Monday, August 6, 2007

Pocono's "Victory Lane" Shows Busch In A New Light

NASCAR continues to make good on a promise that SPEED's Victory Lane program will continue as normal despite the change to ESPN on the NEXTEL Cup TV coverage. At Pocono, with ESPN still on-the-air, the trio of John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer, and Kenny Wallace were already recording their show.

Out of the public mayhem of RaceDay, both Spencer and Wallace get an opportunity to talk more about racing, and play less to the crowd. This has led to some interesting insight from two drivers with two very different perspectives.

Spencer was in his glory at Pocono, being a Berwick, PA native. He kept a good perspective on the stories of the race, including the Dale Earnhardt Junior shock change and his subsequent run to second place.

The Kurt Busch that was in Victory Lane was quite different from the old version of a spoiled rookie. Spencer was excellent in asking questions of his old nemesis, and treated Busch in a professional manner. Spencer actually handled the vast majority of the questioning, and his behavior went a long way toward ending any question of lingering animosity.

Busch actually thanked Tony Stewart for pressuring him into a situation where he had to "go" at all costs. In this interview, Busch gave credit to others including new Crew Chief Pat Tryson for both race strategy and team dynamics.

Unlike his stammering Winner's Circle interview, Busch looked and sounded like an adult. It would have been easy for the panel to pick-on him, or bring up the problems of the past. They did not. As The Daly Planet mentioned in a previous column, this show has finally come of age.

Pat Tryson was next-up, and this is one of the things that other networks still struggle with, that its not all about the driver. Tryson was low-key as usual, and gave his opinions in a good-natured interview. Spencer was on-the-mark with his review of Tryson being released by Roush, and then hooking-up with Penske.

After the race, Spencer and Wallace really work hard to keep the excitement going, and Roberts is still one of the best at hosting "from a distance." That is to say, he "directs the traffic" while the show is on-the-air and let's the other panelists talk openly. This is such a plus for a host at the track.

SPEED offers a nice timely highlight package of the race, and allows Spencer and Wallace to voice-it-over, as opposed to simply using the host. This allows the panel to include in the highlights the information that the winning driver and crew chief has passed along in their earlier interviews.

Bob Dillner has taken his lumps, but he has hung-in there as Victory Lane's single reporter and done a good job. At Pocono, he had the tough task of interviewing Dale Junior, who is not his biggest fan. All went quite well, and Junior explained both the shock change and the flat tire that affected his day. It was quite clear from this interview that Junior is dedicated to DEI this season, and along with Busch, seems to also be a full-fledged adult these days.

Roberts is also good at letting the two "driver-panelists" talk about one subject in the last segment of the show. This time, it was Watkins Glen and the increased importance of the road courses in "The Chase." Spencer pointed out the motivation of Robby Gordon after the Montreal fiasco, and Wallace brought up the extensive road course testing that the teams had been doing at Virginia International Raceway.

Once again, Victory Lane was a nice little package for NASCAR fans. Let's hope the network keeps this show steady for the rest of the season, the only thing that would be better for viewers is repeating it following Inside NEXTEL Cup on Monday nights.

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.

Monday Mailbox

The Daly Planet gets lots of mail. Here are some answers to questions asked many times by readers:

Q - Why don't you publish the email addresses for TV networks?
A - In today's world, each NASCAR TV partner along with individual TV production companies has a stand-alone website. also has this information.

Q - Why don't you name the production people you discuss like Producers and Directors?
A - This forum is for discussion of their work, and that is simply not a reason to make things personal. TV is subjective, and opinions are just opinions, including mine.

Q - What is your beef with ESPN?
A - No one was more surprised than me this season when ESPN rolled out NASCAR Countdown, NASCAR Now, and their Busch Series coverage. Each of these three series, and now with NEXTEL Cup added-in, are stand-alone TV projects. Who knew that with all the experience of ESPN, we would be dealing with such basic issues as "NASCAR knowledge" and "TV studio hosting?" Certainly not me. What we would like to see and have not...are these issues addressed.

Q - Why do you seem to like SPEED Channel?
A - You obviously have not read my columns on Inside NEXTEL Cup or several of the more "interesting" efforts by that network this season. This small network has a multi-year head-start on ESPN. We have taken them to task this year for everything from Michael Waltrip on Tradin' Paint to Jimmy Spencer ranting about Kelly Elledge. Right now, however, they seem to be on a roll in their NASCAR coverage. (Please note we do not deal with The SPEED Report or Wind Tunnel.)

Q - Why are you so negative all the time?
A - Once again...who knew? This season was supposed to be about a celebration of NASCAR and its new TV package. Instead, we have networks refusing to show cars crossing the finish line, arrogant announcers who feud on-the-air, and studio talent being assigned to NASCAR as if it is Arena Football or another "minor sport." Like I said before...who knew?

Q - Is there anything good about NASCAR TV this season?
A - Absolutely. The best weekly post-produced show is Survival of the Fastest . The best live racing series is the Craftsman Trucks. The best show live from the track is Trackside with Steve Byrnes. The best "specials" were the Ultimate NASCAR series. The best play-by-play is Mike Joy. The best analyst is Larry McReynolds. The best pit reporter is Allen Bestwick. How's that?

Q - Do you get paid by anyone to do this?
A - No. I started this project after being encouraged by my family and friends. Instead of returning to TV fulltime, I decided to follow a different path and use my network management, TV production, and on-air operations background to talk about the "new" NASCAR TV package this season, as it will only come along once. I thought it was an opportunity not to be missed, and that certainly has proven true in many ways.

Q - Do you get paid by Sirius Satellite Radio?
A - No, I met Dave Moody after we both published articles on the same topic, we hit it off, and he asked me to guest on Sirius Speedway every couple of weeks so he could "talk some TV."

Q - Where is your bio on the website?
A - Unfortunately, I was naive when I started and published my bio information not knowing the reality of the Internet. My former employers got harassing phone calls and emails, I had people actually trying to locate my house, and I even got several direct personal threats. Needless to say, I pulled back my information. If anyone would like to talk about my background, simply email me and I will be happy to correspond.

Q - Why are people talking badly about you on the Internet?
A - One of the realities of the Internet is anyone with a keyboard becomes God for a little bit. Since I drive very heavy user traffic, anyone who uses my site name in their posts get listed on the same search engines that carry my site. That way, simply by "flaming" me on some obtuse point, they get listed that day on big engines like Google and Yahoo.

Q - Will you return next season?
A - That is a decision that will be made in the next couple of weeks. We will also take a look at how to deal with the off-season, and the TV stories that occur during those months.

Thanks again for emailing questions, I hope that I have done a good job in answering the issues that pop-up as we move forward in the first year of this media project.

"NASCAR In Primetime" On ABC Should Be Interesting

ABC is rolling out a new limited program series entitled NASCAR in Primetime. The premier episode is Wednesday, August 15th at 9PM Eastern Time.

The press release for the series says things that get NASCAR fans a little nervous. Things like "it (NASCAR) already has a firm hold on the hearts and minds of's a seemingly unstoppable phenomenon."

The series is a reality show that follows fans, drivers, and officials around and "documents their every move." ABC says it had access to NASCAR's "inner workings" and "saw people and places that NASCAR has never before allowed to be filmed for TV." Well, that certainly brings a lot of interesting scenarios to mind.

Finally, the program summary says "People from every corner of America sing the praises of roaring engines and wax poetic about the smell of burning rubber."

I actually remember seeing a couple "waxing poetic" in the Talladega infield but I don't remember any burning rubber being associated with it. Actually, I believe the two things involved were a Ford F-150 "longbed" and some adult beverages. They sure were waxing.

NASCAR Images in Charlotte is the official "TV company" of NASCAR, and nothing moves off the track in "TV land" without them. We have seen their work on several networks, including some great shows on SPEED. Currently, we have the Survival of the Fastest series which is getting great reviews.

If NASCAR Images produced this series, and is simply selling it to ABC it has potential. Fans remember Beyond the Wheel and NBS 24/7 as two former reality favorites.

This season, there has been a big hole on Monday nights after Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED. The network chose not to return their NASCAR reality shows, and tried to produce its own, with not so good results.

It will be nice to see "something NASCAR" in primetime on a weeknight, but I certainly hope it presents things in a realistic light and not the "hype and tabloid" angle that has been plaguing some of the ESPN/ABC NASCAR content.

I think we all agree to try and delete Fast Cars And Superstars from our memory banks. Apparently, William Shatner is nowhere to be found in this series.

The Daly Planet will begin screening and posting on this new broadcast network primetime series after the premier episode. Please return here after you view it and add your opinion. Thanks.