Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sprint Cup Series From Fontana, CA on ESPN (7 PM)

Last week in Bristol the NASCAR on ESPN gang had a very bad Nationwide Series telecast and rallied to have a great Sprint Cup show. This week in Fontana, the Nationwide race and paint drying were running head-to-head until the last fifteen laps. Hopefully, with so many storylines in-progress for the Cup teams the network will once again get itself organized for a good race telecast.

This week Allen Bestwick gets his full hour for NASCAR Countdown. Story selection should be interesting as this is the time of the year when "the race" vs. "The Chase" becomes a tough struggle for the TV crews. Here at Fontana and next week in Richmond making The Chase is going to be said countless times by countless reporters.

Bestwick will have both Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside in the Infield Pit Center. There is absolutely no doubt that Rusty Wallace misses the ability to step-up and do some ESPN races as an analyst. Earlier this year, Rusty did both selected Sprint Cup and Nationwide races while Dale Jarrett was on vacation.

Now that the final seventeen race stretch has come to ESPN/ABC, Wallace is stuck in the infield trying patiently do deal with the cheerleading of Daugherty. One gets the feeling that Rusty has finally begun to understand what he gave up when ESPN made the change in the off-season.

Tim Brewer had a tough Saturday in the Tech Center and it seems that he is often put on the air before he has the time to sort-out the real issue that he should be addressing. Andy Petree seems to be continually disagreeing with Brewer, even after Brewer has held-up and pointed to all kinds of car parts. This should be something to keep an eye on during the Sunday telecast.

The key component once again for this entire three hour telecast is going to be the ability of Dr. Jerry Punch to keep the excitement level high. Punch failed miserably in the Nationwide race and both Jarrett and Petree jumped-in time-and-time again to describe the action while Punch was silent.

Only two races until The Chase begins on ESPN and this is the critical time to keep the excitement high and build the momentum for the sport as it heads-into the final ten races of the season. This responsibility falls squarely to Punch.

ESPN will use the regular pit reporting crew of Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns. Last week this crew worked hard and had both good and bad moments. Saturday night in the Nationwide Series race, this crew of four tried several times to get through a full-field recap but once again never completed the rundown. It is going to be very important to rundown the full field several times during the Sprint Cup race.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Fontana, CA. To add your TV-related 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. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Sunday Afternoon On SPEED From Fonatana

Getting ready for the Sprint Cup Race on ESPN at 7PM, SPEED serves-up a couple of hours of pre-race programming.

Larry McReynolds is a consistent presence on SPEED and he starts things off with NASCAR Performance at 4:00PM. McReynolds is joined by Chad Knaus and Bootie Barker. Originally, this show was fascinating for what the smart minds of the crew chiefs could do to the cars in the Sprint Cup Series.

Now, it is a constant exercise in frustration for both Knaus and Barker. NASCAR has put the crew chiefs in a box and there is nothing left to talk about except parts and pieces. At many racetracks, there is little for the crew chief to do except adjust tire pressure and add or subtract wedge during the race.

The mounting frustration of Knaus has been especially noticeable in light of his team's frustrations despite being firmly in The Chase. Knaus is used to a very different level of performance. It should be interesting to hear his views on the box NASCAR has assembled for the teams in Fontana.

Randy Pemberton and Adam Alexander have been taking turns hosting NASCAR in a Hurry which comes along next at 4:30PM. This show uses all the SPEED and NASCAR Media Group footage since the teams arrived in Fontana to review everything that has happened from the Nationwide race to the news from the garage.

The franchise strolls in next, as John Roberts leads the NASCAR RaceDay crew of Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace on-the-air at 5PM for two hours of pre-race programming. Hermie Sadler and Wendy Venturini are the field reporters. Venturini has David Ragan as her guest on The Real Deal this week. Live guests on the show will include Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano.

RaceDay has undergone a huge transformation since being moved back one hour to protect the ESPN pre-race show called NASCAR Countdown. Last season, the RaceDay crew was fired-up to go head-to-head with the NASCAR on ESPN gang. Now, drivers can come to the RaceDay stage because they are still in their street clothes.

Instead of Venturini and ESPN's pit reporters competing for interviews on the starting grid, Venturini is often alone in the bus lot with drivers who look like they just woke up from a nap. The precious hour before race time now belongs to ESPN alone.

The RaceDay crew continues to develop a new show format even as they are surrounded by NASCAR Now on ESPN2 before the show and NASCAR Countdown immediately after. What topics are selected to pursue, the quality of the interviews and the exclusive features are the elements keeping RaceDay popular.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Sunday afternoon shows on SPEED from Fontana. To add your TV-related 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. Thanks again for taking time out of your day to stop by.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nationwide Series Returns To The Back Burner

With several hurricanes churning out in the open sea at this time of year, it was actually ESPN2 that had the perfect storm this Saturday night.

It was 10:23PM when Dr. Jerry Punch welcomed NASCAR fans to ESPN2 and the Nationwide Series race. The telecast had actually been on-the-air since 9:45PM and the race itself was in-progress. Veteran NASCAR fans knew it was college football season once again. The Nationwide Series telecast had started on the ESPN Classic Network.

After a very nice seven months of live coverage on ESPN2, college football pushes the Nationwide Series to the back burner on Saturdays as soon as the season starts. Joining the Fontana telecast 38 minutes into the coverage is going to open a running debate about why this is happening again this season.

In reality, that debate makes no sense at all. ESPN has been doing college football since the 1980's and knows exactly how long it takes to play a game live on TV.

Since 2007, the first season of the new NASCAR contract, ESPN has consistently scheduled Nationwide Series races in timeslots that make no sense during football season.

On this night, NASCAR fans without ESPN Classic had to turn to for the online stream of the race telecast. It appeared without audio and was not fixed until slightly after 11PM. The commercial elements that ran from's Atlanta, GA location worked fine all night. It was the ESPN feed that had the problem.

Basically, NASCAR fans without the ESPN Classic network or a broadband computer connection were out of luck. That is exactly what NASCAR did not want to see in prime-time on a Saturday night. It does not bode well for the remaining races.

Allen Bestwick ran his crew through a quick 15 minute pre-race show and then handed-off to Dr. Jerry Punch and the regular NASCAR on ESPN gang. The high point of the telecast came when the public address announcer forgot the name of actor Ron Perlman's new TV show as he introduced him for the starting command. At least Perlman knew it, delivered a good line and rolled the field off to the flag.

Once the race began, ESPN did a great job of focusing on the Nationwide Series and leaving the overlap of last year behind. The Sprint Cup was promoted, but not dragged over to Saturday's race. Unfortunately, the Nationwide gang produced a rather bland event.

Draft Track was out early, Bestwick was promoting shows from the infield and Tim Brewer was showing everything he could think of from the Tech Center. The pit reporters worked hard to contribute any kind of content on the relevant topics and the Director searched for racing. The problem was, there wasn't any.

Several nicely timed cautions bunched the field, but when the green flag waved it only took a couple of laps until the field was strung-out and on a test drive to the next pit stop. Kyle Busch was "stinking up the show" once again.

This (click here) commentary from Lee Montgomery finally spoke to the issue TV viewers ask about constantly where the Nationwide Series is concerned. With a short field of real teams, NASCAR allows "start and park" teams to enter and qualify for the races.

These teams often do not have pit crews and are only going to run up until the first gas stop. They get to collect the money that is awarded for just starting the race and then go on their way. Montgomery's point is that NASCAR would be better off running with a short field of real teams like the Truck Series does each race.

Fans are often confused when the ticker at the top of the screen shows as many as 10 cars out of the race when no caution flag has flown. This Saturday in Fontana, 8 cars took the easy way out and headed for the trailer before pit stops began.

Brad Keselowski left the race with engine trouble and headed to the garage. ESPN never sent a pit reporter over to find out what was going on. That is the type of fundamental TV issue that this team has struggled with on the Nationwide Series.

By lap 110 of the 150 in the race, ESPN has once again returned to coverage of the top five cars and nothing more. It was the perfect time for a full field recap, but it did not happen. It was the perfect time for some laps from an in-car camera perspective, but it did not happen.

Instead, Tim Brewer was addressing the possible problems with Keselowski even though no pit reporter was sent to find out the reality. Keselowski's car was seen surrounded by crew members and specialists, but not one ESPN reporter. Without some information from the garage, Brewer was simply speculating.

Over twenty laps later, when Keselowski re-joined the race, there was a brief and rather confused report from Dave Burns about a mysterious rotor problem. Burns asked Brewer to explain it, but once again the coordination with the Tech Center resulted in Brewer talking and showing things long before the viewers saw the Tech Center on the screen.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree did everything they could to address the issues in the race, but essentially there were few. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were almost silent after halfway because there just was very little to talk about.

A restart with 15 laps to go made it a bit interesting, but Punch just simply cannot boost the excitement level when that skill is needed from the play-by-play announcer. Punch watched the action with the viewers and said absolutely nothing.

Exciting moments seem to work best when they are replayed and Jarrett and Petree handle the commentary. Punch simply does not seem to be able to speak while something exciting or even dangerous is in-progress. Jarrett and Petree have become experts at stepping-in and filling-in the gaps for the TV viewers.

As usual, the race closed with Kyle Busch leading the way and not one drop of excitement anywhere to be seen or heard. This was a tough start to the Nationwide Series races for the remainder of the season now that college football has started.

ESPN made good pictures and sound, but lacked speed shots, in-car angles and use of the blimp which was on-scene. Even the Director had a tough time finding excitement on this warm night on the West Coast. He was not alone.

Next week it will be the Sprint Cup Series that faces-off with the college crowd as the Saturday night race from Richmond, VA is scheduled for the ABC television network at 7PM. The preceding football game kicks-off at 3:30PM, so this broadcast window is finally one that should fit.

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UPDATED: Nationwide Series Race

On a day dominated by college football, ESPN2 will give some time to NASCAR on Saturday night. It will be 9:45PM when the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show begins. The only questions is, on what ESPN TV network?

The first hurdle for NASCAR may be finding a place to start the race. With a college football game beginning at 6:45PM ET on ESPN2, Allen Bestwick's pre-race show is scheduled for only three hours after the kick-off. As viewers know all too well from last season, college football has a way of affecting the Nationwide Series coverage.

ESPN Classic Network appears to be the company's only option, as all the other networks continue to have live college football in-progress. If things all go as scheduled, it will be ESPN2 where Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty will appear with Bestwick from the Infield Pit Studio.

This is an abbreviated pre-race show of only fifteen minutes. At 10PM, coverage of the actual race begins with ESPN's regular NASCAR team. It will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree calling the action. Down on pit road will be Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns.

Fontana is a wide track with multiple grooves that should make for great TV pictures. Look for the possibility of Draft Tracker coming out and for the great triple splits on caution flag pit stops. Fontana has some of the biggest pit boxes on the circuit.

The long pace laps should leave plenty of time to Tim Brewer and his Tech Center. Brewer was essentially put on hold last week with the sixteen second laps at Bristol. Both Brewer and the Infield Pit Center gang should see a lot of air time on the race tonight.

The challenge once again for the ESPN gang will be to deal with the race and not The Chase all the time. Keeping both these issues updated will be the toughest assignment for the TV crew. Agendas are bound to overlap and the pit reporters will once again be put on-the-spot for issues that may be uncomfortable for drivers and crew chiefs to deal with on-the-air.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ESPN2 coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Fontana. To add your TV-related 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. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday On SPEED: Fontana Practice And Qualifying

Fans of programs like NASCAR Live and Victory Lane get a treat this Saturday as veteran host John Roberts goes "upstairs" and into the broadcast booth to call the action during Nationwide Series Qualifying at 5:30PM ET.

Roberts will be joined by Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds for analysis. Down on pit road and handling the interviews will be Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler. This session should run a little bit over an hour.

Next up on SPEED will be Sprint Cup Series practice at 7PM. Steve Byrnes will join Hammond and McReynolds while down in the garage area it will be Wendy Venturini joining Pemberton.

The same broadcast team will stay right where they are for Happy Hour that starts at 8PM NASCAR Time. That is the polite way of saying things sometimes get a little backed-up due to circumstances. NASCAR builds in a little extra time, so this broadcast will actually end at 9:30PM.

Controversial journalist Mike Mulhern makes a rare appearance on Tradin' Paint at 9:30PM. This TV series is trying to get back on track after a tough stretch and Mulhern is just the right guy to do it. If the Producer selects topics that interest the race fans and offer a diversity of opinion, this episode should be fun.

ESPN starts coverage at 9:45PM and there will be a new post for the NASCAR Countdown show and the Nationwide Series race. Remember, live college football precedes these telecasts on ESPN2 so keep up to the minute with The Daly Planet on this issue.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Saturday coverage of NASCAR from Fontana, CA 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 located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Here Comes College Football On ESPN2

The match-up of the powerhouses on ESPN2 will begin this Saturday with the Mississippi State Bulldogs from Starkville, MS facing the NASCAR Nationwide Series from Fontana, CA.

The Bulldogs are led by Head Coach Sylvester Croom and his starting quarterback Wesley Carroll. The Nationwide gang is led by Series Director Joe Balash and emerging star Brad Keselowski. It should be an interesting match-up.

As Nationwide Series fans know all too well from 2007, college football games run about three-and-a-half hours from start-to-finish. With several injury time-outs over the course of a single game, it is not uncommon to have an event that runs closer to four hours. TV networks try to build-in post game shows to absorb these potential over-runs.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs will kick-off against rival Louisiana Tech at 6:45PM Eastern Time. It should be a great opportunity for both programs to get some national TV exposure right at the start of the season. If the game runs on schedule and without any overtime, it should end around 10:15PM.

While the Nationwide Series enjoys a 30 minute pre-race show early in the year, all that changes when college football comes to town. This Saturday, it will be 15 minutes of Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. This mini-show is scheduled for 9:45PM. That is only three hours after the MSU kick-off.

ESPN is heavily invested in college football and has just announced a long-term deal that brings SEC events to the network for more than two billion dollars in rights fees. The media company uses three cable TV networks, one broadcast network and multiple pay-per-view channels to get that product to the consumer.

Last season, college football spun the Nationwide Series around like a top. Once the football season is underway and begins to heat-up, NASCAR's second series staggers through the final nine events trying to get some TV time on the ESPN family of networks. Comparisons between the importance of the two sports are not relevant because NASCAR fans have been following the Nationwide Series on ESPN2 since February.

Now, less than three months away from the final race in Homestead the reality of college football will begin to play a role in the sport once again. Last weekend, the IRL telecast began on the ESPN Classic Network because of an over-run of LPGA Golf. NASCAR fans should once again become familiar with that channel location on the cable dial. It may well have its first use this Saturday and has the potential for many more during these last races of the 2008 Nationwide Season.

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.

Birth Certificate Luckily Not A Problem For Logano

Now that 18 year-old Joey Logano has officially joined the ranks of the Sprint Cup Series, the "TV packaging" of this youngster has begun. Already having appeared on NASCAR programs on ESPN and SPEED, Logano is about to hit prime-time.

Tuesday's edition of ESPN's news magazine show called E:60 will feature a behind-the-scenes profile of Logano. Many fans have seen Logano's father Tom, pictured above, but have not been exposed to any other parts of this young man's life. That is about to change.

E:60 will be "hanging with Joey" and watching him do all the things that teenagers do before he becomes just another scheduled and managed millionaire Sprint Cup driver. Joey at the pool. Joey at home. Joey at the beach.

Ironically, Logano is finally in this position because he turned 18. That is the magic age to compete in NASCAR and thankfully his birth certificate was checked thoroughly by the sanctioning body before allowing him on the track with the big boys.

This is important, because interviewing Logano will be E:60's Tom Farrey. If the name sounds familiar, it may be for a controversial ESPN video that is still floating around the Internet.

It was earlier this year that Mr. Farrey took a camera crew to the Dominican Republic. They were not looking at the scenery. They were looking for Major League Baseball player Miguel Tejada. They started at his family home.

"They went to my father's house," Tejada told the AP. "They got the camera everywhere in my father's house. I don't know what they tried to find. They interviewed my father, and they interviewed people from my neighborhood and everything. They [ate] in my father's house. They make my sister cook for them. That's why I feel mad. ... I had an enemy inside of my father's house, and my family treats you nice. And look at what they did to me. My family is really mad right now."

Although Tejada insists that ESPN told him these interviews were about baseball and his team, The Houston Astros, it did not work out that way in the end. What Farrey was hunting was Tejada's true age.

After shooting the Dominican Republic footage, Farrey got Tejada himself on-camera for an interview. Instead of talking baseball, Farrey produced a birth certificate and confronted an embarrassed Tejada about being 33 years old and not 31 as he was listed by the Astros and Major League Baseball.

A sports prodigy just like Logano, Tejada changed his age from 19 to 17 so American baseball scouts would look at him as a younger man who could be considered a pro prospect. To a poor boy from a poor family deep in the Dominican Republic, it made complete sense.

"When they signed me back in '93, I was a young kid," Tejada said. "I really wanted to sign with professional baseball because I thought that was the only way I could help my family. That's the way that everybody did it back in those days. My coach told me that's how we are going to do it, and I followed him."

When Farrey confronted Tejada on-camera about his age, ESPN had deliberately not told Tejada in advance that this would be a topic. He had been called only two days earlier for the sit-down with Farrey and was only told the topic would be "baseball."

Embarrassed and upset, Tejada walked-out. Rather than apologize and try to schedule another interview, ESPN kept and aired the Tejada footage in the very same way that Clint Bowyer's misdirected comment about Michael Waltrip was used this past week.

Tejada walking-out was everywhere. It was on the promos, it was on the Internet, it was being "teased" on SportsCenter and other ESPN programs. To those at ESPN in the current mindset that NASCAR fans are now seeing, Tejada's personal embarrassment was "video gold."

Once Tejada had been "used" and the talked-about E:60 story had been run complete with the walk-out footage, a funny thing happened. Major League Baseball, The Houston Astros and many ESPN viewers all asked the same question. Why did ESPN choose to do things this way?

Houston General Manager Ed Wade said Tejada's age revelation "has no effect on our club. I don't think there is any kind of short-term impact on our club and I don't foresee any long-term impact. He's still a premium player. We are happy to have him. He has a couple years left on his deal. I would like to see him play a lot longer than that in our uniform." Tejada's contract with the Astros expires at the end of the 2009 season.

All this work, all this expense and all this hype to embarrass one professional athlete on ESPN...for nothing more than TV ratings. Sound familiar?

E:60's Farrey is the reporter who will be showcasing Logano to ESPN viewers in prime-time on Tuesday night at 7PM ET. While we do not know what Farrey has up-his-sleeve for this report, we can rest assured that Farrey and his crack staff will be using their new found expertise to confirm for America that Logano is really 18 years old. What a relief.

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(photo courtesy of Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

ESPN Rookie Joins "NASCAR Now"

NASCAR Now got a nice present on Thursday when's rookie NASCAR writer made his first ESPN network television appearance.

You may have heard of him. His name is Ed Hinton. That is Hinton above back in 2006 talking with Junior. Pictures of Hinton alone are hard to find. He seems to almost always be seen talking to someone.

It was host Ryan Burr who introduced the former Orlando Sentinel writer to the NASCAR Now audience. Unlike Hinton's sometimes raucous appearances on SPEED's Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, this time he had to play it straight. After all, this was ESPN.

Dressed in a nice suit and tie, Hinton tried with all his might to tow the ESPN company line for Mr. Burr and the viewers. That lasted about two questions.

In the blink of an eye, Hinton was at full-speed and enjoying the freedom of TV. This time, no editor was going to come along and take out a paragraph or two. Hinton was off to the races and Burr let him run. What he said may still be bouncing around the Bristol, CT studios of NASCAR Now.

Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards facing-off down the stretch was the first topic. Hinton started with a plea to NASCAR's Mike Helton and team owners Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush.

"Leave these guys alone...let them rip!" said Hinton. "Don't try to cool off their jets. If you cool their jets you are going to cool the hottest thing that has come to NASCAR in a long, long time."

Next on the agenda was the topic of the COT and recent NASCAR rules enforcement. There was little doubt this one was going to be interesting.

"They are legislating themselves into blandness!" said Hinton of the NASCAR rule makers. "Everything is considered cheating now. They are taking the outlaw spirit and the innovative spirit out of NASCAR." Hinton used as an example the talented Chad Knaus and his current inability to push the rules and keep things interesting. "It's very fitting that the car is boxy because it is a box that the teams can't get out of," concluded Hinton.

Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske were up next. Both of these veteran race team owners were not having success in NASCAR. Burr simply asked why and then stood back.

"You've got to spill 100% of your guts and your effort and (put) everything into NASCAR," stated Hinton. "Look at Roger Penske, he has been trying to apply Indy Car methods to NASCAR for thirty years. He Daytona 500 win and that was a bit of luck."

"Newman is leaving him (Penske) for what he feels like is a stronger team," said Hinton without a moment of hesitation.

"Chip (Ganassi) is going to have to realize that you don't see Joe Gibbs or Rick Hendrick off running Indy cars and sports cars," added Hinton. That is an opinion the likes of which may have never before been heard on NASCAR Now.

"To win in NASCAR its got to be has got to be a total effort," said Hinton. He concluded by saying that anyone trying to bring an IRL or other cross-over method to NASCAR is destined to fail. "It just doesn't work," he said.

Hinton was only on the program during two segments where he responded to Burr's questions. Fans who had not seen Wind Tunnel may have been left asking one thing. Who is that guy and when can he come back?

The broader perspective on the sport that a veteran journalist like Hinton brings is just what NASCAR Now needed to add another solid piece to the puzzle that ESPN has been working hard to put together this season. Last year at this time, fans were livid at the inexperienced host and the forced storylines on this TV series as The Chase approached.

Now, Burr has established himself as a solid host and his patience and treatment of Hinton once again backed that up. Allowing Hinton to speak completely and expand on the issues that Burr raised really worked well on this Thursday night program.

Hopefully, this is an opportunity for Hinton to participate in other NASCAR on ESPN programs including the Monday roundtable and the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. While Brad Daugherty has been holding his own, it is unvarnished perspectives on issues in the sport that have been missing from this coverage. Hinton does not seem to have an agenda and his experience certainly allows him to speak to almost any NASCAR topic.

This first toe-in-the-water moment for Hinton on ESPN2 went well and gave fans a lot to talk about. If ESPN can find a place for him on additional NASCAR TV shows, it should add a nice touch to coverage of The Chase as the season hits full stride.

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 again for taking the time to stop by.

ESPN's Silence Is Golden

Apparently, silence is golden at ESPN when unplanned NASCAR issues suddenly pop-up. Heading into the California weekend for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, there are still a couple of TV-related issues on the table that sit unresolved.

In Michigan, Tim Brewer told ESPN viewers that Tony Stewart was directly involved in "magnet-gate" with the Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series teams. Subsequently, the Gibbs team members involved were identified and the drivers were cleared.

Despite several national media appearances on both ESPN and Sirius, Brewer refused to address his comments. An apology to Stewart on ESPN never happened.

Saturday night in Bristol, TN the ESPN Producer tried to raise the excitement level of the Sprint Cup race under a red flag by playing-back Clint Bowyer's now infamous "worst driver" comment about Michael Waltrip.

NASCAR's largest TV partner made sure to include the part where Bowyer dumps on NAPA for returning to MWR for 2009. That had to make the ESPN Ad Sales department go into group cardiac arrest. Keep an eye on the number of NAPA ads in Sunday's broadcast.

This recorded audio play-back happened several minutes after ESPN interviewed Casey Mears who explained how the accident occurred. Mears said Waltrip was not involved and apologized to the teams affected.

After running the Bowyer audio all weekend on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, NASCAR Now and posting it on, many thought Monday would produce cooler heads.

The one hour edition of NASCAR Now is led by Allen Bestwick, who had worked alongside Waltrip for many years on SPEED Channel. Certainly, Bestwick would be able to put the issue to rest.

Instead, Bestwick avoided the topic for the entire program. Coming back from a commercial, NASCAR Now played an edited highlight from the weekend and there it was again. Nice and loud and just as out-of-context as it had been originally. Again from Bestwick, there was silence.

Finally, Saturday night brought another Earnhardt Jr. interview reminiscent of Mike Massaro grilling Junior after he fell out of Chase contention last season. This time, it was pit reporter Shannon Spake.

Everyone watching ESPN had seen Junior jump the start and never recover from the resulting penalty. Racing furiously all night long, he never got his lap back and finished 18th.

Whipped and embarrassed, Junior was perched on the back of his transporter looking just like a man who made a very stupid mistake and paid the price. Spake bent over to Junior and asked "...the last couple of races you seem to have fallen off a little bit, what do you think has changed?"

If Tony Stewart was on the receiving end of that question, we would probably still be talking about his answer. When Junior stuttered, Spake asked if it was a problem with the car set-ups or possibly the tracks? This had "big moment" potential.

Earnhardt took a very deep breath and politely told Spake there were probably other drivers that she should be interviewing rather than the 18th place finisher who was one lap down. That answer might put Junior on the short list for the next Nobel Peace Prize.

Squinting up at Spake, Junior did say that he "appreciated her pointing that out" about the team's lackluster performance. It was obvious to everyone but Spake that one very public error at the start had cost Junior a possible top five finish.

This footage was replayed on Monday's NASCAR Now. Although it made no sense and Spake's questions were ill-informed, Mike Massaro jumped-in without prompting to say he believed Spake's questions were fair.

Fans do not have to think very hard to remember Massaro pressing an upset and tired Earnhardt with repeated questions about his failure to make The Chase last season. No matter what Junior said, it was not enough for ESPN.

The media walks a very fine line with the drivers. Access is unprecedented in NASCAR for the TV network covering the race. When an ESPN reporter shows up, all interviews stop and all TV and other media step back. ESPN paid a lot for the exclusive live rights to the races and they get everything first.

In Bristol, ESPN avoided Tony Stewart like the plague. On Monday, Bestwick avoided the Waltrip issue completely. This weekend in California, it should be interesting to see if Spake avoids Junior.

There are twelve races remaining in the Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2008. Waltrip, Stewart and Earnhardt have already been on the receiving end of negative ESPN coverage in just the last couple of weeks.

In California, ESPN will once again be on-hand only for the races. SPEED will handle practice and qualifying for both series. The drivers will not have to deal with the ESPN pit reporters until race day.

It will be interesting to see how the three drivers mentioned above will treat ESPN if they are interviewed before or after the race. Despite the network's silence, there is bound to be some lingering bad feelings when unfounded rumors, incorrect statements and ridiculous questions are littered in ESPN's recent NASCAR history.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. 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 stop by.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wall-To-Wall SPEED On Friday

Once again SPEED gets to have fun on a Friday by covering all the on-track action from Fontana. ESPN is producing only the races, so SPEED steps-in with wall-to-wall NASCAR coverage.

John Roberts is going to anchor NASCAR Live to start the day. Hermie Sadler and Randy Pemberton are his reporters from the garage area. This trio has proven to be very effective at getting the interviews needed to set-the-table for the day. This first edition of NASCAR Live hits the air at 2:30PM Eastern Time.

One of the hardest working trios in NASCAR is up next, as Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds begin a very long day with Sprint Cup practice at 3PM. Helping with this live telecast will be reporters Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner.

At 4:30PM, Roberts and crew return with another NASCAR Live to track-down any stories from the first session. This show is a flexible bridge to the next on-track activity and has been very good in wrapping-up loose ends.

The Nationwide Series cars take to the track for practice at 5PM and once again Byrnes, Hammond and McReynolds will be on-hand. After a brief break, so will Dillner and Venturini.

Even though there are only 44 cars trying for 43 slots, Sprint Cup qualifying always has its share of drama. This session should start at 6:30PM and feature some interesting names like Mike Skinner and Johnny Sauter. Byrnes and company will stay on-the-air and work this telecast.

Bob Dillner get a change-of-scenery next as he is hosting the Nationwide Series live practice session. Dillner will be joined by Hermie Sadler and Phil Parsons. Randy Pemberton will move-over to patrol the garage with Wendy Venturini. This one hour session will start at 8:30PM.

The evening ends with a bang as SPEED's three amigos host Trackside along with Elliott Sadler. Byrnes, Hammond and McReynolds welcome Brian Vickers and David Ragan as guests to this 9:30PM program.

For West Coast viewers, stay tuned. All the sessions will be repeated again once Trackside is over. Friday features eight hours of NASCAR programming on SPEED and should serve quite well to set-up both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races to come on Saturday and Sunday.

This post will serve to host your comments about SPEED's coverage of Friday at Fontana. 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. Thanks again for taking the time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bristol TV Ratings Get NASCAR's Attention

It had the shortest laps, the most excitement and was live in East Coast prime-time. It featured the top stars in the sport and came when the scramble for Chase spots was in full-swing. ESPN had all their TV stars on-hand and covered the racing action from start-to-finish. In the end, that wasn't enough.

National TV ratings for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race from Bristol were down. The numbers show viewership fell from 5.7 million to just under 5 million homes. A 3.5 rating this year as opposed to a 4.1 last season.

Numbers aside, the final night of Olympic event coverage certainly played a role in these results. So did the growing availability of alternatives to the ESPN coverage. DirecTV's Hot Pass,'s Sprint Race View and live radio coverage all use other pathways to deliver the same racing content that ESPN is producing.

The transition of Bristol from a gladiator-style crash-fest into a two-groove racetrack had to play a role as well. Even though ESPN promoted the race as a "slugfest" and "full contact NASCAR action," nothing could be further from the truth. Accidents happened because of spotter error, blown tires and the limited visibility in the new COT.

After watching the racing action for so many years from this tiny oval, it seems ironic that one or two bumps at the end among the leaders would cause such a stir. ESPN has a tough challenge on its hands to try and bump-up the ratings, but at least they are secure in the knowledge that this will be the final Fontana race in the heat of the summer on a Labor Day weekend.

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TV Bumping Gets Probation For Busch And Edwards

On Wednesday NASCAR did what many veteran observers predicted. That would be nothing.

Following the post-race festivities between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, NASCAR placed both drivers on probation for the next six races. There are no fines involved or any kind of point penalties.

This is NASCAR's way of saying "don't do that again" but we understand that things sometimes happen after a race. At the beginning of the season, Brian France emphasized that the sanctioning body was going to be more lenient of drivers who expressed themselves in public.

The "TV bump" of these two was the best gift California Speedway could get for its final race in the heat of the summer. Although ESPN will once again not be involved in practice or qualifying coverage, you can be assured that "the bump" will have a life of its own in promos and on NASCAR Now as the California race approaches.

ESPN will be on-the-air at 7PM Eastern Time on Sunday with the one hour NASCAR Countdown pre-race show and then race coverage. This is the final race on ESPN before coverage changes to the ABC Broadcast Network in Richmond.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Night TV Shows Take The High Road

The remaining NASCAR TV partners offered the one-hour review programs on Monday dealing with the Bristol races. Three NASCAR series raced on the small oval, but the fireworks were reserved for the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday night.

ESPN2 was up first with the one hour of NASCAR Now. Allen Bestwick is the host and refers to this show as "the roundtable." Joining Bestwick was Boris Said, Johnny Benson and Mike Massaro.

The presentation of this program is classy from the start. The three panelists are in suits and ties and the set is squeaky clean. Bestwick is polished and covers any type of NASCAR topic with the knowledge of a total professional.

Said and Benson addressed the reality of Bristol with Benson having finished fourth in the NCTS race on Wednesday and continuing to lead the point standings. It was the clash at the end of the race that generated the most discussion, with Massaro offering the best question.

He asked if the new two-groove Bristol track meant that the old-style racing where moving another car out of the way was still allowed? His point was well-taken, but the consensus was that Bristol will remain Bristol and rubbing will always be a part of NASCAR.

Bestwick led the panel through a review of the three races and touched on the key points of the events. ESPN uses driver "soundbites" most effectively and again had the interviews that viewers wanted to see.

This included Shannon Spake's post-race interview with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. who seems to be a target for ESPN as The Chase closes in. Junior made a big mistake at the start of the race and never got his lap back. He wound-up in the top twenty.

Spake asked "You guys started the season so strong and the last couple of races you seem to have fallen-off a little bit, what do you think has changed?"

Junior answered "I appreciate you pointing that out, makes it a lot easier...there are a lot of guys who finished better than me who you need to probably go and interview right now."

Massaro defended Spake's question as being fair, but Said mentioned that the only mistake Junior made all night was on that first lap. Spake had suggested it was an issue with the set-ups or possibly the tracks. The look from Junior was priceless.

Bestwick hosted Joe Gibbs and Joey Logano who were in good spirits after the big announcement. Few are more professional in these situations than Bestwick and he handled the entire interview with flying colors. Bestwick's best question was about NASCAR approving Logano to race on the superspeedways in 2009.

In the middle of the Sprint Cup segments, coming back from commercial, NASCAR Now ran the normal edited feature using all the sights and sounds from the race weekend. Despite not dealing with it in the program, the NASCAR Now production team decided once again to use the Clint Bowyer audio clip where Bowyer speaks about Michael Waltrip as a driver and questions why NAPA returned to the team.

This move goes against almost everything that Bestwick has tried to bring to ESPN since being promoted from his pit reporter status to lead this Monday show. Bestwick deals with issues head-on, but when it was not discussed in the studio segment it was assumed cooler heads had prevailed and it was over. Apparently, that was not the case.

That leads to SPEED and This Week in NASCAR, which stars Mr. Waltrip on almost a weekly basis. Steve Byrnes hosts this series and chose to deal with the issue in the first ten seconds of the show. Byrnes hosts a relaxed and casual program with the panelists in shirts and slacks. Greg Biffle was alongside Waltrip on this Monday.

After some early teasing, Byrnes walked the panel through a good explanation of Bristol and Biffle's near-misses were the theme. Both made good points about the changed racetrack and the new issues that have arisen from the two-groove racing.

Byrnes took a minute to address the ESPN issue. Waltrip's point was that Bowyer's recorded comment under red did not make the race any better for the viewers. "It was not relevant content," added Biffle. Waltrip took the high road and said he was just a little bit disappointed.

Surprisingly, Byrnes continued the discussion and brought his NASCAR on Fox experience into the topic. He related that during commercial, the scanner audio will be played for the announcers by the Producer and then a decision will be made to use it on-the-air or not. "That's taken out of context, let's not use that," related Byrnes as the answer that is sometimes heard.

Ironically, Waltrip has been a commentator on the Craftsman Truck Series races on SPEED and he related that this is done by the SPEED Producer as well so that Waltrip and Phil Parsons can make a decision on the comment. Waltrip hoped someone at ESPN had taken a moment to maybe decide not to run the clip over-and-over again.

TWIN continued with Nationwide and Truck Series highlights, but then surprised viewers with an outstanding feature. Using footage from the NASCAR Media Group vault, vintage pictures of a youthful Mike Joy led an outstanding look back at the two former NASCAR tracks in California. Riverside and Ontario were venues that eventually gave way due to real estate prices and troubles with attendance.

Waltrip and Biffle provided a good overview of the issues associated with running at California. As usual, that led to Waltrip plugging his sponsors for California and letting Biffle talk briefly about his plans for next season. Byrnes followed-up with the Joey Logano news and both panelists agreed Logano would be fine in the Cup Series with a veteran like Greg Zipadelli leading the way.

Once again, NASCAR fans got to sample two very different TV shows dealing with the same issues on the same day. Both programs are extensions of the race production by SPEED and ESPN, with the casual style and the suit-and-tie crews working right next to each other at the tracks. In a way, both get the NASCAR message across and leave the viewing choices to the fans.

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Updated: ESPN Gunning For Michael Waltrip? (Audio Added)

Update: Click here for the link to the podcast of 96.9 The Kat to hear Michael Waltrip respond to the ESPN issue and the Bowyer comment.

All was fine when ESPN left the air after the Sprint Cup Series race from Bristol. The network had worked hard to spread the coverage around and wound-up with a balanced telecast that worked well. Then, the post-race programming began.

At one point during the telecast, Casey Mears had been cleared by his spotter to move-up and unfortunately was not. The resulting accident left several cars out of the race and others damaged. ESPN played the spotter's audio, then had an interview with Mears where he explained the problem and also apologized to the teams involved.

Unfortunately, one poor production decision during the race has come back to cause the entire ESPN family of networks a black eye. Clint Bowyer's car was caught-up in the accident, and he unleashed his frustration on Michael Waltrip by saying he was the worst driver in NASCAR over his team radio.

Bowyer had no way of knowing what Mears had done. His comment came from anger and the situation as he perceived it at that moment. ESPN records all the team radios, and they chose to play-back Bowyer's comment although it was clearly ill-informed. That one decision has taken-on a life of its own.

If embarrassing Michael Waltrip was the goal, they certainly accomplished that. Bowyer's comment was replayed on NASCAR Now, ESPNEWS, SportsCenter and posted on the website in the race highlights. The announcers had lots of fun with it and no one took even one second to consider the fact that it was totally incorrect.

Across the night and into the next day, the slam of Waltrip was being replayed over-and-over again on the ESPN family of TV networks and websites with the announcers laughing and the Bowyer audio turned-up nice and loud.

Let's turn to the question of why? Michael Waltrip announces the Craftsman Truck Series races for SPEED. He is also a popular commercial spokesman for NAPA and other companies. He might be best-known for his TV role as a panelist on This Week in NASCAR, SPEED's Monday night hour review show. Waltrip has been a regular on SPEED for over a decade.

All these ESPN Networks, websites and producers made the decision to leave Bowyer saying "Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR" in the highlights they used on the shows. Even on Sunday afternoon, this clip was still in rotation on ESPNEWS.

This is not about fans either liking or disliking Waltrip. It is not about the struggles of his team, or his performance in the Bristol Cup race. It is simply about ESPN making fun of Waltrip with an ill-informed comment and thinking that no one will raise a fuss. Well, here we are.

After a great four hour effort on Sunday night, how could no member of the NASCAR on ESPN team make a quick phone call to Bristol, CT and have this awkward comment removed from the highlight package? There was plenty of other great footage and a couple of fantastic closing laps.

If ESPN wants to be a player in NASCAR they have to be responsible for what happens after the event as well as what happens during it. It will be interesting to see what both Bowyer and Waltrip say about this issue by Monday night.

One can only ponder if ESPN would do this to Tom Brady or David Ortiz if they made an emotional statement that was immediately proven to be incorrect? Making fun of athletes on ESPN seems to be often reserved for NASCAR drivers.

What is your take on all this? Harmless fun or mean-spirited TV network?

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Comcast Gives Greenlight To SPEED-HD

The roll-out of SPEED's new HD channel has been a slow process. Monday, that process got a very big boost with the announcement that Comcast has agreed to add the new channel to the Comcast cable homes in the US in 2009.

As most motorsports fans with an HDTV already know, the HD technology makes a very big difference in live racing telecasts. SPEED has already switched-over to include the post-produced programming series currently airing on the network to the HD feed.

SPEED will continue to make two channels available to US cable viewers during this transition period so those without HD will not be affected.

During 2009, the SPEED-HD channel will be added to over nine million HD homes in the US and the goal of the network is to continue to strike carriage deals with other big cable company MSO's (multi-system operators).

Updated: Logano Gets National TV Coverage From SPEED

NASCAR continues the youth movement on Monday afternoon at 2PM Eastern Time. SPEED will interrupt scheduled programming to carry the Joe Gibbs Racing press conference from the JGR shops live. All of this for an 18 year-old from Connecticut.

Update: ESPNEWS has confirmed that it will also carry live coverage of the press conference at 2PM.

JGR is expected to announce the promotion of Joey Logano from the ARCA Series directly into the Sprint Cup ride formerly occupied by series champion Tony Stewart. Logano is a marketing dream with driving ability and public relations training second to none.

Earlier this season, once he hit the magic age of 18, Logano was promoted from ARCA and put to the test by JGR in the NASCAR world. Apparently, he passed with flying colors.

SPEED will carry the entire media event beginning at 2PM ET. This continues the network's commitment to NASCAR. Despite an earlier disaster with the Stewart-Haas announcement, SPEED has been on-top of the breaking NASCAR news all season-long with a new dedication to this type of coverage.

We will update any additional information about the SPEED TV announcers assigned to the coverage and if ESPNEWS or any additional networks will also participate.

This post will serve to host your comments about the 2PM press conference from JGR. To add your TV-related comment, 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 The Daly Planet.

"Starting And Parking" In The Nationwide Series

Please click here for a direct link to a great article on the "start and park" teams currently haunting the Nationwide Series. Many TDP readers asked me to address this issue after the ESPN coverage deliberately avoided mentioning that ten cars left the race when the rain came in Montreal. That is driver Morgan Shepherd roller-skating above as he always has for exercise.

The NASCAR Insiders talk plainly about the reality of "starting and parking" and why it has taken hold on the Nationwide Series tour this year. Please leave them comments on that issue and feel free to address the TV issues on this post.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

ESPN Bends And Good TV Things Happen

We hear a lot of drivers who say they race the track and not the other cars. At tough places like Darlington and Bristol the drivers will say that the track can just reach up and bite them even while running alone.

Bristol was the nemesis of ESPN last season and the Friday night Nationwide Series race had continued those struggles. ESPN tried to overlay an entire large-scale TV production on the little bull-ring and the track bit them. The sixteen second laps and fast-paced action just did not permit all the bells and whistles that a big network like ESPN brings along to a live TV event.

Saturday night, things had changed. ESPN made the decision to race the track.

Gone was Tim Brewer and his Tech Center updates under green flag racing. Gone were the pit reporters appearing on-camera during the racing action. Gone were the intrusive SportsCenter updates forced into the program. Gone was the the Infield Pit Center crew appearing on-camera under green. Gone was the continual lower-third on-screen sports ticker.

Added were live interviews with almost all of the drivers out of the race as they departed the Infield Medical Center. Added were race recaps from the pit reporters who were covering the cars and done through the top fifteen. Added were mentions of the veterans like Bill Elliott. In this second swing through Bristol, ESPN had finally gotten it right.

The spirit of Bristol is like no other track on the circuit, so it was a shame that ESPN seemed determined not to share the opening festivities with the viewers. Instead, tired pit reporters asked tired drivers the same tired questions. Luckily, no one fell out of the pick-up trucks as they slowly made their way around the oval with the waving drivers. Meanwhile, skydivers landed, planes roared and the spectacle of it all was unfolding right over the shoulders of the ESPN firesuits.

While Dr. Jerry Punch tried to set things up as full-contact stock car racing and a NASCAR slugfest, veteran fans had other ideas. Wednesday, the track had hosted a fast-paced and exciting Craftsman Truck Series race over on SPEED. Friday, the oval had seen a Nationwide Series race that ended a full 45 minutes earlier than ESPN had predicted. This one was going to be fast.

The TV directing leads the way at Bristol, as the short laps mean the pictures can make or break a telecast. On Saturday, the images were superb and the decisions of what to show the viewers were solid all night long. Lost in translation were still the teams outside of the Top 35 in points and the Top 20 on the track, but the nature of the race kept the focus elsewhere.

After a blistering start, two big wrecks slowed the pace and allowed the network to take a deep breath. The ESPN Producer has opened the door for Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree to jump-in and contribute at anytime. This has greatly helped Punch who is sometimes not the best at live action. In this race, it was Petree who often told viewers when the caution was out and who was involved in the accidents.

Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were used sparingly when the race was under green due to the reality of the action. All three did have the opportunity to contribute during caution periods and several times to add their audio comments to the on-going discussion. It worked very well.

By mixing the in-car cameras and the "speed shots" around the track, the Director kept the perspective of speed in the broadcast and worked the TV viewers into the action like ESPN rarely had this season. This short-track challenge had been handled by the camera, audio and graphic freelancers. Pictures, sound and info worked well.

The racing contributed to the overall success of the telecast with a good mix of stories. With 30 laps to go, ESPN focused on the fight for the lead and let some other stories lag, but that was a function of the short laps and good action up front.

This was a great recovery from a Friday night of TV misery. It is hard to put away the TV tools, gizmo's and additional announcers that are all right there at the fingertips of the Director and Producer. ESPN focused the telecast on Jarrett, Petree and the pit reporters. Punch was directing traffic and allowing a good portion of the action to be described by his two analysts.

Punch still has a tough time figuring out how to call the final lap, but even he rallied while calling Edwards across the stripe. It was Dale Jarrett who described the rest of the field crossing the line. The ESPN team now moves back to the California Speedway and gets out all the bells and whistles for that big track.

This year, they can look back on Bristol with a batting average of .500 for the weekend and a strong performance on Saturday night.

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TV Commercials Get Viewers Steamed

Normally, we talk about the content that the TV networks offer as they show hundreds of hours of programming that documents the NASCAR scene for eleven months.

Several years back, the TV commercials run in these NASCAR programs began to star the drivers and even the crew chiefs. Advertisers had discovered that these familiar faces sold products and inspired brand loyalty the likes of which they had never known.

Now, NASCAR's economic struggles find sponsors who do not participate in the sport on a full-time basis. Companies like Planters, Old Spice and Go Daddy are sometimes "in" and sometimes "out" on racing weekends.

This past weekend found all three of them "in" and offering commercials that did not sit well with some TV viewers. Since these companies are not in the sport's TV broadcasts all season long, they do not make NASCAR specific commercials with drivers and racing themes. Instead, they imported some other commercials from the entertainment side of the cable TV world.

While Tony Stewart may be fond of Old Spice as a sponsor, many emailers were not fond of the half-man/half-horse character who was standing supposedly naked in the shower. It got creepier when he put his Old Spice combo bodywash/shampoo container on his own man/horse rear-end.

The creepiness reached a fever pitch when his beautiful and normal wife/girlfriend walked-in and stood next to her naked horse/guy/boyfriend/husband thing. Yes, he was a good provider. Not sure what program, network or TV series this commercial was intended for, but good luck on impressing NASCAR fans with the Centaur approach.

Nothing has lit-up the email like the Planters Peanut company commercials. A quick check of NASCAR will tell you that about half of the fans are female. Perhaps, the best way to sell them peanuts is not to have an "ugly girl" smear herself with "Essence of Peanut" and then walk around town while men get run-over and fight just to be near her.

See, she would be nothing except an "ugly girl" if she did not smell like peanuts. Somehow, I just don't think those NASCAR peanuts are flying off the shelves. Perhaps, 2009 might find Planters back in NASCAR with a different advertising agency and commercials.

Over the past several years, a very obnoxious company called Go Daddy has been making a name for itself in two ways. First, it has thrown a lot of money at celebrities and secondly it has produced some of the most sexist and borderline profane commercials every made. This weekend NASCAR fans got a little taste of both.

It was Disney-owned ESPN that showed several different Go Daddy commercials in the two NASCAR races. Some featured Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others who promoted the Go Daddy website services. It was another non-NASCAR commercial that got the email smoking and the parents upset. Once again, where this commercial originally aired may tell the real tale of why and how it wound-up on ESPN.

Two male actors were involved in some office conversation that was totally harmless as presented. Then, the suggestions began where this commercial was headed as the guys talked about "doing" various women. Of course, it meant looking them up on the computer.

The joke concluded as a female office worker walked by just when one of the men was saying that he "already did his mother." The female yelled "pervert" and that was the end of that. This Go Daddy company is really a class act.

Perhaps, we could get Go Daddy and Planters together for a seminar on female NASCAR demographics while the horse/guy/thing waited outside. He does not seem to be very shy about showing off his bodywash/shampoo shelf in public.

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In-Progress From Bristol: Sprint Cup Series Race on ESPN

Things are getting serious this time of the year for both the teams and the TV networks. The ESPN coverage is on the verge of shifting over to the ABC Broadcast Network for The Chase and Saturday night in Bristol should be a good test of the TV crew.

Allen Bestwick will host the hour-long NASCAR Countdown show at 7PM from ESPN's Infield Pit Studio. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. This newly-paved track has resulted in some very different racing and that should be the main topic of conversation.

It will be Dr. Jerry Punch calling the play-by-play action from the announce booth in the race tower with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside for analysis. Down on pit road will be Dave Burns, Shannon Spake, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro.

This crew is coming off a Nationwide race that was so fast and so furious that no one really got a handle on the action until it was almost over. Incidents were missed in commercial, the championship fight took precedence over the racing action and the lack of frequent caution periods made the commercials seem incredibly intrusive. Basically, it was a tough night for the TV gang.

It should be interesting to see if ESPN stripped-down the broadcast to deal with the sixteen second laps and the two-wide racing under green that will probably dominate the night. Almost all the production elements from the SportsCenter updates to the Tech Center explanations and the replaying of the driver audio simply did not fit into the tight time constraints that this race mandates.

ESPN tried to force pre-recorded "soundbites" with the drivers into the telecast. Also, pre-produced "bumpers" of drivers walking-up and looking into the camera before commercial break were used while the race was under green. The results were disastrous. Lap-after-lap of green flag racing was missed.

Sometimes, the network would return from commercial, do a recap of what was missed and then go right back to another commercial break. As a viewer, it was maddening.

On Wednesday night, SPEED aired the Craftsman Truck Series race from this very track. The action was intense and the racing was outstanding. Viewers saw SPEED take a stripped-down approach that put the focus of the telecast on the track and nowhere else. Pit reporters were heard and not seen, all the teams were covered and the commercials were inserted right after a pass was completed. It worked.

There are a lot of forces at work on the ESPN coverage that makes shrinking the telecast very hard. ESPN has ten announcers, a Tech Center, an Infield Pit Studio, SportsCenter updates, a bottom line constant sports crawl and a lot of promos to do.

Even the short Nationwide Series race was so fast that it ended almost forty-five minutes early. If the Sprint Cup Series decides to run side-by-side and fight it out in the pits for position, it could be one of the shortest races in Bristol history.

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There is going to be quite an interesting mix of TV programs on SPEED Saturday afternoon. It begins with one of the most controversial TV guests in the network's history.

Bob Pockrass of is the absolute opposite of Kyle Petty. As these two face-off on Tradin' Paint at 3:30PM the network puts host John Roberts in between them. Last season, Petty said Pockrass spends his time "blowing smoke up people's butts" and at a recent Stewart-Haas news conference, Stewart said to Pockrass "what have you been smoking?"

Like the kid in high school that annoys you until you blow-up, Pockrass has the ability on TV to push Kyle Petty's buttons. This week the topics on the menu may do just that. The JGR cheating, the Toyota horsepower, the 2009 schedules and Kyle's recent comments about NASCAR radio broadcasts might be up for discussion.

Petty gets a lot of credit for hanging-in on this show once he replaced Michael Waltrip last season. It is the only NASCAR TV show that takes on substantive topics and uses members of the NASCAR Media who are not regularly seen on TV as panelists.

Following next at 4PM is NASCAR Performance with Larry McReynolds hosting. Chad Knaus and Bootie Barker, two crew chiefs who have been known to push the limits of the rule book, are his regular panelists. McReynolds has made this program into a nice little franchise that is often more informative than many other NASCAR TV shows. From JGR's magnets to the best Bristol set-up to potential tire troubles, it should be a good show.

TV veteran Randy Pemberton has taken over NASCAR in a Hurry and added his own personality to the show. At 4:30PM he recaps the Bristol action from the arrival of the teams to the present moment using footage shot during the weekend. It is a nice way to get up-to-speed in well...a hurry.

At 5PM the franchise comes strolling in as NASCAR RaceDay takes to the air for two sold hours of pre-race television. Host John Roberts and panelists Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace are well-known by now for this popular program.

This week, the list of live guests is long. Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, David Reutimann and David Ragan will be on the show. The network will have two stages as they have done in the past. One will be outside the track, and one in the infield. Wendy Venturini's Real Deal will be a profile of the Morgan McClure race team as the #4 has recently been in the news with Tony Stewart.

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Gutsy Ryan Burr Finally Asks The Question

The ESPN tap dance had been going-on so long it was getting annoying to all the parties concerned. Someone was going to have to step-in and end this pointless dance marathon. Leave it to an ESPNEWS anchor who lives outside the NASCAR bubble.

Saturday Morning's NASCAR Now hit the air at 10AM and it featured one of the most effective pairings of studio anchor and field reporter. Standing in Bristol, TN was Marty Smith. Perhaps, Smith is the face of ESPN's NASCAR efforts where news and feature reporting is concerned.

This season has seen Smith write a cover story for ESPN the Magazine, stand front-and-center on the big news stories of the season and handle the interviews that NASCAR fans want to see. A big part of Smith's on-air success is the new studio anchor team of Nicole Manske and Ryan Burr.

It was Burr handling the Saturday duties. Fans know Burr from his time on the ESPNEWS Network and his ability to talk to almost anyone. Sometimes, Burr can work to draw emotion and opinion from a guest who participates in the sports world. In this case, he asked the tough questions of ESPN's Lead Reporter and helped to clear-up the lingering bad feelings about earlier comments from some ESPN announcers.

"Right after this happened Marty, there's going to be speculation...that's the job of the people who were hired at ESPN," said Burr. What Burr was carefully doing was addressing the earlier statements by Tim Brewer that Tony Stewart was involved in this scheme.

On Friday night, Allen Bestwick and the ESPN Infield Pit Studio team had actually hosted JD Gibbs in the studio. Bestwick was polite and political, but could not bring himself to ask the question America wanted to hear. Apparently, it took someone who came from the TV news side of the business to get the issue out on the table. Finally, Burr got it done.

"We have now had a week to kind of let all this settle in," continued Burr. "What role, if any, did the drivers have in this?"

Marty Smith's expression never changed. He never blinked. His answer was straightforward. "None whatsoever at all," he said.

Smith reminded viewers that JGR accepted all the penalties with the exception of the points and probation given to both Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. After the JGR employees involved identified themselves, it was the contention of both Joe and JD Gibbs that between the lengthy NASCAR suspensions and the internal fines and suspensions that no action should be directed at the drivers.

This simple and effective question-and-answer session cleared the air as well as possible before ESPN stepped into the big spotlight of the Sprint Cup Series and put a live microphone in front of Tony Stewart. While Logano may be trained in the long line of NASCAR's corporate spokesman/drivers, Stewart had already mentioned Brewer's comments on his Sirius radio show and was a good bet to back that up on live TV.

Both the early and late editions of NASCAR Now have proven to be good companion pieces to the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. Hosts Manske and Burr are straight-shooters who do not mince words and go directly to the heart of the matter on a topic. It has proven to be effective, with this JGR driver issue being a very good example.

We would welcome your comments as to whether or not ESPN has offered enough of an explanation to put this issue to bed and move on to the racing action. To add your TV-related comments, 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 you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nationwide Race Becomes Background Noise

The short laps of Bristol Raceway force the TV crew to strip-away all the bells and whistles and focus on the racing action. The Nationwide Series poised just that challenge to the NASCAR on ESPN gang Friday night.

The network decided to keep the "bottom line" graphic insert on the screen during the entire race. Then, it added SportsCenter "right now" updates during green flag racing. Even with laps of under twenty seconds, ESPN added pre-recorded "bumpers" leading into the commercials that featured the drivers standing and staring into the camera.

From the start of the race, the commercial rotation was crushing and often resulted in only small "snapshots" of racing or simply recaps of missed action before another commercial. Also under green, Tim Brewer in the Tech Center provided updates without the racing action in a second video box.

By now, you may have caught-on that ESPN changed nothing for this race. In fact, features and pre-determined storylines caused this broadcast to become almost a highlight show. The racing action had to fight against the ESPN agenda. The racing action lost the fight.

Early in the event, the graphic information showed four cars had fallen out of the race. There had been no caution periods. These teams had never been mentioned on the telecast when they were running. They were never mentioned when they retired. Since they were not star drivers or star teams, they simply did not exist to ESPN.

Ten ESPN announcers surrounded the action at Bristol with four pit reporters, three on-air talent in the infield and three more upstairs in the announce booth. Ten voices trying to talk while sixteen second laps and great racing flew-by resulted in nothing more than a complete mess.

Just like last season, ESPN suddenly decided that the Nationwide Series Championship fight was going to "trump" the actual race and the network followed that agenda to the end. The focus on the potential champions left the reality of those cars running outside of the top five to become nothing more than something to be tracked as the graphic crawl went slowly by at the top of the screen.

Commercial-after-commercial ran as ESPN found themselves constantly in commercial break during incidents on the track but never returned early. Nothing was worse than the timing of the TV commercials in this race. Veteran fans may remember that this was the same problem ESPN experienced at this track last season.

With 25 laps to go, viewers had not seen any racing outside of the top ten or had a full-field recap. It was going to be the Clint Bowyer show to the bitter end until the unthinkable occurred.

The car ESPN had focused on all race long was about to be passed for the lead of the race and ESPN missed it. Not because the network was in commercial, but just because they missed it. The winning pass had to be replayed.

Some late attempts at showing other racing momentarily added nothing and made no sense. By now, Jerry Punch was just talking about what was appearing on his TV screen and any hope for a perspective on the race itself was gone.

The new pavement at Bristol allows for two-wide racing and the races take less time because of fewer cautions. With only two laps to go at 9:45PM Eastern Time, Punch had not called any significant racing action. This ended in one of the most amazing moments in recent NASCAR history.

As Keselowski made his final lap and won the race, Punch called no other cars coming across the finish line. Suddenly, silence ruled. Let's repeat that one item. The ESPN play-by-play announcer called only the winner crossing the line and did not mention one other car or team as the rest of the field screamed around on the final lap.

Cars were crashing and the normal last lap chaos of Bristol was in full-swing. What NASCAR fans nationwide heard was silence until Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree jumped-in once again and tried to help. ESPN actually had to replay the finish so TV viewers understood what had happened on the final lap.

The blunt reality of the short laps at Bristol mandate that TV networks change to cover this event like no other. ESPN was unable to deviate from the three pre-planned agendas of featuring JGR, the Nationwide Championship fight and the top two or three cars on the track. That resulted in a loss of any information on the vast majority of the drivers in the field for the entire evening.

As the network filled the remaining program time with interviews, fans learned who finished where and what really happened in the race. They got this information from the drivers. Punch and company were long-gone and it was Bestwick who led the way through the post-race interviews.

Many of the drivers interviewed had not been seen on-camera during the race itself. The stories were almost all new to those who watched the ESPN coverage. The reality of ESPN's race production problems was being exposed by the drivers themselves.

Perhaps, the opinions of the fans who will be posting their comments on the television coverage of the Friday Nationwide Series race might help to put things in even better perspective for both NASCAR and the ESPN production team prior to the Saturday night coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race.

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.

In-Progress At Bristol: Nationwide Series on ESPN

The night race at Bristol is always great for TV. There are several reasons why. The time of the race makes for great pictures and the action on the track makes for great racing.

Allen Bestwick is up first with NASCAR Countdown at 7:30PM. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty in the Infield Pit Center for this program.

The race coverage is up next with all the ESPN regulars. Dr. Jerry Punch will call the play-by-play with Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett and veteran crew chief Andy Petree alongside. Reporting from pit road will be Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro.

This racetrack has been a tough assignment for ESPN because the fast pace of the race does not fit-in with the network's tendency to rely on planned audio clips and features during the coverage. It is also tough to arrange the triple-splits on the pit stops and to try and squeeze-in replays during green flag racing.

It should be a challenging night for the crew with a lot of noise in the infield affecting the pit reporters and tempers getting a little tight as the race progresses.

This post will host your in-progress comments about ESPN's coverage of the Nationwide Series on Friday night. To add your TV-related comments, just 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.

SPEED Handling Friday's Heavy Lifting

The entire SPEED gang will be on-site in Bristol, TN as the network steps-up to the plate for an all-day NASCAR TV marathon. Only two days after televising an exciting Craftsman Truck Series race, SPEED will handle all the on-track NASCAR action on Friday leading-up to the Nationwide Series event.

It will be veteran host John Roberts who lights-up the SPEED Stage at 10AM Eastern Time with an edition of NASCAR Live. Reporting for Roberts from the garage area will be Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler. Pemberton has been hosting NASCAR in a Hurry for SPEED and along with Sadler has been handling driver channel duties for DirecTV's Hot Pass.

The action on the track begins at 10:30AM with Nationwide Series practice. The hard-working trio of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will call the action on the track from upstairs in the announce booth. Reporting for this session from the garage will be Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner. With all the happenings of the past week, it may be this series where the news is really being made.

Up next at Noon will be Sprint Cup practice. The same entire TV crew, including announcers, will continue for this session. Since many of the drivers will be doing double-duty, somehow it makes sense for the TV crew to do the same. This is a ninety minute practice session that has been known to result in some incidents and some hot tempers.

After a quick lunch, Byrnes, Hammond and McReynolds will put on their Trackside hats and be joined by Elliot Sadler for that program at 2:30PM. This one hour show from the SPEED Stage usually features two guests but with the schedule at Bristol there should be a wide variety of people stopping-by and a diverse group of topics being discussed.

At 3:30PM, the qualifying begins for the Sprint Cup Series and guess who will be handling the action for SPEED? That's right, the same crew from the earlier practice sessions will return including Venturini and Dillner for qualifying. One note is that TV favorite Kenny Schrader has replaced young Brad Coleman in the #96 car for this weekend and Schrader is a pretty crafty veteran at getting around Bristol.

Rather than take a break, NASCAR will roll-out the Nationwide Series cars as the Sprint Cup session is in-progress and crank-up Nationwide qualifying when the "big boys" are done. Once again, the same TV crew will handle the entire session. This should result in some frantic driver-hopping as several Cup drivers are running both races. This Nationwide session should begin around 5PM.

The final order of business for SPEED on this busy Friday is the Happy Hour for the Cup Series. With all of the previous sessions running back-to-back, SPEED has set aside ninety minutes to cover this session whenever it starts. The coverage will begin at 6PM and end a very long day for the same team of announcers in the booth and downstairs in the garage. John Roberts and the NASCAR Live gang will fill any time as needed during the day between on-track sessions.

Friday is going to be another challenging day for all the TV folks from the technical crew to the production folks and all of the engineering gang. SPEED did a great job last week with the same challenge. Bristol should offer another opportunity for NASCAR fans to stay with one channel all day-long for everything leading-up to the Nationwide Series race at 7:30PM over on ESPN.

This post will serve to host your TV-related comments about SPEED's all-day coverage of the Friday activities from Bristol, TN. 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 time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

ESPN's Got Some "Splainin" To Do

Friday night at 7:30PM it will fall to Allen Bestwick to host the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show on ESPN. This week's Nationwide Series race is from Bristol, TN. That, however, may not be what is foremost on the minds of many fans.

There are a lot of opinions about what happened last week after the race that resulted in some of the harshest penalties ever levied in the Nationwide Series. Bestwick's task will be to add some facts to the story that ESPN had a very big hand in creating.

ESPN's Tim Brewer was called-out on Tony Stewart's weekly Sirius radio show for Brewer's suggestion that the two JGR drivers may have played a role in the insertion of magnetic spacers that affected the travel of the throttle cable on the dyno test after the MIS event.

Joe Gibbs assured fans that the drivers had no role in this incident and stated that JGR is going to appeal the points penalty and season-long probation that Stewart and Joey Logano received to the NASCAR commission. He made these statements Wednesday on ESPN2's NASCAR Now to reporter Marty Smith.

In the same show, ESPN Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett stated that in his opinion the drivers were not involved. That same Mr. Jarrett will be working the Nationwide Series race from Bristol and appearing on the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Bestwick will be joined in the ESPN Infield Pit Studio by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Also on-hand will be Andy Petree upstairs in the announce booth alongside Jarrett. Finally, live in Bristol from the Tech Center will be Mr. Brewer.

All of these ESPN on-air personalities are going to have a role in the discussion of deciding if one of the biggest names in NASCAR was directly involved in cheating on a Toyota dyno test at MIS. That name is not Joey Logano.

It was Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash who told Stewart that ESPN had used his name when discussing the incident and how it might have occurred. That did not go over well with a current Toyota driver who is about to become a Chevy owner.

Stewart was hot and it would quite possibly be in the best interest of ESPN to address the issue before putting a live microphone in-front of Mr. Stewart on Friday night. If ESPN needs help with that decision, perhaps a single phone call to Goodyear would suffice.

Handling the reporting duties from the garage and pit road for the evening will be Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro. What they will add during the pre-race show on this Nationwide Series key story should be interesting. Once the race is underway, pit reporting at Bristol is a nightmare. The noise level in the infield can only be described as deafening.

Race coverage is scheduled to begin at 8PM and with a lot on-the-line at this time of the year, tempers are going to be tight. Fans saw good two-wide racing in the NCTS event on Wednesday, so perhaps the Nationwide Series will find room to race as well.

Last week, ESPN shocked many fans by leaving a live NASCAR post-race show seven minutes early to get to the stick-and-ball world of SportsCenter. Friday night the live Nationwide Series race coverage is scheduled to run until 10:30PM. Waiting to go on-the-air at that time will be yet another edition of SportsCenter.

There will be a new post up for in-progress comments on the Friday night ESPN coverage from Bristol at 6PM.

This post will serve to host your pre-race comments about the issues discussed above and any other TV-related opinions. To add your comment, just 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 The Daly Planet and join our Internet conversation.