Saturday, November 15, 2008

Brian France On TV Sunday Afternoon

It seems only fitting that NASCAR CEO Brian France appear on SPEED's RaceDay this Sunday afternoon from Homestead, FL.

Over the course of the last two seasons, TDP has referred to RaceDay as the "SPEED-a-palooza festival" and "The Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR." Both of these terms refer to the fact that although the program is sometimes difficult to even explain to those outside NASCAR, most fans know that if they watch there will eventually be something for them.

Since Daytona, this TV series has tackled the obvious, the hilarious and the serious. There have been moments of total anger, mind-numbing lunacy and good conversation. Along the way the duo of Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer has pandered, badgered and preached.

Sometimes the awkward ridiculousness of Rutledge Wood has only been topped by the sudden lack of long-term memory on the part of Spencer. Both Rutledge and Spencer often play "the fool" on this program. The difference is that Wood's role is by design and Spencer's is often self-induced.

The RaceDay production team knows how to use the parts and pieces they were handed to create this huge series. Two hours live each raceday on national TV for thirty-eight weeks is a task that would make most producers cringe.

The saving grace of RaceDay is that all the pieces come together in a cohesive manner. The professionalism and poise of Wendy Venturini works well with Spencer and Wallace because they respect her work. The newest addition, Hermie Sadler, had to gain his fulltime slot through a season of track descriptions and part-time assignments. Now, Sadler has established himself as a viable TV presence and has been rewarded with roles on other SPEED programs.

There are a lot of jokes about RaceDay host John Roberts being so tightly-wound he could spontaneously explode on-camera at any minute. SPEED viewers, however, have come to trust the hard-working Roberts as the best "TV traffic director" on the network. He might be a tad high-strung, but Roberts has emerged as one of the most recognized and trusted figures on the NASCAR TV scene.

This Sunday, RaceDay offers three different sets around the Homestead Miami track for an expanded crew of on-air personalities. The trio of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds will be joining the five RaceDay regulars for a Noon Eastern Time live show.

While Venturini has Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson together in her Real Deal segment, this year has pushed the championship a bit off the front burner. Even Tony Stewart appearing on the program before his final JGR ride and Johnny Benson stopping by to celebrate his Craftsman Truck Series Championship are not the top stories. That one is easy to guess.

NASCAR's Brian France as a guest on RaceDay tops the chart. Normally, France operates in the cozy confines of the Infield Media Center or in controlled environments. This time, he will be neck-deep in the reality of the NASCAR fans and live TV.

Rarely over the last decade has there been this type of generalized depression about both the sport of NASCAR and society in general. France appears after backing the losing candidate for the Presidency, cancelling all testing for 2009 and with the car count for the top three series the source of endless speculation.

As this column (click here) recently asked, how can the reality of what NASCAR fans see be so very different from what they hear from NASCAR itself?

This is going to be a key interview for the sport of NASCAR in terms of the fans returning for 2009. RaceDay will need to step-up and ask the most important questions about the sport and what direction France has decided to take the three top series for next year.

In a recent interview, France admitted that the Truck Series may not make it through the off-season. Yet on Friday, SPEED unveiled the new Camping World Truck Series logo with great fanfare about a new multi-year deal. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the Nationwide Series was not financially viable for any team and NASCAR's response was to delay the Nationwide COT until 2010. These conflicts make no sense.

Bill Davis, the Wood Brothers, Petty Enterprises, Hall of Fame Racing and others seem to be within days of facing dire consequences. DEI and Ganassi trying to frantically merge two different brands, two different shops and two completely different cultures has finally shown NASCAR fans the reality of this downturn. The company that Dale Sr. built is in trouble.

France has avoided ESPN's NASCAR Countdown, avoided the daily NASCAR Now show and not appeared on Trackside or Wind Tunnel. This will be perhaps the first and only live public appearance on national TV of the CEO for the season. The scripted nonsense of the Sprint Cup Series banquet certainly does not count.

What comes of the France interview will be discussed long after Jimmie Johnson lifts his trophy and the race highlights are run endlessly around the nation. Once the final lap at Homestead is done, NASCAR becomes just another big business suddenly struggling to remain viable. France is the face of that business.

This post will remain up to get your comments about the RaceDay show and the appearance of Brian France. To add your opinion about any part of this program, 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, we look forward to your reactions to RaceDay on SPEED.

The Nationwide Series Limps Home

Luckily, the media still have two Sprint Cup stars to interview when it comes to the Nationwide Series. The TV networks still like to mention young Brad Keselowski, but when it comes to "big time TV" the stars are Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer.

The fundamentally wrong things with this racing series continue to be fundamentally wrong. The TV ratings again reflect the fact that the Nationwide Series has absolutely no identity of its own. Without the Sprint Cup cross-overs, the perception is that there is no excitement.

Well, this goes against everything that is fundamentally good with the series when it races far away from the Sprint Cup locations and gets to showcase itself. The stand-alone Nationwide Series races finally get back to the fun competition and qualifying that the series desperately needs.

ESPN handles the races, but SPEED often handles the practice and qualifying sessions like this weekend at Homestead. Incredibly, ESPN immediately drops the mention of the televised sessions from the ESPN2 NASCAR Now program if they are not ESPN-produced.

This week, even though it was the final racing weekend of the season, none of the Nationwide Series Friday and Saturday practice and qualifying sessions were promoted on NASCAR Now. Meanwhile, SPEED promotes all of the ESPN2 and ABC coverage of the sport regardless of the series or network.

Without a viable TV partner who will put NASCAR ahead of the network's own special interests, the Nationwide Series will continue to flounder. ESPN originates no Nationwide Series weekly or monthly TV shows. The largest percentage of pre-race interviews are with Sprint Cup Series cross-over drivers. Once college football begins, the Nationwide Series becomes an afterthought. It has been made clear once again this season that the Nationwide Series on ESPN2 is just not working.

Once again it will be Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree who will call the action from Homestead. Down on pit road will be Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Center.

It will be Allen Bestwick that leads-off the Nationwide telecast at 4PM Eastern Time with NASCAR Countdown. Bestwick will be joined by his regular team of Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. This week Ray Evernham will also join the infield panel.

Many of the races have been quite enjoyable on ESPN2, as the pressure and formality of the ESPN Sprint Cup broadcasts seems to be set aside. The announcers are clearly without the "Sunday pressure" of the big races and the mood is much lighter.

Great pictures come from Homestead, especially with no grandstands anywhere but the frontstretch. The HD in-car cameras are gorgeous and the banking of the track should make for some great side-by-side pictures. While the audio is not spectacular from this venue, the races off pit road should be fun to both watch and hear.

This is the track that has the jet ski's in the infield, farm land all around and absolutely no shade for the fans to be found. One interesting feature of the original track that remains is the "Le Mans" style pit road balconies that reflect the original design of the facility for sports car and motorcycle racing. TV viewers should also be able to see the interior road course layout.

This post will serve to host your comments on the final Nationwide Series race on ESPN2 for 2008. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday NASCAR TV Leads-Up To Nationwide Race

SPEED and ESPN2 once again combine on Saturday to offer many hours of live NASCAR TV from the Homestead Miami Speedway.

John Roberts will host editions of NASCAR Live at 11AM and 2:30PM surrounding the Nationwide Series qualifying and Sprint Cup practice. Once again this week, SPEED is stepping-in to handle the Nationwide Series action.

It will be Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds who call the qualifying at 11:30AM. There are some good stories playing out in this series and these cars really work well at this track. Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner will join the coverage handling the interviews.

The same on-air crew will remain in place as the Sprint Cup cars take to the track for practice at 1:30PM. This is another of the non-televised practice sessions added by SPEED this season. It has proven to be a great idea and one that has paid-off over and over again with important stories.

Today will be the final time on-the-air for this hard-working SPEED crew that has been covering practice and qualifying for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series most of the season. During both the NASCAR on Fox and TNT portions of the year, this crew handled everything but the race itself.

Only when ESPN comes aboard does the pattern change. Last season, many fans and TDP objected to practice sessions being non-televised and both NASCAR and SPEED stepped-in to solve that problem. Thanks to all who helped in that decision.

Byrnes, Hammond and McReynolds work hard to keep things informal and their on-air approach has been a bit hit with the fans. Dillner has come a long way with his people skills and is now a very informed and professional member of the TV corps. Venturini is versatile and at the top of her game. She continues to quietly work on the Sprint Cup Series races for DirecTV's Hot Pass as the only female handling play-by-play.

When the SPEED chunk of the day is done, the NASCAR on ESPN crew comes along to cover Happy Hour before the Nationwide Series race. Dr. Jerry Punch, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett will be in the Infield Pit Studio to call the action. All four ESPN pit reporters will be in the garage area handling the interviews.

There will be a new post up for the Nationwide race, but this will serve to host your comments about the final Saturday coverage for the 2008 NASCAR season. 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 spending a part of this final racing weekend with The Daly Planet!

Longtime TV Favorite Benson Wins Title

Here are some pictures of Johnny Benson winning the final Craftsman Truck Series title on Friday night from the Homestead Miami Speedway. Readers can click on the pics to see them full-size or right click to save them to the computer. Thanks to NASCAR for making them available.