Saturday, March 8, 2008

Big Sunday Of NASCAR Includes New SPEED Show

Sunday's NASCAR TV activities should be very interesting. With the on-going public dispute between Roush Fenway Racing and some of the other NASCAR teams now front-and-center, it should be interesting to see how the NASCAR TV partners handle the topic.

Friday was a struggle for both SPEED and ESPN where the 99 team penalties were concerned. As the programs flew-by on SPEED, there were all kinds of opinions being offered, and all kinds of reactions coming back at the on-air announcers from the fans. As the panel found out on Trackside, fans were not buying the excuses.

By the time NASCAR Now hit the air on ESPN2, the network had decided to jump into the fray with a lopsided report that detailed only one side of the issue. It was an interesting program, to say the least.

Saturday's weather pushed the Carl Edwards team story to the back burner for a while, but when live TV coverage resumed there was a new emphasis on reality as opposed to opinion. Finally, Jeff Hammond did a factual demonstration showing exactly the piece in question and answered a lot of questions in the manner SPEED should have done originally.

For the rest of the live day on SPEED, there was a lot of back-peddling from a lot of on-air personalities now willing to admit there might have been a real problem with Mr. Edwards car. The fact that a rash of exactly the same type of violations had been found recently by NASCAR might have helped.

What also might have helped was several high-profile NASCAR personalities, including drivers, openly mocking the very words reported as factual by several NASCAR TV outlets. Print and Internet media spreading the "opposing viewpoint" to Roush may have caused some TV types to change their tune very quickly.

Give Allen Bestwick and the ESPN Nationwide Series TV crew credit, they focused on the race at-hand and gave this series the priority. Bestwick promised TV viewers that the 99 penalty story would be fully detailed on both the Sunday morning and the Monday evening editions of NASCAR Now.

With ESPN on the air first at 10AM Sunday morning, it should be even more important for SPEED to get their facts right and their stories straight for RaceDay. This week, before RaceDay hits the air, there will be a new show on SPEED.

NASCAR in a Hurry will basically review through video the events and stories of the previous 48 hours. Since this is the first episode, it will probably just serve to review and not expand on the topics in question. This new show begins at 11AM.

Then, the big SPEED franchise show RaceDay begins at 11:30AM. This TV series has never been one to avoid issues, so it should be interesting to see what Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace have to say about the oil cooler lids.

Following RaceDay, the Sprint Cup race coverage begins with the NASCAR on Fox gang at 1:30PM. This crew must be tired of dealing with the oil cooler lid issue, but for casual viewers who only watch the races they must explain it one last time.

By now, the information has been flushed-out in detail and this experienced crew should be able to put it to rest and get the attention back to the action on the track. Hopefully, good weather will result in good racing and the sport can get fans focused once again on the on-track activity.

Do not forget that you were supposed to lose one hour of sleep last night, so things are going to be a little off-kilter early in the day. There will be posts up for comments immediately after both NASCAR Now and RaceDay.

There will also be a post up for in-progress comments on the Sprint Cup race on Fox. If you have an opinion on the coverage you have seen so far, please feel free to leave it on this post. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

SPEED's "Tradin' Paint" Suddenly Very Calm

There was a lot of anticipation before the Saturday edition of Tradin' Paint took to the air on SPEED. Host John Roberts had regular panelist Kyle Petty alongside and USA Today NASCAR Reporter Nate Ryan as the media guest.

It did not take Kyle Petty long to get cranked-up a bit about the Roush Racing penalties on the 99 team. Ryan offered that the penalties were right along the lines that NASCAR has followed since the COT was introduced.

Petty agreed, and decided that the point in question was really that "intent" had been the excuse offered by the Roush organization. "Intent is not in the rule book," said Petty. "Intent is not anything, take it and wipe your rear end with it."

Ryan was the USA Today reporter who highly publicized the comments of Lee White, now with the Toyota organization. Roberts made Ryan defend his story and White's comments, which he did by slipping behind the "free speech" excuse. Petty responded that White should have been questioned about why he made these comments.

"Lee White has no dog in that fight," said Petty. He continued to question why Ryan chose to use this type of comment in a national publication. Ryan was reminded that the Ford Racing management did not attack Michael Waltrip Racing and their engine additive issues one year ago in Daytona. The point was well made.

Changing the subject, Ryan responded to the Robby Gordon appeal with suggestions that the NASCAR appeal system is murky at best. Petty's point was that a mistake is a mistake, and Gordon's issue did not even merit the original penalty.

The remainder of the show featured polite conversation on topics that the Producer had chosen to offer the panelists. This season, that has been one of the problems with this program. It has gotten polite.

SPEED switched the positions of the panelists this season, which features the host in the middle and the other two panelists sitting awkwardly at the two ends of the main desk. As Jenna Fryer from the AP asked, "where do you put your legs?" It simply has not worked.

Another new wrinkle is trying to put the two panelist in a video effect featuring two boxes side-by-side. The pace of the show and the willingness of John Roberts to jump-in quickly makes this almost impossible. It might work for Larry King Live, but not for Tradin' Paint.

Roberts is the key to this program, and his role has to be defined. If this show is going to cream-puff NASCAR issues, it will join Pit Bulls on the cancelled shelf. Roberts let Ryan off-the-hook on why he chose to put a big sensationalized story in USA Today that was just as suspect as the Roush explanations it addressed.

Taped in front of a small crowd in the cold, this edition of Tradin' Paint was not exactly what the doctor ordered on a weekend packed with high-profile NASCAR news. Last season, after Petty joined the show, Tradin' Paint was on the "can't miss" list all year long.

This season, the SPEED executives need to do a little work on the set, the format and the topics to get this TV series back on-track. As the only show where non-TV media personalities are featured, it plays a vital role in exposing to the TV audience a lot of viewpoints that are not put forward by the full-time NASCAR TV announcers. It would be a shame if it faded away.

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"NASCAR Now" Wrestles With Roush Fenway Racing And Reality

Since the 99 Sprint Cup team penalties came down from NASCAR, things on-the-air have begun to take on a very polarized dynamic when it come to the NASCAR TV partners.

There are lots of good phrases that can be used to try and explain exactly how the NASCAR TV networks have presented the "cheating" issue to the public. Walking on thin ice. Skirting the truth. Being politically correct. Using the words of others to avoid creating their own. The bottom line is, this is a big TV mess.

Angelique Chengelis on Friday's NASCAR Now casually said that Roush Racing's notorious company President Geoff Smith is "on vacation in Vail (Colorado)" and wanted to "take his time" in deciding whether or not to appeal.

She went on to act as a RFR spokesperson, which is very unlike the role of news reporter she usually assumes on this program. Chengelis quoted Smith as saying the team is not a bunch of cheaters and this is an incident that "just happened" during the race. Chengelis showed her naive side in representing the words of Smith, who has a long and colorful history in the sport.

ESPN put Chengelis on-the-air in the first segment at the top of the show. She never reported on the other side of the cheating issue. She never dealt with the fact that Edwards pulled away from a Hendrick COT car with Earnhardt Junior behind the wheel and won the race. NASCAR says he cheated, ESPN is saying he did not.

Chenglis said that Smith wanted fans "to know that this was not an overt action." Smith singled-out Michael Waltrip's team at Daytona in early 2007 as a situation where a team "overtly" tried to increase the performance of a car. Chengelis continued her PR work for Roush on ESPN2 by saying "this was an accident, pure and simple." This was not presented as opinion, it was presented as fact.

Still not hearing any opposing views or other opinions, Chengelis continued on into even deeper water. "This was not something that someone came up with a plan, this was not something that they believe would have actually helped their team because they do not know how it happened (or) when it happened," continued Chengelis quoting Mr. Smith. NASCAR fans have heard those words before in this sport many times.

Host Nicole Manske then turned to NASCAR Now commentator Brad Daugherty. Manske specifically said Daugherty was being brought in for "another opinion." The only problem was that Daugherty, a former member of the very NASCAR panel that reviews penalties, refused to deal with the Edwards issue in any way. As he so often is when alone and unsupported by Allen Bestwick, Daugherty was useless.

Finally, Manske brought in Boris Said to deal with the Edwards issue. Even as the cameras panned to the oil tank lid on the "Home Depot garage" car in the studio, Manske asked Said point blank about the advantage of not having the cap on the oil tank. Instead of maintaining his role as a television analyst, Said took-off on an anti-NASCAR rant that once again undermined his ability to walk the line between active driver and national TV analyst.

"That (lid) had no effect on him winning or losing the race...for sure," Said commented. "On a track like that (Las Vegas), it makes no difference at all. I'm really surprised by the penalty. The penalties are so severe right now, it seems crazy."

What Chengelis, Daugherty or Said failed to present was an even-handed approach to a NASCAR news story that represented both sides of the issue. This fundamental failure to handle NASCAR news in an unbiased manner is a problem.

NASCAR Now co-host Ryan Burr is one to push announcers on-camera during interviews with hard questions, even when it makes them uncomfortable. Manske failed to do this even once during any of her interviews. This needs to change fast.

Simply asking Chengelis if, as a veteran NASCAR reporter, she believed any part of what Smith told her would have put the entire report in perspective. Smith is one of the most effective NASCAR PR men in the business, right behind NASCAR VP Jim Hunter who most recently created "the punch heard 'round the world" during a boring Daytona weekend.

Daugherty was never asked his opinion of the "reality vs. spin" topic when he was on-camera, and Said once again used his time on-the-air to lash out at NASCAR. This sports car racer has been out-of-sync with NASCAR for some time now.

This is a moment where the simple commentary of Stacy Compton is missed. Compton quietly spent a lot of time in 2007 putting things that were hyped, spun, or just clearly mis-represented by NASCAR Now back into perspective. On this day, and in this show, a little Stacy would have gone a long way.

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In-Progress From Atlanta: "NASCAR Countdown" And Nationwide Series Race

After an interesting start to Saturday, ESPN2 will host the Nationwide Series race at 2PM Eastern Time. This program will be preceded by a live thirty minute version of NASCAR Countdown at 1:30PM Eastern Time.

Allen Bestwick will be joined by Dale Jarrett and Brady Daugherty in the Infield Pit Studio for NASCAR Countdown. Then, Jarrett will head upstairs to join Jerry Punch and Andy Petree in the announce booth to call the race.

Down on pit road will be Shannon Spake, Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Jamie Little.

This page will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series race from Atlanta on ESPN2. Please keep your comments TV-related. You can add your opinion simply by clicking on the COMMENTS button below and following the simple instructions. Thanks once again for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday TV Network Struggles From Atlanta

Here we go again. Rain and SNOW has caused yet another delay at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. SPEED has already stepped-aside and begun the day with stand-by programming.

The schedule on SPEED was supposed to include qualifying and practice leading up to the Nationwide Series race scheduled on ESPN2 at 2PM. The NASCAR Countdown show with Allen Bestwick is scheduled for 1:30PM.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TV struggles of both SPEED and ESPN2 today. If the Nationwide race gets underway, there will be a new post to host the in-progress comments.

There will shortly be a new full-length column up addressing the on-going NASCAR penalty issues and the response to those topics by the various NASCAR TV partners.

To add your opinion about the rain situation today, please click on the COMMENTS button below. We would especially like to hear from readers who are either at the track or in the general area. Thanks again for stopping-by.