Sunday, September 23, 2012

Last Call For The 2012 Chase

Like most fans, I watch NASCAR races on TV. The Daly Planet blog is a project started back in 2007 to document how the races were presented by the new NASCAR TV partners. Back then there were new faces in new places and a lot of enthusiasm about the eight-year multi-billion dollar TV contract.

Now, six years later the very topic of NASCAR TV raises deep feelings and brings sharp comments. With the advent of social media many fans have strong opinions on everything from the TV production style to the amount of commercials in the races. Once again this season ESPN finds itself battling NFL football as it tries to make sense of NASCAR's playoff format.

The fundamental truth that has been a motto since this blog began was that TV was at the races to show viewers what the fans in the grandstands were watching. It's a simple concept. The idea is that the priorities of the TV producer, director and announcers were to "extend" the fan experience to those watching on TV.

After Chicagoland's lack of excitement, this week's race in New Hampshire is probably going to determine for some folks whether they watch the rest of the Chase live or switch to NFL football and record the racing. That is a valid question given the state of affairs in the sport right now. I find myself in that mix.

As we have said many times, ESPN paid the money and can present the Chase races as they see fit. That simply does not guarantee that fans will watch. The ultra-focus on the Chase to the point of ignoring the race is overwhelming. Every driver has fans. Those fans deserve to be informed regularly about their driver in a three hour telecast.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a flat track that in the past has seen little passing. Racing for position has come on restarts and pit road strategy and pit stops may well tell the tale. Contrast that with the local NFL hometeam playing a three hour game that stops for TV commercials, offers focused coverage of the on-field action and has the potential to generate excitement on every play.

The ESPN presentation of the Sprint Cup Series offers two cars on-camera at a time. Restarts are shown from in-car cameras and tight shots of the leader. Replays have been used for years to catch fans up on the actual racing and the incidents during the event. Rarely are stories like a fast car coming back through the field or a top driver struggling mid-pack reported.

All that was originally asked of TV when it was incorporated into NASCAR racing was that it bring the experience of being at the race to the viewer. ESPN has clearly shown that the network alone will decide what is important on the track, what information should be passed along and what topics should be mentioned.

Loudon is a litmus test for me. Even with the right announcers in place and all the top TV equipment at the ready, the ESPN producer and director have been reluctant to just show the best racing on the track and let the Chase settle itself after the race. The radio coverage does that. The fans in the stands do that.

If ESPN once again stumbles through a telecast dominated by the Chase storyline and meaningless tight shots of pairs of cars, it's over for me this season. The DVR is a great invention and that is where the remainder of the Sprint Cup Series races will go. I just can't watch a race without "watching" the racing.

It should be interesting to see how ESPN decides to produce this coverage. Ratings are lower in the NFL season and something needs to happen to make fans watch NASCAR this Sunday. Choosing pictures that reflect the best racing action instead of a continual focus on the Chase drivers would seem to be a viable solution.

Join us on Twitter using the #TDP1 hashtag as we live tweet the TV coverage of the race starting at 1PM ET. There is a ton of useful racing information on Twitter, including lots of team-specific content that never makes the race telecast. We will also take your race comments here and there will be a new post up when the telecast signs-off for your opinions.

Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Joj said...

As I sit watching the GP2 race waiting on F1 racing, I know later today I won't be trying to deal with the frustration of bad TV. I will listen on the radio, use Racebuddy & watch NFL.Brighthouse now has NFL channel.Finally.

I have been a race fan since 68 on my own & before that with my parents driving the family to races. So all those newbie fans who want to bash for not being a "true or real" fan can get a life. I will no longer invest, plan & put my life on hold for a sport that does not hold up their end of the bargain.

The bargain is as follows - the sport will give the product in this case racing of cars. I will be able to "watch" this product & know what is going on with out purchasing, using or working for it. I will not have to upgrade my computer, purchase a special radio or anything else. In return, I the consumer will buy Sponsor products, attend races as schedule & budget allow, & introduce others to said sport.

NASCAR took the money & ran, leaving us fans on the highway to hello. Last week was it UNCLE!
My driver (Tony) is still racing
this fan is not watching on tv. If NASCAR don't give a dingdong, why should I?

JD - thanks for all your work, I'll be checking in you are my Daly read. I just can't watch BZF & his clown posse kill my sport any more.

Anonymous said...

Move the Chase races to Saturday night. The complaint will be that not all Chase tracks are light equipped. Too bad. Re-arrange the Chase tracks or invest the $$$s.

Most of the college football games are over by then, and you don't compete with the NFL.

That doesn't change the way ESPN covers the race, but there's a better chance of live eyeballs watching the race.

Anonymous said...

Are you even a race fan John? I mean you run a somewhat successful blog that deals with a NASCAR subtopic yet you never go to the races and now you wont even watch them. If everyone in the media was as negative as you this sport would cease to exist.

How about instead of cowering in the corner having a pity party cause ESPN doesnt show the race the way you want too, send them emails. Call them. Go to the track and ask the tough questions. Do something other than quit. Your sheep follow you blindly on here. Maybe if you werent so defeatist and actually took action, your followers might do the same. If ESPN wont listen to 1 voice, maybe theyll listen to 50.

KoHoSo said...

Drat. I was going to skip Loudon but I guess I'll try not to if this could be it for the year (or maybe even forever?). With very few exceptions, the most fun thing for me during a NASCAR race over the past X years is being able to commiserate with my fellow Planeteers and make fun of the terrible ways our beloved (or, once-beloved) sport is treated.

Then again, I've been threatening to give up on NASCAR for a long time for the lackluster on-track product, the horrible TV coverage, and the general buffoonery that now comes from Daytona Beach. Maybe this is the push I need to finally say to heck with this since having both Waltrips and others tell me I'm not a real fan didn't do it.

I feel like we're at the "Wormer dropped the big one" part of Animal House but, worse yet, we don't have ten thousand marbles or a Deathmobile to go cause chaos during ESPN's parade and show them how it's done...or at least show one more finger to ESPN, Fox, TNT, and NASCAR before the seats and ratings points we all used to fill up will remain permanently empty.

As for you JD, no matter what you decide to do for the rest of this year and beyond, you were, are, and always will be the esteemed Mr. Daly. ;-)

Lou said...

Good post JD,

I have not been watching all of the races. For the reasons we have posted since 2007. Gave up on the prerace shows last year, and only watched two this season.

Have been watching NFL, MLB and check in on the race. Watching a race is almost like watching a soap in mid afternoon. check in every hour and nothing has changed and I did not miss anything.

My saving grace is that I will be at Dover for the races on Sat and Sun.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:43AM,

The role of the media, including bloggers, is not to act as a marketing arm for NASCAR.

Your suggestion that I am negative is laughable. The truck series, NASCAR Now, Allen Bestwick and the features from NMG are just some of the NASCAR topics that have had nothing but positive reviews for years now.

The new transition of the digital side of the sport from Turner to NASCAR has been something we have been advocating forever.

99% of NASCAR fans consume the sport through the TV coverage. Unlike the NFL's focused and coordinated approach, NASCAR has three different networks who do not cooperate or even talk to each other presenting the top level of the sport.

Again this season, the best coverage and the best racing has been in the truck series. Even when 10 trucks start and park the racing shown by SPEED on TV is enjoyable and professionally done.

I have had an ongoing conversation with the spokesmen, announcers and executives of all three Sprint Cup Series networks since 2007.

Let me help you out. ESPN does not care what fans think. They do not care what you think. They paid the money and will do what they darn well please.

The only way to affect change is to hammer home over and over again the points that need to be discussed.

This approach got Jerry Punch out of the booth and back to pit road. It got Nicole Briscoe into the Infield Pit Studio. It got Rusty Wallace out of the booth and downstairs where he belonged. It brought Dale Jarrett and Allen Bestwick into the mix. It works.

The downside is that those who cannot understand discussion try to paint one opinion as representative of all. ESPN could change the production tactics tomorrow, but they will not.

I may move the races to the DVR, but I am not going to stop being passionate about a sport that has so much potential and is being driven into the ground by poor senior management and awful customer/fan relations.

Appreciate your comment.


Buschseries61 said...

KoHoSo - OMG I remember the key word (aero loose, opportunity, sailing, points as of now, etc) adult beverages game and Dr. Punch car number bingo. The community made the most of a trainwreck.

Buschseries61 said...

I think there's been a nice balance between Chasers and Outsiders so far.

Buschseries61 said...

This is pretty boring so far. They are waving each other by inbetween commercials. Not much ESPN can do.

Buschseries61 said...

The S&Ps stayed out much longer today since tires don't wear that much here. Quietly falling out of the race so far: 13, 98, 95, 87, 36, 37, 91, 79

Jonathan said...

I dont know about you all but the Chicago Bears are on and I could care less im watching Nascar. its what I love and what I follow but hey thats just me. To each there own but we all know what were getting with ESPN the Chase is where its at right now in are sport... the ratings are just fine for ESPN im sure there satisfied. Could be much better in terms of coverage but the old school fans need to get over it the Chase is king now and we all know that its nothing new. I guess if you dont like it dont watch all im saying

Anonymous said...

Well I don't know about why anyone else doesn't watch the races but I'll tell you what, a couple of more bogus debris cautions without seeing debris and I'm done.
Not one legitimate caution by what we saw on ESPN.

GinaV24 said...

JD, I'm guessing that based on what we all saw at Loudon, that you'll be recording the races from here on out and I don't blame you a bit.

It was a lovely day and I had decided yesterday when I heard the weather report that I wasn't going to spend my day inside - I've been to Loudon and based on ESPN's "pattern" of presentation I didn't have any reason to believe that they'd suddenly decide to show me anything new and they didn't. I roamed in and out, caught up using twitter and trackpass. I'm happy that I didn't waste my day and I understand completely why you, along with many of us, won't be spending Sunday's in October watching races - unless the weather keeps me in.

Chris said...

Normally this is a tough time of the year for me. I wear out my remote hopping from the race to what ever game is on.

After Monday night's fiasco, I'll be watching racing and nothing but.

This is an embarrassment for the NFL but I betcha Nascar is loving it...

Green Bay Packer stockholder.