Friday, July 1, 2011
Friday Afternoon's Qualifying Showdown
If the weather in Daytona stays dry, TV viewers should get an interesting afternoon of programming on Friday. ESPN2 will be up first with Nationwide Series qualifying and then SPEED will be next with the Sprint Cup Series.
Fans already know that both series are deeply committed to the tandem-style of racing for the Friday and Saturday night events. Fans already know many of the teams and partners who will be pairing up from the green to the checkers in both series.
This new style of racing certainly throws a wrench into the typical TV presentation of qualifying. Other than missing the actual race, what is the real story? Once the green flag flies for these two races the scramble is not going to be for the lead, but instead to find your prearranged dance partner.
The challenge for both ESPN2 and SPEED is to tell the real stories of how things are different this year and what that means for the sport. Will Nationwide Series teams operated by Sprint Cup Series owners have an advantage? Will these power teams fade to the rear at the start and just ride as we have seen on the Cup side?
Ultimately, what does qualifying really mean for the Nationwide Series? If the TV presentation is done as if the tandem racing does not exist, what credibility does that give ESPN going into the Friday night race? Will we see graphics of the team pairings for the race during the qualifying coverage?
It's up to Marty Reid to try and put the single car Nationwide Series qualifying into perspective for a race that will never for a moment feature single car racing. If the only real story is the battle for the "start and park" positions at the rear of the field it could be a tough afternoon for Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Coverage begins on ESPN2 at 2PM Eastern Time.
Adam Alexander put his hands in his pockets a lot when he is on-camera. Maybe he is nervous, maybe he is relaxed or maybe he is uncomfortable. Alexander will once again have his hands in his pockets at 4PM ET as he leads the TV team through Sprint Cup Series qualifying.
This time it will be Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds joining Alexander on SPEED. Petty has once again been a breath of fresh air this season because he speaks his mind on any NASCAR topic. The irony of Petty being matched with McReynolds is not lost on veteran fans.
It was McReynolds who started the pre-season by lecturing the NASCAR media face-to-face on the importance of being positive and making sure to report good things about the sport. He did that on the January media tour to a large group of veteran reporters from around the country. Needless to say, the frost between the Infield Media Center working press and McReynolds has never thawed.
This time, McReynolds gets to explain to TV viewers what relevance qualifying has for top 35 teams who have long since planned their Daytona tandem racing strategies. As the crew chief in the booth, it should be interesting to hear his comments on the topic, keeping in mind his own admitted philosophy of NASCAR "reporting."
Both networks stayed flexible on Thursday after rain delays and finally got some limited TV coverage of practice sessions for both series. If the start of qualifying is also delayed by rain, it may cause some interesting schedule issues between ESPN2 and SPEED.
Nicole Briscoe is scheduled to host a 6:30PM version of NASCAR Now on ESPN2 before the NASCAR Countdown show begins the Daytona coverage on ESPN at 7PM. It will be Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace and Jarrett on the pre-race show.
NASCAR TV winds-up on Friday with Trackside on SPEED at 10PM. Krista Voda hosts with Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond. Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne are the guests. TDP will live blog the Nationwide Series race, join us right here for that event.
In the meantime, we welcome your comments on the Friday afternoon qualifying coverage. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.