Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday's TV Role Reversal

The TV version of Seinfeld's "bizarro world" was on full display Saturday from Dover. This is the episode where everything was opposite and Elaine wound-up with a new cast of friends who looked a lot like her old cast of friends. When a stunning blond eyed George in the coffee shop, he told her he was unemployed and lived with his mother. She loved it.

This season, the ESPN gang has been taking it on the chin for all kinds of struggles from the unfocused "how does that make you feel" pit reporters to the disinterested play-by-play announcer calling out driver names and car numbers in between commercials.

Meanwhile, the SPEED team calling the Camping World Truck Series races has been fun to watch and focused like a laser beam on the racing. Saturday, all of that changed in a very strange way. NASCAR's version of "bizarro world."

Big Brad Daugherty set the changes in motion with his infectious enthusiasm during the pre-race show as he fired-up the TV viewers for the Nationwide Series race. Instead of his usual politically correct spin, Daugherty was right on the money with his wild and very loud opinions of Kyle Busch.

Daugherty talked right over-top of Dale Jarrett and cut-off Allen Bestwick. He just did not want to hear it. The soft-spoken Carolina guy was long gone. Daugherty was an unabashed seven-foot tall finger-waving NASCAR cheerleader who was ready to watch Kyle Busch dominate.

Instead of the tired and disinterested Jerry Punch viewers have known for years, in his place was a polished and excited TV professional who focused on the action and let every member of the TV team participate in the broadcast. Who was this guy?

Punch made the Dover Nationwide Series race interesting by including all the members of his team and running his pit reporters around like sprinters. Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were not dominating the commentary. The reason was simple, Punch did not need their help. This was an entirely new dynamic at work and it got even stranger.

The very same TV production team that painfully follows the ESPN script and gets upset when it changes turned into flexible and open-minded NASCAR fans who regularly searched for the best racing on the track and showed it to the fans. OK, what happened to our regular TV guys?

The three pit reporters hustled and were pushed by the broadcast booth to get stories while they were in-progress. This time, there was no perky Jamie and stuttering Shannon to drive TV viewers crazy. The only thing fans heard was information and the hustle lasted all race long. Even Dave Burns was up on the wheel and asked key questions after the race to pay-off the on-track stories.

Tim Brewer showed-up when he was needed, Allen Bestwick recapped the action at the right times and the fireworks at the end of the race made for some moments that fans will remember for a long time. From Logano looking like he was about to cry on pit road to a livid Kyle Busch fleeing the ESPN reporters yet again, this was a fun and interesting NASCAR TV telecast by the ESPN team.

Due to the Friday rain out, SPEED televised the Camping World Truck Series race right after the ESPN crew finished with the ABC telecast. Krista Voda is one of the most solid NASCAR personalities on TV, but the vibe was not there from the truck team.

Michael Waltrip was over-selling himself, his sponsors and NASCAR long before the drop of the green flag. Waltrip had made himself into a very good third man in the booth, but what happened to him in this telecast almost defied logic. His "spin" of the Goodyear reality in this event should have won a public relations award.

Rick Allen is one of the most dependable and energetic play-by-play guys in the sport, but he was soon to be confronted by a problem that caused the entire broadcast to crumble. Allen made the decision to treat the catastrophic tire failures in the field as just racing incidents. They certainly were not.

Truck after truck fell victim to this problem that NASCAR and Goodyear could not solve. Phil Parsons documented how many laps the trucks could go before the tires popped, but never called for a competition caution for driver safety. Parsons stepped-back instead of up and watched as this issue decimated the field and the race.

Instead of racing, the final segment of the event literally came down to a winner whose tires did not blow. Like Reutimann in the rain, a decision not to pit won the race. The fast trucks were either crashed out, damaged or had drivers not willing to risk injury. The second half of this race was a TV disaster.

At the end of the doubleheader, the reality of the switch hit home. ESPN had stepped-up and done a great job of presenting a Nationwide Series race that featured few passes for the lead but lots of action behind the Busch and Logano freight train. The key was that the producer threw away the script and showed the racing, wherever it was on the track.

SPEED had been shaken by the tire failures in the race and never made a decision about what to do or how to handle this issue on the air. Allen was still calling the race as if it was a competition, rather than a dangerous exhibition of basic equipment failure.

How and why the TV teams decided to change places for this doubleheader is unknown. Having ESPN hit it out of the ballpark and SPEED strike-out is a very new experience.

Seeing Kyle Busch lose two races he dominated in two different series on two different TV networks on the same day was wild. The difference of hearing Punch excitedly call the final restart and Allen try to figure out what to say about Brian Scott was also interesting.

On Seinfeld, the next episode returns everything to normal and the gang moves on to tackle another issue. The ESPN Nationwide team heads for Nashville, TN and a stand-alone race next Saturday night. They have to be pleased with their Dover effort and pumped-up that July brings them to the Sprint Cup Series.

The SPEED team moves next to the high-speed oval in Texas for a CWTS race under the lights on Friday night. That should give them an opportunity to open things back up, shake off the tire issues and get themselves back on track.

If there is one thing broadcasters have learned the hard way over the years, fans will forgive a lot if you just give it to them straight. NASCAR's fan-base established a "no spin zone" long before the cable news networks.

This was a Saturday to remember for both good and bad reasons. While Kyle Busch will no doubt be the theme of most media reports, the side-by-side comparison of two veteran NASCAR TV networks might have yielded the strangest results of all.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From Dover On Fox

This final Sprint Cup Series race on Fox has suddenly emerged as one with multiple storylines underway. There has to be a mix of apprehension and excitement at the TV crew prepares for four hours at Dover.

NASCAR's Ramsey Poston announced that the decision had already been made to stop the race at lap 30 and check the tires. Saturday, the CWTS event turned into a disaster for Goodyear and NASCAR with right side tires blowing before a full fuel run was complete. Added to that problem were the current rules of choosing either fuel or tires on each pit stop in the truck series.

There was another major rainstorm on Saturday night at the track was scrubbed clean of the small amount of rubber put down by the Nationwide and CWTS events. Dover is a concrete track and the fear is that the COT will scrub the rubber off the right side tire very quickly on this abrasive surface.

Added to this mix is the continuing Dale Earnhart Jr. story. Lance McGrew was supposed to be starting in his role next week, but since Brad Keselowski did not make the Cup race, McGrew will be on Junior's pit box this Sunday along with multiple Hendrick Racing veterans.

Kyle Busch dominated both the Nationwide and CWTS races on Saturday and didn't win either one. Fox continues to focus on Busch and it should be interesting to see how DW handles this issue on the final race for the network of the season.

Dover makes good pictures, especially from the low level speed shots. Those are the cameras that do not move and let the cars fly by with great audio. Remember, Dover has two bridges over the track at each end of the backstretch. One mandatory TV element is to eliminate these two structures from the telecast.

The only times that the two bridges will be seen are from the aerial shot and also when a driver's in-car camera is being used. Look carefully on the shots from the roof, out the front window and out of the rear of the car to see the bridges fly by.

Digger's last day should be interesting. Recently, the animated character has been pulled back a bit after fans made it clear they had reached the breaking point. That is perhaps the biggest issue, how to judge just how much of something like this is enough. Look for the final cartoon, the animation over restarts and the still shot of Digger on the low-level cameras.

This TV team is the most experienced of all the NASCAR TV partners. Chris Myers will lead Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond onto the air from the Hollywood Hotel at 1:30PM for the pre-race show. This should set the tone for how Fox is going to approach the race today.

Larry McReynolds posted on Twitter that the theme of the race today for the NASCAR on Fox team was going to be having fun. That may be tough with tire problems, Junior stories and Kyle Busch on a rampage. Add to that a couple of hard crashes and Dover may become exactly what is almost always is, a big grind for all concerned.

Mike Joy, McReynolds and Waltrip should be on the air around 2PM and the green flag flies fifteen minutes later. Krista Voda, Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Dick Berggren will handle pit road. This is the cream of the crop where TV pit reporters are concerned and this race will certainly keep them busy.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Sprint Cup Series from Dover on Fox. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Live Blogging The CWTS Race From Dover On SPEED

This is live coverage of the rain-delayed Camping World Truck Series race from Dover that was supposed to run on Friday afternoon. SPEED is covering the race live and it should be a good one.

Krista Voda starts the telecast with the pre-race show at 5:30PM. She will be joined by Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander as reporters. Once the race coverage is underway at 6PM, it will be Rick Allen calling the action. He will be joined by Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip.

The day has already seen a fast-paced Nationwide Series event and the track is fast. Passing is still at a premium because the track is green from the Friday rain, but the Trucks should be able to put on a good show.

This is SPEED's normally straightforward presentation of racing. No infield, no cutaway car and no hype. Just classic race coverage and good commentary.

This post will host your comments on the SPEED coverage of the Truck Series race from Dover. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking some time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.

Live Blogging The Dover Nationwide Series Race On ABC

This is one of the rare ABC broadcasts for the Nationwide Series. The exposure on an over-the-air TV network should be good for the series and perhaps let some new fans see the Dover action.

Allen Bestwick will kick things off at 2PM ET with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. Joining Bestwick this week are Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty. Rusty Wallace has the weekend off. Joey Logano is on the pole and he should be a topic. Whether or not Bestwick brings-up the Sprint Cup Series news of the crew chief change for Junior and the Mayfield legal challenge will be interesting to see.

Dr. Jerry Punch returns to call the action with Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth. Vince Welch has the weekend off, so Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Dave Burns will handle the action on the newly-renovated pit road.

Rain washed out the truck series race on Friday night and left the track pretty green. The Nationwide guys are going to face a track without a lot of rubber down. Dover is treacherous and the concrete surface is a challenge to the newer drivers.

The weather is clear and the pictures should be good. Dover is narrow on the backstretch and it has been a challenge over the years to follow the action in that area. But the biggest challenges at Dover can only be seen on the in-car cameras.

This track has two bridges over the speedway at the entrance and the exit of the backstretch. They are usually described as being between turns two and three. The cameramen use practice to perfect their moves that allow coverage of the racing action but never show the bridges during the race.

Look for this element during the telecast today. When the Director uses an aerial shot or stays with an in-car camera you can see the exact location of both of these bridges. This veteran ESPN crew uses the best triple-split on TV during caution flag pit stops. Also on-target is the wideshot of the finish with all the lead lap cars clearly racing to the line on-camera.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ABC coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Dover. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Truck Race Rained Out But We Have TV Things To Talk About

The Camping World Truck Series race has rained-out from Dover. It will be run at 6PM on Saturday. We will have the updated TV schedule out shortly.

In the meantime, lots of NASCAR topics are up for discussion. Perhaps, the biggest one is the NASCAR on Fox team leaving the sport this season with some issues still brewing.

In USA Today, Fox Sports executive David Hill again rejected the notion that his animated creation called Digger is responsible in any way for alienating fans from the sport. As we all know, the Sprint Cup Series TV ratings have been down about 15%.

"It's the biggest crock of (stuff) I've ever heard," said Hill of the Digger issue. He went on to relate that over half a million dollars of Digger merchandise has been sold. Hill called Digger the Mickey Mouse of NASCAR.

Perhaps the most surprising element in this story was Hill suddenly blaming NASCAR for not starting the Sunday races at 1PM Eastern Time. He said NASCAR was afraid to start the races at 10AM on the West Coast. This was a very different comment than Hill made earlier this season when he lobbied for even later Sunday start times to get a bigger TV audience for the sport.

Hill did take a moment to try and lay part of the TV ratings problem off on Dale Earnhardt Jr. "I'm told by our research guys that if Dale won, more people would watch," Hill says. "I guess in a way because he hasn't, Elvis has left the building." What an interesting perspective. Click here for Nate Ryan's full story.

The second TV note is that Fox Director Artie Kempner has apparently had an issue with Hill and has been demoted. Click here for the full story from the Eye on Sports Media website about Hill changing Kempner's NFL assignment.

Kempner has been a topic of discussion here at TDP for issues ranging from only showing the winning car finishing the race to inserting endless Digger animations once the concept was created.

So, instead of watching the Truck race, please feel free to take a moment and add your comments about these NASCAR topics. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Friday, May 29, 2009

TV Network's Junior Scramble Causes Big Problems

On Wednesday, NASCAR fans were checking the remote when they saw Robin Miller appearing on ESPN2 while wearing a SPEED TV t-shirt. Thursday, the TV weirdness continued on NASCAR Now as during one of the biggest stories of the season, ESPN2 had a meltdown. More on that later.

Host Nicole Manske had led a program that featured Rick Hendrick on the phone, soundbites from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a news update from Marty Smith. All of this was in reference to the changes at Hendrick Motorsports on the #88 team. Smith had strong comments from his interview with Lance McGrew, the Hendrick employee tagged to take over the team.

Manske then brought out two of ESPN's biggest guns in Ray Evernham and Dale Jarrett. Evernham was clear in reminding viewers that almost everyone knew this was coming after the most recent race. Manske actually asked Evernham what advice he gave Hendrick on this issue. It was smart of Evernham to quietly remind her things were usually the other way around.

Evernham responded to the possibility of his involvement at Hendrick as a future #88 crew chief with a big no. Times had changed, he said and the crew chief role was not one that interested him regardless of the team. Evernham left the door cracked by saying if he ever did return in another role, he would like it to be for Hendrick.

Jarrett was his diplomatic self in speaking of Earnhardt as a talented driver who simply needed to change his style and let his team fall in line with the other successful Hendrick teams. Saying Junior needed to focus, Jarrett also suggested that a non-family member challenging Junior to get the job done might do the trick.

At the end of the Jarrett segment, Manske teased the fact that the show would return with an edited piece on the rocky road this season of Earnhardt and Eury. This would be a very interesting video as the season has certainly resulted in some memorable conversations on the #88 team radio. Unfortunately, that never happened.

ESPN2 suddenly ran over five minutes of commercials and promos. Something was very wrong at NASCAR Now.

Coming out of this monster break, the correct program segment was not being shown. The salty language of Junior and Tony Jr. was nowhere to be found. Things had just moved from bad to worse.

It was quickly apparent that the segment of NASCAR Now being aired was the final one. Viewers watched Manske get final comments from Evernham and Jarrett. Then, she signed-off and walked quietly off the set. The show was over. There was only one problem.

There was still over six minutes left in the thirty minutes of NASCAR Now. Quickly, ESPN re-ran most of the previous commercial exactly as it had aired. This is the worst situation for a TV network.

The solution was a simple one. On what may prove to be one of the biggest NASCAR news days of the year, ESPN2 introduced NASCAR fans to Trey Wingo. It was time for NFL Live four minutes earlier than scheduled.

The ESPN2 automated promo graphic at the bottom of the screen told NASCAR fans that this NFL show was coming up next. No, it was on the air right now.

Luckily, this technical mess happened after the good comments from Hendrick, Smith, Evernham and Jarrett. The only thing lost was the show's big feature piece recapping this season. Manske was solid again despite her rather strange question to Evernham about giving advice to Hendrick.

For West Coast viewers, the program re-airs at 11:30PM Pacific Time and there is little doubt the problems will be fixed. Perhaps, Manske will choose to play the feature on the Friday version of NASCAR Now that airs at 6:30PM ET for those of us on the East Coast who missed it. Either way, the show had some good conversation and reporting, it just mixed with some untimely technical problems.

TDP welcomes your comments on these topics. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Manske Handles The Ultimate TV Cross-Over

TV viewers were checking the remote to see if it was really NASCAR Now they were watching. Sitting there on-camera was SPEED TV's Robin Miller.

Since Miller always seems to add a little extra zing to everything he does in the media, he made sure to dress-up for this ESPN interview. Rounding-out the mussed hair and the five o'clock shadow was a frumpy black t-shirt that read "got speed?"

Nicole Manske was the host of NASCAR Now and the reason for Miller's appearance was a Wednesday morning story (click here) on the website.

Miller had broken the news that the Hulman family wanted Tony George out as the CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was big news across the motorsports world, as George had taken that facility down a path that included many millions of dollars invested in things like a road course in the infield and a new golf course.

The hidden issue, of course, was George using lots of family money to unify the two competing open-wheel series. Members of the board that pushed for his ouster apparently included George's own sisters. It was a family affair.

Manske and Miller know each other from her days in Indy as a local TV station reporter and from her time at SPEED. Miller was a former contributor to and had no problem talking about this issue in a very candid manner.

Before Manske welcomed Miller, she ran video from a local Indy TV station that showed a very nervous George insisting that everything was fine and he was still the CEO of the speedway. It was a telling interview where George tried to lay the blame for the current situation on the bad economy.

"This place (IMS) wakes-up every morning and eats money," said George. "Certainly, the Indy Racing League in the past has required a lot of capital to keep it going and a lot of money was spent trying to unify (the IRL and Champ Car)."

When Miller appeared, he estimated that George has spent over 400 million dollars in his efforts at both IMS and on the IRL. Responding to the fact that George and IMS had both approached the media with their own spin on this issue, Miller called it simply damage control.

The suggestion was that Miller was correct in his facts and that George would simply continue to move further and further away from any management role at the speedway. According to Miller, it was his story that had simply forced both George and IMS to make a public statement on the issue.

Either way you slice it, the bottom line was that real financial issues had finally collided with the manner in which George had run his designated slices of the family business empire. Miller had no animosity and did not embellish his statements, this was a good TV interview between two reporters about facts.

Manske made sure to review the IMS statement before pushing on to strictly NASCAR topics. The George issue is relevant to NASCAR fans for several reasons. The COT is still unable to run more than 15 laps at IMS without wearing out the racing tires from Goodyear. That puts this season's July event in peril.

Indy is the first NASCAR race of the 17 race ESPN/ABC TV package that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the sport in a contract that has many years to run.

The Brickyard 400 tire fiasco of 2008 came on the heels of the Formula-1 series having the same type of tire problems and staging the now-famous race where most of the teams pulled-off the grid before the start.

Last year, ESPN sliced the TV contract of George's newly unified open-wheel series to pieces and only agreed to carry a handful of races. Unless George agreed to the new contract, ESPN would walk away. George rolled-over and saved the Indy 500 on ABC while most of the races and all of the support programming moved to the Versus TV network for far less money. It has not been a kind world recently to Tony George.

Manske moved on to a telling interview with Scott Riggs. Admitting he did not want to start-and-park for Tommy Baldwin, Riggs was basically searching for a job. When Andy Petree appeared next, he reinforced for Manske that field fillers were just a sign of the economic times.

Petree also previewed Dover and then talked about the struggles of the Hendrick #88 team. His interesting comment was that Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed someone like Chad Knaus or Ray Evernham to step-in and run the show. Admitting that Knaus was unlikely to leave Jimmie Johnson, Petree left the Evernham name on the table.

The only sour note in the program was once again NASCAR Now choosing not to promote the start time or TV network of either the Camping World Truck Series or the Sprint Cup Series races from Dover. Instead, the NBA playoffs, NHRA Drag Racing and the IRL race at Milwaukee made the cut.

ESPN has told us repeatedly that the reason for this decision is simple. Fox refuses to promote the ESPN Nationwide Series races during the Fox Sprint Cup Series coverage. Perhaps, for the sake of the fans and the sport, this ego-driven nonsense will end after this weekend. It is the final race for Fox this season.

Manske returns again on Thursday with another edition of NASCAR Now at 6:30PM ET. The late start times this week are due to coverage of the French Open Tennis Championships. The complete TV schedule for this weekend is on the right side of the TDP mainpage as usual.

We welcome your comments on these topics. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Breaking Today: Tony Eury Jr. Out As #88 Crew Chief

Once again there is big breaking news in NASCAR and SPEED has nothing on the air until Friday from Dover. NASCAR Now and Nicole Manske get another huge story the day after the Tony George mess was exposed by Robin Miller...from SPEED.

So, what everyone expected has finally happened. Tony Eury Jr. is moving to the Research and Development area inside Hendrick Motorsports and Lance McGrew is taking over the #88 team on an interim basis.

Hendrick has made it clear that all the resources of that organization will be used to help the performance of Dale Earnhardt Junior's team. In corporate speak, that means Junior better step-up to the plate and right now.

It should be interesting to see who winds-up reporting on this story for NASCAR Now and who comes on the show to speak as the expert analyst. The topper for ESPN would be to get Rick Hendrick live to be interviewed directly by Manske. She has turned out to be a natural in the studio setting and her hard-hitting interviews with some of the top personalities in the sport have been well worth watching.

NASCAR Now is at 6:30PM ET and re-airs at 11:30PM Pacific Time. Please feel free to add your comments on this topic below. Just click on the comments button. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Breaking News: Robin Miller At SPEED Says Tony George Is Out At IMS (Updated Continually) reported it and almost immediately got Tony George to deny it. Then, Sports Illustrated confirmed it again and George went on-camera to deny it again. The battle for motorsports credibility is underway as this story continues to unfold.

Click here for Miller's original story about George being removed as the Indy Speedway CEO for spending too much money. His family was actually at the center of this issue.

Already the talk is about who would replace him and what kind of person the facility really needs to get the positive feelings back for this great speedway. One name already being tossed around is Humpy Wheeler.

His connections run deep to all kinds of racing series. He was a great promoter for Bruton Smith for decades and still has plenty of ideas about how to make motorsports better for the fans. George just suffered through a lackluster Indy 500 after losing the Formula-1 race and continuing to have a tire debacle with NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

We will keep an eye on how this story unfolds in the media today. It certainly should be an item for host Nicole Manske on NASCAR Now at 6:30PM. Manske was just at the Indy 500, as her fiance Ryan Briscoe is a driver in the IRL Series.

More stories:
George and family deny report: USA Today
Tony George is out at IMS: AOL FanHouse
Tony George out and announcement Wednesday of new CEO: Bruce Martin at
George denies ouster with video attached: WISH-TV Indy

Updated - Here is the new press release from IMS about the issue:

At a regular meeting of the board of directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 26, board members asked Tony George, chief executive officer of the IMS companies, to devise a plan for management of Hulman & Company, the Indy Racing League, Clabber Girl and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that would allow him to focus on the business which requires the greatest attention. This plan is to be presented to the board at a meeting later this year.

IMS Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George said: “There was a general discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing all of our companies and where most of our energies need to be spent. All of our properties are doing well, given the challenges of the current economy. The Indy Racing League represents our greatest growth opportunity and therefore deserves the most attention at this point.”

Tony George said: “Contrary to published reports, I continue to serve as CEO of IMS. Our board of directors met yesterday, and we did discuss how to best confront challenges and exploit opportunities facing our businesses. This is nothing new and is something that we continually do as a board. But no changes in leadership or responsibility have been made. We don’t normally comment on board deliberations concerning our family business. However, the widespread, inaccurate reports and rumors caused my mother and me to conclude that it was necessary to set the record straight. If changes are made in the management of the company that are newsworthy, we will announce them when they are made.”

So, maybe Robin Miller and Bruce Martin have some explaining to do. Click here for a live link to WNDE-AM in Indy. Live talk on this issue right now and Robin Miller supposed to be on around 4PM.

We welcome your comments as this story unfolds. The Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest NASCAR races. It starts the ESPN/ABC coverage and is the final stretch to the Chase for the Championship.

To add your opinion on this topic, just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for stopping by TDP.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Patience And Patriotism Mix At LMS

After a while, it did not matter if you were a TV viewer or a crew member. Patience was at a premium during the long weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Fox defaulted to non-NASCAR programming on Sunday as rain delayed the Coca-Cola 600. The TV effort began on Monday with a one-hour version of RaceDay on SPEED. That group did a good job of resetting the scene for the race and updating the mood of the drivers and teams.

Once Mike Joy led the Fox team onto the air, circumstances continued to test the patience of all involved. Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond were the relief team for the guys in the booth as the rain interrupted the racing time and time again.

During one break, Larry McReynolds gave fans his report card for the various Sprint Cup teams through this first part of the season. Fox only has one more race remaining at Dover, so they are beginning to transition into wrapping-up the details of their part of the Sprint Cup season.

Waltrip and Hammond disagreed frequently on the grades being assigned to the various teams by McReynolds. Opinions are good to hear, but there was a lot of judging going-on in terms of what should have been and what could be.

After a while, the TV coverage was just following the leaders after the restarts. Trying to capture the racing at the back of the field was apparently a tough assignment once again. There were no triple splits on pit stops, but the real-time scoring worked well as the cars left. Several times, major changes in the field were lost when they happened on pit road.

Mike Joy did a good job of keeping on top of the stories, but the inability to then show what he and the other members of the booth were talking about was rough. Over these final Fox races, Joy has taken to calling out the number of the turn where the action was happening. This is certainly a gentle reminder for the TV team to follow the real leader of the pack.

As the racing action ground toward 3PM, a new wrinkle developed in the officiating of the sport. NASCAR threw a caution flag, slowed the field to a stop on the frontstretch and shut-off the car engines. In the same kind of show of patriotism that fans know from the opening ceremonies, the crew members lined pit road and the entire speedway joined the nation in a minute of silence honoring the military veterans who have served this country. That was a great moment to put things in perspective.

The rain started again shortly after the restart, beginning the familiar cycle once again. The TV scramble was on and everyone possible who cooperated was interviewed. Unfortunately, that did not include Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Eury Jr.

It was over five hours after the first laps when the Fox TV cameras showed a pensive David Reutimann squatting next to his wet car. He was leading when the rain came after taking a chance by staying on the track. The tension on his face was in sharp contrast to the smiling Michael Waltrip who seemed to be smelling a Sprint Cup Series win as an owner.

Eventually, the normally optimistic Jeff Hammond began to tell the tale that in his mind things should be done. He pointed to the crews, drivers and others who needed to begin the turn-a-round to head for Dover. Ironically, it was Hammond on Sunday who kept telling TV viewers that the race was getting set to begin in just a short while. That never happened. Talk about a real turn-a-round.

The final rain showers came around 6PM and NASCAR finally called it a day. The winner's interview was solid and having an underdog like MWR win a race made for a good story. There was one final deep breath from the TV crew and then it was done.

This was a bittersweet way to close-out the Fox telecast. The TV team travels to Dover for what is normally a grinder of a race and then is done. LMS was really the last big stage that Joy, McReynolds, Waltrip and Hammond get to share. It will only be remembered as wet, dreary and very long.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your comment on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Live Blogging Monday at LMS

Note: If your Fox local station leaves the NASCAR coverage, please go to our comments section and tell us your city.

Things change in a hurry in TV land, so this Monday is going to feature two TV networks scrambling all day long. SPEED is first with a one hour edition of RaceDay at 11AM ET. This will serve as the pre-race show, since NASCAR starts all rain delayed races as close to the top of the hour as possible.

That means when the NASCAR on Fox gang comes on the air at 12PM, they will be able to say hello and then the cars will hit the track. The full Fox crew returns led by Mike Joy in the announce booth with Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds.

The Hollywood Hotel may or may not be back, but my guess is Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond should be on-board as usual. Myers dropped his comedy act on Sunday and led the TV team through some great discussions of NASCAR topics in the news. It was an eye-opener for those fans who argue that he is most effective in his assigned role as the class clown.

LMS has taken a lot of water and that normally means that the grassy area inside the frontstretch dogleg will be very damaging to the COT cars should they spin into it. We may well see careful racing because NASCAR is obligated to run the full 600 mile distance unless weather shortens the event after halfway.

No doubt there are some tired TV crew members on both the SPEED and Fox teams. Once the race is over, SPEED has some decisions to make. Originally scheduled for 8PM but taped in the early afternoon is This Week in NASCAR. Fox pit reporter Steve Byrnes is the host, with drivers Michael Waltrip and Marcos Ambrose as the panelists this week.

Also on tap is the Victory Lane show where host John Roberts interviews the winning driver and crew chief with Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. That program was scheduled for 11PM on Sunday and is not TBA in terms of air times. Perhaps, SPEED may be forced to put Victory Lane into the TWIN spot this week and just move on.

Fox is a broadcast TV network, not a cable outfit like SPEED. Most probably, the decision to show cartoons as standby programming during the rain delay and not NASCAR programming was driven by that issue. Some wonderful programs like Behind the Headsets and the SPEED broadcast of the All-Star race would have fit the bill, but the Fox local stations are used to cartoons in that timeslot. As previously mentioned, some West Cost viewers got to watch infomercials for two hours.

Monday is a new day and optimism is high that the race will be run. This post will serve to host your comments on the Fox broadcast of the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600 and the RaceDay pre-race show. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

TDP is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you once again for taking the time to drop by.

Rain Dancing On ESPN2

It was SPEED that was on the air when the rain started during the Sprint Cup Series happy hour coverage from Lowe's Motor Speedway. Mike Joy pointed out that it looked like it was going to cause a long delay for the upcoming Nationwide Series race. He was right.

ESPN2 taking the air at 7PM led to two hours of pre-race coverage before the track was ready. Allen Bestwick has been working in NASCAR for decades and his conversations with Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty ranged from race tactics to drug policy issues. Analyst Andy Petree and all three ESPN pit reporters worked hard to cover the bases during the delay.

One interesting note was that the ESPN team did not interview Shawn Johnson, the Dancing with the Stars winner, who was at the track and is pictured above. That series is a huge entertainment hit for ABC and Johnson's appearance at the track was well-publicized. After all, they had two hours to fill.

Starting the race under caution brought Dr. Jerry Punch to the telecast and he led the TV team through an extended conversation while the field circled. Once underway, the track provided great racing action. Unfortunately, that did not translate up to the broadcast booth.

The LMS track lighting made great pictures and the ESPN Director was solid in updating the leaders while following the best racing. Kyle Busch coming from the rear of the pack was the story early and certainly gave the race a theme.

Credit goes to the ESPN Producer for breaking away from commercial to return to the live action. The network also took the opportunity to utilize a split-screen to keep the live action visible during interviews and green flag pit stops. As usual, the ESPN triple-split on the caution flag pitstops remains the industry standard.

Punch faded down the stretch and once again the hard work of Jarrett and Petree was on display as they inserted facts and updated race information. That duo has really been the saving grace for these telecasts. Regardless of the reason, Punch is sighing deeply and mumbling car numbers about one hour into these races. TDP has received multiple emails from fans actually concerned about Punch's health.

As rain closed-in to end the race, Bestwick and Daugherty again were on-camera and immediately the vibe changed as they teased Rusty Wallace and recapped the field. Bestwick ultimately closed-out the telecast after the win by Mike Bliss and tried to put the finishing order in some perspective. There was a good reason why.

In this race, the start-and-park issue was simply buried by ESPN. That is not fair to race fans. To have cars suddenly leave the race and never be mentioned again on the telecast is a fundamental mistake. It causes TV viewers to wonder what else is not being reported.

Pit reporter Shannon Spake worked hard in the absence of Jamie Little and Vince Welch, who were off working the Indy 500 for ABC. Spake is finding her on-air groove and perhaps hosting a week of NASCAR Now in the ESPN studios recently helped her confidence. Mike Massaro returned without missing a beat.

As the caution came out to shuffle the field and leave Bliss alone on the lead lap, Punch became lost. There was silence on the air as he tried to organize the information that he relies on for his continual updates of facts. The ability to simply talk about what was going-on once again could not be accomplished.

Despite the fact that this race was delayed by rain, it was still a short Nationwide event and not an extended Sprint Cup Series telecast. Punch got lost and never even mentioned Bliss had won until after his winner interview with Spake.

The rest of the ESPN team has shown they are ready for the Sprint Cup transition, but it is clear from the total lack of excitement, enthusiasm and information being offered to TV viewers that Punch needs to step aside. It certainly is a shame, but the experiment of putting one of the best pit reporters in NASCAR history in the play-by-play role has not worked.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking time out of your holiday weekend to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Coca-Cola 600 Delayed To Monday At Noon ET On Fox

After a lot of talking, some animation domination and perhaps some half-truths, the Coca-Cola 600 has been postponed by rain.

The race will now be telecast on Fox at 12PM ET on Monday with a special edition of RaceDay airing at 11AM on SPEED as the pre-race show. Cars should be on the track and rolling for a 12:05PM start.

After some rain fill by the Fox team, many NASCAR fans then had the pleasure of watching some cartoons that were perhaps surprising in their content to some. That was a shame, because Mike Joy and Chris Myers had led the Fox team through some great discussion about NASCAR topics in the news. The NASCAR on Fox pit reporters also offered some great interviews and updates during the rain delay portion of the show.

West Coast viewers were reporting to TDP that some Fox stations were actually showing infomercials that were grabbed at the last moment no doubt. Instead of live NASCAR coverage from the home of the sport, TV viewers were being asked to buy exercise equipment and increase their earning potential by unlocking the secrets of the Internet.

Jeff Hammond and Myers were playing the half-truth game with TV viewers and those fans using Twitter. Both first maintained that the race would start on time, then repeated over-and-over that the rain had stopped and the track was being dried.

The final NASCAR on Fox Twitter message read: "Sorry folks. Things change fast. As you probably know by now, race postponed to tomorrow at noon on FOX. Good night." That is what is known in the TV business as a fast getaway.

Hopefully, the race will start on time Monday and run the full distance. This post will host your comments about the rain delay coverage. Just click on the comments button to add your TV-related comments on this topic.

TDP will live blog the race coverage beginning at 12PM ET on Fox. Please join us.

Race On Hold Due To Rain: Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From LMS On Fox

7PM - The race is on hold due to rain and Fox has returned to regular programming. TDP will update you on the progress of drying the track.

This is a huge telecast for the NASCAR on Fox gang. There is only one more race for this TV team after today. It has been a very long season for Fox filled with all kinds of issues both on and off the track.

At 5PM it will be Chris Myers leading Fox onto the air from the Hollywood Hotel. He will be joined by Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond. These two will have an hour to fill before the green flag comes at 6:05PM. That may be delayed even further if the pesky rain showers that have been falling on LMS all day continue.

Mike Joy is the leader of the Fox team and he should be in all his glory at LMS. Larry McReynolds and Waltrip will join him in the booth for the call of this very long race. Down on pit road will be Steve Byrnes, Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda.

This race has a ton of great story lines and there will be plenty to talk about even if the rain delays the start. From Mark Martin and his resurgence to the success of Tony Stewart the on-track stories are good. Away from the track, Jeremy Mayfield's drug suspension and the Tuesday driver meeting called by NASCAR are certainly interesting.

Look for Digger to make his presence known as Fox only has two more race days to sell merchandise. How much of the animation and graphics will be used should be interesting to watch. No word on whether another cartoon will be inserted in the pre-race show.

Fox continues to struggle in the pits and has used all different kinds of triple and quad splits. LMS pit road is straight, so we may see the old quad box back again. At least the graphics for the race off have been good recently.

One new wrinkle in the Fox coverage has been side-by-side video boxes at the finish. One shows the winner slowing down while the other shows a wideshot of the rest of the field finishing. It was an improvement over not showing any car but the winner finishing the race, but does not work very well. Both ESPN and SPEED simply use a wideshot and let the lead lap cars or trucks race to the stripe.

No doubt Kyle Busch will be on Waltrip's mind at this track. It should be fun to listen to the commentary as things sort-out on the track. Busch is often spectacular at this track, but this race is the longest on the circuit.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Sprint Cup Series race from LMS on Fox. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by on this holiday weekend.

Live Blogging Indy 500 On ABC

Brent Musburger is down from his ranch and ready to lead the ABC team through another historic telecast of the Indy 500. Each season, TDP live blogs this one IRL race because it is truly a spectacle in auto racing.

Marty Reid will be coming to NASCAR in July to call the Nationwide races for ESPN2, but this Sunday he will handle the play-by-play on one of the biggest races on the planet. Joining him will be Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever.

Goodyear is the polite Canadian former driver who offers explanations and analysis. Cheever is the impulsive and emotional former owner who is often at odds with Goodyear in terms of reasons for actions on the track. The dynamic between the two is fun to watch.

Since ESPN sliced their IRL TV package in less than half this season, pit reporter Vince Welch has been working the NASCAR trail. Today, he returns to the IRL beat. Also on hand is Jamie Little, who has been full time on the NASCAR beat for several years now. The third pit reporter is Brienne Pedigo, an IRL regular. Finally, TV veteran Jack Arute rounds-out the reporting corps.

Hosting the entire telecast is ESPN's senior statesman, Brent Musburger. He has worked hard to fit in at Indy even as his NASCAR efforts flopped. Musburger was quietly removed from the ABC NASCAR races last season.

ESPN's head of field production is Jed Drake. He has taken the Indy 500 telecasts to a new level and eliminated a lot of the fluff and distractions of the past. This year's race should be squarely focused on the teams and drivers, instead of the celebrities and the gimmicks.

TDP invites you to watch the race with us and give us your views of the ABC coverage. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking some time out of your holiday weekend to join us.

Two TV Laps To Go For "NASCAR On Fox"

It certainly has been an interesting season for the NASCAR on Fox team. Both on and off the track things have been scrutinized from every angle as the TV ratings continue to slip for the Sprint Cup Series races.

Sunday is the final home game for the group as they telecast the longest race of the season from the Lowe's Motor Speedway. The Fox TV season ends in Dover, DE on the following Sunday. That is definitely an away game.

In Charlotte, the regular Fox crew will assemble yet again and follow two hours of pre-race coverage on SPEED with a 45 minute show of their own. Chris Myers has plenty to talk about from the Hollywood Hotel this week. Topics range from the actual racing to the upcoming Sprint Cup driver's meeting on Tuesday morning called by NASCAR.

Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond have been on-the-air on SPEED for the past few days and the transition over to Fox is always interesting to watch. As Myers does his act, fans can quickly realize how little real information and NASCAR news filters through on this pre-race show loaded with gimmicks and cartoons. What a change from the simple and straightforward approach of SPEED.

Mike Joy had a very long day on the air calling Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series activity Saturday on SPEED. He returns to Fox Sunday to call the longest race of the year and should be a huge change of pace for TV viewers from ESPN's Jerry Punch on Saturday night. Joy directs traffic, calls the action and is not afraid to tell viewers when something goes wrong.

Last year, this was the first race where Waltrip began his slow emotional meltdown that caught many by surprise. Whether it is age or perspective, Waltrip seems to be genuinely and deeply affected by the end of his participation in the Sprint Cup Series telecasts.

This was also the event that exposed his deep affection for Kyle Busch and his belief that the talent of this driver is very special. Waltrip is unapologetic for his comments and has continued this season to be a huge cheerleader for Busch. Perhaps, the recent All-Star race telecast was a good example of this issue.

Larry McReynolds is the hardest working man in NASCAR TV and he will once again transition directly into the TNT telecasts while continuing all his duties for SPEED. He has been overshadowed this season by both Waltrip and Digger, but continues to offer the kind of solid and analytical commentary that made him a fixture on the NASCAR TV scene years ago.

Joy returns to SPEED as his vintage car hobby lets him have a great perspective for that network's Barrett-Jackson car auction telecasts. He jokes about having the off-season to research and find car parts only to have to go back to work to pay for them.

Fox emphasized Digger this season and it cost them dearly in the court of public opinion. They over-sold the races and the short event in Phoenix turned into a disaster on the air. Finally, Fox Sports executive David Hill hosted a one hour chat on his lunch hour and basically told fans he was doing things his way and if they did not like it that was "tough."

All-in-all, it has been a roller coaster since Daytona. Regardless of whether or not it has been a fun trip or a rough road, one thing is certain. Two more telecasts and this season's ride will come to an end.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

ESPN May Have The Best Race Of The Weekend

The network did not televise practice. It did not show qualifying. The production team has not been on the air for two weeks. Now, ESPN gets a big Memorial Day present dumped in its lap with perhaps the best auto race of the weekend.

The struggles of the COT in the Sprint Cup Series have been well documented. On mile and a half tracks like the Lowe's Motor Speedway, passing is at a premium. On Sunday, the F-1 bunch races in Monaco where passing is almost impossible except on pit road. Later, the IRL tries to recapture the glory of the Indy 500 with a mediocre field and a series struggling with sponsorship woes.

The race with the most potential for competition and actual passing on the track is tonight's Nationwide Series race from LMS. Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty start the coverage with the pre-race show at 7PM.

Jarrett is on the pre-race because Rusty Wallace is on vacation. Also not on the broadcast are Jamie Little and Vince Welch. Both are away getting ready to work the Indy 500 for ABC on Sunday. NASCAR Now host Mike Massaro will jump back into his firesuit and work with Shannon Spake and Dave Burns on pit road.

It will be up to Dr. Jerry Punch to keep the excitement level high on this primetime Saturday night live TV telecast. This is the third season for Punch in the broadcast booth and he continues to have a tough time defining his role. Luckily, his booth mates Jarrett and Andy Petree have become proficient at filling-in the gaps.

ESPN continues to use the best triple-splits on the pit stops with outstanding graphics. The pictures should be great under the lights and the crowd looks to be strong. All the elements are in place and the biggest unknown factor is the weather.

Rain is in the area and ESPN2 viewers may be seeing a lot of Bestwick, Jarrett and Daugherty if the rain begins to fall. This telecast is scheduled to end at 10:30PM, but the next program is a re-air of the original "3" movie produced by the now defunct ESPN Original Entertainment.

This post will serve to host your comments about the live coverage of the Nationwide Series race from LMS on ESPN2. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking time out of your Memorial Day weekend to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

ESPN Stops In SPEED's Backyard

Last weekend it was the All-Star race and the TV activity surrounding that event. This weekend, SPEED is once again the dominant TV network at the Lowe's Motor Speedway when it comes to the amount of hours on the air. That seems to be fitting, as SPEED's new headquarters and studios are literally right down the street from the speedway.

Saturday brings SPEED back once again to cover the Sprint Cup Series early practice, Nationwide Series qualifying and the Cup Happy Hour. Then and only then does ESPN step-up and originate live coverage of the Nationwide Series race at 7PM ET on ESPN2.

Dale Jarrett is back from his vacation, so it is only fitting that Rusty Wallace enjoys the weekend off. NASCAR pit reporters Jamie Little and Vince Welch are working ABC's coverage of the Indy 500, so Mike Massaro will step-in to team with Shannon Spake and Dave Burns on pit road.

As usual, Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree will handle the commentary with Jarrett, once he is done working the pre-race show with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty.

Marty Smith has been the face of ESPN during these back-to-back race weekends as the network has only originated live reports for its NASCAR Now news program. As viewers have seen, Smith has been busy working stories ranging from Tony Stewart's first win as an owner to the continuing saga of suspended driver Jeremy Mayfield.

Now, it will be Punch's turn to finally lead ESPN onto the air with a live NASCAR race telecast from LMS. The intensity of this Nationwide Series race is hard to top. Cup drivers having fun, Nationwide regulars trying to impress and young drivers with absolutely nothing to lose make for a volatile NASCAR cocktail.

There are many good parts to ESPN's Nationwide coverage this season, including the best pit road camera coverage and the outstanding graphics package. The downsides have included the return of a suggested script for the races and the continued tough time of Punch in the booth. Now in year three, it is very hard to watch a great guy like Punch stuck in the play-by-play position.

As TV viewers know from the All-Star race, LMS makes great pictures at night under the original Musco track lighting system. Low-level infield lights shine into mirrors to illuminate the track without tall light towers blocking the view of the fans.

With the COT cars parked in the Cup garage, this Nationwide event promises to be fast-paced and intense from the start. While Bestwick will surely set the stage, it is going to be up to Punch to capture that enthusiasm and continue it throughout the broadcast.

During this time of the season, the NASCAR on ESPN team seems to just show-up for the Nationwide races and then leave town. The TV team will next have to wait-out the TNT gang before the ESPN/ABC coverage of both top NASCAR series begins down the stretch in July.

So, SPEED kicks-off Saturday at 2PM and leads the NASCAR fans directly into the ESPN2 Nationwide Series telecast at 7PM. The complete weekend TV schedule is located on the right side of the TDP homepage.

There will be a new post up as we live blog the Nationwide race, but please feel free to add your comments on the SPEED coverage or the ESPN TV team to this post. TDP is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by on this holiday weekend.

(Updated) NASCAR Media May Not Be Taking This Friday Off After All

Confirmed: No Mayfield lawsuit filed by the close of business on Friday. NASCAR fans can actually watch the racing and leave the legal drama until next week.

Updated: NASCAR has called a mandatory meeting of all licensed Sprint Cup Series drivers for Tuesday morning at the Research & Development Center in Concord, NC. The rumor is this closed-door meeting will address the current drug policy issues. TDP now has confirmation that Brian France and Mike Helton will be at the meeting in which drivers can ask any questions. NASCAR spokesman referring to the format as "town hall style."

Thursday was a big day at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Ryan Newman earned the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 and SPEED was on the air with NASCAR from noon through 9:30PM.

On this very unique week, the LMS track is dark on Friday as the racing focus shifts across the street to the dirt track. The SPEED TV crew follows the racing for live sprint car coverage that begins at 8PM.

The SPEED Stage rolls down the road to downtown Charlotte for the annual event called Speed Street. The Trackside bunch leaves the confines of the track and takes their act into the rowdy crowd for what should be a memorable 7PM live show. Jimmie Johnson and NASCAR Hall of Fame Director Winston Kelly are the featured guests.

The traveling NASCAR media began Thursday with the dedication of the deadline media room at the LMS infield media center in the name of David Poole. The picture above is posted courtesy of David Yeazell at The Bleacher Report, a great sports website. Poole was a strong presence on the NASCAR scene and the media dynamic of the sport is still trying to sort itself out after his passing.

While normally busy on Fridays at the track, that same deadline media bunch may now find their planned day-off rudely interrupted. It will not be by racing news, but by another chapter in the increasingly difficult to understand saga of Jeremy Mayfield.

Bill Diehl, who is Mayfield's attorney, has hinted that he may start legal action against NASCAR on Friday in a North Carolina court. It seems that Mr. Diehl is very skilled at using the media for maximum publicity in support of his client.

He appeared on Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody to issue veiled threats that NASCAR had defamed his client and once again suggested that Mayfield did not consume any recreational drug as publicly alleged by NASCAR Chairman Brian France.

While this may be a complete headache to many fans, it is big news in terms of the first official challenge to a complex and sophisticated drug testing plan newly installed by NASCAR for this season. What topic Diehl chooses to attack may finally signal for all the direction Mayfield will be taking in his legal challenge.

Unfortunately for Diehl, there is no NASCAR Now program on Friday and the only live NASCAR show scheduled for SPEED is Trackside. To make the ESPNEWS line-up or crack into SportsCenter at this time of the year, Mayfield's allegations against NASCAR would have to be earth-shattering.

It will be the Internet that carries the Friday Mayfield news and not TV. The same tired journalists who spent a long Thursday at the track will no doubt be front and center as this ugly confrontation continues to escalate. TDP will create a new post if and when all of this begins to happen.

Diehl might be well-advised to consider taking the holiday weekend to talk things over with Mayfield instead of using the off-day to try and generate even more media coverage of this issue. Fans are sounding-off in loud numbers that all this drama is turning them against Mayfield simply because of the half-truths and confusing allegations by him since the suspension was announced.

Marty Smith, Jenna Fryer, Bob Pockrass, Mike Mulhern and the rest of the media bunch were looking forward to a nice day off. Instead, they may well find themselves back on the phone and typing on the computer if Diehl follows through on his threat.

TDP welcomes your comments on these topics. Just click the comments button to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SPEED Handles Thursday Live From Lowe's

The SPEED team is handling the Thursday coverage from Lowe's Motor Speedway of a full day of on-track activity.

On the air at noon, the coverage begins with a one hour version of NASCAR Live hosted by John Roberts. The day ends with Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 7PM featuring the NASCAR on Fox announce team.

SPEED is very comfortable at LMS, which is right down the road from the new SPEED TV headquarters and studios. Almost all the SPEED crew is at the track for this day of coverage.

This post will serve to host any comments you may have about the SPEED coverage of the Thursday activities from LMS. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly site, please keep that in mind when posting.

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

Daugherty Talks NBA vs. NASCAR On Drug Issues

The topic that just will not go away got a little more intense on Wednesday. As NASCAR Now host Mike Massaro put it, Jeremy Mayfield has "lawyered up."

Instead of more ill-timed comments to the media, the Mayfields have hired an attorney and stopped talking. Bill Diehl, the same attorney who helped Elliott Sadler through his recent employment issues, is now working for the Mayfields.

Click here for the link to ESPN Lead Reporter Marty Smith's story on how Diehl has already contacted NASCAR and been sent the complete toxicology report on Mayfield. That action alone should end lots of speculation about who knew what and when.

Smith appeared from Kasey Kahne Racing, where Kahne was holding an open house for the fans this week to show-off his large sprint car shop. Smith has been at the forefront of this story and once again simply kept TV viewers up to date on how this issue was progressing.

The one person with perhaps a very unique perspective on this is Brad Daugherty. As a former professional basketball player, Daugherty had been involved in drug testing programs administered by the NBA for years. It was an excellent choice to have Daugherty follow Smith on the show.

The first point Daugherty reinforced was that there was no list of illegal substances given to the teams prior to the new policy beginning. Calling it a "slippery slope," he stated that his own small team was trying to be proactive but there was really no road map to follow.

What Daugherty was referring to was the now almost mandatory disclosure of any prescription medications taken by drivers, crew members or officials. There is a fine line between forcing someone to disclose what may be a private and personal medical issue and their legal right to privacy. This is especially true when the medication in question has nothing to do with NASCAR's safety concerns.

"If you are going to participate in this sport, you need to know what the drugs are on that list," said Daugherty. "The drugs that put you in the faulty areas."

Massaro referenced the NBA and asked Daugherty to compare that league's drug policy with NASCAR's new program. "Driving a race car you are putting your life at risk as well as the other participants," said Daugherty. He pointed out that the chief concern of the NBA was simply "cleaning up the game."

Calling the new NASCAR policy stringent and tough to circumvent, Daugherty made a point of saying the entire drug testing program was long overdue.

During the segment of the program from Kahne's shop, Smith referenced the fact that Mayfield was Kahne's former teammate and asked Kahne how he felt about the suspension issue. "It needs to be done with," said Kahne complaining about the now drawn-out bickering between Mayfield and NASCAR.

Kahne related that he got along great with Mayfield and was surprised when he heard the suspension news. Smith asked about a list of banned substances. "Maybe there needs to be a list," said Kahne. "But, I'm fine with what we got." Kahne related his diet as regular food, water and Budweiser.

Toward the end of the show, Massaro brought in reporter Ed Hinton for a little debate with Smith. It did not take long for the topic of Mayfield's suspension to arise. As usual, neither reporter minced their words.

"NASCAR has got to open up about this," said Hinton. "They are looking worse and worse...all the time. I think Mayfield would even welcome it if they said OK here is what the substance is. NASCAR is hemorrhaging credibility here, not Mayfield."

"Transparency is particularly paramount in this particular instance," said Smith while agreeing with Hinton. "Mayfield has thrown the gauntlet down. It is a he-said she-said of historical proportions. It is about credibility and NASCAR suffers every single second this wades on."

ESPN has again used NASCAR Now to confront another touchy issue that is upsetting the sport. Daugherty, Smith and Hinton worked quite well with Massaro to get the latest information out to fans on this topic.

Hopefully, now that the Mayfield situation has settled down, the sport can return to celebrating Memorial Day weekend with some good racing on live TV in front of a big crowd. What a nice change of pace that would be at a time when NASCAR could really use one.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NASCAR TV Needs Darrell Waltrip After Fox Is Done

This NASCAR season has been unlike any other in history. The economy is reeling, the US automakers are struggling and the COT still can't run 20 laps at Indy on one set of Goodyear Eagles.

For good measure, throw-in the first drug policy suspension of an active driver, Carl Edwards' high-profile Talladega crash and the fact that the dean of the NASCAR media corps recently passed away.

One quick check of the NASCAR calendar reveals there are six months of racing left to go. The 2009 season is only halfway over.

As NASCAR fans know, the Sprint Cup Series TV pie is divided into three big pieces. Fox, TNT and ESPN each paid the piper and now have one custom-made slice that fits perfectly into their TV plans.

This works well for NASCAR in terms of dollars, but presents a growing problem. Once the Fox portion is done, Kyle Petty takes over from Darrell Waltrip for the summer as the lead TV analyst. As the Chase for the Championship approaches, Petty then gives way to Dale Jarrett who takes TV viewers through the end of the season.

Petty has certainly been a breath of fresh air and Jarrett is just as poised and polished on TV as his father was during his time. These two also share something else. They are both relatively new as NASCAR TV analysts.

For the past several seasons, once the Fox portion of the Sprint Cup Series schedule is over, Darrell Waltrip drops from the TV radar. Elliott Sadler steps-in for Waltrip on Trackside and the SPEED team handles practice and qualifying until ESPN takes over.

While Waltrip still offers a column on the Fox Sports website, it is certainly not the same once he is gone from the TV scene. The reason is very clear. NASCAR does not have a senior spokesman on TV who can offer a perspective with Waltrip's level of experience.

Jarrett, Petty, Evernham and Petree are just a step behind Waltrip in terms of years in the sport. They are able to speak to current issues quite well, but lack that extra bit of perspective that Waltrip brings to the table.

At the age of 62, Waltrip's TV presence and ability to speak directly to NASCAR issues that get both the fans and the media talking has never been greater. He evokes emotion and passion from fans who either agree or disagree with his opinions. That is why it would be such a shame if he is allowed to fall-off the TV radar once again this season.

Wind Tunnel comes alive when Waltrip interacts with Dave Despain on NASCAR topics. ESPN2's NASCAR Now has featured Waltrip several times with great results. Perhaps, Waltrip on a Monday roundtable show with Ed Hinton and Marty Smith might provide some memorable moments.

Everyone, including us, has an opinion about Waltrip in the booth during the races. That is not the point of this column. Once the racing on Fox is done, NASCAR has less of a national TV presence without Waltrip's viewpoints and perspective being available to viewers.

Hopefully, in this season of turmoil, SPEED and ESPN might consider some additional use of Waltrip when topics have to be addressed that require someone with a little bit of a longer view of the sport and the "s'purnce" to back it up.

There are two more races on the NASCAR on Fox TV schedule. Waltrip steps away from the TV side of the business this season on May 31st.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

"Drowning Face Down" While Waiting For The Truth (Continually Updated)

1PM ET Wednesday update: Jeremy Mayfield has hired an attorney and it looks like NASCAR will be defending itself in court. Click here for Marty Smith's story.

6PM ET Tuesday update: reporter Terry Blount said on NASCAR Now that Dr. Black has now publicly ruled-out the substances in Claritin as being the ones involved in the positive Mayfield test. Black added he personally advised Mayfield of the drug in question that caused his violation.

8PM ET Monday update: Click here for AP Reporter Jenna Fryer's story of Dr. Black stating directly to her that he spoke with Mayfield personally and confirmed the substance for which Mayfield had tested positive. This came after the 5PM NASCAR Now show on ESPN2.

9AM ET Monday update: ESPN's Marty Smith confirming he will be on NASCAR Now at 5PM to update the Mayfield situation.

8PM ET Sunday update: No changes. Mayfield did suggest NASCAR wants to keep Claritin as a sponsor and he feels that played a role in their lack of information given to him.

12:30PM ET Sunday update: For those asking if Mayfield's camera crew at LMS was part of a NASCAR TV series, here is an update:

Mayfield's every move was captured by a local freelance videographer. The camera operator was approached by NASCAR Media Group, the league's television licensing arm, because he hadn't been officially cleared to shoot video during the race.

After providing his contact information, he was allowed to continue on. NASCAR owns the rights to all video captured at the track during a race weekend and reserves the right to confiscate those images if it chooses to.

Click here for the full post from's David Newton.

10:15AM ET Sunday update: Click here for the first video from Mayfield and a great story from Marty Smith of ESPN. Please read the story, it has some disturbing details.

9AM ET Sunday update: NASCAR fires back with PR exec. Ramsey Poston's statement: "Jeremy Mayfield was verbally informed of the substance on three occasions last week by NASCAR's Medical Review Officer."

11:45PM ET Saturday update: article (click here to read) sums-up Mayfield's comments and has direct quotes. Reveals the reality of the situation as he sees it.

9:15PM ET Saturday update: Click here for the link to the Dustin Long story about his conversation with Mayfield on the drug suspension. Mayfield denies ever being told what the drug was and still has no knowledge. Probably a lawsuit coming.

8:40PM ET Saturday update: Mayfield was spotted on top of a hospitality trailer in the infield at LMS. Outstanding reporter Dustin Long then talked to Mayfield. Here is the message Long quickly sent:

Mayfield denies taking illegal drug ... says not been told by Nascar what caused positive test ... hints @ legal action

That certainly helps to understand where this issue is in the Mayfield camp. Thanks to Dustin for the info. AP reporter Jenna Fryer said she was "stunned" to see Mayfield at the track.

Update: It is not known who is advising Mayfield about how to approach this issue. Often, both a lawyer and a public relations agency get involved when someone in the public eye has to deal with a troubling situation like a drug suspension. One thing, however, remains the truth. Mayfield could quiet the entire situation with the NASCAR media with one or two well-constructed sentences. Speculation and innuendo can only be ended by one thing. That is the truth.

Click here to review the TDP story about the recent video released by the rock group Saving Abel and starring Jeremy Mayfield. In the video, Mayfield is being portrayed as a racer who is mired in an endless struggle to get back to the big time.

The irony of this video and Mayfield's recent drug suspension has not been lost on many NASCAR fans and journalists. Today, we are waiting for Mayfield's response to the most recent news from NASCAR about his suspension and current status.

Click here for the original TDP column on Mayfield and the over 100 comments from readers.

Earlier this week, Shana Mayfield indicated that she would be the Mayfield Motorsports interim owner and JJ Yeley would be driving for the team. She also said her husband would be addressing the issues currently facing him with a statement this weekend.

So far, the NASCAR media has made a mess of this story. Only ESPN has been front-and-center with the issue and addressed it on NASCAR Now from a clear-cut news perspective. The decision by SPEED to avoid it on Sunday during Wind Tunnel and on Monday during This Week In NASCAR was something that network will have to live with as the story continues to progress.

Once Mayfield issues his statement, TDP will update this column. In the meantime, please feel free to share with us your thoughts on the media coverage of this issue. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"This Week In NASCAR" Sticks To Basics

The evolution of this season's new Monday night show on SPEED continued this week. Steve Byrnes hosted an hour of This Week In NASCAR that stuck to the basics for several different reasons.

Michael Waltrip and Chad Knaus made up the expert panel. These two have settled into a comfortable relationship on the air. Knaus offers his analytical style of commentary and Waltrip does his best to offer opinions in support of the sport.

This week's review of the All-Star race gave both panelists an opportunity to provide a lot of what they do best. Knaus broke down the strategy and details that contributed to Stewart's ultimate win. Knaus always references his #48 car and team, but has done a good job of keeping things in perspective for the viewers.

Waltrip sang songs, emotionally talked about the history of NASCAR and generally had a good time. He has been doing exactly this same thing on Monday nights for a very long time. This season, even his over-the-top commercial plugs have become more humorous than annoying.

TWIN producers have allowed the panel to discuss off-track topics in the past, but have avoided the Jeremy Mayfield suspension completely. This program focused strictly on the review and preview elements mixed with the frequent sales features.

Right or wrong, this is the approach they have taken. It certainly suggests that Mayfield's name and part-time status played a role in this decision. Had the driver suspended been named Johnson or Waltrip, there is little doubt it would be a topic up for active discussion.

It seems that Walrip and Knaus are also content not to offer their opinions of the Mayfield issue on TV. This show stayed within the comfortable walls it has established over this season and offered a program full of good racing information mixed with some fun. Whether that is enough to please the NASCAR fans or not can only be determined by the viewers.

TDP welcomes your comments on this program. Just click on the comments button below and add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Unique Trio Works For "NASCAR Now"

It was certainly a big Monday on ESPN where NASCAR was concerned. The All-Star race had resulted in some fireworks and race winner Tony Stewart was probably still smiling. Two drivers without a smile on their faces late Saturday night were Kyle Busch and Jeremy Mayfield.

Busch put on a show and then faded to seventh after some damage to his car in the final laps. Mayfield put on a show after coming down from an infield hospitality trailer and speaking out about his drug suspension. While Busch walked to his car and drove home after the event, Mayfield was asked to leave the area by NASCAR.

It was ESPN's Marty Smith who climbed up and spoke briefly to Mayfield before the rest of the NASCAR media showed-up. "It might be time to face the music," said Smith to Mayfield. "It might be time to go ahead and talk." In the blink of an eye, Mayfield came down and addressed the reporters.

NASCAR Now played the video of a candid Mayfield speaking clearly about the issue in a very defined timeline scenario. "Everybody that know me knows better," said Mayfield. Those would be words to remember for later in the show. Mayfield ended his comments by saying "that is the whole truth." He was very convincing.

NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton had clearly had enough of this issue as he was shown staring down a nameless reporter who asked about Mayfield. The female reporter asked what Pemberton's response was to Mayfield's statement that he was never "given proof" of what he was suspended for. "I'm not going to discuss Jeremy Mayfield tonight," answered Pemberton.

Smith tagged the piece by saying that licensed NASCAR participants in the testing program want to know what Mayfied ingested. Smith singled-out Jeff Burton's comments that disclosing the substance would lend credibility to NASCAR's new policy. In closing, Smith related his conversation with Dr. Black from the testing program.

Once again, this nationally recognized drug testing expert stated Mayfield was clearly told the substance that violated the policy. Black also stated specifically to Smith that any amount of Claritin-D could not have caused the positive reading.

Smith called the situation, "a he-said she-said for the ages."

Host Allen Bestwick now faced perhaps the toughest task of all. When Smith was done, Bestwick turned to his most experienced NASCAR expert on the panel to follow-up on this touchy issue. He came face-to-face with Ray Evernham.

This season, Evernham has worked on rebuilding his image and restoring his credibility. His comments on this program would go a long way toward continuing that process. He first acknowledged "the bloggers" and the fairness concerns expressed by some if Evernham talked about this situation. The history between Evernham and Mayfield is well known by most.

In choosing to address the issue, Evernham showed again why he is a natural on TV. "At some point in time you have to trust the sanctioning body," he said. His opinion was that NASCAR feels this is not an issue related to Mayfield's prescription or Claritin. Then, he did the right thing in a big way.

"In all the time that Jeremy Mayfield drove for me and the time that we spent together socially I never saw anything that would indicate to me that Mayfield would have this kind of problem," stated Evernham. That extra touch of providing a balanced viewpoint made the concerns about his statements fade away.

Rick Craven provides a strong grounding influence on this program. He reminded the panel and the viewers that the real reason for all of this is safety. Randy LaJoie is the plain-spoken racer that speaks his mind. His opinion was that Mayfield already had a black eye and his comments were only making things worse.

Before the Mayfield segment, the panel had reviewed the All-Star evening and the circumstances leading up to Stewart's win. Later in the show, Darian Grubb was the guest and all of the panel members got to ask questions. This change has been great as the perspectives of all the panelists can come through in the questions.

The program ended with a preview of the Coca-Cola 600 coming up next weekend. Evernham was again on top of the information by explaining how tire strategy will play a key role. Craven and Evernham are a good combination in previewing these events, drawing on personal experience to set the table for fans.

ESPN has certainly hit on a great trio to work with Bestwick. The intellectual Craven, the analytical Evernham and the outspoken LaJoie combine to offer a fast-paced and informative hour. As he has since the beginning of this season, Bestwick has let others take the spotlight. Just like a good referee, he keeps order and introduces the topics to be discussed.

Of all the NASCAR Now programs since 2007, this may have been one of the best.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Bigger Not Always Better For All-Star TV Coverage

It is all around us and has been a part of our society for a long time. Bigger is better. Larger burgers, bigger pizzas and the super big-gulp. The biggest pick-up truck with the most towing power pulling a nice big boat.

Over in sports TV land, bigger has been a theme for a long time as well. The Super Bowl TV coverage runs all day long. SportsCenter is repeated on ESPN every morning and afternoon for hours. The 24 hour world of cable TV sports is available on several channels.

Three years ago, the TV coverage of the All-Star race was expanded by SPEED. This year, the pre-race show came on-air at 4PM. The wrap-up show was scheduled to end at midnight. That's a lot of TV around a non-points race with a limited field.

RaceDay tried to fill three hours, but it was a bit rough at times. John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace did their act on the SPEED Stage, but that trio ran out of content after about an hour and then looked and sounded like three guys completely out of gas. Humidity and hype took a toll on this group.

Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler once again teamed-up to provide the real content of this program. From Venturini's "Real Deal" with a flip-flop clad eventual winner Tony Stewart to Sadler giving the Coke-sipping drivers a hard time, this duo has been very important to SPEED all season long.

Rutledge Wood is still figuring out who to be and how to present himself on national TV. A solid job of interviewing the notoriously difficult Kevin Costner mixed with an aimless wander through the infield concert crowd to reinforce this issue. SPEED has bounced this on-air personality around more than almost any other. Someone this popular with the drivers and teams should be presented as more than a just a clown.

The burnout contest was a mess. Judges who had no clue, rules that made no sense and drivers who tried to be as polite as possible in their remarks about this thirty minute TV filler. Even with a charity attached, it did not make for compelling TV.

Once again, no NACAR fans appeared on SPEED. The very people keeping the sport in business appear to be nothing more than background scenery to the network. Try as they might to say fans have a meaning, there is virtually no fan input on these SPEED TV shows.

RaceDay brought along a lot of fluff and every single piece was needed to make the three-hour show work. By the end, it was almost a relief to get to yet another thirty minutes of pre-race programming. This time, the big guns came out.

It was Krista Voda and a smiling Jeff Hammond who joined viewers inside the Hollywood Hotel to set-up the evening. Voda really has a knack for hosting these types of programs and it showed. Hammond was without Darrell Waltrip and he certainly took the opportunity to shine. No goofy jokes and no personal references, just good racing commentary from someone who has been there.

The NASCAR on Fox crew handled the race. Mike Joy has been down this road before and once again kept things in order. The pit reporters were muted because of the format, but the interviews and updates were on target. What was not on target was Waltrip's perspective on Kyle Busch.

Larry McReynolds offers great technical updates and treats every team equally. As the feature race progressed, Waltrip's singular enthusiasm for Busch was simply out of place. It came at the expense of the other teams and drivers in the race.

It certainly is his right to offer his view of things as he sees it, but that viewpoint now seems to involve a fascination with the young driver. TDP spoke about this last year as the Fox portion of the season wound-down. Waltrip's screaming during the All-Star race just reinforced this view.

As usual, SPEED made great pictures and sound. HD video works well under the LMS lights and the network offered four additional cameras to fans at the website. All-Star Buddy worked well and was a reminder of just how much fun the full RaceBuddy service will be during the TNT portion of the season.

It certainly was lucky that NASCAR brought back the final ten lap sprint or this season's All-Star night would have been remembered as rather bland. Nothing beats a feel-good story in NASCAR and Stewart delivered down the stretch.

Perhaps, the last couple of laps of exciting racing will be what many fans remember, but for those who watched eight hours of NASCAR TV on Saturday, there was a whole lot of fluff mixed-in with a smattering of actual racing.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.