Monday, August 20, 2012

Race Wrap: Sprint Cup Series From Michigan On ESPN

It was not the day that contenders like Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin or Joey Logano had in mind. Instead of a total fuel mileage race as we have seen in the past, Sunday's race contained an interesting mix of stories from start to finish.

Nicole Briscoe worked hard with her trio of Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham to create some interesting pre-race content. Rusty called out Jeff Gordon, Daugherty tried to explain his car oiling down Watkins Glen and Evernham once again stood head and shoulders above them both. It was muted, but had potential.

During the race, NASCAR Now Lead Reporter Marty Smith appeared on-camera to toss-up a topic for discussion that originated from a viewer tweet. It was a twist that perhaps tipped off the fact that ESPN is moving toward an interactive environment to solve the issue of fans feeling left out of the coverage.

Allen Bestwick was joined by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree to call the race. Petree has emerged as the dominant analyst as Jarrett has simply faded into the background. Bestwick is the master of keeping things in order and has eliminated any confusion during the races that happened with both Jerry Punch and Marty Reid in that role.

The pit reporters were again solid, with Jerry Punch handling some key interviews with his normal style and grace. Having a senior person among the pit road team makes a lot of difference. As ESPN heads into the Chase, Punch is going to have a key role with interviews of the top contenders.

ESPN was outstanding in using a split-screen for green flag pitstops. The network replayed the incidents that were missed and seemed to give up the scripted approach and just covered the race for the final 50% of the telecast. The problem continues to be the tendency to zoom-in when any race fan wants TV to zoom-out and let the racing be seen.

The ticker continues to be the source of information for fans of drivers not in the top ten. This has to change. Field recaps can be done in minutes and there are plenty of minutes available where the network currently follows the leader. Each driver in the race has fans and they should all be respected.

The late drama of Jimmie Johnson's motor failure left the network in position for an exciting finish and Bestwick got the most he could out of the final three laps. The director allowed viewers to see some of the lead lap cars cross the finish, but it could have been so much better. In the end, NASCAR got some great storylines to build on as the sport heads for the Chase.

We invite your opinion on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Michigan. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.


Unknown said...

Why does ESPN stink at coverage of the races? By now they really need to listen to the fans. Take note NASCAR head honchos, we the fans are not happy.

Kevin said...

In the post-race interview, Dr. Jerry Punch got the race winner to admit that it doesn't matter if you are leading in the points standings at this point of the season.

Maybe there is an opportunity to provide an incentive for leading in the point standings. Stick and ball sports provide home field advantage, byes, and inferior competition to make the "regular season" important.

Would have been nice to hear more about the 93, who if I remember correctly, ran 1st/2nd during pit stops and wasn't mentioned, and finished 15th (a great finish for that team) and wasn't interviewed while Kenseth's 17th place finish earned an interview.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Overall better, but ESPN leaves room for improvement ...pit studio muchly improved with Ray Everham's insightful comments ...Dr Punch ever the class of the field in the pits ...Andy Petree at the forefront among analysts ...Allen Bestwick, enough said, class of the PxP field ...some shots better, but in-car not used effectively ...suprising and welcome longer shot of finish line ...HMS woes harkens back to bad 'batch of valve springs' for JGR ...ESPN missed opportunity for post-race from HMS on motor woes ...JJ no better than anyone else with bailout at end ...and didn't see Chad approached

RobertWichert said...

Excellent coverage, thanks in large part to Allen Bestwick. I would still argue that "commercial cautions" could work during the first half of the race at least.

No repeat commercials that I saw. Unheard of!

Buschseries61 said...

I only saw the first 100 laps of the race before doing other things. Like I said in the previous blog post, it was nice to see things actually going on during the race rather than lead announcer and pit reporters filling air space.

I like this booth trio. Allen and Andy are great. Jarrett can be very politically correct and tend to fade, but maybe this is the right balance for this booth combo. Bob and Benny were the dominant voices for ESPN in the 90's, but Ned spoke exactly when he needed to and added great insight.

When ESPN followed the racing in the pack, they caught sideways cars, 3 wide racing, and some wrecks live. It took a few years for them to learn this.

The infield is the usual stuff like Rusty doesn't always make sense or why is Brad still sitting there. I really don't miss Tim Brewer and his toys, it was just 1 set too many.

Dr. Punch remains the strongest of the pit reporters. I like Mike, no comment about the rest.

Overall, no complaints about the first 100 laps.

Online, I tried RaceBuddy for the first time in weeks. I was disappointed that each mosaic offered just 1 camera that was not an incar. Tight shots and incar overload on the tv broadcasts was the reason people flocked to RaceBuddy (and escaping TNTs commercials of course).

Jake(Coffeeshop42) said...

Wow,one of the best MIS races ever.Unforunately,Race Buddy had the worst day ever,i give up on it about halfway through,there were so many problems i can't even remember all of them.Just hellish to watch without Hotpass.Thankfully ESPN's(IMO)coverage of the end was better than usual.Finally,after all the tepid racing we've had 2 pretty good races.That's the good news.The better news is that we've got 3 great tracks coming up that have good racing before the chase.The bad news is the Hotpass situation,the fact that Turner has bailed on the Race Buddy in every figurative way,and despite the decent finish today,the continual insistence by ESPN to try to make the race a soap opera rather than letting the action play out.If neither of the former 2 things change(which i would'nt bet on)the onus will be on ESPN more than ever to bring good coverage,which isn't a very comforting thought.Welcome back JD,hope you enjoyed your vacation.

Angie said...

Honestly, this was just a typical ESPN broadcast. Frequent commercial breaks that seemed to occur while a caution was happening on track. While we were able to see the action, we were treated to a 1 or 2 car shot. Woo Hoo- exciting! On a personal note. I'd like to see RW go. I'm burned out on him in the studio. He's out of touch and I just can't listen to him any longer.

Joj said...

JD - you were much nicer about espn than I can or care to be. The only thing worse than the race in replay mode espn stays in was RaceBuddy today. I bailed to MRN,for the race & watched Moto over on SPEED. Since Tonys day was done early, along with dang near everyone else I care about I turned off the dvr & cooked dinner.

James said...

The addition of Ray back to the set has been a delight. He is as invested in the sport as the rest, however, he chooses not to act as a spokesperson for any particular car or make, he calls it like he sees it and is not shy when pressed about what he feels is wrong. The crowd speaks volumes for the state of the sport, the camera angles are used to deflect the empty seats. The booth tries its best to keep the fans abreast of the action, even when commercials interrupt the coverage, as the world leader in replays. The direction is lacking, but what else is new, maybe we need BZF to hire a few more marketing folks instead of attending the events HIMSELF and showing some LEADERSHIP. It appears things in the garage are not so “rosy”, probably due to the sponsorship woes being felt by most teams across all three series. The lone negative in the booth has to be DJ, he has become the polar opposite of DW. As nice a guy as he is, booth duty is not just hanging with AB and AP. Maybe HE can be trained as a DIRECTOR, at least HE has the background for the sport.

Jimm57 said...

ESPN decide to show only the two lead cars the last lap. You cannot tell me that there were other cars battling for position, and getting loose. I was screaming so loud for the director to take another camera shot that I really believed he could hear me. But

Bright spot for me was when the 48 blew up :-)

Dot said...

The first thing BSPN needs to do is can Rusty & Brad. Replace them permanently with Ricky Craven and Ray E.

The next thing BSPN needs to do is get out of the inside of the cars. We don't need the view from the backseat, the bumpers or the roof.

The Planeteers have gotten things changed in the past, hopefully someone up the food chain is paying attention to us now.

Anonymous said...

Thought I would check out the race today (haven't been watching because the camera/director work has been so crappy - had to keep it family friendly). They were showing 3 wide racing! Wow! They went to a roof cam. I turned it off. MC

Jonathan said...

WOW Espn came through today! Great coverage a big turn around for them! I have a feeling some will never be satisfied with the coverage no matter what there shown. This was one of the best races in terms of tv coverage. Heck go watch Julys race from Michigan and compair it to todays coverage. LEAPS AND BOUNDS over TNT and FOX. Allen, DJ, and Andy are awsome!!!! In July when JR won Adam A sounded like he was calling a golf game not a race.....
Night and Day thanks ESPN


Jonathan said...

oh and Jim its the last lap what do you wanna see the 15th, 20th, and 30th place cars???????

Imagine the backlash the Olympics would get if on the last lap of a race they showed the 10th place runner????????

Isnt going to happen, but I have to say during the race ESPN did a good job of covering many cars throughout the field but im sorry were not getting anything but the front when it comes down to the last lap I dont care what network covers it

Daly Planet Editor said...


As you know from our discussions over the years, the true NASCAR story is often not the winner of the race, but what is happening in the field behind the leader.

This is the point that has been lost on ESPN for the past six seasons and the reason the final laps of most ESPN races make little sense to fans of the sport.

I understand that you have never rooted for one favorite driver only to have him cut-off from TV because he was not the leader on the final lap.

The point is that many others find themselves in exactly that position week after week with ESPN and it makes absolutely no sense.

The race does not end when the winner crosses the finish line.


Anonymous said...

hmm, was there racebuddy for grand-am yesterday? I had today's cup race on racebuddy earlier, never closed tab. For some recent decided to see if replay was still active, so scrolled back near midway point, and I had 10 minutes of Grand Am Montreal racing, 3 on boards and a track view. I am not joking about this, an attempt to go full screen on board took me out of it and back to MIS racebuddy, clearly a glitch, but did I stumble across something suggesting future plans, or is it already known grand am uses racebuddy?

Jeff said...

I thought the coverage was pretty good again. It's great to hear Allen B call the race and not get over powered by his partners in the booth. I agree with most of you that the in car camera needs to go or at least just used on replays. I really don't see why they need Rusty and Brad in the pit me they just don't add anything to the race. Actually, all of them could go if you ask me. The ESPN coverage has been the best so far to me. Get rid of in cars and stick with some wider shots and I would be really happy.

Jonathan said...

JD I hear you we should see every car on the lead lap cross the finish line. But when it comes down to the last lap the leaders should always be shown. Unless the leader is way ahead and there is a great battel for say 2nd - 5th
then thats a different story and I have seen ESPN do that before.

I wanna comment on your comment of"the true NASCAR story is often not the winner of the race, but what is happening in the field behind the leader" This is so true but that goes out the window on the last lap, im sorry those guys up front are going at it for the win on the last lap. We have all race and the post race to go over whats going on throughout the field.... Many people complain about points racing and how there not racing for the win and how every race should be about winning... Well on the last lap TV should be showing us the leaders and the focus on winning cause thats what racing is all about... As Dale Sr. would say 2nd is the first loser so why would we be showing the losers on the last lap if winning is what this sport is all about!? I feel you yes show every car on the lead lap cross the start finish line but dont show me whats going on in 25th place on the last lap. we have all the laps before the last one for that.... just my take...

Dale Jr is my favorite as you know but if hes in 30th place on the last lap why would I wanna see that??? Now if hes in 6th and there 3 wide and the leader is ahead go for it show it.. but if hes 3 wide going for 30th why do I wanna see that on the last lap????? Now once the leaders cross the line go ahead so me how hard there going at it thats all good

Anonymous said...

Czarniak on NASCAR Now "JJ was unhappy with his car in practice so decided to change the engine"

Briscoe "JJ has not won at a road race"

R Wallace "JR gets a mulligan for the spin out at Watkins Glen because he spun out in the oil"

So much misinformation. Do they have cue cards or come up with this stuff themselves. This is just a small sample of what I can remember now.

And the "casual fan" believes what they say.

Anonymous said...

Coverage was a lot better than usual. Saw more of the field, wider shots, less in-cams. Everyone has their own preference, but you got a better idea of the race.

Racebuddy has been a useless joke for both Cup and NW races.

I'd say the Cup coverage left me with a far better idea of midpack racing than what I've seen on NW.

Maybe they're trying to make some changes, finally. I can only hope.

Anonymous said...

So I switched channels and the race had already started.Got hungry so went to the kitchen to make 2 sandwiches.Washed hands,prepared bread,put meat and cheese in micro,washed utinsels,poured milk,put sandwiches together and sat down in front of t.v.Started during a brake,took about 5-6 minutes total.
So I counted 3 commercial brakes during that time.

AveryNH said...

Fantastic coverage today. I was set for a boring fuel mileage race but today Michigan spiced things up on us and gave us another gem. I stupidly went to speed to check on the MOTOgp race came back and saw my man Mark Martin Hung up on pit wall. His interview was great tho. You could tell he was just honored to be driving what was easily the fastest car. Pit strategy was interesting And Andy kept us all in the know. Exciting finish tho. Sucks to see jj blow up. But glad to see a Ford win at Michigan for roush again. Solid B effort today from ESPN. Very refreshing

Paul said...

I actually thought this race was well-presented. It could be because I was relying on RaceBuddy, Twitter, and the race page at Racing-Reference to stay up to speed. Nonetheless, nothing about the presentation bothered me.

I was a little disturbed by how many times they replayed Mark Martin's crash and was annoyed by the no mentioning of Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland all race long despite their great lead lap finishes. Other than that, no complaints, but like I said, I wasn't paying attention the entire time.

The Loose Wheel said...

What stood out to me was the final pit stop after Trevor Bayne blew a tire. The top 3 cars came to pit road, odd balls if you will. Menard, Landon Cassil and Travis Kvapil. ESPN didn't mention them once during their stops. They rather followed Sam Hornish Jr. Not that it wasn't good to do that, it was. Just felt like they showed some disrespect to those cars at that moment.

All-in-all it wasn't a terrible day. Brad and Rusty botched their pre-race, Evernham again shined as usual. Missed alot during commercials, but appreciated the many angles of Mark's wreck. Man, we were lucky that wasn't a worse situation. Easily could have been tragic if he hit 2 feet further up or down the car.

Pretty much a B- day for me.

Side note my local provider lost ESPN and ESPN2 for about an hour from the end of the pre-race to about 25 laps into the race.

Nick said...

ESPN showed us the top 20 cars crossing the line at the finish which was a welcome change. I also liked how they followed Biffle to victory lane, to capture the "out of the car" moment naturally rather than holding the winner in the car until they are ready for him. I've been very pleased with ESPN this year. With AB on PxP especially, they are the class of the field this year. Of course they aren't perfect, but I've enjoyed their coverage thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

Small but significant thing that ESPN missed today, and something that, in its old regime of coverage probably would have been noted
Late in the race, the 48 in-car showed JJ reaching up and turning on the engine cooling fan switches! Engine running too hot on a super speedway? Precursor to the engine failure?

ESPN could have looked VERY smart, but once again, failed to attain the platinum level of coverage they delivered back in the Bob Jenkins/Benny Parsons days

Daly Planet Editor said...


It's not mutually exclusive and that is the point.

There is absolutely no problem in showing the leaders racing to the line and then showing the remainder of the lead lap cars racing to the finish.

The trucks have done this for the past six years without incident for every race.


Jayhawk said...

Every time there are two cars are racing for position ESPN switches to an in-car or, even worse, bumper camera. They do realize that the driver needs a spotter to know where the other car is because he CAN'T SEE ANYTHING FROM INSIDE THE CAR, right? So why do they switch to a camera that is where the driver is, WHO CAN'T SEE? What part of that is difficult to figure out?

What's even worse is when they have one of those idiotic shots where we are looking at the hood of a car from one foot away, can see nothing but that hood ornamentation bobbing up and down, and the announcer says, "That is an awesome shot." ?!?

GinaV24 said...

I was really annoyed with the "countdown" mostly because I felt like Rusty and Brad both have been unfairly critical of Gordon over the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure how Rusty can say Jeff isn't "focused". I've never seen his team have so many mechanical or just plain stupid things happen to them in one year. Did he have a car good enough to win on Sunday? I don't know for sure, but until the valve spring broke, it looked as if he had a chance to get a top 10 and considering the issues that other teams using HMS engines had, it wasn't just him.

It seemed to me that every time I looked at the TV, ESPN was in commercial. I was using trackpass and twitter to actually follow the race with ESPN as background.

Since I was annoyed that Gordon was going to have another poor finish, I stopped paying a lot of attention to the TV after that. I did come back toward the end and AB did a great job of calling the race.

Do I wish that all the TV partners would stop with all of the gimmicky camera stuff? Yes, absolutely. In car, bumper cam, toe cam, butt cam, whatever does absolutely nothing to show me what is going on in the race. Pull the cameras back and follow the action. AB can call the race and I could enjoy it then.

As I sent in one of my tweets, it is a sad statement that what I feel most often about NASCAR on TV these days is a combination of boredom and annoyance. Most "shows" that produce that reaction for me go off my tv viewing list.

I also thought it was interesting as I was continuing to follow twitter into last evening that several writers were commenting on "angry unhappy people" on twitter.

I tweeted back to them - it was Matt Taliarfero and Jeff Gluck I think - that it may be because there are a LOT of angry unhappy NASCAR fans out there. DW retreated from twitter last night (I don't follow him so I don't know what happened) since he was apparently getting hammered about something.

Twitter allows the fans to have a fast interactive method of talking to one another and although I truly doubt that anyone from NASCAR listens, it's out in public these days. I doubt very much that NASCAR and TPTB actually enjoy that much.

MRM4 said...

Did anyone catch Brad Daughtery's comments when talking about Johnson coming from the back when he said he's passed every car except those in front of him? Now that's some great insight.

Robert said...

Great camera work by the guy brave enough to continue to get the shot of Mark Martin's car sliding toward him. (I know that he was behind a concrete wall at the time but if it were me, I'd be scared.) Loved how Ray Evernham 'said it without saying it' to Rusty Wallace - that in fewer races, Jeff Gordon has 30 more wins that Wallace and three more championships than Wallace. Jeff Gordon doesn't lack focus; Rusty Wallace lacks on-air talent. Agree with the too-much in-car camera thing, too. It was fantastic when it debut with Benny Parsons in 1979 and still pretty neat (especially when paired with Cale Yarborough) for about 10 years starting in the mid-80s. Nowadays, ESPN overdoes it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't expect to watch an exciting race at Michigan and I wasn't disappointed. It seemed like it was a one lane groove the entire race and if you got up and out of the groove, you were in deep trouble. It's unfortunate that there are accidents while on commercial break, but Joey Logano hit the wall twice and they were way late on showing it. Thank God, Mark Martin was OK. I suspect that Nascar will be looking at all the tracks for exposed walls. Recently, I've vented here about the Technical incompetance shown by the talking heads and media covering Nascar. I just read an article by a top Nascar journalist that said that..."Jimmie Johnson dropped a valve spring..." What utter nonsense. The camshaft opens/closes each valve. There is an inner and an outer valve spring controlling the movement of the valve together with a retainer and two small locks that keep everything together. When either the inner or outter spring breaks, the two small locks can become dislodged which allows the valve to drop down and get hit by the piston destroying the engine. Valve springs break. Valves drop, but valve springs DON'T drop. Maybe I'm expecting too much from those at the top of my favorite Sport. The pre race gang is useless with the exception of Evernham.

GinaV24 said...

MRM, wow, no I didn't hear Brad say that, but then again, I try to not listen when Brad's moving his lips. As with Rusty, mostly that's just hot air moving in and out.

Anonymous said...

GinaV24 makes an excellent point about Brad. He says some really outrageous things without thinking. On the Almendinger situation, Brad made a lot of noise about drivers "shouldn't be allowed to take anything". There are a ton of legitimate reasons for a Doctor to prescribe medications. Brad must be free of allergies, bronchitis,etc,.etc.,etc.

Anonymous said...

I was driving between Kansas City and Dallas during the race. In the absence of a Sirius subscription we had to depend on finding a terrestrial station. Once the signal from KC faded we had nothing. Wow, the MRN/PRN affiliate sales team must really be hurting if they can't find stations to carry races in America's heartland. Enter my Sprint EVO phone. As luck would have it I had an auxiliary jack so I plugged one end into the phone, the other into the car's sound system and listened to MRN the rest of the race. They made it sound like one hell of a race and made a note of what laps they happened. So when I got home I brought up the DVR recording. Fast forwarded to Mark Martin's wreck, fast forwarded to the other things that sounded interesting. Some things I never found on the TV coverage and others weren't nearly as compelling as MRN made it sound.

Anonymous said...

The in-car communication between Jeff Gordon and Alan Gustafson clearly has them referring to dropping a valve spring. Not utter nonsense.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that anon 3:57 doesn't get that sports have 'expressions' for in football 'he's got a hamstring.' Well, of course he has one, we all do. But it's jargon. Just means it's 'she blowed up'.

Anonymous said...

Just checked the official results that NASCAR posted.

Seems they have Reutiman and Kyle Busch both driving the #18 Toyota.

Local newspaper had it correct, but how can the sanctioning body get that wrong?

Thanks Brian!


atd118 said...

I agree, I think A.P. has been outstanding. I truly enjoy listening to him

atd118 said...

Also, yes hats off to Jerry Punch, while sadly he did struggle as the play by play guy he has been a staple as a pit reporter. Over the years I have enjoyed the DR very much. It has been a pleasure to listen to him over the years.. he is a real class guy and a pleasure to listen to as a pit reporter over the years. I remember the old days at ESPN, Jerry was a huge part of that..