Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Two Car Tango ESPN Style

Despite the predictions of more action on the track, the Nationwide Series race from the Richmond International Raceway was all about horsepower and handling. The field behaved and the antics we have seen at RIR races in the past never materialized.

Instead, the final laps became the pursuit of Kurt Busch, driving his brother Kyle's team entry, by Denny Hamlin. The final lap was great and the pair managed a side-by-side finish that featured a little rubbing but no wrecking. It was a super victory for the Busch brothers.

On this night, there were also other stories. Travis Pastrana joined the series after his most recent X-Games injury. Danica Patrick and Johanna Long both made the race. Steven Wallace returned to action after the closing of his father's racing operation. Dave Blaney's 18 year-old son Ryan was racing in a one-off effort. Update: The Blaney ride is actually a 6 race Nationwide Series deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing. Thanks to reader Melissa for the update.

Ultimately, Pastrana fell victim to a late pit road speeding penalty. Patrick never got the car's handling right and Long again had inferior equipment. Only Long cracked the top 20 when it was all said and done.

The story of the race turned out to be Blaney. He never put a wheel wrong all night and finished a strong 7th. Steven Wallace also kept his nose clean and scored a solid 11th place. Even Sam Hornish Jr. conquered his personal short track challenges and got a top 5 finish.

The ESPN coverage from the start consisted of tight-shots of small groups of cars, even on the restarts. Two or three cars on the TV screen were common as the race went along. Mixing those shots with in-car cams and low angles comprised the vast majority of the coverage.

Allen Bestwick worked hard to get the excitement going, but it was tough as the director continued to show two or three cars racing in very tight camera shots. There was rarely an aerial shot and except for the green flags on a restart there were no wide shots of the field or large groups of cars racing.

What ESPN did do was track their X-Games superstar Pastrana all night long. Just like the treatment Danica got last season in her appearances, Pastrana was featured instead of other drivers whose storied needed to be updated. Once again, the cult of celebrity was more appealing to ESPN than the NASCAR racing.

Once Hamlin caught up to Busch in the final lap, the cameras stayed with that battle until the two crossed the finish line. But then, a funny thing happened. Instead of staying on the start/finish line or moving back to catch the next lead lap cars the director chose to show Busch slowing down and then his pit crew celebrating. None of the other lead lap cars were shown racing to the line.

This race only featured a battle for the lead on the final two laps. It only featured two cars side by side for the final lap. This actually got the ESPN crew so excited that the entire rest of the field was never seen after the leaders finished.

My contention has long been that TV is at the track to show the viewers at home what the fans in the stands are watching. The best battles, the big wreck, the fastest speeds are all part of the NASCAR experience. This all comes back to a statement made many times over the past few seasons.

There was not one fan in the stands at Richmond who only watched the winners finish the race. As the rest of the field raced toward the finish, the attention of the fans went back to the cars at speed and the stories still unfolding. ESPN stepped in and made a decision for the fans watching at home that they would see something else.

There was some drama in Kyle Busch's team winning the race. He would be interviewed along with his driver in Victory Lane. But this was not the Indy500, the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl. It was a Nationwide Series race in Richmond. Once Kurt won, the TV viewers deserved to see the other cars race to the finish line.

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


Mule said...

It's the SOSDD. From Faux and BSPN, take it or leave it. The same from the sanctioning body, "I think Nascar is in a good place." Then from a track owner, "I don't consult drivers about race tracks." Slide backwards a few years to TMS and the "Shut up and drive" T-shirt campaign. Well Bruton, you can spend 5 million or 5 hundred on BMS, I'm not coming back. IMO,the racing will never be the same with the current car or the 2013 car. Just like the racing at all the cookie cutter tracks will never change. Clean air is still king. For all intents and purposes there are 43 spec cars with similar drag coefficients. I guess many posters on this site are labeled as bashers, that we don't like anything. Guess that makes me a basher too. Because I, like many others, don't care to be treated like sheep or mushrooms. When the sanctioning body, media, and track owners wise up to this, which will probably be never, the numbers might fall into their favor. As for the way it is right now and has been for the past 7-10 years, I don't see any improvement coming soon. I'm giving up the good fight. Even though everyone has embraced "Social networking" as the new millennium for Nascar, the same message is still loud and clear. We're still sheep or mushrooms. More stupidity or more contrived controversy still will not hold my attention or gain many long term fans.
As a Nascar fan since the early 60's, they've done their best to alienate that age group and say they no longer care about us. Whatever.! I wish them luck on their current plan to gain new fans. It's not working from what I see. I've already sold off my collectables and memorabilia from the point forward of the COT and Chase. It wasn't worth much. I still have my pre-Chase/COT collectables and memorabilia, along with numerous DVD's of races to preserve my memories, that will be passed on to my kids and grand kids of a time they never knew. The term caution flag has been misinterrputed by the media and alike that all fans want to see is wrecks. Quite the contrary, we want to see the re-start as that is the only time we get to see any racing, if the Media partners show it. DUH...!!
Sorry for the rant. If a race is close to where I live and affordable, we might go see it. As far as setting time aside for a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon race, not so much. I can find many other things to do that are not a let down of the racing I once knew. Keep up the good fight, I'm getting to old to fight.

Anonymous said...

Agree completely. Only thing I can add is it sure was great to not have to listen to dw's complete lack of ability to call a race. MC

Sally said...

If the television 'coverage' continues the way it's been for the past 7 - 10 years, Nascar is in big trouble. If there IS close racing on the trac, behind the leaders, we are not allowed to see it. Being spoon fed just what TV thinks we should see is not going to attract any new fans. Their refusal to try to give viewers the actual 'at track' experience is simply alienating more potential viewers. The chase has done the exact opposite of what someone thought it would, and made the first 26 races of the season barely worth watching. Putting identical cars in every garage does not generate excitement. The cookie cutter track all produce the same type of follow the leader 'races' shich are great forSunday afternoon naps. Unless someone wakes up soon, I'm afraid that Nascar is driving themselves into obscurity. Again.

Jim said...

This, my friends, is how abject laziness manifests itself. Nothing will change until the money runs out.

One can no longer argue that NASCAR, the networks, and the press do not think that NASCAR fans are stupid and ignorant. This is self-evident. The shame is in the sheer amount of arrogance and condescension that must be corralled to adopt this belief.

AncientRacer said...

My opinion, since you asked for it, is you are correct in all that you say except I believe you understated Johanna Long's night. Her equipment was, as you pointed out, not top drawer and she did finish P20. This made me smile because Danica finished P21 and Pastrana P22 and that was the point your column left out. I think that was an accomplshment, but, of course, the microphones made a bee line to … and … .

Dave Blaney's kid did very very well. At one point somebody observed Stewart has had his eye on the boy and I say keep watching Tony. I never saw him drive before, but he bears checking out -- as I will add the 15yr old who drove in one of the races the night before.

AncientRacer said...

Due to my effort to figure out the bloody passwords I left out my last thought:

The major frustration of the race was, in my world, that I was not toward the end really concerned about which cup guy would win. No, my interest lay in the race between Johanna, Danica and Travis. That was the race I was keen on and the one I would have been watching had I been present. Exactly the kind of back of the field battle the Truck ignores.

Anonymous said...

Last night's race was unique for me. I never hit the Mute button once or switched channels in frustration. It was refreshing not to have to listen to the entire Fox gang in the booth(s). The finish was exciting and almost reminded me of the finish between Kurt and Ricky Craven 8-9 years ago. Travis did better then I thought he'd do. Johanna Long was totally ignored despite finishing ahead of Danica. Afterword Danica said she earned her money which made me laugh. She probably got paid more last night then the total of the 20 cars that finished ahead of her combined. There were more wide shots last night which I appreciated. The Blaney son was just impressive as hell.

James said...

NASCAR IS in big trouble. AB tried to start a story and the picture would change to another view of nothing important and completely disrupt what he was talking about. Ryan Blaney was the "star" that surprised everyone, if he had the coverage that either Pastrana or the girls had it would have turned the casual fan into a every week fan. OH I FORGOT, that’s not what they do anymore.
AND BRUTON, the reason the stands are empty, especially the ones I had for 14 years, I DONT WANT TO PAY for them ANYMORE! The fan has the final say, and it looks like I am not alone. The NASCAR fan is legendary LOYAL, they do not forget, and it has TURNED ON YOU. NEVER FORGET KENTUCKY!

Colorado said...

I'll tell you what, the fact that they showed Danica over Long was just plain dumb. Johanna Long raced BETTER than Danica, PASSED Danica, and finished AHEAD of Danica. ALL NIGHT LONG. And the Pastrana fiasco was just that. ESPN will latch on to their "children", the same way that FOX will "latch" onto the MWR stable, or any Toyota on the track.Disgusting. I'll add to the "boring" racing by saying something that maybe has not been said in all of the "safe" points racing, horrible coverage, etc.: The emgineers have ruined the sport as well. When the cars are set up so complicated, that one or two cars run away from the field isn't the credit of the crew chief or the driver, it's the engineering that goes into it. I would love to see the current crew chiefs, drivers, and team be given actual "stock cars" to build, and I guarantee what you will see will be similar to Thursday night's K &N Series. Actual racing, with an exciting finish. The current NASCAR product is all engineering from guys that aren't even at the track.

Buschseries61 said...

Their driver hopping style dominated the race last night. As a fan in the stands, you are not watching just Danica for 3 laps, then just Ryan Blaney for 4 laps, and the leader for two laps before running for a bathroom break. I keep an eye on my favorite, take a peak at the leader, but mostly watch the battles throughout the pack.

But on tv, the balance is off. Unfortunately, ESPN has picked our favorites for us, and obsesses over them majority of the race. ESPN misses and eventually replays the battles on the track everyone in the stands is watching.

With all this driver obsession, at least good analysis would make the broadcast a little tolerable. But ESPN struggled with that last night too. Does Brad have any opinions besides playing yes-man in the Infield Studio? Is Dale Jarrett capable of more than 'You're right Allen', or '(insert name) is doing a great job tonight'? For years, Andy Petree is the only analyst to stay outside the ESPN yes-man formation and actually express some interesting thoughts. What fun it would be if Randy LaJoie was still part of ESPN and shared the Nationwide booth with Allen and Andy.

Hope FOX surprises me tonight.

Anonymous said...

Everything seemed fine to me. People just love to complain in this sport. Don't people have anything else to do?

Anonymous said...

I know there are a lot of things to work on right now, but I just wish everyone here would focus on the good as well. There is so much that is good in NASCAR right now. If people think NASCAR is in serious trouble, then you probably aren't going to like the future years. NASCAR is headed in a new direction. These people aren't stupid. It's time for a new chapter. You can't live in the past years forever, especially with TV coverage. And I do believe they need to to work on the coverage, and I honestly believe NASCAR knows this. You have got to be patient. You can't just change something overnight.

Things are going to get better. If you honestly think they are in trouble, I think it is best for the sport for you to leave.

JD, don't always agree with you, but I appreciate your hard work.

tommy1946 said...

I just can't watch NASCAR TV on ESPN or FOX anymore. Mr. Daly has provided the reasons far better than I can express. Someday, I will be over my mourning. Suffice it to say, the fan who watches the race (and commercials!) and follows his/her driver to the end deserves to witness their car finishing the race, at least if it is on the lead lap!

bknotts said...

Missed the race yesterday. Sounds like I didn't miss much.

Sounds like they interviewed P21 and P22, but not P20, which has probably 1/5th the budget of either of those. Which speaks volumes about Johanna's skill as a driver. But, ESPN doesn't find that interesting, I guess.

ddsbstrb said...

As always, John, I really appreciate your comments and also enjoy reading what others have to say. Even on ESPN, it seems like ANYTHING connected to MWR gets, for some strange reason.

HOWEVER......could you all have imagined if JAWS and his "goober" brother had been calling the race? At least we were all saved from that "infomercial" last evening by the ESPN-gang. I am sure we will get it, instead, tonight!

After watching, last night, I wonder who will last longer in NASCAR.......Travis or Danica?

I am sure both of them will be long-gone, sitting at home, counting their "million's" coming from corporations who sponsor/sponsored them. In the meantime, Ryan Blaney will be running well in Cup-Lite or Cup and much like Trevor Bayne.....trying to find sponsorship, so he can stay on the track every week, similar to Trevor Bayne.

Chadderbox said...

You are exactly right JD.

Hey ESPN, Show us the field crossing the finish line and then show a "replay" of Kyle and his emotions. Instead we have to watch replays of the action.
Blaney's son was a huge story running near the top 10 all night and I get Pastrana mania while he runs 29th or whatever it was. ESPN covers the personalities and not the racing as their main focus.
Fox is the same way with their personality based coverage taking precedent over the action on track. DW is going to have a twitter melt down if the fans don't start agreeing with him about how well he and the fox crew are doing with the coverage. DW never cares what the fans think when they don't agree with him, he only cares when they mirror his opinion, then he points it out and drives it into the ground like everyone agrees with him. We don't agree. You are not doing that great of a job and neither is ESPN.

mrclause said...

Isn't it funny how much better the racing is when no one is concerned with points for the chase? There are some really good racers on the way up, just hope that they don't lose that fire when they get to cup and points racing.

How about we do this, put Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, Danica, in three cars not quite set up perfectly for the track and run them 100 laps at say Richmond, and lets see who deserves the hype. Heck, add Pastrana to that, I don't see Danica running off from either of the others as she should. Chase and Ryan totally impressed me, total racers both. They are the future of NASCAR if only they are allowed to race for the win. Chase with the front end damage and the front tire smoking never showed quit.

OSBORNK said...

"Anonymous said...
Everything seemed fine to me. People just love to complain in this sport. Don't people have anything else to do?

April 28, 2012 10:34 AM"?

If everything is fine, why are the stands half empty and the TV ratings in the tank? The great majority of race fans don't get on the computer and complain when they are unhappy. They just don't go to races or watch them on TV. They find better things to do. Those thinking like you are what is running the show and that is the root of the problem.

Anonymous said...

I got bored watching the race and turned on CBS and watched. I love NASCAR, but the way ESPN, especially, shows only a few cars, and not the actual racing is really turning me off. I know a lot of people don't like the Waltrips, but I can pretty much tune them out and listen to Mike Joy. Hopefully, tonights race will have better racing and better TV

Daly Planet Editor said...

Chadderbox, thanks for bringing up this topic. ESPN chose not to replay the finish. My opinion is they knew the bad choices that had been made and chose to not show the rest of the field finishing in case there were other good races to the finish.

At least when FOX had this problem, before they went to the wideshot of the finish line, the network would replay the finish.


Dennis said...

I'm glad RaceBuddy was available. Felt I was able to watch some of the race. The ESPN TV coverage still has the usual problems. Tight shots that doesn't show enough of the track at a time.

SPEED's broadcast Thursday of the K&N and Denny's charity race was much more fun to watch. You'd think they were at a different track than the Nationwide affair on Friday.

glenc1 said...

Just have to can't blame the aero package for bad TV coverage here. At other tracks, perhaps, but not at Richmond. After the repave there were a couple of less than stellar races, but now it should be back to normal. We could see that Kurt & Denny could run with each other. I'm sure there was more of that going on; we just rarely saw it. I spent half the race wondering if it was Johanna in the race because the starter said 'Ladies & gentlemen' plural. I like Danica and wish her well, but if she has a bad car then let's focus on others who also deserve an opportunity to shine. I don't think we can be surprised that they focus on Danica & Travis, but that doesn't prevent them from mentioning others as well. The ending was poorly done. I'm not fanatical about showing every single car, but you should be showing only the top 2 cross the line. I found the commentary okay, it was more the direction I have an issue with (except for the rather pointless cheerleading of Brad.)

Anonymous said...

What Osbornk said makes a lot of sense. I'm an old racing fan and astute enough to know that the world has changed. Ten to fifteen years ago, it made sense for folks to sit around a TV for 3-4 hours and watch a 500 to 600 mile car race. Not many other choices to take advantage of then. Today, the younger folks won't sit around a TV. They'll get together with their friends and with their lap tops and other devices skip through a little racing, jump over to basketball,football or golf. In my opinion, Nascar has to shorten their races and do something to the format and to the cars to reintroduce RACING. Racing is NOT just a 2 vs 4 tire pit stop strategy with a lap or two of intense racing on the restart. Some of the best Nascar racing the last few years has been on the road courses! But somehow, this old cynic doubts that Nascar will get with the times.

Anonymous said...

I watched off and on but got very tired of the Pastrana hype. One reason I think tv viewers leave is because tv does not show the action on the track. They choose a few drivers to talk about mostly among themselves and fail to talk about people who are moving ahead like in the case of Blaney. He did a terrific job. There is always some sort of competition on the track but the tv viewers never get to see it so why watch when you can see everything on all the replay shows along with the bias of the announcers? I got excited when I heard Alan Bestwick come on last night but that was short lived as the producer had other more important people put in their opinions and override the constant ability of AB to really call the show. I just can't call it racing anymore because we don get to see that part of the show.

GA Red

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Missed last night's race ...oh, wait it was ESPN that missed the race ...even AB in the booth could not compensate for the dull and scripted comments from DJ and Andy ...up-and-comers scattered throughout the field were for the most part, ignored ...RaceBuddy video covered aspects of the racing action not seen on the broadcast ...RIR is perhaps best track on the NASCAR circuit for aerial and wide shots of racing throughout the field - never used ...disappointing effort from ESPN

Anonymous said...

As usual they missed the ball. The Pastrami hype if any TV fool should pick up on from the Danica garbage, this telcast was it, no more. Let it die. Johanna Long awesome, not a word about you, darn shame, fair amount of coverage for Ryan. The Cult of Celebrity is exactly that, these fools don't care about the sport they are covering..and I forget that women's name in the booth pre-race, but could she have been more annoying with her phony hype, seems like she took Clint Bowyer's product promo..5 Hour Energy...too hyper and manic..looked so phony.

Anonymous said...

Past nascar fan here, attended races at Bristol, Charlotte, Richmond, Martinsville, and Daytona numerous times, but it's become boring and predictable. Daly hit it on the head with the tv coverage. Nascar has restricted the personalities of the drivers and it no longer has the same appeal to us. Love reading links from Jayski and still compete in Fantasy Nascar, but that's about it. All the track changes in the world won't bring us back to Bristol until something changes.

Bobby O said...

Funny that one of the best races I saw on TV was a DISH TV presentation of 4 or 5 in car cameras while I listened to the Indy 500 radio broadcast. When action was mentioned on the radio broadcast, I switched to the channel showing that car. It was awesome, and they never did it again that I know of..... No TV announcers involved, amazing!

Why can TV not show the actual racing? Sad, very sad.

I used to go to races for the excitement, the energy, and the crowd. I choose not to now because either I'm to old or just can't do the day long thing anymore. But when I did go, I knew I would be giving up some of "the what is happening in the race" information.
I would go home and watch the replay/tape and understand what I missed in the "fog of war".

Now it's better to go to a race, because TV never tells what is going on in a race. WHY?

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. Yes everyone just wants to bitch. I've been a fan since the 60's and still am. If you only saw 3 cars maybe you need a bigger tv. Sure there were close ups but lots of 5 to 10 car views too. Nothing is perfect. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Seats are empty and ratings down for the same reason imo. Money is tight, times are tough. You don't spend hundreds or even thousands going to races or even have premium tv when you don't have a job.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think, I don't know, that they use tighter shots in order to AVOID SHOWING EMPTY SEATS.

Think about it, race tracks are almost never packed how they used to be in the mid-late 90s. The NFL blacks games out for the TV crowd if they don't sell enough tickets. It looks bad to have empty seats, so they zoom in on tight shots. As for blimp views, I hate those views and always have. Its difficult to tell who is who when they go to that vantage point.

At least NASACAR isn't the NFL and they never black races out for not having enough people in the stands. ESPN is and will always be superior to whatever turd broadcast FAUX throws out there.