Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 2 Race Wrap: ESPN in Texas

Update: Jury duty for me on Monday in Florida. Enjoy one more day of ESPN at Texas. There will be a new column up Tuesday early evening. Thanks all.

The story of Kyle Busch getting parked faded quickly after Busch silently took a seat on the pitbox and the JGR cars faded in the race. It was up to the action on the track to entertain and it was a tough sell.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that featured a 25 minute segment on all things Kyle Busch that was not interrupted by even one commercial break. Mike Helton appeared in the Infield Pit Studio and repeated his statements on parking Busch for the weekend.

All of the ESPN analysts weighed in on the situation. Pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch interviewed Joe Gibbs and pressed him hard on one issue. Punch wanted to know if Gibbs would fire Busch if the sponsor, M&M's, demanded it. Gibbs talked around the question, but was clearly flustered on the topic.

Once the racing began, Busch walked out to the pitbox and never said a word. In typical style for the Cup cars at TMS, once things got strung out passing was at a premium. That made it tough for ESPN to follow any of the storylines.

The "hyper-tight" coverage began around lap 20 and continued for the entire race. Rather than chase racing, the slow and deliberate discussion of one or two cars racing began in typical style. The production choice was to zoom-in on a featured car or two and talk about it. Then, move on to another framed camera shot.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree talked about everything under the sun but the pictures selected for them to discuss were nothing more than pre-selected topics mixed with commercials, features and promo's. It was rough to watch.

The race played out with few incidents, no major accidents and pit strategy playing the key role. Tight shots of the cars lap after lap removed the feel of speed and any perspective of where cars were on the track in relation to each other.

ESPN continues to have a great run in terms of technical issues, TV equipment and making good audio. Unfortunately, it all comes down to what the producer and director decide to let viewers see at home. ESPN has an approach and they have maintained it this season.

RaceBuddy at offered a backstretch camera that provided many exciting moments in the race. Also offered was the white line that marks the race off pit road and six in-car cameras. While Michael McDowell was included, he faded from the start.

With 20 laps to go, Bestwick tried to recap the strategies unfolding on the track. The cameras just sat on Jeff Burton for lap after lap once it was revealed he was trying to nurse his fuel mileage to the finish. Even a late recap of the Chasers was framed so tight that it was impossible to tell where they were in relation to each other. Ultimately, Burton ran out and Tony Stewart won the race.

The finish line was framed with the famous "flying head" graphics swooping in as the cars ended as they started, in orderly fashion. Another fuel mileage race, this time toward the end of the Chase. A standard post-race show followed.

This post serves to host your comments about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Texas Motor Speedway. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

Odd point of view on Race Buddy: the director showed the shot from roof cam of the 14 as he did his Polish lap (not a slur, coined by Alan Kulwicki) looking backward at the fireworks and the stands going in the opposite direction from normal.

Daly Planet Editor said...

TV has first call on those cameras, so they serve ESPN as the director wishes.

OSBORNK said...

I thought the coverage of this borefest was poor. For most of the race, we didn't know where most of the cars were except for the scroll. There was no explanation of where the drivers were and how they got to their position. Other than the 14 and 99, the rest of the field were ignored. They had to show the 31 leading the race but if they had done their homework, it would have been obvious that he was not a contender to win. If it had not gotten dark at my house I would have done something else.

Buschseries61 said...

Today was a very long race. Nicole Briscoe led a great pre-race show on the Kyle Busch saga.

But the Kyle Busch story turned into a predictable dud. Just because they placed poor Marty Smith at Kyle Busch's pit box, it did not guarantee them an interview. Michael McDowell was a non-factor all day as JGR struggled with all 3 cars all day.

ESPN had a tough time in the long green flag runs. The tight, single car shots chosen by the director helped me zone out. But I don't think that is their intent.

It was easier to get information from's leaderboard than the ESPN broadcast. ESPN was caught off guard by all the cars stretching their fuel. It took the pit reporters a while to finally recognize and report on their strategy.

It's down to a two man fight for the championship. After a dull first half of the Chase, ESPN has a small amount of drama to carry through Homestead.

Anonymous said...

I went out to buy a TV set with a larger screen so I could see the "LIVE" box during commercials.

I bought binoculars was cheaper.


Roland said...

Not a good broadcast. They zoomed in on a car for several laps and just chatted about the driver, then moved on to someone else. they spent a good 10 laps split screen with Kyle on one side and McDowell 3 laps down in the other. That was 10 laps of racing I never got to see. At the end during green flag racing they showed a shot of the setting sun. Theres another lap of racing I missed. Add in some full screen replays and your missing a lot.

Honestly, I was waiting on ESPN to put a graphic up on screen that said "Go watch football". At one point they had a MNF commercial, then came back from break to have AB read a promo for...MNF. They also leave the bottom ticker up during the whole race, something they didnt do before NFL season started. Its just getting to be too much. They signed up to cover Nascar, not sunday NFL. If they wanted to broadcast sunday NFL, they should have bid on the rights to do so. Work on covering the sport you signed up to cover, and if people tune away to NFL, then so be it. Its their loss.

In the 15 laps before halfway, they took 3 commercial breaks. Then halfway hit and they almost immediately went to Nonstop. Commercial overload. And with the box so dang small its almost not even worth it. If your going to do it, do it right.

I used PRN for commentary today, and while they didnt have the best broadcast in the world, Doug Rice and Mark Garrow can call a race with the best of them. Job well done for PRN in 2011.

James said...

Again, a poster event for watching a weekly recap show for 1/2 or 1 hour. Why waste the afternoon on this poor excuse of a disjointed pictorial coverage?

SD80MAC said...

Interesting timing! Smoke was on Speed Victory Lane and Sirius/XM NASCAR with Claire B Lang at the same time!

GinaV24 said...

this "style" is not broadcasting the race, it's like the coverage of practice or qualifying and not in the least bit interesting.

funny that the fuel mileage strategy at the end of the race screwed up ESPN's script. We got the obligatory camera shot of Kim Burton looking stressed out on the pit box - if he'd won, we'd have had lots of shots of Kim crying. Seriously? I tuned in for this?

It appeared that there was passing at the track, it's just a shame that the viewer at home didn't see it. Good thing I pay for trackpass so I can tell where people are on the track and hear the radio feed and scanners - otherwise I'd be lost as to what is going on during the race.

Two races to go, this can't end soon enough.

KoHoSo said...

I followed the race only on Twitter. My fellow Planeteers, I believe I am being completely honest that I feel I know just as much about this race as I would have if I had actually watched it...not because the people I follow on Twitter are that good, but because ESPN's overall race presentation is that bad...and a shame as the pre-race show that I did watch was superb all around including Rusty and Brad.

I did actually stop for about one minute on the race sometime in the middle while changing channels after a concert I was watching had ended. I did get lucky to see a wide shot and all I saw was the same old spaced-out single-file cookie-cutter parade. Maybe there was racing out there that would have held my interest and maybe there wasn't. With the choices made by the ESPN director, producer, and upper brass, I guess only those at the track will ever know.

Since I first got full cable TV in 1989, this is the first time I have willingly missed watching a Cup race live or not recorded it for later viewing. I'm sort of sad to say this but I don't really feel bad about it.

Vicky D said...

It was a tough broadcast that's for sure. I would have liked to hear what Kurt Busch said about his brother but never heard anything. I think Texas is better in person than watching on tv. Glad my guy was near the front all race. I for one will be happy when the season ends!

David Dubczak said...

I personally don't mind the "Hyper-Tight" coverage. It allows the viewer to see the car and the driver in more detail - I marvel at the mechanical precision and detail of the cars and want to see them in as much detail as I can. Plus, in a place like Texas, the field gets pretty strung-out and there's really only a few people racing each other at any given moment, so I think it's OK to zoom in on them instead of panning out to get as many cars as possible in the shot and lose the ability to see who is who.

That's the big thing about wide shots - it's hard to tell who is who.

Anonymous said...

J. Umlauf
They spent too much time on Kyle Busch's situation. Most race fans watch the whole race (I hope). Why go over and over the story, beating Kyle to death? I am a fan, and I understood NASCAR's action, I thought Kyle's apology was timely, so on we go. I hate the agressiveness of the reporters, though I suppose they are just doing their job. My favorite, Kurt Busch, might as well have been home watching TV. They didn't mention him at all. Oh well, what else is new?

Anonymous said...

No the story of Kyle Busch didn't fade because Allen Bestwick felt the need to keep bringing it up over and over and over again.

Yet another race ruined by a booth announcer who just wants to hear himself talk.

Plus, what was up with the checkered flag? They just sat there and showed car after car after cross the finish line while the 14 team was celebrating. Give me a break! I don't sit and watch four hours of a race to not see the winner celebrating.

Ann_Ominous said...

Boring tight one car shots drove me away during the middle of the race. Will they ever learn?

And I like seeing all the cars cross the finish lane. Yes, the winning pit crew jumps up and down. Other than the different uniform colors, they all look the same doing it. Now if Brad Parrott tries to do a cartwheel again, I do want to see that!

Mule said...

How ESPN continues to have the unmitigated gall in continuing to proclaim themselves "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" is ludicrous. There was a race today. If it didn't involve the 14, the 99, or Kyle Busch, you weren't seeing or hearing it. They only key in on controversy and a ridiculous attempt of their scripting. Not about the racing.
ESPN exec's should be strapped to a chair with their eyelids taped open and forced to watch their "so called" production. Their lame attempts at "injected drama" trying to paint Joe Gibb's into a corner or zooming in On Kim Burton watching her husband run out of fuel. Even more nauseous, zooming in on Kyle Busch sulking in the pit booth.
Race day on SPEED was just as bad. 2 hours of mindless babble from Kyle & Kenny about Kyle Busch. Who really cares? He's done it before and will do it again if given another chance. A 10 year old can figure it out without being told about it hundreds of times. Enough is enough.
ESPN, FOX, and SPEED have wandered way off the beaten path in failed attempts to sensationalize, inject drama, and just outright silliness that has no meaning at all, to promote an agenda. God knows what those agenda's are but it sure ain't about Stock Car racing.
It's no wonder people don't want to attend races anymore. NASCAR has done a pretty good job of that by itself. Then they let their "so called" media partners run rampant with no sense of direction in producing entertainment for TV viewers.
It's just a dirty shame to see where NASCAR was and to watch it spiral downhill over the past 12 years. I don't think it will ever gain the popularity it once had.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the points made here. Now did anyone really expect anything different or better then the crap all the Networks have been handing out all season? I didn't even turn the race on until it had already started. We all knew a race at this track would be a boring, spread out parade. This format is perfect for the Networks. Things don't come at them fast and furious so they can stay on their scripts. Heck, it took to half way before we had our first debris caution. I don't recall seeing the debris,but must admit that I did doze off a number of times during the race. I would describe the delivery of the race to be very superficial. The booth just doesn't demonstrate and in-depth understing of what's going on out on the track. There were all kinds of stories the pit reporters or booth could have explored during the drawn out events of the afternoon. Bestwick has been a big disapointment. He's a likeable, happy go lucky guy, but you'll never hear him say anything profound. I have no use for the Chase and candidly can't wait for the season to end though I'll miss Nascar racing in a month or so. It's that I'm ever hopeful that the racing will live up to my expectations. Notice I said racing. Now, it's a carnival show. Speaking of carnival shows, Race Hub has degenerated into clown and hot dog costumes with superficial interviews. A big help would be to talk to drivers,crew chiefs,owners that played in the stories that never get covered. But instead we get the same stupid film clips we've seen a dozen times. Spencer and Matt Clark are the only ones worth listening to on Race Hub. Let's get this season over with and move on....

Frank said...

" Plus, what was up with the checkered flag? They just sat there and showed car after car after cross the finish line while the 14 team was celebrating. Give me a break! I don't sit and watch four hours of a race to not see the winner celebrating."

Really? Haha.

rich said...

Sad, so sad. Thank goodness for Trackpass (even though it is buggy). I can listen to the scanners or officals radio and keep up with individual cars and their battles with virtual video.
IMHO, it boils down to the fact that ESPN does not have RACE FANS for producers or directors.
So sad

AncientRacer said...

A pretty much off the rack ESPN broadcast of what I imagine might well have been a race worth watching had I been one of the half-dozen or so souls in the stands.

Put another way, if not for (all of these) being in a good mood having seen a teriffic football game in Tiscaloosa Saturday night, a nice day and stuff to do outside where I could hear AB while coming in now and then to review the comments on the Planet Live Blog I think I would have turned on the local FM station that was running a wall-to-wall Judas Priest weekend. I certainly would not have sat through the whole thing wtaching by myself.

I have given up wondering why they can not get covering a motor car race properly. I have come to the conclusion they simply do not want to.

GinaV24 said...

anon 10:52 - I hope that's a joke about seeing the field cross at the checkers.

I don't know why they don't use a split screen - show the winner in one and the field in the other. that would satisfy both needs.

David Evertsen said...

Was shooting a College Soccer Tournament in Fort Meyers on Sunday. On the way home Sunday evening I was excited to listen to the race on Sirius XM. Really showed how much I missed racing from watching it on TV. The radio broadcast of the last 80 laps or so was great, really told a story. ESPN from what I see from other comments did not do a good job..

Anonymous said...

In the old days, I planned my schedule to make sure I was near a TV for a cup race. When I had to miss one, I felt bad. ESPN (and Fox) have cured me of all that.

When ESPN returned to NASCAR a few years back, I was looking forward to it. I was shocked and appalled at what I saw. The only way I found to enjoy it was to look at it like a really bad B movie. It was so bad that it was unintentionally funny.

Through the years ESPN has made changes here and there, primarily in personnel, that have moved the broadcasts in the right direction. Unfortunately, the changes have only gotten rid of the unintentilally funny aspects. ESPN is still no where near a good broadcast.

I am a long time fan of AB in all things NASCAR, and I was glad to see his return to the pxp position. Although I could see improvements with his return, it also demonstrated that he is not a miracle worker. As long as ESPN management, the producers, and the directors keep giving us a script and lousy pictures, AB is powerless to bring us a good race.

I agree with those people who have compared race coverage to qualifying. I have news for ESPN. I find qualifying to be boring and rarely bother to watch it.

I tuned in to the Texas race several times during the afternoon for a few minutes each time. There was absolutely nothing there to spark or hold any interest.

ESPN and NASCAR aren't even competing with the NFL for my time. I haven't watched a college or pro football game in many years. Their only competition is yard work and handyman jobs, and they are consistently losing.

I am still interested in NASCAR racing. I follow the sport through Jayski and TDP. Jayski provides the news while TDP provides adult discussion of issues. I keep hoping that I will read in TDP that ESPN suddenly saw the light and started giving fans great broadcasts.

At this point, ESPN(and Fox)can only take the credit for freeing up my Sunday afternoons.

Vicky D said...

And Nascar puts Kyle Busch on probation to the end of the year. What a joke!

Frank said...

@Anonymous 1:36

Mystery NASCAR Theater 3000?

Trident said...

Awful 'racing' and even worse coverage - neither of which were unexpected. TRACK POSITION is King. Ugh.

Proof positive that putting Allen Bestwick in BSPN's PxP role cannot overcome the shortcomings of the disinterested producer and disjointed director. Bestwick's demeanor and presentation deserve better, but let's face it - corporate brass dictates the flow (or lack thereof.)

I just read that the driver of the #18 is 'on probation' thru Dec 31. As the younger viewers would say, "WOW, that's gonna hurt!"

At least Saturday night's World of Outlaws finale presentation from Charlotte's dirt track was Very Entertaining on Speed. Theirs was a cohesive presentation of the NE Dirt Modifieds', Sprint Cars' and Late Models' finales, and was well done by the crew there - both in the truck and the booth.

[I should have turned off my TV on Sunday after that satisfying show.]

Anyone remember the non-aero days - in ALL forms of racing - when the driver was the difference, and Bob Jenkins and the late Larry Nuber were calling the action for ESPN? Oh wait - thankfully, Bob is still his melodic self on the IndyCar's Versus presentations.

I guess as a 'senior' viewer of 55 years, I'm expecting too much.

Word veri: 'ackle' - - WAY too appropriate to describe my thoughts.

KoHoSo said...

Frank...or, are you perhaps TV's Frank? ;-) For me, The Daly Planet pretty much has been "MNT3K" for everybody that hangs out here even if they don't know that reference.

Man, the more I think about it, the more it applies...stuck watching awful coverage with no way to escape...David Hill takes the place of Dr. Forrester...the bots are made out of old car parts and twist-ties from phantom debris cautions...we just need a new name for the "ship" as the TDP is probably more The Space Debris of Sorrow than the Satellite of Love. :-D

AncientRacer said...


By Jove, you've got it! The broadcasts COULD be made more interesting if the guys were sitting down front making Smart A** comments about both the broadcast and the race.

That's what they call in the biz a high-concept pitch!

Anonymous said...

Frank and KoHoSo

This is anon 1:36 again

Your reference to MST3K is very apt. I usually catch only bits and pieces of a race broadcast but read all the comments in TDP after it is over. I find the comments more entertaining than the race itself. I am grateful that JD and many of the regulars here can endure these broadcasts and keep me informed.

Speaking of bad movies, has any one seen RED LINE 7000? It is a classic look at NASCAR circa 1964. It was produced, directed, and co-written by Howard Hawks. Some people consider it the worst movie Hawks ever made. It is a horrible soap opera of people involved in racing intermixed with actual racing footage. One of the lead characters is supposed to be driving the Holman-Moody Ford actually driven by Fred Lorenzen. The real names of drivers of other cars are actually used in the commentary by the race announcer.

Richard Petty has a small non-speaking part and ably demonstrates why he found his success in NASCAR rather than in acting.

The movie is a fantastic look at racing around 1964. You can see the pit stops, safety equipment (or lack thereof), car construction features, etc. and some tremendous racing footage with emphasis on spectacular accidents. Fans should look closely to see what the old race cars actually looked like. People who complain that the COT is a brick should take a look at the cars of that era.

The EPIX3 channel on Dish Network Channel 292 has been running RED LINE 7000 periodically for about a month. I have seen it several times and enjoy it greatly by loving the racing and laughing at the soap opera.

There are many old movies that would entertain most of the people here at TDP. I would offer TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, THE CALIFORNIA KID, AMERICAN GRAFFITI, and THUNDER ROAD as examples. There are many others where autos play a prominent role including BULLITT which provides one of the greatest car chases in movie history.

Some of these movies appear on TV occasionally, and I can't imagine they would cost much to air. I wish SPEED would pick a couple hours one night each week to air one of these old movies with an automotive theme. That would be far more interesting than another rerun of Barret Jackson or some of their other junk. SPEED probably would object and say these movies wouldn't draw their desired demographic. If they titled the show "The Dumbest Movies Ever Made hosted by Rutledge Wood", they might be surprised by the number of viewers in their target audience.

The quality of commentary on MST3K was far too literate and clever for my proposed show on SPEED. David Hill would have to dumb it way down. And all the humans and bots would have to wear sportscoats.

glenc1 said...

not really a MYSTY, used to watch once in a while...but I'd like to check out Red Line. I like to watch the old time stuff. I keep telling myself to pull out some stuff even from 1998, to remember what it used to be.

glenc1 said...

btw, had jury duty last year. Feeling JD's pain. Luckily my case was dismissed.

Anonymous said...

glenc1 - RedLine 7000 can be a hard movie to find. If you do find it, I'd appreciate hearing what you think of it.

If memory serves me correctly, it includes footage of racing at Daytona, Charlotte, Atlanta, Darlington, and Riverside. There is also footage of a Grand National (now Cup) car running laps on a dirt track by itself. Later in the movie a hot Mustang (Shelby?) does the same. A Daytona Coupe makes a short appearance as a driver's street car. I think of it as a time capsule from another era.

Be prepared for some of the music with ear plugs or the mute button.

Anon 1:36

KoHoSo said...

Anon 1:36/8:55...

The one thing I would disagree about would be saying that David Hill would have to dumb down a NASCAR program. To me, that is one of the big problems with most NASCAR programming these days -- it assumes that all fans are brand new and/or have a low IQ.

No, not everything needs to be high-brow or aimed solely at the long-term fan who wants to barf every time ESPN cuts to Brewer. We also can't blame any TV channel for trying to get as many viewers as possible (such as even MST3K did by slowing down the pace of the jokes when Mike took over for Joel).

I guess maybe we were spoiled and didn't realize it at the time how well-balanced the NASCAR telecasts and programming of the 90s were in appealing to fans of all levels without being insulting to any part of the viewer base. Even low-brow comedy needs intelligence and thought behind it to make it them stupid, but it takes great thought to get something like The Three Stooges or Beavis and Butt-head to work just as much as something like MST3K, SCTV, Monty Python, or Ernie Kovacs. Especially on the Fox/Speed side of things, I often feel like there is very little thought put into their NASCAR work and they program to a stereotype that doesn't fully exist.*

*Just before hitting the Publish button I realized I should add...that statement goes for those creating and producing the programs, not necessarily all of the hosts, reporters, and technical people who are only following orders.

OSBORNK said...

If you have Dish and a DVR, you can program it to record Redline 7000 or any other movie regardless of when it comes on or what station. You use Dishpass. You go to the daily schedule (menu-7) and Dishpass is on the top on the right side. Go to Dishpass and type in what you want to find and create the timer. The DVR will keep the request in its memory until you delete it. In addition to just movies, you can request shows on a particular subject, your favorite movie star, etc.

glenc1 said...

wow...I've found some pretty obscure stuff on DVD; but there are still things not on them!

About the 'dumbing down' thing. I remember being a kid and watching football, and hearing things I didn't understand. So I *asked*. I learned a lot more that way than I would have with someone talking down to me, since I asked about things I really wanted to know when I wanted to know them. Especially with the Internet, now, that's easy. A lot better than Tim Brewer and his hobby shop.

GinaV24 said...

I love the idea of Mystery Theatre - Nascar style. I'm a big fan of smart aleck's myself.

Never heard of most of those movies you guys referenced, but they sound intriguing enough that I am going to have to try and find them.

I also agree that there is NO need to dumb down the production, Fox and ESPN have done that quite well thank you.

Like GlenC, if there were things I didn't understand, I asked and learned about racing so that I could enjoy the sport more. Jeff Hammond's "show and tell" segments - usually on Wednesday on Race Hub - are more in depth and informative that then ones they allow Brewer to do on the broadcast. Far more interesting and technical than - tires are round and go on the bottom.

Anonymous said...

KoHoSo -

Anon 1:36 here again

I don't really want things dumbed down at all. I am disgusted with most of the NASCAR support programming and in-race stuff by Brewer and even pxp that treats the audience as children. I have stopped watching most of it precisely because it isn't worth my time any more.

I am disgusted by what David Hill and his troops have done to the programming on Fox and Speed. I was actually being sarcastic, but sarcasm often does not come across well when reduced to writing. The tone of voice and facial expression are necessary to carry it off.

I like programs that treat the audience with respect and intelligence and often challenge them. But I'm out here in nowhere, and David Hill is making the decisions.