Saturday, May 31, 2008

The "New" ESPN Team Continues To Impress

The clock on the wall said 8PM Eastern Time as the NASCAR on ESPN pit reporters talked to the drivers after the Nationwide Series race in Dover.

The NASCAR TV team had been on ESPN2 since 2:30PM and never wavered in their focus on presenting the race. Now, five and a half hours later, the same TV crew was wrapping-up a marathon that NASCAR fans are going to remember.

This season, the new NASCAR on ESPN team and the new approach of the network to the sport has continued to impress. Leading this effort in no uncertain terms has been Allen Bestwick.

At 2:30PM, it was pouring at Dover International Speedway. The rain had begun as SPEED was on-the-air with the final Sprint Cup practice session. Before they left the air, Steve Byrnes relayed that the area was under a tornado watch.

One element of Bestwick's season as the leader of this new crew has been his steadfast focus on NASCAR topics regardless of the weather issues. No longer does ESPN bombard TV viewers with SportsCenter Updates and extended interviews with athletes at the racetrack to promote other ESPN programs.

The focus this season is on racing and the results have been fantastic. There might be no better example of that than Saturday at Dover. Bestwick brought a parade of drivers into the ESPN Infield Pit Studio that included Kevin Harvick talking about his teams while Brad Daugherty ate all of Delana Harvick's chocolate chip cookies. Those cookies were about the only thing the ESPN team did not share during this telecast.

Rusty Wallace continues to be one of the best comeback stories of the year. After ESPN announced that Dale Jarrett would take over the Lead Analyst position in the booth, Wallace was moved to the Infield Pit Studio. He would move back up to the booth for selected races when Jarrett was on vacation. Dover was one of those races and Wallace made the most of his opportunity.

After hanging-in with Bestwick and Daugherty for the "rain fill" portion of the telecast, Wallace then moved-up to the broadcast booth and called the entire race with Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree. He was focused and funny while it rained, and then he turned-on the Wallace enthusiasm and kept the excitement level high for the entire event.

The new versatility that Wallace has shown this season with appearances on NASCAR Now, ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and NASCAR Countdown has been a welcome addition to the ESPN effort where NASCAR is concerned.

One point to remember is that the ESPN team is even better when Jarrett is involved. While Wallace moves to the infield, both he and Bestwick participate on a regular basis as the race is in-progress. Even Brad Daugherty has come a very long way this season in keeping his comments focused as he lets his personality come through at last. If Daugherty is given the chance to do some feature interviews, he may continue his TV growth.

Punch was low-key before the race, appearing only a few times. That kept Bestwick front-and-center and the attention down in the infield. Once the race got back underway, Punch kept things simple and it certainly worked well for him. No longer the verbose storyteller, Punch described the action and let his two analysts fill-in the details.

Two unexpected TV twists were highly effective. The first was Tim Brewer in the Tech Center. Brewer may have finally gotten this TV thing, as he was on-top of the issues right down to the tethers on the rear deck lids. This was by far his best race.

NASCAR Now cult favorite and veteran crew member DJ Copp wore a microphone and a helmet camera during the pit stops and the resulting footage yielded a new and very effective angle for TV viewers. Having his audio on during the stops and hearing the conversations was a brand new twist in a sport where it is sometimes very hard to discover anything new where TV is concerned.

ESPN found its groove in this race, right down to the final lap. After the frustration of Fox this season, ESPN showed a nice wide shot of Dover and let the lead lap cars run through the screen as the graphics revealed the finishing order. It answered all the questions of who was where and paid-off the stories that the pit reporters had been following all race long. What a nice touch.

As a tired TV crew signed-off the air, Bestwick made sure to say thanks to all of the engineering and production people who had endured a very long day in the rain. His thoughts were no doubt echoed by many fans who could not believe that the network that struggled with the very basic elements of NASCAR TV last season had stayed live for almost six hours to present a Nationwide Series race.

This may bode quite well for the fans. ESPN seems to be building-up momentum before the network adds the final seventeen Sprint Cup races to the remainder of the Nationwide schedule after TNT finishes its run in seven weeks. Dale Jarrett will return to ESPN in New Hampshire and will then work all of the Sprint Cup races down the stretch.

What are your thoughts on ESPN hanging-in at Dover, filling all that time live from the track and then doing a nice job of covering the race?

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Rusty Wallace Back In The Booth In Dover (Rain Delayed Race Start 6PM)

As Dale Jarrett takes some planned time-off, Rusty Wallace has been making the most of his time back in the TV announce booth. Once again this weekend, it will be Wallace joining Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree to call the action on ESPN2.

The network will be presenting the Nationwide Series race from Dover International Speedway on Saturday beginning at 2:30PM Eastern Time live. The race is also shown on ESPN2HD, and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.

This season, Wallace has assumed the role of joining Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty to form the on-air team in ESPN's Infield Pit Center. Their interaction has been great, and has added a new dimension to the telecasts. This threesome will once again host NASCAR Countdown from Dover to begin ESPN2's coverage. Wallace will then head upstairs to the booth.

The rest of the NASCAR on ESPN team at Dover will include Dave Burns, Shannon Spake and Jamie Little on pit road. Mike Massaro is off this week. Tim Brewer will be on-scene with his reports from the Tech Center.

Needless to say, all eyes are on this race because teen phenom Joey Logano takes over the driving chores of the Gibbs Racing #20 car that has been so dominant this season. Logano has just turned 18, which is the age mandated by NASCAR to compete in the Nationwide Series.

This will give the ESPN team a good opportunity to pump some new life into the Nationwide Series, which has been struggling. Wallace is a team-owner in the series, and his son Steven has been having an up-and-down year as Rusty's driver.

With the Monster Mile offering a tough test, the storyline could not be better for ESPN. Logano against both the other Nationwide drivers and the "cross-overs" from the Sprint Cup side. Finally, the focus will be on the Nationwide action.

Before the ESPN2 telecast, SPEED sneaks-in Sprint Cup practice and happy hour starting at Noon Eastern. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be in the booth. On pit road will be Krista Voda, Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum.

Tradin' Paint comes along after the race at 7PM with host John Roberts and Kyle Petty being joined by veteran reporter Nate Ryan from USA Today. NASCAR Performance is at 7:30PM with host Larry McReynolds being joined by Chad Knaus and Doug Richert filling-in for the suspended Bootie Barker.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Saturday NASCAR programming on both ESPN2 and SPEED. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

What The Heck Is On ESPN2?

Anybody have a clue about the program on ESPN2 at Noon? Is it a re-air of the same Lifelock program that was shown before?

We were told it was just a paid advertising program, but it sure looks like a well-produced special featuring a lot of the ESPN racing folks.

Here is the link to the Lifelock Racing website.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SPEED Delays Truck Race And Fox TV Director On "Trackside"

The action on this triple-header weekend at Dover is fast and furious on the track. As usual, it will be SPEED handling all the Friday support programming except for the Nationwide Series portion.

ESPN2 is going to step-in and show one hour of Nationwide Series practice. That will allow the network to feature Joey Logano on the track in this series for the first time.

Unfortunately, this day also contains a tough decision by SPEED to tape-delay the Friday Craftsman Truck Series race that takes place at 5PM until 8PM Eastern Time that night. Dover has no lights for racing, so the Trucks must use the daylight.

The day begins early with Craftsman Truck Series qualifying at 10AM. It will be the full-time NCTS announce team of Rick Allen and Phil Parsons calling the action. Michael Waltrip will try to make himself available, but that depends on what is going on with his team's Sprint Cup issues. Down in the garage area will be Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander.

This TV team is coming-off of perhaps their best race of the season as they called the short-track action last weekend from Mansfield Motorsports Park in Ohio. From the green flag the trucks were battling like it was the last lap and when the smoke cleared, a controversial first time winner emerged. The NCTS race from Dover should be just as intense, it is unfortunate that it is not being offered live.

Sprint Cup Series practice comes along at 11:30AM. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be in the booth. Reporting from the garage will be Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum. This is the final weekend for the NASCAR on Fox gang.

After lunch, ESPN2 takes over at 2PM for live coverage of the final Nationwide Series practice. Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree will cover this session. Down on pit road will be Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Shannon Spake.

Immediately after that session, the SPEED coverage continues as the Sprint Cup cars qualify at 3PM. It will be the NASCAR on Fox crew returning as listed above. This will be the the final coverage of Cup qualifying with the full Fox crew for the season.

The next program on the SPEED schedule at 7PM will be Trackside, and readers of The Daly Planet will want to make a special note to catch this program.

Steve Byrnes will be hosting along with his usual panel of Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond. After this program, Waltrip gives way to Elliott Sadler for the rest of the season. But, that is not the reason to pay attention.

The guest line-up is stellar, and includes Joey Logano and his Gibbs teammate Tony Stewart. These two should present an interesting team dynamic as Logano continues to be hyped as the next Jeff Gordon, with little mention of Stewart's amazing accomplishments in motorsports. His record may be unmatched by anyone else currently in NASCAR. With Stewart in the news for a variety of reasons, the conversation should be well worth watching.

Trackside's other guest is a welcome surprise. NASCAR on Fox Director Artie Kempner is active in the Autism promotion at Dover because of family reasons which we will let him relate. The thrust of the discussion is certainly going to be about this great cause and how this race sponsorship came about.

Since this is Fox's final race weekend of the season, it should be interesting to see if the panel allows Kempner to reflect on the season-to-date from a TV perspective. Kempner only participates in this portion of the NASCAR TV schedule, and then moves on to other Fox assignments in a variety of stick-and-ball sports.

After Trackside, fans finally get the NCTS pre-race show called The Set-Up at 8PM. This week Krista Voda is back as the host, and she certainly has a lot to talk about in this episode. Ray Dunlap will support her as a reporter and he is the right person to deal with the on-going tension in the NCTS garage. After both Charlotte and Mansfield, will Dover become yet another wreck-fest for this series?

The NCTS race coverage begins at 8:30PM, with Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the booth. Michael Waltrip will probably be alongside. The veteran duo of Dunlap and Adam Alexander will handle pit road. The only hard part about this coverage is that Voda is eliminated from the program after the pre-race show.

Well, there is it. Quite a big Friday on SPEED and even ESPN2 sneaks-in for a live hour. There certainly should be quite a lot to talk about, and we invite you to post your TV-related comments right here. There is nothing to join and we do not want your email address. We just want your thoughts on this long Friday of NASCAR.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page and this is a moderated forum. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Take A Walk With Wendy In Dover

Here is the media release on behalf or the Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports (WAM) about an event involving SPEED's Wendy Venturini this weekend:

Wendy Venturini, a reporter on Speed Channel’s NASCAR Raceday and a member of the WAM Board of Directors, will join NASCAR fans at Dover International Speedway on Saturday, May 31 for The NASCAR Foundation Track Walk.

Walk around the famous Monster Mile to raise funds for the Women’s Auxiliary of Motorsports and other members of The NASCAR Foundation Family of Charities.

Wendy says, “This is my third year being involved in the NASCAR Track Walks on behalf of the NASCAR Foundation. As a board member for WAM, I have so much pride representing WAM and our charitable causes. What a great way to help others in need! I hope race fans and industry insiders come join me and TEAM WAM as we take a lap around Dover this Saturday.”

The NASCAR Foundation Track Walks give fans the unique opportunity to walk a lap around some of the most famous race tracks in NASCAR. Not only do walkers experience the track from a different perspective and enjoy the sights and sounds from the racing surface, they also benefit very worthy causes through fundraising.

A NASCAR Foundation Track Walk is a great event for friends and family members looking for entertainment at the track between race activities. Event participants will enjoy a kick-off celebration prior to entering the track for their one lap trek. Get your group together today and get on track for charity.

Track Walk participants also have the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the charitable causes supported by The NASCAR Foundation Track Walks—including the Women’s Auxiliary of Motorsports--by using the NASCAR Foundation’s online fundraising tools and other fundraising resources. Fans can earn prizes based on the amount of donations they raise. Wendy will also have some of her own prizes on hand for members of TEAM WAM!

Date/Time: Saturday, May 31st at 6:00 PM (immediately following the Nationwide Series race)

At-Track Registration: Friday, May 30th from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Saturday, May 31st from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Registration Location: Across from Gate 4 at the entrance to the Fan Zone

Walk Kick-Off Location: Walk Kick-Off will begin approximately 5:30 PM at the SPEED Stage (look for the SPEED Tower)

Event Fee: $35 at track (Individual Participant; Children 14 and under may walk for free with a paid adult)

This sounds like a lot of fun and if anyone participates, please come back and comment about the experience. I know we have lots of Daly Planet readers going to Dover, so I look forward to hearing about the Track Walk.

If you have comments or questions, please feel free to post them below. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks!

Bootie Barker Gone From SPEED For Six Weeks

As expected, Bootie Barker is gone from NASCAR Performance on SPEED for six weeks as he serves a NASCAR suspension. Doug Richert will fill-in during that time with host Larry McReynolds and panelists Chad Knaus.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TNT Unveils "RaceBuddy" To Shake-Up Your Summer

We knocked on the TNT door and asked them to come out and play. The response was certainly not what we expected. This page over at has some of the most interesting TV and Internet information about the sport that you will ever read.

There will be a full column posted about TNT's RaceBuddy promotion as soon as we finish filling-in all the details. Chances are, if you went to the page link above, your interest is peaked as well.

TNT fully intends to shake-up your NASCAR summer in a very big way. Let's take a moment to get an overview of what is happening. is a website run by a company called Turner Interactive based in Atlanta, GA. That Turner company is a sister to Turner Network Television, or TNT.

As most fans know, has the Internet video rights to all of the NASCAR races and allows fans to watch for about $20 a month on something called Sprint RaceView. This Internet streaming is accompanied by all kinds of audio links and live info and camera choices. You can even pause and replay the races from your computer.

Fox and ESPN cannot dip into this technology or use this type of connection with to their advantage. But, TNT certainly can. The RaceBuddy promo that appeared this week opened-up some new doors for cable TV viewers by inviting them to use their broadband access computers as a "companion piece" to the TV set.

If you would like some background on how all of this ties together, this is a past column talking about "convergence" and how it is rapidly approaching for all of us.

Needless to say, the TNT promo information contains some items that viewers have been wanting to hear for some time now. One, that the live race will be streamed to your computer for free and you can control the camera angles. Two, that your questions can be sent directly to the announcers as the race is in-progress and they will answer you on-the-air. Three, that you can upload a video question in advance and see yourself being played-back on the TNT broadcast. Well, all of this kind of puts "Digger" in a new perspective.

TNT is rolling-out an integrated NASCAR concept that will fully incorporate your laptop or desktop PC actively into the broadcast. To fully participate, you will need to have something more that "just your TV" even if it is an HDTV. Talk about convergence.

We are working with TNT to offer a full column and several updates on RaceBuddy as we approach their first race weekend. On the TV side, the on-air crew remains the same and the format of ninety minute of pre-race does as well. Once again, TNT will be going up against RaceDay, but this time they will be using a couple of new tools.

If any additional information becomes available over the next couple of days, it will be updated here. Otherwise, look for a full TNT column on Monday as the lead-in to what may be a very interesting series of six summer races.

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Logano's ESPN Exposure Helps Nationwide Series

With the Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck Series taking the headlines this season, the struggling Nationwide Series really needed a shot in-the-arm. Enter Joey Logano and the ESPN media machine.

As we documented in this column, Logano spent Wednesday at ESPN moving through the various media companies located at the Bristol, CT campus. It was very clear that the word was out to be prepared for his visit, and the resulting interviews showed the continuing change at ESPN where NASCAR is concerned.

Dana Jacobson and the First Take crew did a nice and conservative interview in the morning on ESPN2. Logano was treated very well, and for a group of on-air announcers who specialize in stick-and-ball sports, things began for the driver on a solid note.

It was ESPNEWS anchor David Lloyd who handled Logano during his appearance on The Hot List in the afternoon. As we have mentioned before, Lloyd and almost all of the other ESPNEWS anchors have been at the forefront of a very dramatic change this year.

Wherever it came from, NASCAR fans have been very appreciative this season as ESPNEWS has embraced NASCAR. The Logano interview continued this effort, with good questions being put to the young driver with respect and a sense of humor.

Aside from an chat session and an ESPNRadio appearance, Logano's finale for his long day was a featured studio appearance on NASCAR Now. It was Nicole Manske hosting the Wednesday show and handling the interview duties.

No one has been more surprising this season than Manske. Free from the old format of The SPEED Report, she has blossomed into an effective show host and reporter with the ease of a TV veteran.

Manske had a nice interview with Logano, and tried to search a little more for the true personality of the young man than the other ESPN hosts. Manske's trademark has been the ability to push interview subjects a little bit, but not too much. She did this well with Logano.

The surprise of the show was the follow-up interview with Joey Logano's father. Manske's questions helped viewers to understand how the elder Logano's son has stayed seemingly so well-balanced. It was nice to have another solid family added to the NASCAR ranks for all of the fans to see. Logano will not be hard to pull for, especially among younger fans.

Brad Daugherty was well-spoken in his comments about Logano, but until the racing resume starts to form in NASCAR's top three series, the talk will just be talk. Logano's father made the point that the media hype drew a lot of the attention to this mid-season start of a young Nationwide Series driver. It will be up to his son to carve out his own career.

Manske's pop quiz with Logano to end this show really reminded all of us that this is a young man with normal interests like girlfriends and video games. His infectious grin and good nature was the main impression from this segment that tried to focus on things other than racing.

All in all, this was a very good day for Logano, ESPN and the Nationwide Series. If he can pay it off with a win at Dover, there is no doubt we will be seeing Mr. Logano again quite soon on NASCAR Now.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Joey Logano Jumps Into The "ESPN Blender"

Danica Patrick did it, so did Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson. Now, it is time for Joey Logano to have his own day-long "coming out" party at ESPN.

Wednesday is going to unofficially be "Joey Logano Day" on the Bristol, CT campus as the young driver makes his way across the ESPN media outlets. As you may know, ESPN has a group of different companies they refer to as "media platforms" all clustered in the same place. When you are going to hit them all in one day, you are in the "ESPN blender." Around-and-around it goes and you are the main ingredient.

Logano will start his day over on ESPN2 with Dana Jacobson and company. He will be on First Take at 11:30AM Eastern Time for an interview. First Take has been the one ESPN program series this season that has struggled to grasp the concept that NASCAR is a professional sport here in North America.

Hopefully, the on-air staff will take the time to prep for Logano and ask the right questions. This program appearance is a good opportunity to expose a new and young NASCAR personality to a stick-and-ball audience.

Working his way over to the Internet world, Logano is going to be hosting a live chat session at 1:30PM on Despite the fact that ESPN controls these "chats" and filters the questions, this will be the only opportunity for NASCAR fans to ask their own questions of "Mr. Sliced Bread." Normally, the chat sessions are also archived and available for members to review.

This year, one of the biggest turn-a-rounds in NASCAR TV has been the attention ESPNEWS has paid to the sport. This network clearly got the message that their distaste for the sport in 2007 needed to change, and change it did. They have consistently featured the NASCAR on ESPN announcers and reporters this year to both preview and review the racing.

One of the best features this season has been ESPNEWS commitment to cover the post-race press conferences from the Infield Media Centers after the Sprint Cup races. NASCAR fans have made this network a destination for live post-race viewing with very good results. No matter what else is going-on in the sports world, once the race is over ESPNEWS changes gears to NASCAR and stays until the story is told.

Logano is going to appear over on ESPNEWS at 3PM. At that time, ESPNEWS changes over from the thirty minute wheel of sports news to a long-form program called The Hot List. Both anchors David Lloyd and Michael Kim have been effective at talking racing with the various NASCAR on ESPN personalities. Kim has been more of the "update anchor" and he has worked on-going NASCAR news stories very well this season. Not sure if he is a fan, but it certainly sounds like it.

Since The French Open tennis tournament is on ESPN2 this week, NASCAR Now will be shifted to 6:30PM. Logano's next stop will be as a guest on this program, which features Nicole Manske and Ryan Burr as the hosts. Both have been good at interviews this season, and hopefully NASCAR Now will have a Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree type along to interact with the anchors. Hearing Logano's comments and then having someone put things in the broader perspective would work very well.

Logano's long day ends on ESPNRadio after NASCAR Now. His tour of ESPN and his time in the "blender" will be done. It will be interesting to hear about his reaction to his first time on the ESPN campus and seeing all of the activity that is always in-progress when the 24 hour sports machine is being fed.

Regardless of whether the media pressure on this young man is coming from Gibbs Racing, NASCAR, or Logano's own PR advisers, they certainly seem to be putting him on the spot for a good performance in Dover. It should be interesting to watch him navigate his way through ESPN on Wednesday.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Evernham Walks A Fine Line On "NASCAR Now"

This season Ray Evernham was revealed as a new member of the NASCAR on ESPN gang. It was a surprise to many that ESPN added a current Sprint Cup owner to the broadcast team. Evernham was going to appear on some races as an analyst, but most of his efforts would be aimed at NASCAR Now and other contributions like ESPNEWS.

On Monday, Evernham found himself walking a very fine line on the one hour "roundtable" edition of NASCAR Now. He was being asked to address the issues associated with his Coke 600 winning car as an owner. He was then asked to address the other teams and drivers as an ESPN analyst. That is one tough assignment.

Luckily, Evernham had a duo on-hand that was going to help him stroll down this narrow path. Allen Bestwick has been anchoring this Monday show since the season began. One of Bestwick's favorite guests is former Cup driver Ricky Craven. These two are exactly what Evernham needed to put things in perspective for him.

Unfortunately, the third panelist was the ESPN utility player Tim Cowlishaw. It was Memorial Day, and apparently Cowlishaw had been tapped to be the designated hitter for NASCAR Now during the weekend.

There is no doubt Cowlishaw has a good general sports knowledge and his appearances on Around The Horn show him to be glib. In this setting, between Evernham and Craven, it was very clear that he was a fish out of water.

Bestwick worked hard to include Cowlishaw, but the meat of the show came from Craven and Evernham. This included a very well-rounded review of the Coke 600 that talked about strategy, tires and incidents. Craven's comments kept Evernham from getting off-balance and made him very effective.

There is no doubt that Evernham and Craven have a chemistry with Bestwick. These three only needed a Mike Massaro or Brad Daugherty to round-out the panel. The conversation flowed and the points being made were always on target.

As Bestwick led the panel into a discussion of the upcoming racing career of Joey Logano, NASCAR Now flashed back to the ESPN footage of a young Jeff Gordon from Thursday Night Thunder. The comparison did not work for Craven, but having Evernham on the show was perfect as he addressed Gordon's early days and his early success.

The subject of Humpy Wheeler's sudden "retirement" was a touchy one. Bestwick let Evernham tell a Humpy story that was very personal. Craven also talked about Wheeler's influence over the actual individual drivers and its positive effects.

This NASCAR Now program worked-in video highlights of both the Indy 500 and the Grand-Am race from Lime Rock Park. The show also promoted the NHRA's upcoming event. It is clear that someone behind the scenes has an interest in expanding this franchise. For fans of the old RPM2Night, even a weekly general motorsports program could not come soon enough.

As usual, Bestwick set the same type of casual but fast-paced tone fans used to enjoy on SPEED's Inside NEXTEL Cup. His ability to laugh at himself and keep the racing action in a bigger perspective has turned this show around. There is almost always a big laugh in each Monday program, and this was no exception.

Poor Marty Smith lost a recent liveshot on NASCAR Now because the cars had taken to the track and drown him out. Unfortunately, it was right after Smith had penned a front-page story on Dale Earnhardt Jr. for ESPN the Magazine. All of us, myself included, gave him some grief over that one.

Bestwick played back a hilarious moment from the Coke 600 weekend that featured Smith once again ready to go live on the morning edition of NASCAR Now. Instead of car noise, this time Smith was standing on pit road as the US Military unleashed a practice invasion complete with helicopters and explosions. This was a Humpy Wheeler trademark for the pre-race shows.

The raw video showed Smith hanging-in there with gunfire and explosions so big they threatened to actually muss his hair. In reality, viewers were hearing Smith do a voice-over during that time and never saw the chaos. Once Smith returned to tag the story on-camera, the troops unleashed the howitzers. Let's face facts, liveshots at the track for NASCAR Now have been snake-bit the entire season.

The ultimate irony was that if Smith was present in the ESPN2 studio for NASCAR Now, he would have been a great third panelist with Craven and Evernham. Instead, he may be going for a hearing test.

The choice not to show highlights of the NCTS race was unfortunate, as the last lap was a classic. Hopefully, this situation will not occur again as a rookie and first-time winner made the race exciting. Ironically, it was a driver from ESPN's backyard and a former Northeast regional racer that took home the trophy. Omitting NASCAR's third national touring series was not the right thing to do.

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Story Links: Just click on the title to read the article.
Coke 600: Your TV Comments Are Welcome
Here Are Some Program Notes For The Week
NASCAR Fans Fill The Stands In Indy
Seinfeld's "Puffy Shirt" Lives On SPEED
Mansfield Mayhem Makes For Great TV
Petty Drops A Bombshell On "Tradin' Paint"
Anyone Heard From TNT Lately?
New ESPN Network May Be A Reality
NASCAR May Benefit From ESPN Shake-Up

Here Are Some Program Notes: (2nd Update)

Allen Bestwick will be joined by Ricky Craven, Ray Evernham and Tim Cowlishaw for Monday's one hour NASCAR Now at 5:30PM Eastern Time.

SPEED will have This Week In NASCAR at 8PM Monday evening with Steve Byrnes as the host. We do know Michael Waltrip will be one panelist, but did not get the other guest confirmed. The show is at 8PM.

Update #2: The second guest on TWIN is David Reutimann

For those asking about Dale Jarrett on the ESPN telecasts, he is on vacation and will return to ESPN in late June for the New Hampshire race. Then, he will be the Lead Analyst for the final seventeen Sprint Cup races on ESPN and ABC.

Next week, French Open tennis will be on ESPN daily. NASCAR Now will move to 6:30PM Tuesday through Friday. Since tennis is known to run a bit long, viewers might set some extra time on the DVR or the VCR to record these shows. NASCAR Now does have a re-air at Midnight Eastern during the week as well.

Updated: This article is now open for your comments. Please keep them related to the topics listed above. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Just click on the COMMENTS button below to add your opinion.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day while remembering what this holiday really means.

Coke 600: Your TV Comments Are Welcome

We had a good live forum Sunday while the Coke 600 was in-progress, but some folks want to talk about the NASCAR on Fox telecast now that it is over. There is only one more Fox NASCAR race, and that is in Dover, DE next week.

If you would like to offer a TV-related comment on the Coke 600, or sum-up your feelings about how the NASCAR on Fox gang have done so far this season, you can do it right here.

Fox has presented all the points-paying Sprint Cup races since Daytona, and will now give way to Bill Weber and the TNT group. They will be on-the-air for six races before the big debut of Dale Jarrett and the ESPN crew. They will take the coverage of the final seventeen races down the stretch.

We have talked about the issue of only showing the winner finish the race, the antics of Chris Myers early in the season and the creation of Digger, the t-shirt selling track camera. While those may be irritations, it is important to remember that Mike Joy leads a veteran crew of on-air announcers who have worked very hard for a long time now to bring this sport back from a rather dark period.

Personalities like "old DW," Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond have become household names because they work on NASCAR TV programs on SPEED every race weekend. These guys are not here to show-up for one race and then head home. That is the difference between the Fox gang and the other TV networks. Viewers recognize their commitment.

What have you felt this season as you watched the NASCAR on Fox Sprint Cup races?

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

NASCAR Fans Fill The Stands In Indy

It was a fascinating day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Change was in the air and reflected in the racing, the fans and the ABC Network telecast.

Let's face facts. Previous Indy 500 telecasts suffered from bad announcers to over-the-top hype to screaming rock music played live on the grandstand roof. It only took the ESPN production team assembled for this Indy 500 a couple of hours to put all those memories to rest.

Marty Reid led a combination of booth announcers that offered the most insightful and honest commentary of this race in many years. Even Brent Musburger, brought in as the ABC "show host," proved to be in good form and well-rehearsed. Musburger blended well with Reid as they transitioned between the pre-race programming and the actual event.

The hit of the telecast proved to be the unique pairing of Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. Referred to by Cheever as "my little nerdy Canadian friend" during the telecast, Goodyear was the provider of information and Cheever was the provider of explanations. Simply put, Goodyear talked about "how" and Cheever talked about "why."

Marty Reid was outstanding at working the pit reporters for everything they could muster during the telecast. ESPN's Jamie Little has finally found her on-air style, and never missed a beat. Newcomer Brienne Pedigo asked straightforward questions and even tracked down Danica Patrick after the race amid a huge media horde. Jack Arute is the Jerry Punch of the Indy 500, meaning he is the "dean" of the pit reporters. Vince Welch is still a little too blunt for me personally, but he knows his racing and asks the questions that need to be asked.

The pit reporters found themselves in situations ranging from car fires to angry drivers. They tip-toed into embarrassed car owners for comments and commiserated with frustrated drivers who fell out of the race. It was a strong performance all around on pit road.

Despite the single line racing, it was still the Indy 500. Reid kept a tight reign on the stories in-progress and repeatedly updated the high-profile issues. Number one on that list, to no one's surprise, was Ms. Patrick. Despite the other two females in the field, ABC could not ignore that fact that many fans were in the stands or watching on TV because of this single driver.

Her constant complaining over the team radio and untimely end to her day made for good TV. Her final angry tantrum served once again to cause fans to either love her for her passion or hate her for her arrogance. ABC covered her from start to finish, and then returned to the race.

The two hiccups in the telecast consisted of a poorly timed commercial with less than twenty laps to go as the field screamed around the oval running some of the fastest laps of the day. Then, upon returning to the race, Reid led a crescendo of excitement that ended with...the entire Dixon family. As Mr. Dixon crossed the finish line to win, Ms. Dixon and the rest of the Dixon clan from New Zealand filled the TV screens across America.

What there was included lots of hugging and crying and joy. What there was not included any other cars finishing the race.

The choice of showing the field finishing after a long and hard race vs. the emotion of a family on pit road should not have been difficult. One minute later, the family was still happy and crying. Unfortunately, one minute later the 15 cars on the lead lap had already crossed the finish line. This was an injustice to the teams, drivers and fans.

The valiant effort of Vitor Meira went unfinished. The controversy and strong drive of Marco Andretti's day was not paid-off. The frustration of Helio Castroneves and the amazing comeback of Ed Carpenter were never seen. Race fans knew where these drivers finished as they were interviewed after the event.

The IRL's side-by-side commercials continue to embarrass NASCAR and the "old guard" when seen by NASCAR fans. The TV networks continue to say it is NASCAR that is prohibiting this practice from occurring in the sport. Watching one IRL race like the Indy 500 only reinforces just how ridiculous NASCAR's view really is on this issue. If anything, having the race continuing on the screen keeps TV viewers in their seats rather than encouraging the two minute dash to the kitchen.

ABC went a long way toward returning Indy to its glory days with a good telecast that told a sweeping story involving drivers from all over the world. The drama of the race once again had been built-up and allowed to play-out. As the cameras panned the stands and the NASCAR t-shirts were on display, it was apparent that Americans had their attention turned once again to a series that is rapidly gaining ground with the public.

Hopefully, the NASCAR executives were also watching the overflowing stands and the enthusiastic crowds. After the success of the 2008 Indy 500, there is no doubt that voices will rise calling for changes to the COT before more fans decide to go dancing with the stars.

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Seinfeld's "Puffy Shirt" Lives On SPEED

TV fans certainly remember the episode of Seinfeld. Jerry did a favor for a friend and wound-up wearing something very memorable on national TV. This weekend, SPEED revived the "puffy shirt" concept in blue. It was just as memorable.

This season on SPEED where NASCAR is concerned has generally been outstanding. The choices in on-air talent and coverage of the Craftsman Truck Series have been fun to watch. The TV ratings are up on everything from the All-Star telecast to RaceDay.

One thing that has certainly been of interest to those watching has been the fashion choices. Early in the season, the "winter white" coats made an appearance on the NASCAR trail and spread to other SPEED series.

It was an interesting choice for a network that does a lot of outdoor TV to have their announcers in an off-white color. When the sun was out, those jackets certainly got the attention of the TV camera. This Fall, it should be interesting to see if that fashion choice returns.

When SPEED decided to end the Inside NEXTEL Cup franchise and begin another NASCAR TV series, there was yet another fashion decision to make. Without advance warning to the on-air announcers, SPEED asked the new This Week In NASCAR team to put on long-sleeve tan oxford button-down shirts. Unfortunately, on that day several of the announcers had worn khaki pants to the studio.

That led to one of Michael Waltrip's best lines. As the cameras revealed a six-foot five-inch man completely dressed in tan, Waltrip said "I feel like I'm in my PJ's." The entire panel was amused by the choice of attire in a TV world that demands careful choices in color and texture for any on-air announcer.

It was clear that no one had ordered a "tall" shirt for Waltrip, who could not button his cuffs. This was essentially because the sleeves ended about two inches above his wrist. Rather than take the time to deal with the situation, Waltrip was left sitting on the set looking like he his PJ's.

This weekend on SPEED, the fashion situation got so bad that it has prompted this column. The reason is easy to understand. There is no need to make professional TV announcers look absolutely ridiculous on national television. That is what SPEED accomplished on Saturday.

Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond are professionals. They roll with the punches and present a wide variety of NASCAR TV programming for SPEED. Millions of dollars are spent on the TV equipment that it takes to originate the programs and events they announce.

There they all were on-camera from the Lowe's Motor Speedway in the heat of late May. The SPEED team was dealing with issues ranging from the Wheeler retirement to the seizure of two Sprint Cup cars by NASCAR. There was actually only one real problem on this day and it was very clear to see.

Big and puffy blue shirts with long sleeves possibly made for either Shaq or a future Seinfeld episode were downright embarrassing for the announcers. The sleeves on these shirts on national TV must have been five inches too long. On Sunday while this same group worked for Fox, they were all comfortably attired in jackets and ties of their own choosing. Perhaps, there is a lesson there.

Emails on this issue wanted to know if it was a new West Coast fashion trend or if the NASCAR on Fox team had recently inked a fashion deal with the local Big and Tall Man's Store. My guess is that the tall shirts accidentally went to the track and the regular ones got sent to Michael Waltrip. Either way, things on-the-air for SPEED need some attention.

With only one more race to go for Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip, maybe SPEED can take a quick look in the mirror and send these TV professionals out in real style.

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Mansfield Mayhem Makes For Great TV

Saturday afternoon it was time for the Craftsman Truck Series to return to the short tracks. Mansfield Motorsports Park is certainly short.

The SPEED TV team went into the race talking about the Championship contenders and the pole sitter. Only fifty laps in, they were talking about the survival of the fittest.

Mansfield was one of the most action-packed Truck races ever seen on SPEED, and called on announcers Rick Allen and Phil Parsons to keep the energy high for the entire broadcast. They responded in sensational fashion.

Despite his superspeedway dramatics, Allen may have finally found his short track "legs" with this Mansfield telecast. He was supported by the SPEED TV crew, who did a super job of keeping things simple and fast-paced.

From the directing to the camerawork, it was clear from the start that the sudden intensity of the racing was not lost on the TV crew. NCTS veterans were racing for position with more than half of the race remaining like it was the last lap.

Caution flags were the order of the day, and hot tempers were sure to follow. SPEED used a easy-to-follow graphics package that included the races off pit road and the movement of Trucks through the field. The crew did not insert anything but what viewers needed to know to understand what was on the TV screen. It worked.

Allen ran the pit reporters around like dogs with Ray Dunlap reminding us once again of just how deep his knowledge of this series really runs. Dunlap always has the "story behind the story" complete with names and places.

It had been a while since NASCAR fans had seen a good beating-and-banging short track race. While the body of the race contained many good stories that the networks followed, the final lap really reminded TV viewers of the reality of the short tracks.

Rookie NCTS driver Donny Lia body-slammed Todd Bodine as he passed him for second place, and then put the chrome horn to David Starr and moved him aside to win the race. At many other tracks and in several other series, a sequence of events like that would have set off a rather large post-race discussion on pit road.

Instead, both Starr and Bodine spoke with the TV crew while Lia celebrated in Victory Lane. Starr was cool and collected as he congratulated Lia and talked about he final lap bash as simply short track racing action. While Bodine complained a bit, memories of his actions last week in Charlotte were not forgotten by the fans.

When the Truck Series began, there were a lot of short tracks on the schedule that featured a very different style of driving than we see in the current NCTS. Mansfield was a reminder that both the TV viewers and the fans in the stands enjoy the good, hard racing of a short track as a part of the NASCAR experience.

SPEED had to be pleased that after all the hard work of the All-Star week, the network could return to the very series that keeps them on the NASCAR map where hard racing and good TV coverage are concerned.

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Petty Drops A Bombshell On "Tradin' Paint"

It only took a couple of minutes for SPEED's Tradin' Paint program to finally get away from the vanilla-flavored conversations of the past couple of shows and find some content to spark some good NASCAR discussion.

"I think Humpy Wheeler was one of the greatest promoters that this sport has ever seen," said panelist Kyle Petty. "On the reverse side of that, I think the sport has passed him by. Even PT Barnum doesn't work in this market today."

All this was in response to show host John Roberts bringing-up the topic of Wheeler's sudden retirement and the subsequent comments of track owner Bruton Smith. The stories these gentlemen were telling absolutely did not match-up on the same topic.

This week on Tradin' Paint it was the lightning rod NASCAR reporter for the AP Jenna Fryer as the media guest. Fryer was more circumspect in her response on the Wheeler issue and raised several good points.

She contends that Wheeler had been distancing himself from both LMS and Bruton Smith for a while now. Wheeler was not involved in the new LMS drag strip and Fryer was convinced that racing just was not "fun anymore" for Wheeler.

At this point in the show, Roberts suddenly decided he would leave the host role and become a panelist. "One thing that I think everyone agrees about around here is the fact that Humpy Wheeler is a big part of what this speedway is...he will be missed around here but he will still be presence...because of what he has done at this racetrack over the years," commented Roberts. He added that he would be the first person in line to buy Humpy's book.

This is the problem that is currently on-going with Tradin' Paint. Suddenly, Roberts has begun interjecting his own opinion and often decides that he will have the last word on a certain subject. If he would like to appear as a media panelist, that might make for a fun show. Someone like Randy Pemberton or Bob Dillner could host.

In reality, this season it is Roberts who is the host of the show. His role is to allow the two panelists to shine. It is to allow them to speak, get across their views and then send the show off to the next commercial break. For some strange reason, this has suddenly become an issue.

A discussion of the recent purchase of Kentucky Speedway by Bruton Smith was next. Both Petty and Fryer raised great points about the on-going dynamics of this rather confusing situation. Fryer guessed another shoe was about to drop, and perhaps it was the purchase and subsequent closure of Pocono Raceway. Petty agreed that was a possibility, but thought that perhaps New Hampshire might be losing a race to Kentucky.

Once again, Roberts had the last word. "No one is powerful enough to make the year longer. There are already thirty-eight events on the schedule right now. There just isn't enough room to have another date," added Roberts. He went on even further with his own answer to a question intended for the panelists. Then, he led to commercial by joking that the next topic up for discussion was "rear ends." This was not the normal John Roberts that TV viewers have come to enjoy.

Petty then led an excellent discussion of the new "crab walking" Cup cars. His technical explanation of why and how this was done was simply outstanding. Fryer's point was that NASCAR continues to make the level of creativity smaller and the crew chiefs are essentially handcuffed with the COT cars. This conversation was exactly the type of interesting and informative TV content that Tradin' Paint was created to give to the fans.

Yet again, Roberts added his own paragraph to the answers of the panel before commercial. "Another thing there is no question about is that some of the smartest engineering minds in world work in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series right now so they will find a way around any new rules that come down the pike." said Roberts. This comment was strange given the fact Petty and Fryer had just finished talking about this subject. What the program needed was the host to "throw" to commercial.

The final big segment of this show allowed Fryer to finally talk about something in depth, and that was the situation with Juan Montoya's team. She had the details on the Ganassi troubles in the sport and Petty deferred to her on those issues. Petty then talked about the same subject from a car owner perspective. His main point was that Montoya should have been involved from the beginning on crew chief changes. If he was not, a new team chemistry is going to be very hard to find.

Over the years, Tradin' Paint has been hanging-in there as a quick thirty minute show that is seen twice a weekend and is then gone. The program is so topical that it does not repeat during the week. SPEED does not produce a season-in-review on this show at the end of the year.

If the host turns the focus to the panelists and makes them work hard where the topics are concerned, the program flows. If the host takes the last word on a topic as the show heads to break, it does not. This edition of Tradin' Paint had great information and interesting content. What it did not have was a rhythm and the reason why was clear for all to see.

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Anyone Heard From TNT Lately?

The website stares back at NASCAR fans with the faces that they have come to know all too well. Kyra Sedgwick is still The Closer. Holly Hunter is still Saving Grace.

One click of the SPORTS button reveals the love of the network for the NBA. There are videos, articles and even an NBA Message Board section. At the bottom, there are lots of pictures of Dennis Rodman celebrating his birthday. Apparently, they were taken prior to Rodman being arrested for domestic violence and checking into an alcohol rehab facility.

What there is not on the TNT website is any mention of the fact that in less than twenty days the network will be taking over the TV coverage of one of the biggest professional sports in North America. On June 8th, TNT will cover the Pocono 500 live as they begin a six race TV package of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

Over at there is a link to NASCAR on TNT. The updated video content is directly from the site. The headline on the page says TNT information will be "coming soon." TNT announcer Bill Weber's last story is from November of 2007. Where NASCAR is concerned, TNT seems to be frozen in time.

At Pocono, TNT will not be televising practice or qualifying. Those sessions will be carried on SPEED. The first time we will see the TNT crew is on the pre-race show for the Cup race on Sunday afternoon. How long that show will be is not available, as TNT only provides the program schedule online two weeks in advance.

Last season, it was TNT's own Marc Fein who handled the show host role. Fein does some on-camera work for, but hosting a multi-hour live high-profile race telecast was over his head. He is comfortable on-the-air with stick-and-ball sports, but since TNT originates no other NASCAR programming, Fein is out of the NASCAR TV loop.

Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds are the new kids in the TNT mix. Last season, they continually rescued the fractured telecasts with their veteran perspectives. Despite the problems Petty experienced in Sonoma, he got comfortable in his analyst role very quickly.

Throughout the telecasts, TNT primary analyst Wally Dallenbach was relegated to the role of beginning every sentence with "just like Kyle said." Having two drivers in the TV booth did not work. There was a good reason why.

Seated down on TNT's outdoor spinning stage was Larry McReynolds. Relegated to the infield by Dallenbach, McReynolds continually performed as if he was actually in the broadcast booth. Focused for the entire event, McReynolds provided strategy and technical knowledge. The telecasts often turned into conversations between McReynolds and Petty.

Viewers know that Weber has been around NASCAR for a long time. Last season, it often appeared that he wanted to be anywhere but at the track for TNT. Fein had taken his pre-race host role, Petty and McReynolds dominated the telecasts and the surprising pit reporters filled-in the gaps. It didn't take long for Weber to get mad, and stay mad.

After the problems that ESPN experienced in 2007, that network made wholesale changes in both personnel and production. The results have been the most dramatic turn-a-round in recent NASCAR TV history.

With less than three weeks before being live on-the-air, nothing has come from TNT about their NASCAR plans for 2008. What elements will change, what will remain the same and how TNT will approach the July race in Daytona are certainly going to be interesting issues to discover.

The featured information currently on is that all-new episodes of The Closer will be coming in July. That may be the last thing some fans want to hear, but it is almost certain that they will be reminded of it a time or two this summer.

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New ESPN Network May Be A Reality

Over at The AOL Fanhouse, the soccer guys were buzzing about the potential for ESPN to acquire some additional high-profile soccer for 2009. As NASCAR fans continue to growse about the problems with non-televised Cup practice and Nationwide broadcasts, one answer from ESPN's own Soccer columnist was certainly interesting.

Here is it below, and here is the full link.

About a year and a half ago, ESPN announced that it was shutting down production on original programming for ESPN Classic. Since then, the network has shown everything from old American Gladiators reruns to run-off programming from the other ESPN networks, and everyone has been scratching their head wondering what would happen to ESPN Classic.

ESPN Soccernet columnist Ives Galarcep, who keeps his own blog at, may have leaked the Worldwide Leader's plans for its least-watched channel.

"The word I just got from a source at ESPN is that ... ESPN has big plans for expanding ESPN Classic into potentially an ESPN3, with the English Premier League as one of the station's marquee draws. That whole scenario may wind up being wishful thinking but what is clear is the ESPN is interested in the EPL rights," said Galarcep.

Still, this begs the question of what kind of channel ESPN3 might become. Would it become an ESPN Soccer Channel of sorts to compete with Fox Soccer Channel? Would it have a more general focus on international sports? (Anything that brings Aussie Rules back to ESPN is okay by me.) Or would it just blend in with ESPN and ESPN2 to allow more events in all sports to be shown on basic cable and satellite TV?

The Daly Planet first raised this issue back in June of 2007 with this column addressing the obvious concerns about NASCAR's Fall races conflicting with other ESPN and ABC programming. In fact, both ESPN and ABC had a mess on their hands with all kinds of logistical issues. From ABC local stations leaving live races for regular newscasts to college football games pushing the Nationwide Series all over the ESPN dial, things were not good.

It was only a short time ago that NASCAR actually had to call on SPEED to telecast one of ESPN's own Nationwide Series races because of programming conflicts. Here is the column about that issue. ESPN had tried to move the race over to, you guessed it, ESPN Classic. That was a "no sale" with NASCAR and SPEED stepped-in and actually carried the entire ESPN broadcast of the race complete with ESPN announcers and graphics.

The bottom line is that there is plenty of product on the ESPN table to fill additional network time. Between soccer and NASCAR, two very hardcore audiences would welcome an opportunity to see live product uninterrupted and additional re-airing of games and races. The ESPN Classic offerings of old NASCAR races from the ESPN Speedworld days are fantastic.

Here we are in May, with a full schedule of college football once again about to push Cup practices and happy hour off-the-dial or to tape delay come September. Those same football games will no doubt have the Nationwide Series hopping around the ESPN Networks like the Energizer Bunny.

In one way, it is nice that ESPN has an opportunity to have ten pounds of programming in its bag for 2009. Now, the executives just have to figure out how to make their networks hold more than five pounds at a time. As the re-runs of Stump the Schwab and American Gladiators roll-by, all eyes are on ESPN Classic.

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NASCAR May Benefit From ESPN Shake-Up

The morning hours during the week, especially Monday through Wednesday, have always been a problem for ESPN. Back in the early days, ESPN did a non-sports show called Nation's Business Today hosted by Consuelo Mack from Washington, DC.

That gave the network a morning break from sports and seemingly filled a void that has existed on ESPN since the network began back in 1979. For the past several years, ESPN has basically thrown-in the towel and re-aired the late night version of SportsCenter over-and-over again.

This left any breaking NASCAR news or updates to Mike and Mike in the Morning or First Take. Needless to say, both of these programs avoid NASCAR like Superman avoids Kryptonite. When Mike and Mike visited the Texas Motor Speedway last year, they had no NASCAR presence until the final twenty minutes of the multi-hour show.

While some digital cable viewers have ESPN News, the "big boys" in the line-up are ESPN and ESPN2. Now, there is a change on the horizon that may yield some positive results for NASCAR fans. Her name is Hannah Storm.

Pictured above with Joe Montana and last seen anchoring The Early Show on CBS, Storm is a sports veteran with a solid background in the industry. She spent ten years at NBC Sports in a wide variety of roles, and worked at CNN as well.

Storm's new challenge is to take the 9AM through Noon timeslot and reclaim it for ESPN as a live "wheel" of SportsCenter content. As the world has changed, the demand for the news portion of the ESPN TV empire to "refresh itself" has also increased.

Often times, is already reporting breaking news and in-progress stories as the 2:30AM SportsCenter replays yet once again on ESPN in the morning. Basically, sports information technology has prompted this move.

Here is the AP story about the change, which features several interesting points. Storm will be joined by a second anchor in the mornings, although the name of that person has not yet been announced. ESPN has said they will select the person from the existing staff. Hopefully, NASCAR fans will not lose Ryan Burr to this new show.

The upside is that Storm has a hard-nose for news and is known as a no-nonsense person when it comes to determining priorities for stories. This new three hour live window is no doubt an opportunity for ESPN's NASCAR personalities to contribute.

Currently, the gap that exists between SportsCenter and NASCAR is huge. Many of the anchors have no NASCAR knowledge, while others treat the sport as a curiosity. Who can forget Kenny Mayne calling Jeff Gordon "Gordo" and referring to Jimmy Johnson's car as the "per diem" car because $48 is the amount anchors get on the road for expenses. Think that would happen with Joe Torre or Kobe Bryant?

This season, ESPN has turned-around NASCAR Now with the addition of Nicole Manske and Allen Bestwick. ESPNEWS has stepped-up to the plate with live post-race coverage from the Infield Media Center after every Cup race. While it is clear there is no reaching stick-and-ball crazy shows like Mike and Mike or First Take, there is now a new glimmer of hope on the horizon for SportsCenter.

The new live morning version of SportsCenter starts in August, just in time to welcome Dale Jarrett with his review of the Brickyard 400. Hopefully, the new morning SportsCenter crew will open the door and finally allow NASCAR to become a viable part of the most-watched sports program in the world.

Update: The strong rumor is that will "spin-off" a stand-alone site called which will be aimed at fans for scores, blogs and interactive content. This would make sense with ESPN ultimately taking SportsCenter live from 6AM through 3PM Eastern Time Monday through Friday in August.

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In-Progress In Charlotte: "RaceDay" And Sprint Cup Race

SPEED kicks-off the live NASCAR programming with a two hour RaceDay at 3PM Eastern Time. That will be lead into the NASCAR on Fox coverage of the Coke 600 from the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

John Roberts will host RaceDay, which this season has been a big success for SPEED. A double digit increase in TV ratings has been primarily driven by the diversity of content within this show.

Both Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer have fully embraced their roles on this program and understand that their opinions carry a lot of weight with the fans. It is up to the production staff to keep these two in check, and this year that has been done with great success. The "panelists" have been clicking with the fans.

This week, defending race winner Casey Mears will be a guest along with Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne. The show will look at drivers who had their first NASCAR win in Charlotte. It will also review the opening of the new facility at the Victory Junction Camp sponsored by Kurt Busch. Finally, Roberts and company will preview how things are shaping up for the "Chase for the Championship."

Following the Kurt Busch theme, Wendy Venturini will offer her regular "Real Deal" feature profiling Kurt Busch. This season, he certainly has been the forgotten brother and his appearances in the top ten have been sparse.

Rutledge Wood will be reporting from the premier of the new NASCAR '09 video game from EA Sports. Wood is continuing to try and define his role on SPEED with appearances as both a credible reporter and a source of amusement.

Jimmie Johnson will also take TV viewers for a tour of Hendrick Motorsports, which is located right down the road from LMS next to the Concord Airport. Ryan Newman will also appear in a feature on this program and will be driving go-karts. As we said earlier, there is something for everyone on RaceDay.

The full NASCAR on Fox crew takes over at 5PM for the Coke 600. Chris Myers will host the show from the Hollywood Hotel with Jeff Hammond alongside. It will be Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds upstairs in the announce booth. Down on pit road will be Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, Steve Byrnes and Krista Voda.

There are only two races left in the Fox portion of the Sprint Cup TV package. After this, the team moves to Dover and then is done. There should be a heightened sense of urgency and a concentrated effort to put everything into this telecast as the season begins to wrap-up for Joy and company.

After the race, Victory Lane on SPEED will be on-the-air at 11PM, but it might be wise to put an extra hour of time on the VCR or the DVR. With live racing, you just never know.

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Special: Indy 500 Live TV Forum Is Open

The day is here and the Indy 500 TV programming is set to kick-off.

It will be ESPN2 up first at 11AM Eastern Time with one hour of pre-race programming. Then, ABC will take-over at Noon with another pre-race show and then the event itself.

This is traditionally one of the toughest programs for the ESPN crew that normally handles the IRL races to produce. First of all, Indy has their own in-house TV production company just like NASCAR. IMS Productions will handle the manpower and staff the equipment at the Speedway.

This has led to things being a bit off-balance on the TV side. For those fans who remember the pre-race programming from last year, nothing more needs to be said. This year the pre-race show will no doubt be a little better coordinated.

ABC likes to have a show host for big events, and once again TV viewers will be dealing with Brent Musburger. Although Musburger is clearly a lover of stick-and-ball sports, he has come to understand the Indy 500 quite well.

This fact may come as a surprise to NASCAR fans, who dealt with a clearly out-of-place Musburger in 2007. ESPN has not yet announced if Musburger will return to the ABC Sprint Cup package later this season.

Luckily, the telecast has Marty Reid in the play-by-play position. While he does not have the dramatic flair of a Paul Page or the pipes of a Bob Jenkins, what Reid does have among all types of racing fans is credibility. Beginning with his off-road days and the old SCORE Series, Reid has also been involved in ESPN's NHRA coverage, is the voice of the IRL and fills-in on NASCAR events as needed.

Last season, Reid was involved in the infamous NASCAR Busch Series race from TN where ESPN actually pulled the live broadcast off all the ESPN Networks as the track chaplain was delivering the opening invocation. Once again, college football and NASCAR proved they do not mix. The point being, Reid has dealt with his share of challenges in live racing on TV.

What has IRL fans buzzing and may well get new fans talking is the hilarious combination of personalities alongside of Reid in the Indy 500 booth. Scott Goodyear's reputation as a wholesome and all-around good guy is just as solid as Eddie Cheever's reputation as a guy who is so difficult to deal with he could upset Gandhi.

Both have solid open-wheel experience, but their differences in style and personality make the combination work quite well. Reid may have to spend some of his time calling the race and some of his time playing referee when things get intense. Finally, the ESPN/ABC group may have hit on an effective team of announcers in the booth.

Most fans know TV veteran Jack Arute and ESPN reporter Vince Welch. Those two will play a key role at Indy by handling the pit road stories. Both of these personalities have a lot of experience, and could wind-up being called-on if serious issues arise from on-track incidents. Let us hope that is not the case.

Borrowed from ESPN's NASCAR coverage will be Jamie Little to fill the third pit road role. Little has a tendency to get a bit loud and a bit intense at times when neither is needed. This season, she has done a great job of defining her on-air personality on the NASCAR trail. As a former IRL TV veteran, Little should have no problem fitting-in at this event.

Squarely on the pit road hot-seat is young Brienne Pedigo. Now heading into her second Indy 500, this daughter of Panther Racing's owner has been working hard to gain credibility with the audience. She cut her TV teeth on the USAC broadcasts on the Outdoor Channel and still has some work to do on her TV skills. Now, with a full field and lots of good racing teams, this Indy 500 will provide her some good content to develop as stories during the event.

The Daly Planet forum is open for your comments. To add your TV-related comments on the Indy 500 television day, just click on the COMMENTS button below. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.

We appreciate you taking the time to stop by and help us with this first Indy 500 live forum.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Are NASCAR Fans Going To Watch The Indy 500?

It has been a while since the Indy 500 was anything more than an exercise in survival for the sanctioning body. Try as he might, Tony George could not use the Indy race to springboard his all-oval series to the next level. Sometimes, the IRL even struggled to fill the field of 33.

Let's talk some TV here. Americans know Danica Patrick from her interviews and extensive media exposure. They know Helio Castroneves because of his Dancing With The Stars efforts. What they do not know is the rest of the Indy 500 field. Names like Rahal and Wheldon and Dixon might be of interest to race fans but entertainment TV viewers could care less. Bring on the summer dancing shows.

This year, however, there is one very big group in North America that is going to have an above average interest in the Indy 500. That group is NASCAR fans. Despite the fact that the open-wheel drivers who came over to NASCAR have been a tad less than impressive, it raised an issue. What did they do to get here?

Now, in May of 2008 there has been a series of events taking place that has landed a golden opportunity in the laps of the ESPN executives who are producing the Indy 500 for ABC Sports. First of all, the two open-wheel series are unified which will introduce a full field of actual racers.

Secondly, as noted above, Danica Patrick appeared in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Then, she appeared on NASCAR Now on ESPN2 as a guest. The question on everyone's lips was the same. When will Danica come to NASCAR? The topper was Patrick finally winning a race in the IRL Series. So, where Patrick is concerned, NASCAR fans want to see what all the fuss is about. Some are going to simply want to see the SI bikini girl driving a race car.

The biggest ingredient in NASCAR TV viewers possibly tuning-into the Indy 500 is easy to guess. It is those three little letters that have turned the NASCAR world upside-down in the Sprint Cup Series this season. For almost four months, NASCAR fans have been watching the COT race.

Instead of manufacturers, instead of brands, instead of putting something on purpose-built NASCAR machines to make them different and special, NASCAR and the IRL are now both racing cars no American will ever drive.

Suddenly, the gap between watching "your passenger car" race around the NASCAR track and racing those "open-wheel things" at Indy has narrowed. No one in NASCAR is now even pretending to be racing your car on Sunday.

The task of keeping the casual IRL viewer glued to the telecast is going to go to Marty Reid. A veteran with a long TV history of off-road, drag racing and even stock cars Reid should be primed for this unique challenge. He has a window of opportunity to get non-IRL fans interested and try to keep them until the end of the race.

As the ABC telecast takes to the air at Noon Eastern Time on Sunday, Reid will have a very interesting pair alongside in the announce booth. Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, the "oil and water" TV announcers of the IRL, will be calling the action. The on-air dynamic of these two is fascinating, as Cheever tends to totally disregard almost everything Goodyear says.

As the IRL TV veteran on the telecast, Goodyear often seems stunned by Cheever's wholesale dismissal of points that Goodyear has just made on-the-air. The time on ESPN and ABC so far in the month of May points to the fact that it may be the announcers who provide more action that the current drivers in the series.

The pit road at the Indy 500 is an intense place to be. TV veterans Jack Arute, Vince Welch and Jamie Little will reprise their roles for the ABC telecast. IRL fans have been writing in to The Daly Planet and asking about the newest pit reporter Brienne Pedigo. Rather than deal with that issue here, perhaps this link to her website will lend readers a clue about why she is working on the IRL races.

No Indy 500 telecast would be complete without Brent Musburger and his podium. Once again, Musburger will be the "show host" for the entire event. His absolute unfamiliarity with NASCAR made him a laughing stock back in 2007 when he hosted the ABC events. Musburger is a great TV veteran with an amazing history. To simply put him behind a podium or in an infield setting and expect him to talk NASCAR was unfair. TV viewers will see if this exact same IRL setting proves to be as off-balance for Musburger and as frustrating for the fans.

While veteran racing fans may remember the glory days of the Indy 500 and the exciting telecasts on ABC, the vast majority of the "target demographic" of the IRL simply does not. It will be up to Reid and company to convince curious NASCAR fans and casual viewers that the resurgence of the IRL is in full swing.

As with every race on TV, the actual action on the track is going to play a major role in the retention of viewers on a sunny Memorial Day weekend. Spinning a realistic storyline throughout the telecast and reinforcing the positions of the high-profile drivers is going to have to stay a theme for the entire broadcast.

After a lot of email and discussion, The Daly Planet will host a live TV forum starting at 11AM Eastern Time on Sunday. That is when the pre-show activity begins on ESPN2. Then, the telecast switches to ABC at Noon. We will continue our live discussion of the ABC coverage through the entire race and experience it together.

Following the conclusion of the event, there will be a "wrap-up" column for your final comments about the day and the performance of the telecast team. No doubt there will be some interesting TV moments to relate.

Please feel free to post your Indy 500 pre-race TV-related comments on this post as NASCAR fans go through a very busy Saturday of on-track activity from two locations. This is a one time IRL special on The Daly Planet, and not the beginning of an expansion into open-wheel TV coverage.

To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by, we hope to see you Sunday beginning at 11AM Eastern Time for our discussion.

In-Progress At Charlotte: Nationwide Series Race On ESPN2

The ESPN2 crew returns to the NASCAR beat Saturday night and things should be very interesting right from the start.

This week, Dale Jarrett is once again on vacation and it will be Rusty Wallace stepping up to the announce booth. Rusty's son Steven celebrated the fact his father would be back on the telecast by totalling the RW Racing primary car in qualifying.

Nothing this season and last has made Rusty crazier than his son tearing-up equipment. Recently, Steven has been making an impressive turn-a-round and Friday night both Wallace's were on Trackside talking about the weekend.

It will be Dr. Jerry Punch handling the play-by-play duties for the race with both the senior Wallace and Andy Petree alongside. This should be a dynamic race with the action very different from the COT single-file racing that viewers may see on Sunday.

Wallace will start his day at 7PM down in the Infield Pit Center with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty. The NASCAR Countdown show has lots of topics to discuss, and hopefully some of those will involve the Nationwide Series. In the past, ESPN has ignored the obvious and chose to focus on the news stories in-progress like Wheeler vs. Smith and the Haas car seizures.

This weekend, both Jamie Little and Vince Welch are in Indy for the big racing weekend on ABC. This leaves the ESPN team down a player on pit road. Rather than bring-in a Lyndsay Czarniak or Adam Alexander, ESPN is going to go with three reporters. It will be Mike Massaro, Shannon Spake and Dave Burns handling the pit road duties on Saturday night.

There are two other notes of interest in this broadcast. Tim Brewer will be in the ESPN Tech Center. While many readers have written that Brewer seems to sometimes be in another location, my information is that the Tech Center is at the track this weekend. Finally, the in-race reporter will be Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the event.

Earnhardt is in the middle of a big promotion for his Nationwide Series sponsors, as the money is tight and the "junior" NASCAR series is really struggling. It makes one wonder what this series will look like during the stand-alone races later this summer?

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series coverage on ESPN2. Please try to keep your comments TV-related. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

In-Progress At Charlotte: Nationwide Qualifying And Cup Happy Hour

Immediately after the live NCTS race from Mansfield is over, SPEED goes right back to the Lowe's Motor Speedway. The network will present Nationwide Series qualifying and Sprint Cup final practice.

It will be Mike Joy leading the team for the Nationwide Series qualifying at 3:30PM Eastern Time. Joy will be joined by Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds in the announce booth. Down on pit road will be NASCAR on Fox reporters Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum.

When this session is over, it will be John Roberts filling the time before "happy hour" with a flexible edition of NASCAR Live. Roberts will have TV veteran Randy Pemberton and SPEED announcer Bob Dillner joining him as reporters from the garage area. This program is scheduled to begin at 5:30PM.

The Sprint Cup cars take to the track for the final hour of practice at 6PM. Joy will stay to call the action and bring out most of the NASCAR on Fox crew. Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be in the booth and Krista Voda and Matt Yocum will be reporting.

Over at the new Fox infield set, Steve Byrnes and Jeff Hammond will be adding commentary and using the tools like the cut-a-way car to elaborate on race issues. This new "pit box" area has certainly been...interesting.

This post will serve to host your comments about the afternoon of qualifying and practice on SPEED. There will be a new post up at 6PM for the Nationwide Series race on ESPN2. To add a comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

In-Progress At Mansfield: Craftsman Trucks On SPEED

The Craftsman Truck Series moves to the half-mile at Mansfield Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon for a live race on SPEED. The track is located in Mansfield, Ohio.

The Set-Up at 12:30PM Eastern Time will kick-off the coverage. Since regular pre-race host Krista Voda is at Lowes' Motor Speedway working for Fox, it should be Rick Allen who hosts this show as well as the race coverage.

Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will be reporting from pit road. Phil Parsons will be alongside of Allen in the booth. The TV race coverage begins at 1PM.

Last week Johnny Benson was a panelist on NASCAR Now, and then he went out and grabbed the pole at Mansfield averaging slightly over 110mph. This should be a good short-track race that will have a fast pace.

This post will serve to host your comments about the NCTS on SPEED. To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Trackside" Moves To SPEED Street

Friday night on SPEED is going to bring a unique mix of motorsports that NASCAR fans should enjoy. There will be a special version of Trackside first at 7PM Eastern Time and then three hours of coverage of the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at the Lowe's Dirt Track.

Once of the big events surrounding the Coke 600 weekend is called Speed Street. Downtown Charlotte is set-up for a street festival complete with lots of bands and fun.

On the main stage Friday night the featured attraction will be Trackside. Well, for fans of Kellie Pickler who appears on the same stage that night a bit later, Trackside might be the second-favorite featured attraction.

With all of the NASCAR news swirling around it should be interesting to see how host Steve Byrnes deals with playing to this rather massive crowd, many of whom may only be casual fans. Byrnes will be joined by Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond on the stage.

All four of these announcers have already been on-the-air for SPEED and relayed their views about Humpy Wheeler's "retirement." Friday night they will get a chance to speak about Bruton Smith's purchase of Kentucky Speedway and what role that may have had in the Wheeler situation.

It should be a fascinating night because added to the mix as a live guest on the show will be Michael Waltrip. Never shy in front of a crowd, Waltrip will no doubt be weighing-in on the topics of the day. What makes this even better is who Waltrip will be sharing the stage with.

ESPN's Rusty Wallace will also guest on the program. The dynamic of having two NASCAR team owners who are also high-profile announcers on different TV networks stop by Trackside should be interesting to watch. Rusty's son Steven will also be on the show.

The final confirmed guest at the time of this column is going to be David Stremme. He should have an interesting to story to tell about his last couple of months and what the future may hold for him as the silly season gets in full-swing a little early this year.

My personal note is for NASCAR fans who might not have seen the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars cars run on dirt. This is an amazing show that you should watch if you have the chance. The 800 horsepower of the winged sprint cars and the entirely different style of racing from pavement ovals is eye-opening.

The Dirt Track at Lowe's is a fast and exciting oval with normally great action. There will be lots of NASCAR drivers and owners also present as there is now a big cross-over between the two series. No doubt that in the three hours of coverage SPEED will work to include the NASCAR folks and allow them to talk about sprint car racing on dirt. It should be well worth the time to tune-in.

If you have comments about Trackside or the World of Outlaws special on SPEED, please feel free to post them here. To add your opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for stopping by.