Saturday, October 13, 2007

Special Sunday Edition: Ask Your NASCAR TV Question And Get An Answer

Since there is no race on Sunday for the NASCAR Series, The Daly Planet will use this page to host a one day "question and answer" forum.

Over the last two weeks, as the season winds-down, we have been letting you ask the TV-related questions that have been on your mind about this season's NASCAR TV coverage. They can be about any topic, or any TV network or industry issue.

Sunday from 7AM through 7PM Eastern Time we will be answering your questions right here to the best of our ability. Sometimes, we ask our TV friends, and they have been very helpful. Since the race is right in Concord, we know all the ESPN and SPEED folks will be home and reading this blog on Sunday.

Hopefully, they can pitch-in and help with some issues. You can add your questions now, but we will start to answer them on Sunday, so check back to this page.

To add your question, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and you do not have to leave your email address. You can ask anything anonymously, and actually get an answer.

Before you post, please read the rules on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for stopping-by, and after a good Charlotte race weekend it will be fun to cap it off with some questions and some answers.

Punch Struggling In NASCAR Booth

Most of the talk about the ABC coverage continues to be about the missed restarts and the infamous "draft lock," but there is something else that just can't be ignored.

On Friday night in the Busch Series race, the leader Clint Bowyer was trying very hard on old tires to hold off the charging Greg Biffle. Suddenly, Bowyer's car broke loose, spun in front of Biffle, and the entire race field was suddenly heading for two spinning cars in a dangerous part of the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

This was the commentary from Dr. Jerry Punch in the ESPN2 announce booth:

"Whoa, the 2 car around...right in front of the 16."

As the field came down on both cars, TV analysts Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree jumped-in and tried to fill-in the details that Punch did not deliver. Cars were in the grass, spinning across the track, and continuing to crash in the back of the pack.

Two or three other cars had also crashed on the track and were now sliding across the start-finish line. The caution was out and the track was a mess. Cars were trying to drive away, others were stopped on the track, and several could not continue.

Jerry Punch is the play-by-play announcer for both ESPN and ABC on their NASCAR coverage. He is the voice of the sport, and adds the excitement and the descriptive narration to one of the fastest and most viewer-friendly sports in the world.

From the time Punch finished saying "in front of the 16" as the crash began, he said absolutely nothing at all for thirty seconds. Let me repeat that. The play-by-play announcer on ESPN said nothing for thirty seconds as a high speed crash unfolded live on national TV in primetime during a NASCAR race.

As the cameras panned around, they found several cars sitting damaged on the track. Viewers had absolutely no idea why they were there, or where they came from. When ESPN replayed the crash, Wallace and Petree again filled-in the details of the incident.

The Busch Series season began with great expectation for ESPN. Jerry Punch was back in NASCAR, and fans were loving it. With Bob Jenkins, John Kernan, and Jack Arute long gone, Punch was the only tie-in for many fans to the old ESPN NASCAR days.

Expectations were higher for Punch than his booth-mates Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. Wallace had practiced his TV skills on the IndyCar package, but this was his first full season on the NASCAR beat. Petree was a total TV rookie. It was Punch who was the consummate TV pro, and who had decided to remain loyal to ESPN and continue there once the NASCAR TV package moved on.

Now, rewarded for his loyalty, Punch was put in the highest profile position of his career. His previous experience with play-by-play on ESPN's Craftsman Truck Series was not a positive one, but his work as a reporter for college football and other sports continued to show TV viewers his true strength, which is news reporting.

As the Busch Series wore on, the big NEXTEL Cup TV package on ABC was rapidly approaching. ESPN had many long days on the Busch beat, and Punch was often the only voice heard in the booth for hours. When Punch went on vacation, Marty Reid and Allen Bestwick both stepped into the play-by-play role with outstanding reviews. Now, TV viewers had a new level of expectation for Punch upon his return.

When he came back, Punch actually appeared to be weary of his assigned role of adding "the excitement" to the telecast. When fans think of current NASCAR announcers who "get it," the list is a short one. Mike Joy, Allen Bestwick, Barney Hall, Dave Moody, Mark Garrow, and maybe a few others can make fans sit-up and take notice instantly with the inflections in their voice and their choice of words.

These veterans can make things in a race go from boring to totally exciting in the blink of an eye. This is the experience that play-by-play announcers in TV sports bring to the viewer. When something is happening, be it a long touchdown pass, the final strike of a no-hitter, or a jump shot at the buzzer to win the game, it leaves a lasting memory. Sometimes, the call of a just a single moment in sports can be remembered for a lifetime. There have been no such memories this season with Jerry Punch.

As the ESPN on ABC season winds-down, there certainly have to be discussions underway about next year. This first effort from ESPN has been huge, with millions of dollars in manpower, facilities, and logistics. The pictures have been great, the sound has been fantastic, and the technical end of the telecasts has been first-rate from the graphics to the High Definition technology.

Unfortunately, the ESPN issues with the NASCAR on-air personnel have been on display for everyone to see. Kolber "in" and Bestwick "out" of the Infield Studio. Daugherty struggling to define for us why is he is on national TV. Dale Jarrett structuring his "retirement" year around the ESPN race package. Wallace struggling under the pressure of "draft trackers" and his son's continuing on-track woes. Jamie Little unable to locate her personal volume button...and turn it down. And, there is one more item being discussed.

The message boards and chat rooms across the Internet reflect the viewer's confusion about Jerry Punch. Most fans, like myself, have fond memories of his hard work and his wonderful personality. Newer fans, however, chide him for often being the last one to spot an incident and seemingly being unable to muster-up any sort of excitement during a race telecast.

As we have discussed before at The Daly Planet, Punch was great as a reporter. He earned our trust whether it was on IndyCars, college sports, or NASCAR. Seeing Jerry Punch with Bob Ley on a high-profile ESPN news program seemed to be natural. Jerry Punch is a reporter at heart, and we like that about him. As they say in the business, it seemed that he had a nose for news.

As ABC and ESPN close out the season, it will be interesting to see if they allow Punch to step-back and look at his struggles with an unbiased eye. Punch could easily step into the shoes of Suzy Kolber on NASCAR Countdown or host the ESPN2 daily series NASCAR Now. No one would begrudge him a change.

One thing is for sure, when Punch looks back at 2007, it will be one of the longest years of his life. Beginning with the January production meetings, Punch has been working on the NASCAR beat for ten months with only a few small breaks. Now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and only one question remains. In what direction will he turn when this season's NASCAR journey is over? Only one person can answer that question.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS page below, and follow the instructions. Thanks again for taking the time to stop-by and add your opinion.

In-Progress At Charlotte: NEXTEL Cup Series On ABC

Saturday night at 7PM Eastern Time, ABC carries the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series from Lowe's Motor Speedway. There will be a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Countdown at 7PM, and the race coverage will begin at 7:30PM.

The shortened Countdown show is due to live coverage on ABC of a national college football game which will begin at 3:30PM. The game is scheduled to end at 6:30PM and transition into a thirty minute scoreboard show. That show will collapse down to 7PM for NASCAR coverage should the game run long.

Brent Musburger is busy with college football, so there will be no "show host" for this telecast. Suzy Kolber will anchor NASCAR Countdown and remain in the Infield Studio along with Brad Daugherty. There is no word on if Dale Jarrett will join the Infield team after not qualifying for this event.

Update: Musburger must have made his plane. He is on-hand at the racetrack and there is no Dale Jarrett in the Infield Studio.

In the announce booth will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. Reporting from pit road will be Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Jamie Little and Dave Burns. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Center.

This is a big event for the ESPN on ABC production and announcing crew, who have not been having the kind of success they envisioned when they began their Chase coverage. If Jarrett is added to the crew, the on-air dynamic could be very interesting.

This page will host your comments about tonight's NASCAR programming on ABC. You may add your opinion before, during, or after the coverage. Please read the rules for posting, which are located on the right side of the main page. Your comments should be about the ABC coverage, the personalities, or the opinions being expressed in the forum.

To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the simple instructions. There is nothing to join, and you are not required to leave your email address. Thank you for taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion at The Daly Planet.

In-Progress At Charlotte: "RaceDay" On SPEED

Saturday afternoon at 5:30PM SPEED presents NASCAR RaceDay live from the RaceDay set at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This show runs for two hours, and the final hour is head-to-head with the ABC pre-race program called NASCAR Countdown.

RaceDay will be anchored by John Roberts, with Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace alongside. Wendy Venturini will reporter from pit road, and also add her Real Deal feature that will focus on speedway owner Bruton Smith and his desire to build a national caliber drag strip on the speedway property.

This week, guests on RaceDay will include Jimmie Johnson and his team owner Rick Hendrick. This program is one of SPEED's most popular, and this season moved into direct pre-race competition with the networks carrying the actual race.

Please Note: SPEED's Victory Lane will not air late Saturday night, but will air in its normal timeslot of 8PM on Sunday.

This page will host your comments about the show. You can add your thoughts before, during, or after the program. Please read the rules for posting located on the right side of the main page. Keep your opinions focused on the TV program, the personalities involved, or a response to the other comments in the forum.

To post your comment, simply click on the COMMENT button below and then follow the instructions. Thank you again for taking the time to stop-by and add your opinion to The Daly Planet.