Thursday, April 24, 2008
After all the buzz going-on this week surrounding NASCAR Now on ESPN2, SPEED returns to the TV spotlight with a full day of Talladega action.
Friday kicks-off with Steve Byrnes hosting a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Live at 2PM Eastern Time. Bob Dillner and John Roberts will be reporting from the garage area for this show. This program will set-up the day on SPEED, and catch viewers up-to-date on the latest NASCAR news.
The "big boys" then take center stage as Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip host live Sprint Cup practice at 2:30PM. This trio will be joined by Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda on the infield beat. For those fans asking, Voda will not be hosting The Set-Up show at the Truck race on Saturday. Rick Allen will be filling-in.
There will be another edition of NASCAR Live at 3:30PM between Cup practice sessions. This time, it will be John Roberts hosting and assisting him from the garage area will be Bob Dillner and Rutledge Wood. This should be another interesting experience for Wood, who has very different roles on various SPEED programs.
Sprint Cup practice coverage resumes at 4PM with the same NASCAR on Fox crew. This is the final practice, and it should be very interesting to see where the focus of the TV broadcast goes. It may well be the on-track activity with the COT, or it may continue to be the on-going Tony Stewart media frenzy.
Next up is Nationwide Series qualifying at 5PM, which allows the TV gang to mix things up a bit in terms of broadcast teams. This time it will be Mike Joy hosting, but he will be joined by Jeff Hammond and Hermie Sadler. Down on pit road will be Krista Voda and Dick Berggren.
During this time, ESPN2 will be offering a thirty minute version of NASCAR Now at 6PM. It seems somewhat ironic that this show will be airing during SPEED's live qualifying coverage that will be setting the field for ESPN's own Nationwide Series race.
SPEED wraps-up the day with Trackside at 7:30PM. Steve Byrnes is the host and Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds make up the panel. On this one hour show, they will welcome Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers as guests.
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The day after the Marty Smith's NASCAR Now story about Tony Stewart and his possible changes for next season, things continued to develop at a rapid pace. These days, ESPN's new commitment to NASCAR is paying-off like never before.
As many posters to The Daly Planet pointed out, the Wednesday story that Tony Stewart was considering a departure from Joe Gibbs Racing after this season was not exactly breaking news. Print and Internet reporters had offered speculation earlier about Stewart's possible scenarios. It was going to be up to Smith to follow-up his own story and clear the air on this issue.
Thursday's NASCAR Now host Nicole Manske wasted no time in getting quickly to Smith at Talladega. As the show hit the air, Stewart was on the track in his Nationwide Series car for practice. Smith quickly explained that Stewart was going to speak to the media when his practice session ended.
Manske reviewed the elements of Smith's Wednesday story and pushed Smith to speculate on Stewart's status for next season and why this change suddenly seemed so important. In the background, Stewart continued to practice.
Boris Said returned to the program as a commentator after his memorable Tuesday appearance as a disgruntled driver. Said is not a superspeedway veteran, and his limited experience racing in the COT made his Talladega comments a bit tough to take. With the available NASCAR personalities on the ESPN team, perhaps someone else could have addressed these topics with a better perspective.
It was Kyle Busch himself that was up next for an interview with Manske. She continues to handle herself quite well in the demanding role of studio host. She explored the season-to-date with Busch, and then pushed him on the two key topics of Stewart's possible departure and Busch himself possibly deciding to run the full Nationwide Series. She did not cross the line, and allowed Busch to give his answers in full and offer his reasoning on both subjects.
Meanwhile, back in the garage Marty Smith and the assembled NASCAR Media were still waiting for Stewart. Smith has the ability on-the-air not to take himself too seriously, and the media horde waiting for Stewart was fun to see. As the program closed, it was clear that Stewart was not going to be seen in the allotted thirty minutes. Then, something very interesting happened.
Manske told viewers that ESPN would chase Stewart across the ESPN networks. As NASCAR Now on ESPN2 went off the air, ESPNEWS and SportsCenter on ESPN would both continue to offer airtime to Smith if he got the Stewart interview. This is exactly the type of cooperation between ESPN networks that the sport needs for the rest of the season.
A short time later, ESPNEWS anchor Michael Kim introduced Smith from Talladega and began an entire segment on NASCAR featuring Tony Stewart. Smith offered his "intro," the Stewart press conference happened, and then Smith came back on-camera to interact with the ESPNEWS anchor in the studio.
Michael Kim did an outstanding job on-the-fly to deal with this in-progress story, and his NASCAR knowledge appeared to be solid. Smith and Kim had an informative conversation that allowed Smith to review the details of the Stewart news for viewers who has not seen the earlier NASCAR Now program.
The end result was that ESPN chased the Stewart story across their networks until they got it, and then it was presented in a professional manner immediately. ESPNEWS has continued to grow as an outlet for NASCAR news, and the fans have taken notice.
This Sunday, immediately after the Talladega Sprint Cup race, it will be either Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree in the ESPNEWS studio to offer commentary. Once again, the network will be live when the race is over for coverage of the post-race press conferences from the Infield Media Center.
It is a very positive step for fans that this key NASCAR TV partner has decided to utilize all of its network resources to follow-up on breaking news. Today's effort was an excellent example of exactly that.
If ESPN wanted a positive way to build-up momentum with the fans as the ESPN portion of the Sprint Cup Series approached, all they have to do is continue to offer this flexibility and commitment to the sport.
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