Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series On TNT From Sonoma

It might just take a legendary detective with an unorthodox style to crack this case. The scenery was beautiful. The weather was great. The crowd was large. Unfortunately, the telecast was awful.

His rumpled coat, cigar and constant stories about his family members made Peter Falk as Columbo a cherished TV character. He always came back for one more question that seemed to turn the entire story upside down. Falk will be missed.

Despite having all the personnel and equipment available to get the job done, TNT got off track early and never recovered. There has never been a NASCAR race that got more instant negative feedback than this one.

The pre-race show hosted by Lindsay Czarniak was as crisp as usual. Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds contributed good comments and TNT had another outstanding Pride of NASCAR feature on Rex White.

Once things got underway on track, the coverage started without showing the two folks giving the starting command on-camera. That was kind of important. TV and movie veteran John Ratzenberger was there as part of a huge promotion of the "Cars2" movie. He was with the national winner of a Toyota fan contest.

In fact, Ratzenberger and the movie director had been interviewed during RaceDay on SPEED. The "Cars2" exhibit was there and it was clear this was a big promotion. The mistake was never mentioned.

Once underway, it became very clear that the on-air dynamic this team had enjoyed on an oval track had not carried over to this road course. There is a lot of information that has to be passed along by Alexander on a race like this and he never accomplished the task.

Time and time again, Alexander referenced things that were never explained, never followed-up or never shown in replay. As the race went forward and incidents happened, TNT became buried in the this growing amount of unexplained incidents.

Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. offered comments on the race, but the two drivers are often echoing each other's perspectives. Larry McReynolds tried to contribute, but having him down in the infield makes for a disjointed presence. It is even more disjointed when he plays the Tim Brewer role of pointing at auto parts.

Just like last season, the race became an ugly series of paybacks between pitstops under green. In the New World Order of NASCAR, this behavior is encouraged and fighting is mentioned over and over again as something that built the sport. There were no penalties for anything done in the race.

The commercial load seemed particularly brutal. Timing of breaks on a road course under green is tough and often it seemed that the racing was a distraction between the commercials. TNT has always battled this perception.

Pictures were fine and RaceBuddy was a nice addition, but the announcing team never kept the fans updated on information despite lots of hard work from the pit reporters. Alexander never told the basic story of what was happening and often seemed to be just reacting to the TV screen.

This is the only road course TNT handles in the six race package and Sonoma has a long history of throwing this TV network for a loop. Back in the Bill Weber days, this race was simply an exercise in frustration that often resulted in Weber losing his cool on the air.

By the time there were ten laps to go, the paybacks were continuing and the chaos was in full swing. Fans either loved or hated the rough racing. Perhaps, the ratings will ultimately be the judge. Either way, the race ended under green with the fastest car winning.

The checkered flag flew at 6:15PM and TNT stayed for the full 15 minutes of scheduled NASCAR TV time. What a nice change. Post-race consisted of several key interviews and the winner. Good questions from the pit reporters chased down a lot of the issues left hanging during the race.

Despite the chaos of the race telecast, it was nice to see TNT change direction and offer a complete post-race show on television. It might have been the bright spot.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Sonoma. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.


Roland said...

Pretty good broadcast. I give it a B. Not showing the command is a big no no. But overall fairly entertaining race and decent coverage not spectacular.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Was this race a repeat of Sonoma 2007. Well i don't know how TNT can have the same problem with the coverage. You would think after 4 years in the current TV contract that you would have better coverage.

Pathetic and Sad.

Anonymous said...

I thought AA,Kyle and Wally were terrible. They don't know how to stay focused on the flow of the race. They should hold back, alert us to developments that they see coming at us,etc. When an incident occurs, they should follow it up, close it out and move on. There were so many stories left hanging.

Matt said...

If TNT had covered the first 100 laps the way they covered the last 10, I may have actually enjoyed this race. And Adam Alexander has to go! He is yet another example of a solid pit reporter completely overwhelmed in the role of Play-by-Play announcer.

Gene G said...

I want to start by saying that I have no problem with TNT's on air talent,or the crew that supports them. However they cut away so often I gave up,turned my tv off and kept up with the race on twitter. BAD show TNT

Anonymous said...

interesting how all the commercial breaks were front loaded. following dustin long on twitter, he showed breaks after 5-6 minutes of racing in the first half. but last 30 minutes had just one break.

Ann_Ominous said...

I am glad that at the end they did show the beating and banging back in the pack instead of the leader going around all by himself.

But.... who decided that "lack of respect in the garage" was the hot phrase? Made it sound like the Dr Phill show!

OSBORNK said...

I don't know how one would telecast a road race and actually cover the action. Apparently TNT doesn't know how to do it either. The biggest problem I had with the telecast (other than an overload of commercials) was the booth tended to chit chat with guesses and speclation rather than sticking to the facts. I don't care what the booth monkeys think the driver is thinking. Like Joe Friday said "Just the facts Maam".

GinaV24 said...

very disappointed in this week's broadcast. Miss the command? How does a professional broadcast do that?

I like Kyle and Wally in the booth, but Adam Alexander is a spectacular fail for me. He doesn't do PXP, he pontificates a bunch of words that don't seem to have much point and then throws to someone else or to commercial. May as well watch with the TV on mute.

I was never able to get RB to work this week and I switched to Google Chrome although I've never had any problems with it until this week.

The commercial overload on ALL NASCAR broadcasts should be addressed by NASCAR in the next contract. If they want me to spend my afternoon involved in the race, then I need to actually see it. Honestly, I was bored most of the broadcast and was doing chores during the commercial breaks since they were soooooo looooonnnnng.

The coverage of the last 10 laps was great and it was nice of TNT to show the finish AND stay with the post race show. Those 3 things were the highlights of the broadcast.

I used to like road course racing but this style of racing, the kit car and the payback city doesn't do it for me.

I always like Columbo. Peter Falk will be missed.

glenc1 said...

as others have said, the worst thing was them not following up on the stories. Why did the 66 wreck the 47 was never answered, for example. They could have covered where teams were at and what strategies they were on much better; that is vital for a road course. They seemed to miss everything that happened during commercials, although that's sort of out of their control (except for the seemingly constant ad breaks...) I had no real issue with cameras & whatnot, especially given the limits of a road course. I think Kyle hung in pretty well considering he probably wasn't feeling the best. But it certainly wasn't their best effort. Adam seems to want to craft phrases rather than just say the words.

I expected the Cars 2 stuff, but did not expect the constant Zookeeper deal.

Buschseries61 said...

Yesterday, ESPN had a decent broadcast with highs and lows. Today, TNT fell behind until the checkered flag, with a few bright spots.

Both networks had a great pre-race setup.

Camerawork between ESPN & TNT was tied. I thought both had plenty of great angles, and a few poor choices - but nothing that terrible. TNT gets credit for it's great S&F line shot.

Allen Bestwick was the anchor of ESPN's broadcast yesterday, with solid play-by-play and a sense of control in the chaos. Adam Alexander was the feather floating in the air on TNT. He moved in the direction of the tv monitor and struggled presenting the race to viewers at home.

Andy Petree was the best analyst of the weekend. +1 ESPN.

ESPN lost on pit road, badly. ESPN lost on the post-race, badly. The TNT reporters provided fantastic post-race interviews for the second weekend in a row.

ESPN did a much better job following the stories of the race compared to TNT. I think this section weighs the most. I still don't understand the #66 wrecking the #47.

Overall, ESPN had the better broadcast.

As for the racing, if we throw out the GWC circus from yesterday, the Nationwide drivers put on a better show at Road America than the Cup drivers did at Sonoma. The Cup drivers used their bumpers from lap 1, not how the best of NASCAR used to race. Payback seemed to be more important than racing hard.

Vicky D said...

What a fitting tribute to Peter Falk on your TV Police column. TNT gets all the bad races and this was one of them. I couldn't keep up with the running order and we went out and I had to find out the finishing order on nascar.com when we got home. I am disappointed with AA I think KP did a good job, however, even with his cold. I felt they showed too much of the first place car and not enough of the guys even towards the back.

PammH said...

Myself, like many other Jr fans, tuned out when he left the race. But it seems from what I saw coverage was not what I've expected from TNT. D+ grade.

justin said...

Would have liked to have known what penalties there were for guys who cut the last turn when a wreck happened there. Mcdowell and Edwards cut it badly one time and I don't think they lined up where they ended up after.

Bill said...

We were there at the race and PRN's coverage was just as bad.

Anonymous said...

Just one more thing..there are 43
drivers in the race...why were only a chosen few featured? You sir are guilty of malfeasance.Sgt., take custody of this man.

KoHoSo said...

I could say a lot about this race, but I won't. All I will say for now is that I am extremely disappointed with TNT and NASCAR right now and that this was only the second time in my 41 years of following the Cup series that I can remember willingly walking away from the TV in the middle of an event to go do something else for a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking at this race from a rather unfamiliar vantage point. I'm normally plugged in, but this weekend I had a ton of family obligations and missed all the action. Trying to find a recap 12:45am Monday morning online is impossible. (family is sleeping, can't turn on TV) Lots of salatious headlines, but no meat. At nascar.com David Caraviello's 1st paragraph says there were drivers seeking retribution, cars hung up on barriers, accusations, vows of revenge and more. Yet he never explained any of it. Sounds like I missed one hell of a show but nowhere in the article did he ever explain any of that stuff. Was the dude in a hurry to catch a flight or what? He ought to hang his head in shame. Dude, resign your job and let someone who actually gives a crap about telling the full story have the job. Otherwise you're just a waste of time, money and space.

John said...

I was at the race also, and there was a huge break between the driver intros and the invocation / anthem. Seemed like something was amiss from the very beginning.

Mule said...

I have to cut TNT some slack. Road course races are a b**** to cover unless you do them frequently like the Grand Am Rolex series or F1 on SPEED. Adam Alexander isn't any better at PXP than he is hosting Speed Center. He needs to go back to pit road. Talk about commercial overload!!
I'm all for rubbin is racin but, 3400lb bricks were not meant to do tight turns and elevation changes on narrow tracks. It all equals uneventful races, hence the reason the media keys in more on controversy than the racing. IT'S BORING! NASCAR dropped the ball for road course racing with this car. It's too big and top heavy.
TNT is still okay with me, it's just the crummy group of races they've been dealt to cover. They'll be all over Daytona like flies on fly paper.

Phil Lee said...

As a UK NASCAR fan with a young daughter, last night was a rare chance for me to watch the race live rather than from my DVR.

As I watched the race I couldn't help but compare it with the F1 race I watched earlier in the day. The race in Valencia was boring and processional with very little happening (unlike the previous race in Canada). The BBC commentary team of David Coulthard and Martin Brundle never failed to be on top of the action, giving incisive comments from a driver's perspective. The camera work was superb with the right mix between off board and on board shots. There was one on board shot in particular when Jenson Button overtook Nico Rosberg that really conveyed the sense of what out braking someone means. The coverage from the BBC earned a straight A, just like all the F1 races have been this season

Moving on to the race in Sonoma, I never got the same feeling of knowing what was happening during the race. There were stories to tell throughout the race but they were glossed over. There was a complete lack of driver interviews during the race and very little mention of who was off the track and why. I was most disappointed with the coverage of the crashes though, particularly the deliberate ones. As a Tony Stewart fan I wanted to hear more about the second incident with Brian Vickers. There was no follw up on why Vickers was in the pits during the race. We did get interviews with both parties after the race but that was a little late.

I was also disappointed by the attitude of Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach towards Juan Pablo Montoya. I don't condone the way he drove but I will say I'd rather see someone try to make a pass than deliberately take out a driver. I though it was wrong the way they were so positive about the way Brad Keselowski took JPM out. This sort of commentary makes NASCAR seem little better than pro wrestling.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed both the nationwide and the cup coverage. Personally, I like the style of tnt's coverage better but they did make a critical mistake in not showing the starting command and it always seems they have commercial overload - even though they did front load them. I was really glad to see they finished out the coverage time without breaking away early. I enjoyed the camera work of both tnt and espn, with a slight nod to espn. (This is probably due to liking the track more.) I cannot believe I am saying this, but I enjoyed espn's coverage slightly better. For one reason - Allen Bestwick. MC

Anonymous said...

I would love to have the opportunity to have Kyle and Wally covering the race EVERY week. Though not as good, they're my Ned & Benny. Much better than any duo on other networks

Anonymous said...

I think, in TNT's defense its fair to point out that Sonoma is the only race that TNT does where the guys in the booth can't see the track.
They have to rely on the cameras to react to whats going on rather than being able to look out the window (as in at an oval) and make their own choices on what to talk about.
The bottom line is that the Sonoma track as a NASCAR venue stinks. It always has.
No passing. Cars look slow. The actual track layout is hideously ugly. Curbing is irrelevant. The pits look like a temporary road course.
Why NASCAR continues to go to that dump is beyond me.

Bray Kroter

MRM4 said...

I recorded the race, so I skipped over them missing the command to start engines. Not good.

Commentary was so-so, missed some obvious things regarding stragedy.

I did like some of the camera angles, particularly the helicopter cam that followed the field around the track on a restart. As long as you pick out your favorite, you could follow him around the whole track and see where he was or wasn't making progress. The one camera under the bridge in turn 1 was a good angle.

Pit reporter interviews after the race were excellent.

Anonymous said...

After watching the highlights and reflecting on yesterday's race, it's obvious that the broadcst team really dropped the ball. From a continuity standpoint, there is far too much idle talk, story telling and theorizing. Then when someone is blatantly dumped, the booth starts waffling. Sure, once with JPM, Petty stepped out, told the truth and then apologized for telling the truth. There must have been a dozen incidents where they could have played some fascinating radio communications. But why do that? It might answer the questions in the viewers minds. Now let's get back to exchanging War Stories. Nothing will change. This week, we'll see/hear 100 references to Vickers putting Stewart into the tire wall. Predictable as Day follows Night.

Dennis M said...

I'm with Matt, for most of the race they talked about everything BUT the race! The last 10 or 15 laps were done very well and they stayed with the racing action instead of just focusing on the leader going around by himself - that in itself was refreshing!

MortonGroveDon said...

For a grade Id give a C-,yes its hard to cover a road race, but after watching 3 others during the weekend and one oval,TNT came off as very disjointed and unorganized. The one pass for the lead made NOT during a commercial break was miss when Busch passed Bowyer while showing a pack of backmarkers banging into each other.
The current car makes for a lousy racecar, and an even worse road racer. Why not just remove every curb? Road America would be a much better venue to watch but then again if all they are going to do is "payback" each other, then dont go there, I like thattrack. Sonoma looks very tired.

mrclause said...

Looks like most everyone missed what KP and Wally said at the very end of the broadcast. They both cracked on AA for talking all the way through the show. Got to say that he did hog the show and was kind of stuck on the respect point he was determined to get across for whatever reason and he must have brought up strategy at least 100 times. It was almost like he was out to own this broadcast like a second rate DW. Wally or KP would comment on something and right away here would come AA at any pause and go back to respect and strategy. It just came across to me as the AA show and that was dismal at best. D-

Anonymous said...

Two great races, and one good coverage (ESPN).
Kyle Petty is out of his depth. Adam Alexander is in over his head. Wally Dallenbach is a joke.

And I will never go to see a movie that TNT shoves down our throat like that Kevin James mess.

Alan Bestwick is a delight, and makes most of the rest look like local cable access doofuses.

And my new favorite driver is Brian Vickers!

James said...

From a camera angle perspective and what I saw on the screen vs what the booth was saying, I give both TNT abd ESPN a well done. I just love the overhead shot from the blimp or the helicopter on the restarts and I was not getting dizzy with the constant change of what I was being shown. I hate it when my brain can not follow what the camea is trying to show me!

I just wish that the director would follow the action long enough to finish what story is being told? KP and Wally are fun to listen to, and have a diferent slant on what they see compared to the obvious. It does not take long to wonder what FOX can not or will not understand is terrible sport coverage.

Anonymous said...

I'll be the last one to defend AA, but I thought one reason he started talking a lot was because Petty was losing his voice as was discussed here. Having said that, there IS too much "talk". It's great during a red flag or long rain delay but they just wander all over the place. They don't do it with other Sports or at least keep it to a minimum.

Anonymous said...

TNT is so better than Fox, it is not even close. The commercials are what they are and one is no better than the other.

bowlalpo said...

Man I thought DW talked a lot!! I can't prove it (already deleted from DVR), but I'll bet that, in the last 10 laps, there were no more than 3 seconds of dead-air time. Why do announcers have to continually speculate and not just let the action play out??

I think Adam Alexander is adequate. I give him slack because he's only done P x P for nine career races. If you don't seek an Eli Gold, you won't find an Eli Gold.

One request for all networks. When a race goes G-W-C, please give us the real-time lap number. That way, when they say so-and-so pitted on lap 32, and they're on "lap 59 of 50" on a 4-mile track, no matter how many caution laps they've had, you truly see how far they are stretching it.

Zieke said...

I'm with you all that are cutting TNT some slack because of the difficulty of broadcasting the road race. It's a tough job having to rely on cameras for your eyes. They are still light years ahead of FOKS. Hope Daytona is a reprieve for them.

William said...

RIP Peter Falk and RIP that broadcast. It was one of the most disjointed races I have seen in so long. Heaven forbid if the driver you liked was not in the top 10 because you would never have seen him. I tried the race buddy on my iPad and it was just as bad. At least next weeks race we should be able to see more than 4 cars on the track.

West Coast Diane said...

Tried RaceBuddy, but for some reason couldn't get the main screen. Got 360 and leaderboard.

Didn't matter because not sure I could deal with all the moving parts....lol.

Usually watch HotPass, but my driver wasn't on it. Tried to watch Tony Stewart. Fun watching but road course difficult to get the gyst of the whole race. Or maybe it was because I couldn't follow TNT in the one box while following Tony in other.

Watched race later on DVR on TNT. Very confusing. Having hard time understanding why people were in certain positions. No info on strategies or how driver in front now in back and vice versa. Maybe just the nature of road course racing only twice a year. Not enough effort on how to cover all the dynamics.

Attendance looked pretty good for the race. On Friday looked like you could put everyone in Turn 7 seats and not fill it. Surprised when we went down to Midway before practice. Not many people were at the fence leading into garage. We saw Tony S, JJ, JG, Marcos, Wendy V Hermie and others. The NASCAR hauler was parked next to the fence with the inspection area next to it. Fun to watch the drivers/TV/Nascar peeps walking fast, even running with heads down. By the time they get recognized they are inside the gate. Although, Marcos did sign autographs. Don't know how they deal with being mobbed like that. Know it comes with the territory, but still, yikes!

Anonymous said...

Kyle Petty sounded like he was sick with a cold or something. He was pretty low energy

Anonymous said...

I have to give Adam Alexander a pass too. It must be exhausting having to give endless promos coming back from commercial and still try and focus on bringing a good race to the fans. That was ridiculous how many of those he had to do.

Jonathan said...

Well I cant say much about the broadcast cause I was working outside helpimg my dad but I did have the PRN feed blasting from my local country station! But just thought I would post this from Jayski looks like the ratings were up from 2010 so this is great to see

TNT NASCAR Coverage Averaging Nearly 5.1 Million Viewers: TNT's coverage on Sunday of the Toyota/SaveMart 350 from Sonoma's Infineon Raceway earned a 3.2 U.S. HH rating, an increase of 17% from last year's race. In addition, the race garnered 5,188,000 total viewers (up + 16%) and averaged 3,743,000 households (up + 21%). The TNT NASCAR 2011 Sprint Cup Series is off to a solid start through the network's first three weeks of racing with an average of 5,097,000 viewers, up +7% over the 2010 total season average, and a 3.1 U.S. HH rating (up +3%)