Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Daugherty's Social Media Smackdown

When things get weird at Daytona, they get really weird. The height of the weirdness was Juan Montoya hitting a jet dryer on the track and igniting a fire that blazed spectacularly on TV. After it was extinguished, it took track workers over two hours to clean up the mess.

Meanwhile, right in the middle of hosting TDP's live stream on Twitter, I happened to see a picture link pop-up. It was a picture from Brad Keselowski. It was a view from the backstretch. As he had done during practice and Speedweeks, Keselowski had kept his cell phone in his car. He was now tweeting with fans during the red flag.

The NASCAR on FOX team was completely out of things to talk about and dispatched reporter Matt Yocum to the backstretch. After some race talk, the topic of discussion turned to social media and specifically, Twitter.

Keselowski continued to snap pictures of the other drivers, the fire scene and even the TV folks. He continued to chat with fans, post his pictures and tell Yocum about his Twitter activities. Suddenly, social media and NASCAR were front and center on a broadcast TV network in primetime.

"NASCAR Leading Social Media Revolution" was a TDP column from last week. We spoke about the sport's transition from completely shutting out direct contact with fans to embracing the fact that social media is going to play a key role in setting NASCAR's future course. Click on the title to read the column.

As various FOX announcers spoke about their own Twitter accounts and how much fun it was to interact with fans, a funny thing started to happen. Keselowski's follower numbers on Twitter began to rise. At first it was hundreds, then thousands and then tens of thousands of people going to Twitter to see what Keselowski was sending.

By the end of the night, his Twitter account had grown by some 200 thousand people. In addition, other NASCAR-related Twitter users found their follower numbers going up quickly. TV had once again accidentally served as a platform for social media growth. All it took was an accident, fire and red flag.

"How Twitter Took Over NASCAR" was a subsequent post on the popular website. Detailed in the story is the unusual synergy between race fans and the drivers and teams on Twitter. Instead of following the stereotype, NASCAR fans are proving to be sophisticated users of social media. Click on the title to read the story.

While the issue of Keselowski having a "recording device" in his car was raised after the race, NASCAR VP of Operations Steve O'Donnell waved that possibility off and praised Keselowski for his fan interaction and outreach. O'Donnell passed along that information on his Twitter account.

Tuesday afternoon ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty appeared with host Allen Bestwick on the NASCAR Now program on ESPN2. Daugherty is one of a host of analysts and reporters that rotate through as "experts" on the TV series. The talk of this day was Keselowski and his foray into tweeting during the red flag.

Here are Daugherty's comments in full:

Bestwick: "Do you fine or not fine Brad K (for having a recording device and using it during the race)?"

Daugherty: "You definitely fine Brad K, I have had it with the social media stuff. This is ridiculous. You are in the race car. You are a professional race car driver. I don't know why you would have your cell phone with you in the first place other than to just take advantage of an opportunity to do something like this."

"There is no place for this in professional sports when you are the athlete. His focus is to be in that race car 100% focused on trying to win the race. This social media stuff, especially something like this, I just think it is inappropriate and there is no room for that."

I sent Daugherty's comments along on Twitter and the responses were varied. While many thought he was just not informed on the subject, others suggested that his background as an NBA athlete, not as a driver, was to blame for his views.

While Daugherty has the absolute right to his opinion, Keselowski's Twitter exploits were sent all over the Internet in stories on all types of websites. The Daytona weirdness may have finally pushed the mainstream door to social media acceptance wide open.

We have been active on Twitter for several years, recently moved our live race TV chat to that service and found it to be a vital link for NASCAR fans. We welcome your comments on Keselowski, NASCAR and social media.

To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayhem In Daytona Tests TV Team

Sunday afternoon rained out and things were not looking much better on Monday morning. Shortly after 10AM, NASCAR announced that the Daytona 500 would move to 7PM and be carried live on FOX.

This was a memorable moment as the FOX local stations in all four US timezones had to make a hole for a live sports event where normally entertainment program series and local news would be scheduled.

On the East Coast, FOX lost the winter season finale of House and a new episode of Alcatraz. In addition, the length of the race would mean at least one and in some cases two local newscasts would be preempted on some FOX local affiliates.

It was a big statement about the commitment of FOX to the Daytona 500. Ironically it comes in a season when the network is about to begin negotiations with NASCAR on a new TV contract. The current agreement expires at the end of the 2014 season.

As there was no room for a pre-race show on FOX, sister network SPEED was used at 6PM with a one hour version of the Race Hub program devoted to just that. Mixed with some content from SPEED's Charlotte, NC studio the NASCAR on FOX team in Daytona did a good job of updating the situation as it stood.

Once the race got underway, an early incident took out former series champion Jimmie Johnson and dropped newcomer Danica Patrick from contention. Once again, Patrick did not speak to the media while repairs were made on her car in the garage area.

In this incident, FOX used an in-car replay showing Jimmie Johnson's car being hit hard right in the driver's door. While Johnson was then shown slowly moving around and disconnected the steering wheel, it certainly was not clear that he was not injured. Minutes later, FOX could have safely used that footage as Johnson was interviewed outside the medical center and confirmed to be uninjured.

Michael Waltrip and John Roberts manned the Hollywood Hotel and it was clear from the start that FOX got from the younger Waltrip exactly what they expected. He is an unabashed supporter of the sport and offers opinions and explanations freely. Since he is not in the role of lead analyst in the TV booth, his position as a team owner did not really play a role. Waltrip's presence was certainly a change of pace from Jeff Hammond.

Fans checked in after Darrell Waltrip's comments about Jimmie Johnson learning to take his hands off the wheel in an accident by watching Danica Patrick. Waltrip also tried hard to sell the fact that Patrick's driving skills were on display in the incident. That was a tough sell as the replay and spotter comments did not agree.

In typical Daytona style, now that the tandem racing is gone, FOX was back to covering pack racing even thought it was only two-wide. The director mixed in more aerials that we have seen in years past and the smooth production extended to pit road and restarts.

As the race went along, the fan comments turned from production of the event to the frequency of commercials. Since this was the first full Sprint Cup Series race on FOX of 2012, it was quickly a reminder of the heavy commercial load the network has to run. These events come with a big price tag and lots of commercials are the only way for a broadcast network like FOX to pay the bill.

Prior to the event, FOX announced that the final scheduled hour of the race would feature side by side commercial breaks that both TNT and FOX had used with success. Instead, the effect was rolled out during the big red flag for the jet dryer fire.

Once racing resumed, it appeared that FOX would only use this effect when the field was under the caution flag. Commercials during green were run in full-screen mode. It's frustrating to know that the TV network has the potential to do this for the entire race, but FOX was clear on the fact that sponsors are still not sold on this approach in terms of continuing to pay full price for an ad run in side by side mode.

Montoya's wreck with the jet dryer began a sequence that saw tired fans, media and drivers just want the race to end. Instead, several more accidents after the restart stretched the program well into Tuesday on the East Coast. This is clearly not what FOX wanted.

The overall production approach was similar to last season. FOX is less story-driven than ESPN, but loves the tight shots, especially from the in-car cameras. On this day, there were no complaints of single cars being followed mainly due to the pack racing dynamic.

At the finish, FOX used a wideshot and allowed all the lead lap cars to cross the finish line before cutting cameras. Graphics of the finish were also present, but tough to read due to the continued use of team colors. Perhaps this will change and the network will use an easily-viewed drop-down style graphic.

Where the FOX team really put on a show was in the replays. Incidents were replayed from so many different angles people were asking just how many cameras do these guys have? It was an impressive display of TV technology used in the right way.

After a long night of racing, we want your opinion of the NASCAR on FOX TV team's efforts. To add your opinion about the telecast, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.

NASCAR Leading Social Media Revolution

Repost of 2-21-12 column on social media by request.

When we started this NASCAR TV and media blog in 2007 the preferred way for fans to contact NASCAR was by mail. In order to offer some feedback, fans had to locate the PO Box address in Daytona Beach that was hidden deep inside the website.

Just five years ago NASCAR had no public email address, no Internet access and the only listed phone number was for tickets to International Speedway Corporation events. The website was operated by Turner Sports and customer service was limited to online pay services.

While NASCAR has fine-tuned the COT, rolled out fuel injection and limited drivers to one series championship, the real revolution has been in opening a direct line of communication with the fan base. The sport is a true leader in the social media revolution now underway.

At the core of the current shift in providing content directly to fans is the social media service called Twitter. Its beauty is in its limitations. 140 characters of content have become the language of NASCAR. Instant links to pictures, online locations and topics within the sport flow from morning to night.

Through Twitter, the top drivers in NASCAR communicate directly with the fans. The TV personalities, reporters and media members offer instant information and answer questions. The teams, sponsors and tracks update content daily that is directly related to happenings within the sport.

The real beauty of NASCAR's relationship with social media is that no money changes hands. NASCAR carved a wide path by demanding payment for anything and everything associated with the sport for decades. Now, a little texting service originally designed for cell phones sends information about the sport worldwide for free.

It's not just the drivers and teams that use Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with fans. NASCAR's TV partners came along grudgingly, but have now embraced social media as a way to accomplish a level of viewer interaction never before imagined.

The light went on for me several years ago during a Sprint Cup Series race on TNT. I complained on Twitter that the network telecast had not updated a driver formerly in contention who had pulled into the pits. Seconds later, Kyle Petty responded to my tweet over the air. In the next commercial break, he tweeted to ask me if that was the information I was looking for. I was sold.

65 year-old Darrell Waltrip now carries an iPad into the TV booth for his NASCAR on FOX races. Waltrip came to Twitter two seasons ago and got the hang of interacting with fans directly in a flash. That might run in the family, as brother Michael was one of the first NASCAR personalities on Twitter and paved the way for other drivers and owners to follow.

Save the talk about useless information, just a passing fad and not worth the time. The current impact of Twitter on NASCAR is bigger than anything the sport has ever experienced. As a totally portable communication platform, many drivers practicing at Daytona actually took their phones and Twitter along with them in the cars.

Last week, fans from home or work were chatting with Sprint Cup Series drivers sitting in line at the Daytona International Speedway waiting to go on the track. It was a fascinating exercise in the fundamental power of social media.

While posts on Facebook give fans an opportunity to browse for content, Twitter allows every single user to customize a list of who they would like to follow. Users do not have to tweet and can simply follow along and watch the information flow. There are various applications on the market that can put Twitter into whatever form is easiest for the specific user.

As NASCAR heads for Daytona, SPEED has already made a total commitment to integrating the fans, through social media, into that network's telecasts. FOX has followed along and expects to continue to develop a synergy with SPEED where interactive technology is concerned.

Our friends at ESPN operate under a corporate set of social media guidelines. This is simply due to the fact that the company puts out so much content of all types on a daily basis. Luckily, that does not interfere with the reporters and analysts talking about the happenings in NASCAR.

This year the door is open for fans to interact with even more NASCAR executives. Twitter also allows users to get official race information from the sanctioning body as it happens. Last year, after a pit road speed issue, NASCAR VP Steve O'Donnell tweeted a pic of the actual speeds as posted on the NASCAR computer. Case closed.

If some fans would rather just watch the races in peace without online interaction, that still works just fine. My only tip is that new TV's on the market are already coming with Twitter built into the screen. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and NASCAR's decision to embrace it is about to pay off in a very big way.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daytona 500 Live 7PM FOX: Chatting On Twitter

Live race chat is once again on using the #TDP1 hashtag. You can easily sign-up and participate. It's free and easy to use, please join us.

5PM update: Conditions still go for 7PM racing, one last rain band moving toward area. Hoping it misses track.

Update 12:50PM: RaceHub on SPEED at 6PM will serve as the Daytona 500 pre-race show. Full updates from the NASCAR on FOX team at the track as well as SPEED analysts in-house.

Update 12:30PM: FOX PR spokesman Dan Bell has confirmed that every local FOX affilate nationwide will carry the Daytona 500 live. That is huge, especially for West Coast viewers on a Monday at 4PM local time.

Update 10:15AM: NASCAR has announced that due to continuing rain, the Daytona 500 will be run at 7PM ET Monday and televised live on the FOX Broadcast Network. It was raining in Daytona at 9AM with jet dryers shut down and the track wet. Forecast is for daytime rain with clearing after 3PM. Will update track drying efforts and potential for 7PM start on this page. Thanks for your patience.

It was a valiant effort, but no amount of positive spin from the NASCAR on FOX gang could defeat Mother Nature. From the opening weather forecast that predicted possible light rain but no problems getting the race in to the subsequent five hours of rain fill, the Daytona 500 was not to be.

Here is the reset information for fans about Monday's TV and radio coverage:

FOX is scheduled to come on the air at noon ET and if the track is ready the green flag will be dropped by WWE star John Cena only minutes later. There is no pre-race show on either FOX or SPEED. There is also no flyover.

RaceBuddy or any type of video streaming is not done with the NASCAR on FOX race package. The network pays top dollar to have viewers watch FOX and that buys them what is called "exclusivity." As far as video is concerned in the US, it's FOX or nothing.

As of midnight Sunday, SPEED stated that network has no plans to re-air the race Monday night if it is completed on Monday afternoon. An email to FOX went unanswered, but it is highly unlikely that the Monday primetime line-up would be set aside for a replay of the Daytona 500 on the FOX Broadcast Network.

Basically, this means set the DVR, VCR or whatever recording device you may have available for all day Monday from noon until you get home from work. Right now, the only scheduled re-air is later in the week at noon on SPEED. Why these two sister networks could not agree on this issue as of Sunday night is anyone's guess.

For our friends in Canada, TSN2 will have coverage should the race get underway at noon. UK fans the word is Premier Sports will carry the race live when it happens on Monday. For those of you down under SPEED Australia will carry it live.

On the radio side, click here for a direct link to the Motor Racing Network (MRN) homepage. In an agreement reached only a short while ago, MRN can now stream races online through the MRN website in addition to using the normal radio affiliates nationwide. On Monday, there will be direct links for fans to use either the website page or the MRN mobile page to stream the race.

For those with android phones who want to use an app, click here for the I Heart Radio homepage. This provides feeds of local radio stations nationwide and there are several MRN affiliates on the list. You can scroll down on that page for a list of apps easily installed on your phone.

iPhone users it has been recommended that the TuneIn Radio app, click here for the link, is easily installed and is free. That will allow access to the same MRN affiliates for coverage of the race. The list of MRN stations is right on the MRN homepage.

As always, the SiriusXM NASCAR channel will carry the race live. SiriusXM has a live stream, but it is not allowed to carry any NASCAR content. To hear the Daytona 500 on SiriusXM, you must listen using your auto or mobile receiver.

After the race, SPEED will offer RaceHub at 6PM anchored by Danielle Trotta. She will have multiple reporters updating the stories from Daytona. ESPN will be using SportsCenter and ESPNEWS for post-race content.

We will once again be running a live stream on Twitter for TV comments on the coverage. Enter the #TDP1 hashtag into the Twitter search box to see all the comments in our stream display in real time. Please join us, Twitter is free and loaded with information.

Once the race is over, there will be a new post up right here for your post-race comments on the NASCAR on FOX coverage. Please take a moment to stop by and give us your wrap-up of the telecast. Thanks again for hanging in there, let's hope we have Monday racing at Daytona.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Post-Race Part Two

ESPN got into the act with an abbreviated post-race show after SPEED did the same in leaving the Camping World Truck Series on Friday night. ESPN had a whopper of a Nationwide Series tilt on Saturday afternoon with mangled machinery and lots of stories to pay off.

What these two networks have in common is that they both cover these respective series exclusively. It was NASCAR's intention that these two support series would benefit from being on only one network for the entire season.

SPEED left without speaking to lots of folks for the debut of the Car Warriors show. It was thirty minutes later than scheduled, but it was the network itself that scheduled it after a live event. There is absolutely no guarantee that a race will end at a specific time.

ESPN had a big ACC college basketball game ready to go as the Nationwide Series race dealt with a late red flag period for SAFER barrier adjustments after an accident. The race telecast ran past the tip-off, so ESPN started the game on the website.

After the race surprise winner James Buescher, shown above, got the checkered flag. But it was what happened on the last lap that made the network's hasty escape annoying. Granted, this race was something of a mess but that is the nature of the beast at Daytona.

One driving force behind the discontent with post-race shows is social media. NASCAR race information is available on almost a real time stream on Twitter and a slower but more informative platform on Facebook. These two content streams often reflect what is going on at the track and the resulting frustration is that the network TV coverage has long since departed.

A lot of folks have weighed in on this topic. As we mentioned, on one side is a fan base who just enjoyed a Nationwide Series race with free live scanners, a RaceBuddy video feed and top of the line network TV coverage. More post-race content would have updated the stories of the race.

On the other is those who believe the race is over when it's over. They feel it is not the TV network's responsibility to show an extended post-race for either the Trucks or Nationwide Series.

The point is that the Sprint Cup Series is already surrounded. Four hours of pre-race shows on three different networks precede every single race. Sunday, it will be five hours for the 500. After each race, SPEED offers multiple hours of recap shows while ESPN uses SportsCenter as a platform for post-race coverage.

Minutes after SPEED left the air on Friday, fans were posting pictures on social media of the hole torn in the frontstretch catchfence after the big crash on the closing laps. The network never updated this situation. Questions were being asked about fan injuries or the situation for the race on Saturday.

After the Nationwide Series race, fans were asking if their favorite drivers were OK after the big crash. Also, they asked for a full field rundown and why Danica Patrick did not talk to ESPN after her crash.

In a way, fans asking for more live post-race TV coverage is a great sign. Interest in both series was solid heading into this first race and the action in both races certainly was exciting. The question is, how should post-race live coverage be delivered?

Neither the trucks or the Nationwide Series have the post-race press conference for the winners streamed at like the Cup Series. SPEED has no weekly TV support show about the trucks and ESPN has never had one for the Nationwide Series.

We have seen both SPEED and ESPN stream content online before with great success. The problem is that type of content is scheduled in advance. The very nature of NASCAR is still at the core of the issue. Once the green flag flies, the time of the checkered flag is anyone's guess.

This is the final season for the website to be operated by Turner Sports. Next year, NASCAR itself will be in charge and that should result in some major changes. Post-race content has to be high on the list as this topic has been debated for several years now.

If you watched the ESPN Nationwide Series telecast, did you get the feeling they rushed off the air? What stories or information did you miss? If ESPN has shifted coverage online would you have watched? How about some suggestions on how to handle this situation in the future?

We want your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Post-Race Debate Rages Again

It only took about ten minutes and fans on social media, email and this blog were already yelling about it. I was yelling about it too.

The debut of the Camping World Truck Series was held Friday night at the Daytona International Speedway. Basically, it was a freight train ride for the first three-quarters of the race mixed with some isolated accidents. No one was injured.

The final portions of the race consisted of several accidents involving key personalities in the sport. Ultimately, the final laps were marred by an accident that saw one driver's truck get up into the catch fence in front of the grandstands.

The race ended at 10:20PM, which was 20 minutes longer than SPEED had scheduled for the event. After getting the drivers back around to pit road, the network did some brief interviews of the top three drivers and the winning owner before departing in what some called a hasty manner ten minutes later.

What was scheduled for 10PM was the debut of a new season of Car Warriors. This "reality" TV show was panned last year and resulted in a lawsuit claiming the producers manipulated the outcome to make the best TV, not produce an honest result. On Friday night, this show started 30 minutes late.

A pretty hefty debate quickly got underway with folks making points on both sides. Here are some of those issues and then you can throw in your two cents.

Here were my points to argue:

The Camping World Truck Series is the only major NASCAR series carried on SPEED from start to finish. The focus should have been to take as long a time as needed to take care of the stories that unfolded during the race.

This is the best opportunity for SPEED and NASCAR to get fans involved in the personalities of the drivers, including the rookie winner of the race. That gives the fans a reason to then tune into the next event and develops fan interesting for the season.

The final accident put a truck into the catch fence and appeared to completely flip the truck over while airborne. TV should have updated the viewers on the status of those involved and any injuries to fans before departing. Also, significant damage to the catch fence could affect Saturday's on-track activity.

Here is the other side of the coin:

The network had already run 20 minutes past the scheduled off time and allowed ten more minutes for interviews prior to departing. The entire telecast ran 30 minutes long.

The trucks are not a major series and the fact that they kept wrecking over and over again is what forced the race to run long in the first place.

TV is not obligated to stay past the checkered flag and in this case allowing time for interviews made sure viewers got to see some key drivers before departing.

Where do you come down on this issue? Did you watch and were you confused that the network left hastily to a non-live program? Did you know where your favorite driver finished prior to the end of SPEED's telecast? Do you think SPEED did the right thing and the network's own business and programming agenda comes first?

We invite you to share your thoughts by clicking on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Danica's Violent Moment TV Gold

Danica Patrick's car got turned in a bad way at a bad place on a fast track. Headed toward the SAFER barrier at top speed, there was only one thing the TV director of SPEED's telecast of the Gatorade Duels wanted to do.

That was to show her in-car camera live on national television as she hit.

The backstretch camera on the air zoomed-in to Patrick's car as it hurdled toward the inside wall at the Daytona International Speedway. Seconds later, just as the car made contact, the picture was changed to Patrick's in-car camera. The angle used was the view out the front from the roof cam.

Viewers saw twisted sheet metal and moisture on the camera lens as the car continued to slide. But for SPEED even that wasn't enough. The director then switched live to the in-car camera angle showing Patrick inside the car.

It was impossible to know her condition at this moment in time.

On a big track surrounded by SAFER barriers, tucked tightly into her custom-made seat and firmly strapped into her HANS device, Patrick was moving. What if it had been different? What if the pictures sent nationwide live by SPEED showed the dark side of racing?

What if the woman driver who this week spoke at the DC Press Club, appeared on ESPN's PTI show and has been the focus of a national media frenzy was injured. What if she was unconscious. What if the situation was even worse.

The single reason the SPEED director used that shot was because he knew that was what the network expected and his boss wanted. There was no better example of how SPEED has come to view NASCAR racing as nothing more than a reality TV product to be exploited for ratings than this moment.

After the director showed the camera live, there was silence. Then Darrell Waltrip jumped-in after seeing Patrick move around in the car. "Glad we got that camera in there with Danica to see that she is fine," he said.

What would he have said about that camera if she was not? Of all people, Waltrip knows all too well the tragic side of the sport and how it happens in a flash.

Once Patrick had exited the car under her own power, it was time for SPEED to replay the in-car camera angle of Patrick inside the car while hitting the wall. Then, it was time to replay it again. Heading for commercial, what better "bumper" to use than the same replay?

SPEED's many technical problems on the day plagued Dick Berggren's interview with Patrick outside of the Infield Care Center. Between the black video, out of sync audio and poor camera angles, the only thing that worked was when SPEED replayed Patrick's accident yet again.

I'm not the biggest Danica Patrick fan, but I know when you are racing at Daytona in a Sprint Cup Series event you deserve a certain fundamental level of respect as a competitor.

I don't think Patrick was respected by SPEED in her incident, her interview or the use of her in-car camera shot while hitting the wall as a "roll-out" to a commercial.

Patrick later tweeted: "Well...that was a bummer. I am OK, icing my sore spots down, getting ready for the weekend! Thanks for the concern." She then added: "I need to thank @nascar for the safer barrier too."

SAFER barrier or not, TV skated on thin ice Thursday by going live to the in-car camera of a Sprint Cup Series driver after a high-speed accident before that driver's condition was known.

It was on February 18th, just eleven years ago that we lost Dale Earnhardt Sr. On that day, FOX went ahead with the winner's interview, went off the air without updating the Earnhardt situation and left the entire NASCAR Nation in an information vacuum. It was a disaster for the network with the fans.

Sunday's Daytona 500 marks the return of pack racing, high speeds and features 18 more cars in the big race than the Duels. It should be interesting to see if the NASCAR on FOX team gives drivers involved in incidents the respect they deserve or follows the SPEED model of exploiting the violence and potential injury for the shock value and TV ratings.

We welcome your comments on this subject. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dueling at Daytona

Thursday is a big day for SPEED as the network gets to cover two Sprint Cup Series races, even though they are not for points. The highlight of the day are the Gatorade Duels. There is, however, lots of other TV surrounding those two sprint races.

ESPN2 slips into action with 10AM coverage of the Nationwide Series practice. That will put Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree back on the air. Jarrett will later be joined by Ray Evernham and Nicole Briscoe for a post-duel edition of NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 5:30PM.

The spotlight shines squarely on SPEED as the network kicks things off at noon ET with a one-hour telecast of the Camping World Truck series practice. This will be a first look at the cast of characters fans will see on SPEED this season. In the TV booth it's going to be Rick Allen and Phil Parsons. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler will handle the reporting duties.

Next up at 1PM is a one-hour edition of RaceDay that serves as the preview show for the duels. John Roberts hosts with with the full RaceDay crew of Kenny Wallace, Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty on the SPEED stage. Wendy Venturini, Matt Clark and Rutledge Wood are the reporters.

Krista Voda looks awfully good in the Hollywood Hotel and she will once again host the pre-race show for the duels with Jeff Hammond from that location. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will call the race from the TV booth. Steve Byrnes and Dick Berggren are the pit road reporters.

SPEED will air the duels live at 2PM and then replay them both starting at 8PM ET. There is no other scheduled re-air, so set the DVR.

Post-race both TV partners will go head-to-head. SPEED will offer Victory Lane while ESPN2 offers NASCAR Now both at 5:30PM. Victory Lane is a signature show for SPEED after every race while NASCAR Now has been struggling with bad timeslots and no re-airs for two years now. Roberts, Petty and Hammond will handle Victory Lane with Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner as the reporters.

The telecast day wraps-up with another Camping World Truck Series practice with Allen, Parsons and Waltrip and 6:30PM. Then, the re-air of the duels follows at 8PM.

Please use this post to offer your TV-related comments as a big day of NASCAR TV rolls by. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

We will also be providing a comment stream on Twitter at that is always entertaining. We expect many of the TV personalities, reporters and NASCAR officials to take part in that. Have a great Thursday of racing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Waltrip Factor

The NASCAR on FOX team held their annual pre-season conference call Tuesday afternoon. This season, there is going to be an on-air addition who will light up the Internet with almost everything he does. Michael Waltrip has joined FOX.

The traditional way of thinking about who should appear as an analyst on a network TV sports telecast used to be easy to understand. It was always someone who had no vested interest in those competing. Those times have come and gone.

Since 2007, ESPN has put Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace on the air while they actively owned teams. SPEED's Phil Parsons just left the Nationwide Series and is going Sprint Cup Series racing as an owner full time this year. Now, FOX joins those ranks by putting the younger Waltrip in a key role.

Waltrip's approach is easy to understand. He just puts his comments out on the air and lets the NASCAR TV fans judge them. In my world, few are judged more than Michael Waltrip. He is a confusing presence in a NASCAR world of tangled webs of ownership, loyalty and money.

This Sunday, the Waltrip brothers will be the on-camera face of NASCAR during the pre-race show for the Daytona 500. FOX is counting on the banter between the two erasing the memory of the tired act that used to be the Hollywood Hotel.

Chris Myers was confused, but kidded because he cared. Jeff Hammond rolled his eyes at Myers and tried to make Darrell Waltrip pay attention to his crew chief perspective on situations and issues. There was no window in the new Hollywood Hotel and that just reinforced the fact that FOX was in its own little world.

Last year, the early portion of the pre-race show moved outside. Darrell's dynamic personality worked well in this setting and seeing the pre-race preparations behind the announcers was a hit. The same scenario will be used this season.

While John Roberts will be hosting this Sunday until Myers returns, the change for FOX is that two loud, over the top and opinionated drivers will be asked to share the pre-race stage. The TV network is hoping this duo can put some fire back into the pre-race show and become classic set-up men.

Fans have already been emailing with complaints. How can an active multi-car Sprint Cup Series owner offer opinions on the very teams against which he competes? Aren't these two really Toyota employees? Should we expect Michael to criticize his own drivers on the air when there is a problem? Expect these concerns to continue.

Last year, FOX paired the Waltrip brothers on several race telecasts on SPEED. Actually, the two were quite entertaining in the TV booth and the informality of the SPEED TV environment made them fun to watch. On Sunday, however, things will be very different. This is broadcast network TV with plenty of fans watching every word.

Hardcore fans of the sport already know Michael quite well. After appearing on SPEED's Monday night NASCAR show, Waltrip moved on to the Inside NASCAR series on Showtime. He has been a regular on SPEED's RaceDay, an analyst on SPEED's truck series races and has basically used TV as a tool for the continual exposure of his sponsors.

Where Michael will not be is in the TV booth this season for FOX. Well, at least not yet. However, it's a good bet to believe we will hear much more from him in his Hollywood Hotel location during the race than any infield analyst in the past.

Directing traffic in the TV booth during the race will be Mike Joy. Should Michael not make the 500 for some reason, Joy will face the task of dealing with Michael in the Hollywood Hotel with an open microphone for three hours. Keep an eye on that dynamic if it unfolds.

The man in the middle is Larry McReynolds. It's not a difficult thought that eventually McReynolds and Michael may trade places. That would give FOX two excitable Waltrip brothers in the TV booth and put the dependable McReynolds in the same role he has on the TNT telecasts. That is as the strategist offering updates and information from the infield during the event.

What we know is that Michael's goal is to get behind the sport and promote it at this critical time. Embracing Danica Patrick, celebrating Tony Stewart and reminding TV viewers that the tandem-racing has mostly been erased will be high on his Daytona 500 agenda.

In the past, fans have offered mixed reactions to having active NASCAR team owners on TV as analysts for the sport. This time, we would like you to share your thoughts on having Michael on-camera for the pre-race and then participating as an infield analyst for the actual races.

What do you think, fair or foul? Is his presence advancing the sport because of his recognition factor or is Darrell's younger brother a confirmation that NASCAR is really entertainment? Let us know what you think by clicking on the comment button below and adding your opinion to this conversation.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ESPN Sets NASCAR Starting Line-Ups

This is season number six of NASCAR on ESPN. Along the way, there have been ups and downs as there always are in any major event series on national TV. This year, the core of the line-up is returning but there are some changes.

Heading into Daytona, it will be Allen Bestwick stepping into the Lead Announcer role in the TV booth replacing Marty Reid. Last year, Bestwick was inserted into this role just before ESPN's Chase coverage began.

Reid was relegated to the Nationwide Series races for the remainder of the season, but is not returning for Daytona. Reid's name is listed as an occasional host for the NASCAR Now program, but expect to see him back on ESPN's IndyCar races and working select Nationwide Series telecasts in the booth.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are the workhorses for ESPN's NASCAR coverage. Petree has been there for the duration with Jarrett now firmly entrenched in a role the network first gave to Rusty Wallace. The current pairing is working just fine.

Wallace continues his role as an infield analyst alongside Brad Daugherty on the NASCAR Countdown program hosted by Nicole Briscoe. This season Daugherty continues as a Sprint Cup Series owner, but Wallace had to put his Nationwide efforts on hold. That was especially difficult for him as it left several family members, including son Steven, unemployed.

Briscoe has proven effective in the role of getting comments on specific topics from the infield analysts without clogging up the live telecasts as ESPN tended to do in the past. She has also proven to be a trooper during rain delays and even weathered the emotional storm after friend and IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon lost his life in a racing accident.

Dr. Jerry Punch told that he has settled his differences with Kurt Busch after an incident last year that ultimately cost Busch his ride. Punch returns to anchor the same pit road crew of Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. Expect to see Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake in these roles as well as the season progresses.

Briscoe and Massaro will once again team up to host NASCAR Now from ESPN2's Bristol, CT headquarters. We mentioned Reid may also appear, as will in-house ESPN announcers Lindsay Czarniak, Mike Yam and Michelle Bonner.

Marty Smith returns as Lead Reporter with Spake also working for the show on the road. Contributors include Ryan McGee, Terry Blount, David Newton, Ed Hinton and former pit crew member D.J. Copp.

To add a little zest to the weekend preview version of NASCAR Now, ESPN hired AJ Allmendinger as a field reporter. His Daily Dinger feature will air on the weekend show and contain offbeat interviews with anyone and everyone he finds interesting.

ESPN announced this week the network extended the contract of analyst Ricky Craven. He will continue to work the weekend NASCAR Now shows from the studio as well as other programs during the week on other ESPN Networks. Craven also gets out of the office as he will work in the TV booth for five Nationwide Series races.

The two names expected to be included in the starting line-ups were Carl Edwards and Ray Evernham. Jack Roush flatly said last season that the reason Edwards will stop racing in the Nationwide Series in 2012 is to move into the booth with ESPN and become a "sportscaster."

Edwards most recent comments on the topic came to reporter Becca Gladden in an interview while Edwards was working on the air for the Golf Channel in Scottsdale, AZ. Edwards clearly enjoys TV work, but told Gladden his focus is driving in the Sprint Cup Series this season.

Evernham is a mystery. He says that he is finalizing some TV plans that will be announced soon, but is not named in ESPN's official news release. We do know that Evernham will not be back on SpeedCenter over on SPEED, where he has been replaced by Ricky Rudd.

Word on the street was that Evernham was rejoining ESPN in an analyst role that would keep him in the mix but not take up too much of his time. Since the one-hour Monday NASCAR Now show is gone, Evernham would be a natural for joining the mix either in the TV booth or infield as the season went along. We will keep you posted.

Finally, we have to celebrate the fact that Tim Brewer is ready for another season of being locked in the Tech Garage for the duration of the races with parts and pieces ready to go in case something happens on the track. Brewer puts a lot of time and effort into his work and has become something of a cult classic on ESPN's coverage.

There are three years remaining in the current NASCAR TV contract with negotiations expected to begin for a new agreement this season. Whether or not ESPN returns depends on a lot of factors, but NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said he would like ESPN to continue in the sport.

We welcome your comments on ESPN's starting line-ups for this season's NASCAR coverage. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

SPEED Sets 2012 Starting Line-Up

Things are in transition behind the scenes, but the folks at SPEED have unveiled their official starting line-ups for the 2012 NASCAR season. As expected, there are some changes in both on-air personnel and schedules.

The Monday through Thursday NASCAR Race Hub show has been back on the air for a couple of weeks. Steve Byrnes returns as host and Danielle Trotta as reporter. Larry McReynolds and former pit crew coach Matt Clark are being featured pre-season. Look for them to be joined by everyone from Jeff Hammond to Jimmy Spencer once things get rolling on track. This one-hour show still airs at 6PM ET with Byrnes live in studio, but the real travesty is no West Coast re-air. 7AM ET the next morning is the only repeat.

Speaking of McReynolds, he joins the NASCAR Race Day cast for the season. John Roberts returns as host with Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace on the expert panel with McReynolds. Wendy Venturini, Rutledge Wood and Clark will be the reporters this season.

This show remains two-hours and ends when the Sprint Cup Series network TV pre-race show hits the air. The early exception is the week of the Daytona 500, where it will expand to three hours before FOX takes over. There will also be Race Day shows before the Bud Shootout and the Duels.

Both McReynolds and Hammond will be front and center on the NASCAR Performance series this season. SPEED added Trotta in a host role, in order to let McReynolds, Hammond and series regular Chad Knaus concentrate on the issues. Bootie Barker is the odd man out, he leaves after several seasons. The first show is Saturday, February 25 at 6:30PM ET.

SPEED's biggest NASCAR TV mess last season might have been Trackside. Formerly a hardcore race fan show it evolved into a mix of entertainment, interviews and embarrassment. This year Krista Voda will step into the host role to try and restore some order. Kyle Petty and Rutledge Wood will continue as panelists and controversial Marianela Pereyra will return as the show's reporter.

Ultimately, the SPEED executives just have to decide what they want this series to be and work toward that goal. Trying to mix serious interviews of NASCAR personalities with the clown act of Petty and Wood made no sense. Throwing the woefully unprepared Pereyra into the mix just deepened the mystery. What is this program all about? We will see shortly, as Trackside starts Saturday, February 25 at 4:30PM ET.

On the live event side, SPEED brings the same line-up back to cover the Duels. Voda and Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel with the NASCAR on FOX trio of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and McReynolds in the booth. Byrnes, Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum will cover pit road.

For those asking, Michael Waltrip will be returning to his Camping World Truck Series role on SPEED as an analyst. He will be joined by Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the booth with Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler on pit road. Voda will host the pre-race show. Sadler announced late last season he had been replaced on Race Day, but will be handling other on-air duties for SPEED like practice and qualifying shows.

Kenny Wallace is trying to make the Daytona 500 this season and it certainly sounds more and more like he is on the verge of wrapping his NASCAR driving career pretty soon. The NASCAR Media Group will follow Wallace and create a documentary of his efforts that will air on Wednesday, February 22 at 9PM ET.

Other SPEED favorites are also coming back. Adam Alexander anchors SpeedCenter, Dave Despain hosts Wind Tunnel and John Roberts is joined by Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace for NASCAR Victory Lane. That show will now appear immediately after every Sprint Cup Series race, including the Saturday night events.

The full NASCAR TV schedule for all the TV networks involved in the sport will always be posted on the left side of this page and updated constantly with information on guests, on-air talent and topics.

We welcome your comments on SPEED's starting line-ups for 2012. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

"Roundtable" Latest NASCAR TV Victim

It had become a tradition on Mondays for many fans to tune into Allen Bestwick and his expert panel as NASCAR Now took a full hour and reviewed the happenings of the race weekends. That tradition has now come to an end.

Bestwick had originally coined the term roundtable as the continually changing ESPN2 set had the panelists literally spread out around a huge table. It was always fun to see what had changed early in the series and just who was seated around the host.

This week in a brief and lifeless media release ESPN confirmed that another slice has been chopped off the NASCAR Now pie. The Monday show now joins the Tuesday through Friday programs as 30 minutes long. The roundtable is no more.

TV series have interesting lives and NASCAR Now is no exception. Originally hosted by a lawyer and an urban DJ, neither of whom had ever attended a race, the program stumbled out of the gate and then lost all sense of direction.

Erik Kuselias and Doug Banks combined to produce some of the worst NASCAR TV in history. Here is a little trip down memory lane.

"NASCAR Now: ESPN2's Dismal Failure" from March of 2007.

"ESPN2's NASCAR Now Gets Lost In Translation" from early May of 2007.

After three months of chaos, a moment in time finally happened for both the show and the entire production team. One man changed the course of the entire series.

"Allen Bestwick Rocks NASCAR Now To Its Core" from late May of 2007.

This from a reader comment on that post: " When I heard AB’s voice I started jumping around the room like a kid on Christmas morning!"

Eventually, Kuselias and Banks left the program. The network brought in Ryan Burr from ESPNEWS and then made the move toward a larger group of experienced on-camera personalities with a background in the sport. At the heart of this group was Bestwick.

Veteran fans can remember Bestwick's painful firing from the Monday night TV franchise on SPEED originally called Inside Winston Cup Racing. After a change in management at the network, Bestwick and Johnny Benson were fired for not being "exciting enough" for NASCAR TV.

Bestwick, Benson, Kenny Schrader and Michael Waltrip had gone from a poorly-produced cable TV show on an obscure network to a smash hit as SpeedVision transitioned to SPEED and NASCAR content moved front and center.

"Can Allen Bestwick Save NASCAR Now?" was a TDP post from February of 2008. ESPN had given Bestwick an expanded one-hour show on Mondays and the opportunity to have a panel of experts with him to talk racing. That format certainly sounded familiar.

For the past four years, Bestwick and his Monday roundtable production team have produced some of the best NASCAR TV ever seen. Hundreds of personalities have been featured as guests. Theme shows involved racing brothers, former teammates and regular off-week panels of NASCAR journalists. It was a diverse mix of content.

Viewers got to see Ray Evernham, Randy LaJoie and Ricky Craven make an impressive trio of panelists. Names like Ed Hinton, Ryan McGee and Marty Smith made a Monday impact. Fans were able to put faces with the familiar names of working NASCAR journalists like Jenna Fryer, Nate Ryan and Jim Utter.

Bestwick's ultimate revenge happened last season when two new names were added to the list of Monday panelists. It made quite a sight when Bestwick appeared on NASCAR Now once again alongside Benson and Schrader. With Ricky Craven or Ray Evernham playing the Michael Waltrip role, a bit of the old magic seemed to return with that combination.

The writing on the wall for NASCAR Now appeared when ESPN created the Sports Nation show. Bumped from its 5PM ET timeslot, NASCAR Now was pushed all the way back to 3PM in the afternoon as ESPN2 continued to expand the daily sports talk franchise.

During that shift, the West Coast re-air of the show was also scrapped. Once again this season it will sometimes appear after midnight at different times, but is often just cancelled. NASCAR Now went from a featured TV product to the ESPN scrap heap in a relatively short time.

The only remaining hour in the line-up is the weekend preview show that airs at 9AM on either Saturday or Sunday depending on the day of the race. Ricky Craven will continue to appear on that program with hosts Mike Massaro and Nicole Briscoe. ESPN will also use in-house announcers like Lindsay Czarniak and Michelle Bonner to host as needed.

There are three years remaining in ESPN's existing NASCAR contract to show all the Nationwide and the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races. While things can always change, it once again appears that NASCAR Now will be DVR Theater for those who care as the new season gets underway on Monday, February 13.

It would not be fair to just let the big Monday show leave quietly. A good TV hour of reviewing three races, having a featured interview and then a robust discussion of the current NASCAR news will be missed. Thanks to Bestwick and all the production staff who worked hard on this program for the past four years.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live Blogging Bud Shootout on FOX

Unfortunately, it's been a tough week for the NASCAR on FOX team. Chris Myers lost his teenage son in an auto accident in California and has returned to deal with that situation. John Roberts will step-in and host the pre-race show.

Darrell Waltrip will join Roberts and it should be interesting to see how this dynamic works. Waltrip will transition up into the TV booth to join Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds. In the ARCA race late on Saturday afternoon, McReynold's son Brandon ran out of gas coming to the checkered flag and was caught-up in a subsequent accident.

On pit road will be the FOX team of Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, Matt Yocum and Dick Berggren. All of these four worked shows earlier on SPEED and Byrnes hosted the ninety-minute RaceDay show that aired before the live race coverage.

FOX is going to use this race to show fans that NASCAR has figured out how to break-up the tandem racing. That might not be the case. In fact, the rumor is that the teams have figured out how to tandem race and we may see the same show as last year.

We are starting year six of this blog with a reminder of the key points on FOX. Tight shots that lose the racing, failure to show the cars on the lead lap finish the race and falling into the trap of letting Darrell Waltrip dictate the focus of he coverage. It's a tense start this season after last year ended with some serious anger on the part of the fans.

As always, we start with a clean slate. This is the first show and we give FOX the benefit of the doubt. The same production team behind the scenes is going to be giving us the pictures, but this year there are alternatives. MRN is now streaming online and fans have continually threatened to take a walk if Waltrip dominates.

There have been significant changes behind the scenes at FOX, including the senior management at both FOX Sports and SPEED. This race telecast may be a good example of what NASCAR fans will be seeing from this group for the season. Here we go.

To add your opinion to our conversation, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by. You can also follow us on Twitter at

NASCAR TV Hot Topics (Updated)

We are using this post for Saturday chat leading up to RaceDay on SPEED and the Bud Shootout on FOX.

Here are some Friday TV/media topics:

Tragedy struck early for a member of the NASCAR on FOX TV team. Here is the full story as posted online at various websites.

The 19-year-old son of NASCAR on Fox studio host Chris Myers has been killed in a car accident.

The network says Myers will not be part of Fox's coverage of the season-opening Daytona 500. Christopher Myers was killed Thursday in Southern California, where the family resides.

SPEED studio host John Roberts will replace Myers at Daytona International Speedway.

Roberts will assume Myers' responsibilities as host of Saturday night's studio show before the Budweiser Shootout, during Sunday's qualifying, and the pre-race show for the Feb. 26 season-opening Daytona 500.

Fox says Myers will be given as much time off as he needs.

Update 8:30PM - SPEED says Steve Byrnes will now move to host NASCAR RaceDay and Rick Allen will host the Victory Lane post-race show on SPEED

MRN's Barney Hall has been advised by his doctor to stay home due to a health issue. Joe Moore passed along the fact that Hall will not be at the track this season for Speedweeks.

Speaking of MRN, click here to read the release that finally confirmed that the MRN radio coverage will be made available online this season. Great news for lots of fans who cannot be near a radio or in areas where MRN does not have affiliates. There will also be more on this topic posted next week on TDP.

Many fans offered comments that Twitter informed them well in advance of the big practice wreck being shown on SPEED. TV calls this "time-shifted" content, which means it is delayed within the same program, not later that night or the next day. It's apparent that with the growth of social media, this practice is probably not going to be around very much longer.

TNT dropped us a line to remind fans that RaceBuddy will be cranked up for next weekend starting with the Camping World Truck Series race. It will not be available for the Bud Shootout on FOX. More details on online cameras and features will be posted next week.

NASCAR has ditched the FanView device and the new device for this season is called FanVision. NASCAR says the upgrade was needed and fans who actually bought a FanView device can go to and look for the link that authorizes a discount on the new model. These devices will be available for rent at the Sprint Cup Series races this season as usual.

The final Bud Shootout practice has been cut short by rain, cars back on track tomorrow. See the complete TV schedule on the left side of this page.

One final motorsports TV/media note. After did not stream the live rounds of the opening Winternationals for the NHRA, the fans revolted. ESPN and the NHRA announced today they are returning to streaming every pro round live online at the website. This is not the Watch ESPN app that lets you see the ESPN networks on your laptop or phone. This is a standalone website. Great news.

We will be adding stories and topics as they happen tonight. Feel free to comment on this post. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's Go Time For TV At Daytona

The gripes of the off-season are over as the Sprint Cup Series cars involved in the Bud Shootout hit the Daytona track at 5PM and 6:30PM for practice sessions that will be carried live on SPEED.

Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds from the NASCAR on FOX gang get to knock the rust off from the winter over on the FOX-owned cable network. Steve Byrnes and Matt Yocum are the reporters for the early session. Krista Voda and Dick Berggren will handle the final practice.

Before the first session, SPEED breaks out a cast of thousands for a one hour NASCAR Live show that will try to touch all the bases and get the fans caught-up on the many changes in the sport since last season.

At both 4PM and 6PM it will be John Roberts and Dave Despain hosting from their respective positions. Kyle Petty, Jeff Hammond and Phil Parsons will be working as analysts. Randy Pemberton, Wendy Venturini, Bob Dillner and Hermie Sadler will handling the reporter duties.

Once the on-track action is done, Adam Alexander will host SpeedCenter from the SPEED studios back in Charlotte, NC. The new analyst replacing Ray Evernham on this show is Ricky Rudd. It should be interesting to see how this on-air dynamic works out as the season rolls on.

At 8:30PM the always entertaining and mildly chaotic Bud Shootout selection show is also on SPEED. As host, Steve Brynes tries to maintain order while his "assistants" Kenny Wallace and Rutledge Wood try just as hard to disrupt him. Ultimately, the line-up for the Saturday night race on FOX will be set.

One of the NASCAR Media Group's finest programs is the Dale Earnhardt Sr. episode of the series called The Day. This program ends the NASCAR programming Friday on SPEED at 10PM and should be mandatory viewing for anyone wanting to understand the sport.

We will be taking your Friday comments on this post as the NASCAR TV day rolls by on SPEED. It should be a good opportunity to notice any changes that have been put in place by the network's new president and also to see just where the TV focus will be as we head toward the Daytona 500.

To add your TV/media related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by the Daly Planet.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's Media Day In Daytona

It is Media Day at the Daytona International speedway on Thursday. Basically, time for drivers to answer the same question asked by different faces hundreds of times.

This year, SiriusXM and will be live from the location all day. ESPNEWS will be live from noon to 3PM. Then, Mike Massaro hosts a 30 minute NASCAR Now show. SPEED is up next with RaceHub running for two hours, from 6 to 8PM ET.

Media Day runs from 8AM to 4PM like a big singles dating party. Every media outlet gets an allotted amount of time and then someone says "change" and everyone gets a new partner.

Let's use this post to allow you to tell us where and when you see these NASCAR drivers during the daytime as NASCAR moves toward more TV and radio exposure for the sport.

To give us your observations, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all of our loyal female readers. Thanks for putting up with us for the last several years. Since we are once again about to embark on another season of talking NASCAR TV, we are letting this day rest in complete peace.

As you ponder the upcoming racing season, I wonder if perhaps you have a NASCAR Valentine's Day wish you might choose to pass along. Have a great day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A New York State Of Mind

Update: Tuesday morning NBC Sports Talk confirmed it had booked Danica Patrick and will be opening the door for NASCAR content. Great news.

The conversion of VERSUS TV into the NBC Sports Network is complete. The concept behind sinking tens of millions of dollars into creating a major cable sports network is easy to understand. NBC wants a piece of what ESPN already has.

In addition to working hard on buying the rights to live events and promoting the Olympic agenda, one piece of the ESPN pie is already under attack. Despite airing for more than twelve hours daily on several ESPN networks, SportsCenter has become a parody of itself.

Originally intended to be a way to effectively get highlights out to sports fans nationwide, time has long since left this concept behind. While the 1980's were tailor-made for distributing sports highlights via cable TV, technology has changed the entire sports media landscape.

SportsCenter now uses a seemingly endless cast of in-house experts to try and entice fans to spend time watching cable TV. It's a tough sell. Smart phones, laptops and an endless number of league and team websites offer the same video content with even more official footage and information.

The SportsCenter franchise worked best when it was limited in time on the air and driven by memorable anchor personalities. Now, it's a TV factory and has much the same feel as watching CNN Headline News (HLN). After a while, it's obvious the same content is being played-back off the hard-drives with different faces reading the teleprompter.

As NASCAR fans know, the struggle we have detailed for the past six years is the inability of SportsCenter to integrate NASCAR content into the mix. Whether airing a preview, conducting a live interview or showing highlights, the animosity between many of the SportsCenter anchors and NASCAR is plain to see.

It's still a badge of honor to be anti-NASCAR in Bristol.

NBC Sports Network's daily news show is called SportsTalk. Anchored at 6PM by Russ Thaler, the one-hour weekday series focuses on the exact same content as SportsCenter. That is Thaler pictured above on the left with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. The twist on SportsTalk is in the diversity of personalities on the program.

Thaler draws not only from the heavy-hitters at NBC like Bob Costas, but also from diverse sources like Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports and the Comcast regional sports networks. Where SportsCenter is limited to the ESPN family, SportsTalk is thriving by including rather than excluding journalists and reporters. There are, however, some growing pains.

Last week, there was not a word about NASCAR on the SportsTalk program. Michael Phelps and Misty May-Treanor stopped by to push the Olympic agenda while journalists of all kinds talked stick-and-ball sports non-stop.

While ESPN is deeply invested in the Red Sox, Yankees and now Tim Tebow, NBC is even more deeply furrowed into its own sports cave. Where NBC Sports is concerned, it's a New York state of mind. That's New York City for those of you without a Billy Joel CD in your collection.

Click here for the NBC Sports homepage. NASCAR can be found by going to the "More" tab, then the "Motorsports" tab and finally the "More on NASCAR" section at the bottom of the page. The most updated story not from a wire service is on Dale Earnhardt Jr. being named most popular driver. Don't click on it, because the link has long since been removed.

If NBC wants the new NBC Sports Network and the flagship SportsTalk show to be taken seriously, there had better be some effort put into freshening the NASCAR content in a timely fashion. The sport is coming off its most successful championship title fight in years and boasts a diverse group of ongoing stories as the season gets underway.

There was a time when NASCAR fans had fond memories of NBC. It was 2006 when the network parted with the sport after a six year run. Now, the challenge for the new-look NBC Sports Network executives is to reach out far beyond the Hudson River line and create a NASCAR state of mind.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Evernham and Rudd Make TV Moves

When SPEED released the TV line-ups for 2012 earlier this week, one name that was missing was Ray Evernham. On the racing weekends, Evernham had been driving over to SPEED's North Charlotte studios and working as a NASCAR analyst on the SpeedCenter shows.

This concept was created and Evernham was employed during the time Patti Wheeler was in charge of SPEED's programming and production departments. Wheeler left the network in December amid a senior management shake-up. Now, Evernham has followed her out the door.

SPEED confirmed that Evernham is out and that former Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Rudd is in. This name came from out of the blue, as Rudd has never been active in NASCAR TV. He has no website, no Facebook page and no Twitter account. Perhaps, that is exactly the kind of "old school" mentality that some fans might embrace.

"Anytime you add someone with Ricky’s credentials, you give the viewers a voice and a perspective that has real impact," said SPEED President Scott Ackerson in a media release.

"I’m really looking forward to the next chapter," said Rudd, the 1977 Rookie of the Year. "It’s going to be a lot of fun working with the gang at SPEED." His first show in the studio with host Adam Alexander will be this Sunday.

Evernham continues to be just as interesting away from the track as he was in his crew chief and owner days. Click here for ESPN reporter David Newton's story on Evernham settling his lawsuit with former partner George Gillett.

In the last paragraph, Newton adds that Evernham has not ruled out a return to TV. We believe that is exactly the case. The buzz is that Evernham will be back on ESPN starting with the Daytona coverage.

"Evernham Issue Getting Tougher" was a TDP column from September of 2008. Evernham's star was rising at ESPN, but there was an issue that remained. It wasn't very hard to imagine what that topic might be.

This from the 2008 post:

Many things have changed since February and one of them is now very tough to take. When Evernham is on ESPN, the questions and issues that he deals with involve everything about NASCAR except one topic. That topic is Gillett-Evernham Motorsports (GEM).

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a nasty GEM lawsuit involving Robby Gordon, rumors of GEM buying another race team and also GEM moving to Toyota for 2009. This week, Patrick Carpentier has been told by GEM that he is out at the end of the season. Tuesday, Mike Delahanty, the Sr. Motorsports Manager at Dodge actually jumped-into a NASCAR media conference call to try and quell rumors of problems with Dodge and GEM.

While Evernham might talk about his cars and his teams during the race highlights, there is a code of silence at ESPN where Evernham is concerned that is simply not fair to NASCAR fans. Like all the other owners, Evernham should be fair game and he is not.

Now with the GEM issue behind him, Evernham's words during a recent interview with veteran NASCAR journalist Steve Waid seem to become even more clear. Click here for the full story. This is an excerpt.

"I still stay away from the motorsports side over at Hendrick Motorsports," Evernham said. "The less I know about what is going on in motorsports there, the easier it is to keep potential conflict out of it in regards to TV. I never want the teams to worry about what I might say on TV after I might have seen what they were working on. The best thing to do is keep that separate."

"Hopefully we’ll announce a new TV package in a little bit," Evernham added. "I’m going to do some TV stuff again."

Out of the pan and into the fire might be a better term. There is little doubt that Evernham's current employment at Hendrick Motorsports is going to be a hot topic in his return to TV. Even with his current involvement limited to the Hendrick Performance (non-racing) side of the business, its sure to raise some eyebrows.

Evernham has lots of irons in the fire including his ownership of East Lincoln Speedway, a car restoration business and a TV project focused on classic cars with his wife, Erin. That means his TV time will probably be limited on the NASCAR beat.

Amid the news about Evernham and Rudd, SPEED slipped in the fact that the network had hired former Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo as a social media reporter. Rather than continue to rely on information from TV personalities sent whenever possible, Palumbo's challenge is to create an information stream on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that continually offers current NASCAR information to fans.

There you have it. Rudd debuts on SPEED this weekend, Evernham's official announcement of rejoining ESPN is still pending and Palumbo better get a bigger battery for her Sprint phone. As always, we welcome your comments on these topics.

To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Race Hub" Takes It On The Chin Again

The saga of the TV series created to offer NASCAR news, interviews and features on weekdays at SPEED is fascinating. Race Hub started as a thirty minute show with a rotating cast of hosts and reporters.

"SPEED Jumps In The NASCAR News Game" was the TDP column from September of 2009 when Race Hub suddenly sprang up on the network from out of the blue. Lots of things about this show didn't make sense in terms of timing, but for NASCAR fans frustrated by the network's excuses, any racing show was welcomed.

The suggestion still lingers that the odd start date of Race Hub was due to the new NASCAR Hall of Fame. SPEED was trying to become the official NASCAR Hall of Fame TV network, but that was a tough sell.

For years the network had been peddling endless "lifestyle" shows on weeknights and offered nothing but excuses to the fan base about the lack of NASCAR programming. Race Hub was perhaps the result of a mad scramble to get something on the air and fill that void in order to accomplish a bigger goal.

While Krista Voda and others did an admirable job of hosting Race Hub in 2010, several things quickly became clear. First, the show needed a full time host to establish a presence and personality. Secondly, covering the NASCAR shops and facilities in the area required a full time reporter. Finally, the show needed to be an hour in length for all four Monday through Thursday programs.

Steve Byrnes made a big decision and changed the strategic direction of his TV career by accepting the role of full time series host. It was the right decision. Byrnes combined with reporter Danielle Trotta to cover an incredibly diverse landscape of NASCAR personalities and topics.

The show settled into a 7PM Eastern timeslot with a 9PM Pacific re-air. Now, NASCAR had a weekday TV platform in primetime on a major cable network to feature the activity in the sport away from the track. Perhaps, it was too perfect.

"Puzzling TV Changes At SPEED" was a TDP post from last September. Just as strangely as it had arrived, Race Hub was now the victim of an incredibly poor programming decision in the heart of the 2011 NASCAR season.

In mid-September, Race Hub was moved to 6PM Eastern time and the re-air moved to 11PM Pacific. 6PM is the traditional hour of TV news on the East Coast. It is also the time for the featured SportsCenter show of the evening on ESPN. In 2012 the NBC Sports Network also rolled out SportsTalk, an hour of national sports news and interviews, in the very same timeslot.

Where NASCAR fans are concerned, this move by SPEED overlapped the final hour of the powerful Sirius Speedway show on SiriusXM NASCAR with Dave Moody and Angie Skinner. Moody has a wide variety of guests, many of whom are on the show after making news that day or being involved in ongoing NASCAR issues.

At the end of the day, pushing Race Hub out of the early primetime cable window was a tough decision to swallow. Fan feedback on moving the West Coast re-air to 11PM was also overwhelmingly negative. Well, fasten your seatbelts because SPEED has done it again.

The network has confirmed that Race Hub will remain in the 6PM timeslot this season, but the West Coast re-air has been effectively cancelled. Instead, the show will only re-air the following morning at 7AM Eastern time. Lets look at these two issues.

As we mentioned, the 6PM original air time puts Race Hub up against powerhouse sports and news programming of all kinds that has been firmly entrenched in that timeslot for many years. Although SPEED now has Byrnes host the show live, that makes little sense if many viewers are forced into other choices at that time.

The real head-scratcher comes with the end of the West Coast re-air. This season, NASCAR fans from Seattle to San Diego can only catch Race Hub at 3PM and then 4AM the next day. As one California viewer emailed, she will be working for the first airing and sleeping for the second.

This isn't an issue about DVR's and recording devices. Networks want their premier products to be seen as they air and that is the entire science behind TV program scheduling. The science behind these recent decisions may still be unexplained.

The original idea was that Race Hub would run at 7PM followed by three hours of primetime programming. Then, that four hour block would re-air at 11PM, which is 8PM Pacific. Regular viewers of other cable networks see the same type of pattern which allows multiple timezones to be served with a single satellite feed.

SPEED's new interim president is Scott Ackerson, a FOX Sports veteran joining the network from Los Angeles, CA. Ackerson is in the process of making changes throughout the company, but is once again saddled with a variety of worthless "lifestyle" shows that flopped.

Ackerson spoke to the Charlotte Business Journal's Erik Spanberg recently about the network's NASCAR agenda. "I’m hoping that we’re able to personalize the drivers a bit more, so that the viewers get a chance to know these people better," Ackerson said. "If they know people better, the more apt they are to watch."

Ackerson told Spanberg that SPEED will call on drivers to sit for more extensive interviews and features, using the material on multiple shows in multiple airings across the network. Click here to read the entire story.

Those words seem ironic for a network that purchases its weekend Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series TV coverage fully-produced from the NASCAR Media Group. One key reason SPEED created Race Hub was to finally put an in-house network production stamp on a NASCAR product.

So, there you have it. Race Hub will be at 6PM ET with a single re-air the next morning at 7AM beginning next week. It's a shame to see this series move from "must-see" to just another title on the recorded program list for many fans. Good luck to all those involved in Race Hub as the sport heads to Daytona.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.