Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Night In Sparta On TNT

Kentucky Speedway was a traffic mess last season and that grabbed the headlines after the Sprint Cup Series race. This week, the track has already played host to both the Camping World Trucks and the Nationwide Series without the mention of any traffic or parking issues. Both of those races showed a bumpy track with multiple grooves that made it a challenge for crew chiefs to make the right changes during the race.

TNT returns after a Sonoma outing that saw the commercials become a focal point for criticism. Click here for a link to Cheryl's website called CawsnJaws where she documented the commercial elements of the race. The bottom line is that in a total of 3 hours of racing coverage there were 56 minutes of commercials. On a road course like Sonoma and with few cautions, the result was rough to watch.

This Saturday night, long green flag runs may produce the same result. Luckily the NASCAR website offers the online RaceBuddy to keep the live video going during commercial breaks. There is no actual feed of the race itself, only some in-car cameras and two isolated cameras usually showing the backstretch and pit road.

This season the radio coverage of the Sprint Cup Series races has also been made available online for free. Doug Rice and the PRN gang will be calling the action and the streaming is available at the website. This has been a great asset for fans and there is little doubt next season will see even more digital friendly features.

TNT's pre-race Countdown to Green show at 6:30PM this week will have a feature on Denny Hamlin's sponsor-related trip to Alaska. Kasey Kahne will be the guest on the infield set. The "NASCAR Generations" feature will return with Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Ned Jarrett. The topics this week are driver superstitions and fears.

Adam Alexander does double-duty this season for TNT. He hosts the pre-race show with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds and then calls the race with Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr.  McReynolds stays in the infield while Marty Snider, Ralph Sheheen, Chris Neville and Matt Yocum handle the pit reporting duties.

For those asking about TV ratings for the TNT races, click here for Jayski's season-long ratings chart. The TNT races to date have averaged a 3.3 Household Rating. That puts the viewing numbers up about 6%. No doubt Dale Earnhardt Jr. in contention at Michigan did not hurt that total.

Saturday's NASCAR TV starts with NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 12PM Eastern. This is the one hour Sprint Cup Series preview show. SPEED gets into the act at 4PM with a thirty-minute edition of SpeedCenter. That is followed by the two-hour RaceDay program featuring Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Kenny Wallace. John Roberts hosts that show with Wendy Venturini, Matt Clark and Rutledge Wood as field reporters.

In terms of post-race, TNT moves the extended post race show to the RaceBuddy online window. That can be accessed through right off the front page. SPEED has been doing a solid job with the Victory Lane show and that is scheduled for 11PM ET, but will be held until the Sprint Cup Series race is over should it run long. The move to air this show late night after the live Saturday races is appreciated.

There will be a post on this page for your comments after the race. We use the #TDP1 hashtag on Twitter during the race to chat about TV and media topics. Please join us. is free, easy to use and there are tons of NASCAR personalities and media folks on the service. We welcome your comments during the TV day on any of the NASCAR TV shows or media topics. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day Two: Sprint Cup Series From Sonoma On TNT

The TNT rig pulled into Sonoma and set-up the Infield Studio. The weather was perfect, the buzz from last week was strong and the field was stout.

This post is for your comments on the NASCAR TV coverage from TNT in Sonoma.

Adam Alexander hosted the pre-race show with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds. Kyle Busch was the special guest. Another "NASCAR Generations" feature aired along with a Dale Earnhardt Jr. interview.

Wally Dallenbach Jr. was then joined in the TV booth by Alexander and Petty for the call of the race. McReynolds remained in the pre-race area providing comments and technical updates. Pit reporters were Matt Yocum, Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snider and Chris Neville.

The feedback on social media about this telecast was overwhelming. It would help if you could take a moment to express your feelings as a fan watching this on TV. This is our most widely read post and your comments have an impact. It is a critical time in NASCAR in terms of making changes to future TV contracts. Adding your voice will serve to express the feelings of the fan base.

Thank you as always for stopping by. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sprint Cup Series From Sonoma On TNT

Marcos Ambrose will start on the pole when the Sprint Cup Series returns to the wine country of Northern California. Sonoma is a road course race that has turned into a boxing match over the last few years.

The day starts with NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED at noon ET. Darrell Waltrip will again dispense his wisdom on the panel, filling in for Kyle Petty during the TNT portion of the series. Jeff Hammond joins him, filling in for Larry McReynolds.

TNT takes the air at 2PM Eastern with Adam Alexander hosting the pre-race show. Petty and McReynolds will join him, along with special guest Kyle Busch. The show will also feature an interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and another NASCAR generations piece with Ned Jarrett, Bill Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.

Alexander and Petty move upstairs to call the race with Wally Dallenbach Jr. This track has been the scene of some of the worst NASCAR TV production every seen on TNT, but those incidents featured the former TNT announcer Bill Weber. Keep an eye on how the coordination goes between the announcers in the booth, the pit reporters and the infield. If history repeats itself, McReynolds will be alone in the infield with cars literally whizzing by in the background.

The toughest thing about a road course for TV is the inability to use one camera for more than one thing. You can't "Isolate" a camera on a car and follow it around the course. Every camera is simply assigned a turn or straight and repeats over and over again the task of moving back and picking up the next group of cars that come through. It is totally different in every way from working an oval race.

That makes the director's task very tough in terms of trying to follow more than the storyline of the leaders. In the replay area, operators will be pushing buttons and cutting cameras to try to follow a good battle not being shown on the TV screen. Even the pit reporters will be dealing with circumstances of cars pitting as the green comes out, quickly pitting before a full course caution comes out and working pit strategy backwards aiming for a fuel mileage win.

Ultimately, Sonoma can produce beautiful pictures and exciting racing or a disjointed telecast and the kind of mayhem we saw last season. One part is up to the drivers and the other to the NASCAR on TNT telecast team.

We will be on Twitter using the #TDP1 hashtag for live tweets about the TV coverage of the race and any other media topics that may arise. We invite you to join us as we have NASCAR teams, officials and many media personalities involved during the race. This blog will also have a post ready for your comments once the race is over. Hope to see you on Twitter at noon for an afternoon of NASCAR. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Auto Auction And NASCAR Clash Again

That is Arie Luyendyk and Barrett-Jackson's Amy Assiter posed at the Scottsdale auto auction with a copy of her charity CD. Amy and her husband Spanky are familiar faces to fans of the Barrett-Jackson TV franchise. Click here for Amy's website.

This weekend the auction is in Orange County, CA. Click here for a look at the cars that will be included. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that the line-up is not exactly stellar, but the six hours of live coverage on SPEED Friday will roll on despite the lack of top-notch product coming to the block.

What that coverage will roll right over-top of is the Sprint Cup Series live qualifying from Sonoma. One week after Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win in Michigan, the qualifying session will be tape delayed until 11PM Eastern Time Friday night. There will be no online streaming of the live session.

The two topics that deserve attention when talking about this situation are Earnhardt and social media. This same situation happened to the series last season, but that was before Twitter and Facebook became such huge communication tools for the sport. It was also before Junior got another Sprint Cup Series win.

The beat writers on site will be live tweeting the qualifying as will the track, the teams and NASCAR. Fans will be checking the Internet for results that will be available instantly at a wide variety of websites. Now with NASCAR's two radio networks streaming online, the ability to keep information from the fans until the TV show airs is gone.

Earnhardt got a lot of media exposure this week, especially on the not too NASCAR friendly ESPN family of networks. NASCAR President Mike Helton made a point to get out in front of the media as well and proclaim Earnhardt as a Chase contender. Aside from an early practice, the next media focus on Earnhardt is the Friday qualifying session.

Next year NASCAR will reclaim its own digital rights that were sold to the Turner Sports group. Right now, the option exists for Turner to use NASCAR's own website to stream qualifying. This especially makes sense considering the actual race is part of the TNT coverage. Despite what some may feel is just common sense since the program is being fully produced as it happens, there is once again no online component.

In a word of multi-channel TV distribution and a growing live sports streaming industry, it's especially awkward for NASCAR to find itself in this position in the heart of the Sprint Cup Series season and with an especially good storyline underway with the emergence of Earnhardt. There are plenty of video pipelines to the fans, it's just a matter of finding one.

Saturday finds another live Barrett-Jackson telecast that will tape delay final practice coverage also into the 11PM timeslot. The full weekend NASCAR TV schedule is on the front page of The Daly Planet blog.

We invite your opinions on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Need For SPEED

A recent story in Sports Business Daily reported that FOX Sports was involved in negotiations with NASCAR about a new TV contract. The current one expires at the end of 2014. A tweet from a FOX announcer then suggested the new deal may include even more Sprint Cup Series races than the current agreement. That started the ball rolling on a discussion about another key NASCAR TV partner.

SPEED is the cable TV network that facilitates the vast majority of the NASCAR TV programming throughout the season. The network is a staple at the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The coverage includes practice, qualifying and NASCAR news shows. SPEED is owned and operated by the FOX Sports Media Group.

The secret to the shows from the tracks is that these programs are not actually produced by SPEED, but are handled by NASCAR's own in-house TV team. That division used to be called the NASCAR Media Group but was recently downsized and renamed NASCAR Productions. Neither FOX or SPEED have an ownership stake in NASCAR Productions.

Over the past six years, we have repeatedly wondered what the heck was going on at SPEED. Various management teams made decisions that virtually eliminated all traces of NASCAR programming on Monday through Thursday in primetime. "Automotive lifestyle" programming was the order of the day. No other network has aired and then cancelled more of these low-brow reality-style shows than SPEED.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, other broadcast networks have quietly gone about the business of building or buying a cable TV network for sports. CBS and NBC now have national cable sports networks that allow them to partner on programming just like ABC and ESPN. The odd man out at the table is FOX.

Click here for the story from the Sports Business Journal about the Fox Sports 1 cable network. Never heard of it? You may be hearing that name once the current NASCAR TV contract expires. In theory, it would replace SPEED on the cable dial and shutter the motorsports-themed network.

Closing SPEED and turning it into a national cable sports network run from Los Angeles would put FOX on an even keel with NBC, CBS and ABC. Any TV contract done for the FOX broadcast network could now facilitate what is called "shoulder programming" on cable. For instance, the Preakness might be shown on NBC but all the preliminary races and coverage of the entire day would be on NBC Sports Network on cable.

The sad part of this arrangement would be the end of SPEED as we know it. The network was originally launched as SpeedVision and featured programming split between cars, boats, airplanes and motorcycles. The subsequent purchase by FOX and move to Charlotte, NC was to turn the network into a dedicated NASCAR channel. Those plans never came to fruition.

It seems ironic that the network that hosted more "shoulder programming" for NASCAR over the past decade may be closed. That raises the issue of just what kind of an extension FOX is trying to negotiate for Sprint Cup Series races. The door is open for all kinds of speculation.

Keeping all that weekend NASCAR programming on the new mainstream Fox Sports 1 network would seemingly be impossible. The season runs for ten months and SPEED airs hundreds of hours of programming from the Sprint Cup Series tracks.

It would also seem that other motorsports series from Grand-Am to ARCA would be impacted. The list of programming currently on SPEED also includes Formula One, AMA Supercross and the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions.

One peek at the current SPEED on-air schedule should convince skeptics that the network has effectively shuttered the development of new series. From five year-old Pimp My Ride shows to endless Dumbest Stuff on Wheels re-airs, it is clear that something is going on and it is not good.

It is important to note that FOX has two additional cable networks, FUEL and FX, that could be used to distribute additional motorsports programming. FUEL is already undergoing a transition with UFC shows airing while FX has been used in the past for NASCAR programming.

While it may seem that 2014 is far away, in fact the negotiations for the new contract are far behind schedule. Since the incumbents get first shot, it is interesting to note that very little information exists about the future of TNT and ESPN in the sport. Turner just returned all the digital rights to NASCAR and effective January 1 will no longer operate the website.

ESPN is loaded with college and NFL football content after September and has been struggling to give NASCAR a fair shake down the stretch. The final ten Sprint Cup Series Chase races are the prize to that network and that may be the only real item that is pursued.

Currently no comment from the FOX folks on the NASCAR or SPEED issue. Whatever happens, it is becoming clear that there will be substantive changes in the look of NASCAR TV after 2014.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Race Wrap: Sprint Cup Series From Michigan On TNT

Tires were the story going into the Sprint Cup Series race from the Michigan International Speedway. Shortly before noon, rain came to the area and resulted in a delay until 3PM ET.

This week you are going to set the tone with your comments and I will add mine in the comments section. There was a very strong reaction to the TV production and specfically the directing of this race, so the fan comments will  be made without my input.

The pre-race show ran through the scheduled format and then expanded to interview everyone possible. From discussing Vegamite with Marcos Ambrose to watching kids crash bicycles with training wheels, it was pretty clear TNT was out of things to do. The track services crew did work in record time and there were no other interruptions.

Adam Alexander hosted the pre-race with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds from the infield stage. They were joined by Brad Keselowski for an extended interview with social media as the focus. The pit reporters worked very hard during the rain delay. They were Chris Neville, Matt Yocum, Marty Snider and Ralph Sheheen. Alexander moved upstairs to call the race with Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. from the TV booth.

This post is for comments on the TV production of the race. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sprint Cup Series From Michigan On TNT (Updated)

Update: Rain has stopped, track is pretty dry and it looks like a 3PM ET start time for the Cup Series.

It's raining at the Michigan International Speedway. Driver introductions are on hold and the day looks like it may be a long one. The stories of the day include tires, engines and Kurt Busch.

TNT faces an interesting challenge as the network goes on the air at noon ET. They did not replace Lindsay Czarniak as the infield host, instead opting to make Adam Alexander handle the pre-race and then call the race itself. Keep an eye on how the network handles the rain and if they move a veteran like Ralph Sheheen from pit road to the infield set.

While the Lizard Lick Towing skit was a disaster, the rest of the TNT pre-race show is solid. Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds are a good panel for NASCAR topics and each week a different driver joins the show. This week, it's Brad Keselowski.

NASCAR brought in hard left side tires after blisters developed from the heat and high speeds after practice. Now with the rain, the rubber that caused the original problem is gone. It should be interesting to see TNT follow the tire story today.

Two Hendrick teams changed engines before the race, including Jimmie Johnson. Several other teams were talking about potential engine issues. MIS has a long acceleration period and is one of the hardest tracks on engines due to the high speeds. If a problem develops, it often develops for all the teams running the same brand of engine. This could be a big story.

Kurt Busch and ESPN's Marty Smith got into it after the Nationwide Series race in the Infield Media Center. Smith made it clear to Busch he does not take any guff from drivers like the very patient Bob Pockrass did last week. On the AM edition of NASCAR Now Smith provided a rundown of the moment and was not a happy camper about it.

"He can help a race team, he just can't help himself," said Darrell Waltrip of Busch on the morning RaceDay show. Keep an eye on how TNT treats this topic and follows Busch during the day in monitoring his radio traffic and his temper.

We will be live tweeting as usual using the #TDP1 hashtag. Twitter is easy to use, simple to operate and you control the content from start to finish. Drivers, officials and NASCAR personalities interact with us during the day. I would urge you to start an account for free and come on over.

There will be a "Race Wrap" post here right after the TV telecast is over for your comments. In the meantime, please feel free to leave TV and media comments during the race on this post. Thanks as always for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Who Ordered The Combo Platter?

This is how NASCAR Race Control watches a Sprint Cup Series race. This is the updated replay system that has all kinds of video sources available, including the live weather radar. Except for the radar, all of the video NASCAR watches upstairs is in High Definition. Pretty nice set-up.

Over the last few weeks we have been discussing all kinds of options that fans have to "consume" a race. That term basically means watch, listen and interact live. The sport has come a long way in terms of digital technology with the promise of even more choices next year.

This is the TNT portion of the season, so additional options exist with that tech-friendly network. TNT provides a free streaming feed with multiple audio and video options called RaceBuddy. Those same video channels are often featured on the DirecTV service called Hot Pass.

Over in radio land, both MRN and PRN race broadcasts are now streamed online for both Internet and smart phone users without charge. The SiriusXM Satellite Radio race broadcasts are also streamed, but only for subscribers who have purchased either an auto or portable receiver.

Meanwhile, over at the website there are still a bevy of services available for a price. The classic Raceview has morphed into Raceview 360 with every bell and whistle available. The drawback is the video of the live racing is not included. That too should change soon, perhaps even next season.

Sprint has kept the Sprint Cup Mobile app going that offers live team and officials audio during Sprint Cup Races as well as the radio feed. Unfortunately, many older Sprint phones can no longer access that feed and without a phone upgrade, it's gone.

Over the years, many fans have developed their own unique way of watching the races while using a second screen. That is, another electronic screen or possibly even more that is active during the event. These days, the options are more plentiful than ever before.

Our question today is how do you view the Sprint Cup Series races? What video and audio options do you choose? Do you use a desktop, tablet or smart phone as a second or even a third screen? Do you listen to the audio from the TV during the race? What made you settle for the NASCAR TV "combo-platter" that you chose? We should have some interesting answers as TNT heads into Michigan.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tire Troubles Making News in Michigan (Updated)

Update #4: NASCAR will move to ABC at 4PM for the green flag, looks like IndyCar will move to the ESPNEWS network for the remainder of the race.

Update #3: ESPN just tweeted that Nationwide Series racing will be on the ESPNEWS network begining at 3:30PM. IndyCar stays on ABC.

Update #2: At 2:15PM, still waiting for IndyCar to start on ABC. NASCAR NNS is scheduled on 3:30PM ET. It's going to be interesting to see what will happen. Looks like ESPNEWS network might be the location that IndyCar goes in progress if the green comes for NASCAR. The current NASCAR TV contract calls for live TV coverage from green to checker flag.

Update: NASCAR has added a 6PM practice session for 75 minutes and SPEED will carry it live. The 24 Hours of Le Mans coverage will move to the website. The network will also be cutting into the Le Mans coverage as needed to update the NASCAR tire story still unfolding.

The late news from Michigan was that NASCAR and Goodyear were making a change for Sprint Cup Series teams this weekend. It was a problem with left side tires blistering that got their attention.

With speeds hovering around 200 mph, almost a quarter of the Cup teams had left side tire trouble due to the heat when using new tires. Rather than scuff in tires for the field, Goodyear decided to bring in a new tire with a tougher tread compound for the race.

The teams will qualify on the present tire, then use the new left sides in a special 6PM Saturday night practice session scheduled for 75 minutes. That will be the only opportunity to get things dialed-in for the Sunday race.

"With the new repave here at Michigan, coupled with the high temperatures we're seeing this weekend, we feel this change will help us put on the best race possible on Sunday," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR VP of competition in a media release.

The first NASCAR TV comes Saturday at 11AM and it is ESPN2 on the air with Nationwide Series qualifying. It should be interesting to watch and see how ESPN approaches this Sprint Cup Series story.

Next up is Sprint Cup Series qualifying on SPEED at 1PM. This is the time of the year when a diverse group of announcers are in place for sessions like this. If Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty are the analysts, it may make for two very different opinions on this topic. This will be the first NASCAR TV of the day for SPEED.

At the present time, there are no plans to televise this added practice session, but SPEED does have a thirty minute version of SpeedCenter scheduled at 7PM between segments of live 24 Hours of Le Mans coverage. That will probably be the best TV location to get updated information on the results of this change and how drivers and crew chiefs feel going into the Sunday race.

We will keep updating the tire story on this post, please feel free to add your comments. We are interested in how both ESPN and SPEED cover this issue. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The NASCAR Hashtag Aftermath

There they were, sitting in a San Francisco conference room sipping hotel coffee and waiting to curate your tweets. Sunday marked the first partnership between NASCAR and social media company Twitter. The group pictured here was the Twitter task force assembled to handle the project.

Simply put, Twitter created a page where anyone searching #NASCAR on Sunday was sent. Rather than seeing a list of relevant tweets as usual, those searching were redirected to a "landing page" where the group above coordinated the content. While not exactly a social media hijacking, it certainly was a redirecting of content for a purpose. So, what was the purpose?

During the race, Twitter aired a series of seven TV commercials promoting the partnership. Each 15 second commercial spot reinforced the direct link between NASCAR and the social media company. What the ads effectively did was specifically promote the newly designated hashtag (landing) page.

"The spots that aired on Sunday seem designed to show advertisers that hashtags can potentially be a useful branding tool and not merely a pop-culture phenomenon," said Cotton Delo in Ad Age. "It's further evidence of Twitter's desire to be the platform advertisers turn to when they're looking to execute promotions around major live events such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars."

The keyword from the quote above is advertisers. During the live race, sponsored tweets appeared on the hashtag page for ticket sales to NASCAR races. Sponsored tweets are Twitter's form of advertising. So when NASCAR indicates that the organization has a partnership with Twitter, the bottom line is that NASCAR can use the social media service for various advertising purposes.

"Twitter wants to be the destination for users who wish to engage with a certain brand," writes Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch. "That’s what’s so brilliant about #NASCAR and what we can only assume will be future hashtag landing pages. The brands themselves don’t have to actually create anything new. Because at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than getting your biggest fans to promote your brand for you."

In other words, what NASCAR did was encourage teams, sponsors and others (including media members) to create content on Sunday aimed specifically at the landing page. It didn't cost NASCAR a penny to produce and the attraction of being included on the hashtag page had the tweets flying.

Ultimately, the only remaining issue on the table is whether or not money is changing hands between NASCAR and Twitter for this project. While that information is not public, this excerpt from the Ad Age article may tell the tale.

"Twitter declined to comment on how much it's charging for event (hashtag) pages," said Delo. "But precedent suggests that they'll be available to major advertising partners at the outset. Its roll-out of brand pages last year was reportedly for marketers who had committed to spend a minimum of $2 million on Twitter's suite of ad products, such as promoted tweets."

There you have it. An interesting social media project with all kinds of twists along the way. Twitter looking for revenue, NASCAR looking for exposure and fans reading "curated" content from guys in black t-shirts. At lease we hope the coffee was hot.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Coments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Race Wrap: NASCAR On TNT From Pocono

Things were busy in the TNT production truck as the network returned to NASCAR coverage at Pocono.

Adam Alexander hosted the pre-race show with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds. TNT made a decision not to hire a host to replace Lindsay Czarniak, who departed for ESPN SportsCenter duties after last season.

The plus side is TNT spent less money, but the downside will come when there is a rain delay or long red flag. The only person remaining in the infield is Larry McReynolds standing by his cut-a-way car. As these six races roll by we may see a TV veteran like Ralph Sheheen moved from pit road to the infield host position if something like this happens. Luckily, the weather was great and there were no long delays.

The one hour pre-race show featured a segment with Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Ned Jarrett talking about NASCAR topics. Rather than just one interviewer, there were several TNT folks involved. It took time away from Elliott and Jarrett, two personalities who are not heard from much on the TV side.

Needless to say, there was an ill-timed and pre-recorded promo for the Lizard Lick Towing TV series that airs on Turner sister network TruTV. This scripted reality show exists on the deception that any of the content or characters are real. TNT executives call it "actuality TV."

Alexander was paired again this season with Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. in the booth. It's a crew that likes to offer opinion, but is sometimes slow to jump on activity or incidents on the track. All three seem to sometimes be looking at the TV monitor and not "out the window."

Chris Neville returned as a pit road reporter along with veterans Ralph Sheheen, Matt Yocum and Marty Snider. TNT uses pit reporters much more than FOX and that was certainly true in this telecast. There was a little delay in explaining the early speeding penalties, but finally Sheheen went to the NASCAR hauler and got a map of the new timing lines.

TNT produces a wider race and keeps a broader perspective than FOX. The tone in the booth focuses on the race and there are few personal stories from Petty. McReynolds was actively involved throughout the telecast and continued his best role as a strategist.

A series of late cautions allowed some drama to build, but TNT strangely chose to play a dated Denny Hamlin soundbite with only seven laps to go and the race under green. Alexander should have been calling the play by play and building the drama. The final laps looked great, but lacked the excitement that Alexander should have been providing. This race ended with a thud from the announcers.

TNT also offers the RaceBuddy application online and does an extended post-race online at the website. There are no side by side commercials until the Daytona race and the Wide Open coverage. There were no technical problems.

We invite your comments on the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Pocono. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

NASCAR On TNT Returns At Pocono

Pocono is sometimes in need of a little excitement, so this year NASCAR brought in Vanilla Ice to drive the pace car. What could go wrong?

TNT returns with some familiar faces and one very interesting decision. Instead of hiring a host for the infield stage, the network chose to use Adam Alexander to host both the one hour Countdown to Green show and the live race. Previous host Lindsay Czarniak left and is a studio anchor for SportsCenter on ESPN.

Alexander will be joined in the infield by Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty for the pre-race show. He and Petty will then move upstairs while McReynolds moves into a new Tech Garage setting. Wally Dallenback Jr. will be the third man in the TV booth as he has been from the start of the TNT run.

On pit road for the second season will be Chris Neville, best known for his sports car coverage on SPEED. Veterans Ralph Sheheen, Matt Yocum and Marty Snider round-out the pit reporter corps.

TNT brings RaceBuddy back to the Sprint Cup Series. The network will also be integrating social media into the telecasts this season. Twitter looks like it will be the emphasis. The pre-race show will have several features including one with Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Ned Jarrett talking about NASCAR issues.

We will be using the #TDP1 hashtag on Twitter to host a live stream of chat that has all kinds of media and NASCAR personalities involved. If you are not on Twitter, come on over and give it a try. We welcome your comments here and will post a full race TV review for your comments once things are done at Pocono.

As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

It was 1967 when the Captain at the prison farm had just about enough of Cool Hand Luke's antics. Between eating 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour on a bet to hustling through a black-topping job to have the rest of the afternoon off, it was clear that the man pictured above was bucking the system.

After an ill-fated escape attempt, the Captain uttered the now famous movie line that has come to define a fundamental difference in understanding.

Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to speak with a Twitter executive by phone. In a pleasant conversation we discussed the new #NASCAR hashtag features coming to Twitter this weekend. My questions were fundamental and his answers made a lot of sense. Click here to read the column that followed.

Thursday the new #NASCAR hashtag "landing page" was rolled out by Twitter as a preview of the weekend's new project. This page is where NASCAR and the media are pointing both users and non-users of Twitter for Sunday's race.

Click here to visit the page.

What was relayed to me was that the "landing page" would continue to carry #NASCAR fan tweets and be embellished with additional content from Twitter's own socia media producer. Thursday the stream was simply a restricted flow of tweets from NASCAR personalities, sponsors and media members.

What was also confirmed to me in the phone interview was that this new page would contain no advertising. Thursday afternoon a "promoted tweet" was featured at the very top of the page. From Ebay Motors to Dove Care for Men, there was a consistent advertising presence coordinated by Twitter as the very first item any user would see with every view.

Sprinkled throughout the #NASCAR stream during the day were seemingly random references to Twitter as a marketing tool. Each of these tweets somehow ended with the identical hashtag of #Twitter4brands. One click on that opened a coordinated Twitter marketing stream and yet another "promoted tweet." Twitter was placing the #Twitter4brands content in the new #NASCAR stream.

One of the aspects of Twitter that makes it so appealing for fans like me is the ability to use it quickly on a smart phone. In addition to my own timeline, the ability to search the #NASCAR hashtag has become the quickest way to broaden my information on the sport in a flash.

Thursday, the Twitter mobile app on my android phone redirected the #NASCAR hashtag search to the controlled stream. That was not in the original discussion and did not result in the information I desired.

Finally, the interesting point of the new and controlled #NASCAR hashtag stream was not the content that was included, but the content that was excluded. After a colorful night at the Prelude PPV telecast, there were plenty of fans talking about topics that did not include Pocono racing or the new hashtag project.

In my phone conversation, it was made clear that fan tweets on NASCAR hot topics being discussed would be included in the new coordinated stream. Nothing could be further from what was presented.

Click here to read the latest NASCAR media release on this project. Here is an excerpt: showcases the best Tweets and photos from NASCAR insiders in an effort to bring the behind-the-scenes story to life for fans during race weekends. The page includes Tweets from drivers, pit crew members, families, media, NASCAR representatives and other industry constituencies like race tracks and sponsors.

Fans also have an opportunity to see their Tweets featured.

Using a combination of sophisticated algorithmic signals and Twitter's editorial curation, features the highest quality, most engaging content about the race and NASCAR. Behind-the-scenes photos, exclusive content and innovative and original Tweets will likely have the best chance of being featured on this new live event page.

It's important to remember that individual timelines are unaffected, that Twitter still makes the raw #NASCAR search available and that users like me are getting this service for free. But that is not the issue on the table.

If this is a coordinated marketing effort by Twitter and NASCAR, then just say it. If this is a starting point for driving advertising revenue, focused product agendas and the brand marketing of the sport that's just fine. Twitter and NASCAR have the perfect right to do just that.

It just seems ironic that the one element elminated from this new content stream on Thursday was the fans. After hearing the theory and now seeing the reality, it really does seem that what we have here is a failure to communicate.

If you are a Twitter user and have an opinion on this topic, we would like to hear it. Comments may be moderate prior to posting.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

NASCAR Emerges As Social Media Leader (Updated)

Updated: Told NASCAR and Twitter will be unveiling the new "landing page" for users of the #NASCAR hashtag sometime on Thursday. For you social media types, keep an eye on to see how this project of embellishing the #NASCAR hashtag experience on race day may look.

The idea of establishing a page for both users and non-users of Twitter as a dedicated "second screen" during the race is a bold one. It's a totally new concept and one that may bear watching if it takes off. The column below details the idea and what both Twitter and NASCAR want from the project.

Original column from Tuesday: Marlon and the other 500 million Twitter users around the world are about to get a little more NASCAR in their lives. Being unveiled this week is a new "landing page" on Twitter that will allow fans to get a lot more race information with one click.

Even though this column will use phrases like embellished hashtag, curated tweets and second screen the fact is that the bottom line is easy to understand. There is now so much information flowing on Twitter during Sprint Cup Series races it makes sense to manage it.

Many NASCAR fans use a second electronic device in addition to the TV while watching the races. Smart phones, laptops and tablets are part of what is called the second screen. That simply means that while watching the race on the TV screen many of us are actively involved in using another screen for more interaction and information.

The program of choice on the second screen for NASCAR fans has become Twitter. It is faster than Facebook, more flexible than texting and puts any live website-based chat into the weeds in terms of ease of use. Drivers, teams, racetracks, NASCAR officials and many other parties use Twitter to get information out to fans on race day.

On Twitter, users build timelines by selecting other users they want to follow. Tweets from all those users automatically pop-up in the timeline. It makes Twitter unique for every single user. Now that NASCAR has become so populated with various users sending information to fans, it's almost impossible to manage the volume.

One feature of Twitter is called a hashtag. This was created to allow users to focus on one event without changing their own timelines. By typing #NBAPlayoffs into Twitter's search box, all of the tweets that are being made about the live NBA game in progress can be seen. Once the game is over, users simply click back to their own timeline and return to the normal flow of information they had built.

The popularity of the #NASCAR hashtag during a Sprint Cup Series race is amazing. Any Twitter user can simply type #NASCAR at the end of a tweet and suddenly their opinion is automatically published side-by-side with teams, media members and even the NASCAR officials managing the race.

To focus on this issue, NASCAR is partnering with Twitter to enhance the #NASCAR hashtag during Sprint Cup Series races beginning this Sunday in Pocono. The idea is simple. Let the Twitter professionals look at the big picture of everything coming down the pipe about the race. Then, point the tweets that can embellish the fan experience over to the #NASCAR hashtag. That is not going to be an easy task.

The theory is that a Twitter editor/producer will be able to embellish the existing flow of information by picking and choosing featured tweets and highlighting them within the #NASCAR hashtag stream. If that sounds complicated, it really isn't.

Monday I spoke with Twitter executive Omid Ashtari about this new project. We recapped some issues fans had been discussing and focused on what both Twitter and NASCAR wanted this agenda to be.

Here are some hot button topics he addressed:

Content: Twitter will not restrict any content. All tweets containing the #NASCAR hashtag will continue to be automatically placed in the hashtag stream.

NASCAR: Twitter is providing the editor/producer for this project. NASCAR is not involved in what tweets are gathered and redistributed. The project will be coordinated from the Twitter offices.

TNT: The NASCAR TV network showing the race can sample any tweets from the #NASCAR hashtag stream, but there is no direct contact between the parties. There will be no promotion of TNT programming. The tweets selected for the hashtag stream will be NASCAR-related.

Advertising: There is no advertising being integrated into the hashtag stream and that is not on the agenda. No Twitter, NASCAR or TNT advertising will be added.

Editing: No tweets selected to be added to the hashtag stream will be edited.

Goal: The goal of this project is to embellish the existing #NASCAR hashtag stream with timely tweets from various NASCAR users throughout the Twitter universe. Many of those users are not involved in the hashtag stream, so their tweets will be added by the Twitter editor/producer.

The idea is to make the #NASCAR hashtag the place to be during the race for both Twitter users and non-users. The non-users will be able to view the stream at the twitter website, while the users will continue to be able to contribute through their own accounts.

Ashtari referenced that there is a wealth of NASCAR content during the races that simply goes to waste. By grabbing that content and adding it to the #NASCAR stream it may create an amazing second screen of content for fans. It certainly is an interesting concept and one that may pay big dividends for NASCAR if it picks up speed with the fan base. We will update this topic again before the weekend.

Please add your comments or questions on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

NASCAR Media Group Ends Its Run

There were big expectations for the NASCAR Media Group (NMG) when it was formed in 2008. The man in the center of this photo, Jay Abraham, was named Chief Operating Officer. NASCAR had combined its broadcast, digital and images divisions into one entity. Sports Emmy Awards followed for a variety of series, specials and TV movies.

Click here to review a 2009 article about the company. You may notice that there is a theme throughout the story. That is the desire for a dedicated NASCAR TV network.

"For NASCAR to consider its own network, I think that's a smart investigation," said Mark Lazarus the former Turner Sports chief in the article. "It's smart in terms of controlling their content, but also because of their fiduciary responsibility to the industry, teams and tracks."

"We wanted more control over the process of creating and distributing our content," said Abraham at the time. "With what we're building, with a very small incremental investment, we could become our own TV network if we wanted to."

But instead of moving forward with TV network plans, NMG continued to simply be a program provider. The company eventually became dependent on one TV network as the major client. That network was SPEED.

Here are some words about the network's relationship with NMG from the 2009 article:

SPEED, in more than 75 million homes, serves as a de facto NASCAR network already with exhaustive coverage through the week and on race weekends. NMG provides content for seven or eight shows a week and calls SPEED easily its biggest client.

The fly in the ointment was that NASCAR did not have an ownership stake in SPEED and therefore did not have a say in the strategic direction of the network. That direction took a sudden turn when the network dropped all NASCAR programming on Monday through Thursday and moved toward a new goal.

Click here for a 2009 interview with SPEED VP Robert Ecker. Here are some excerpts:

CableU: What programs and/or genres are you looking for in the next year?

Ecker: We are actively developing personality-based programs with strong characters in various automotive-related settings.

CableU: What is the key element that makes a program right for your network?

Ecker: Well, clearly we live and breathe the automotive genre, so any non-event program we commission generally has to have a minimum of two tires and a combustible engine. Beyond that, in the original program category we are primarily interested in automotive lifestyle shows that have a combination of the following five elements – adrenaline, competition, cars, bikes and girls.

Needless to say, this ended NMG's ability to produce weekday NASCAR series for SPEED. Other than the Friday through Sunday productions from the Sprint Cup Series tracks, SPEED turned away from NASCAR and set a weekday course for reality TV series rebranded as "automotive lifestyle" programming.

While NMG had pitched NASCAR-themed programming to other cable and broadcast networks, the reality of paying for shows without getting any live races made it a struggle. The picture above was an Emmy award presented for one of the former SPEED series that NMG wound-up producing for the short-lived VOOM HD Network

This year, NMG was informed by Showtime that the network wanted out of its current contract for the high-profile Inside NASCAR series. That basically ended the original NASCAR programming being produced by NMG away from the tracks.

As the overall NASCAR business began to suffer, NMG had gone out and solicited other sports programming to produce. It began to become involved with college athletics and produced a variety of non-motorsports series. But as the years went by, it became clear things were not going well.

Tuesday the end came for Abraham and NMG. Brian France announced Abraham was out and a restructuring would turn NMG into the smaller and streamlined NASCAR Productions. Steve Herbst, the existing NASCAR VP who coordinates domestic and international TV rights, would also oversee the new department.

All of the non-motorsports production will end when the current contracts are over. No more college sports TV for NASCAR. ""It's the right thing that those folks are going to focus on NASCAR," said Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps to the Sports Business Journal. "We need to build our NASCAR audience. We need to focus on our fans. We took our eyes off the ball a bit."

Click here to read the full announcement about the changes. Three existing staff members have been put in place to manage the department. The current weekend programming on SPEED like RaceDay, Victory Lane and Trackside will continue as will the practice and qualifying coverage.

Ultimately, it's a shame that NASCAR did not chase the dream of a dedicated cable TV network when the economy was robust and the money from the current TV contract was still fresh in the bank. These days real media power lies in combining a cable TV network with digital assets.

Now streamlined, NASCAR Productions once again begins the process of trying to expand the NASCAR brand through new program series and network partners. Good luck to those taking on this challenge and goodbye to the NASCAR Media Group as we knew it. Sometimes, it seems that the only thing consistent in TV land is change.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Final Race Wrap: NASCAR On FOX From Dover

FOX produced the network's final Sprint Cup Series telecast of the 2012 season on Sunday afternoon from the Dover International Speedway. I recorded this race and will view it at a later time. This post is for your comments on the TV telecast.

Chris Myers hosted the pre-race show from the Hollywood Hotel. He was joined by Darrell and Michael Waltrip. After this weekend, Darrell will replace Kyle Petty on SPEED's RaceDay program for six races while Petty works for TNT as the lead analyst. Michael will continue as an analyst on the Camping World Truck Series telecasts, also on SPEED. Myers works the NFL for FOX when the season starts.

Jeff Hammond finished his first season as the roving reporter. Hammond was moved out of his longtime position by Michael Waltrip. The idea was to allow Hammond to move to locations in and around the tracks that the pit reporters could not access. He was also to focus on garage issues during the live races. Unofficially, Jeff Hammond will join Waltrip on the RaceDay program for the six TNT summer races.

Mike Joy hosted the telecast with Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds in the TV booth. McReynolds will continue on the air with his role as infield analyst for TNT. Joy works the Barrett Jackson auctions for SPEED and will fill other select roles for the network in 2012.

The NASCAR on FOX pit reporters are Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda and Matt Yocum. Berggren's contract with FOX has ended and he will not be returning. Neither party has commented on who made the decision to end his duties. Byrnes will continue to host RaceHub on SPEED Monday through Thursday. Voda continues her hosting role on the Trackside program on SPEED. Yocum will work pit road on the TNT races.

Monday will begin a series of columns updating the new TV and social media features TNT will be bringing to the sport. In the meantime, please give us your final review of the NASCAR on FOX team for 2012. Thank you as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Final Sunday: Taking A TV Timeout

Update: This is my third and final weekend of putting the Sprint Cup Series race on the DVR. Last week, I watched highights on ESPN and SPEED but never viewed the entire race. Dover is the final FOX race of the season. There will be a post available for your post-race comments after the telecast is done. There are several columns below open for comments. I will return next weekend for TNT coverage. Thank you.

Original column: The man in the picture is Lou Cappi. He was featured in an ESPN photo essay showing people who work in support roles at football games. In the old days, Lou's position was called a "red hat." On the football sidelines, connected to the TV truck, would be a man standing there in a red baseball hat. He would signal to the officials on the field when to hold play for a TV commercial. The red hat made him easy to spot.

Now, orange mittens are all the rage in the NFL and they even come with a snappy logo. Lou crosses his arms when TV needs a commercial break and the officials will stop play after a possession or turnover. It's a system that makes sure the TV advertising revenue is inserted into each game every week.

In addition to the timouts called by each team, TV networks agree in advance with both college conferences and the NFL to a series of commercials that are going to be required in each half or quarter. These are the dreaded TV timeouts. They are much more annoying for those at the game than for the TV viewers.

The ultimate goal of both the referees and the TV networks is to insert the commercial inventory with as little disruption in the flow of the play as possible. Sometimes this is not a problem and the stoppages go almost unnoticed. However, sometimes the orange gloves get crossed just as the home team finally gets a drive going and the crowd reaction is less than favorable.

Needless to say, there are no TV timeouts in NASCAR. In fact, the TV network is not consulted on when to restart the race after an incident. NASCAR does its own thing and TV chases them from green to checkers. Opening the door to TV asking NASCAR to extend a caution flag would not yield good results.

Here at The Daly Planet, I tried to take a TV timeout a while back but readers were persuasive in asking me to continue to provide a place where opinions about various NASCAR TV and media topics could be discussed. Well, that was then and this is now.

I'm crossing the orange gloves and taking a break. The current Sprint Cup Series TV coverage is so frustrating that I am joining others in simply waiting to watch another live race until the TNT coverage begins. It was the last telecast that forced this move.

Here are some comments from veteran fans after Darlington:

Walter: "Since becoming a NASCAR fan in 1958 and attending my first race in 1960, I classify myself as a serious race fan. So I make my comments with a lengthy history and must say that never in 50+ years have I been so disappointed in the product shown by the broadcast partners."

JR: "I think there was a good Sprint Cup race at Darlington, but we didn't get to see or hear it! I've been quiet too long! I found myself yelling at the director for missing passes and showing insignificant shots. DW was totally distracting and usually wrong in (his) various comments. What a disgrace to the sport I love!"

KoHoSo: "I am tired of close-ups that give no sense of what is going on, something that is only fueling the fire that NASCAR is "boring" this year. How can we really judge if the racing is boring if all we see is one or two cars at a time all the time?"

SBaker: "I believe that I have watched every race from Darlington since ESPN began televising auto racing way back when. I even remember the Wide World of Sports attempts at showing the Southern 500. Last Saturday night I had to turn the TV off. Between the poor camera work and the Orators from Owensboro, I just couldn't take it any more."

Last week a firestorm erupted when I republished comments from a 2011 Jeff Gluck article at SBNation that the NASCAR TV networks do not care what fans think about the TV coverage. Gluck repeated his comments to me in a recent Twitter exchange.

"Those words from last year ring true today. The TV networks don't care about fan input and that's my point then and now," tweeted Gluck. "It does need to change, but they don't care what you or I think. They're going to do what they want."

Readers may remember that last year was the year of the fan. The NASCAR Fan Council was lauded as changing the sport for the better. Fan input on social media was actively encouraged. What the fans wanted was the product that NASCAR was going to put on the track.

This year fans are the enemy. Darrell Waltrip called the NASCAR Fan Council and Twitter out for forcing knee-jerk reactions in the sport. He said fans just don't know what they want. NASCAR's Robin Pemberton called fans needy for asking TV to show the debris when a caution flag was thrown. Select media members blamed fans wanting crashes as the reason for negative press about the sport being boring.

To say it is a confusing time to be a NASCAR fan might be the understatement of the year.

Watching Sprint Cup Series races on TV was once a joy. Now it is a burden. What used to bring excitement now brings only frustration. It's not the racing on the track but the fundamental inability to "see" the race on TV and get impartial analysis from the announcers that provides the anger.

The familiar hyper-tight coverage of FOX mixes only two cars on camera with even tighter in-car camera shots. There is no perspective, no chasing the best racing and no updates on stories inside of the race. The Kurt Busch pit road saga confirmed that. It's also become clear that telecast sponsors are given coverage priority. Nothing drove that point home like Danica Patrick and Go Daddy last Saturday night.

FOX paid the money to produce the Sprint Cup Series races through the end of 2014. The network has the total right to present the events on TV as they wish.

What they do not possess is the ability to make me watch the product they produce.

So, I'm taking a Sprint Cup Series TV timeout. Media columns will return next Monday and appear on select weekdays. The TDP Facebook page is being discontinued. The live (#TDP1) race stream on Twitter will end, but the TDP Twitter account (TheDalyPlanet) will continue to be active.

Thanks for your patience, I wish things were different but they simply are not. Happy to have your comments on the topics discussed in this post. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Dr. Dirt Says Goodbye

Dick Berggren is now 70 years old. Sunday will be his final race working for the NASCAR on FOX team.

There are many unique personalities in motorsports media, but Berggren tops the list. Driver, announcer, reporter and editor are just some of the things he has done in his life. By the way, he taught college psychology for almost a decade after getting his doctorate from Tufts University.

A New England native, Berggren has already been inducted into the National Sprint Car and New England Auto Racers Halls of Fame. After ending his driving career, Berggren moved to reporter and then editor of Stock Car Racing Magazine. In the print world, he may be best known for launching Speedway Illustrated over a decade ago.

I met Berggren working on the ESPN telecasts of NASCAR in the 1980's. Professional, personable and informed summed him up best. He has worked for many TV networks over the years, but FOX proved to be his longest run. He is ending a TV career that in total spanned 32 seasons.

"As a colleague and friend, Dick has had no equal in the 40-plus years I've been in this business," Mike Joy told the Detroit Free Press. "He always has been the best-researched reporter on the ground. Whatever the event, Dick by far is the best-prepared pit reporter this business has ever known, and he always has brought a great degree of professionalism to every telecast he has worked."

Berggren will be focusing his time on seeing more New England area racing, spending time with his wife Kathy and coordinating a New England motorsports museum that will be located at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. That is not to say the transition away from TV will be easy.

"I'm dreading the 2013 Daytona 500 because I won't be there on pit road as part of that team," Berggren said. "That will be hard, but nothing is forever and I understand that. But, it's time to move on."

Best of luck to Berggren as the newest chapter of his diverse life unfolds. His contributions to NASCAR TV are tough to summarize. Needless to say, he had a passion and pursued it vigorously. It will be interesting to see where he pops-up throughout the remainder of this racing season.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Last Chance For Romance

It was 1978 when the song "Last Dance" was released on the "Thank God It's Friday" movie soundtrack. It was sung by the queen of disco, the late Donna Summer. The song won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Top 100.

In the song, Summer knows this is the last song of the night and her last chance:

Last dance, last chance for love.
Yes, it's my last chance for romance, tonight.

I need you, by me. Beside me, to guide me.
Cause when I'm bad I'm so so bad.

So, let's dance the last dance.
Let's dance the last dance.
Let's dance the last dance tonight.

Sunday afternoon the NASCAR on FOX team will take to the air from Dover International Speedway. No matter how good the telecast, the racing or the finish one thing is certain. This is the last dance for the FOX gang in 2012 and change is on the horizon.

It's been a decade of NASCAR for FOX Sports. The network came along when NASCAR needed a shot in the arm and delivered it. Larger than life personalities like "Ole DW" and "Larry Mac" mixed with "Hollywood Hammond" to become household names. Chris Myers served as the straight man in the infield while Mike Joy directed traffic in the TV booth.

Along the way, things changed. FOX began it's TV run with the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in Daytona. Since that time the sport has meandered through good times and bad. The cars have changed, most of the drivers have changed and the Sprint Cup Series now races for a whole different kind of chase.

The FOX gang has aged before our eyes. The original excitement has given way to conversation and stories, perhaps as much a function of middle age as anything else. Agendas are plentiful and carried out with no apologies. FOX knows that come hell or high water it has two more seasons of Sprint Cup Series telecasts signed, sealed and delivered.

The fly in the ointment this season has been social media. NASCAR fans on Facebook and Twitter number in the millions and make their voices heard on topics relating to the FOX telecasts on a regular basis. Now, instead of a wall between the broadcasters and the consumers, there is a direct pathway for those consumers to make their voices heard.

Most individual members of the NASCAR on FOX team are regular Twitter users, many of them updating daily on both their TV and personal activities as they travel the racing trail. It's been an experience that has paid dividends and also come at a price. Sometimes, that price has been steep.

The FOX TV formula for years has been the same. The only change this season was the move of Jeff Hammond into the field as a roving reporter and the introduction of Michael Waltrip into the Hollywood Hotel. This left three announcers in the TV booth, one roving reporter, a host and analyst in the infield and four pit reporters. Ten voices in all.

The pictures remain the same. Other than Talladega's pack racing, FOX continues to move quickly to framing two cars in the camera shots as soon as possible after restarts. In-car camera are used frequently, despite the fact that seeing the actual racing on the track is often sacrificed. FOX makes an effort to replay in-car angles of drivers in accidents.

The Digger nonsense is long gone, but the various sponsored features now dominate the telecast. As we have seen over the years a segment of racing is followed by a commercial break. The most difficult task is to then reset the scene for TV viewers after the commercial is done. This often involves changes in position, cars out of the race, cars waved around and the order of a restart.

The senior management at FOX Sports has changed. The new executives in charge have made no bones about the fact they are looking at changing SPEED into a mainstream cable sports network in 2015 after the current NASCAR TV contract expires.

Dick Berggren has recently confirmed that this will be his final year as a pit reporter for FOX. Darrell Waltrip is now 65 years old. Negotiations on the new TV contract were supposed to be finalized this summer. Instead, they have yet to begin. It's certainly an interesting time as the FOX portion of the season draws to a close.

This is your opportunity to offer an opinion on the 2012 NASCAR on FOX season as the network prepares for it's own last dance. The brothers Waltrip, the lack of RaceBuddy, the side by side commercials and the pictures selected to show to TV viewers have all been hot topics this season.

Dover is a fitting end to the FOX portion of the season. Drivers pound it out on a concrete track with the casino in the background and the horse racing track in the infield. Surrounded by wagering FOX watches for the final time and gets ready for the hand-off to TNT for the summer.

Did you get what you wanted from NASCAR on FOX this season? Did you use other media while you watched the FOX telecast? Did you appreciate the analysis of the Waltrips? How would you rate the pit reporters? How about an opinion on Jeff Hammond in his first season as the roving reporter?

Happy to have your opinion on these and any other NASCAR on FOX topics you may want to discuss. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Nationwide Series From Dover on ESPN

Ryan Truex is on the pole as the Nationwide Series gets ready to race on ESPN from the Dover International Speedway. The weather is good, the track is fast and the field is deep.

ESPN has Rusty Wallace in the TV booth as Dale Jarrett is off this weekend. He will be joined by Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree for the race. The Infield Pit Studio returns with Nicole Briscoe and Brad Daugherty. You just never know who might be a guest on the pre-race show.

Dover is a place where it is tough to get pit reports in except under yellow. The action happens so fast that it is also almost impossible to zoom tight on one or two cars. In the past, using the in-car cameras live meant missing key passes and incidents.

In terms of restarts, keep an eye on the information that Bestwick tries to relay when the network comes back from commercial. There will be lots to update. Depending on the flow of the race, it is tough to integrate the Infield Pit Studio once the racing gets underway unless there is a long yellow.

Dover has two bridges across the track and the TV challenge is to cut around them for the entire race. That is what makes using the aerial shots so tough to do. Viewers should also notice the orange traffic cones stuck in the catch-fence as markers for breaking points as the track has no lines for reference.

There are a number of start and park teams in the race as well as unsponsored cars. It will be interesting to keep an eye on just how many depart prior to the first pit stop.

This post will serve to host your opinions on the ESPN telecast of the NNS race from Dover. We will also be live tweeting the race on Twitter. Looking forward to your comments.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trucks In Dover Go Live On SPEED

Miles the Monster was out working on track conditions at Dover on Thursday. He was preparing for the first of three days of racing to come. Thanks to the Speedway PR staff for the pic.

It's been years of complaining for fans who followed the Friday Dover truck series race on Twitter, Facebook and the various NASCAR websites. Since the facility has no lights, the race was actually run in the late afternoon and then aired on a tape-delayed basis in the evening on SPEED.

Needless to say, there was a lot of frustration that SPEED just simply did not air the race live at 5PM and then re-air it that night as scheduled. This year, the network and NASCAR decided to do just that.

Social media is sweeping through NASCAR like nothing before. All elements of the sport have been working hard to see just what new opportunities exist for the use of real time technology in getting information out to the fan base. Tracks, drivers, teams and sponsors have been working hard.

One result of all this information is that tape-delayed or time-shifted NASCAR TV programs have been exposed. In the past, SPEED would just list the truck race as airing at 8:30PM and fans would tune in. The hardcore fans would read the websites and get the results in advance.

These days more and more people have smart phones in their pocket that connect in a flash to streams of sports information. It's virtually impossible to hide things like the time-shifted Sprint Cup Series banquet, qualifying shows or K&N races. It's absolutely impossible for the three national touring series.

SPEED made a solid decision and should not suffer in the evening ratings. Working folks like us will tune-in Friday night when we get home regardless of whether the actual race was telecast live or not. Simply opening the TV window for those able to watch live makes all the sense in the world.

Krista Voda hosts the pre-race show. Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons will call the race. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are the pit reporters. Once again keep an eye on the style of the director as he works to show the largest group of trucks racing and continues to use wider camera shots to keep the racing perspective for the fans at home.

This SPEED production team has constantly delivered a quality product on limited resources and manpower. There is just something to be said for using the TV equipment that is needed to show a race instead of using all the TV equipment possible to show a race.

This post will serve to host your comments on the truck series race from Dover. To add your opinion about the SPEED team before, during or after the telecast just click the comments button. Thanks for stopping by.