Saturday, January 31, 2009

ESPN Ombudsman Departs Without NASCAR Comments

It was October of 2007 and ESPN was in the middle of that network's first season of NASCAR TV coverage in a very long time. Although it was almost a decade prior, many fans still had fond memories of Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons, Ned Jarrett and Dr. Jerry Punch.

These iconic characters seemed to somehow present this exciting and dangerous sport with humility and good humor.

The 2007 version of NASCAR on ESPN had absolutely no humility and rarely any humor. In addition to the well-documented struggles of the on-air team in October NASCAR had arrived at the huge roadblock in the brand new TV contract with ESPN for the first time.

The words painted on the big detour sign simply said "college football."

"ESPN Pushes NASCAR To The Back Burner" was the TDP column of October 28th on that subject. Click on the title to read the entire post.

Here is an excerpt:

Very slowly, the network has pushed NASCAR to the back burner on the ESPN/ABC stove. Race fans know exactly what I am talking about. Now, with empty stands at Busch races, TV ratings for NEXTEL Cup down and a continued disdain for NASCAR on SportsCenter and other ESPN shows, one thing is very clear. The NASCAR pot on the ESPN back burner is cold and no one seems to care.

The stick-and-ball world of ESPN will never come to NASCAR. This season, the sport has lost its practice and qualifying both on the Busch and Cup sides. It has been pre-empted for news about sports, even though ESPN has its own ESPN News Network.

Races have been shifted between ESPN's cable channels like no other sport. Crucial races on ABC have been pushed off broadcast network TV to protect the ABC News. Races have been ended with no interviews, no follow-up of events, and have even left crashed cars on the track with absolutely no explanation. It has been insane.

Then, to add insult to injury, no live post-race coverage from the track is offered on ESPN News because they are caught-up in the very same college and NFL football coverage.

It was the 2007 Nationwide Series race in Memphis, TN that brought the issue to a boil that season. During the invocation by a local minister, ESPN left the race to begin a college football pre-game show. A live NASCAR race had been dumped and was no longer on any of the ESPN networks. Priorities had been very clearly established.

With the prospect of several more years of this situation, I forwarded my column to Le Anne Schreiber, the new ESPN Ombudsman who is pictured above. She was charged with offering to ESPN an independent perspective on situations and practices that were perceived as being off-base or in need of change. Somewhat surprisingly, she responded quickly.

In her email she mentioned her appreciation for motorsports. In fact, she had edited former driver Janet Guthrie's memoir for an upcoming book project. "I have a particular interest in the exceptional physical and mental qualities demanded by motorsports," said Schreiber. "I do not at all share the 'it's not a sport' mentality of many stick 'n ball bigots." Things were apparently looking up where NASCAR on ESPN was concerned.

Unfortunately, Schreiber's true mission was derailed by the "cult of celebrity" at ESPN where the on-air personalities become the story. Now, everything revolves around the teller of the tale and not the story being told. As we like to say here at TDP, ESPN is an outstanding example of the tail wagging the dog.

Schreiber recently granted an interview to one of the top sports news blogs on the Internet, The Big Lead. Her time at ESPN is about to expire and her thoughts on several TV and media subjects are quite interesting.

Here is an excerpt:

The problems I saw right away in ESPN’s programming were similar to those that drive me crazy in other kinds of 24/7 cable news — hype, saturation-coverage of underwhelming stories, dominance of opinion over information, abuse of the word ‘analysis’. I thought if I could make a dent in any of those practices, or at least give voice to viewers’ discontent with those practices, whether it was about coverage of sports or anything else, well, that would be a good thing to do for a couple years.

In a nutshell, what ESPN wanted of me was to stand way back and look at the big picture. Several people there talked about how they had grown so large so fast, were so busy filling the proliferating channels and platforms, that no one had the luxury of standing back and taking stock.

When I started my intensive ESPN-watching and noticed someone or something that seemed off-base to me, I would plug a few key words into Google and up came the sports blogs. The way bloggers expressed themselves was worlds apart from me, but I was often in sync with the gist of what they were saying.

I think that (my) column made ESPN more self-conscious about the shouting, but it’s hard for me to say if the volume has been toned down, because over-exposure to the noise induced a degree of immunity in me and perhaps hearing loss.

ESPN has made some changes that I like – getting rid of booth guests in MNF, handling breaking news in digestible chunks though live SportsCenter segments instead of through those gaseous SportsCenter Specials I complained about so much – but I would be foolish to draw a direct cause and effect link from my columns to those changes. I think I helped make the case for some changes that viewers wanted and that certain people within ESPN were already supporting. I may have added to the momentum. I hope I did.

Click here to read the entire article and thanks to Jason and David of The Big Lead.

Scheiber was never able to paddle through the ESPN celebrities and get herself out of the newsroom and away from her favorite issue, which is journalism. ESPN is much more than just Ed Werder, Colin Cowherd and Dick Vitale. Erin Andrews and Hannah Storm are not strategic to ESPN's direction in terms of producing major sports.

NASCAR continues on ESPN this season as Schreiber moves back to her private life of teaching and writing. The 2008 season raised the walls between the sleazy side of ESPN and the NASCAR community like never before.

By the end of the year, drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman were openly mocking and laughing at ESPN in interviews on SPEED, radio and the Internet. Sometimes, they even did it while on ESPN.

Hopefully, the new ESPN Ombudsman will get out of the newsroom and look at the content of the long-form programming and live events produced by ESPN as a whole.

The issues of hype, celebrity worship and lousy TV are not contained to NASCAR. Phil Mushnick of the NY Post describes Monday Night Football on ESPN as "the most insufferable, big ticket live game series in National TV history."

ESPN is expected to name a new journalist or media veteran to the Ombudsman post shortly. Click here to review the Ombudsman columns authored by Schreiber during her time in the job. Best of luck to Ms. Schreiber as she returns to private life.

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. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ESPN's Surprising Move Just Days Before Daytona

It was August of 2008 when ESPN Executive Vice President John Skipper, pictured above, told the media of the new deal between the network and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). It was an eye-opener.

ESPN had dipped into the seemingly endless pile of money available to the company and agreed to pay the SEC $150 million a year for 15 years. In return for the $2.25 billion, ESPN will carry a slew of SEC athletics on the various ESPN networks.

In early December, ESPN released details of the new West Coast Studio and production facilities the company was building in downtown Los Angeles. The five-story building in the L.A. Live entertainment complex was estimated to cost ESPN around $100 million when it was all done in early 2009.

Now, it is January and ESPN is just days away from beginning ten months of NASCAR coverage. The popular NASCAR Now program begins on Monday, while the Nationwide Series coverage starts at Daytona and will run all season long.

In July, ESPN picks-up the Sprint Cup coverage and airs all the races through the end of the year. ABC handles the "Chase for the Championship," which is the key to the NASCAR season. ESPN is NASCAR's biggest TV partner.

ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer just released some new information about what the network will be doing in February, but it was not about NASCAR. It was not about the SEC or the new West Coast studios. As a matter of fact, it was not really about sports at all.

In a live computer videocast to employees, Bodenheimer announced that he was cancelling all executive bonuses, instituting an immediate hiring freeze and eliminating approximately 200 jobs. The world had finally arrived at ESPN's door.

"The economy is worsening," Bodenheimer said, "and ESPN and our business partners -- especially some of our major advertisers -- are feeling the impact more acutely than at any point in our lifetime."

Bodenheimer would not rule out additional layoffs and said the company is now reviewing operations to figure out ways to save money. ESPN's parent company is the Disney Corporation. One year ago, that stock was about ten points higher than it is right now.

NASCAR fans have been reading about the loss of major sponsorships for the various race teams as companies pull back due to the financial crunch. ESPN is supported by two significant streams of revenue in the US. One is the fees that cable companies pay to carry ESPN on their systems. These costs are passed along completely to the cable TV customers.

The second is the advertising that the prime sports products on ESPN bring in from companies around the world. ESPN is a unique advertising destination and it was this revenue stream that Bodenheimer addressed directly in his remarks about the economy.

Just last month, ESPN made the announcement that once again the network would travel the Infield Pit Studio, the Tech Center and all four on-air talent who work in those locations to the NASCAR races all season long.

The ESPN Sprint Cup Series coverage does not start until late July with the Brickyard 400. Speculation was that perhaps ESPN would drop the Infield Studio and the Tech Center for the Nationwide races until the July Cup coverage began.

None of that came to pass and at this moment ESPN is heading into the 2009 NASCAR season with all the bells and whistles intact. That is, until the Wednesday announcement by Bodenheimer that the company is actively reviewing ways to save money.

It will be worth watching to see how ESPN approaches another attempt at cost-savings in one of the most financially intensive sports carried by the network. That sport is NASCAR.

Ten months of race coverage across the nation of two different series is a monster from both a logistical and engineering standpoint. Add to that a daily show that travels reporters, analysts and guests to Connecticut on a regular basis for forty weeks and the NASCAR slice of the ESPN financial pie is a big one.

This is turning-out to be a NASCAR season like no other in my lifetime and we still have yet to turn one wheel at Daytona. While we wait to see exactly which teams and drivers show-up to race, it may turn-out that watching exactly who shows-up to broadcast those races may be just as interesting.

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. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Fox's David Hill Talks NASCAR

Veteran reporter Dustin Long has been doing a great job of interviewing several NASCAR TV executives in advance of the 2009 Sprint Cup season. This time, he spoke with the very colorful head of Fox Sports, David Hill.

This Aussie has been having fun in America with sports on TV for a very long time. His team of Mike Joy, Darrrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond were a great shot-in-the-arm for NASCAR at a time when the sport really needed it.

Here are some excerpts from Long's interview with Hill:

Long: There are a lot of people, particularly on the East Coast, who do not like the later starting times, do those later starting times still work for you and Fox?

Hill: I would like to see the races later in the day. That’s just simply because the later you go, the greater HUT (houses using televisions) levels you have. The greater HUT levels, the greater ratings you’re going to get. It stands to reason that at one o’clock on the afternoon that a lot of people are out and about and then as the day gets later and later, obviously more people go in. I would like to see late afternoon starts with the checkered around a quarter till eight (to lead into prime-time programming). I have communicated this on any given number of times to NASCAR, which was fallen on deaf ears.

Long: How do you make the broadcasts economically viable for your network when you’re paying so many millions in broadcast rights fees?.

Hill: It is tough for us. We are a free-to-air broadcast network. Anyone with this new little digital box can get our signal for free and he can sit and watch it. Our revenue comes from one thing and that’s advertisements. So, the deal is and this is the deal America and television have had for 50 years, we’ll give you an hour of entertainment but we’re going to take back 15 to 20-odd minutes so that we can pay the bills. We are dependent on supply and demand. In the good years, there is a huge amount for a limited supply. In the bad years, there is very limited demand for what is obviously a huge supply. So far this year we are in much better shape than I thought we would be. How it’s going to go, I have no idea but it is something that I have definitely got my fingers crossed on. I can’t say. I’d like to remain totally optimistic and thus far that optimism is warranted.’’

Long: What about your announcing team?

Hill: “As important as Darrell Waltrip was to the sport when he was a driver, he’s 10 times more important to the sport right now. Darrell’s ability to communicate is very, very rare. He’s a natural teacher, and he’s a natural enthusiast and he’s naturally passionate about it and he feels sympathy for the drivers. There are a lot of announcers, especially when they quit who feel jealous of the guys who are still doing it, but Darrell doesn’t do that. When we put the team together, we had no idea they were going to be as potent and as strong as they were.

These are some good comments from Hill on several topics that we have discussed over the past two seasons. Please feel free to add your opinion on these topics. Click here to read Long's column in full. Thanks for stopping by.

DW Responds To "Trackside" Comments

Kudos to Darrell Waltrip for taking the time to respond to the comments that were accidentally aired on Trackside last week where he worried that the California race the week after Daytona might be "a ghost town."

Here is an excerpt:

You might have seen or heard about last week's Trackside show on SPEED when a private off-camera conversation between myself, Hammond and driver Rick Crawford aired by accident. It's unfortunate that it happened. I stand by what I said in that conversation. I have concerns about what is going to happen with the fields after Daytona.

Click here to read DW's entire column on that topic and several others.

It is great that he took the time to include this content in his blog. Hopefully, this type of open and honest conversation about the sport might migrate from being held off-camera to being presented to the fans in regular NASCAR TV programming.

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Joey Logano Comes To SPEED On Thursday

It certainly has been an interesting couple of weeks for rookie Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano. Click here for the call by Mike Joy and Phil Parsons of the final laps of the Toyota All-Star Shootout last weekend on SPEED.

The transition from youngster to adult is in full swing for Logano and it will play-out this season in front of the national media. Logano is about to step into the Sprint Cup "blender" where suddenly everything is scheduled and every minute away from the track involves sponsors, the media and the fans.

Thursday evening at 7PM, Logano will be the guest of Steve Byrnes and Larry McReynolds on Preseason Thunder from the new SPEED HD studios in north Charlotte.

In the past, Logano has done very well on TV with his quick smile and good sense of humor. In a way, Thursday marks his first official TV appearance as a Cup rookie and the new pilot of the Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Luckily, he is with two TV veterans in Byrnes and McReynolds.

Logano is about to be introduced to a wide variety of TV appearances and interviews with a brand new agenda to discuss. This time, he will be directly in the line of fire where on-track performance and off-track lifestyle are concerned.

His TV exposure in 2008 was a mixed bag of polite interviews and several feature reports about his rise to the top at such a young age. Things really heated up when Tony Stewart asked for and was granted his release from JGR late in the season. Logano was suddenly out in the media spotlight fulltime.

It was last summer on the ESPN program E:60 that reporter Tom Farrey put together a feature that showed several different sides of the Logano puzzle. It was clear he is a talented driver with good family ties. Farrey reported that the Logano family had invested over one million dollars in bringing their son along in the racing world.

Still, his parents appear to be very nice and this young man may be just the breath of fresh air that the fans and the media need during this tough time. Byrnes and McReynolds will get to set the table for the season with their interview on SPEED Thursday evening.

Friday on Preseason Thunder the program will offer a report on the impact of Toyota on NASCAR and Byrnes will host the final episode of this program for 2009. All NASCAR TV comes to a grinding halt for Super Bowl Weekend and then both SPEED and ESPN2 start a long ten months of coverage next week as NASCAR ramps-up for Daytona.

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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Still Waiting On TV Issues From Sprint Problems

Click here for the official word from about the massive layoffs just announced by Sprint, the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series.

Sprint has deep ties to all three of the TV networks involved in broadcasting the series and the Chase for the Championship. Advertising, sponsorship and integrated marketing efforts are everywhere in the sport.

Story links, just click on the title:
Kansas Star - Video story on Sprint layoffs.
USA Today on Sprint's cost-saving measures.

As this story continues to develop and the media ramifications become apparent, we will update this post. Please feel free to leave your comments on this topic below.

Truck Series Reality Coming To TV Soon

The first of the three big races at Daytona will involve the newly-named Camping World Truck Series. The CWTS has consistently provided some of the most exciting racing and closest finishes in recent NASCAR history.

Whether it was on a race-by-race basis or for the season championship, this series did not disappoint. The secret weapon that brought fans to the trucks was the TLC given to the entire series by SPEED.

In a happier time and on a hilarious night, the CWTS TV gang posed for the picture above after producing the entire thirty minute pre-race show in costume to celebrate Halloween. Then, they delivered another sparkling TV broadcast.

Now, their world is about to change dramatically and no one can say what will happen as a result. Here are some words from a Monday column by SM Napier for The Bleacher Report:

So far twelve teams have confirmed they will be racing in 2009, of these nine are fully-sponsored. Three others still need sponsorship and one team is running a limited schedule. As of today, their are thirteen teams with open rides both full and part-time and four drivers with some form of sponsorship looking for teams.

Eighteen drivers are looking for a ride in 2009, with a few big names in the series still looking (including Mike Skinner). We've had about ten teams close after the 2008 season.

Napier's full column can be read by clicking here. Thanks to The Bleacher Report.

Over at, this page (click here) makes the reality hit home. Scrolling down to the team grid shows just how many teams are left and how many have closed.

Unfortunately, SPEED does not have any TV programming that is themed around the CWTS other than the pre-race show and the races themselves. Last season, TDP urged SPEED and ESPN2 to integrate truck series highlights and interviews into the live and recorded programming on Sundays.

This proved to be a tough challenge, because the CWTS drivers and owners were gone by the time RaceDay and the morning edition of NASCAR Now rolled around. Even SPEED's own This Week in NASCAR on Mondays rarely had an interview with the truck series race winner.

Lack of TV exposure for sponsors is an issue even at the Sprint Cup level and that series has many hours of national TV programming before and after each race.

Imagine how hard it is then for a sponsor to commit to the CWTS knowing the race itself is the only time their logo and team will be shown. There is no other regular TV exposure for this series and that is a key issue.'s CWTS section is limited in scope. Clearly, the focus and effort by the Turner Interactive group that runs the site is on the Sprint Cup Series.

Over at, the CWTS drivers and teams section sits blank while the news section offers four truck series stories before updating the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge.

In his column, Napier called the Camping World Trucks the forgotten series of NASCAR. In the 2009 season there will once again be no TV programs (weekly or monthly) about the trucks. Hopefully,'s new online programming initiative may result in some regular updates and news where the CWTS is concerned.

As Darrell Waltrip said very correctly, every team that has a truck will try to make the race in Daytona because of the payday and exposure. Only once the series has made the turn and heads for California will the stark reality of what has been hidden from TV viewers so far this season emerge.

Just how many trucks will make the trip and what that will do to the racing on SPEED is something we will all experience together. Let us hope that Camping World and NASCAR will both help this series pull through what is going to be a very difficult season.

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. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Irwindale And Daytona Both Featured NASCAR Stars

A visit to the Rolex 24 at Daytona is always fun. The mix of fans on-hand includes a large contingent of NASCAR folks who are there camping for a weekend of racing. The Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya t-shirts mix with the Porsche and Ferrari jackets over both cocktails and breakfast.

While Johnson may have been the headliner, it was Montoya who stole the show on SPEED this Sunday as he drove the final stint in the Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype.

SPEED mounted an impressive effort and play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffey certainly can get excited on the air even after an exhausting 23 hours. The final hour of racing was a focused and fascinating effort as the face of Daytona clearly changed to the DP formula.

Meanwhile, after a Friday night rain-out it was Mike Joy and Phil Parsons calling the racing action from Irwindale, CA on Saturday. The Toyota All-Star Shootout is a one-time look for many fans at the regional NASCAR racers. This field was spiked with Ron Hornaday Jr. and Joey Logano. Both would play huge roles in the event.

Joy and Parsons picked right up where they both left off in 2008. Smooth and efficient, these two professionals blended well and "let them race." The large amount of cars and the frequency of the cautions did not rattle the TV crew, who calmly had things well in hand.

Unfortunately, Hornaday tried and failed at a spectacular move and it caused a large accident. It eliminated several top cars, but SPEED was quick to reset the situation and get things organized again for the viewers.

There was a "mall cop" sighting and interview, but it turned out to be under the yellow flag and was painless.

Click here for the clip that is going to live on YouTube for a very long time. Joy called it as Logano made a bold move going for broke on the final corner. The excitement of racing was back, even if the outcome of Logano's move was less than successful.

In much the same way that Joy and Darrell Waltrip were the right on-air duo to handle the Michael McDowell qualifying wreck in Texas, Joy and Parsons were right for the aftermath of the big Logano mess. Calm and cool, the two let the actions on the track speak for themselves and never took sides. It was a long night and a nice start to the TV season for both men.

Meanwhile, the SPEED Grand-Am team was having a blast watching Montoya. David Hobbs has always lent the right amount of irreverent commentary to any sports car broadcast and this was no exception. His comments about the four car battle in the final hour were just what tired race fans needed.

The new later afternoon end time worked well and let TV viewers see a lot more daytime racing. Perhaps, we will see some additional cars in the field for next year to return the total car count back to the old glory days of the Rolex 24.

Montoya ultimately finished in second place and then provided a solid post-race interview where he talked about his on-track battles and praised the Ganassi team. It should be an interesting transition for him to get in a big COT car and return to the Daytona oval in a couple of weeks.

This was a nice doubleheader weekend on SPEED with something for everyone. The SPEED Report did a nice job Sunday night of recapping both these events and the other series whose season is underway. This program seems to have the potential to be ninety minutes in length once the NASCAR season begins, but that might be a tough sell in these economic times.

If you watched these events, please let us know what you thought of the TV coverage by clicking on the COMMENTS button below and adding your opinion to The Daly Planet. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

The photo is courtesy of Grand-Am Racing/Brian Cleary. Click on it to see it full-size.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Johnny TV" Takes A Preseason Swing At "The Daly Planet"

It seems tempers are getting a little tight after only the second week of NASCAR TV coverage on SPEED. The disaster that has been the two weeks of Preseason Thunder and the single week of Trackside seems to have gotten the host of one of those series a bit upset.

The lack of any hard news TV reporting by SPEED on NASCAR issues during this critical time has been beyond puzzling. While Randy Pemberton and Jeff Hammond have tried briefly to address some real issues, most of the TV time has been spent on the normal preseason "fluff" as if nothing was going on behind the scenes.

The only exception to this was a miscue by SPEED that allowed candid Trackside comments made off-camera by Darrell Waltrip to be aired one time. That tape was quickly edited for the re-air and the original content was wiped off YouTube in a day. This (click here) is the TDP column on that incident.

Meanwhile, fans read that ten trucks (click here) might make the trip to California. Brian France boasted that fifteen new teams (click here) have brought COT cars to the R&D Center for approval, but The NASCAR Insiders say most of those teams are "one and done" efforts for Daytona only.

That same day, France announced (click here) a company-wide hiring freeze for NASCAR and all the companies it owns and operates. It also suspended financial bonuses for the top executives. Somehow, all of this never got mentioned on Preseason Thunder.

Friday, unveiled a new column by John Roberts that took a nice big swing at those who dare to question the integrity of some NASCAR TV announcers. Well, apparently that would be the Internet site that you are reading right now. Why Roberts has made the transformation from TV host to columnist is a completely different issue.

Here is part of what he had to say:

Many bloggers have opined that guys like Ray Evernham, Brad Daugherty, Jeff Hammond and others are somehow biased announcers because of their ownership role but I couldn't disagree more. In fact, these professionals at times have gone out of their way to be unbiased. Naturally, there are times when they cannot discuss certain aspects of their businesses on the air and for that, they owe us no explanation.

Ray Evernham has a small interest in a race team, yet you can’t assign a value to his knowledge and experience. He revolutionized the crew chief position, won three championships and brought an entire manufacturer back into the sport, yet people say he’s biased or owes us some information he’s purportedly withholding. Come on, you’re not watching the same race we are.

What Roberts does in rather spectacular fashion is miss the point entirely. It is disclosure that fans want to keep the playing field level.

Veteran TV announcer Marty Reid stepped-in to anchor a single episode of NASCAR Now last season and before he asked ESPN studio analyst Boris Said the first question, he made sure TV viewers knew of Said's relationship with Jack Roush and that Said actually co-owned a Sprint Cup team. What Reid did was disclose the potential conflict before asking for an answer.

One of Robert's key points is that Ray Evernham is not to be questioned about his ownership role or the integrity of his comments as an ESPN analyst. As TDP has said many times, there is no doubt Evernham's history is amazing and his TV abilities are solid. But, writers like Jay Busbee (click here) have called the situation "ethically awkward" for a good reason.

ESPN avoided asking Evernham about issues connected with his Sprint Cup teams on-the-air. This was a decision made in advance and the network stuck to that all season long in 2008. What TDP has objected to is when current team owners get a free pass because of their TV role despite something happening in the sport that is directly connected to them.

This situation has also happened with Michael Waltrip and the old Inside NEXTEL Cup on SPEED. Now, the new host of the replacement program titled This Week in NASCAR is Steve Byrnes and he goes right after Waltrip when there is an issue with MWR.

Byrnes puts Waltrip right on the spot just like Reid did with Boris Said on NASCAR Now. There is a big difference between dealing honestly with NASCAR news issues and trying to hide them from the fans.

It seems ironic that Roberts would pick this weekend to raise the conflict of interest issue after what has to be two weeks of the most disappointing NASCAR TV coverage in years.

SPEED is alone on-the-air for one more week with Preseason Thunder before ESPN returns with the team of Mike Massaro, Nicole Manske, Allen Bestwick and Marty Smith to begin the daily NASCAR Now TV series.

With times tough and tempers tight, it is going to be interesting to watch how the TV analysts navigate through a sport in crisis. Evernham, Daugherty, Hammond, Rusty Wallace, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will all return in 2009 as both TV announcers and NASCAR owners.

To read the entire column by SPEED's John Roberts, just click here.

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, January 23, 2009

Three TV Topics For The Weekend

This certainly has been an interesting week of NASCAR TV from SPEED. This weekend provides the first live racing that fans will see as several high-profile NASCAR stars join the sports car gang for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Coverage begins on Fox and then transitions over to SPEED while the race itself has a much later start time in the afternoon. The TV listing information is located on the right side of the TDP main page.

Although this is the first big North American race of the season, it did not apparently deserve even a blurb on ESPN's SportsCenter or ESPNEWS. The stick-and-ball frenzy continues with plenty of time for endless talking heads, but once again ESPN swings-and-whiffs where motorsports in North America is concerned.

Hermie Sadler appeared on the final Preseason Thunder show of the week on SPEED. Sadler has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time with his TV skills. He covered a pretty wide variety of topics with good credibility, but once again SPEED ducked the issue of what the Truck Series would look like after Daytona.

This has been a strange phenomenon all week long, as the Camping World Truck Series is carried exclusively by SPEED and Fox. For some reason, the network has turned almost all the attention and effort toward the Sprint Cup Series alone. Sooner or later, the real story about the trucks will come out.

This week's Trackside shows, also on SPEED, were taped on Sunday at the Daytona Fan Fest. Friday's program featured an interesting interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Since Keselowski lives in one of Junior's rental properties close by, Junior tagged Keselowski on-the-air as the friend who never calls and just comes over. Keselowski responded by admitting that he is, in fact, Junior's "Kramer."

A relaxed and happy Junior shared several family stories and had fun with the Trackside gang. After a long winter, it was refreshing to see the biggest star in the sport speaking about his family and friends openly and with pride. He also spoke candidly about the struggles for sponsorship on the Nationwide side of the sport.

While John Roberts on Preseason Thunder tried to preach to the viewers that NASCAR does not have its collective head in the sand about the real world struggles of the economy, that was never the issue that TDP raised. Roberts took a shot at "the websites" that were complaining about the smiley-faced approach of the pre-season TV.

The reality of life is best understood when those involved in the struggles are openly and honestly talking about them. This week on SPEED has been a parade of "fluff" with moments of candor. It should have been the other way around.

If NASCAR and SPEED were trying to keep the veteran fans and win new ones, the approach of having endless conversations about winter vacations, children and the fact that there has been no testing at Daytona did not do the trick.

After the Rolex 24 and the Toyota Shootout are over, SPEED has another week of Preseason Thunder at 7PM Monday through Friday. The Charlotte media tour is done, the drivers have all been interviewed and the rust has been knocked-off the brains of the NASCAR fans.

Next week will be the final opportunity for SPEED to be center stage, as NASCAR Now on ESPN2 returns on Monday, February 2nd. Now that new pets, scraggly beards and winter vacations have all been discussed, SPEED has the opportunity to step-up and do some real reporting on the issues in the sport including the Nationwide, Camping World Truck and regional series.

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Darrell Waltrip Finally Gets Honest With The Fans

The Thursday edition of Preseason Thunder on SPEED promised to be a good show. John Roberts hosted with Darrell Waltrip as his co-host via satellite from his home in Tennessee.

Waltrip's commentary was mixed with soundbites from various drivers and personalities from the Charlotte media tour. The faces of Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and others flashed by, but it was the comments from Waltrip that made it worth the wait.

In this setting, where he is alone and allowed to speak his mind, fans finally got a glimpse of the frank and honest opinions that used to be a hallmark of SPEED. The network has wasted almost two weeks on "fluff" programs that have painfully avoided all the issues dominating the sport on a daily basis.

Trackside and Preseason Thunder have been off-base from day one as an endless parade of smiling drivers have fielded softball questions from both the SPEED and Fox on-air personalities. It has not been pretty.

Watching SPEED, one would not believe that two of the three NASCAR touring series are rumored to be in dire trouble after Daytona. It was Darrell Waltrip who remarked that the second race in California might resemble a "ghost town." That one comment was aired earlier in the week by accident and was actually replaced in the program's re-air with more happy faces and polite chit-chat.

Even reporters Wendy Venturini and Randy Pemberton have been following the SPEED script as they both cover the media tour. The smiling faces of freshly scrubbed drivers at beautiful shops are about as far away from the reality of what this sport is actually going through as humanly possible.

How can the "other side" of this equation not be reported by SPEED? Where are the DEI and Gillett comments about downsizing to two teams? Where is Max Siegel on his departure from DEI after all his bold predictions of growth for the company?

Where are the voices of the drivers and owners who are not happy and have comments about this season that might not be all rainbows and sunshine? The answer is they are not on SPEED.

Waltrip talked about topics from Stewart's new team to the outlook for Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. Viewers at home could have used a full hour of Roberts asking Waltrip questions and then letting him speak. Waltrip's time in this show was far too short and left a lot of great content on the table.

His final comments that closed the show were the most compelling.

"Look folks, it's not all gloom and doom," said Waltrip. "Yeah, we got problems with the economy, we got sponsors and all kinds of things that we have to work on (like) attendance and ratings, but this is the most resilient sport with the best people in the world. We know how to get it done. We will work hard and we will survive."

This is the kind of straight talk NASCAR fans have been waiting for from Waltrip and rest of the SPEED experts and analysts. Hopefully, speaking directly to the fans and offering honest opinions about the NASCAR journey for 2009 will be allowed to continue.

The final Preseason Thunder of this week is at 7:30PM on Friday, but the series continues on Monday through Friday of next week at 7PM ET. This should give SPEED one final opportunity to open up the coverage and let the reality of the challenges facing the sport become a topic that is open for discussion.

Fans who like the picture can click directly on it to see it full-size.

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France Talks Everything But TV In Thursday Remarks

Thursday afternoon at 1pm ET brought the annual "state of the sport" address from NASCAR Chairman Brian France. The location of the press conference was the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, NC.

This media opportunity usually provides France an outlet to address topics of his choice and those that are important for the new season. After a recorded introduction that featured TV veteran Ken Squier, NASCAR VP Jim Hunter started the festivities.

Diversity was on the agenda, but once again this topic is one that has not translated very well to the TV side of the sport. Max Siegel did not speak, but his future participation where the diversity agenda is concerned was mentioned prominently.

MRN Radio veteran Winston Kelly was up next to talk about the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He mentioned that the NASCAR Media Group is moving into HD TV studios in downtown Charlotte that include a brand new newsroom. This media area also includes a radio studio. It should be interesting to find out what use the newsroom and TV studios will be filling.

"It's been an interesting and challenging off-season," said France as he began his remarks. His prepared statement talked about the points that NASCAR wanted to emphasize. While he addressed the "tough times" affecting the sport and the nation, he mentioned that working with NASCAR's media partners was a high priority.

During the open comments section, France talked about the manufacturers continued participation in the sport. He said the sport is zeroed-in on helping the manufacturers, but said the larger issue was the jobs of the employees in the automotive industry.

It was Robin Pemberton who addressed the Camping World Truck Series issues by saying he was still discussing potential changes in the rules for this season. That certainly seemed strange with the first race only weeks away. Nothing was mentioned that directly referenced SPEED and the issues that network may experience should the series decline dramatically in the number of teams after Daytona.

Jay Abraham was on-hand to represent The NASCAR Media Group as VP Robbie Weiss had experienced medical problems and NMG President Paul Brooks was with him. We will update the condition of Weiss when it becomes available. Abraham reinforced the NMG mandate that connecting directly with the fans through TV was his primary mission.

There was a lot of talk about a new business model for the sport, but ultimately both the tracks and the teams are independent operators and have to fend for themselves. Speakers like NASCAR President Mike Helton were consistently assuring the assembled media that NASCAR had the best interests of the teams at heart.

As the media asked questions, it was clear that TV was going to take a backseat to the economy and the potential issues with team counts in each of the three national series. Ticket prices, fan attendance and even the satellite teams were topics on the agenda, but TV was not.

Also not mentioned was the new design of the website, which is the official online location of the sport. Radio was also not in the mix, despite the fact that the press conference was carried live on Sirius. That radio network has been the linchpin for the fans during the off-season.

The voice of reason as usual was Mike Helton. He spoke clearly about the challenges for the upcoming season and gave the media lots of good content. Look for his remarks to be all over the Internet by Thursday evening.

While this event was disappointing from a TV perspective, it was clear that NASCAR was in the same unsteady boat as many American sports and the focus was actually on survival. There is currently only one new NASCAR-themed TV show that has been announced for 2009 and that show is on TLC.

Darrell Waltrip will be co-hosting Preseason Thunder on SPEED Thursday night at 7:30PM ET. Perhaps, it will be up to DW to finally step-out of the politically correct TV bubble and tell fans how NASCAR will look in 2009 and where he thinks it will be going.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009 To Compete With NASCAR TV Partners

The dirty little word in the struggle for media access to your home is "convergence." Click here to read the original TDP column about that issue.

Where NASCAR content is concerned, this is the battle between the NASCAR TV partners, the 24 hour NASCAR radio channel on Sirius and the endless array of Internet websites like this one that all compete for your interest.

These various forms of media all want you as a customer and they all are available easily to most consumers. Convergence is when a user can get the very same information from a variety of sources using different types of machines.

After two months of whining by TDP, SPEED is back on the air with some NASCAR TV content. That network will be joined by ESPN2 when NASCAR Now returns on Monday, February 2nd.

Before the TV guys can get things in high gear, the folks at the Turner Interactive Group in Atlanta, GA are going to give you a redesigned website for use this season.

Guess what the emphasis is on? That's right, the same video content you will be getting from SPEED and ESPN.

Click here for the demos of the various pages of the new website. The new look has added a lot of one-click video options and put the picture and video content front-and-center.

Here is some additional information directly from the Turner folks:

The new homepage will debut on Thurs., Jan. 29 and will enhance the user experience by providing a streamlined design that showcases breaking news and new callouts for race standings, schedules and fantasy games.

The new video page offers easy access to exclusive broadband features and coverage and debuts a new video player that offers the highest standard in online video.

In addition, NASCAR.COM will debut a special race day version of the site for every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, helping fans gear up for the excitement and intensity of the races with exclusive content and live coverage.

NASCAR.COM is also pulling out the stops with enhanced editorial coverage in 2009, debuting several new features such as Inside NASCAR, a weekly in-depth feature that highlights untold stories both on and off the track; Five Things About, personality driven quick hits about NASCAR drivers, team owners, crew members and officials; and No Margin for Error, comparing and contrasting two drivers every week in their quest to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and hoist the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy.

TNT announcers Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds are among those who will contribute new regular columns and video commentary, while during the network’s six weeks of racing NASCAR.COM will also once again employ RaceBuddy, an animated online companion that provides viewers extended race coverage on-air and online. RaceBuddy was recently awarded a Global Media Award as the outstanding interactive platform of 2008.

Well, this should make for a very interesting choice for consumers. has aimed squarely at NASCAR Now and Sunday shows like RaceDay and Victory Lane.

This is an Internet vs. cable TV show-down with both signals probably brought into your house by the very same wire. Talk about convergence at its finest.

The competition for NASCAR video should be fun to watch. Fans may remember that already gets exclusive video clips from shows like This Week in NASCAR and others produced by The NASCAR Media Group.

Once the season gets underway, TDP will revisit the battle of daily NASCAR video updates and news between the TV partners and, which is the only official NASCAR website on the Internet. It should be interesting.

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ESPN's Feinberg Confirms No Side-By-Side Commercials In 2009

Here we go again. Thanks to reporter Dustin Long, ESPN's top motorsports executive has spoken about the topic no network will touch. That is why side-by-side commercials work on the IRL races but not on NASCAR events.

As the Vice President of Motorsports, Rich Feinberg has presided over an often turbulent re-entry into NASCAR by the various ESPN television networks. He has been responsive to viewer issues and made many changes to on-air staff and production agendas over the past two seasons.

Here are some excerpts from Feinberg's conversation with Long about who is responsible for making the side-by-side concept work. Is it the network, the sponsors or NASCAR?

"It has to come from all three," Feinberg said. "We as a broadcast entity have to believe that it's something that is good. The sponsors have to be on board because, let's face it, they foot the bill for the whole thing, right? So, their interest in dual messaging, in one box is my commercial, which I paid you millions to run for your viewers to hear and in other box is competition. They've got to buy it, and NASCAR has to buy it."

"The reality of the question of why not in NASCAR and you are doing it in open-wheel, the simple answer to that is that our rights agreement with NASCAR precludes us from doing that."

"That doesn't mean someday we won't do it and we won't figure out a way to do it in NASCAR and with our partners. We've all got to come together to do it. It's a very tricky and challenging situation. I can understand how race fans want it. I love it as a race fan."

"Going to commercial while the race is going on is risky business and we've all be criticized for that too. It is a business and we've got to pay the bills somehow. And I understand but it's just not as simple as us standing up and saying we're doing it."

"You as the sponsor, if my box is going to be 60 percent smaller for commercial, then you're going to charge me Mr. ESPN 60 percent less, right? Our answer is no because the rights fees (with NASCAR) didn't go down. So, I understand the simple race fan not in our business isn't there to figure out our business and our industry and looks at the screen and says why can't they do it? And I welcome explaining it ... because the more race fans understand that it's not as simple as just saying we're doing it, it's an economical, it's a business thing."

"I think if we did it we would want to figure a way to do it consistently like we do on Indy car as opposed to a one-time stunt kind of thing (TNT's Wide Open Coverage), that gets you a little bit of media and I guess you're serving the race fan for one of your 17 Cup races or one of your 35 Nationwide races but then the first thing they're going to say is, well, aren't you going to do it again? It's a tough thing to do. It's an economic formula and sponsors want their message to come across as loud as they can. That's what they pay millions of dollars for commercials for.''

This is a very good and candid assessment of the side-by-side situation from Feinberg. Thanks again to Dustin Long from the Landmark Newspaper Group for the interview. Basically, fans can once again expect the regular commercial rotation and insertions into the live races with the exception of the summer Daytona race should TNT choose to offer the Wide Open Coverage once again.

Has the commercial load in the NASCAR races changed the way you watch the events? How many of you purposefully record the races and watch them later specifically because you are able to fast-forward through the commercial breaks?

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"NASCAR Wives" Will Not Follow Miss America On TLC

There is a buzz in the air about the new TV series debuting on the TLC network called NASCAR Wives. Produced by The NASCAR Media Group, this series is intended to tell the stories of several women in the sport from their own personal perspectives.

Powerhouse women like DeLana Harvick and Kelley Earnhardt are mixed-in with Shana Mayfield, Angie Skinner and Amanda Mathis. Some fans may be familiar with all those names, while others may have to dig a bit to find out just who is who.

Each of the women listed above are involved in NASCAR in very different ways. More than just having a family life rooted in motorsports, the series will explore the roles of team owner, business executive, public relations manager and career advisor all of which are represented in this group.

While one of the personalities participating is just joining the sport on a full-time basis, another has struggled to find a lasting personal relationship. Some of the marriages may show the strain of losing the limelight as the careers of husbands ride the roller-coaster of a NASCAR driver's life.

Originally, TLC intended to air the first episode of this series as a special after the Miss America pageant on January 24th. Since that time, TLC has reconsidered and would like to include the Daytona 500 experience of these women in the first show.

Actually, this probably makes a lot of sense. The other series from The NASCAR Media Group have started with Daytona and worked out very well. Last season's NASCAR Confidential was especially memorable.

TDP will post updated scheduling information as soon as it becomes available, but the first show will probably be the final week of February or the first week of March. The remaining episodes will follow on a regular basis.

Credit goes to NMG for getting a NASCAR-themed series on a TV network that does not involve the words ESPN or SPEED. These two have cut back on original productions of this type and are off into their own agendas. ESPN wants live events and SPEED wants lifestyle TV shows that have nothing to do with actual sanctioned motorsports competition.

It should be interesting to see how NASCAR Wives goes over with the general public on a TV network that has absolutely no connection to racing. Who knows, it may become the next reality TV sensation.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

NASCAR Brass And Media Collide On Thursday

This season has been very strange for NASCAR since the first day of January. No cars on the track at Daytona, bad team news every single day and many fans who almost seem shell-shocked about what is happening to the sport they love.

The first ten days of NASCAR TV programs on SPEED have made it clear the way NASCAR has chosen to approach these issues. SPEED's marching orders are to make believe everything is just fine.

Conversations about babies, off-season trips and anything else under the sun other than the reality of the sport at this moment is fair game. Other than a momentary slip on Monday (click here), it has been all smoke and mirrors with happy smiling faces.

What is left of the national motorsports media is being driven around the Greater Charlotte area on their annual media tour this week. Stops have already been made at several shops with less than stellar attendance by team owners and key drivers.

Richard Childress was off hunting, Roger Penske had a prior engagement, Elliott Sadler is on his well-timed honeymoon and George Gillett was nowhere to be found.

The traveling media pack has dutifully reported on what they were told, done their TV interviews and then got on the bus to the next stop. This year, the final destination will be the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Thursday afternoon.

This is where Brian France, Mike Helton and the NASCAR executives will face the media after France gives his annual "State of the Sport" address.

Lee Spencer from talked about the possible scenarios:

NASCAR State of the Union — Traditionally, this has been an opening-day event. With no Daytona testing and Speedweeks less than a month away, it will be interesting to hear the spin for 2009. This is (also) NASCAR's opportunity to unveil any significant rule changes (perhaps some miracle to keep the Camping World Truck Series afloat?).

The picture of what NASCAR will be putting on the track in 2009 is hazy at best for many fans. This is an opportunity for France to talk candidly about how NASCAR is going to buckle-down, come together and race through this deep economic crisis.

Once France and his executive team are through, it will be up to the media to ask about the issues NASCAR has been hesitant to address. With outspoken writers like Jerry Bonkowski, Mike Mulhern and Bob Margolis no longer writing for major publications, it should be interesting to see and hear which members of the media put France on-the-spot about the real issues.

There are a lot of very fundamental questions that have not been answered by the NASCAR TV partners or the website writing staff. It should be fascinating to see how the combined print, Internet, radio and TV journalists approach this one opportunity to speak directly with France, Helton and the rest of the top executives of the sport.

TDP will have a full report on Thursday afternoon with the details of what was asked and how those questions were answered.

In the meantime, perhaps you have some suggestions of a good question or two that the NASCAR media folks could ask France or Helton? Please feel free to click on the COMMENTS button and give us your thoughts.

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On-Air Mistake Finally Shows Real NASCAR Problems

Note: We are on day two of comments about why the NASCAR TV coverage on SPEED has been so off-base. The column below sparked the discussion, which is taking place in the comments section. Thank you for all the great opinions.

The first of five Trackside shows aired Monday evening at 7PM on SPEED. These programs were taped during the weekend Fan Fest in Daytona.

The regular cast of characters were back once again. Steve Byrnes hosted the show with Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds as his panelists. Instead of the SPEED Stage or a live set outside among the fans, the show took place in the indoor studio located in the infield.

The program opened with Sprint Cup driver Paul Menard and Camping World Truck Series veteran Rick Crawford on the set as guests. The opening segment gave both drivers an opportunity to talk about the upcoming season with the panelists.

After the first commercial, the program returned but something was just not quite right. What fans were seeing at home was the casual conversation between the panelists and Crawford as he was leaving. There was little doubt that this content was not intended to be on the air. What happened next was amazing.

The panel was addressing the real problems NASCAR was about to experience. For some reason, this type of content has been banned from SPEED so far this season. Polite talk and softball questions have been the order of the day since SPEED returned to the air with NASCAR programming.

"When we get to California, I have a feeling it might look like a ghost town," said Darrell Waltrip. "Everybody that's broke drags everything they got down here (Daytona) because they know they can make a buck if they can get to start the race."

Apparently, the discussion on the set was about the reality of the season after the Daytona weekend. This is exactly the kind of frank talk that fans have been waiting for and not getting on SPEED. Waltrip had more to say about the Camping World Truck Series.

"NASCAR did this market study and they said that fans did not like the fact that there were no pit stops," said Steve Byrnes. He was talking to Waltrip about the truck series and the recent talk about changing the rules.

"Oh, they are not going to," answered Waltrip. "But, if there are no fans there, who cares?"

A commercial was suddenly inserted and that ended the only real talk about NASCAR issues on this program. If fans wanted to know about Jeff Gordon's baby, his recent trip to race Go-Karts or his animated character in Speed Racer, Trackside was suddenly the place for them once again. Reality had left the building.

Other than the accidental "real talk" that had mistakenly made its way to the homes of TV viewers, Trackside had joined the parade of fluff that SPEED has presented this season as NASCAR TV. Why and how this shift happened is anyone's guess.

How long it will continue is something only the SPEED executives can control.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Evernham Gets His Name Out Of The Mix

Ray Evernham continues to pave his way toward a full-time TV career in the sport. The change that will do him the most good has finally happened.

As ESPN's David Newton (click here) reports, Gillett Evernham Motorsports has changed the name of the entire organization to Richard Petty Motorsports. Evernham recently did several interviews where he made clear that he has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of GEM for some time now.

The biggest controvery surrounded his silence over the firing and then rehiring of driver Elliott Sadler. The situation was that Evernham remained a part owner of the team that still bore his name, making him a target for questions surrounding the activity of the group.

Now, the Evernham name will be removed and Richard Petty will be the "branding tool" that is used to move the company forward in the sport. This is a good role for Petty, as a team ambassador but without the same management responsibilities that put Petty Enterprises in the original situation from which they could not emerge.

Evernham is slated to appear all season on ESPN in a wide variety of roles. He will handle race analysis in the booth on select races, appear in the Infield Pit Studio as a panelist and appear as an expert on shows from NASCAR Now to SportsCenter.

This move allows Evernham to fly under the radar for this season and maintain his "outsider" status that has come to be his trademark when questions are asked about GEM. Now, expect the words Richard Petty Motorsports to be said on a regular basis by Evernham with a big smile on his face.

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What Questions Would You Like To Ask On SPEED's "Preseason Thunder?"

Sunday on The SPEED Report, co-hosts Krista Voda and Leigh Diffey threw cream puffs at NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds.

Here were the question asked of McReynolds on the show in order:

1 - Why are teams testing at Rockingham? Answer: It's right down the road.
2 - How about tires, what is the latest from Goodyear? Answer: Teams are testing on old tires. We have not seen the 2009 tires yet.
3 - Anything the teams are doing right now help for Daytona? Answer: No.
4 - How did you like Fan Fest with no cars on the track? Answer: It was different.
5 - What is your view of no testing? Answer: I don't think it's a big deal.
6 - What can we expect in Bud Shootout practice? Answer: 28 cars in each session.
7 - How is Tony Stewart handling team ownership? Answer: That deal will work, he is just wearing two hats.

What Voda and Diffey failed to ask were any NASCAR questions of substance.

This seems to be the agenda of SPEED in the pre-season. We saw it with Preseason Thunder in week one and now we see it on The SPEED Report for the second week in a row.

Perhaps, you may have some suggestions of topics that SPEED can address during the next week. The network has Preseason Thunder on Monday through Friday at 7:30PM and has many NASCAR personalities available to comment on your topics.

What do you want to know as the season approaches? Truck Series issues? The fate of the Nationwide Series? Sprint Cup team questions? Recent sponsorship announcements? Contingency plans? TV cost-cutting? Top 35 questions? 4-car ownership rules? Bud Shootout changes?

Why not take a moment and click on the COMMENTS button and give us your top questions as the season approaches? TDP gets plenty of questions in email and fans usually address a wide variety of topics.

Let's see if SPEED addresses your questions this week as the days of Preseason Thunder roll by. Reporters Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner will be on the Charlotte Media Tour, so there will be plenty of resources available to answer your 2009 NASCAR pre-season questions.

Thanks again for helping, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. Rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.

What do Ron Hornaday Jr. And The Pittsburgh Steelers Have In Common?

The answer is they both got smeared by ESPN. This process is very simple and easy to understand. It starts with a person or a team that is singled-out by ESPN well in advance.

Despite the reality of the facts surrounding the subject in question, a team at ESPN takes months to create a high-profile smear-and-run campaign.

It involves many ESPN employees who work for the TV, radio and Internet divisions of the company. Once the plan is complete, the story is launched at the most opportune time to garner the best publicity for all of the ESPN "platforms."

In 2008, this happened to Ron Hornaday Jr. when ESPN announced to the world that Hornaday had taken steroids for performance enhancement because of his advanced age. Click here for the original story.

ESPN reporter Shaun Assael alleged Hornaday was worried about losing his ride to younger drivers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Ron Hornaday thought he was dying.

The campaign was launched (click here) just before NASCAR began the 2008 Chase for the Championship on ABC. The story was released mid-week so it had several days to grow on the Internet before the Truck and the Sprint Cup Series raced together at the very same track. What a coincidence.

By the time Hornaday pulled into the race track, the media had been whipped into a feeding frenzy. Where ESPN was concerned, the execution of the plan was perfect.

There is a growing slice of the very big ESPN pie that does not care about truth, accuracy in media or sports in general. The purpose of the smear-and-run is not to expose a story or confront an issue.

It is simply to get ESPN's "brand" in the news on a global basis. The stigma (click here) still lingers for Hornaday. There was no performance issue. There were no lies. The topic was gone with one press conference.

One day later, Dr. Jerry Punch said on the air "Ron Hornaday will not be disciplined by NASCAR for the testosterone use for a medical condition, a thyroid condition."

The entire response from the NASCAR on ESPN on-air team took eight seconds. The topic was never mentioned again. No one from ESPN ever apologized to Hornaday. They did not have to, he was collateral damage. The real mission had been accomplished.

Now that the NFL is into the playoffs, ESPN's latest target is the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. The allegation (click here) is that the players took Human Growth Hormone (HGH) given to them by a dirty team doctor.

The ESPN reporter is Mike Fish, the same one who surfaced last season to feed (click here) the phony NFL video cheating scandal. That story was released just before the Super Bowl and instantly put the ESPN "brand" around the world in less than one day.

In reality, the doctor in Fish's newest smear left the Steelers organization back in 2007 and the HGH shipment the physician admits receiving was in 2006. That does not seem to be an issue because The Steelers made the playoffs this season. Any story from ESPN with Steelers in the title will get published worldwide. It (click here) certainly did.

Pro Football Talk (click here) suggests that the only reason ESPN released the story recently is because it feared the Steelers would lose in the playoffs and the story would lose its "scandal appeal." Here is an excerpt:

The overriding purpose (of this smear-and-run) is to create another Patriots-style lightning rod, drawing eyeballs and ears to the various ESPN (TV, radio and Internet) platforms so that ESPN can acquire information and express opinions about whether the Steelers’ most recent Super Bowl win is tainted and whether their current run for another title can be undermined by the efforts of ESPN to create a distraction. We wonder how long ESPN can peddle this same, tired formula.

The Hornady story resulted in a TDP column (click here) titled "The Two Faces Of ESPN On Display."

One division of ESPN telecasts both NASCAR and the NFL. This side of ESPN is loaded with hard working men and women with a love of sports and an incredible work ethic.

The dark side of ESPN is loaded with guys like Mike Fish and Shaun Assael. They exploit the power of the ESPN "brand" and attack the very sports that allowed ESPN to flourish and become a success. They do it when the stories will get the most publicity and have no conscience about truth or the effect of their written words.

NASCAR is weeks away from the start of the most confusing and off-balance season in the modern era. Collapsing teams, angry drivers and bankrupt sponsors are threatening to push the sport to the brink. It should be very interesting to see which side of ESPN shows-up to handle this situation.

NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts February 2nd at 5PM ET. Stay tuned.

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How Are You Feeling About The Approaching Season?

There seems to be a very different vibe in the air this January when it comes to the upcoming NASCAR season. Lack of information about what is actually going to happen in the three national touring series seems to be an epidemic in the media.

This is especially true in TV land, where ESPN has limited the NASCAR exposure during the off-season to virtually nothing. No featured stories in SportsCenter presented by the NASCAR on ESPN analysts or reporters. No segments on ESPNEWS talking about the overall picture in terms of the sport on the track this season.

SPEED has been guilty of veering off-course in dramatic fashion, featuring "puff pieces" about teams and even throwing in a "Mall Cop" movie promo. Both the Preseason Thunder shows and The SPEED Report have missed the opportunity to host a panel of SPEED's own experts to talk about this crisis.

For those fans who have Sirius Satellite radio, it's great that you have heard some more information than the rest of us. Certainly, the Internet continues to grind out stories as Daytona approaches, but almost all of them talk about only one topic.

With the recent news that the merged Ganassi-DEI team might be down to two cars, the reality of the new season is really hitting home. If these are the struggles of the Sprint Cup teams, what in the world is NASCAR going to put on the track for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series?

This week will be a key opportunity for SPEED to solve these problems for the fans. Taped this week in Daytona during Fan Fest were five Trackside shows that will air Monday through Friday at 7:30PM ET. This should give Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds an opportunity to touch on exactly these issues.

It will be a shame if host Steve Byrnes is put in the position of interviewing the Fan Fest drivers and asking the same type of generic questions that fans saw on Preseason Thunder during week one. Trackside usually runs wide open and talks about almost anything, hopefully that will be the case this week.

SPEED will also use Bob Dillner, Wendy Venturini and Ray Dunlap to chase the Charlotte media tour as it goes to the various race shops in the Mooresville and Concord, NC area. The reporters will offer their information in another week of Preseason Thunder shows that will originate from the new SPEED studios at 7PM ET.

These two shows need to focus on the issue of keeping the remaining fans in the sport and not allowing this economic challenge to continue NASCAR's slide. While Sirius listeners may have heard Mike Helton and others talk about these challenges, TV viewers have not.

In addition to the teams and drivers, fans need to see the faces of the sport like Helton, Brian France and Jim Hunter. It is an especially confusing time for the newer fans who do not have a perspective on the manufacturer, team and racing history of NASCAR. A few well-chosen words can go a long way coming from the right person in an official position.

Ultimately, the TDP email has been busy with fans trying to make a personal decision about committing forty weekends of the upcoming year to a sport that seems to be in a nosedive. Certainly, the struggles of 2008 with the COT, tires and the dominance of Jimmie Johnson left a tough taste in the mouth of some fans.

TDP is wondering if you have made a decision about this season yet or if you are one of the fans still pondering if and how much of NASCAR you will watch on TV this year? Once the spectacle of Daytona is done, will you be back as the series travels to California?

Thanks for taking a moment to share your TV and NASCAR thoughts with us, there will be new columns up all week talking about the multiple TV shows on the air.

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. Than you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Will "ServiceMaster Clean Caution Periods" Change NASCAR On TV?

It is day two of the New World Order for many NASCAR fans who have been emailing and commenting on the new sponsorship of the actual caution periods in NASCAR races.

For those of you who have still not heard the news, NASCAR has brokered a deal that allow a cleaning company called ServiceMaster to be the official sponsor of the caution periods in most of the NASCAR races.

This is the official press release:

ServiceMaster Clean announced that it has signed a unique partnership agreement to be the first-ever official sponsor of the caution periods during races at International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) race tracks across the nation.

When there is a problem on the track, the ServiceMaster Clean Yellow Flag will wave, and the company’s familiar yellow trucks will be dispatched to clean the track. ServiceMaster Clean will have official and exclusive sponsorship of the Yellow Flag– now to be known as ServiceMaster Clean Caution periods – at all 19 ISC and SMI race tracks around the country. These racetracks feature 31 Sprint Cup, 24 Nationwide and 17 Camping World Truck Series races and hundreds of other racing events.

In fact, there will hardly be a race for the next five years where ServiceMaster Clean does not have a large presence.

All cleaning and drying vehicles and equipment will feature the ServiceMaster Clean logo and colors, and the clean-up teams will wear bright yellow ServiceMaster Clean jumpsuits. The multi-year agreement is not limited to what happens on the track, but also includes national coverage on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Performance Racing Network (PRN), and a host of other marketing opportunities designed to generate consistent visibility.

This PR announcement does not include the TV specifics, but we can assume that with the right advertising dollars, ServiceMaster will soon be appearing during caution periods on your TV all season long.

So, the upshot of all of this is that the actual caution flag is now sponsored. The caution period itself is sponsored and the clean-up on the track will be done by folks wearing ServiceMaster uniforms and driving ServiceMaster trucks.

Perhaps, TV viewers will take all of this in stride as just another NASCAR sponsorship like Goodyear tires or Sunoco race fuel.

For those of us at TDP, the question is how this sponsorship will be reflected on a TV screen that already contains everything from animated rodents to multiple lines of scrolling scores and text.

Certainly, any TV sponsor package is going to include ServiceMaster Clean Caution Period graphics, perhaps some animation and of course...commercials. Add this to the already heavy TV commercial load and it should make for an interesting combination for the viewers at home.

TDP will keep you posted as this sponsorship package continues to develop. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the impact of this rather unique idea on the TV viewing of your favorite NASCAR races.

More ServiceMaster story links. Just click on the title:
ServiceMaster Outsourcing IT Services, 225 Employees Being Fired (December 2008)
ServiceMaster Home Page (which has no mention of the NASCAR announcement)

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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Weekend TV News And Notes

SPEED goes to Daytona on Saturday for a 1PM ET version of NASCAR Preseason Thunder. This is a TV series that has already aired for one week on SPEED and next week will be tagging along with the Charlotte Media Tour.

The shows next week will air at 7:30PM on weekdays and feature Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner chronicling the writers and journalists as they tour the Concord and Mooresville, NC team shops.

The SPEED Report should have a jam-packed show on Sunday at 7PM ET simply because of the large amount of NASCAR news that has taken place over the past week. Krista Voda and Leigh Diffey will host for SPEED with reports from all over the racing world.

The Showtime cable TV network begins airing the critically acclaimed Ride of Their Lives movie at 7:15PM ET Saturday night. The Showtime version has no commercials and ten additional minutes of never before seen content. Showtime will air the movie in regular rotation, so check the listings for re-airs.

Geoff Bodine continues his support for the US Bobsled Team with his annual TV special at noon ET Sunday on SPEED. NHRA and NASCAR drivers team-up with members of the US Armed Forces for bobsled action to raise money for the national team.

Finally, Monday at 7PM the popular Trackside show returns on SPEED for a week of specials from Daytona. This will be Darrell Waltrip's opportunity to speak out about the current NASCAR issues. He will be joined by Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds for these programs that will be hosted by Steve Byrnes.

This will be SPEED's opportunity to help the fans understand what is going on with the sport before ESPN re-enters the picture with that network's NASCAR news show.

Speaking of NASCAR Now, the ESPN2 series returns on February 2nd with Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro and Nicole Manske as hosts.

TDP will keep things updated during the weekend, please feel free to add your comments about the topics above or scroll down for the other active posts from the week.

To add your comments, 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.

Massive Post Of Chili Bowl Pics

The Chili Bowl is a fun event with hundreds of cars from across the nation. Held in Tulsa, OK at the state fairgrounds, this indoor dirt race used to be a low-key affair but now the word is out. Packed crowds and TV coverage are here to stay. Click here for a direct link to the event's website.

SPEED will broadcast this event after a lot of editing, TDP will keep you updated on the day and time. Thanks to TDP reader Boyd Adams for his hard work over the last several years providing us pictures from the event. Boyd is part of Armadillo Photo Supply, click here for that website.

Click directly on the pics to see them full-size. Right click to save them to your computer.

Tony Stewart
JJ Yeley
Brian Clauson
Billy Wilburn, Cup crew chief
Jason Leffler
Kasey Kahne
Levi Jones driving for Tony Stewart
PJ Jones makes a pass
PJ Jones out front

Thanks again to Boyd for his hard work this year. This is the third year he has supplied us with pictures from this event. There will be more pics as the weekend progresses.

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 stopping by.