of the conflicts ESPN has been involved in with the Nationwide Series and other live programming for several years now. The biggest clash has been with college football. From September to November, the Nationwide races are stuck in a little afternoon timeslot between football games.

It's very interesting to see an entire company geared-up for college football come to a screaming halt for NASCAR racing. It appears to be an inconvenience and the topic has often been raised as to why those races just don't move to SPEED.

Back in October of 2007 this situation came to a head with the stand-alone Nationwide Series race in Memphis, TN. Click here to read "ESPN Pushes NASCAR to the Back Burner." It was a classic moment in NASCAR TV history. Here is an excerpt:

"The Busch Series has sometimes hopped between three ESPN networks in one single race. In Memphis the caps were off, the heads were bowed and the invocation was underway. Then, suddenly on ESPN Classic...NASCAR was no more. College football took to the air right in the middle of the NASCAR prayer. Does it get any worse than that? In the middle of the prayer and without Marty Reid saying a word."

"NASCAR fans quickly grabbed their remotes and switched back to ESPN2 only to see live college football. Switching to ESPN it was live horse racing. Ladies and gentleman, The NASCAR Busch Series had left the building, the network and the airwaves."

"NASCAR had been told where it stood very clearly. Only a nice tackle by a young man from the Iowa Hawkeyes ended the ESPN2 game a short time later and allowed NASCAR to return to the air. But, the point had been made clear."

Just this week, the double top secret NASCAR Fan Council survey was focused on one topic. That was questions about each of the NASCAR on ESPN announcers. Fans were asked, in confidence of course, to detail the likes and dislikes about the members of the TV team that provides the coverage of these very Nationwide Series events. The survey pulled no punches.

Making hay while the sun shines is a phrase that the folks at SPEED know all too well this week. Since there is no truck series race, SPEED's focus has been on getting as much publicity as possible for the Nationwide Series telecast.

There is perhaps no better way to get tongues wagging and keyboards typing than to announce that it will be a double-barreled Waltrip attack for the Richmond coverage. Darrell and Michael will be teamed with truck series announcer Rick Allen for this special event.

Tuesday, word leaked-out that SPEED had added yet another wrinkle. The popular online RaceBuddy application will be used for the Richmond Nationwide Series race. Fans love gizmo's and this allows for four additional camera views, social media live chat and no TV commercials. It can be accessed for free and without any sign-up at on Friday.

So, the ESPN Infield Pit Studio and Tech Garage are both parked this weekend. Instead, SPEED will offer over twelve live hours of programming from RIR beginning at 10:30AM ET.

Ironically, it will be the Nationwide Series cars taking to the track at that time for practice. ESPN2 will be showing Skip Bayless holding Court on First Take while ESPN will be offering yet another hour of SportsCenter.

When the dust settles after Friday night, it will be interesting to gauge the fan reaction to this SPEED telecast vs. the regular NASCAR on ESPN TV team. Maybe, the NASCAR Fan Council just wanted a jump on this topic.

We invite your views on this subject. To add your opinion, just click on the comments butto 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.


Mike in Pittsburgh said...

I'm definitely not looking for a double dose of Waltrip. Racebuddy without the reporter during the commercials is going to be missed by me, I just hope they don't have two useless in car cameras like the trucks series.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope the Truck team directs and produces. Otherwise it will be a "hypertight" night of NWS bumpers.

Richmond is one of the best tracks on the circuit and I hope SPEED puts on it's best show ever. That way ESPN can show Lacrosse and Soccer next season and we can get some high quality coverage on the NWS. You've got to think if the fan council it asking questions, NASCAR can't be very happy.

Good Luck SPEED. I for one am counting on you!!

GinaV24 said...

Having Racebuddy available may save the broadcast enough for me to actually watch it on TV, but if the motormouth duo's get too much of a head of steam, I'll be muting the noise.

Hopefully Speed will do the same fine job of camera work with the Nationwide as they do with the trucks.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Editor,
Despite all the criticism from this website, I read today that ESPN had it's 4th consecutive +30% rise in NW ratings in Nashville and the Talladega broadcast was the 4th highest Non-Daytona race on ESPN2 ever.

Hard to ignore....

Anonymous said...

I gave my 2 cents on the survey :). I made it clear who I have mad love for & who I could do without.

Glad to hear we'll have RaceBuddy!

larry said...

Nationwide race? Isn't that the one where the Sprint Cup personalities and MONEY win the race while those 'other guys' run around in circles to claim they "won the 'championship'"?

I'll pass. I don't care which network shows the farce.

MRM4 said...

As much as some people don't believe this, the NFL draft and the NBA playoffs will draw more ratings than a Nationwide race. I don't have a problem with ESPN not carrying the race. They don't care, so let someone who does carry it.

Anonymous said...

to quote commercial
isnt espn contractually obligated to show NW races? and wouldnt this be a violation of contract?

ESPN has what five networks- 1-2-classic-news and U + ABC Family -

buy yet no place for NW that they contracted for.

What would NASCAR do if FOX said they couldnt broadcast a Sunday race? makesyou go hmmmmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

so really - ESPN couldn't move NFL coverage from the deuce to news for THREE HOURS?

w17scott said...

Editor -
What a great opportunity for SPEED to showcase it's production skills and air talents in a different venue - Nationwide ...but for some unfathomable reason this fan cannot see any redeeming value to lowering the standard it has set for quality effort by bringing in not one, but two Waltrips ...of course, it could be the first PXP call from wholly from outside the booth, that is if the great outdoors could hold these two monstrous egos ...shame, shame, shame on you SPEED ...great to see Rick Allen on PXP, but the in-house talents of Phil Parsons and Larry Mac could capably handle booth spots ...already bookmarked radio carrying the race and TV mute button ready and working ...I'll follow the race, but not the SPEEd audio ...first race I attended in Richmond was in 1960 on half-mile dirt track - often used for harness racing wishes, Rick ...know you'll respect the role of others in the booth, don't know if they'll demonstrate proper respect for your role

17972 B. C. said...

For you running a site like this John i think it's a story to be covered. For Mr. Pockrass I think he needed a feud of the week, and this was easy and available. For ESPN it's a no brainer. NFL drives the truck, we all know it. Post-season of any top level sport should trump a regular season event in what is a sub division of NASCAR, which is what NNS is. ESPN could have stuck it on Classic or taped it for later, give them credit for fixing this, which happened because of a late Easter pushing the NFL back.

Anonymous said...

MRM4 is right. The NFL draft will have higher ratings than the Nationwide race. And is that a sad commentary on where the Nationwide series is today?

Tracy D said...

I'm going to be at the track, thank goodness. Will let you all know how the racing goes, starting tomorrow night with the K&N series with Travis Pastrana running. Looking forward to it.

glenc1 said...

I actually like watching a bit of the draft. But it really is kinda crazy...I mean, all of it is speculation until these kids actually get at least to training camp, and yet the prognosticators spend hours & hours guessing about who is good and who is gonna get them. And people say we waste our time watching practice & qualifying...just sayin....

Yes, ratings dictate what they carry. But it's kinda ridiculous that ESPN has that many networks and can't fit a race in someplace.

OldSchoolRacing said...

Anon 9:45 AM
Would you have preferred ESPNNews or ESPN Classic wich are only in -30 Million Homes, or to be proactive and hand it off to Speed?

Anonymous said...

Nationwide has always been a 2nd tier series. The thought that it should take precedence over the NFL draft or NBA playoffs is laughable.

Anonymous said...

Well they've all but killed N'wide. People are turned off because it's become the Cuppers playground. Even with the one series commitment for points they still come in well funded & kick the N'wide drivers butts.

Even the Pick 'em Ups is starting to leave a bad taste in some folks mouths with Kyle spanking the field darn near every week.

I don't think even back when it was Busch & they had a chance that there was a huge audience.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR will get it's revenge Sunday afternoons this Fall when Millionaire and Billionaires still can't figure out how to divide 9 billion dollars and the NFL strike stretches on.

marv from ms said...

i was going to watch the nw race until i saw that the motormouth brothers were the anoncers now i will watch the draft

Anonymous said...

Speed has a perfect chance to put on a good show but they blew it by having Waltrips in the booth.Our gang will be together to watch,as usual, but the audio will be radio for obvious reasons.

Charlie said...

Looks like DW will be busy on Friday.
From what I can figure DW will be on the air for 8 hours on Friday even before doing the NNS race.

Add the time for the race, 2.5 hours plus Track side part 2 and he has put in 11 hours.

Nascar believes DW is the face of Nascar and I guess we will be seeing his face a lot on Friday.

Good luck DW, pace yourself.

tonybct said...

as usual, I must agree with the majority, I'll be watching on Speed, but listening on MRN, not going to put myself through it, listening to the two self-important, all about me all the time Waltrip boys!! for whatever reason, Speed seems to love their foolishness, Oh, well

Moddog said...

What a shame! Channel surfers will have to search for the race. ESPN went where their bread and butter is. Here's a real shame for you race lovers. NASCAR's oldest division has lost it's TV package except for two events to the "Kiddie World" developmental series. Only Bristol and Louden will have MODIFIED coverage and thats probably due to the fact the "Cup" interlopers will invade those events. Shame on NASCAR and their TV partners for driving another nail into the coffin of the division that started it all.

Tuddley3 said...

I think SPEED Channel should be the official NASCAR channel and stop switching networks every 2 months. I'm talking Camping World, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup exclusively only on SPEED. The summer tv schedule is a nightmare for keeping track of which channels to set the DVR for it makes me nauseous.

JSprague said...

I'm a member of that super secret fan panel and didn't get an invite for that survey. I wish I would've gotten one.

The biggest issue with ESPN's telecasts is the lead announcer. Marty Reid isn't terrible, it's just that Allen Bestwick is so much better. Reid, however, might make a good Pit Studio host. What I'd like to see ESPN do is bring Randy LaJoie back...if the powers that be at NASCAR say he's OK, then why can't The Worldwide Leader?

I don't have any issue with the usual pit reporters or show hosts (Welch, Burns, Little...Jerry Punch is a legend). Never really have been a Nicole Manske/Briscoe fan, though.

Of course, the Nationwide Series isn't exempt from blame. Take the Cup guys out and force ESPN to not try to convince us that we should all like Danica and it'd be much better.

Anonymous said...

Let us Pray: Why you ask ? The
Waltrip Bros. are going to be on
the tube AT THE SAME time. Help !!
Actually I can handle DW .. I can
nOT POSSIBLY handle Mikey .
good nite.
Oh if you see Ray Dunlap..ask hime
to wear a mask -- it will tend to
make his voice almost normal.
Anyone know why he talks soooo
l o u d Amen

earl the pearl said...

Dick Bergran. Kyle Petty tore
him a new one .. for his reallly
bad suck up with Kyle Bush.
Worse than Ever...even for
Bergran. He just cant help it.
And he is still mad as hell for
the demotion to the pits.