Friday, February 23, 2007

SPEED: NCTS Set-Up Show at Fontana

SPEED's decision to formalize a thirty minute pre-race show for each NCTS event is beginning to pay dividends. Finally, the drivers and teams of this struggling series will be provided some critical TV support programming. This type of "preview show" was instrumental in attracting the new legion of fans to the NEXTEL Cup Series, and may wind-up being exactly what the NCTS needs...desperately.

Krista Voda has returned to SPEED, and positioned herself as the energetic cheerleader of this series. She is key to the success or failure of this program, and needs the remainder of the reporting and announcing team to step-up to her level of professionalism and emotion. Her ability to partner with Mark Martin for Daytona's NCTS pre-race show was memorable in light of the passing of Bobby Hamilton Sr. The chemistry between the two was obvious.

The challenge for SPEED is to begin to add more features like the outstanding and emotional profile of Jack Sprague. Voda is a veteran feature reporter, and is especially adept at bringing out the emotion in her pre-produced pieces. Perhaps, pit reporters Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will branch out and begin to add this kind of humanistic feature reporting to their resumes.

Veteran media types know just how crucial this year of television coverage is for the continued success of this series. With only 34 trucks racing at Fontana, and at least four teams of questionable character, NASCAR needs to pull-out all the stops in cross-promoting the NCTS on the NASCAR TV partners. The first call from NASCAR needs to be directly to the NASCAR Now producers in Bristol, CT.

If ESPN continues to choose to ignore this series, they can lower its value in future NASCAR TV negotiations with the network, or end it outright and allow the spotlight to shine on ESPN's exclusive Busch Series coverage. The ball is in NASCAR's court to troubleshoot this problem of ESPN ignoring one of NASCAR's three national divisions. And make no mistake, they are ignoring it.

SPEED, on the other hand, needs to get its own troops in order. The NCTS is the only national NASCAR series racing on SPEED, and that needs to reflect itself in SPEED's other programs. The management at SPEED needs to inject NCTS features and highlights in Raceday, Inside NEXTEL Cup, The SPEED Report, and WindTunnel. As SPEED and NASCAR Images continue to re-define their relationship, let's hope the good racing and colorful personalities of the NCTS do not fall by the wayside.