Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Race Wrap: Brickyard 400 on ESPN

ESPN started season six of Sprint Cup Series race coverage with the Brickyard 400. The race was called several different names depending on the sponsorship deals in place.

The pre-race show featured Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Nicole Briscoe hosted from an outside terrace of the infield Pagoda. The topic of the Elliot Sadler penalty was handled less than four minutes into the telecast. The issue was completely updated and set the tone for a well-produced hour of pre-race programming.

Allen Bestwick called the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the TV booth. Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro were the pit road reporters. This group is very familiar with having few racing moments to work with on this track. That was the case again on Sunday.

While the announcers relayed solid information, the familiar ESPN coverage returned. Instead of stepping back and covering the race, ESPN likes to "make TV." The network director constantly went to in-car cameras and tight shots during key restarts. This resulted in TV viewers seeing even less of the actual racing for position and that was a shame.

The toys that ESPN brings to this race were in use, including the slo-mo replay and the bat-cam on pit road. Unfortunately, with the coverage philosophy in use things got rough to watch once the field settled down after restarts. Instead of the wide coverage the network uses for IndyCars, this was once again the "telescope" world of jumping from one car to another.

A final restart with 20 laps to go had the director using in-car cameras once again and missing the final pass for second place. The announcer commentary pushed the pictures wider, but the disconnect continued until the finish line. In the final 15 laps, the cameras zoomed-in over and over again.

As we have seen for years with this coverage, only the winning car was shown finishing the race. The ESPN teams is simply imitating a move they do on the Indy 500 coverage. This series and this race have absolutely nothing to do with one IndyCar event. It's the perfect cap for this disrespectful coverage.

ESPN has all the manpower, technology and solid announcers in place. Despite the lack of fans in the stands and compelling racing, the problem with this telecast rests squarely with the producer and director. If this is once again the way the network is going to handle the Sprint Cup Series, it does not bode well for a strong stretch run.

We welcome your opinions on the ESPN coverage of the Brickyard 400. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Live Blog Special: Brickyard 400 At A Crossroads

This is the ESPN pre-race show position for the Brickyard 400. The faces represent the talent assigned to the chairs and the ESPN employees are doing what is called "camera blocking." They are allowing the lighting techs, cameramen and the director to run through the pre-race script.

The Saturday script was Danica Patick. The pre-race show featured Katie Couric interviewing Danica. In the race, Danica started in the back of the pack and eventually crashed out in a self-induced moment that her crew chief Tony Eury Jr. called stupid driving. So much for the script.

The Sunday script is yet to be revealed, but it is believed to rotate around the prestige of the race. There is no Danica and no clear-cut favorite or emerging storyline this season. Former Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. is in the race, former Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon needs a win and ESPN TV darling Carl Edwards is having a terrible season. Those are likely candidates for mentions.

Nicole Briscoe gets Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty on the pre-race show. Allen Bestwick has Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree up in the TV booth. Jamie Little is off, so Mike Massaro will be joining Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns on pit road. There is no more Tim Brewer or his Tech Garage.

TV coverage can be wide and inclusive at this big track or it can be myopic to the point of madness. Focusing on individual car battles to the exclusion of the bigger picture can lose TV viewers any perspective of what is happening on-track very quickly. The TV cameras can make beautiful pictures of the long backstretch and the scenic run into Turn 1. The question is will the director use them?

ESPN has been harsh in trying to make this race into NASCAR's version of the Indy 500. For these drivers, it is all about making the Chase for the Championship. This is only one in a long string of races that can put them in position to accomplish that goal. Taking a risk at Indy can only result in an accident that will end the day, affect the Chase and rile the sponsor.

The pit reporters are going to be key if this race settles into long green flag runs. Updating strategy may be the only storyline in progress unless there is an incident. The season to this point has featured conservative racing and battles that involve track position being decided on pit road.

ESPN will highlight a super slo-mo handheld camera on pit road to try and get some fresh replay angles. The "bat-cam" returns on a wire above the pits and will be zooming along at 80mph as it follows cars down the frontstretch and out of pit road. Once again the in-car camera technology will feature two different camera angles from the same car on the screen.

Bestwick is great at directing traffic and keeping things in perspective, but he does not pick the images being shown to fans or integrate the commercials and features. The ESPN Non-Stop commercial format does not start until the Chase, so the telecast today will have full-screen commercials from start to finish.

This season there will once again be a SportsCenter scheduled right after the race to allow for an extended post-race show. This has been a positive step, but often the SportsCenter anchors chosen to fill this slot have a low regard for NASCAR and have been happy to let it show on the air.

The real story of this race may be the fans in the stands. Reporters going to the track this morning were amazed that there was little or no race traffic. The Nationwide Series race yesterday drew a very small crowd as did the Friday sportscar event. Keep an ear out for how TV deals with the attendance issue.

The weather is good, the field is full and there have been no tire issues. NASCAR clearly explained the restart issues in the AM driver's meeting, so the only thing left to do is race. We will take your TV comments here today as well as on our Twitter live stream using the #TDP1 hashtag.

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by, there will be a new post up for your "Race Wrap" comments after the Brickyard 400 today.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Live Blog: TV Ratings Rest With Danica Patrick

In order to prop-up sluggish ticket sales for the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, NASCAR moved the Saturday Nationwide Series race from the Lucas Oil Raceway short-track over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Everything that is done today in the Nationwide Series is being promoted as "historic."

The bottom line is that the sport is in a crisis, despite the lack of media coverage on that topic. Nationwide Series qualifying just ended as this post is being created and it literally looked as if there was no one in the stands except the relatives of the drivers.

The myriad of issues that the Sprint Cup Series has encountered at the speedway runs from shredding tires to bad weather. As most fans know, the vast majority of the passing is done on pit road and the track is known for long green flag runs as drivers try to manage their cars until the closing fuel run.

In today's Nationwide Series race, the focus of attention will be on the seven Sprint Cup Series drivers that crossed-over to race on Saturday and one female driver who manipulates the media like no other. That is ABC journalist Katie Couric shown standing with Danica Patrick on the yard of bricks. Couric shot a feature that will be the centerpiece of the ESPN pre-race show.

The script that would most interest NASCAR, ESPN and the speedway is for Danica Patrick to get her first NASCAR win in the inaugural Nationwide Series race at the track. Patrick qualified 20th, three spots behind 18 year-old driver Johanna Long, who is also in her rookie year in the Nationwide Series.

Marty Reid will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Reid will call all the Nationwide Series races for ESPN again this season. Jamie Little is off, so Mike Massaro will be joining Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns and Vince Welch on pit road.

As we mentioned several weeks ago, ESPN has dropped Tim Brewer and parked the Tech Garage. Although disputing that he is gone for good, the network has no plans for us to see Brewer pointing at car parts this season during the Chase. Brewer is a colorful personality, but there was just no room for him in the telecasts down the stretch.

Nicole Briscoe has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty with her from the Infield Pit Studio. This trio has a short pre-race show of thirty minutes and then may be left with little to do if the race settles into long green flag runs. Briscoe has proven to be very capable of dealing with a wide variety of circumstances in a live setting.

The Nationwide Series race is a calculated gamble for NASCAR. The series is not very deep and is normally dominated by the Sprint Cup Series drivers in the field during companion events. That was one of the best parts of having the race at Lucas Oil Raceway. It limited the number of drivers who wanted to do both events.

We are going to open comments on the TV presentation of the race today and live blog during the event. There has been lots of feedback that with the Olympics in progress and the small amount of tickets pre-sold for the race it could be a rough outing. The flipside is Danica could win, the sport would get a ton of buzz and the powers that be could be smiling from ear to ear. Pre-race at 4 and racing at 4:30PM on ESPN.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Allmendinger: Amphetamines Source Of Violation

It's starting to come unraveled in the AJ Allmendinger substance abuse saga. Today has been a day of breaking news and many statements to the media from different parties.

5:15PM update is that Tara Ragan has confirmed while on the Sirius Speedway show on SiriusXM radio the substance Allmendinger tested positive for is amphetamines.

Click here for the link to ESPN reporter David Newton's story on the amphetamine confirmation.

Click here for the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter on the same topic.

At 4PM here is the scoop:

Allmendinger has decided to enter NASCAR's "Road to Recovery" rehab program. This allows a NASCAR license-holder to complete a prescribed series of treatments and tests in order to be reinstated. Once you agree to this program, you waive any right to appeal the actual violation.

Tara Ragan, Allmendinger's business manager and spokesperson, said today on various media outlets that Aegis Lab did not specifically tell Allmendinger what caused the violation and that she was waiting for a more detailed lab report to be delivered.

Dr. Black from Aegis then told ESPN's David Newton that the cause of the violation could not be an over the counter dietary supplement and that type of issue would have been cleared up before the original violation was reported to NASCAR.

David Higdon from NASCAR then told Newton that Allmendinger had been told of the substance in question that caused the violation from the date of the original test.

Ragan, Higdon and Tim Cindric from Team Penske will all be guests on the 6PM ET edition of the NASCAR RaceHub program today on SPEED. Bob Dillner will be reporting on the topic.

Updated information on this topic will be included on this post. We welcome your comments on this topic. 

AJ Allmendinger "B" Sample Fails: Updated

Tuesday evening just prior to 9PM ET a press release was forwarded to the media from NASCAR. Here is the copy:

"AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 22 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been suspended indefinitely from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy."

On July 24,Allmendinger was found to have violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 19 (NASCAR’s substance abuse policy) of the 2012 NASCAR rule book.

As outlined in the rule book, NASCAR next will provide Allmendinger a letter outlining a process for reinstatement. By agreeing to the letter, he will be allowed to participate in the Road to Recovery Program.

The surprise in this announcement was that both Allmendinger's spokespeople and many media members had been relating that the results of this test would not be available until late Wednesday or early Thursday. The timing of this announcement, long after regular business hours on the East Coast, is just as awkward as the original notice of a substance abuse policy violation only hours before a Sprint Cup Series race.
At 9:45PM, ESPN's Marty Smith passed this along on Twitter: Allmendinger's agent stated the sample was "within nanograms" of accepted tolerance. (That) they're unsure whether to fight or do NASCAR recovery program.

Minutes later a full statement was released at 10PM ET from Tara Ragan, AJ's longtime business manager. It reads:

"Aegis Analytical Laboratories in Nashville has delivered the results of the 'B' sample test for Penske Racing driver AJ Allmendinger, which confirmed the results of the 'A" test"

"This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this. To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ's home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards. We are working closely with NASCAR and Penske Racing to identify the next action steps in this process."

"We continue to be extremely grateful by the breadth and scope of support for AJ from his fans and partners. We would like to again thank NASCAR, Penske Racing and all our sponsor partners for the open communication, and for helping us at every step in this process. We expect to have further updates in the upcoming days."

The next stop for Ragan was the SiriusXM Radio NASCAR channel. She repeated the content of her statement but then answered the question most fans and media have been asking.

SiriusXM radio: Do you have any plays to reveal what the substance is?

Ragan: It’s a good question. I don’t have the answer to that right now. I agree with you. It matters to us. It matters to him. I think, for sure, you’re right, there are things that have various connotations to them. We want to get to the bottom of it. I believe that will be the case. Until I get the secondary report and we do that with the lab, which is going to start first thing in the morning. again it’s kind of like a needle in the haystack, so I don’t really know what it is we’re looking for what it is that we’ve got.’’

The paragraph above was transcribed and made available by reporter Dustin Long of SI.com and Athlon Sports. Thanks to him for the content.

Wednesday brings a 3PM version of the NASCAR Now program on ESPN2 and a 6PM live Race Hub program over on SPEED. It should be interesting to watch how these two very different networks approach the issue.

Ms. Ragan has been a public relations professional throughout this ordeal and often allows facts to emerge by simply disclosing others. In saying Allmendinger was slightly over the limit for a stimulant, she pushes aside the issue of illegal drugs and alcohol. By controlling the information flow and not allowing Allmendinger to speak with the media she removes the potential for his words to take on different meaning. That potential was on display with the Jeremy Mayfield suspension and subsequent media mayhem.

Update: Early Wednesday morning Allmendinger took to Twitter for some messages. Here they are:

"I just want to say thank you first and foremost for all of u sticking by me. Please dont think me being (silent) means i havent been reading all ur support."

"And man, it means more than u will ever know. Im sorry we even have to have this going on. But i promise ..i will do whatever it Takes to get to the bottom of this and get back our there no matter what. Thanks guys."
This post will continue to be updated on Wednesday with whatever information becomes available. In the meantime, we invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Changing Of The Guard At FOX Sports

As the story goes, Humpy Wheeler's daughter Patti introduced Aussie David Hill to the sport of NASCAR. Hill was under orders from News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch to plant the FOX Sports flag in the states. Hill took one look at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the loyal fans and the spectacle of 43 cars at high speed and was hooked.

The result was a franchise called "NASCAR on FOX." Familiar TV faces like Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond have Hill to thank for their careers after racing. The sport has Hill to thank for coming along at a key moment in NASCAR history and as they say, "growing the franchise."

Sports Emmy awards followed and Hill expanded the FOX Sports brand far beyond the world of NASCAR. The colorful Hill was a marked contrast to the monochrome network sports executives who prowl the mean streets of New York City. Hill decided to set-up shop in Los Angeles, have an adult beverage or two and speak his mind.

After more than a decade at the helm, Hill has most recently been the chairman of the FOX Sports division. Things started to change when a young executive named Eric Shanks left DirecTV and joined FOX Sports as president in June of 2010. Six months later, FOX veteran Randy Freer was named co-president of the newly formed FOX Sports Media Group with Shanks.

These two would now be in charge of all the networks, brands and digital properties involved with FOX Sports. The power had shifted to a different generation of executives who spoke the digital language and were concerned with brand marketing and image. The handwriting was on the wall.

Monday it was made official that Hill was moving on. He will become an Executive Vice President of News Corp. itself. Hill will be working on international projects and new business. For the first time since he came across the pond, David Hill's influence will be gone from FOX sports.

Hill was also key to establishing SPEED in Charlotte, NC and pushing for it to become the official NASCAR TV Network. While that part of the plan did not work out, there is no doubt that the very existence of SPEED is due to its core of NASCAR programming.

Shanks and Freer are said to be actively negotiating with NASCAR on a new TV contract. There have even been hints that FOX wants more Sprint Cup Series races. The key question in the overall equation is the future of SPEED itself. Rumors are swirling that FOX will close SPEED, rebrand it as a general sports cable TV network and use it to chase ESPN in the program rights marketplace.

SPEED currently carries the vast majority of the practice, qualifying and support programming for NASCAR. When there is heavy lifting to be done, from the Hall of Fame to the All-Star Race, NASCAR relies on SPEED. Certainly no new TV contract will be put in place without a strong foundation of what is called "shoulder programming" from SPEED or the newly branded sports network.

While Hill was outspoken and opinionated, the new management duo is focused and calculated. What becomes of FOX Sports, SPEED and the company's relationship with NASCAR will be revealed before this year is out. There are many interested parties waiting for that answer.

While Hill did tinker with start times and bring us Digger, the vast majority of his NASCAR influence revolved around promoting stock car racing to a larger audience. He ushered the sport through an uncertain time with gimmicks like the Hollywood Hotel and created personas like "Ole DW and Larry Mac." There was a time when "NASCAR on FOX" was king.

Hill will remain based in LA, so there is little doubt that Shanks and Freer may wind-up having frequent conversations with the cantankerous Aussie when he thinks of yet another idea that seems perfect for the NASCAR on FOX coverage. Some things will never change.

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The SiriusXM Consumer Nightmare

NASCAR recently agreed to a five year contract extension with SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The sanctioning body is just one of a host of "content providers" that supply the service with programming for the various channels.

This most recent agreement also allowed SiriusXM NASCAR content to be streamed online. This had been a frustration of fans for many years. The move was a part of NASCAR's broader digital agenda to reclaim and control the rights to its own content.

"A dedicated NASCAR channel is important for our teams, tracks, drivers and sponsors and is crucial for fan engagement and audience growth," NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a March 2012 media release. "Being able to simulcast SiriusXM NASCAR Radio online to subscribers nationwide will allow us additional opportunities to take our product to new fans in new places."

While SiriusXM has a strong history of diverse content, the company also has a growing reputation in another area. That area is consumer fraud. Over the years, many NASCAR fans have emailed about illegal billing practices, deceptive phone calls and poor customer service.

A working group of Attorneys General from 28 states began investigating SiriusXM for deceptive billing and customer solicitation policies back in 2010. The majority of the consumer complaints had a theme. They involved unauthorized credit and debit card charges.

The SiriusXM business is driven by the subscription revenue of users. Advertising revenue plays a minor role in this "pay radio" business model. The current investigation focuses on what is called "billing continuous subscriptions." This practice has reportedly raked in millions of dollars for SiriusXM from people who find themselves unable to stop the billing cycle.

Let's start at the beginning. Folks who sign-up for a trial offer with SiriusXM are asked to provide credit card information, even if the trial is free. The reason is that at the conclusion of the trial period SiriusXM automatically turns the trial into a full subscription and begins to auto-charge the user. There is no notification.

Existing subscribers who have already provided credit or debit card information are confronted with a well-rehearsed scenario when they try to cancel the service at the expiration of an annual contract. Either electronically or via telephone, they are assured that the subscription has ended. Then, a new charge appears on their credit card and the scam begins.

The Internet is littered with posts about the financial nightmares caused by the fraudulent behavior of SiriusXM. The scenarios are endless. Common citizens who trusted a company with a service now find themselves trapped in a world where dollars are being removed from their bank accounts without permission and for services confirmed as terminated.

Click here to take a peek at the Pissed Consumer website. The Sirius XM content is extensive and revolves around the same theme of fooling the consumer or failing to stop billing after confirmation of terminated service. It's just one of many online resources that address this issue.

The newest twist in this saga has raised eyebrows once again with online billing at the heart of the issue. Frustrated consumers who simply cannot stop the SiriusXM charges to their credit or debit cards usually cancel the card and have the bank send a new one. It might cause some work to change other accounts and billing, but this move should stop unauthorized charges since the old card is now cancelled. Well, think again.

Click here to read one of the many posts online about SiriusXM continuing to process payments on a cancelled credit card if the financial institution allows the transaction. In the world of online banking, this is a new risk that is very real.

The tips to deal with SiriusXM are basic. Before entering into any agreement, no matter how temporary, review the entire user agreement. The auto-review is buried in the paperwork and gives SiriusXM an out on most billing issues. Just like the extended auto warranty companies, SiriusXM walks the fine line between what a customer is being told on the phone and what is the legal bottom line in the agreement.

Do not disclose your credit card information to SiriusXM. Pay in full for any agreement with another form of payment. Credit and debit card deductions made from your bank account are immediate and the vast majority of consumer complaints revolve around money that has already been transferred. The possibility that you are going to recover funds is small.

Finally, document the services for which you have contracted. SiriusXM has a variety of options in terms of access to content and also how that content is delivered. Failure to specifically understand the satellite and online delivery agreements may bring additional charges.

After years of pushing hard to get the SiriusXM NASCAR channel available online, this positive change seems bittersweet when the company's solicitation and billing philosophy is based around what are essentially unfair business practices. A simple change in corporate culture could solve these problems and rid the company of this unfortunate stigma.

Happy to have your thoughts on this topic or experiences you have had with SiriusXM. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Update: The Island Of Brian France

It was October of 2009 when we offered the original column on the elusive Brian France. "The Island of Brian France" can be read by clicking on the title. Please take note of the reader comments as well.

At that time, France had been poorly advised in terms of talking directly to the media. He strongly assured the media and public multiple times that sexual harassment allegations made by former NASCAR employee Mauricia Grant were completely false. They were not.

France also reinforced the validity of NASCAR's "reasonable suspicion" drug policy. In a subsequent story by ESPN, former Camping World Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted to heroin use on race days. A short time later, NASCAR's entire approach to controlled substances, medication and testing was radically changed.

These days France is surrounded not by public relations or media professionals, but by marketing men. The shift in philosophy away from feeding the media and toward controlling it is company-wide. Marketing folks pick the agenda, control the answers and never get "off message."

Update: On July 7 in the DIS Infield Media Center, France spoke to the press corps. He said he was encouraged by the first half of the season and that the sport would never stoop to gimmicks to spice up the racing. He had no updates on a new TV contract or solutions for TV commercial issues. New technology in development included the 2013 Cup cars and "glass dashboards" for use in the future.

What France had not done was watch the Sprint Cup Series race from Kentucky Speedway on TNT. What he did not see is what his premier product has become on television. He did not see one-third of the racing covered by commercial breaks. He did not have the pleasure of watching Junior and Pop Pop wrestle over Kentucky Fried Chicken side dishes for three solid hours.

This is the island of Brian France. Informed on agendas that serve him, but seemingly oblivious to the real fan issues of the sport. In November of 2010, France was asked in another media session what he would say to fans who do not like his Chase for the Championship points system. "You met somebody who’s telling you that?" was his response to the reporter.

Last year the teams not in the Chase were excluded from ESPN's TV coverage. Unless leading the race, the non-Chasers were sentenced to ten races without TV exposure. Once again the vast majority of the field suddenly became field fillers. Regardless of the actual story of the race, the Chase coverage has skewed the final ten races into a hybrid television presentation that serves no one.

The Chase was created by France to counteract the NFL season. It was intended to draw fans away from regional NFL games because of its play-off nature. Instead, it gave fans of drivers not in the Chase a reason to watch football. How to solve the problem of making TV cover the actual races and simply update the Chase has been an issue France has continually avoided. The annual Chase hype begins with ESPN's Brickyard 400 coverage in less than two weeks.

Social media has been embraced by NASCAR and promoted as a wonderful information platform for fans. Now, real time text service Twitter has become both a blessing and a curse. Rich with information directly from NASCAR sources use of Twitter during live Sprint Cup Series races by fans has boomed.

The curse has come from allowing fans to see just how much race information and on-track action is actually being missed by television. Instead of being a location for fans to simply congregate, Twitter has become a digital complaint board about the sport's television woes. This is a key issue for the sport.

France faces the creation of a new NASCAR TV contract this year. This time, NASCAR owns the digital rights to all of its own product. The question is whether France is negotiating for a new package that includes NASCAR streaming races to laptops, tablets and smart phones. The lack of easily available online content has been one of the most significant NASCAR issues of the last decade.

The last media availability of the NASCAR chairman in January was quite structured. The issues he never addressed were significant. He covered fuel injection, the wild cards in the Chase and suggested the sport had momentum. Those were the highlights. Here is the reality.

Any human being who tried to watch the Kentucky Speedway race on TNT knows what the sport has is trouble. Any fan who followed NASCAR's advice and got on Twitter can see the problems. What the sport needs is fixing. If ESPN walks in with full-screen commercials, endless Chase hype and focuses on twelve teams only, the result is not going to be pretty when the NFL season starts.

We invite your comments on this topic. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Go Daddy Saga Continues With Olympic Ads

Just when you thought it could not get any stranger, Go Daddy has offered a preview of the new TV commercials about to run in the upcoming Olympics. Before you ask, yes that is an otter.

Last we left the company, former CEO and Danica Patrick fan Bob Parsons had been moved upstairs after selling Go Daddy to a group of investors. A man named Warren Adelman had been named CEO and quickly began dropping hints that his agenda was to change the public perception of the company.

The first step was to switch advertising agencies. Deutsch New York was chosen to create a new series of TV commercials that were going to air during the London Olympics. The twist is that Deutsch is run by a very powerful woman named Val DiFebo.

She was asked by the New York Times about the many years of Go Daddy's risque and sexually provocative advertising campaigns. "As a woman, is it my favorite work?” she asked rhetorically, then replied, “No.” That was not a good sign for Patrick and her female team of Go Daddy girls.

When asked about the new campaign, DiFebo suggested a change of course. "The ads will tell more of a story about GoDaddy’s technology rather than entice consumers with appeals like to see more skin, click here,'" she added.

Well, the Olympics are around the corner and a preview of the ads has just been released. True to her word, DiFebo takes a nice big swipe at the Go Daddy girls while sending the message that the company is ultimately about technology and service. How this is done is an eye-opener.

Click here for Danica Patrick's tasteless "beaver" commercial that was part of the advertising campaign surrounding the 2008 Super Bowl. This commercial was supposedly rejected by TV and could only be seen at the Go Daddy website. Of course, the entire thing was a marketing effort to direct TV viewers online.

Click here for the first of the three new Olympic ads. "Charlene" represents the Go Daddy girls but without a company logo or even body paint. The line is "Charlene is how Go Daddy attracts domain name customers." The new character of Karl represents the part of the company never before mentioned. He keeps the customers.

Halfway through the ad, Charlene is said to have forced three state senators into early retirement while she stands on-camera petting her otter. Go Daddy was infamous for putting Parsons' contempt of the Federal Government on display in ads ranging from the "Enhancement Panel" to the classic "Broadcast Censorship Hearings."

Click here to see the original 2005 Super Bowl ad where the C-SPAN logo was changed to G-SPIN.

So what exactly is the point of these new ads and spending millions to run them in the Olympics? Gone are the familiar "Go Daddy Girl" faces the company worked so hard to develop. Gone is the teenage sexual innuendo. Instead, a generic sexy girl with an otter and a reputation is upstaged by a nerd named Karl.

"I felt it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge our past and do it in a tongue-in-cheek way, but really point to the future," Go Daddy CEO Adelman told the Huffington Post on Monday. This may be the strongest statement yet that what Adelman and DiFebo have in mind does not involve the Go Daddy Girls.

Patrick is finishing a full-time season in the Nationwide Series while running a limited schedule in the Sprint Cup Series. Her primary NASCAR sponsor is Go Daddy. Now, that company heads into the Olympics without her.

Love it or hate it, the upside in Patrick's Go Daddy TV ad exposure was that she was now firmly tied to NASCAR. Her pursuit of a win in the Nationwide Series continues, but 2013 was supposed to see her running for Rookie of the Year honors in the Sprint Cup Series with Stewart-Haas Racing. That would be huge for the entire sport.

Patrick has been coy on confirming her plans for next season in the media, but things are said to be in place. Even the Indy 500 and Coke 600 double-dip has been put on the table as possible for next year. What has yet to unfold is just how she fits into the company's advertising future as Adelman shifts the Go Daddy emphasis from sex to technology.

Click here to see the current Go Daddy homepage. The company's IndyCar driver James HinchCliffe continues to be featured as a result of the most recently completed ad campaign. Patrick is nowhere to be found.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Race Wrap: NASCAR On TNT From New Hampshire

Another NASCAR TV transition is complete as TNT ends its summer series for 2012. Currently, the network has two more full seasons on the existing TV contract with NASCAR.

Adam Alexander hosted another pre-race show that was packed with information and features. The "Countdown to Green" has been solid this season. It seems this forum works best for Alexander in a host role. This week, Greg Biffle was the special guest on the infield set.

Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds were on the pre-race panel. These two work well together in conversation but struggle to cooperate while standing at the TORC car and trying to speak about issues while pointing at car parts.

Pit road reporter Marty Snider was out ill, so TNT went with a three-man pit road team. Ralph Sheheen, Matt Yocum and Chris Neville did the job with no problems. The pit road reporters have been the foundation of this coverage.

In the TV booth, Alexander again led casual and non-excited conversation about the race right up to the end. This is the style TNT chose and they stayed with it for all six races. It leaves a lot of information on the table while the booth talent is joking and talking about the race in general.

The coverage was basic. Tight shots of cars were mixed with in-cars and focus shifted from driver to driver. Beautiful aerial shots were only used as transitions out of commercial. Even in boring racing, the director chose to stick with the identical style of coverage lap after lap. It was tough to watch.

Commercials once again were an issue as TNT does not use the side by side format. Several minutes of racing were followed by several minutes of commercials. This forced fans to use the live PRN radio coverage and the online RaceBuddy to keep some sort of live racing going during the TV commercials. Normally, these commercials cover about one-third of the total race.

This post is to ask you about how you enjoyed the coverage of this race and the TNT season as a whole? Your comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by.

Repost: NASCAR Needs Junior On Twitter

Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. is all grown up. At 37, he is a veteran of the NASCAR game and has experienced the highs and lows of the life he has chosen. His Sprint Cup Series win in Michigan on Sunday brought him center stage in the sport once again. This time, he handled it with the cool professionalism of a man in control.

As impressive in post-race interviews as he was on the track, it's now easy to place him among the top contenders for the series championship. Many things have changed in the sport since he first came to the Sprint Cup Series. One of the most profound changes in dealing with the fan base is social media.

Earnhardt's Twitter account is @DaleJr. If memory serves me correctly, his sister reserved it for him should he decide to become active in the social media world. It was a good move on her part because the time for him to make that move is right now.

It's easy to see on TV the deep integration of Twitter into NASCAR. The past two weeks have also featured a heavily promoted special online page created and staffed by Twitter employees for NASCAR tweets during the races. There is currently no more efficient digital platform to get a message out to the NASCAR fan base than Twitter.

From 53 year old Mark Martin to 22 year old Austin Dillon, almost all professional NASCAR drivers have come to realize the power of social media and what a single Twitter account can accomplish. While top NASCAR stars like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both have over 200 thousand followers, an international motorsports star like Rubens Barrichello has 1.7 million.

The early fears of Twitter as being unkind to major sports personalities have been put to rest. Smart use of social media just means that top American athletes provide information that helps with marketing, sales and ultimately the bottom line. Like most digital communication tools, the user controls the content.

Every time Brad Keselowski sends a tweet, he does so to 271 thousand people. Keselowski worked hard for those followers and continues to interact with fans, other personalities in the sport and media members. One tweet from Earnhardt would make its way to 132 thousand fans immediately. That is how many Twitter users are already following his empty account and just watching and waiting.

Twitter does not have to be personal. It can be used for marketing purposes, provide links to websites and offer pictures or videos in support of a company agenda. That is precisely the purpose that almost all of the NASCAR sponsors use the service to provide. The race tracks are there too, as are all the major teams including Hendrick Motorsports. 

There is little doubt that if and when the official Earnhardt Twitter account becomes active it will quickly top one million followers. The marketing power for Hendrick, JR Motorsports and NASCAR in general would be tremendous. In a time when sponsors are looking for exposure and the sport is looking for a spokesman, cranking Earnhardt's Twitter account up would make a lot of sense.

It took a little encouragement for some personalities to join Twitter. Perhaps, this might be the encouragement for Earnhardt. Simply by asking folks like Martin, Darrell Waltrip or Kevin Harvick about their experiences Earnhardt would find out just how much a simple app on a cell phone can accomplish. His sister and his Nationwide Series sponsors would also perhaps point out what it would mean to JR Motorsports.

Ultimately, the most powerful force in welcoming Earnhardt to Twitter would be the NASCAR fans. While all celebrities using social media have to learn how to screen out the haters, the success stories for NASCAR drivers and personalities where Twitter is concerned are plentiful.

Perhaps the best example of someone close to Earnhardt using Twitter successfully is crew chief Steve Letarte. His personality shines through and his Monday evening tweets suggested he was going to be giving away the hats worn in Victory Lane by his winning team but first he was off to his son's swim meet.

If there was ever a time for the most popular driver to get in the social media mix, it is now. Perhaps with a little encouragement, Earnhardt can sign-on and discover what many of his celebrity friends, teammates and fellow drivers already know. Twitter is the ultimate way to say thank you to the fans.

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

Repost: The Creature From The Black Lagoon

It came from a land far away and spoke a language most of us do not understand. It struck fear in the hearts of those without iPads, smart phones or Twitter accounts. Why it had come was not completely clear, but everyone who encountered it had a strong reaction. Then, just like that, it was gone.

Sunday afternoon will breathe life back into this strange West Coast creature. Like it or not, the #NASCAR hashtag will once again come to life.

Part man and part machine, the hashtag creature has at its heart an algorithm of double top-secret NASCAR information. It can chew through thousands of NASCAR tweets in seconds and leave them in a heap by the side of the road. Only the chosen few emerge unscathed and crawl to the safety of the "landing page."

Figuring out what makes the creature tick is a mystery guarded closely by a select few gathered in an undisclosed location. Laptops at the ready, they try to control the beast by monitoring its diet of social media content. The idea is to keep the creature focused on the race at hand. It's not an easy task.

An algorithm is the way to make a computer solve a problem. In this case, the problem seems to be how to create a stream of NASCAR content quickly enough to attract new fans during a live race. The solution is to feed the tweets of well-known NASCAR personalities and veteran fans into the hashtag creature and see what comes out.

What came out last Sunday was a homogenized stream of milk. Instead of featuring the passionate fans, the hashtag creature pushed them aside and embraced the teams, sponsors and NASCAR personalities. The results were bland and easy to digest.

This Sunday, there is little doubt that many more fans will try to feed the creature by creating tweets strictly for the purpose of making it to the hashtag stream. In a hectic race on a track known for long green flag runs, sorting the thousands of tweets may prove to be a very interesting challenge for the hashtag monster.

Casual fans may love the results and those looking to use Twitter for the first time may find this is a perfect pathway to NASCAR. It's still a bit puzzling what appeal this stream has to hardcore fans or veteran Twitter users. Most have set-up personal timelines to feature their own NASCAR favorites.

As the hashtag creature chews through the social media churn from MIS, unfolding tire stories and driver complaints may cause some momentary indigestion. This Sunday, before the creature sinks again into the dark Pacific Ocean, we will get a much better picture of whether we have to respect this monster or simply smile and pat it on the head.

Happy to have your opinion on the #NASCAR hashtag project currently underway on Twitter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NASCAR On TNT Ends In New Hampshire

The TNT summer series ends Sunday in New Hampshire. It's been an amazing run this year for all the wrong reasons. Many fans have made it clear they will be happy to see the network depart.

Adam Alexander once again hosts both the pre-race show and then calls the race. Kyle Petty also appears on both programs. Wally Dallenbach Jr. joins Petty in the booth while Larry McReynolds appears on the pre-race show and then remains in the infield.

The bright spot for this coverage has been the pit reporters. Marty Snider has been under the weather and did not travel to New Hampshire. He passed along that he is doing much better and expects to recover quickly. So, TNT will go with Matt Yocum, Ralph Sheheen and Chris Neville to cover pit road for this race.

A casual atmosphere might be the new and cool thing in sports TV, but for covering a live NASCAR race it just does not work. Both ESPN and SPEED use traditional play by play men in Allen Bestwick and Rick Allen to call the racing action. Alexander has spent the summer doing just the opposite.

Dallenbach is so far removed from the sport he is irrelevant. Despite his personality, his limited NASCAR experience was long ago he brings little to the telecasts. With two drivers in the booth, Dallenbach spends the entire telecast either agreeing with or disagreeing with Petty. Despite the fact that a former crew chief sits in the infield, this booth chemistry just does not click.

The subject of much media coverage this summer has been the commercials. Despite the fact that amount did not increase, the long green flag runs and the awareness of fans through social media has changed the landscape. No longer are fans willing to miss one-third of the racing while staring at the same commercials over and over again for three hours. That was made clear after the Kentucky Speedway disaster featuring the brawling Kentucky Fried Chicken family.

The buzz in TV town is that TNT may not return for 2013. There are two more seasons left on the existing NASCAR TV contract but FOX has been making lots of noise about wanting additional races. The six TNT races are the only ones possibly in question. Turner Sports has just sold back to NASCAR all the sport's digital rights, including operating the NASCAR.com website and controlling all the online audio and video footage.

Should TNT care to sell the remaining two seasons of summer coverage to FOX, it could walk away with a pretty penny and end all ties with the sport. Over the years, TNT never carried any of the qualifying or practice sessions. There has never been a NASCAR weekly show on the network. It just might be the right time to walk away.

This season will also find negotiations being done on the sport's TV coverage starting in 2015. Without the digital connections, there is little reason to expect that TNT will be a part of that new package.

It is unfortunate that the network's 2012 coverage will go out with a thud. New Hampshire is a track position race that focuses on pit stops and fuel mileage. Combined with the casual style of the TV booth, this one could be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Goodbye TNT, it certainly was interesting.

This post will serve to host your pre-race and race comments. There will be a new post up for your opinion after the race telecast is done. We live chat on Twitter during the race using the #TDP1 hashtag. Please join us. Comments here may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by.

NASCAR TV Makes The Turn

It's that time of the year once again. The final weekend for TNT is coming up, the FOX portion of the season is a distant memory and soon ESPN will take over for the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races.

So, where are you on the NASCAR TV coverage at the halfway point of the season?

It was Darrell Waltrip welcoming his brother Michael to the Hollywood Hotel and putting Jeff Hammond outside looking in that started the year. The Waltrips were the dominant TV voices for the sport during the NASCAR on FOX races. The network cannot get enough of these two and loved the fan reactions, both good and bad.

FOX also started the ball rolling on the fan backlash over TV commercials. With all the real-time information now available on various social media sources, fans became acutely aware of just how much content was being missed while FOX was in commercial. To add insult to injury, when FOX went to the side-by-side commercial format in the final hour of each telecast, the live video box often featured the car or driver starring in the commercial playing alongside.

TNT arrived with the promise of being different and delivered. While the network's telecasts featured top flight pit reporting, the complete lack of excitement and attention to the actual racing from the TV booth made these telecasts very different. It was not in a good way.

Pre-show host Lindsay Czarniak left for ESPN last year and TNT chose to replace her by asking play by play man Adam Alexander to double-up. Alexander hosts the entire one-hour pre-race show and then moves to the broadcast booth and calls the races. While at home during the pre-race, Alexander has sounded out of sync with Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. on race coverage.

TNT picked up the momentum of FOX's commercial overload and drove that point home just like a stake into the hearts of NASCAR fans watching on TV. With roughly one-third of the racing action taking place while TNT is in commercial, the anger boiled over at Kentucky Speedway when a Kentucky Fried Chicken advertising buy had Junior wrestling Pop Pop over side orders for three straight hours.

While this anger peaked with several mainstream media articles on the topic, TNT once again saved the day with the Wide Open coverage from Daytona. This time, commercials appeared in a small video box while the live racing action rolled-on in the background. With so much green flag racing this season, it made a huge difference.

In Daytona, TNT learned of AJ Allmendinger's suspension for a failed drug test about an hour before the pre-race show. The producer chose to let viewers watch eleven minutes of the scripted program before offering even a basic report on this breaking story. TNT may know drama, but they certainly do not know how to handle a breaking news story in this format.

The fuel mileage and track position race on the flat track at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend will be the network's final event for 2012. There is a buzz going around that TNT may not return after the existing contract ends in 2014. The bigger buzz is that FOX wants those six TNT races.

Turner Sports larger agenda with NASCAR was operating the sport's official website and owning the digital (online) rights to all NASCAR footage. Now, after paying a hefty fee, NASCAR regained control of those assets for 2013. Without RaceBuddy, the online pay services and the digital integration of content it may not make sense for TNT to even return for the final two seasons of it's limited race package.

ESPN is geared up to make a return at the Brickyard 400 with all of the familiar faces in place. Once the network steps back in, NASCAR suddenly regains a place on shows like SportsCenter and the ESPNEWS network. ESPN lives for hype these days and nothing fits that mold better than the Chase.

Allen Bestwick will be a wonderful change of pace from Adam Alexander, but what ESPN brings is baggage from five seasons of struggling to reconnect with the sport. The formality of ESPN is out of place in the NASCAR world. ESPN's format of focusing on the Chase to the detriment of other teams is well known.

As the teams take to the track Friday for practice and qualifying, perhaps you could summarize your season of watching the Sprint Cup Series telecasts this year. To add your opinion on this topic, just click below. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

AJ Allmendinger: The Bomb Has Dropped

New came out shortly after 2PM ET Wednesday in the form of a statement from AJ Allmendinger's business manger.

"In an effort to help our colleagues in the media report on this in a timely and accurate manner, we wanted to provide some additional details regarding AJ’s sample “A” test results.

AJ tested positive for a stimulant. He has no idea why the first test was positive, and he has never knowingly taken any prohibited substance. AJ is collecting his medicines and supplements for testing to determine whether an over the counter product caused his positive test.

AJ and all of us at Walldinger Racing respect NASCAR's testing program, and he has requested that his "B" sample be tested as part of the process of getting to the bottom of this. We will have the opportunity to review all of the scientific data surrounding the test following the "B" sample test, but our understanding is that AJ's test was slightly above the threshold.

As of this morning, we have not been given notice of when the testing of the “B” sample will take place. Thanks again for all of the support of our fans, team, and sponsors as we continue working through the process.”

This was from Tara Ragan, the vice president of Walldinger Racing, Inc. That is the name of Allmendinger's personal business.

Allmendinger has said that he was blindsided and shell-shocked by this result. One of the constant sponsors this season for Allmendinger has been the energy power shot called "Fuel in a Bottle." This controversial product also features former wrestler Ric Flair as an endorser. The distributor is BYB Brands of Charlotte, NC.

The powershot is far above most others on the market in the combination of ingredients. Click here to see the website and read about the amount of stimulants in the product. There is no information that "Fuel in a Bottle" was the culprit in terms of the violation, but Allmendinger is reportedly careful about his overall health and fitness.

Click here for a video where Allmendinger talks about and actually takes the product. The statement released Wednesday seems to eliminate dangerous illegal drugs and alcohol from the picture. This is a positive step as Allmendinger seeks to return to NASCAR competition.

There we no more official announcements about this topic made on Wednesday. Sam Hornish continued his media tour campaigning for the #22 ride and Joey Logano replaced Allmendinger at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway fan fest, setting off a flurry of comments that he be a candidate for the #22 next season.

This entire situation is being handled quite professionally by all parties and it may ultimately serve as the model to deal with this type of violation for a driver in the future. Happy to have your opinion on this topic.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting For The Bomb To Drop (Updated)

The media watch is on as AJ Allmendinger's "B" sample is analyzed by the Aegis Lab. The items of interest that have been reported include the fact that Allmendinger had an opportunity to meet with the NASCAR Medical Review Officer (MRO) to explain the "A" sample results prior to NASCAR officials being notified.

That would suggest that Allmendinger was either unable to offer a suitable explanation, was unclear as to the nature of the violation or believed that an error had been made. Now that a second test has been requested, the motorsports and mainstream media is waiting for the potential bomb to drop.

Tuesday evening on SPEED's RaceHub show host Steve Byrnes and analyst Bob Dillner surfaced the topic of Allmendinger having a tough time handling some issues within his domestic life. Dillner used the word divorce while Byrnes made it clear a driver's personal issues should be off-limits.

Dillner had exchanged phone texts with Allmendinger and stated that the driver had expressed frustration about not being able to address the situation publicly, but that he would wait until the second analysis was completed before making a comment. It was suggested that perhaps Team Penske played a major role in that decision.

Shortly after the Race Hub program concluded, Allmendinger's mother Karen offered this on Twitter. It may be the most up to date comment on the situation. "One thing I can state, without a doubt in my mind, is that AJ would never, ever take an illegal drug," she tweeted.

Over on ESPN's NASCAR Now program, analyst Ray Evernham refused to pass judgement until the results of the second test were in. He simply said there would come at time when Allmendinger would have to answer to NASCAR, Penske and ultimately himself on this issue.

The growing frustration in the media and fan base is a familiar one. Simply not knowing the violation in these days of real time social media like Twitter and Facebook leads to speculation and gossip. From Allmendinger's endorsement of Fuel in a Bottle power shots to rumors about spotters knowing there was an ongoing issue are already being batted around on fan forums.

Certainly NASCAR's hope is that this issue can be resolved before the weekend of racing begins in New Hampshire. Heading into the weekend without answers to very fundamental questions will twist the media focus from racing to NASCAR's substance abuse policies. The bottom line is that fans want answers.

On Wednesday, NASCAR Chairman Brian France will appear on the NASCAR Now program at 2:30PM on ESPN2. Host Nicole Briscoe is not shy about asking the tough questions and it will be interesting to see just what the France agenda is on this visit. He may be promoting another topic, but the elephant in the room will surely be discussed at some point.

Update #1: Been informed by NASCAR that the France interview was recorded on Friday in Daytona. It will be Ryan McGee and Brad Daugherty as the reporter and analyst on the show Wednesday.

Update #2: Been informed that the France interview was done by reporter Marty Smith and will be rescheduled for next week due to the amount of breaking news in the sport.

Allmendinger has been a feature reporter for NASCAR Now this season. He prepares a weekly piece produced at the track that focuses on behind the scenes topics that are a bit off-beat. In the past, he has also appeared on SPEED's Race Hub and is a very TV-friendly presence.

Currently the information blackout being enforced by NASCAR, Penske and Allmendinger has proven to be effective in keeping speculation to a minimum. Once the results of the second test are in, there is still no guarantee that information on the specific violation will be disclosed. Ultimately, it is up to Allmendinger.

The entire spectrum of possibilities exist at present from complete reinstatement to an indefinite suspension. To see the career of any elite athlete dangle by a lab result is distressing, but the reality of motorsports is very different from the stick and ball world. Steroids, Human Growth Hormone and blood doping don't make drivers go faster.

The real concern is that a driver may be altered while in the car. That sobriety is the baseline for fair play and that accidents just happen while racing is the very foundation of the sport. Just the perception that this principle may have been violated keeps the gossip wheel spinning.

After Wednesday's NASCAR Now, SPEED returns with a 6PM edition of Race Hub. All eyes will be on these two programs as the ongoing saga continues to unfold. We will update news on this post as it happens.

Please feel free to continue our discussion on the media coverage of this situation. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mayfield Media Mayhem A Vivid Memory (Updated)

Tuesday noon ET statement from Allmendinger: "I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the 'B' sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR's 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR's drug usage policy and the reasons they have it.

I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans.

Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug."

Tuesday AM Update: "We're standing behind (AJ) until we understand the results," said Roger Penske to the SiriusXM Radio's Morning Drive show. Still no timetable on results of "B" sample.

Anthony James Allmendinger is a health conscious professional athlete. He is a feature reporter for ESPN's NASCAR Now TV program. He is a media darling because of his polite manners and infectious smile. Now, he is a poster boy for NASCAR's infamous and secretive substance abuse policy.

On Monday Allmendinger made the move and formally requested that the "B" sample of his Kentucky Speedway urine test be analyzed. This is a big step. Instead of quietly meeting with NASCAR to address the violation, Allmendinger's actions make the statement that he believes the original analysis was wrong.

This move opens the door once again to a reaction from the mainstream media that will put NASCAR's procedures under a microscope. The painful memories of the Jeremy Mayfield fiasco included confusing policies, too many spokesmen and NASCAR shooting itself in the foot time and time again.

These days NASCAR has the new Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) department that handles this type of situation. While not in place for the start of the Mayfield mess, the IMC has quietly handled the announcement and subsequent actions that came from drug policy suspensions of other NASCAR license holders without incident.

SPEED's Danielle Trotta reported on the Race Hub show that Allmendinger left town early Monday in a private plane from the Concord Airport. The most recent statement from Penske Racing again contains nothing but a confirmation that no information will be released anytime soon. NASCAR is silent.

All of this is in stark contrast to the Mayfield situation which quickly turned into a media sideshow. It made that transition because information from all the parties involved was made public in chunks. Just like dominoes, a statement from one party seemed to then require the next party to immediately respond. While it made for great entertainment, it really served no useful purpose for the sport.

At this time, only the motorsports media is chasing this story. Should Allmendinger choose to remain silent until his "B" sample results are in, the next few days should be calm. It will then be up to Allmendinger to set the tone. If those subsequent results cause him to be released from Penske, the situation may become quite different in a hurry. Especially if he feels victimized, the media may become his outlet for that message.

NASCAR's substance abuse policy has been in place since 2009. Click here to review Jayski's page on violations and updates of that policy. The ultimate question raised every time is whether or not the actual violation should be made public. Click here for an opinion on that topic from AP motorsports reporter Jenna Fryer. She believes that information should be announced along with the violation.

Dietary supplements, sleep aids and no alcohol 12 hours before a race are just three of the more interesting items that would cause the same policy violation announcement as sinister drugs like heroin and methamphetamine. The argument for making public the actual violation at the time of the original suspension certainly holds some weight.

Just as we did with Mayfield, we will be keeping an eye on the TV and media coverage of the Allmendinger situation. Monday, both ESPN's NASCAR Now and SPEED's Race Hub passed along timely news using Charlotte area reporters assigned to the story.

The fastest information source to date has been social media text service Twitter. Before stories are written or TV segments recorded, Allmendinger information has been made public as the rush to be first online continues. Both Allmendinger and his wife Lynne have not used their Twitter accounts since the violation was made public.

We will see what Tuesday brings and update those news items right on this post. In the meantime, feel free to offer your opinion about the media coverage of this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Race Wrap: Sprint Cup Series From Daytona On TNT

Saturday night in Daytona proved to be both a frustrating and exciting experience for TV viewers. Frustrating due to the restrictor plate racing, but exciting due to the "Wide Open" style of coverage.

TNT chose to hold the breaking news of AJ Allmendinger's suspension until ten minutes into the one-hour pre-race show. The arrival of substitute driver Sam Hornish was documented, but no NASCAR or Team Penske spokesperson was interviewed. Instead, a statement was read on-air by the TNT announcers.

The racing involved the typical superspeedway struggle of an outside line of cars trying to get up and pass the lower lane on a track with fresh pavement. Most incidents happened not from real racing, but from blown tires, a pack of cars trying to pit and even on pit road. The big mess happened very late.

Racing aside, TNT's "Wide Open" coverage was perfectly timed. Fans had been screaming about full-screen commercials and the loss of racing action all season long. The final hour of side by side commercials on FOX had turned into a disaster when the director framed the cars being featured in the TV ads. TNT had no side by side commercials in the first four races, but offered the online RaceBuddy as an alternative.

Saturday night's coverage featured commercial messages, many of them custom-made, played in a video box on the screen that let fans continue to see the racing. Only the local commercial breaks from the cable TV companies were still full-screen. It was the type of video presentation that NASCAR needs to adopt quickly.

Adam Alexander's style is not to call the traditional play by play, but to lead Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Kyle Petty in a casual discussion. Perhaps, the call of an experienced lead announcer would have served to establish a level of excitement during the race that Alexander simply cannot build. Petty and Dallenbach are both former drivers, so the vast majority of the race is spent agreeing with each other on opinions.

TNT had a rough night with the graphics and the sync of the show. There were a ton of graphics in the show and the overload probably contributed to the situation. The sync of the pit reporters and commercial elements was not quite right. This is sometimes called "lip flap" in the business because the sound being heard does not match the lips of the person saying it. Tough technical night.

Update #1: Being told the HD feed on TNT was in sync. Seems the SD feed was experiencing the problems. Hope to get this updated shortly.

The sprint to the finish started with 13 laps to go. The pit reporters tried to contribute excitement, but going back to the TV booth was like throwing a wet blanket over the coverage. Alexander never raised his voice as the snarling pack came around with 10 laps to go at Daytona in the July night race. 8 laps remained when the first of two big accidents happened in the race.

The final restart resulted in a typical restrictor plate finish of pushing and shoving until a crash happened. Coverage at the line was the standard wideshot while the accident unfolded. The post-race was subdued and moved to the NASCAR website as it normally does with the TNT races.

The positive thing to take away from this telecast is that commercials can be inserted into a live race with only minimum interruption of the racing action. The TNT design of graphics and the commercial video box works well on TV and the screen remaining for the live race keeps viewers watching. It makes sense for NASCAR and the advertisers.

This post serves to host your opinion on the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

UPDATED: Sprint Cup Series From Daytona On TNT

Breaking News: AJ Allmendinger has failed a random drug test. AP reporter Jenna Fryer reporting Allmendinger was the random drug test after Kentucky and was informed today he failed. No substance was disclosed. At 6PM, NASCAR confirmed that Allmendinger's "A" sample of urine tested positive for a substance banned by the sport. He has the right to request the "B" sample be tested without question. More as it happens.....

It's a hot day in Daytona. Before the race, NASCAR fans who use Twitter gathered for a pre-race meeting called a "tweet-up." It's an opportunity to speak with many media members and sometimes special guests who attend. This time, rock group Train showed up after flying into town to perform in the pre-race show. Classy move on their part on a very hot day.

The executives at Turner have decided to simulcast the race tonight on TruTV along with the primary telecast on TNT. Tonight is the "Wide Open" coverage that features all the national commercials run in a side-by-side format that lets TV viewers see the race. The only time full-screen commercials appear is when the local cable TV companies go to break.

It was a tough week in Kentucky. Lots of commercials, long green flag runs and a rather lazy performance from the trio in the TV booth led to a lot of fan feedback. Little of it was good. Tony Stewart will join Adam Alexander, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds in the TNT infield stage before the race.

The Countdown to Green show has been solid this season as it uses the pit reporters, a featured interview an several edited features including the new "NASCAR Generations" discussion. Ned Jarrett, Bill Elliott and Jimmie Johnson talk about topics in an informal setting.

Alexander and Petty move upstairs to call the race with Wally Dallenbach Junior. This trio is very different and while Petty continually offers opinions, Alexander does not call the race in the traditional manner and Dallenbach is long since removed from the sport. It's a combination that rarely offers excitement.

The pit reporters have been solid. Chris Neville, Marty Snider, Ralph Sheheen and Matt Yocum are veterans who have worked in many different roles in the TV world. This crew works hard to supply information and excitement but often when Alexander returns the conversation quickly returns to low-key.

If there was ever a combination of ingredients that could get TNT back on the right track, Daytona can provide it. If the racing is sharp then fans can tolerate a lot. If long green flag runs become the order of the day, then expect to hear the groans begin. As much as TV can surround an event, it is the action provided by the athletes that dictates the excitement level.

We are going to be live tweeting the race on Twitter using the #TDP1 hashtag. Please consider joining us. Twittter is easy, most NASCAR personalities are on it and we talk with media members and fans about the TV coverage as it happens. There will be a new post up for your comments after the race, in the meantime please feel free to leave any opinions on this page about the TV coverage today.

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TruTV Daytona Simulcast Aimed At New Fans

Of course Lizard Lick Towing is fake. Ronnie Shirley and his wife Amy were originally cast on the reality TV show Wife Swap. Once the TV producers saw the interesting elements in their lives, the shift was on to build a reality show around these colorful characters. TruTV calls the mixing of real people with scripted action "actuality." That is an admission that acting is at the core of the series.

This approach of blurring reality has been a gold mine for TruTV and the parent Turner organization. A significant number of TV viewers could care less about what is real and what is not. They just want to be entertained.

Now, a new programming element is on the way to the loyal viewers of "actuality" series like Operation Repo, South Beach Tow and Hardcore Pawn. It's NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

Saturday night TruTV will simulcast sister network TNT's live presentation of the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona. The simulcast will include the pre-race show that features the musical group Train. Also, Turner-owned HLN will have morning anchor Robin Meade hosting interviews and then singing the National Anthem.

Veteran fans may remember it was an appearance by Carl Edwards on HLN's Morning Express program weeks ago when he "asked" if Meade could come to Daytona and sing the anthem. It seemed ironic that ESPN's rising on-air star Edwards was on a Turner network participating in his own "actuality" moment.

The Daytona race brings the annual "Wide Open" coverage that replaces the vast majority of the commercials with side-by-side style commercial messages, additional advertising logos and graphics within the race itself. This change comes on the heels of perhaps the worst NASCAR commercial disaster in the past five years.

The memories of Pop Pop and Junior wrestling over the side-order menu from Kentucky Fried Chicken is permanently burned into the brains of many NASCAR fans. One-third of the actual time of the race was covered by commercials. What made it worse was the exact same commercials repeated endlessly.

Throw in one of the tracks on the "cookie cutter" list and a less than inspired effort from the TV booth and the result was a fan backlash that spread through social media and NASCAR websites. The TNT package is just six races and the results have always been mixed. This time, the mixture has been rather potent.

Daytona offers the network an opportunity to use the holiday, the setting and the racing to escape the past few weeks. Meade is a well-known on-air presence and has a great relationship with the armed forces through her HLN features. Daytona is the right place for the sport to put on a good show and all signs point to the most popular driver being in the mix. A more race-focused effort from the booth would be a topper.

There are no different production elements in the TruTV simulcast. What the folks are Turner are doing is just exposing a live sport to a new audience. Those loyal TruTV viewers who do not watch sports get an exciting race in primetime on a Saturday night. TNT's regular programming is very different from TruTV and this is a positive move.

Tony Stewart will be the special guest on the TNT set. Adam Alexander and Kyle Petty will once again do double-duty working on the pre-race show and then moving upstairs to call the action. Larry McReynolds will remain in the infield as Wally Dallenbach Jr. joins Petty and Alexander in the booth.

This is the big one for the NASCAR on TNT package. While the Lizard Lick gang showed up for the first TNT race, there is nothing to indicate that they are headed for Daytona. But as we all know, anything can happen because it's actuality, not reality.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Race Wrap: TNT From Kentucky Speedway (Updated)

Update: Kyle Petty returned to Twitter and the social media world on Monday. Just taking a short break I was told by the TNT PR staff. Glad to have him back for the Daytona race.

The TV night started with fans asking about Kyle Petty. Known for his Twitter use before and during the live TNT races, Petty's Twitter account was gone. As this is written, the Turner PR folks are working on a statement about why this happened. Being Twitter-friendly and interactive is the cornerstone of the TNT coverage.

There was no bad weather in Kentucky, but plenty of commercials raining down on TV viewers. The commercial total will be posted at the CawsnJaws.com website as soon as possible for you to view. This was the central theme of the fans watching on TV as it was tough to view the race in short segments between commercial breaks.

Adam Alexander hosted the pre-race show with Petty and Larry McReynolds. Kasey Kahne made a very polished appearance on the infield set for an interview. One feature followed Denny Hamlin on a sponsor-related trip to Alaska. Kevin Harvick's crew provided the pre-race audio feature. Another "NASCAR Generations" segment also aired featuring Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Ned Jarrett.

Alexander then moved upstairs with Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Petty. Matt Yocum, Chris Neville, Marty Snider and Ralph Sheheen were the pit reporters. McReynolds stayed in the infield with his cutaway car and strategy updates.

The race had long green flag runs, lots of pit strategy and track position as the key. This style of racing is familiar to fans. The style of TNT is casual with lots of conversation and almost no traditional play by play coverage. It is a style they have used for years. The pit reporters hustled, but often they provided the most excited commentary. The final few laps once again had conversation about everything but the race itself.

This post is intended to allow you to offer a wrap-up of the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Kentucky Speedway. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by.