Sunday, September 30, 2007

ESPN's Long Day's Journey Into Night

The premise was simple. Telecast one fast-paced NASCAR race from Kansas on ABC and then get off the air. Unfortunately, the weather and the television reality associated with broadcast networks had other plans. It truly was ESPN's long journey into night.

Earlier this year, ESPN telecast a full day of practice, qualifying, and then the Busch Series race from Watkins Glen. By the time the race actually started, the TV broadcast team had been on the air for over six hours. It was brutal.

Sunday, rain interrupted the NEXTEL Cup race twice and forced the ESPN production crew to switch the telecast of the race from the ABC broadcast network to ESPN2. Broadcast networks have "windows" of time that they schedule for sports broadcasts, and when something out of the ordinary happens its always tough.

Most of the time, golf is the culprit. Two or three PGA golfers in a playoff can set the network off schedule for the entire night. On this Sunday, the TV executives made a good decision to move from the over-the-air network to cable TV. Mother Nature had closed the ABC "window."

This major sports property was moved away from the ABC facilities over to the ESPN Broadcast Center in Bristol, CT. There was only one problem. The commercials were still over in the ABC world. Viewers may have noticed the absence of commercial inventory on ESPN2, despite the fact that a live and exciting NEXTEL Cup race was in-progress. Somewhere, an ABC salesman was crying in his Crown Royal.

This race marked the reunion of the original ABC/ESPN broadcast crew of Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, and Rusty Wallace. They had been broken up twice as Brad Daugherty first replaced Andy Petree, and then Rusty Wallace, on the last two Busch races.

While many viewers were wondering how this trio might be affected by the "substitute announcer," the attention of the fans was instead drawn to another ABC personality who had a tough day. Brent Musburger outside in the Kansas wind was just flat-out a bad idea.

This man has put his life's work into sports television. We used to love Brent on pro and college sports. How is it fair to put him behind a pulpit with his script blowing away and his hair in his eyes? Not only that, but what kind of a TV network sees that Brent is wearing sneakers and then shows them on camera? Could the Producer have made Musburger look any worse?

The Infield Studio crew and the pit reporters earned their money on this telecast. Suzy Kolber used her fundamentally sound TV skills to negotiate her way through a very long day. Brad Daugherty ran out of gas during the second rain delay, and that crew certainly found help from guests like Ray Evernham. The fundamental truth is that Daugherty only "works" when there is a NASCAR veteran alongside of him.

Once the race was underway, the challenge of The Chase continued to dog the ESPN production team. Even with only eight races left, there were still over forty cars on the track racing, not just twelve. Achieving the balance between the race and The Chase has been a tough task.

By now, viewers know what to expect from the ESPN announcing team. They have been together since February, and this is the result. Dr. Jerry Punch is a grizzled veteran who continues to have our respect. He is just a tough sell in a multi-hour play-by-play role. On this seven hour plus marathon, he hung-in there and kept things flowing the best he could. Unfortunately, his supporting cast is not rising to the occasion.

Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree have just not meshed like many (including me) thought they would this season. As the high-profile leader in the booth, Rusty is just hard to figure out. He talks about a lot of things without leaving an opening for anyone else to join-in and make his thoughts "bigger." Its tough to compliment his style.

When Andy Petree joined Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth for several ESPN races earlier this season, there was a magic that Petree has not found with Wallace. Rusty was always outspoken, and he continues to say things that Petree does not agree with. How to politely offer a different point of view has been a season-long pursuit.

Over a marathon like this, it is almost impossible not to have some bumps along the way. Struggles with re-setting the field and very light coverage of any "back of the pack" racing was almost unavoidable. Kudos to the technical crew for keeping the pictures and sound flowing through daunting weather conditions.

One strange thing that happened this week was a re-surfacing of Tony Stewart's problems with ESPN. His little issue during practice was talked about to no end. On Sunday, Stewart's lack of presence on ESPN before the race and after his accident was very noticeable. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better if ESPN continues to chase Stewart like Pedro Gomez chased Barry Bonds.

After switching networks, it did seem a bit strange to go off the air without an official NASCAR explanation of how and why Greg Biffle was declared the winner. We also deserved a bit more post-race, even from a very tired crew.

NASCAR wanted their Chase on broadcast network TV, and they got it. What they also got was all the pros and cons that go along with it. Sunday, one big problem named Desperate Housewives proved to be the ultimate con. Once again, cable TV proved to be the solution only because ESPN2 had a "window" of time available. If ESPN2 had been busy with a contractual obligation to a live event, things might have come to a very different conclusion. I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for stopping-by.

Bill Lester Shakes-Up "NASCAR Now"

The NASCAR teams who did not make The Chase are not the only ones in the NASCAR world making changes during the final eight races of the season.

The ESPN gang has been moving some announcers around, most notably Brad Daugherty up to the Busch Series announce booth for two races. On Sunday morning, ESPN unveiled another surprise on the Bristol, CT set of NASCAR Now.

When show host Erik Kuselias introduced his co-host in the studio, it was not anyone who viewers had seen all season. It was not Stacy Compton or Boris Said. It was not Tim Cowlishaw. This face was new, and very different.

Seated next to Kuselias was the one and only Bill Lester. Veteran NASCAR fans know Lester from the Craftsman Truck Series, and his several attempts to make and then race in Cup events. One thing is for sure, Bill Lester is a racer.

In his first ESPN TV appearance, Lester stole the show. Alone on the set with Kuselias, Lester was asked to address a wide variety of issues and even to interact with NASCAR Now's mind-numbing "Eliminator" segment. Lester passed his test with flying colors.

Color may be a word used in lots of stories about this new on-air announcer. Bill Lester is a college educated black American. He is also a black NASCAR driver. Now, he is a black NASCAR Now analyst. Regarless of his race, he is exactly what NASCAR Now needed down the stretch.

Several weeks ago, The Daly Planet suggested that if ESPN wanted to extend its role of minorities on-the-air working the NASCAR beat, they should pick-up the phone and call Bill Lester. He is a fan favorite, a good driver, and an experienced NASCAR veteran who is only trying to make a living.

Hopefully, Lester will continue to play a role on NASCAR Now and get his opportunity to deal with the likes of Tim Cowlishaw and Brad Daugherty in conversations about NASCAR issues on this show.

As the NASCAR Now gang counts down to the end of the season, we can only wonder if they have any other surprises up their sleeve. If Bill Lester is typical of these "silly season" changes, then fans may be saying "bring it on."

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Sunday Notes For Readers

1 - There will be a column up following the NEXTEL Cup race comparing the two broadcast teams this weekend. The Busch Series on ESPN2 and the NEXTEL Cup Series on ABC.

Brad Daugherty stepped into the booth for Rusty Wallace on the Busch Series race, and changed the dynamic of the telecast on ESPN2. We will see what changes ABC might have in-store for viewers as the pre-race and race telecast progresses.

2 - Beginning next week, there will be a live post during RaceDay on SPEED. This show has big plans coming up, and I would like your reactions to the broadcast as it is in-progress. Let me just tip you off that the RaceDay show at four hours long. Shhh...don't tell anyone.

3 - Also beginning next week, there will be live comments available to post during the practice and qualifying day. This will continue for the rest of the season. Many readers have emailed comments about these early sessions, and now they will have somewhere to post them each week.

4 - Finally, there will be a live post for in-progress comments about Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED. One hour before the show, The Daly Planet will open for comments and they can then be posted during and after the show. This program is under the microscope for a lot of reasons, and waiting until we posted a column is not fair. This will allow comments as the show airs, and immediately after.

5 - The John Force article on the NHRA accident is on hold because I am unable to find a copy of the total broadcast. Unless I can see the parts of the show other than the accident, its not going to be fair to get everyone stirred up. My feelings about the coverage of the incident itself remain the same, but without the earlier parts of the program I will not comment.

I can tell you that this incident, and the resulting comments I received, have 99% convinced me to branch out into the NHRA telecasts for next season. Somewhat ironic that Paul Page used to work for me at one time. Anyone remember This Week In CART? I didn't think so.

6 - UPDATE: Wow! What a great job by Bill Lester on the one hour edition of NASCAR Now. Hopefully, we will also see him on the late night review show. If he is still there for the Monday wrap-up program, it would really be great. Congrats, Bill!

Thanks again for letting me update things. Have a great race today and I look forward to your comments for the rest of the season. When racing is over, The Daly Planet has several special things planned to keep you busy during the break. Look for an announcement of those plans in a couple of weeks. Thanks everybody!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NEXTEL Cup At Kansas: In-Progress Comments

This Sunday at 1PM ABC Sports will carry a one hour version of NASCAR Countdown, their pre-race show. The NEXTEL Cup Series race from Kansas is then scheduled to be on-the-air at 2PM Eastern Daylight Time.

Brent Musburger returns as the "show host," while Suzy Kolber and Brad Daugherty will occupy the Infield Studio. Tim Brewer will man the Tech Center, while upstairs in the broadcast booth will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree. The pit reporters will be Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Mike Massaro, and Jamie Little.

This post will serve to host the comments about the ABC coverage. You can comment before, during, or after the on-air telecast. Please reference the TV coverage in your posts, or they will be removed. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page.

To add your comments, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, there is nothing to join and you do not have to leave your email address. We just appreciate you taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion of the TV coverage at Kansas.

"Tradin' Paint" On SPEED Suddenly Misfires

SPEED has been working hard on their talk show called Tradin' Paint since the NASCAR season began in February. This is the thirty minute show that features a regular host, a rotating media member, and one regular driver.

The premise of the show is that the media member and the driver talk back and forth in a debate about the issues of the day involving the sport. Michael Waltrip began the year as the driver, but SPEED made a change and inserted Kyle Petty into that slot in the spring of this year. It was a great move.

With Kyle on-board, things really took off in an entirely new direction. His views on many NASCAR issues were completely opposed to the members of the mainstream NASCAR media. Kyle has debated topics with the print, TV, and Internet reporters of NASCAR with lots of fireworks as the result. About three weeks ago, the show was just hitting its stride for the season when something very strange happened.

One week ago, instead of a media member, it was Ray Evernham alongside of Kyle and series host John Roberts. Other than hosting a weekly kids show for TV, Evernham has absolutely nothing to do with the media. This show, which had been working its way up to one of the top NASCAR shows on SPEED, suddenly turned tail and ran from the NASCAR media.

Evernham and Petty talked with Roberts about all kinds of issues. They talked as owners, they talked as drivers, they even tried to talk as fans. The one thing they could not make themselves into, as hard as they tried, was journalists.

This week, it was certainly time for the network to rebound from this problem, and bring in a hardcore reporter at this critical time of the year to deal with the big news issues. SPEED selected veteran reporter...Richard Childress. Believe it or not, good old RC was in the media chair and just grinning and talking about stuff. RC has been mistaken for many things in his days in the sport, but a reporter? Never.

Suddenly, it did not matter what Kyle Petty said. Suddenly, it did not what topic John Roberts tossed out for discussion. Tradin' Paint had become RaceDay. It had become Trackside. It had become NASCAR Live. With the one element that made this show unique missing, it was just another collection of NASCAR talking heads.

Petty had been escalating in his clashes with the media guests, and it was sometimes tough for him to keep his temper in check. That is exactly what made the show interesting at last. Petty talking with Jenna Fryer of the AP, Nate Ryan from USA Today, or Bob Pockrass of Scene Daily resulted in actual debating of real NASCAR issues on SPEED. Petty and Pockrass were outstanding.

Now, SPEED has suddenly "killed off" the position on the panel that might dare object to something that Petty might say. They have eliminated the panelist who might "step away" from towing the NASCAR line and have some new ideas or opinions.

Changing the reporter position to an owner position on this series was one of the worst television decisions of this NASCAR season. Even if the network decides to change it back, the damage is already done. With less than ten races in the NEXTEL Cup season and in the middle of The Chase, SPEED has shot itself right in the foot on national TV. The burning question is why?

There were no fireworks on these last two shows. There was no debate. There was only Kyle being very loud and spreading his wings because there was no one there to disagree. While Kyle is a veteran of the sport, he is on this show because of his perspective, not his wisdom.

He may have an opinion, but that does not make it an absolute truth. Anything he says is up for debate, and suddenly he does not like that very much. Apparently, its much more comfortable now to turn and see another team owner in the next chair.

Tradin' Paint is gone from my DVR list. Among the many hours of drivers and owners talking to John Roberts on the SPEED Stage, Tradin' Paint used to be special. Now, it blends right in with the RaceDay hi-jinks of Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace, the Trackside fun with Larry Mac and Jeff Hammond, and the Bob Dillner driver interviews on Victory Lane.

One can only wonder what the NASCAR media thinks of SPEED fleeing any type of journalistic integrity or an actual difference of opinion on NASCAR issues being shown on TV.

Whether this change is a result of a NASCAR phone call or just Kyle Petty throwing his new found TV weight around, it speaks volumes about the real value of freedom of speech and open discussion of real NASCAR issues on SPEED. What a shame for the fans.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published.

Busch Series Gets Whacked By College Football on ESPN2

NASCAR fans looked nervously at the clock on the wall when the LSU vs. Tulane college football game hit halftime. They were nervous because it was already 2:10PM Eastern Daylight Time.

This week, once again, ESPN2 was relying on the luck of the Gods to slip a live Busch Series pre-race show and then the race itself between two college football games. Things did not work out too well.

When ESPN purchased the rights to the Busch Series as a part of their new NASCAR contract, TV veterans were scratching their heads. They wondered the same thing. Where would they put the series when college football began?

The Daly Planet even ran a column suggesting that perhaps the network might use the failing ESPN Classic network as an outlet for NASCAR programming and call it ESPN3. While ESPN Classic started with a bold agenda and even some original programming, it has slowly been scaled back until now it is slaved to only re-airing the programs already in the ESPN Library that the company owns. As a distribution channel, it would be much more valuable to funnel live events than continue to re-air programs from the past twenty-five years.

Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree presented a great NASCAR Countdown pre-race show for this event in Kansas. Unfortunately, it aired on ESPN Classic as a last minute switch because the LSU vs. Tulane game was still in-progress. The entire thirty minute show never aired on ESPN2 at all.

The continued success of the Busch Series is vital to NASCAR as a whole. As most fans know, this season has been a struggle for the series in terms of fan attendance and TV ratings. It is all the more important, as the series reaches the final races, to put the best TV programming possible on-the-air.

There are going to be lots of excuses from ESPN, but the bottom line is clear. They bought this series, aired it all year without a problem, and knew that college football was coming in September. Suddenly, the NASCAR series that has provided live racing since February is second-tier programming. Why?

The reason is simple. ESPN wanted their NEXTEL Cup package and the Busch Series came along for the ride. Once college football began, it was as though the past seven months of hard work and live coverage of this series was simply tossed aside as if it never happened.

NASCAR fans have been watching the Busch Series all season on ESPN2. The NASCAR on ESPN2 Busch Series telecasts have generated over one hundred hours of live TV for ESPN2 and ABC combined. The series has produced great racing, lots of good stories, and several new drivers and teams that we will be hearing from in the future.

This situation of "hoping" college football games will end in three hours continues through October and into November. How is this fair to NASCAR fans who suddenly find themselves put on the back burner because of football? The Busch Series is a ten month sport for hard-working NASCAR teams and drivers.

Somehow, after seven months of the season, it becomes trapped with nowhere to go because of circumstances that were known back in 2006 when the contract with ESPN was done. Maybe some NASCAR lawyer might want to open a manila folder and see exactly what happens when not only the pre-race show but also the green flag and a lot of laps are pre-empted by a slow-playing college football game.

Then, the lawyer might want to check his watch. Its only a matter of time until it happens. There are only so many "near misses" in TV land. This one was close.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Busch Series at Kansas: In-Progress Comments

The Busch Series will once again live dangerously on ESPN2 this Saturday afternoon. This time, its LSU and Tulane University that hold the keys to the race.

These two teams begin their football game live at noon, and once again NASCAR Countdown is scheduled for 3PM and the race itself for 3:30PM Eastern Time. Most college football games run three and a half hours at a minimum. In the words of Larry McReynolds..."do the math."

UPDATE: NASCAR Countdown is now airing on ESPN Classic because the football game is running long.

This page will host the Kansas Busch Series comments, which can be added before, during, and after the event. Please keep your comments relating to the TV issues, or they will be deleted. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page.

To add a comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the simple instructions. There is nothing to join, and you do not have to leave your email address. Thanks again for stopping-by and leaving your opinion.

Upstart Shakes Up The NASCAR Media is a website that works for NASCAR fans in many ways. In addition to the opportunity to join as a member and host a web page all for free, it has a wonderful social networking function that allows fans to speak directly to each other or participate in groups aimed at one special interest.

One key element that many NASCAR fans have already discovered is the free Rowdy podcast available through iTunes or directly on the site. Since its inception, this six day a week show of thirty to forty-five minutes in length has simply rocketed to the moon.

Handcrafted by Buck and Bass, the hosts of Rowdy, this simple audio discussion of all things NASCAR boasts all the top drivers, owners, and other NASCAR personalities in the news. Downloaded to an iPod, MP3 player, or other hand held device, this portable NASCAR news and entertainment presentation has been a great hit.

Fueled by the power of the NASCAR fans, these two guys have now grown to be included in the "top one hundred podcasts" on iTunes. That is simply amazing. They are up against the powerhouses of ESPN, Fox Sports, all the top news and feature shows on TV, and even the religious inspirations of Joel Osteen.

One listen to a Rowdy podcast can send a fan directly to the website for the free membership. That is the case with me after I became a fan of the audio product these two guys delivered six days a week all season long. Its just fun.

The NASCAR drivers and owners on Rowdy appear to be having the same kind of fun they used to have on the old NASCAR radio shows. In many ways, Rowdy is a consolidated and edited version of what fans go to Sirius to hear live. This product is just portable and available every morning like a good newspaper. Buck and Bass mix a ton of interviews and features into their podcast, but still keep it very timely.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the gang recently, and the two portions of the interview can be heard on the September 27th and 28th podcasts. I held this column until these both aired so it would not be seen as a promo, which it is not. These can both still be heard by going to and just clicking on the "listen now" button under the pictures of Buck and Bass. Pick a date, listen to the podcast, and tell us what you think.

What I was trying to do was give Daly Planet readers a better perspective of why we are here and what we are trying to do with this media project this season. In addition, we had a chance to talk about the past, present and future of NASCAR television. Lots of interesting topics were covered.

Veteran NASCAR announcer and reporter Mark Garrow serves as the voice of reason many times on all things NASCAR at Rowdy, and journalist Steve Waid also weighs-in on racing topics with his opinionated and experienced perspective. These regulars blend in well with the fast-paced and humorous exploits of the show hosts.

On the website, fans have begun to assemble tons of media content. Photos and videos not seen anywhere else on the Internet live at Rowdy. Much of it is directly related to the social networking aspect of this site, which encourages everything from local fan clubs to breakfast meetings at the track. The dynamic of this concept is playing out with tremendous popularity on the Internet, and total silence in NASCAR TV land.

Perhaps, in another time, TV programs like RaceDay or NASCAR Now would interview these two upstarts, and get their take on what it is like to negotiate through the NASCAR media landscape. Unfortunately, the TV networks of today are very different.

They are all married themselves to multi-million dollar Internet investments, and this leads to a lot of exclusion in the name of competition. This flawed philosophy in turn leads the fans right back to the "outlaws" of the Internet like Rowdy. The straight-laced corporate sites like NASCAR, ESPN, and even are made to look the fool when two guys in a rented office can turn out a iTunes top one hundred podcast about NASCAR.

Currently, NASCAR TV is in a state of limbo. Fans are not really sold on what TNT and ESPN tried to deliver to them, and the NASCAR on Fox season was too far back to remember. Think what ESPN could have done with a commitment to lure the NASCAR fan to for exclusive content and interaction.

What if Tim Brewer took email in the Tech Center? What if Jerry Punch answered chat questions in the three minute commercial breaks? What if they used fan videos to ask questions of drivers or panelists in NASCAR Countdown?

"What if" may well be the theme of the NEXTEL Cup TV season this year. Suddenly, the ABC broadcasts appear to be dinosaurs regardless of who is announcing. is directly competing with their own video and TV shows on line, DirecTV is on-the-air with Hot Pass, and Sirius Satellite Radio is live with the race coverage. Websites like The Daly Planet are also live with in-progress comments and chat. Where will all this lead?

That might be a good topic for the next Rowdy podcast. Maybe I will go directly to their website and suggest it. TNT has erased NASCAR from their site, and wants me to pay to be an "Insider" before I can speak to anyone directly.

Instead, I'll just plug in my iPod and get my NASCAR information and entertainment for free every day. If Rowdy decides to add video to next season's podcasts, they might just shake-up more than the Internet.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ESPN Explains ABC's West Coast NASCAR Problems

It certainly has been an interesting season for the NEXTEL Cup Series telecasts on both ESPN and ABC. In the first year of their new TV contract, the ESPN production team is showing all the "Chase" races on their big broadcast sister, ABC.

This past Sunday, the Cup Series was racing in Dover, DE. At The Daly Planet there was a discussion underway about the TV coverage of the race in-progress. Suddenly, about an hour into the live race, something very strange happened. People started to stop-by and ask what the heck was going on with ABC?

Following a commercial break, viewers in both the Pacific and Mountain time zones were now watching a segment of NASCAR Countdown, ABC's pre-race show. There was Suzy Kolber and her gang in the Infield Studio saying once again what they had said an hour earlier.

Somehow, ABC had begun to re-air the pre-race show out of the commercial break. This recorded program continued and the NASCAR Countdown segment actually aired in its entirety. Somehow, the mistake was not caught, and things were not made right by quickly switching back to the live race.

Viewers in these two time zones lost eighteen laps of the live race, and that is kind of a tough pill to swallow. Especially, after such a long season and inside the final ten races of the year. Once the Pacific and Mountain viewers were returned to the race, there were no more "transmission" problems, as they are called in TV land.

The reason that these West Coast viewers were upset is because apparently no one told the ESPN on ABC NASCAR team that this had happened. It should have been relatively easy to put together a quick highlight package of the missing laps, but it never happened. Chances are, the Dover crew had no idea of this mistake.

The Daly Planet contacted the ESPN Media Relations Department, and after investigating this incident, they released the following statement:

"We sincerely apologize for the human error that caused a brief distribution problem and have taken steps to prevent this from happening again."

Sometimes, in TV land, things happen that are clearly and simply a mistake. This situation was a result of a failure in communication that ABC will certainly be addressing for the remainder of the NASCAR season. No one is saying that this was intentional.

It was nice of ESPN to take the time to send their statement to us, and it certainly helps the affected viewers to understand that the network is aware of the situation and it will not happen again.

So, off to Kansas with SPEED and ESPN combining to show the practices and qualifying of both the Busch and Cup Series. Then, the Busch race goes live on ESPN2 at 3PM Eastern Time. The "Chase" continues on Sunday at 1PM on ABC Sports. Pay attention on Saturday, as the Busch Series once again sneaks in between live college football games. Have a great racing weekend.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for stopping-by and leaving your opinion.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"NASCAR On ABC" Explodes In The AOL Fan House

All kinds of interesting things happen in "NASCAR land" as the season begins to slowly wind down. Many fans have been watching the TV coverage of the sport faithfully since Daytona in February. Hundreds of hours of practice, qualifying, races, and weekly shows have come and gone before their eyes.

When it comes down to defining the quality of NASCAR's TV coverage in 2007, the Internet has allowed the fans to have a greater voice than ever before. This past Monday, on the AOL Fan House website, a conversation began that is still resonating throughout the NASCAR landscape. It may continue for a long time.

The AOL Fan House is a popular site for fans to add their own views to the NASCAR news, views, and opinions of several hosts who post regularly on this blog-style site. In addition to NASCAR, there are many other sports discussed in the Fan House. The traffic on this site is very high. Its just a fun place to go and browse.

This entire season, the TV coverage of NASCAR has undergone a transformation. While the Fox guys were still there at the start of the season, most other things changed. ESPN took the entire Busch Series, TNT had a six pack of summer races, and then ESPN took the remaining Cup races and put them on ABC. SPEED kept the Trucks, and ESPN2 rolled out a daily news show as SPEED stuck to the SPEED Stage at the track.

While ESPN's Busch Series flew a bit below the radar, The Daly Planet wrote in a column before the network's first NEXTEL Cup event that things were about to change. In no time at all, for the entire ESPN production team, they certainly did.

There may be no bigger stage for TV announcers and producers than NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series. Beginning with the biggest race of the season, no other sport hosts such high-profile big events on a regular basis as NASCAR.

From February to November, fans want the type of high quality sports TV broadcasts that we might find in the Major League Baseball Playoffs, or even the Superbowl.

At this time of the year, fans have seen ESPN produce a fair amount of Cup races on a variety of tracks. They have met, and become familiar with, the ESPN on-air crew. They have seen all the TV "gizmos," and listened to the sound tracks and theme music. Where ESPN and ABC are concerned, NASCAR fans have now seen everything they have to offer. The "ESPN on ABC" NASCAR racing season is in full swing.

The article on the Fan House was simple in its title. It said "NASCAR on ESPN on ABC Sucks." That is not exactly my style of headline, but it has its place in the rather informal world of the Fan House. The author's point was simple. She had seen enough from the ESPN on ABC gang, and made her views clear. Then, she asked the NASCAR fans what they thought...and all hell broke loose.

To readers of The Daly Planet, things might have seemed a bit familiar. Missed re-starts, Jerry Punch, the Draft Tracker, Suzy Kolber, Brent Musburger, the list went on-and-on. The comments were from people who had clearly watched the races and paid attention. Many of them said they have muted the ESPN audio and use another source like the Sirius Radio or an Internet audio feed. That is not a good sign.

Others addressed the sometimes over-used Tech Center and its on-air announcer Tim Brewer. The comments asked why fundamental things need to be repeated week-after-week, and why the Tech Center would sometimes cover-up live racing rather than be split-screen all the time? That led to the lack of split-screen commercial insertion issue. If they can do it for the IRL on ESPN and ABC, why can't they do it for NASCAR?

There was one topic that overwhelmed the comments, and that was Rusty Wallace. Fans have strong memories of Benny Parsons on these races, and those shoes are hard to fill. Even with his season of working the IndyCar races last year, Wallace is essentially a NEXTEL Cup TV rookie. I think he now understands that the pressure and public profile of NASCAR's TV package is very different than that of the open-wheel world.

The Wallace comments focused on his repeated use of ESPN's new toy, the Draft Tracker. Early on, it was great at fundamentally explaining drafting to new fans. Unfortunately, Wallace has used it, or been forced to use it, in situations where perhaps the racing action was not "all about the aero push."

In addition, while Wallace has worked at his on-air phrasing, the issue with pronunciation of driver names, series team owners, and even some common NASCAR terms was brought-up again.

Surprisingly, the fans kept mentioning the SPEED shows and their personnel who broadcast their NASCAR programming. One thing fans noticed with Punch, Kolber, and Jamie Little was their recent lack of NASCAR experience. Names from Kenny Wallace to Steve Byrnes and John Roberts were offered as potential replacements for next season.

Fans tread lightly when it comes to Jerry Punch, who has a history in the sport and whose hard work was well received earlier in his career. In the broadcast booth as a play-by-play announcer, Punch has struggled. Never having been in this role before, it seems a bit unfair to judge him so harshly this season.

He has, however, done the entire Busch Series this year as a "warm-up" for the Cup races. Punch, Wallace and Petree sometimes seem to be talking on several different levels as the race goes on. Many fans see Punch as perfect for NASCAR Countdown or as the NASCAR Now host. Which leads to the most popular email in Daly Planet land.

This season, Allen Bestwick has bounced around like a ping pong ball. Pit Reporter, NASCAR Now host, Play-by-Play race announcer, NASCAR Countdown host, and finally NASCAR Now news reporter. In the sports TV world, Bestwick has been a "utility player" of the highest order this year. One thing is for sure, most fans really like his style.

The howl to put Bestwick in the booth and Punch in the Infield Studio has rarely been louder. Most NASCAR fans know that when a race team is having trouble, sometimes its just the chemistry. Owners just mix things up, and sometimes that is all the problem needs. In Dover, Punch had a tough time on-the-air.

When exciting racing was going on, he did not rise to the occasion. When accidents were happening, he was as dry and unexcited as anyone could be. It was really strange. Then, after a big promo for a commercial free ending of the race, the network ran many more commercial breaks undermining his credibility. It was a tough weekend, and the fans at the Fan House seemed to have had enough.

Its always interesting to see other Internet sites talk about TV, because they only do it once and a while. Here, we do it every day. It should not come as a big surprise then, when the Fan House comments mirror many heard here on The Daly Planet.

As one woman named Mary G. said quietly "this has been a difficult year to be a NASCAR fan." There are eight opportunities left for ABC to change her opinion.

You can read the Fan House NASCAR blog by following this link.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. There is no membership requirement, and you do not have to leave your email address. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

ABC Live Race Problems On Sunday: The Follow-Up

Thank you to all the readers from both the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones who emailed or left a comment in reference to the on-air problem in the Sunday NEXTEL Cup race at Dover.

The best we can surmise is this. Coming out of commercial, about thirty laps or so into the race, viewers in both of these time zones had an entire segment of the pre-race show, NASCAR Countdown, played back on their TV screens. We believe this came from the ABC Master Control facility, but are still working on these specifics.

ABC did not have the same problem in the Eastern Time Zone, and continued with the live race without an interruption.

The viewers watching the replay returned to the race after lap fifty, missing about eighteen laps of live action. Since that one problem, nothing else of that nature happened for the remainder of the telecast. Unfortunately, the ABC telecast team did not acknowledge the problem, or show viewers highlights of what happened during those missed laps.

We did get email following the conclusion of the race that some ABC affiliates left immediately, and did not cover the post-race interviews. The Daly Planet is still working on the issue of whether or not they have the right to leave a live ABC Sports network telecast before it concludes.

As of this article, we still have not received a reply from ESPN about this issue. All of these current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races are produced by the ESPN team, and ESPN maintains a contact media person for this series. If there is a response about this situation we will update this story immediately.

For those of you who did not see the problem, Joe Foster has a video up on his YouTube site where he is called Bumpstop3, here is the direct link.

Thanks again for the info, if you have any additional comments, please add them below by clicking on the COMMENTS button. Rules for posting are on the right side of the main page.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Tuesday Saga of "NASCAR Now" on ESPN2

Could someone please help those of us in the dark about what happened to the early edition of NASCAR Now on Tuesday?

Those of us who use the DVR for this program were surprised to find it did not air due to a strange combination of circumstances. It seems that breaking news and then SportsCenter took this timeslot.

If The Daly Planet readers who were viewing this program live and followed the happenings could post their account of what occurred on this page, the rest of us would all be very grateful to you.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for the late re-air of this show, but there was nothing in the 9PM timeslot that was mentioned as a replacement airing.

Thanks again to all of you for your help with this interesting TV issue.

To post a comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and then follow the simple directions. There is no membership, and you do not have to leave your email address.

If someone from ESPN is reading this, could you email I will post the issues that caused these schedule changes so everyone is on the same page. Thanks again.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Inside NEXTEL Cup" Very Different Without Waltrip

It was just another Monday on SPEED as Inside NEXTEL Cup took to the air. Greg Biffle did "the tease" for the show, as he finished second at Dover. Then, host Dave Despain welcomed Biffle and Kenny Schrader to the program. He did not, however, do the same to Michael Waltrip. He was nowhere to be found.

In a somewhat ironic twist, Waltrip's seat was inhabited by the one and only Brian Vickers. These two have spent many shows sniping at each other like school boys, and Vicker's initial season on this series was a lesson in patience for the viewers. Waltrip had some sponsor obligations on Monday afternoon, so this trio was the INC crew for today. Needless to say, there was quickly a different dynamic in play.

After an exciting Dover NEXTEL Cup event in which all three panelists raced, the show took on a very new tone. Each of the three drivers talked about their own race, and then shared views and cooperated in a very conversational manner about many diverse topics. It certainly was an interesting change of pace.

As Despain moved on to the highlights, it was great to hear the drivers react to the video and share information about what happened during the event. The program took on an easy-going and relaxed feeling with Despain leading the way, and the drivers waiting their turn. There was lots of give and take.

Schrader fit-in quite well with the panel, and really took this opportunity to speak-up and offer a lot of facts and opinions about both the racing and the personalities involved. Some of his comments really showed-off his dry sense of humor which is hard to beat. His remarks about "Fatback" trying to get into his race car were great.

Biffle was pumped-up and proud of both his race and his finishing effort. He provided a lot of information about the Roush/Fenway problems for Matt Kenseth, the COT learning curve, and their approach to The Chase. He has worked hard on his TV mechanics, and turned to the correct camera, phrased his answers in complete sentences, and took his cues from the host. He has come a long way from his early TV days.

Vickers was the surprise of the show. He has done a good job of growing-up as both a person and a driver. Gone was the self-serving sponsor babble, and it was replaced by good solid racing comments. Vickers was clearly at ease with this group, and it resulted in an enjoyable performance. Vickers even answered one of the viewer questions about throttle linkage with good technical information. This program certainly affected my image and opinion of him.

The trio had some fun with the Busch Series highlights, and they wasted no time taking Robby Gordon to task for his actions. The continuing focus on the Busch Series makes sense, and it could even use some additional in-show exposure. The Truck highlights were next, and the panel showed they were up on the racing action, even though the Trucks raced in Las Vegas. The first place battle for the championship between Skinner and Hornaday is fantastic.

The panel ended with some comments about Talladega and the COT. All three drivers had concerns about the COT going restrictor plate racing. Despain let them talk with each other and then transitioned out of the program after each driver had made his point. Things were as smooth and relaxed at the conclusion of this show as they had been at the start. For once, even Despain seemed to enjoy himself.

Michael Waltrip has been a polarizing force on INC for some time now. Email to The Daly Planet expresses views going totally toward the negative or totally toward the positive. Somehow, no middle ground exists in the Mikey world. On this night, he was simply away doing sponsor things, so the focus of the night was how things on the panel changed, and were these changes for the better?

It seemed that a lot of information and opinion was given out by the panel in this hour. Without the inside jokes and the sponsor plugs, the show had a different focus. That focus was racing, and nothing else. It was almost like they were actually...Inside NEXTEL Cup racing. Wow...what a concept.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Boris Said Turns Heads With His ESPN Commentary

This Monday Boris Said was in the Bristol, CT studios of ESPN2 working as an analyst on NASCAR Now. This show has rarely used Said as effectively as it did on this first day after Dover. It was the day after a defining race in The Chase, and many important NASCAR issues were on the table.

Show host Erik Kuselias was in the studio, and reporter Shannon Spake was on-scene at Roush/Fenway Racing in North Carolina. That left Said alone on the set to be the focus of questions from Kuselias. On this day, Boris definitely rose to the occasion.

This season when Said has been on the show things are always fun. Most of the time, he is either sharing the driver commentary with Stacy Compton or debating with resident columnist Tim Cowlishaw. In both of these settings, Said is forced to speak in small "sound bites" between the other commentators. This week, he was finally set free.

Said has a wonderful and rich history in racing that stretches far beyond the NASCAR world. Sports car fans know Boris for many years of thrills and spills while driving in both the SCCA and the IMSA series. Said has wins under his belt that include both the 24 Hours of Daytona and Nurburgring. He has also won the very tough 12 Hours of Sebring.

In many ways, Said's opportunity on this very high-profile show today matched the opportunity given on Saturday to Brad Daugherty. ESPN extended the chance to join Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace in the booth for the Busch race, and Daugherty made the most of it. The same can be said for Boris in this one hour NASCAR Now program.

Said is not intimidated by Erik Kuselias, and he takes the questions asked of him and runs with the ball quickly and efficiently. This studio combo works well, because it allows Kuselias to interject his style of commentary and then Boris simply puts the show back on track with his no-nonsense answers.

In this one hour program, Said was asked to address a wide variety of issues involving The Chase, driver conflicts, technical issues, and even race highlights. He smoothly navigated his way through the show with good humor and took no prisoners with his definitive opinions and comments.

Even after news from Marty Smith and a Chase update from Mike Massaro, Said was not done. His preview of Kansas was great. Said put things in a team perspective, and offered the opinion that the Roush/Fenway team had momentum on their side right now, and should win next week.

Finally, Said stated it well when he proclaimed "thank god for The Chase." He continued on to say that this playoff style format is making the sport exciting at a time of the year when sometimes fan enthusiasm was waning. Up against NFL football, and with a title sometimes already decided, NASCAR used to limp to the end of the season. That is certainly not the case after Dover.

Said has been a bright spot on this show, and his candor and good humor really offset the dispositions of other show members. As he continues to develop his broadcast career, maybe ESPN might consider using him in the field to add the same "reality check" to NASCAR at the track that he offers quite well in the studio.

Boris Said and Brad Daugherty on a Busch Series race? Now, that might get race fans tuning-in for a wide variety of reasons.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

ABC Continues To Tweak NEXTEL Cup Telecasts

There was no doubt about it, Sunday afternoon at Dover was going to be a long day. Four hundred laps on a one mile high-banked track is like super-sizing an afternoon at Bristol, TN. The grind takes its toll on the teams, the equipment, and even the TV crew.

Saturday afternoon the NASCAR on ESPN gang that produces the telecasts for both ESPN2 and ABC presented a sparkling Busch Series telecast. Stripped of many production elements that have bogged-down earlier productions, the ESPN2 telecast sizzled. It was all about racing, and the pieces just clicked.

NASCAR viewers this year have seen ESPN move announcers around and change production elements as they tweak their first TV season back in NASCAR. Using their Busch Series coverage as a production model, they rolled out their portion of the NEXTEL Cup schedule loaded for bear. They had all the latest bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, NASCAR does not lend itself to the type of "extras" that the TV crew was trying to insert. The telecasts on ABC had a show host, lots of Infield Studio segments, SportsCenter updates, promos for other sports, and many glossy pre-taped "bumpers" that showed the driver's faces as the program went to commercial break.

By the Pocono race, things got out-of-hand. The race itself became a distraction. The hip-hop music was pounding, the announcers seemed to be on-camera more than the drivers, and the hype for other sports on ESPN was everywhere. Give credit to the ESPN production executives, who jumped right-in to fix things. They have been working on the Cup telecasts race-by-race, and viewers have noticed the changes.

The Sunday Dover telecast retained the SportsCenter updates, the Infield Studio recaps, and the dreaded Draft Tracker. But, the show host was gone. Tim Brewer was also used frequently in the Tech Center as issues in the race presented themselves. It was a balancing act between an action-packed race, and the use of all the ABC TV "gizmos."

Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree have been talking about the sport in their own way since the beginning of the season. Rusty has worked hard to eliminate his "catch phrases," and Petree has been trying to focus on his role as the "TV crew chief."

Today, Wallace continued his "aero loose" theme that viewers know all too well. Certainly, it appears that sometimes when the Draft Tracker effect is used by Wallace, maybe it isn't actually "all about the air."

In the second half of the race, when the drivers are tired and hanging-on for their very survival, things also got that way in the TV booth. The Daly Planet has mentioned several times that Dr. Jerry Punch seems to be very tired, and in this race he had trouble raising the excitement level no matter what was transpiring on the track. These telecasts really miss a high-energy play-by-play announcer who can pump-up both the volume and the viewers when things get exciting.

The pit stop "triple split" and the side-by-side video boxes worked very well again in this telecast. The Director and Producer are getting more comfortable mixing different video and camera elements in this effect, and its flowing smoothly. Strangely, many camera shots were framed too tightly for the upper and lower third video "tickers" on the screen. Sometimes, wider is better for the TV viewer...even in HD.

The ABC Network Master Control had some problems early in the race. Viewers in the Pacific Time Zone saw an entire segment of NASCAR Countdown appear out of a commercial break and air completely about one hour into the live race. While this was a mistake, it was not mentioned on the air or explained on any type of graphic to apologize for the error. Daly Planet readers from Alaska to San Diego were not very happy.

Jerry Punch promoted the commercial free final portion of the race as he did on Saturday in the Busch Series event. Unfortunately, things in the Cup race put ABC in the position of over-ruling that Producer decision and inserting additional commercial inventory. Apparently, there is a bit of a revenue difference between ESPN2 and the ABC national television network.

Punch's explanation that the caution flags somehow "caused" several more commercial breaks just did not wash. Even during the red flag, the choice to stay or go to commercial is something to be honest about to the viewers. If you are going to commercial, then say you are paying the bills...and go. However, if you commit on-the-air to this being the commercial free portion of the race, then don't.

Thanks again to the production team for letting viewers watch the top twenty cars cross the finish line. Even at a fast-paced track like Dover, there was plenty of time to watch all of that, and still capture the excitement of the winning driver and team. What a positive change embraced by the network for the viewers.

As the season winds-down, Dover really battered some Chasers, and threw the plans of many teams up in the air. Hopefully, this will give the NASCAR on ABC gang some new pep as well. Kansas is a nice track for TV, and has none of the logistical hassles of Dover. Now, with the standings shuffled, and tempers a bit tight, the TV gang can go at this race with no pre-set agenda and no pre-produced hype.

This is the time of the year that fans live for. Eight straight weeks of racing ahead, and suddenly no one is a favorite. This is exactly the type of situation that ABC and the ESPN executives had hoped for. Now, there is a storyline to follow, and a reason for new viewers to tune-into what had been a boring season. Kansas should be a crucial TV telecast for ABC in terms of capturing the NFL Football viewers as the race goes head-to-head with the Sunday 1PM early games. No easy task.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by, and leave your opinion.

NEXTEL Cup at Dover: In-Progress Comments

Today ABC Sports presents the NEXTEL Cup Series race from Dover, DE at 1:30PM Eastern Time today. The race is preceded by a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Countdown at 1PM.

Suzy Kolber hosts NASCAR Countdown with Brad Daugherty alongside. Dr. Jerry Punch calls the play-by-play with Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree as analysts. Pit reporters are Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns, and Jamie Little.

This page hosts the comments about the TV coverage of the event. Comments can be made before, during, or after the event. Please restrict your comments to the TV coverage and stay within the rules posted on the right side of the main page.

To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the simple instructions. There is no membership and you do not have to leave your email address. This site is for NASCAR fans and ABC viewers to leave their opinion about the TV coverage today. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Brad Daugherty Steps-Up And Makes The Grade

Dr. Jerry Punch and his veteran TV crew did their best to totally avoid the issue. After all, this is the same ESPN2 team that has been telecasting the Busch Series events since February, and this is September. Veteran NASCAR fans, however, knew that something was going to be very different.

Allen Bestwick hosted an abbreviated NASCAR Countdown with Brad Daugherty and then Clint Bowyer as guests. Bestwick was clear in his explanation that Bowyer was a fill-in, and that ESPN appreciated his help. There was a reason that the network needed someone in the Infield Studio for the second half of the show. Brad Daugherty had left the building.

The place he had gone was absolutely historic. While in real life it was only a short golf cart and elevator ride away, for NASCAR's TV legacy it might as well have been a rocketship ride to Mars. Brad Daugherty was heading for the NASCAR tower.

One could only imagine the looks on the faces of the Dover NASCAR fans as a seven foot tall black man in a business suit strolled over to the elevators in the Dover Racetrack Tower.

In a move that may have a much longer-lasting meaning than anyone on Saturday's broadcast acknowledged, Daugherty reached out...and pushed the UP button. At 3:15PM Eastern Time, things in "NASCAR TV land" would never be the same again.

The National Anthem played, the planes flew, and the engines started. Then, without pomp or circumstance, a picture appeared on the screen that had very deep meaning for many ESPN viewers of color. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Brad Daugherty were about to call a live NASCAR race on national TV. Take a moment, and read that last sentence again.

While most fans are still working to understand the new role that ESPN has put Daugherty in this year as "the voice of the fans," Daugherty himself has made the most of this opportunity. On this day at Dover, his hard work this season came to fruition. Not only did Daugherty fit in, but he had done his pre-race homework and came on-the-air with all the right information.

Last week, Daugherty had a high-profile difference of opinion with both Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace on the NEXTEL Cup edition of NASCAR Countdown. There was no doubt that both DJ and Rusty were struggling to understand why this former College and NBA All-Star was telling them how things in "NASCAR land" should be. Needless to say, it was good TV and got better when Daugherty stuck to his guns and did not back down.

This week, many viewers thought that the friction between Daugherty and Wallace might come into play once again. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the race progressed, Daugherty used his technique of politely asking questions to draw even more racing knowledge and opinions from Wallace than we normally see on his broadcasts.

One key to this being effective is that ESPN2 laid-off the multi-sport cut-ins, the Infield segments, and almost all the other production elements that have been driving NASCAR fans nuts all season. Tim Brewer in the Tech Center was absolutely quiet. For once this season, fans got to watch a race and nothing else. It was great.

Dover is an action track, and the Busch Series guys were putting on a great show with intense racing and lots of contact. Carl Edwards was running away with the point standings, and at this time of the season there were a lot of drivers in the race with something to prove, and nothing to lose.

For the NASCAR on ESPN production team, it was one of their best races this season. The decision was made to limit the outside elements that have interfered with many races this season, and the result was a focused and pro-active telecast. Once the threesome in the broadcast booth had their dynamics worked out, things flowed like the ESPN broadcasts of old.

ESPN used their graphics effectively, and kept the camera angles wide enough to effectively deal with the "tickers" at both the top and bottom of the screen for the first time this season. The HD pictures and the crisp directing kept the viewers watching many more headlights than tail lights. Staying ahead of the action, capturing the replays from the right angles, and catching all the restarts except one made this telecast outstanding.

Throughout this telecast, the Producer aggressively "front-loaded" the commercial breaks whenever the opportunity presented itself. During every caution period, once the pit stops were done, the commercials hit the air. This race-long effort resulted in the network being able to show the last sixty or so laps commercial free.

What a time for a lot of very diverse elements to come together for ESPN's production team. Good announcing, strong commercial integration, and excellent directing helped to make this a memorable Busch Series telecast in almost every way. The network executives also deserve a pat on the back for allowing the post-race interviews to take place despite the fact that the race ran over into college football game time.

One element of this broadcast clearly remains at the forefront. Regardless of any other issues, Brad Daugherty stepped-up and made the most of this opportunity. What the network will choose to do with Daugherty in the future is still undecided. One thing is certain, diversity has come to the NASCAR broadcast booth, and it arrived with dignity and enthusiasm.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Craftsman Truck Series In Las Vegas: In-Progress Comments

Saturday night at 8:30PM SPEED presents The Set-Up pre-race show and then at 9PM Eastern Time the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race from Las Vegas, NV.

Krista Voda hosts The Set-Up, and the race is hosted by Rick Allen. Phil Parsons handles the color, and Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander are the pit reporters.

This post will host the comments about the TV coverage of the race. You may comment before, during, and after the race itself. Please limit your comments to the TV coverage of the race. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page.

To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and then follow the simple instructions. You do not have to leave your email address, there is nothing to join, and your comments post automatically. This is simply a forum for NASCAR fans to offer their opinion of the efforts of the NASCAR TV partners.

Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and offer your opinion.

Busch Series At Dover: In-Progress Comments

Saturday afternoon ESPN2 will present NASCAR Countdown at 3PM, and the Busch Series race at Dover, DE at 3:30PM Eastern Time.

Allen Bestwick will host NASCAR Countdown with Brad Daugherty alongside in the Infield Studio. Daugherty will then transition up to the broadcast booth to join Dr. Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace in calling the action. It will be Daugherty's first opportunity to call a race as an analyst.

Pit reporters are Mike Massaro, Jamie Little, Dave Burns, and Shannon Spake. Bestwick will remain in the Infield Studio, although there is no word about a potential guest that might join him. Tim Brewer continues to man the Tech Center.

This page will host the comments about the event. You can comment before, during, and after the race. Please read the rules for commenting posted on the right side of the main page. All non-TV related comments will be deleted.

To post a comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the simple instructions. There is nothing to join, and you do not have to leave your email address. This is a forum for NASCAR fans to talk about the TV coverage provided by the NASCAR TV partners. Thanks again for stopping by.

Friday, September 21, 2007

SPEED's "Trackside Live" Rocks The House With Junior

Steve Byrnes and his Trackside Live gang were pumped on Friday night in Dover. Along with The Chase, the panel had something else on their mind. Only days after his big announcement about sponsors and car numbers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was appearing on the show live and in living color.

One of the biggest crowds in the history of the SPEED Stage turned out with lots of signs and lots of energy. It certainly appeared that Junior nation was still in full force. Both the signs in the crowd and several of the chants also proved that the Junior gang had not lost any of their creativity.

Junior himself was brimming with energy, and this one hour program just overflowed with information that fans wanted to know. Kudos to Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond for taking their time and asking all the right questions. Once again, these two have proven to be the top NASCAR analysts by far, and reinforced it on this show.

Steve Byrnes continues to fly under the radar as one of the best multi-purpose announcers among the NASCAR TV partners. Trackside Live has become a Friday night franchise for SPEED, and the enthusiasm and camaraderie of the panel is unmatched.

For fans staying at the track, the SPEED Stage is a great place to stop-by after the on-track activities end, and have some fun. Tonight, it was the place to see and be seen at the Dover track. Junior was going to be live, and this was as close any many fans would get to him in a lifetime.

One of the newest personalities on Trackside is Elliott Sadler. He has worked very hard on his TV skills, and now fits in quite well with the older and more experienced panel. In this show, he had several opportunities to ask Junior personal and in-depth family questions that few others would dare to ask. It was clear that Junior respected him, because he clearly and honestly answered all of them.

It was also clear that Junior was a bit nervous to be in-front of a raucous crowd, but he hung-in there and deserves credit for dealing with a ton of background noise while he kept his focus on the panel and answered their questions.

SPEED's TV crew did the right thing and kept things simple. No fancy music or graphics, no sound effects or tons of footage used. It was just Junior and the gang, alone and live in front of a throng of pumped-up fans.

As usual, Trackside gave one announcer an opportunity to step to a smaller side-stage and interview the guest one-on-one. The SPEED Producers made a great decision and selected Elliott Sadler. In his own down-home style, Sadler conducted a unique interview that really played on his personal relationship with Junior and the feelings he has experienced over the past six months.

SPEED allowed Junior a couple of sponsor plugs, and they included a poker site that he and Sadler had created. That should bring some additional stories in the media over the next several weeks. Sadler prodded Junior into admitting his concerns over the COT and his hope that NASCAR will continue to be flexible in its development.

Junior brought on his current team mate Martin Truex Jr. and this was a great moment for fans to step-back and absorb the incredible level of change that was about to happen in the sport next season. Both men talked about their time together, and how things would play-out when next season began. Truex is about to assume a mantle that will be tough to wear, but he seems to be game to do the job.

In a great moment, Larry McReynolds quizzed Junior about DEI and how he felt about their future. Junior was clear in his good feeling that Mark Martin and Aric Almirola would be the two drivers sharing his former ride for 2008. He also had kind words for Max Seigel, the new DEI executive, and his hard work in learning the industry.

Although it does not have the flash of RaceDay, there is no doubt from the fan reaction that Trackside Live has been a solid addition to the NASCAR TV package once again this season. Friday night's show with Junior and Martin Truex really worked hard to showcase both drivers away from the track and address not only their professional but also their personal sides.

One has the feeling that the SPEED executives might be trying to expand this program for 2008. With most of the drivers present at the track as the program airs, the potential exists to broaden this franchise and work to include more racing personalities in a setting other than pit road or the garage.

With the success of the two hour edition of RaceDay, the network might have a point in considering expanding the Trackside series as well. We shall see.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Brad Daugherty Replaces Andy Petree For Dover Busch Race

The NASCAR on ESPN team will change slightly for the Busch Series events at Dover and Kansas City. Brad Daugherty will join Dr. Jerry Punch in the booth as an analyst during both events.

This Saturday at Dover, Andy Petree will step aside and Daugherty will join Rusty Wallace and Punch as the announce team. On the Kansas City race, Wallace will take a break and Daugherty will work with Punch and Andy Petree.

As you may remember from an earlier Daly Planet column, Daugherty moved up to the booth from the infield during both the practice and qualifying shows on ESPN2 at Richmond.

This season, Daugherty has been fighting an uphill battle for credibility with the viewers. Putting him in the booth at Richmond was the best thing ESPN has done with him all season. Free of the confines of the Infield Studio, Daugherty was a very different person.

NASCAR fans who caught ESPN2's long day of qualifying and practice at Richmond may have come away with a new opinion of Daugherty's NASCAR credentials. He made a long telecast very enjoyable, and worked well in that environment.

By this time of the season most fans know Daugherty has been an owner in the Busch and Truck Series, where he has won races in both. Kevin Harvick and the late Kenny Irwin Jr. were the most notable drivers who have raced for Daugherty.

Many times this year The Daly Planet has asked ESPN to let Daugherty spread his wings and get involved in some news reporting, preparing a feature report, or taking Suzy Kolber's place when she does her live starting grid interviews. The first opportunity for change came at Richmond, and Daugherty made the most of it. Now, another higher profile assignment is on tap.

Last week, it was tough for him to be placed alongside Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett in the Infield Studio for Sunday's NASCAR Countdown. Things did not get testy, but there was a whole lot of disagreeing on some of Daugherty's opinions about The Chase this season. Unfortunately, the opposing opinions came from both of the veteran drivers. Daugherty, however, deserves credit for sticking to his guns and continuing to voice his views.

This Saturday, there is a live college football game at noon on ESPN2. Normally, these games are taking slightly longer than three and a half hours to complete. Unfortunately, NASCAR Countdown is scheduled at 3PM, and the Busch Series race at 3:30PM. They are also on ESPN2.

It could make for a very interesting Saturday afternoon, as all the other ESPN Networks are also carrying live college football in-progress at 3:30PM when the race telecast is supposed to begin. For the Busch Series, there is nowhere to run.

Unless East Carolina and West Virginia's football teams decide to speed-up the action, there is a good possibility that NASCAR Countdown and possibly the race telecast will be affected. At 6PM, ESPN2 has its marquee football match-up of Kentucky vs. Arkansas, so it is doubtful that the start of the Busch race will be delayed.

Into this scenario marches Daugherty, with his first assignment in the booth for a live NASCAR race. In many ways, it will be a fitting test for someone who has hung-in there this season through a lot of adversity and carved his own niche. His role as the "voice of the fans" was new, and uncharted territory in TV land is always tough.

SPEED steps-in to cover the Busch Series practice on Friday at 1:30PM, and qualifying on Saturday at noon. They are also busy with the Craftsman Trucks live from Las Vegas on Saturday night at 8:30PM. ESPN2 sneaks in NASCAR practice for one hour at 11AM on Saturday morning. All these times are Eastern Daylight.

So, off we go into an interesting three day weekend in Dover. Even as Junior stories continue to take center stage, ESPN2 makes a move that puts Brad Daugherty in the broadcast booth alongside Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace on Saturday.

Hopefully, this move will yield positive results for all those involved, and put some more attention on the struggling Busch Series as they move toward the end of their season.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Junior And Hendrick Star On "NASCAR Now"

Sometimes this season, it has been a bit tough to fill the thirty minutes of Wednesday's NASCAR Now on ESPN2. Not this Wednesday.

The series scored a bulls-eye with the delivery of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick into the NASCAR Now line-up, and then directly into fan's homes nationwide. There was no other game in town.

Host Erik Kuselias was well-informed about the issues at hand, and the show used the talents of Terry Blount and Tim Cowlishaw in the manner that let them both shine. Everyone knew that for this Wednesday, there was really no other story to be told.

After a recap of the news conference, Terry Blount appeared to set-the-table for fans. Blount has become an outstanding TV presence this year, and continues to be a well-spoken and concise "Insider" on this series.

Blount is good when he mixes history and current events, as he was able to do with this big story. He put in perspective the business and family issues that moved Junior in this direction. He consistently keeps things in more of a factual than emotional perspective. In this way, he can deliver any type of story without getting caught-up in the drama.

Kuselias then welcomed Junior on-camera from Dallas. Despite the long day, Earnhardt was in good spirits and responded with an overall theme of optimism mixed with relief. He clearly looked like the world had been lifted off his shoulders.

The questions asked by Kuselias hit all the key points of both the car number and sponsor issues. Then, he added a couple of questions about next season and the expectations of perhaps the largest NASCAR fan base in the sport. In responding, Junior looked a lot older than his thirty-two years. It was clear that this ordeal had been taking a personal as well as professional toll on him.

Tim Cowlishaw was in attendance at the press conference, and spoke with Kuselias about the dynamics and atmosphere at the event. While it was clear that no one was going to be surprised by the facts, Cowlishaw made the point that it was the reality that got people's attention. These are Junior's cars for next season, the Red Army is done, and the Bud Man has walked away into the sunset.

Rick Hendrick is always a calming presence, and his interview with Kuselias helped to spell out the dynamics of both the sponsors and the number issue. Hendrick already had relationships with both Pepsi and The National Guard, so combining them on Junior's car was almost a natural. Hendrick was excellent in speaking about Junior's historical perspective on NASCAR, and what the 88 would mean to him personally for next season. Its clear to see why Hendrick is so successful in this sport.

When NASCAR Now has a story and uses the technology of ESPN and the existing resources in reporters and analysts available to the series, they are tough to beat. Both the Hendrick and Junior appearances were outstanding, and are sure to be on and for some time to come.

When given a story to report and then analyze, Tim Cowlishaw becomes a whole different person than the one we see on Around The Horn. He and Terry Blount worked well in tandem to set-up and then offer reaction to this historic day. If you have a chance to put Wednesday's re-air of NASCAR Now on your it.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you do not wish to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion. Tops TV Networks On Junior Announcement

The website was live on-the-air with its Internet TV application at 1:15PM Eastern Time. They were in their own TV studio talking about the Dale Junior issues and even had a free chat room open for the fans. The live media coverage of Junior's announcements had officially begun.

ESPN News was live at 1:30PM with a news anchor, but no NASCAR Now reporter on-camera. The anchor "threw" directly to the feed of the press conference, missing the opening remarks and joining it in progress.

SPEED's Steve Byrnes appeared on-camera in the SPEED studios at 1:30PM, and then transitioned directly to the press conference. He also joined the festivities in-progress, and no SPEED reporter appeared on-camera at the location prior to the beginning of the announcement.

ESPN News carried ten minutes live, and then departed at 1:40PM Eastern Time after learning Junior's car number and sponsors. The network brought in Darren Rovell, the Business Reporter from CNBC, and Brad Daugherty, ESPN's NASCAR "voice of the fans." They both spoke to the branding and marketing elements of the two sponsors, and Rovell addressed Junior's choice of car numbers.

Even as Hendrick and Earnhardt explained their choices and how this transition began, Daugherty was on-the-air on ESPN News speaking about the demographics of Junior's new sponsors. Sensing a conflict, the ESPN News anchor directed the coverage back to the live press conference in the midst of Mr. Hendrick's continuing remarks.

SPEED worked hard to add graphics in support of the comments being made at the announcement, and they worked very well on-screen. ESPN News used B-roll footage, but unfortunately it was the old red number eight car with Budweiser on the side. Ultimately, they did show some footage of the new cars shot earlier at TMS.

While has its message boards, and has its forum, had set-up a dedicated live "no membership" chat room for this announcement. It was so full, I could not find how many were inside, but it was clear there were hundreds.

ESPN News chose to leave again immediately when the question and answer period began at the live press conference about ten minutes later. They returned to Daugherty and Rovell who further addressed the same issues. Rovell was even asked to address the Dale Earnhardt Sr. merchandising issues and his continued popularity. The conclusion of Rovell was that Junior was getting more money and a new marketing freedom.

Daugherty addressed Junior issues on ESPN News even as Junior himself continued to answer questions from the media live in Dallas. While Claire B. Lang and other NASCAR veteran reporters developed the stories and asked about the issues, ESPN News continued to expound on the generalities surrounding the marketing and financial issues.

At 1:56PM, ESPN was done. Daugherty and Novell signed-off, and left on-the-air live were SPEED and on the iTV side. Both ESPN and ESPN2 stayed with their normal program schedules.

SPEED and got some more details on the number selections, the new marketing programs, and the details on how these sponsor agreements took place. There were some good questions from the press, and Winston Kelly did an outstanding job keeping the press conference orderly and a bit informal.

Thirty minutes in, Junior touched on the details of his upcoming season, his feelings about the numbers, and finally gave fans a good view of his thoughtful and sensitive side. Some good conversation followed, and then things went a little bit wrong.

At about 2:15PM, the satellite feed from Dallas ended in mid-sentence with the press questions still in-progress. Both SPEED and immediately went back into their studios and explained this was a problem originating from Dallas.

Steve Byrnes quickly recapped the Kasey Kahne announcement, and then signed-off this special report and the network returned to regular programming. immediately had a phoned-in report from Larry McReynolds putting his feelings about the 88 car in perspective. Since McReynolds had a history with Robert Yates Racing, this was a well-placed report.

The Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference was an interesting media event that showed both the strengths and weaknesses of cable TV networks and the Internet. Credit goes to ESPN for making the effort to carry a portion of this press conference live. SPEED has made this a practice for a while now, and always does a very straightforward job of presenting just the facts.

One hour after the press conference began, only was still live with their Internet TV application. As the principals of the press conference gathered around two shrouded cars, it was apparent that Hendrick Racing has made one very tactical error. Both SPEED and ESPN left the air before Junior's two new cars were unveiled, and it was clearly not their fault.

Perhaps, in the future, the public relations organizations that host these press conferences will put the TV needs before the needs of the print media. The classic press conference format did not work for ESPN or SPEED, that was very clear.

Simply by announcing the sponsors, unveiling the car, and then bringing on the people involved in the announcements, Hendrick Motorsports would have presented a neat and organized TV media event. Instead, the classic "press conference" format forced both TV networks to leave before either car was unveiled live. That is kind of a big detail.

Finally, as in all big marketing efforts these days, the new "Green Machine" of Junior showed up on-line at in full color. The Amp hype had begun, and even Dale Junior Amp merchandise could suddenly be ordered at, although without an image attached quite yet.

For those of us on the electronic and digital media side of the business, this was an interesting day. Two cable networks carried this event live, and approached it quite differently. One major Internet site dedicated several hours to it with both video and chat room applications that involved many reporters and a full TV style studio. For my money, did the best job today, and showed that it is slowly pulling out of the funk it had been in over the last several years.

Consider this, if the media viewer had been able to go full-screen, they would have actually offered a TV-style product superior to both ESPN News and SPEED. As technology marches on, one thing is certain. The consumer has more NASCAR TV options than ever before.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dale Junior's Press Conference In-Progress Comments

Wednesday at 1:30PM Eastern Daylight Time, both SPEED and the ESPN News Network will carry live the Dale Earnhardt Junior press conference from Dallas, TX.

Junior is expected to announce his new sponsorship package for 2008, as well as which number his car will carry when he moves to Hendrick Racing next season.

While SPEED has been covering NASCAR-related events live for several years, this is ESPN's first season of dealing with such issues.

The ESPN News Network will devote its time to live coverage of the entire series of announcements, and will stop their normal thirty minute "wheel" of sports news.

Over at SPEED, Steve Byrnes will host that network's coverage from the SPEED Studios in Charlotte, NC.

Please feel free to post your TV-related comments about this live coverage on this page, bearing in mind that comments not addressing the TV issues will be deleted.

It should be interesting for many people not into the NASCAR scene that a press conference about a sponsor and a number will be carried live on two national cable TV networks. There is no word on how long the press conference itself should take.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Kinder And Gentler Chase Edition Of "Inside NEXTEL Cup"

Something was different right from the start. Dave Despain's nervous laugh was gone. Michael Waltrip was quiet and low-key. Kenny Schrader was having fun. Greg Biffle was talking about his race. The Monday "Chase" edition of Inside NEXTEL Cup was on the air at SPEED, in a much kinder and gentler version.

It may have been a stern lecture by a network executive. It might have been because it was a beautiful day in New Hampshire and almost everybody raced. It also might have had something to do with the fact that around ten shows remained in the season, and perhaps in the future, of this venerable series.

Inside NEXTEL Cup was on the air and there was no sniping. There was no ignoring the host, badgering the guest driver, or ego trips. Three drivers and a moderator sat down and talked racing for one hour. They even had some fun and some laughs along the way.

This leads to one very simple question. What took SPEED so long to sort this out? Over the course of the season, The Daly Planet and many SPEED viewers have voiced their concerns about this series on this site and on the message boards.

Fans wanted this show to get better. Fans wanted this show to sort itself out. What they did not want was for Michael Waltrip to continue his antics. What they did not want was an angry and tired Kenny Schrader who was not even at the racetrack "phoning it in." What they did not want was Brian Vickers trying to play with the big boys like he had knowledge beyond his years.

Other than the one hour NASCAR Now on ESPN2, this is it for NASCAR TV programming on the Monday night after the race. That is what made this show so powerful over time, even when SpeedVision was a tiny cable network just in its infancy. The word spread by Internet message board and word of mouth about a show "you just have to see."

There was a time when the water cooler talk for racing fans was "did you hear what Mikey said last night?" It was always funny, sometimes crazy, and always entertaining semi-chaos that showed off another side of the drivers that the fans loved. That feeling has been gone since Allen Bestwick and Johnny Benson were dismissed by a new SPEED VP who himself is now gone.

The new show, hosted by Dave Despain, struggled to get an identity in the shadow of the old classic program. While fans wanted the old style fun, things had changed. The format of the show was altered and the guest and the fun features eliminated. There were also a lot of changes taking place with the panelists.

This season, the "regulars" Waltrip and Schrader find themselves in very new positions. The strain of this year's disappointments resulted in a stretch where a very angry and arrogant Michael Waltrip showing up with an agenda.

He only liked Goodyear and NASCAR, everything else was awful. Of course, Toyota was above all this and Waltrip was given free reign to interject Toyota references, which he did frequently. Big hair, tired eyes, and an ego set on high defined him at that time.

Schrader suffered the same fate as Benson, but was not dismissed from the show. Benson lost his Cup ride, and even though he was a veteran and driving in the Truck Series, that did not matter. Schrader drove in the New Hampshire Cup race, but was replaced earlier this season for a wide variety of logistical and performance reasons as a fulltime driver. His weeks on the show during that down time were tough.

As the elder statesman of the show, Schrader epitomizes a type and style of driver that we do not see very much in the Cup ranks these days. Long past his heyday, Schrader is funding a wide variety of other racing activities from his continuing Cup rides. He is possibly the most versatile base of knowledge about auto racing currently appearing on any TV show.

What his future plans are in terms of TV or racing are never discussed on this series. Even as Waltrip continues as an analyst on SPEED's Truck Series races, Schrader is conspicuously absent from the SPEED airwaves. We have not seen him welcomed on Trackside, NASCAR Live, or RaceDay. He is a mystery man.

Now, on this "Chase" Monday Schrader was at attention, well rested, and back in good spirits. Waltrip was shaven, his hair was combed, and nothing on his person was wrinkled. Whether forced or voluntary, for this one night the boys were back in town.

Despain and Biffle made the most of this opportunity. Between the four panelists, the show was the smoothest flowing it had been all season. When Despain talked, everyone stopped. That is the role of the host. In return, Despain allowed continued talk on a wide variety of subjects once the "leash law" had been established.

Biffle is more of a veteran than many people give him credit for, and on this show he asked a lot of questions in addition to offering his opinion. While his TV skills might be lacking, the potential for a strong and well-spoken NASCAR TV personality is there. This program may have been his best in a long while. His opinion was respected, and often sparked other discussions.

Even out of his element, Despain kept the program flowing right up until the end. In every show, there has to be an "alpha male." Someone has to be the person to lead the parade, set the tone, and take the heat. Despain seems to have suddenly discovered he can do that without getting angry or flustered. WindTunnel, this is not.

As this string of final shows winds down, let's hope that SPEED announces soon if this will be the final season of this series. If so, it would be nice to see some of the memories of the past during the final shows, and maybe even a special aired in the off-season. If the series continues, let's hope the network makes some changes in both the format and personnel for next season to liven-up this franchise.

Ten years is a long time for one show to be on the air in today's cable network environment. SpeedVision Executive Producer Bob Scanlon's simple idea of one driver from each manufacturer, one host that knows the sport, and a bunch of video highlights sure did stand the test of time.

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