Monday, June 30, 2008

Michael Waltrip Gets His TV Groove Back

Kenny Schrader used to put Michael Waltrip in his place on Monday nights by saying to him that Inside NEXTEL Cup was "Mikey's show." This comment used to come right after Schrader had ended another one of Waltrip's often hilarious stream of consciousness rants. Where INC was concerned, Schrader was the enforcer.

Once SPEED reconfigured the program into This Week in NASCAR, one of the biggest changes was that Kenny Schrader had left the building. Now, it was going to be up to Steve Byrnes, Greg Biffle or Chad Knaus to figure out how to handle Waltrip. That is no easy task.

Daly Planet readers skewered the new program when it started and many continue to yearn for the old days. On the other hand, it has been fun to watch Byrnes and company actually develop a new TV show from the ground-up.

This Monday night Byrnes knew that he was holding a winning hand. The format of TWIN calls for a preview of the upcoming race first and this week it was Daytona. Looking across the NASCAR Media Group studio set, Byrnes saw Waltrip and Biffle as his panelists for the program. That would be a jackpot.

Even better than the success that both panelists enjoyed at Daytona would be the fact that Biffle had just signed a contract extension with Roush Fenway and Waltrip has finished second in Loudon. Both drivers were in very good moods.

From the start, Waltrip was excited and animated and had the look of the "Mikey of old" that fans have come to enjoy. He was talking way too long for the Producer as usual and it was fun to watch. Biffle was comfortable with Waltrip and enjoyed his preview information about Daytona, including the very personal stories and memories.

Finally, the NMG production staff is beginning to understand that it is the conversation and not the pre-produced features that the fans are coming to see. This program was clearly the best example of that so far this season. Waltrip was on a roll, Biffle was having fun and Byrnes was directing traffic and getting out of the way.

When Waltrip has his game-face on things like background pictures on the set, hello's to Kenny Wallace and smacking his fellow panelist all come into play. This is the reason people watch the show. Teetering on the edge of control has always been the allure. From the shaking head of Allen Bestwick to the gritted teeth of Dave Despain, veteran fans remember the effects of the "Waltrip tornado" on the show.

Hidden behind the jokes and stories this week was perhaps the best presentation of both a preview and a review that this new show has done. The perspective of these two panelists worked very well in the comfortable and casual setting that SPEED provides. In terms of Daytona, both Waltrip and Biffle combined for a sparkling preview. There is no substitute for first-hand experience.

Where Loudon was concerned, Waltrip hung tough to his theory that rain had nothing to do with his good finish while admitting that race car drivers do think a little bit differently than others. TNT's Bill Weber might refer to that as "strategery."

Watching this show continue to evolve and understanding that it is being "built" will allow for a little better perspective than continuing to be driven nuts by the backwards format or the ridiculous video features inserted in the closing segments.

Even a cameo appearance by T. Taylor Warren from his NASCAR Confidential profile did not have a natural place in this conversation-driven program. Re-purposed video is an issue that has been raised before with this program.

It is hard to believe that This Week In NASCAR did not contain highlights and soundbites from the Nationwide and Truck Series races of the past weekend. Tony Stewart and Johnny Benson were perhaps bigger stories this week than the goofy SPEED videos of drunken monkeys and Kenny Wallace being loud...again.

Balancing the good content against the bad format will keep hardcore fans returning, but there has to be some agreement on including all of the NASCAR action from the previous week. The Whelen Modifieds had a fantastic finish at Loudon that should have made this show.

Now that the on-air talent seem to be comfortable with each other, it is time to hammer-out a new format so fans can understand that this program will keep them updated on everything happening in the sport on a regular basis.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monday Night Match-Up: Waltrip/Biffle vs. Jarrett/Evernham

On the heels of the chaos that was the Sprint Cup race from Loudon, both SPEED and ESPN are poised to offer one hour Monday wrap-up shows.

This Week In NASCAR continues to find its way in this first season. Steve Byrnes hosts the program with a group of rotating panelists. This week SPEED hit on a good combination with Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle.

Waltrip is coming off a surprisingly good finish at Loudon and Biffle has just re-signed with Roush Fenway Racing. These are two of the top stories of the weekend and they land right in the network's lap.

It should be refreshing to hear the perspectives of both drivers on the Sprint Cup race and then their comments on both the Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series events. Biffle raced in the Nationwide Series on Saturday and Waltrip is a commentator for SPEED on the Truck Series.

Debate continues to rage about why SPEED is sticking with the preview before review program format, and certainly this weekend is a good example of just how good things might work if that decision was reversed. Having Waltrip and Biffle get all the info and commentary about Loudon right out on the table would be a strong start to the show.

SPEED and the NASCAR Media Group that produces the program have been slowly clearing the clutter out to allow the panelists to talk and interact a lot more. As veteran fans know, this is the key to a personality-driven TV series like this one. This Week in NASCAR airs at 8PM Eastern Time Monday night.

Allen Bestwick continues his ironman performance for ESPN this season as he returns to host the "roundtable" version of NASCAR Now. This hour has proven to be a clear winner for ESPN with a continually changing cast of three panelists.

This week signals the return of Dale Jarrett to the show and he brings along his fellow ESPN Loudon commentator Ray Evernham. Semi-regular panelist Mike Massaro rounds-out the group and has brought a steady presence to the show when he is in attendance. Massaro often flies under-the-radar, but knows his NASCAR.

Jarrett is fresh after an extended vacation and is about to jump into the grind that will keep him hopping all the way to the Homestead race weekend in November. As he returns to NASCAR Now, he brings the kind of veteran presence that really lifts the show to a new level.

Just like his father, Jarrett gives-off a professional vibe that comes wrapped in a smiling personality. Keeping racing and life in perspective, Jarrett has proven to be exactly what ESPN needed to overcome the issues last year with Rusty Wallace.

Fans may also remember that this Monday show last season was a disaster. It is a bit ironic that for this Loudon review and Daytona preview edition ESPN may have assembled the strongest studio line-up since it began NASCAR coverage in 2007. NASCAR Now is on-the-air at 6PM Eastern Time on Monday.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers in advance of these shows. There will be a full column up on Monday shortly after these two programs air. To add your comments now, simply 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 thank for taking the time to stop by.

Drunk Monkeys And Technical Problems Headline "RaceDay" On SPEED

There has perhaps never been an edition of RaceDay on SPEED like the one from New Hampshire on Sunday morning.

Among other things, it featured a forty minute satellite failure that knocked the entire program off-the-air. Once things got back on-track, the wackiness included a monkey drinking beer, a front row fan flipping-off Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace talking St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

All that makes one wonder if host John Roberts will soon have his own personal sponsor...Motrin.

The theme of the program was supposed to revolve around Jimmy Spencer being honored for his past success in the NASCAR Modified Series. As this story from the Concord Monitor will attest, Spencer has not learned a lot since his retirement from driving. His view of the NASCAR world continues to be quite often fueled by personal anger.

While the Producer tries to make light of Spencer's brawling past and difficult viewpoints, the rest of the program continues to be a treat for fans. Driver interviews, news from the garage and pre-recorded features fly-by a a rapid clip. Even for a two hour program, the pace of RaceDay never slows.

At the core of this success is Roberts. He has been a steady hand ever since joining the SPEED team and has grown the RaceDay franchise from the start. Sometimes, it seems that Roberts is present on almost every SPEED program coming from the NASCAR tracks. Let's hope he gets paid by the show.

Kenny Wallace returned to RaceDay after a weekend off, and things were very different from the thoughtful comments the previous week of Hermie Sadler. Wallace is going through a period of change where he is deciding whether to continue his NASCAR driving career or focus on the TV world, where he certainly has a future.

Fans have not seen Wallace integrated into other SPEED programs like qualifying and practice sessions. He does not appear on Tradin' Paint as the media guest and does not ever join the Trackside panel. That is certainly curious.

Keep in mind that Wallace was a member of the old Inside Winston Cup Racing show back on SPEED and has also participated in many other TV shows over the years. Sometimes, his interpersonal skills and NASCAR knowledge are clearly on display. This is often the case on Victory Lane, where Wallace asks good questions of the guests and is clearly the most informed member of that panel.

As a regular member of the crew, reporter Wendy Venturini this week interviewed both Richard Petty and the new CEO of Petty Enterprises who is named David Zucker. It was very interesting that she did not interview them together. Something is just not quite right in this Petty deal, and this week the Real Deal missed the bulls eye.

SPEED's technical troubles began at 11AM when the signal ended from New Hampshire in the middle of the Jimmy Spencer modified feature. John Roberts spoke by phone to viewers explaining the problem and SPEED filled forty minutes with stand-by programming. Give the network credit, everyone kept their cool and when the signal was restored SPEED allowed the show to go thirty minutes longer than scheduled.

Roberts tried his best to direct the rest of the show into some kind of order, but when the program was stopped because a NASCAR fan's pet monkey in the audience was drinking a beer, you just knew it was hopeless.

The capper was Jimmy Spencer delicately saying that the Red Sox sucked. As usual, Spencer mis-spoke while trying to make another racing analogy. What he meant was the Red Sox sucked before their new ownership arrived. After the groans and boos rose from the audience, it was Kenny Wallace pointing-out that one fan in the front row had flipped Spencer off after the Red Sox comment.

Wallace went on to point out that it was actually his St. Louis Cardinals that had won more World Series even as Roberts voice was heard in the background pleading with the analysts to return to NASCAR at some point.

We have often said that RaceDay has something for everyone. If your choice of "something" includes drunk monkeys, obscene gestures, satellite failures and major league baseball, then the program for NHMS was right up your alley.

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In-Progress At New Hampshire: Sprint Cup On TNT

TNT continues to move through the six race package that comprises the summer TV for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. This Sunday, the network is in Loudon, NH at the newly-named New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

After the ninety minutes of pre-race programming concludes, it will be Bill Weber leading the crew through the race. Joining Weber in the booth will be Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. This trio has been effective and fun during the first portion of the TV package. Keeping Petty in the booth at Sonoma instead of having him drive in the race as a "reporter" was a great decision that resulted in a much better telecast.

Down on pit road the drivers and crews have responded quite well to TNT's Lindsay Czarniak in her pit reporter role. Surrounded by veterans Matt Yocum, Marty Snider and Ralph Shaheen, Czarniak has been using her TV skills and inquisitive nature to make-up for her continuing learning curve in the sport. These four have really been a key to the much better on-air presentation of the TNT package this season.

One of the biggest changes noticed by viewers is the outstanding TV Director handling the TNT races. We do not talk about the names of the behind-the-scenes folks, but NASCAR fans are overjoyed that they can see the battles on the track and more than just one or two cars in the camera shots being used.

From the pit stops to the final lap, the directing of this package has been exactly what the doctor ordered after the problems with the Fox telecasts. Keep an eye out for the wideshots that allow the viewer to see the difference on the track between cars and then the slow zoom to the car being discussed by the on-air team.

There were two grooves in the Saturday Nationwide Series race, so the Cup event may actually feature passing and competition despite the COT and the flat track. It should be interesting to watch the TNT crew come together for the final race before the big Daytona race and the "wide open" coverage of next week.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TNT broadcast of the Sprint Cup race from NHMS. To add your TV-related 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 taking the time to stop by.

Breaking News: RaceDay Satellite Failure - 40 Min. Off-Air

UPDATE #1: RaceDay on SPEED has experienced a satellite transmission failure and is off-the-air as of 11AM. Host John Roberts used a telephone line to tell fans that SPEED would be playing standby programming until the problem was fixed. Keep it here for updates as the situation plays-out.

Update #2: RaceDay still off-air as of 11:30AM Eastern Time.

Update #3: RaceDay back on-the-air at 11:42AM and will air the remainder of the two hour program fully.

Before the first engines are fired, three of NASCAR's TV partners will originate a total of four and a half hours of pre-race programming. Here is the rundown.

It will be NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starting the day at 10AM Eastern Time with a one hour preview show. This program will be hosted by either Ryan Burr or Nicole Manske and features live reports from reporters at the track. This season, NASCAR Now has proven to be an effective and balanced program that does a good job of previewing the upcoming Cup race.

Long before NASCAR Now was a gleam in ESPN's eye, there was RaceDay on SPEED. Normally referred to as "the franchise," RaceDay is currently scheduled a bit earlier to avoid a conflict with the TNT pre-race programming. This Sunday, the two hour show begins at 10:30AM.

This week, Kenny Wallace returns to the program after a week away while racing in the Nationwide Series. Wallace re-joins Jimmy Spencer and John Roberts to form a very popular trio with NASCAR fans. SPEED's increase in ratings for RaceDay this season tells the tale.

On Sunday morning, the program will welcome David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth as guests. Normally, the drivers wear a headset to communicate with the panelists and are interviewed from the infield. Spencer and Wallace have developed a good on-air relationship with the folks in the garage, and these interviews are often surprisingly candid and refreshing.

In terms of features, RaceDay will look at the battle for 12th spot in the Sprint Cup point standings. Also included will be Jeff Burton's history at Loudon, Jeff Gordon's tough 2008 season and Rutledge Wood will host a look back at the NASCAR Modified career of Jimmy Spencer. That should be interesting.

Each week reporter Wendy Venturini handles the news reports from the garage area and also offers a pre-produced feature called The Real Deal. This week, Venturini sat down with Richard Petty and the new CEO of Petty Enterprises David Zucker.

There is no doubt that surrendering control of his family-owned business to a group of investment bankers from Boston was tough for Petty. Sitting alongside a former TV and video game executive who is now running your former company may be even tougher. The contrast between the North Carolina style of Petty and the hard-driving business style of the New Yorker Zucker is huge. This should be a Real Deal to watch.

TNT's first pre-race show called NASCAR on TNT Live! is up next at 12:30PM and is hosted by TNT's own in-house announcer Marc Fein. Along with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds, Fein hosts this one hour program from the big TNT rotating infield stage thingy.

This week the show will feature an interview with Jeff Burton and questions from users. The NASCAR Future Stars segment will focus on Justin Allgaier who drives the #16 Chevy in the ARCA/ReMax Series. Lindsay Czarniak will tag along with Brian Vickers pit crew as they make their way over to nearby Dartmouth College to play ice hockey.

The big feature will have Wally Dallenbach sitting down for a conversation with the pride of Taylorsville, NC. That would be the one-and-only Harry Gant, recently named one of NASCAR's Top 50 Drivers. It should be interesting to hear Gant's opinions on issues like the COT and the youth movement in the sport.

The final pre-race show is the Allstate Countdown to Green hosted by Bill Weber from the TNT cocktail table in the announce booth. Dallenbach and Weber talk for thirty minutes as they zero-in on the race itself. Weber combines some hard news with one feature to which he usually contributes. This 1:30PM program leads directly into TNT's race coverage.

This post will serve to host your comments about all the NASCAR TV partner's pre-race shows. To add your TV-related 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 for stopping by.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jarrett Sizzles As Punch Struggles On ABC

There is finally a star on the horizon for ESPN and NASCAR. There is finally a reason to be optimistic about watching "The Chase" on TV this season. His name is Dale Jarrett.

After a tough first season that featured Brent Musburger, Suzy Kolber and some of the worst motorsports television production in years, ESPN has righted the ship and named a captain. The Nationwide Series race from New Hampshire was a great example of what NASCAR fans can expect down the stretch from Jarrett.

After a planned vacation, Jarrett returned to the ESPN/ABC team that will produce the remaining Nationwide Series races and the final seventeen Cup events. His return was accompanied by the appearance of Ray Evernham in the announce booth replacing the vacationing Andy Petree.

In TV terms, Jarrett has "all the tools" needed to be an outstanding analyst. His background is well-known to even the casual fan who may only remember his Daytona 500 victories. His appearance is professional and his vocabulary is a dream in a sport where this is often an issue for TV personalities.

What makes Jarrett top-of-the-line for the ESPN Producer and Director is his ability to understand the inner-workings of the sports TV business. In the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon, Jarrett performed flawlessly when his TV skills were put to the test.

In the analyst role, Jarrett handles the replays of the incidents on the track as well as providing the commentary about the on-going action. His Dale Carnegie training allows him to speak in measured terms while also expressing his thoughts clearly and without bias. It has been very effective.

Something else is fun to watch with Jarrett. During the race he "throws" down to the pit reporters for interviews, talks live with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty in the Infield Pit Center and often asks questions of his fellow analyst in the booth. Jarrett makes every on-air personality involved in the ESPN/ABC NASCAR coverage an active part of the on-going TV conversation.

This ability to "include" rather than "exclude" all of the other announcers is a tremendous key to being a good TV analyst in this sport. In just the short time that he has been actively involved with ESPN, Jarrett has proven his ability to deal with a wide variety of topics and personalities on-the-air.

Fans may remember that this was the downfall of Rusty Wallace last season. Often, after Rusty spoke on a certain topic there was nothing more to say. Either you agreed with him or if you did not agree Rusty was there to belabor the point and continue the conversation. Rusty "excluded" the other members of the TV team without even meaning to do it.

Several times during the Nationwide Series race from NHMS, Jarrett was forced to step-in and talk about the action on-the-track. Covering for his friend Jerry Punch has become almost second nature to Jarrett as it has for Andy Petree. Punch is having a problem in his play-by-play role and everyone knows it.

Almost all of us remember the fine work of Punch as a reporter on the earlier ESPN racing package and also his follow-up career in college sports for the network. What many people do not remember is his attempt to handle the NASCAR play-by-play role when ESPN had the Craftsman Truck Series. It was not memorable.

Punch has outstanding racing knowledge and a thorough understanding of NASCAR from a tremendously unique perspective. What he does not have is the play-by-play experience to handle a four hour live race. That is an entirely different TV skill set.

Those types of skills are on display with Mike Joy, Rick Allen and Marty Reid. Even former ESPN NASCAR announcer Bob Jenkins keeps his voice on-the-air by calling the action in the IRL support series. Racing fans see and hear others like Bob Varsha, Rick Benjamin and Greg Creamer on other motorsports series. They are all "play-by-play guys."

Punch is often more excited talking about an ESPN promo or introducing a pre-recorded feature than he is calling the side-by-side action on the track. At NHMS, with less than 10 laps left in the Nationwide Series race, he began a discussion with Jarrett and Evernham about Patrick Carpentier getting the Sprint Cup pole for Sunday's race.

This is often the quandary that Punch finds himself in after a multi-hour event. His focus and energy are often gone and he struggles to even describe the action on the track. This is a TDP column from last season about just such a moment.

ESPN did a good job of correcting the problems and moving the personnel around this season to solve the first year issues. From hiring Jarrett to promoting Bestwick to creating the newly-improved Rusty Wallace, the results have been nothing short of fantastic.

Now, as the ESPN/ABC Sprint Cup Series coverage approaches, it is our old trusted friend Jerry Punch that is having a tough time. It was suggested a while back that perhaps Bestwick and Punch would trade positions for one race just to see if that helped, but the network has not seen fit to try that experiment.

Later this summer ESPN begins the big grind of handling both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. It will be Punch alone handling the practice, qualifying and then the races for both. There is no Steve Byrnes to step-in for relief and no break in the schedule.

This is a TDP column from last August describing the ordeal for the single ESPN announce team at Watkins Glen. NASCAR fans are used to seeing changing TV faces with every practice and qualifying session, but ESPN has only one team. That philosophy is going to once again be put to the test long before Homestead rolls around in November.

So, the good news for ESPN is that they finally have experienced a solid beginning of the season while tuning-up with the Nationwide Series. The bad news is that in just a couple of weeks, there will no longer be an opportunity for change and ESPN will have to "run what ya brung" for the four months of Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series coverage.

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In-Progress At New Hampshire: Nationwide Series on ABC

The Nationwide Series race at the newly-named New Hampshire Motor Speedway will signal the return of Dale Jarrett to the ABC broadcast booth and finally give Rusty Wallace a weekend off.

While Jarrett was off on his planned vacation, Wallace has done double-duty for ESPN. He has appeared on the NASCAR Countdown program and then gone upstairs to call the races. Give credit to Wallace, he has improved dramatically this season and fans have noticed his ability to present himself on TV in a very professional manner.

It will be Allen Bestwick starting the coverage with NASCAR Countdown at 2:30PM Eastern Time. For this edition, Bestwick will be joined by Jarrett and Brad Daugherty. There are plenty of topics to discuss this week, and it should be noticed by fans just how many relate directly to the Nationwide Series and how much attention during this thirty minute show is given to the Sprint Cup gang.

Jarrett moves up to the broadcast booth where he will be working alongside of Dr. Jerry Punch. This track is not the type that Punch enjoys and the lack of passing combined with the flat and slippery track should be a challenge for this former pit reporter. Look for Jarrett to give Punch a lot of help during the later stages of the event.

ESPN has begun to heighten the profile of Ray Evernham. Still undecided as to his plans for 2009, Evernham will step-in for the vacationing Andy Petree and handle the analysis with Jarrett. Still well-spoken, Evernham is trying to decide his future on-and-off the track.

For the next three weeks, Evernham will appear on the one hour Monday NASCAR Now program that Allen Bestwick has made so successful this season. In addition, Evernham will be the studio analyst for the NASCAR Now show before the big Daytona Sprint Cup race next weekend. ESPN is giving Evernham a variety of assignments, and it should be interesting to see what direction the network and Evernham choose to go for next season.

Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Shannon Spake will report from pit road but there will also be another change on the ESPN TV team. Tim Brewer has the weekend off, and it will be the #24 crew chief Steve Letarte stepping-in to handle the TV duties from the Tech Center. Letarte is a Maine native, and a well-spoken NASCAR personality with good knowledge of the ins-and-out of the sport.

One final note. With the NCTS racing later Saturday night in Memphis, TN perhaps Bestwick will ask Daugherty about his plans to operate a NCTS team for 2009. Since NASCAR Now dramatically hosted NFL veteran Randy Moss and NBA veteran Daugherty to announce that both were going to start their own NCTS teams, fans have not heard a peep out of either man about those plans. Emails to Daugherty about this topic were not returned.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series race from NHMS. 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 once again for taking the time to stop by.

In-Progress At Memphis: Craftsman Trucks On SPEED

The one-day action will be fast and furious as the Craftsman Truck Series takes to the track in Memphis, TN on SPEED.

Action begins with coverage of qualifying at 6PM Eastern Time. At 8:30PM the network returns with the pre-race show and then coverage of the race at 9PM.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will be calling the NCTS action all day long with Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander patrolling pit road and the garage area. Krista Voda will host The Set-Up pre-race show before turning things over to Allen. Update: Doug Richert will be joining SPEED for the NCTS qualifying and the race.

SPEED has consistently delivered a quality product for fans with few gimmicks and lots of good solid racing. The focus of the broadcast follows the real story of the race, and that is not always who is leading. The coverage of pit road and the critical final lap of the races has been outstanding.

There is no doubt that not only is the NCTS the best racing of NASCAR's three national touring series, but the coverage on SPEED is also consistently solid. This series benefits from having a full-time TV production crew who only steps-aside early in the season when the Trucks race at the same track as the Cup Series during the Fox coverage.

Now, with TNT and then ESPN in the mix for the Cup races, the SPEED gang will be handling the remainder of the series. Look for the trademark qualities of Phil Parsons that include a smooth and personal style that compliments the play-by-play abilities of Allen. Dunlap is having a good season, and Adam Alexander is about to break-out for SPEED and tackle bigger TV assignments.

The square peg in this round TV hole is Krista Voda. Her recent appearances as a co-anchor of The SPEED Report have reminded viewers of her ability in the studio. Somehow, having Voda appear for thirty minutes before a Truck race and then disappear for the remainder of the telecast just does not make sense. Along with Alexander, look for Voda to be offered additional opportunities for 2009 with both the Fox and SPEED families.

Memphis should provide a good contrast in style and substance to the flat and slippery track in New Hampshire. Look for the SPEED gang to have a good show.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

ABC's West Coast TV Mess: NASCAR vs. Kid's Shows

It is always interesting when the ESPN gang produces a NASCAR race and sends it out to the fans through the ABC Television Network.

In theory, the broader reach of over-the-air broadcast TV gives greater exposure to events like the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon from Loudon, NH. In reality, maybe not so much.

Now in the second year of the current NASCAR TV contract, the apparent disconnect between the ESPN-produced NASCAR events and the ABC local TV stations could not be greater. Where NASCAR is concerned, this situation is poised to throw a wrench into what is shaping-up as a critical season for the sport.

One good case in point is the situation with ABC's West Coast affiliates. TDP readers have already alerted us that the ABC stations in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR will be pre-empting the first thirty minutes of the Saturday Nationwide Series telecast.

This continues a long history of ignoring ABC "must carry" sports events by KOMO-tv in Seattle. This was the story about the Talladega race earlier this season that was joined-in-progress. KOMO-tv decided not to move thirty minutes of children's programming to carry the ABC Sports telecast of NASCAR.

Other ABC stations from San Diego to Sacramento and from Los Angeles to San Francisco have no problem adjusting their TV line-ups to catch the NASCAR telecasts that begin at 11:30AM Pacific Time. Why then, would other ABC stations in the same time zone be unable to do exactly the same thing?

The Nationwide Series is struggling, and ESPN has a big investment in this series in a very direct way. The company has many years left on its NASCAR TV contract and the promotion of the Nationwide Series by ESPN is one big reason they landed the final seventeen Sprint Cup races.

Last year, the wheels fell-off the ABC train when the Sprint Cup portion of the season rolled around. This is one TDP story about the mess caused by just a single night race. Many ABC affiliates decided their own local station agenda was bigger than that of either NASCAR or the ABC Television Network. Know what has changed since then? Nothing.

Last season we suggested that all three parties, NASCAR, ESPN and ABC sit down and review these issues. This sport is very different because of the problems associated with rain, red flags and numerous cautions. Veteran fans know a race running an hour longer than scheduled is not uncommon. In the broadcast TV world, an hour is an eternity.

While the problems on Saturday may be limited to some West Coast stations, ESPN is only a couple of weeks away from beginning their coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. Ultimately, the final ten races on ABC will be key to whether NASCAR ends another season on a high or low note where this new TV contract is concerned.

The ultimate reminder for the ESPN and ABC team of just how bad it got last season is this blurb from a TDP column after the final race in Homestead:

Sometimes, the poor ESPN guys just cannot buy a break as they try to navigate their way through the twisted world of the ABC local stations. On this Sunday, KABC in Los Angeles the number two TV market in the country somehow forgot to show the first thirty minutes of the live NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Can you believe it? Even with thousands of angry calls pouring into the KABC switchboard, the fans could not convince the Master Control Operator at the station that he probably should switch to the live final NEXTEL Cup race instead of running the children's show the station was airing.

Someone at ESPN is in charge of "clearing" these ABC stations for the NASCAR races. Someone at NASCAR is in charge of making sure that ABC carries the NASCAR events as scheduled in the TV contract. Somehow, it just does not seem all that hard to do correctly.

It is the NASCAR fan who is directly affected by these ABC local station problems. Last season, many fans reported to TDP about their efforts to call and email the stations involved only to be met by a wall of silence.

When we tried to pursue the matter, ESPN told us it was an ABC issue. ABC told us it was a local station issue. Several local stations happily told us they were independent businesses and would continue to do exactly as they pleased.

On Saturday afternoon, the cycle will being again.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Steve Byrnes Anchors A Big Friday On SPEED

There are only a few more weeks of SPEED handling the practice and qualifying coverage for NASCAR weekends.

After the TNT portion of the Sprint Cup Series coverage, ESPN steps-in and takes over both the Nationwide and Cup coverage. As most fans know, this includes selected practice and qualifying sessions.

No one has made more of the recent opportunity to step-into the Fox footsteps than Steve Byrnes. Replacing Mike Joy as the host of both Cup practice and qualifying, Byrnes has been a comfortable fit. As fans who watched the Dale movie remember, Byrnes has a long history in the sport and a pretty good sense of humor.

This weekend in New Hampshire, Byrnes will once again lead the SPEED coverage. On Friday, it will be Sprint Cup practice starting the day at Noon Eastern Time. Byrnes will be joined by Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond in the announce booth. This team has been lots of fun and very informative during what can sometimes be rather boring practice and qualifying sessions.

For Cup practice, it will be pit reporters Marty Snider and Matt Yocum joining Byrnes and company. During the Nationwide Series session at 1:30PM, it will be Bob Dillner and Ralph Shaheen. The on-track triple-header ends with Cup qualifying that will start at 3PM.

Capping-off the night at 7PM will be Trackside. Byrnes, Hammond, McReynolds and Elliott Sadler make-up the regular panel. Friday night they will be joined by Dario Franchitti and Jeff Burton. The appearances of both those drivers should result in some good conversation.

Other TV notes for New Hampshire include the media guest for Tradin' Paint. It will be Dustin Long, who is the NASCAR reporter for several newspapers in both North Carolina and Virginia. This show has been struggling, and will hopefully engage in some meaningful conversation about NASCAR issues rather than continue to pander to the "everything is just fine" world where it has been recently.

For Kenny Wallace fans, he returns this weekend to SPEED and will be on RaceDay and Victory Lane alongside John Roberts and Jimmy Spencer. Hermie Sadler filled-in last week and did a good job, but the unique chemistry between Spencer and Wallace is what attracts NASCAR fans to the show. No, Hermie did not dance on-camera.

Just a little tip for fans, this week Wendy Venturini is going to sit down with Richard Petty and the new CEO of Petty Enterprises David Zucker. There could be no greater contrast in personalities or backgrounds then these two. That should be one episode of the Real Deal not to be missed.

Finally, Dale Jarrett returns from his vacation to anchor the Nationwide Series coverage on ABC. Taking the weekend off this time will be Tim Brewer, so manning the Tech Center will be the #24 crew chief and Maine native Steve Letarte.

If any other TV news comes in, we will update it here. Please feel free to add your TV-related comments to this post. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

KOMO-TV Bumps NASCAR Again In Seattle

When the Nationwide Series swings over to the ABC Broadcast Network this weekend, it brings a very positive exposure for the series on a broader basis. Unfortunately, it also brings KOMO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Seattle, WA.

For quite some time now, the senior management of that station has decided to try and hide behind the FCC rules about children's programming to avoid losing thirty minutes of local station news on a Saturday morning. Well, that is one viewpoint. The station has an entirely different perspective.

This is The Daly Planet column from April of this year talking about the station pre-empting the NASCAR Countdown show from the Talladega race. This set off a flurry of emails between TDP readers and the local station management.

Here is the email response from KOMO-TV's representative:

"Due to time zone differences between Talladega and the Puget Sound area, the NASCAR Nationwide Series pre-race show was scheduled at the same time as ABC’s children’s programming on the West Coast. Broadcasting the pre-race show would have meant pre-empting “The Suite Life of Zach & Cody. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) places children’s programming in a special protected category. As such, anytime a station wishes to move a show classified as Educational and Information Children’s Programming, the pre-emption must be accepted by the FCC. The FCC is not always generous granting those pre-emptions."

While this sounds great, it certainly does raise a very good question. Just how do all the other ABC affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone handle the situation? ABC stations from San Diego to Portland will be dealing with exactly the same situation on Saturday from New Hampshire. NASCAR Countdown starts at 11:30AM Pacific Time.

Perhaps, the other stations make the live ABC Network Sports program a priority and solve the problem. Even for KOMO-TV, the solution seems to be pretty simple.

The station has a one hour weekend morning newscast at 8AM followed by three hours of children's programming ending at Noon Pacific Time. Apparently, the FCC believes that a re-air of The Suite Life with Zack and Cody that will be also be airing on The Disney Channel qualifies for this category.

In order to maintain the three hours of children's programming and still get to the NASCAR Countdown show as scheduled, the morning newscast would have to be reduced from one hour in length to thirty minutes.

Seattle area residents would get their morning news, Seattle area children would get their Saturday morning TV shows and Seattle area NASCAR fans would get the full network television presentation from ABC Sports.

It seems that the only thing that would be affected in this solution is the thirty minutes of lost local advertising sales for KOMO-TV when the news is reduced to thirty minutes. That is a very different look at this situation from the one offered by KOMO-TV's representative.

If you are a Seattle area or Pacific Time Zone NASCAR fan, perhaps you can offer your views on this post by clicking on the COMMENTS button below. Tell us if we have all the facts straight about this situation. Seattle residents can tell us what their relationship has been with KOMO-TV where NASCAR is concerned. TDP readers have been emailing to remind us of this situation and we would like to hear from others.

Comments can be any length and the rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to offer your opinion.

ESPN And The NFL Network: NASCAR Would Suffer

Lots of email has been arriving from veteran NASCAR fans who remember a little-known ESPN Network that played a big part in NASCAR TV last season.

News reports say that the ESPN Classic Network could be changing its identity sometime soon. NASCAR would suffer.

Here is one link to a story about this issue. This one talks about the same thing, and expands on the specifics.

While this issue is not primarily about NASCAR, it does have ramifications for the sport. Last season was the first for NASCAR on both ESPN and ABC in a very long time. While things went well in the beginning with the Busch Series races, it all changed when the college football season got underway.

The Saturday afternoon races were squeezed-in between two live college football games and that spelled trouble for NASCAR. When a race was delayed by rain, extended by a red flag or lots of cautions, things did not go well.

It was ESPN Classic that became the salvation of NASCAR programming when things went sour. Often, races bounced to ESPN Classic when the other two ESPN networks were tied-up with live events. From September to November, ESPN Classic was a vital part of ESPN's NASCAR coverage. It was clear that this season ESPN Classic was going to be a life-saver for the sport once again.

Having ESPN Classic switch-over to NFL content exclusively would cause a big change for NASCAR fans. Essentially, it would eliminate any "overflow" option for NASCAR programming except the online service called ESPN360. When ESPN and ESPN2 were busy and a rain-delayed race started, there would be nowhere to go.

Both sides could have a reason for making this move. The NFL Network is led by controversial former ESPN President Steve Bornstein, who is one tough cookie. His face-off with the cable TV companies since Bornstein arrived at the NFL Network has been the source of many news stories. Bornstein wanted the cable companies to pay a fee for the new network, despite having almost no live content and originally no NFL games.

Even after adding a slate of live NFL games, the network did not find that its public image got any better. In fact, the tide of public opinion turned against the NFL Network and its desire to increase the cost of cable TV to consumers. The cable TV companies made sure to tell their customers exactly that in a very public way.

For the NFL Network, getting access to ESPN Classic's millions of cable TV homes would finally get the distribution the NFL Network needs to survive. But, what is the benefit for a big and powerful media company like ESPN?

Hooking-up with the NFL bunch would allow ESPN to find a way out of the folly that is currently ESPN Classic. The company simply could not find a model that would allow this network to operate successfully. Fans who remember some of the programs created by the now defunct ESPN Original Entertainment for Classic know why things did not work.

Sports fans could not get a handle on what ESPN Classic wanted them to watch. Suggestions by TDP readers included re-airing programs instantly and having designated programming blocks themed by sport. As you might expect, many wanted an increased NASCAR presence other than the rare re-air of a race from the old ESPN days.

A while back, ESPN ended the budget for producing programs for ESPN Classic. The network would now operate by airing shows that ESPN already owned, which would not incur any additional costs. This was a relatively clear signal that ESPN was going to make a move with Classic sometime soon.

We will keep updating this story as it continues to develop. Clearly, the NFL wants more homes for their TV network and ESPN wants some original content for ESPN Classic without cost. In some ways, it certainly does make sense.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply 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 for taking the time to stop by.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Should This Be An ESPN NASCAR Story?

There certainly is a very big difference between what ESPN's NASCAR reporters post on as "stories" and what other NASCAR writers choose to publish as news.

This is David Newton's latest offering, which you will be hearing more about on NASCAR Now and NASCAR Countdown this week. The key words in the article are "sources" and "speculation."

When ESPN first stepped into NASCAR back in 2007, the new NASCAR writers and reporters were a combination of television veterans and print journalists appearing on TV for the first time. It was a good mix that kept NASCAR Now somewhat viable despite the poor hosts and awful features.

This season, The Daly Planet has already written several stories about the "crew" of David Newton and Terry Blount. It seems that when gossip, innuendo or speculation are going to be the central theme of a story, these two are enlisted to present it.

This column from February talked about another big story put on-the-air by NASCAR Now despite the fact it contained no shred of truth and was ultimately denied by top officials from the International Speedway Corp. as ridiculous.

Regardless of the reporter involved, ESPN presents the various media companies owned by the corporation as being upright and proper. The suits and ties on NASCAR Now seven days a week might give fans a hint of just how proper.

This season, ESPN's NASCAR reporters flow seamlessly through the infrastructure of ESPN like never before. NASCAR Now, ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and First Take are ESPN TV outlets that may feature the NASCAR reporters at any time.

Over in Internet land, both and have text, audio and video links posted to direct NASCAR fans to the most up-to-date "content." Therein lies the problem. The "content machine" needs to eat a big meal every single day.

Have you noticed how these murky ESPN stories often appear on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Are you puzzled by how this information has magically appeared on a slow news day for both NASCAR Now and

Suddenly, in the middle of the week, a controversial story with no sources and loaded with nothing more than innuendo is fed to TV, audio and Internet outlets for distribution. What an amazing coincidence.

Newton's story has already gone viral all over the place. Blogs, other websites, forums and chat rooms are all talking about the fact that "ESPN said" Tony is shopping for sponsors and leaving Gibbs. My only question is, how fair is this to the people involved?

If there is no comment from Gibbs, none from the Haas-CNC team, none from the sponsors and only sly suggestions from the media-savvy this a national news story for, NASCAR Now and the Internet world?

What is your opinion on whether ESPN is reporting the news or creating it where NASCAR is concerned this season? Last year, the clashes between Stewart and ESPN reporter David Amber were memorable. This year, Amber is back to stick-and-ball land, but what really has changed?

Creating "content" to feed the machine on a slow Wednesday for NASCAR news is not what ESPN and its award-winning news division are normally about. This "news story" is now all over the Internet as fact.

As a NASCAR fan who took the time to check the Internet or perhaps NASCAR Now for news, were you really served by ESPN and David Newton reporting speculation and using unnamed sources?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply 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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share your opinion about this topic.

NASCAR TV Partners About To Be Put To The Test

Each season about this time there seems to be several balls in-the-air when it comes to NASCAR and big news stories.

Even as the elation of Dale Earnhardt Junior finally winning mixes with the sadness of Richard Petty selling-out, there is a feeling that perhaps something else is about to happen.

It is not going to be at the track, it is not going to be about the COT and it is not going to involve driver changes or cheating. What it is going to involve is a group of people who rarely visit the NASCAR world. When they do, things seem to get turned upside-down in a hurry. The mainstream news media is about to invade NASCAR.

NASCAR has a traveling press corp that everyone knows all too well. Some of the writers have even bigger profiles because of their TV and radio appearances. On the whole, they are a well-behaved bunch who know the rules and play by them. None of that can be said for the mainstream media that Americans watch tear people apart each and every day.

The cable news networks have 24 hours-a-day to fill and they will be happy to exploit every issue to the maximum. Tabloid shows will use any means necessary to embarrass and expose every seedy detail of a story. Even local TV stations will be happy to play a video on-the-air if it is sensational enough.

In today's world, the tail truly wags the dog where news is concerned. The Internet is finishing the process of killing-off newspapers as we know them and is about to do the same to local TV news before setting its sights on the cable TV news networks.

Who among us does not turn to the Internet first for news and video? It lurks there with no time constraints and no censorship, just waiting to be viewed. Regardless of the category, everything that can be captured on video or written about in a sensational manner is at the fingertips of every computer user.

Since Mauricia Grant filed her civil lawsuit against NASCAR, we have seen the coverage reflected in the industry publications, Internet sites and TV programs. All of these NASCAR-related companies have been diplomatic in their tone and the TV networks have gone out of their way to speak in factual terms about this issue.

In just a short time, all that will change. The sound you hear is the wave that is forming just outside the NASCAR community and is about to hit the beach with a force that will change the sport forever. Just how much damage will be done and how long it takes the sport to recover is going to depend on one thing. That is the NASCAR TV partners.

While the reporters in the Infield Media Center are busy pounding on their laptops, it is SPEED, TNT and ESPN that now directly invade the homes of Americans on a regular basis where NASCAR is concerned. In this case, the focus is going to be on ESPN and SPEED.

While TNT has a couple of Sprint Cup races, that network's agenda is to promote their Turner-related products and TV shows and then go away. Since the network does not televise qualifying or practice, the impact of TNT is felt on race days only.

It is going to up to SPEED and ESPN to handle the Grant lawsuit and deal directly with NASCAR as it goes forward. Originally, the idea was for Brian France to make his recent comments and then close the news door. As most of us know, that philosophy is not going to work.

The public now has Internet access to Grant's voice on the phone talking about the issue (video link on right). There is also an interview with her lawyer that takes direct aim at the credibility of the sanctioning body in no uncertain terms. On Wednesday, it was Grant herself finally giving an exclusive interview to Sports Illustrated.

Can you see how this release of information is slowly ramping-up in the media? Nicole Manske on Wednesday's NASCAR Now said once again that Grant and her attorney had turned-down another interview request from ESPN. SPEED read the official statements involved from both parties, but does not offer a true NASCAR news program of any type.

When we next see Mauricia Grant, it may well be on 60 Minutes or Larry King Live or Dateline. She should be appearing on ESPN's Outside the Lines or sitting down with SPEED's Wendy Venturini on her Real Deal segment for RaceDay.

If the NASCAR TV partners work to put the reality of this story into perspective, the wave will hit the beach with much less force. This lawsuit is about the Nationwide Series alone. There is no connection to or allegations about the Cup or Truck Series officials. In the mainstream media, this lawsuit has been sold to the public as a blanket condemnation of the sport as a whole.

ESPN has prided itself on having top reporters like Ryan McGee, Marty Smith and David Newton who have handled tough stories about the sport before. McGee's interview of Aaron Fike threw the sport into a tempest and caused NASCAR to appoint a commission to consider a new drug testing policy.

Where is the Worldwide Leader in Sports where this lawsuit is concerned? How many times since NASCAR Now began have we seen a reporter who tells us that ESPN has exclusive breaking news? Wednesday, the Grant lawsuit was not even on the NASCAR front page at the ESPN website.

Sooner or later, Grant will be doing a television interview. Her single print and Internet interview was with Sports Illustrated, a company whose website is a CNN partner. If Grant and her attorney show-up on Larry King Live and offer the same racial and sexist allegations already seen in print, it will change the media focus and public perception of the sport forever.

Hopefully, both ESPN and SPEED are working hard behind the scenes to bring NASCAR fans more information than "no comment" or "she declined our invitation for an interview." There is no doubt that this single issue is about to put both of these TV networks in a situation they have not encountered in their recent NASCAR history.

Like it or not, all of us are about to watch it play-out over the next several months.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the comments button below and follow the easy directions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

NASCAR Struggles To Deal With The New Media World

It certainly is an interesting time to be an executive with NASCAR. Suddenly, the public's attention has turned from fascination with the drivers to scrutiny of the management team.

Here at The Daly Planet, we talk NASCAR TV and have done so every day since February of 2007. Lots of diverse topics, both good and bad, have passed through our website and been discussed by our readers.

The Internet is our direct access to NASCAR fans around the world. This Google blog site was free of charge and took about one hour to set-up.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is standing at a true communications crossroad. The company is struggling with new media issues and is years behind in its approach to Media Relations. There was no better example of that than Mike Helton's recent driver meeting.

In this day and age, who assembles professional athletes to take them to task about speaking-out in the media and then allows them to exit directly into that same media who have been waiting outside the door?

The results were predictable. Immediate reporting of the private meeting and anger at Helton for trying to curb free speech. Regardless of his intentions, mismanagement of both the media and the message caused the results.

The second recent problem occurred on a much grander scale. It was NASCAR Chairman Brian France slouched at a table with no necktie and mussed hair talking in circles about an issue he clearly did not understand.

That was the official NASCAR video sent around the world in response to a racially-charged discrimination lawsuit against the sanctioning body. Incredibly, NASCAR itself had arranged France's appearance in the Media Center in Michigan.

Immediately after he was done, the video was posted on websites from YouTube to France instantly had gone "viral." That night, on both local TV stations and cable TV networks that footage was the face of the sport that bills itself as the most popular auto racing series in North America.

How is it possible that no one took the time to prepare the Chairman in both content and appearance for this crucial moment?

Does anyone believe that David Stern from the NBA would appear like this on-camera? Have you seen the new NFL Commissioner speak? These two buttoned-up professionals deal with a variety of issues from cheating scandals to steroid abuse. Yet, neither of them has ever looked or sounded like Brian France in Michigan.

Where were the professionals from The NASCAR Media Group? The division between the old-school NASCAR "PR guys" and the TV pro's at NMG needs to close very quickly as the sport goes through this period of unrest. Images are now everything.

NASCAR's Public Relations staff continually fails to realize that what is said on-camera by NASCAR executives is now distributed globally and archived online in minutes. This is the reality of the new media environment in which we live. The days of the deadline press and the "print boys" are long gone.

At a time when NASCAR desperately needs a direct portal to the fans, they are reminded of one big reality. Not only did NASCAR generate billions by selling the TV rights to the races, but they also sold the right to actually operate the website.

It is the Turner Interactive group in Atlanta, GA that operates and all the things that go along with it. Their offices remain in Atlanta, part of a bigger group of Turner-operated websites. This company paid a lot to get control of, and they have sole control of it until 2014.

What that essentially means is that almost everybody on the planet has direct access to the Internet except NASCAR's own management team. When the sport itself tries to send a message directly to the fans, it has to be delivered through a third party. Think about that for a moment.

The folks in Atlanta are Turner employees, with the same kind of loyalty to their paychecks that any of us have to an employer. Their agenda is to grow the business for Turner, and use NASCAR as the content of their operation.

Where does that leave NASCAR? They cannot originate their own Internet site to offer official video and media releases. The top-secret one they do have is closed to the public with a log-in for approved media members. There is no MySpace page, no Facebook site and no YouTube postings from NASCAR for content they want fans to see.

NMG uses SPEED to show most of the TV programs they produce, but even with many thousands of hours of archive and exclusive footage NMG cannot create an Internet site for fans. Remember the Turner deal?

Daly Planet readers like to watch NMG uplink live post-race interviews from the Media Centers at every track, yet it is up to the fans to record and post that exact same content on the Internet. In a way, the fans are handling the direct Internet distribution of true NASCAR content.

Ultimately, the fans are the real new media partners of NASCAR. Just go to YouTube and search for "NASCAR." Often, highlights of races and re-posts of TV network NASCAR shows are online minutes after they have actually ended. Fans are making a statment about the online availability of good NASCAR video content. They are doing it themselves.

This is the perfect time for NASCAR to shake-up things where public relations and technology are concerned. This huge sport needs to acknowledge that it has an information and technology gap and it is growing.

One of the most frequent emails received at The Daly Planet is from fans who have emailed NASCAR repeatedly and not gotten a response. In fact, who fans really emailed is the Turner Interactive bunch in Atlanta.

Only by finding and then clicking the "about NASCAR" button at the bottom of can fans get information about NASCAR itself.

The best part is that this is also the location of the direct contact information for the multi-billion dollar NASCAR corporation. Then, the reality of NASCAR's communication philosophy with the fans hits.

There are seven sentences about the fifty-plus years of NASCAR. The fan contact information is next. It is the address of a Post Office Box in Daytona Beach, FL. That raises one good question for many fans.

"I would like to contact NASCAR, does anyone have a stamp?"

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply 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. Thank you for taking the time to drop by.

NASCAR Lawsuit In The Media - Continuing Post

Here we go. This will be the expanding post that will watch the development of the TV and Internet treatment of the Grant lawsuit. This has nothing to do with the merit or lack of merit of the allegations. We watch the media and this is going to be a critical time for the sport.

In her own words: Before you begin reading, hear Ms. Grant's comments on a phone call at Here is the link, the video is on the right side of the page. Click on "Grant talks lawsuit" under the video links. She speaks about the situation in the Nationwide Series as a whole.

Comment from her lawyer: This is the link to the story that interviews Grant's lawyer who offers his view of Grant's experiences in the sport. Here is a short excerpt:

"This (NASCAR) isn't a sophisticated operation; this is a bunch of nudniks hanging around together who just happen to be onto something because they were enterprising what is now a billion-dollar business. And they haven't caught up with the fact that America actually has laws protecting women, people of color, people over 40 years old, etcetera."

From an HR professional: This is the link to an HR professional's view of the issue at hand. It contains another non-racing opinion that may help to put things in a new light.

Read the lawsuit: Yahoo! Sports has the lawsuit available in a pdf file format to view or download. Just click on this link. There is no better way to understand the situation than to read the actual documents filed in this civil matter.

Now the first print interview: Grant wound-up at and that might be with good reason. There is no overt connection with the folks and NASCAR other than reporting the news. Click here to read the interview she gave to Tom Bowles.


8PM EDT - NASCAR has suspended and sent home from Kentucky two Nationwide Series officials (both named in the lawsuit) for violating unspecified company policy. Here are the SI and story links.

8:25PM - Here is Marty Smith on ESPNEWS Hot List talking about the issue.

8:30PM - Extended story of the suspensions from the Associated Press. Mentions investigators interviewing Nationwide Series officials in Kentucky. Speaks to no incidents reported by Grant.

9PM - No mention of the entire Grant lawsuit issue on Trackside on SPEED. Focus on Cup Series, driver interviews and Father's Day.

10PM - Very nice job by NASCAR Now of stepping into the issue in an informed manner and presenting a lot of different views and personalities. The only real problem was Brad Daugherty. According to it was Daugherty and Brian France who co-founded NASCAR's Diversity Council several years ago.

So, the person speaking with host Ryan Burr about this situation was the original head of NASCAR's diversity efforts. Daugherty never disclosed this, never talked about his personal views on the lawsuit, and never offered any real content.

What he did do was follow the corporate line of NASCAR, with whom he is no longer employed or associated in an official capacity. Daugherty is now an ESPN NASCAR commentator, and has struggled to define his role.

Like it or not, this one issue may dominate Daugherty's on-air life as the story grows out of the niche shows like NASCAR Now and migrates over to SportsCenter and Outside The Lines.

11PM - Tradin' Paint on SPEED chose to begin the show with the Petty Merger and ignore the lawsuit topic completely. The media guest with Kyle Petty was Joe Menzer from the website. The Grant issue was not even acknowledged on-the-air.


Here is the Yahoo link folks have been emailing and asking about. Here is the link to the actual lawsuit itself.

8PM - Topic handled nicely by Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty in the final minutes of NASCAR Countdown before the Nationwide Series race on ESPN2. Also now in rotation on ESPNEWS is the specifics of the suspensions of the two officials.


10AM - NASCAR Now did a very good job with this topic. Nicole Manske presented the known facts and let Marty Smith introduce comments from Brian France played earlier on ESPN. Manske stressed that neither Grant or her attorney would speak to ESPN on this issue.

10:30AM - Wendy Venturini handled the lawsuit issue right at the top of RaceDay and summed up the known facts and then played the same Brian France soundbites. She did it live with no script and then advised viewers SPEED would keep them posted.

12:30PM - Marc Fein at first called the Petty merger the biggest story of the week on NASCAR on TNT Live! At 1PM, TNT used Fein to update the facts of the story and followed the pattern of not involving any commentary from former drivers or crew chiefs. The facts were correct, and TNT moved-on.

1:30PM - New story published on from a non-NASCAR writer takes Mr. France's comments to task. Interesting perspective on the issue overall from a person not involved in sports TV or the media regularly.

Monday/Tuesday: No stories on TV. NASCAR Now and TWIN avoided the topic totally.

This thread will continue as the location to comment on the TV and Internet coverage of this single issue. Please do not post a comment on the lawsuit itself, as it will be deleted. What we are comparing is the various TV shows and websites as they struggle with a topic very unfamiliar to most of these writers and reporters. You are certainly welcome to comment on that topic.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. We are watching the media coverage on TV and the Internet of the Grant lawsuit. Do not post your comments about the lawsuit, only the media issues surrounding it. Click on the COMMENTS button below to post. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


The synergy between baseball and NASCAR will be put to the test on Wednesday's edition of NASCAR Now at 6PM Eastern Time. With the Sprint Cup Series racing in New Hampshire this weekend, Allen Bestwick will be appearing on ESPN2 from the one-and-only Fenway Park.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, Bestwick should be in heaven as he hosts the Roush-Fenway Cup drivers on a visit to the Boston ballpark. David Ragan and Carl Edwards are going to be taking batting practice with the team in the afternoon. Ragan will then throw-out the first pitch for the Red Sox vs. Diamondbacks game that evening.

On Saturday, the Nationwide Series race will migrate over to ABC for a rare weekend broadcast TV appearance. ESPN's Tim Brewer will have the weekend off so the network needs someone to staff the Tech Center.

Filling that need will be Jeff Gordon's crew chief Steve Letarte. A native of Maine, Letarte will get his first exposure in this role on a very big TV network stage. Letarte will have the cutaway car and all the Tech Center toys, so it should be a fun experience for this NASCAR veteran. The race coverage begins at 2:30PM.

ESPN also released the list of ESPY Award presenters. No one from NASCAR yet, but Danica Patrick mentioned right on the front page. Joey Logano might be a good call if the network wants to promote the Nationwide Series as well as the IRL.

For those of you asking, the trio in the ESPN/ABC booth at New Hampshire will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Ray Evernham. Jarrett returns after a planned break and Andy Petree has the weekend off. Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty will handle the infield duties.

On a Dale Jarrett-related note, ESPN Classic will have the 1993 Daytona 500 replay on June 26th at 2PM Eastern Time. This was the first of Jarrett's three Daytona 500 wins. Classic also sneaks-in the 1999 Pontiac Excitement 400 from Richmond on June 27th at 3AM. This is DVR Theater at its finest.

Finally, several Daly Planet readers have written-in about the "Where in the World is Kenny Schrader?" feature seen recently on the SPEED Report. Seems this idea may have originated in the TDP reader comments while discussing the issues about TWIN on SPEED.

It was suggested that if Schrader could not physically be on TWIN, than perhaps the show could benefit from a report about Schrader's local racing activities as he travels across the nation enjoying this time in his racing life. Apparently, SPEED liked the idea but not for TWIN. Perhaps, they will eventually give some credit where credit is due.

There will be a full preview of the weekend up later and I appreciate your patience while I have been on vacation in Texas this week. Back to South Florida on Wednesday, and ready for a big weekend of racing from New Hampshire.

Please feel free to offer your comments on the TV notes above. 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. Thank you for taking the time to drop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fox Sports Mentions "Duke Lacrosse" And Mauricia Grant Together

It has often seemed that the Internet is the tail wagging the dog where the Mauricia Grant vs. NASCAR lawsuit story is concerned.

Articles from Sports Illustrated's website have been leading the way with exclusive interviews of both Grant and her attorney. is not connected to NASCAR TV in any way.

The NASCAR TV partners have been a distant second where this story is concerned since it broke. Both ESPN and SPEED have had to make do with awkward "soundbites" from NASCAR Chairman Brian France provided at the Michigan and Sonoma race weekends.

Now, a story on has dared to mention the words "Duke Lacrosse" and Mauricia Grant in the same post. Here is a portion:

(1) Mauricia Grant: Comparisons to the Duke Lacrosse rape fiasco are inevitable, but the difference is that there may well be something to Grant's blockbuster allegations against NASCAR, as is suggested by Friday's disclosure that two organization employees who allegedly exposed themselves in her presence have been suspended. But here's where you should have problems with Grant: If any of the allegations in her suit against the racing organization are true, what took her so long to go public? And, more to the point, how many other women or minorities were subjected to rude and crude behavior while Grant got the ducks in a row for her super-sized suit following her October 2007 firing? And, for what it's worth, her allegations may be serious, but how can any reasonable person say they rise to the level of $225 million? She'd do well to re-file this thing for a 10th of that figure and settle the case for $5 million.

Here is the link to the full post by John Moriello from June 22nd. We have watched the TV networks offer only brief fact-oriented stories about this topic as the Internet has once again posted everything from fact to opinion worldwide.

We are going to take this opportunity to re-publish The Daly Planet stories about NASCAR dealing with this issue and a review of the lawsuit as it played-out in the media when first announced. All of these columns are still open for your comments.

NASCAR Lawsuit in the Media - updated regularly

The NASCAR TV Partners About To Be Put To The Test

NASCAR Struggles With The New Media World

Any new comments about the topic can either be posted on the individual columns or put on this post to start a new topic. Just click on the COMMENTS button below to add your opinion. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Monday Night TV Shoot-Out: Benson/LaJoie vs. Waltrip/Knaus

It is that time of the week again when the two big Monday NASCAR TV shows get to duke-it-out for your attention as a fan.

ESPN airs the one hour "roundtable" version of NASCAR Now at 5:30PM Eastern Time and then re-airs the show at 1AM Tuesday. SPEED airs This Week In NASCAR at 8PM and then repeats it twice at Midnight and 8AM on Tuesday morning.

Both these shows are after the same audience. NASCAR fans who want more information than they were able to get from the live TV and radio broadcasts. Despite the updated information and stories on the Internet, there is nothing like watching experienced NASCAR personalities talk about the weekend of racing.

On this Monday, NASCAR Now will continue to rotate panelists in the studio. Host Allen Bestwick will be joined by Randy LaJoie and Johnny Benson. Mike Massaro will also be on the panel and has become a semi-regular because of his ability to speak to almost any issue and his wealth of NASCAR reporting knowledge for ESPN over the years.

Over on SPEED, it will be the new "odd couple" of NASCAR TV with Michael Waltip as Oscar and the buttoned-up Chad Knaus as Felix on TWIN. The complete opposite personalities of these two have really begun to be a hit for SPEED. Waltrip seems to be finally comfortable with host Steve Byrnes and has begun to drive Knaus completely crazy on a regular basis, which is his main function on this program.

ESPN2 is up first, and Bestwick continues to have the best year of his long TV career. His transformation of this hour has been nothing short of amazing. The veteran crew slated for this Monday includes the winner of the NCTS race, a former Busch Series champ and one of the most experienced NASCAR reporters in the history of ESPN.

Bestwick continues to be long-winded, but when he keeps his questions short and lets the panelists talk, the show takes on a new dynamic. When he asks paragraph-length questions and adds-in his own opinion, things bog down in a hurry. Often, this depends on how responsive and interesting the panelists are during the show. On this Monday, Bestwick can just toss-out the topic and stand-back.

All the panelists get to ask questions of the two guests on the show and this has been a smart idea. Different views and personalities are what this sport is all about and the constantly changing faces on this TV series have made it work this season.

Over on SPEED, Byrnes might have a good show because of the wild nature of the Sonoma race and the fact that New Hampshire is next. Both of these topics are going to be good for Waltrip and Knaus in both review and preview mode. Which will come first this week?

When Byrnes can get Waltrip to settle-in and feel comfortable right away, viewers can sense that the show is going to come up to full-speed in a hurry. If things get off-base, the rest of the hour suffers. To both their credit, Waltrip and Knaus have been firm in their viewpoints and often hilarious in their differences.

This week, Daly Planet readers can view the programs and then offer their reactions on this post. We will skip the individual columns this week and let you tell us what parts of the shows you enjoyed, and what you think needs to change. Your comment can be any length, but please observe the rules on the right side of the main page.

To add your opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by our site and offer your NASCAR TV comments.

In-Progress At Sonoma: RaceDay, TNT Pre-race and Sprint Cup

Road courses are always different. Love them or hate them it seems they always provide a new kind of challenge for the TV crew. Sonoma was the site of a disaster last season for TNT. It began with interrupting Kyle Petty as he was leading a team prayer and moved-on to airing a profanity from him during the race and then dissolved into chaos as the announcers lost their cool on the final laps.

This Sunday afternoon will begin with Raceday at 1:30PM Eastern Time on SPEED. John Roberts will be joined by Jimmy Spencer and Hermie Sadler as Kenny Wallace was in Milwaukee running the Nationwide Series race. Wendy Venturini will handle the interviews and news, and Rutledge Wood will be a contributor.

Chip Ganassi, Kevin Harvick and road course veteran Ron Fellows will be featured guests. Venturini's Real Deal segment will focus on last year's race winner, Juan Pablo Montoya. Another feature will look at the original road course "ringer," Dan Gurney. Update: Gurney - still alive and not happy with TDP!

Next up is NASCAR on TNT Live! at 3:30PM. Marc Fein hosts with Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty alongside. Montoya will also join this program live and answer questions from TNT viewers through RaceBuddy.

At 4:30PM it will be Countdown to Green hosted by Bill Weber. Seated next to Weber at the TNT cocktail table will be Wally Dallenbach. This thirty minute show focuses on more race-related issues and uses the TNT pit reporters as well.

At 5PM the live race coverage will begin. This year Kyle Petty will be in the booth and not driving in the race. Weber hosts with Dallenbach while Larry Mcreynolds contributes from the TNT infield stage. This is the race last season where McReynolds hung-in there despite being ill and single-handedly held the telecast together. The infield stage used to be located on the drag strip right next to the track, so the noise was intense. Perhaps, TNT has re-thought that location for Sunday.

Lindsay Czarniak, Ralph Shaheen, Matt Yocum and Marty Snider will be covering the pit road area for this event which is so very different where pit strategy is concerned. Last year things got rough and disjointed with the pit coverage, this year should be a big improvement.

This post will serve to host your comments about the pre-race shows and then the Sprint Cup race on TNT and SPEED. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the directions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

In-Progress at Milwaukee: Nationwide Series on ESPN2

Dale Jarrett has not yet returned to the ESPN racing line-up, so once again the Nationwide Series race on ESPN2 will feature Rusty Wallace as the Lead Analyst.

Tonight from the Milwaukee Mile, it will be Wallace leading-off the program when he joins Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty in the Infield Pit Studio for the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show at 8PM Eastern Time.

Look for the pre-race program to address a lot of issues including the Joey Logano situation at Gibbs Racing and the rumors that he will be in a Cup car for 2009. Daugherty has to comment on the recent developments in the Grant lawsuit and the interview that the former NASCAR official gave this week. Why Grant did not choose to speak to Daugherty is certainly an interesting issue.

Once underway, Jerry Punch will call the action with Wallace and Andy Petree in the booth. Down on pit road will be Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake. Tim Brewer will be on-scene in the Tech Center for updates.

This is a grinding, flat track with tough action and usually some upset tempers. With only a handful of Sprint Cup drivers doing double-duty, the regulars of the Nationwide Series should get an opportunity to shine.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series race on ESPN2. To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are listed on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

NHRA Accident Links

There has been a fatal accident in the NHRA event this weekend. To keep the comments and links separate from the NASCAR page, this will be the link page for that topic.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Kalitta family. The link will expand as the news continues to come in.

Use the COMENTS button to post, the rules are located on the main page. This is a very sad story, so please keep your comments respectful.


Driver Killed in Crash - Star-Ledger

AOL Fanhouse story

Fox Sports

In-Progress At Sonoma: Sprint Cup Practice

If anyone would like to comment on the two Cup practice sessions, please use this post.

Info from SPEED is that the TNT crew will not be hosting the Happy Hour coverage, instead the crew of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will continue on-the-air.

Reporting for the first session will be Ralph Shaheen and Marty Snider, for Happy Hour will be Lindsay Czarniak and Matt Yocum.

To add your TV-related post, 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.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In-Progress At Milwaukee: Craftsman Trucks On SPEED (Updated)

The Truck Series comes to Milwaukee for another good battle on the kind of track that is well-suited for this series.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will call the action and as usual Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will handle the pit road reporting duties. Krista Voda will begin the night with The Set-Up pre-race show at 9PM Eastern Time.

Things to look for tonight are the contrast in styles between a race with Michael Waltrip as the third booth announcer and this race with just Allen and Parsons. The last short-track race was a wreck-fest, and it should be interesting to see how everyone behaves on this fast and flat oval. Look for the pit reporters to have plenty of stories to discuss.

This just in: A Daly Planet reader points to this story on Jayski that basically tells the tale of a Truck Series team that will make the regular NASCAR driver, Chad Chaffin, step-out of the Truck during the race to let a paid driver take-over. British driver Paul Poulter has brought financial support to the team, and just as we have often seen in Sports Car racing, will be racing "his" truck. Let's see what the SPEED guys have to say about it.

This page will serve to host your comments about the Truck Series race on 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.

Thank you for taking the time to stop-by and leave your comment on The Daly Planet.