Saturday, October 31, 2009

Live Blogging The Camping World Trucks From Talladega (3:30PM - SPEED)

Update: Since live programming ran long, we are leaving the comments section open for your reaction to the special Trackside program now on SPEED.

It is a rainy and dark day in Talladega. Saturday activity has been rained out early and fans are waiting to see if the Camping World Truck Series race will get in.

Krista Voda is ready to present The Setup at 3:30PM. SPEED will go on the air as scheduled and see what happens. This is the Halloween version of the show, so costumes will be the order of the day.

The telecast team includes Rick Allen on play-by-play with Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip as the analysts. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will handle pit road.

The good fun of the pre-race show will hopefully extend to the racing. The CWTS field is very divers. NASCAR veterans are mixed with some less experienced drivers and a smattering of start and park trucks.

SPEED is outstanding at presenting the truck races with a singular focus on the racing. In this series the battles are almost always at the front of the pack and the lead is something that changes hands a lot. No Chase, few egos and lots of real racers make this series a blast to watch.

Keep an eye out for the long camera shot on the backstretch. This really shows the positioning as the trucks get ready for the passing zone into Turn 3. Low-angle speed shots are effective at this speedway when the field is rolling as a pack.

SPEED uses far fewer in-car camera shots then ESPN and that really allows the viewer to keep a perspective on the field as the race is in progress. A wideshot at the finish is mandatory as the trucks always fight to the stripe.

This post will host your comments about the Camping World Truck Series race on SPEED from Talladega. 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.

Live Blog: Larry McReynolds Speaks Out On Sirius (Updated)

Wednesday evening NASCAR on Fox analyst Larry McReynolds took to Sirius Satellite Radio to speak out in anger on a topic recently in the media.

McReynolds was apparently upset about the quotes used in some recent articles published by veteran NASCAR reporter Dustin Long. Click here for a direct link to this series of interviews featuring McReynolds, Kyle Petty and Jimmy Spencer.

Basically, Long gathered three NASCAR TV personalities together for a candid conversation about a wide variety of NASCAR topics. The articles featured many direct quotes and some comments that may be considered controversial in the very small world of NASCAR.

McReynolds was clearly upset and indicated that his belief was that the negative aspects of the sport were emphasized without the positive being presented as well. The thrust of his comments were that much more was said in the conversation but not contained in the final article.

Dustin Long is the current president of the National Motorsports Press Association. A short time ago, he took his place on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. He is a well-respected journalist who works for the Landmark Newspapers chain. He has almost twenty years of sports journalism experience.

Larry McReynolds got his first crew chief job back in 1985. He is best known for his time with Yates and then Richard Childress Racing. In 2000, he joined the NASCAR on Fox team as an analyst. He now also works for SPEED in a wide variety of roles, including his own program called NASCAR Performance.

Update: Here is the NASCAR response in full:

There's been a lot of chatter about comments made by Jimmy Spencer, Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty, all TV personalities, about the state of NASCAR. Their words were harsh to be sure. The most common question I've gotten is, "what is NASCAR going to do to them?" Simply, nothing. There is nothing we can or would do. We've long believed in having an independent media. One of the things that makes NASCAR, or any sport great, is debate. That's healthy for sports. However, I have had my share of strongly worded discussions with members of the media when their coverage was inaccurate or unfair. So, it's a reasonable question to ask, were their comments accurate? Were they fair?

Spencer contends that the economy has absolutely nothing to do with attendance. "People will come to events if it's worth coming to," he says. In a sense, that is true and quite frankly I'm damn proud of the crowds we've had this year. By any estimate the average attendance is over 100,000 fans at each race. NASCAR has 17 of the 20 largest sporting events of the year - that's good in any economy. But to think the economy hasn't had any affect is just wrong. Going into the season, more than a third of NFL teams were in danger of having local games blacked out this year because they could not sellout. Those worries were indeed justified, as several games have already been blacked out. In addition, MLB had the biggest drop in ticket sales in 50 years. So, has America turned against all major sports? Of course not.

Spencer also takes a shot at the on track competition, "it's just not where it needs to be," he claims. Anyone can throw out an opinion like that but what does it mean? What's that based on? Take a look at Spencer's career, he won two races in 1994 (and earned more than million in his career). In that year, there were an average of 9.2 leaders per race and an average of 18.9 lead changes with an average margin of victory of 2.85 seconds. Oh yeah, 1994 was the last year when a race winner lapped the entire field. How does that compare to today? There are an average of 10 leaders per race and an average of 18.8 lead changes with an average margin of victory of an astounding 1.1 seconds. Here's what I have to say about the competition today: NASCAR is the best racing in the world, period.

While Spencer made most of the comments, Larry Mac and Kyle seemed to happily agree and piled on too. People like to **** about things and that's fine. Some just like to stir up controversy. But when you are a paid broadcaster shouldn't there be some kind of standard and responsibility for what you say? Could you imagine John Madden complaining about the NFL or Joe Buck telling fans that baseball wasn't worth going to?

Throwing out "controversial" statements isn't "telling it the way it is" or "righteous" if there are no facts and is driven by ego. It's meaningless. Every executive at NASCAR would be quick to say that there is room for improvement. We know that not all fans are satisfied and we've taken steps to improve NASCAR on and off the track. We also are careful to include the industry on all key decisions; that's why we held a Town Hall meeting with drivers and owners earlier this year (and will continue to hold more). We want to be the standard for all auto racing. We're proud of the drivers today and the racing. We want to make it even better and even more competitive.

The real question here is what are their employers going to do? David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports and Hunter Nickell, the president of SPEED (all three are on SPEED's payroll and McReynolds is on Fox's), are the ones who should be concerned. Fair or not, broadcasters essentially telling the fans to stop watching the races is not a good thing.

It would seem that the last paragraph of this suggests that there should be some sort of suspension or termination over the opinions offered by Petty, Spencer and McReynolds. That certainly is something I have never heard NASCAR say before.

As the day unfolds, we are going to get your opinions on this topic and update any media links that might be published on this topic. To add your opinion on this issue, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for helping us with this topic today.

NASCAR vs. College Football On Saturday (Updated)

Update: Sprint Cup Series qualifying has been cancelled due to rain. Trucks still set for 3:30PM but weather continues to be a problem. Will update as needed.

With the Nationwide Series taking the weekend off, ESPN2 is adding yet another college football game to the line-up. In the world of NASCAR TV partners, Saturday is going to be a match-up of the ESPN networks vs. SPEED.

The Sprint Cup Series qualifying coverage goes head-to-head with college football on ESPN, ESPNU and ESPN2 at 12PM ET. Steve Byrnes gets the task of leading the NASCAR brigade with Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond alongside. Bob Dillner and Wendy Venturini are the reporters.

SPEED does the best coverage of qualifying hands down. Every car is seen, the emphasis is on the action on the track and interviews are not intrusive. Qualifying at Talladega does eventually tell a story, but in many ways it is meaningless to most teams. Flat on the floor, no drafting partner and only two cars going home.

It will be the Camping World Trucks that take to the Talladega track next. Krista Voda and her pre-race show, The Setup, will hit the air at 3:30PM. This is exactly the moment when the next set of college football games begin on the ESPN networks.

It will be teams like Boston College, Wake Forest and Michigan up against the dynamic duo of Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander. These veterans have covered the entire pit road with just two voices for a very long time. There is simplicity and focus in SPEED's truck series TV production so using only two pit reporters actually works quite well.

Calling perhaps one of the most exciting CWTS races of the season will be Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip. When Waltrip shows up with his analyst face on instead of his huckster personality, he is a valuable asset to the telecast.

There is a wide gap in experience between the top trucks in the field and those just hanging on or trying to simply start and park. It looks like there will be a smaller number of trucks pulling off early in the event. The CWTS needs a good showing at this track and with the Nationwide Series off, this Saturday afternoon may mean a whole lot to the fate of this series beyond 2010.

SPEED's stripped-down old school approach to the CWTS TV package is well known. No infield studio, cutaway car or kiddie cartoons. No Tech Garage and no animated colors from Draft Tracker. The focus is on the teams and drivers, not who is calling the race for the TV network.

TDP will live blog the truck race, so feel free to add your comments during qualifying to this post. We also hope to hear your opinions on the other topics and personalities mentioned above. To add your comment, just click on he comments button below.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet, see you tomorrow for the truck race live blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interesting Friday Ahead For SPEED

Just when you thought the Chase was getting a bit boring, business is about to pick up. SPEED has an all-day NASCAR Marathon from Talladega that should feature something for everyone.

On the track, there will be two sessions of Sprint Cup Series practice and coverage of qualifying for the Camping World Truck Series. Away from the track, things are getting stranger by the hour.

After Michael Waltrip's recent accident and subsequent questionable sobriety behind the wheel, AJ Allmendinger was stopped Wednesday night while driving through the very same town. This time, the intoxicated NASCAR personality was not so lucky.

Allmendinger was arrested for DUI, but instead of spending time behind bars with a public mugshot he was sent home after being cited and signing a promise to appear in court. That decision might have been just as positive for his career as picking up the #43 ride for next season. After the Waltrip warm-up, Allmendinger's mugshot would literally have traveled around the world online.

John Roberts starts the day for SPEED with NASCAR Live at 1:30PM. It should be interesting to see who the producer assigns reporters Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler to interview. If Allmendinger is not on the list, there are others who should be. One of them is named Larry McReynolds.

Wednesday, McReynolds took to Sirius Satellite radio to vent his new found anger about the recent series of interview articles published by veteran reporter Dustin Long. In a very public way, McReynolds basically blamed Long for painting him in a negative light. He went so far as to suggest that NASCAR personalities should no longer talk with Long due to issues of trust.

Long is currently the president of the National Motorsports Press Association. He has a long track record of accurate reporting mixed with informed opinions. Perhaps, McReynolds might like an opportunity to clear the air on TV. At least that would give him the opportunity to wipe whatever egg is remaining off his face.

On the track, McReynolds and company will cover both Sprint Cup Series practices. These sessions are often more exciting than parts of the race as the drivers practice seeing how their cars run in the front and back of the pack, as well as how well they draft. This is one session where in-car camera views are a blast.

Rick Allen will lead Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip through Camping World Truck Series qualifying at 5PM. Waltrip has been silent on his recent impaired driving issue. It should be interesting to see if the Allmendinger incident gets a comment.

The evening caps with Trackside at 7PM that brings McReynolds into view again. The panel also includes host Steve Byrnes with Jeff Hammond and Elliot Sadler. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are the guests.

Adding the outstanding Dave Despain on Assignment program about Talladega and a repeat of Inside the Headsets gives SPEED a solid nine hours of NASCAR programming on Friday.

With the topics noted above and two NASCAR series on the track, this should very much be an interesting Friday for SPEED.

This post will serve to host your comments about Friday's NASCAR TV. 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.

SPEED's Memorable Halloween Weekend Returns

It's difficult to describe just how hard I laughed as SPEED's Camping World Truck Series team slowly unveiled themselves in Halloween costumes last year.

The picture above does not do justice to the faces of the drivers in the garage when confronted by Ray Dunlap as Dorothy (complete with Toto and the picnic basket) and Adam Alexander in full Good Witch gear, including the wand.

This was one of the many things that has endeared SPEED's truck series TV crew to the fans over the past few years. A lot of SPEED's NASCAR programming is produced by the NASCAR Media Group. This includes the programs from the SPEED Stage and the Monday night TWIN series.

The trucks, however, are produced by SPEED's own staff and operate as a stand-alone unit. The results have been great for years. However, after a groundswell of fan support last season that began to give the trucks a solid identity and great ratings, the bottom fell out.

After the troubles with the economy, the trucks took a huge hit. Sponsors were instantly gone, teams were parked and the bottom feeders came out to fill the field. Earlier this season in a race, 12 trucks in a field of less than 40 started and then simply parked to get paid. It's now a regular situation.

Salvation for the series and a new lease on life for 2010 may come with the Saturday afternoon race from Talladega. With the Sprint Cup Series along for a Sunday race, Kyle Busch will cross over to the trucks. In addition, a wild collection of drivers from Max Papis to Steve Park will also be in the field.

As many fans have heard, Mike Wallace and his daughter Chrissy are trying to be the first father-daughter team in the truck series. Chrissy has to qualify on time, but she has ARCA experience on this track and should get in the field. Mixing those two in with fast guys like Johnny Sauter, Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr. should make for some great TV storylines.

It's been the Krista Voda show for a long time in this series. Voda puts together a straightforward nothing fancy pre-race that last week consisted of her splashing in puddles and looking like anyone else at a rainy racetrack. The fans eat it up. Instead of goofy acting or tightly scripted conversation, Voda just lets it roll.

Rick Allen provides plenty of excitement with his play-by-play call and works hard to find the racing on the track. Originally, he was joined by Phil Parsons alone. Parsons is a great historian of the series and knows the racing connections among the teams from top to bottom.

It was the addition of Michael Waltrip that really shook up the status quo. Waltrip talks a lot. Despite his connections and Cup schedule, SPEED has stuck with Waltrip on this package and it is paying off. Having a high-profile NASCAR personality in the TV booth has brought the fans in who either enjoy or detest Waltrip's on-air style.

Solid production from a TV team that does not need bells, whistles and gadgets normally results in a fun race to watch. It looks like the vast majority of the 38 trucks entered are going to try and run the full race. The different storylines should be fun to watch. Imagine Steve Park, Max Papis or Mike Wallace getting to the front. The great Timothy Peters story from last week could also play out again.

On the flip side, if ten trucks decide to park, then one big accident could leave 15 trucks driving nose-to-tail on this huge track like it was practice. This is one time that heads-up driving and an understanding of the bigger picture for the sport really needs to play a role for all concerned.

SPEED hits the air on Saturday at 3:30PM with the pre-race and the green flag should fall around 4:10PM Eastern Time. SPEED will not reveal what might happen on this Halloween, but the pre-race show should be memorable. TDP will live blog this race, please join us then.

In the meantime, please feel free to leave your comments on the SPEED coverage of the CWTS, including your reaction to last season's Halloween high jinx. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly site, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Days To Change

What a mess. The original idea back in 2007 that ESPN was going to come in and set the world on fire with the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season has long since been buried.

The overnight TV ratings for Martinsville were down from last year. The television package on the Cup side may be at an all-time low. It's easy to blame that on Jimmie Johnson, NFL football or Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the TV landscape at this time of year. It's no surprise to anyone.

If something is not working in a sports competition, change is coming. Quarterbacks are replaced, crew chiefs are switched, pitchers are pulled. We all know the drill.

The single biggest problem this season in ESPN's Sprint Cup Series telecasts has been the complete lack of change. You know it. I know it. NASCAR knows it. ESPN knows it.

There they are, the same guys saying the same things in the TV booth. Meanwhile, the Director shows the same in-car cameras and tight shots until we are all screaming for mercy and totally confused. The Jerry Punch monotone tells us the car numbers, names and hometowns of the twelve Chasers as if we have just landed from Mars.

Tim Brewer points at the very same pieces of the very same car and tells us yet again what a tire, shock or brake is supposed to do. The pit reporters ask the same simple questions to the same tired crew chiefs over-and-over again. How do you feel? How does that make you feel? How does that really make you feel?

Every once and a while, a burst of energy is provided by the three frustrated men trapped in the Infield Pit Studio. They tell us once again that the race is not over, anything can happen. That the Chase is not over, anything can happen. They tell us to get pumped up for this restart right now!

Then, in an instant, it is back to the monotone, the confusion and the NASCAR on ESPN cycle begins again.

Full-screen pictures show random green flag pitstops while the race continues out of sight. Announcers jump from pit to pit without any point of reference, pitstop timing or knowledge of team strategy. TV stays on pit road and lets the field cycle through while the race is raging but never shown.

A big accident brings silence from the play-by-play announcer and stammering attempts to fill-in from the analysts. Car numbers and names fill the air with absolutely no indication of what happened, where it happened or why it happened. Where NASCAR on ESPN is concerned, replays tell the tale.

Caution flag pitstops bring a half-hearted attempt at showing the top three drivers in a split-screen mode. Ultimately, the Director leaves to focus on Jimmie Johnson and the race off pit road comes down to where the #48 car fits into the line-up.

In a three or four hour television presentation there is no storytelling. Even with outstanding HD pictures, veteran fans may never see their driver once during the entire telecast. He may not be in the Chase, he may not be in the lead or he may not be named Johnson.

Cars zooming up through the pack are never identified. New teams suddenly pop-up in the top ten without ever having been mentioned. Issues on pit stops are never reported, unless they involve the #48 team. Then, multiple replays with timing breakdowns are shown overtop of live racing to see exactly which nut on which wheel fell on the ground and who was to blame.

Talladega is ESPN's last hope to salvage anything from this season. The natural excitement of the racing is provided without charge by the field. The spectacular pictures are provided by the track. The energy is provided by one of the best crowds anywhere in professional sports. ESPN need to bring only one thing. That is change.

Just like the non-Chase teams have already started to make major changes with an eye toward next season, ESPN must do the same. The boring, disjointed and non-fan friendly TV coverage must change. New faces, new production approaches and effective management behind-the-scenes are the only things that will right this tailspin.

Make no mistake, this is a disaster. ESPN's college football has been going strong. SportsCenter with Hannah Storm has reinvigorated the ESPN mornings. Monday Night Football has finally hit on a good combination. NASCAR Now has been a top-notch studio show all season long. Even the Indy 500 was fun to watch. The NASCAR races stick out like a sore thumb.

ESPN has five days to get together and decide how to change things at Talladega. There is no other choice. If this race falls apart like Martinsville, the TV viewers are not coming back. There are simply too many other sports TV options.

Just as the new pitcher has to get the out, the new crew chief has to get the win and the new quarterback has to score a touchdown, the ESPN team has to bring back NASCAR's alienated fans to win this game.

The NASCAR Countdown show hits ABC on Sunday at noon ET. The green flag falls at 1:19PM. It should be interesting.

Your comments on this topic are welcome. 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 the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hamlin Shows Social Media Impact On NASCAR

The biggest growing movement in NASCAR does not involve the COT, the Chase or even the pink Martinsville hotdogs. Instead, it is the groundswell of teams, drivers, bloggers, reporters and officials who use Twitter to get their messages out to the fans instantly.

The social media revolution is in full swing in NASCAR and growing by the day. Race winner Denny Hamlin has only been active on Twitter for several months, but he has become a regular user. Sunday, he drove home the point about the importance of this technology.

Hamlin thanked his Twitter followers on TV from Victory Lane, then sent the following message minutes after the race. "That's what I'm talking about!!! Whooo!! I told ya we would win another!" tweeted Hamlin.

After a quick ride home once the Victory Lane TV, radio and print media was done, Hamlin had another surprise. His house had been draped with a homemade banner celebrating his win. So, what did he do? Snapped a pic and sent it to his almost five thousand Twitter followers directly. That is the picture above. Just think about that.

Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and got done with his post-race media rather quickly. Montoya is one of the most popular NASCAR drivers on Twitter and has about 30 thousand who follow him. Instead of the hard-charging driver, fans see a family man with a wicked sense of humor who likes to fly RC planes and windsurf.

"Had a good day in the office!!!" tweeted Montoya. "The team keeps doing an amazing job again that is really nice to see!!!!" Later, he arrived back home in the Miami, FL area. "Back to reality, laying in bed with the kids and we are watching TV."

While these examples happened after the race, what was in-progress before and during the race itself was amazing. SPEED's Wendy Venturini, Hermie Sadler and Kenny Wallace are all on Twitter and offer live updates during the RaceDay program about interviews, guests and behind-the-scenes tidbits. Once the race gets underway, the information really starts to fly.

Multiple reporters were updating the details of the race live from the Martinsville press box and media center. NASCAR itself was tweeting leaders, penalties, updates and information. Bloggers like me had running Twitter conversations that included thousands of NASCAR fans. Jayski and other NASCAR websites are also updating live on Twitter during and after each race.

All of this takes on an entirely new meaning due to the absolutely horrible race coverage being provided by the distant and disinterested ESPN production team. Fans desperate for NASCAR information have flooded Twitter and found salvation.

Here is the info on who NASCAR is warning, who got a lap back, who is racing hard and what is actually going on in the entire race. ESPN's microscopic focus on Jimmie Johnson and the race leader becomes almost comical when the Twitter feed is rolling with the live race. So much information never makes it on TV.

It was Kyle Petty who made a Twitter believer out of me. This summer, Petty interacted with fans during the live TNT races through Twitter. During one race, he answered a question on the air I had sent to him directly moments earlier. Then, in the next commercial, he sent me a message asking if that was the answer I wanted. Needless to say, an entire new world of communication possibilities was opened right in front of my eyes.

If ESPN let Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty use Twitter from the Infield Pit Studio while they sit there and wait for a break in the action, the telecasts would change tremendously. If a Stage Manager in the TV booth took Twitter questions, Jerry Punch would perhaps not continue to call out car numbers, driver names and hometowns for three hours.

Many fans told me they are using ESPN/ABC for the video only with the audio muted. They are actually listening to the radio call of the race and keeping updated with live online scoring and Twitter. That shuts out the ESPN broadcast team entirely and should be a big wake-up call for that TV network.

One thing is for sure, Twitter is exploding with NASCAR content. From the sophisticated presence of teams like Hendrick and Gibbs to the often hilarious updates from driver's wives, Twitter offers a wave of NASCAR information that is free, easy to access and portable.

Think about accessing Twitter for the remaining races if you have not given it a try. There is nothing hard or complicated about it, especially if I can do it. Head to and just start a free account.

We are at and you can find tons of NASCAR folks simply by typing NASCAR into the "Find People" search box.

Let's use this post for those using Twitter already to talk about your NASCAR experiences. We can also help anyone who has questions or has heard bad things about Twitter being complicated or worthless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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. Thanks for taking the time to review this column and for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From Martinsville, VA (1PM - ABC)

Update: We are going to leave this post open for your post-race comments. Just click on the comments button below. Thanks fans!

Here we go with a very big challenge for the NASCAR on ESPN production team. The Cup race is going head-to-head with NFL football and it is going to be a tough challenge.

Allen Bestwick will anchor a thirty-minute version of NASCAR Countdown beginning at 1PM ET. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty will be with Bestwick in the Infield Pit Center. Pit reporters are Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage.

While Jimmie Johnson is the big story, there has been a lot of NASCAR news during the week that involves changes in personnel and teams. It should be interesting to watch what topics and interviews are selected for the pre-race show.

Jerry Punch has to call the action on a very long day at a very short track. That recipe has not proven to be a good one where ESPN is concerned. Punch will no doubt be assisted very actively by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree as the race goes on.

Action happens fast at this track as the straights are quick and cars side-by-side though the flat corners almost always results in some rubbing. The ESPN team has struggled with both caution and green flag pitstops. This is not a good place to have that happen.

The race off pit road may well wind-up deciding the event and missing the action for full-screen coverage of only one car is going to make the TV team pay a high price. ESPN needs to hold the triple-split all the way through the caution flag stops and put all green flag stops in a double video box so the race can be seen.

There is real potential for things to get confused very quickly on TV as ESPN keeps the spotlight on the Chase drivers regardless of what is happening on the track. This should be a fascinating race to watch from a TV perspective.

We welcome your comments on the race. 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 stopping by.

Live Blogging "NASCAR Now" and "RaceDay" (ESPN2/10AM - SPEED/11AM)

This is a tough weekend for the NASCAR TV gang. Rain washed out almost everything on Saturday and left Martinsville a muddy mess. There are three hours of pre-race shows before the 1:43PM green flag.

NASCAR Now on ESPN at 10AM will feature Nicole Manske with Boris Said in the studio. Reporting from Martinsville will be Marty Smith. Perhaps, Said is not the short-track expert one might like to discuss Martinsville, but maybe his testing experience will serve him well.

Manske has lots of topics to choose from as the NASCAR news this week has been all over the map. From Elliott Sadler in a Ford at Talladega to the continuing dominance of Hendrick Motorsports equipment, the hour should be easy to fill.

Smith is in Martinsville and it will be interesting to see if he responds to the Jeremy Mayfield appearance on ESPN's Outside the Lines this morning. Smith has been solid for ESPN all season long and continues to navigate his way through the twisted world of the NASCAR garage.

This preview program is better when Ricky Craven is in the studio, although Said has certainly improved his TV skills. Craven is the outstanding studio analyst for ESPN and the network better lock him up for next season.

The franchise is up next for SPEED. RaceDay is as close to a Sprint Cup Series points race as the network will ever get. The Daytona twins and the All-Star race are nothing compared to an entire season of two-hour pre-race shows.

When this program was moved an hour earlier to avoid TV network conflicts, it changed rather dramatically. There is now little opportunity to build-up the excitement as the race gets set to begin. Instead, lethargic drivers step out of buses for interviews and the driver's meeting is often the highlight from the infield.

This put the focus back on the main panel that consists of host John Roberts with commentators Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. As we documented last week, things are fractured right now as the panel does not know whether to have fun or address serious issues. The resulting mix is a mess.

One minute Wallace is table dancing and the next Spencer is calling NASCAR out on a very serious issue. Both men have good opinions on various racing topics, but they have stopped interacting and now speak individually to the fans. "Let me tell you something" is heard by Wallace almost every time he tries to change the tons from comical to serious.

Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler continue to be the foundation of this program in terms of NASCAR content. Venturini is long overdue to increase her time on SPEED, but has not been seen on Race Hub, TWIN or The SPEED Report. Sadler did a solid job as an analyst on SPEED's Nationwide Series coverage of practice and qualifying. It seems he has an eye on the TV booth for the future.

Rutlege Wood is also featured on the program, handling the entertainment and sales features. Wood has made himself into a character and now often seems to be trying to keep his TV image intact. It's been quite a while since he was a fresh face on the scene.

This post will serve to host your comments on NASCAR Now and RaceDay. 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 stopping by.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Muddy Breakfast With Jeremy On ESPN

It does not seem like all that long ago when ESPN decided the NASCAR ratings needed a little help. They called in the smear team. Click here for one of the most viewed stories ever on TDP. It is titled "The Two Faces Of ESPN On Display."

One team of ESPN employees outside of the NASCAR bunch took months to create a story that suggested Ron Hornaday was worried about getting older and took steroids in an effort to keep his ride. As we all know now, Hornaday thought he was dying. He had Graves Disease and had yet to be correctly diagnosed.

In a flash, Hornaday's steroid allegations were scrolled on the ESPN network's tickers, placed on SportsCenter as a lead story, pushed on the website and published in ESPN the Magazine. The media blitz was underway.

That same day, Marty Smith headed into the Loudon, NH garage with a camera crew in tow and asked NASCAR personalities about the Hornaday story. What he presented that night to fans on the very same TV network that broke the story was quite different from the original version. Despite the truth being revealed, ESPN had accomplished the goal of creating and distributing a controversial NASCAR story during the Chase.

Sunday morning it will be Jeremy Mayfield talking to ESPN's Outside the Lines show at 9AM ET. This is a Sunday in the heart of the Chase when ESPN once again is longing for better TV ratings. What a coincidence.

Click here for a video and text preview of Mayfield's piece on OTL.

Reporter Steve Delsohn is not involved in NASCAR, but he will present the Mayfield story. Delsohn is a West Coast reporter for OTL and a veteran author. The NASCAR experience will be provided by Ryan McGee, a former executive at the NASCAR Media Group and now a full time reporter for ESPN the Magazine. He will be a live guest. His perspective should be interesting.

Each story has to have a "hook." Here is what ESPN offered in a media release that was re-published across the Internet. See if you can tell what they will be emphasizing.

Suspended NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield tells reporter Steve Delsohn, in Mayfield’s first one-on-one nationally televised interview, that NASCAR is using his situation to scare the sport's marquee drivers who he says use drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. (ESPN media release)

"You use me as an example to let everybody know who may have already tested positive for marijuana, cocaine or whatever, that they haven’t got anybody for, and it puts the fear of God in everybody in the whole sport. I was a good example, a good pawn who wasn’t going to cost them any money at all. I was worth more to them as a failed drug test then I am as a driver, owner for my own team." (Mayfield quote in release)

There is no clear-cut reason given as to why Mayfield is on ESPN. His new high-profile attorney Mark Geragos was not even in the picture when this story was produced for OTL. Mayfield's race team is gone, his career is gone and his voice is falling on mostly deaf ears.

If ESPN has a legitimate reason for this report, it will hopefully be explained. If this entire thing has been packaged to drive TV ratings by suggesting that "marquee drivers" are taking drugs, then the fan backlash is going to be swift.

Either way, there are a lot of us who will be having breakfast with Jeremy. One thing is for certain. Mud will be on the menu.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic before, during and after the OTL program. 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, this is going to be a very interesting topic.

Live Blogging Both Saturday Races (SPEED and ESPN2)

Update: Both NASCAR races are live at the same time, we are using the comments section of this post to update both.

The rain delays at Martinsville, VA began with Sprint Cup practice and will continue with the Camping World Truck Series. SPEED is scheduled for the pre-race at 12:30PM and the live race thirty minutes later.

Krista Voda is going to start the day with The Setup and then we will see what SPEED decides to do when the race is delayed. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip are waiting to call the race. Adam Alexander and Ray Dunlap are the pit reporters.

Martinsville is a great track for the trucks with good close racing and lots of double-file runs through the corners. SPEED keep the coverage simple and works hard to keep the perspective ahead of the racing.

SPEED has no live programming today after the scheduled truck race, so the network will have a window until sunset to stay available and get it in. We will continually update the status of the event in the comments section and on the front page.

This post will serve to host your comments on the TV coverage of the Camping World Truck Series from Martinsville. 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 dropping by.

Thanks to ESPN's Ryan McGee for the picture.

Weather May Put NASCAR In A Pickle

NASCAR has two tracks working this weekend and they both have feature races on Saturday. ESPN is at Memphis Motorsports Park for the Nationwide Series stand-alone event. SPEED is in Martinsville, VA for a Camping World Truck Series event running with a Cup date.

Normally, one of the Saturday races would be run at night but this time daylight is the only thing illuminating these tracks. The Trucks are facing a rainy forecast in Virginia. Krista Voda will be on the air rain or shine at 12:30PM ET with The Setup pre-race show. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander are the pit reporters.

SPEED does not have any live events on Saturday after the scheduled end of the CWTS race at 3:30PM. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip can sit and wait for the track to dry until the sun goes down.

Meanwhile, the wonderful charity-themed race from Memphis is scheduled to begin at 3:30PM after a thirty minute pre-race show that will probably be hosted by Mike Massaro from pit road. This is a split TV crew for ESPN, so Massaro will be joined by veterans Jack Arute and Rick DeBruhl on pit road. Both TDP favorites.

Memphis also features a reunion of "the fun bunch." The quirky trio of Marty Reid, Randy LaJoie and Rusty Wallace seemed to click and have fun this summer as they did several Nationwide Series races together. LaJoie is a great balance for Wallace and Reid enjoys poking fun at both of them.

The Saturday TV officially kicks-off with 45 minutes of Sprint Cup practice coverage on ESPN2 at 10AM ET before Jerry Punch and company yield to Reid and the Memphis TV team for Nationwide Series qualifying.

Veteran fans know that there is always a noon football game this time of the year and this week it is Illinois vs. Purdue. That leaves a very slim chance that the NASCAR Countdown show will start on ESPN2 at 3PM. Make sure you know where ESPN Classic is on your dial if you still have that rapidly shrinking TV network. In the past, it was only a good open field tackle that ended the game and let the race begin. The 3:30PM transition should be interesting to watch.

At the end of the day, ESPN2 has Sprint Cup Happy Hour scheduled at 6:30PM. Should the Memphis race be delayed by weather as well, there is a live college football game that is going to begin on ESPN2 at 7:30PM. Did we mention this could be a fun day?

NASCAR tries to avoid at all costs having two races running at the same time, but Saturday may just find the sport in that position. Fans may want to practice their picture-in-picture skills before the need actually arises.

TDP will live blog both races with the CWTS post going up at noon ET. Please join us for the races but in the meantime feel free to leave us your opinion on the topics discussed above. Just click on the comments button below to add your post.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by, hope to see you Saturday afternoon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Will Waltrip Draw Attention From The Chase?

In our constantly evolving media-driven world, the focus of national attention shifts seemingly by the second. Cable news networks one minute tell us that the H1N1 Virus is at crisis level, but then take two hours to watch a balloon float across the Midwest while Falcon hides in the attic.

Over the last several weeks, the mainstream media has become totally and completely bored with Jimmie Johnson and his Chase dominance. Even some NASCAR beat writers are having trouble figuring out what else there is to write about.

Well, enter Michael Waltrip. At first, the report of a fender-bender popped up on some NASCAR websites. Waltrip and a motorcycle had collided. Waltrip was not injured and the motorcyclist was slightly banged up. No big deal.

Then Terry Blount at ESPN put an article together with a headline that read "Waltrip Passes Field Sobriety Test." That ramped things up a notch and hinted that there were other pieces to the story. Blount reported Waltrip was tested and missed being arrested for driving under the influence by having a .06 blood-alcohol level. In North Carolina, the familiar .08 is the legal limit.

It was Charlotte's own WCNC-TV that took the story to the next level. Click here to read reporter Rad Berky's story. Here is a brief excerpt:

Mooresville police say alcohol was a factor in an accident Wednesday night involving NASCAR driver and team owner Michael Waltrip. The police report on the accident says Waltrip “was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.” He was given a field sobriety test and passed a “walk and turn” test and a “one leg stand” test. “He did not meet the criteria for the DWI, however it was indicated as a contributing factor…on the accident report,” said Captain Phil Blocker of the Mooresville Police.

The story was reported Thursday on ESPN's NASCAR Now as a news item and on SPEED's Race Hub by reporter Ralph Sheheen. Not sure who really wrote the words, but Sheheen said "This is Michael's second serious auto incident to make headlines since 2007. Stay tuned to SPEED for more over the weekend."

Waltrip has been associated with SPEED for a very long time. He has done countless TV shows, including the long-running Monday show now called This Week in NASCAR. Waltrip is a color analyst for the Camping World Truck Series and will be in the TV booth for the Friday practice session at 1PM.

When the media gets ahold of something like this, there are two ways it can go. One, the reality is reported, the person involved apologizes and life goes on.

Two, the media uses the Internet to ramp up the hype avoiding the reality and concentrating on sensationalism. That might mean suggesting all kinds of things that might have happened or may have possibly happened in the past. In the media's New World Order, there are plenty of folks willing to do just that.

The first test of this will come at 11AM when John Roberts hosts the NASCAR Live show from Martinsville, VA. Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler will be reporting and it may well be one of those two that interviews Waltrip. Perhaps a good strategy for Waltrip would be to get it all out on the table Friday before the remainder of the media arrives for the racing weekend.

Since we don't know where this story will go or how it will be treated, we are going to use this post to ask for your contributions. Tell us where and when you saw the Waltrip story and how it was treated. No need to post a link, just your comments will be good enough. We can all comment on SPEED and ESPN as they go through the day.

To add your media-related comments on this topic, just click the comments button below. This is a TV and media site. Your comments about Waltrip personally or professionally will be deleted. Our goal is to watch the media coverage unfold and provide a place to discuss it.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. We will update links on Friday morning about this story should they keep appearing. Thanks for helping us keep a media watch on this topic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trying To Make Sense Of Champions Week

Las Vegas Motor Speedway just announced the Chasers for Charity Fanfest to be held Dec. 2, which is the beginning of Championship Week. As you may know, TDP has been pushing for some information on events in the area open to the public and those that may involve NASCAR TV.

Up until this point, the LVMS website did not even mention Championship Week. Here is some more official information:

The event will include a free-admission fan event throughout the afternoon as well as a charity roast of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. The fanfest will serve as the kickoff for NASCAR's inaugural Champion's Week in Las Vegas.

"One of the key elements to bringing NASCAR Champion's Week to Las Vegas was creating an event for race fans," said LVMS president Chris Powell. "This event will bring the drivers and the fans closer together and raise money for charity in the process. We're very appreciative of NASCAR's efforts to make this a special fan event that we hope becomes a tradition during Champion's Week."

The charity portion of the event will begin with a procession of the Chase drivers and the champion through the Neon Garage. A reception in the speedway media center will follow the procession, with credentialed fans having an opportunity to mingle with the drivers.

The event will culminate with the roast in the Blackjack Club. Admission to the reception and roast is $250 per person and will be limited to the first 300 people due to space limitations. Proceeds from the event will benefit Speedway Children's Charities.

The fanfest will allow fans free admission to the Neon Garage beginning at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Live entertainment and car displays will entertain race fans for the early part of the event. At approximately 2 p.m., the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers and the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will arrive and walk a red carpet through the Neon Garage. The roast will be shown via closed-circuit television throughout the Neon Garage.

Well, this is interesting. No information has been produced by NASCAR to encourage fans to travel to Las Vegas for some fun during Championship Week. Now, Powell is saying one purpose of moving to that city was for the fans to attend events like this one.

It seems that NASCAR Now will be over for the season by December 2, so that leaves Race Hub on SPEED as the only possible show that may originate from Vegas during that week. Right now, SPEED has not yet advised if Race Hub will end after Homestead or continue through the off-season. None of the NASCAR TV networks have said they will be holding any kind of organized activities or functions for the fans.

Not quite sure who is in charge of this event, but fans of the Chase drivers need to know if a Vegas vacation is going to be worthwhile or if the LVMS event is a "locals only" affair. This is our third column on this topic and reaction so far has been this one press release from LVMS. Luckily, a fan emailed it to us.

What is your take on this Championship Week topic? Is this something that NASCAR should have organized long ago and let fans prepare? Or is the week for teams, driver and sponsors while the fans should just stay home?

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. The complete NASCAR TV schedule is located on the right side of the TDP mainpage just under our Twitter comments. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

Much More Than "Shalom And Amen"

Something that first attracted me to NASCAR were the personalities involved in the sport. In the beginning, I was drawn to drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough. Eventually, my circle of interest widened to the colorful cast of characters in the sport who never took the wheel.

One of these characters became the subject of a well-researched book that has recently been published. Here is a brief description of the book that chronicles one of the most interesting men in NASCAR to never turn a lap:

Shalom and Amen is the life story of Reverend Hal Marchman (1919 - 2009). He was a Baptist minister who for over 40 years was widely known as the chaplain of NASCAR. His ministry included the Daytona International Speedway, but extended far beyond the oval.

It was 1959 when Marchman's friend and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. asked him to deliver the invocation before the Daytona 500. While Marchman stayed in that role until 2005, there is much more to his legacy away from the track.

Marchman established church programs and community treatment centers for alcoholics and drug addicts. As a self-described "drunk in recovery" he "walked the talk" for nearly six decades. His ongoing healing legacy is represented in the Stewart-Marchman Treatment Centers in the Daytona Beach area. For over 35 years, the Stewart-Marchman programs and Marchman's direct counsel have helped thousands of alcoholics and addicts to recover a "clean and sober" life.

I recently communicated with Lamont W. Ingalls, the author of the book. It was quickly apparent how deeply affected he had been by working directly with Marchman prior to his recent passing. Here are some words from Ingalls for TDP readers:

I was blessed to spend many hours following Hal on his rounds through AA meetings, NASCAR tracks and the healing centers of Daytona Beach. I interviewed both Hal and his wife Mary over the course of 18 months at their apartment and have many pages of transcripts with this remarkable couple.

I also interviewed all of his family members, NASCAR personalities (including the late Bill France Jr.) and many other people who were helped by Hal in a personal crisis, including their struggles with sobriety.

In addition to the interviews, I visited Hal's home communities of Veazey and Greensboro, Georgia and was given an extensive tour of "Hal sites" by his youngest brother, Ray.

Hal truly had a unique spirit, and being able to work closely with him on his biography was a great gift to this writer.

While the focus of the media over the last several years has become the drivers, the depth of the personalities involved all over the sport is amazing. Marchman is just one in a long line of men who were involved with NASCAR before the big money, national exposure and the TV limelight.

The Marchman story is the kind of content that would lend itself to a TV movie or an episode of a historic NASCAR TV program. Marchman is also the kind of special character who somehow deserves recognition when this year's Sprint Cup Series banquet rolls around.

Since his passing, there have been a diverse group of representatives from many religions who have been asked to deliver the traditional invocation. While each of them has performed the task, few have the racing legacy and NASCAR connections of the late Rev. Marchman.

For many of us, it just wasn't the Daytona 500 and the start of the season without Marchman's now famous all-inclusive words of "Shalom and Amen."

The book is available online through vendors like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It's a paperback so it will not put a hole in your wallet. It's just a good opportunity to read about someone who spent his life helping others and happened to have a big impact on the NASCAR community and many fans along the way.

Thanks for letting me deviate from our normal TV and electronic media topics. TDP will return to the TV beat tomorrow with updates on ESPN's split weekend, SPEED's return to the trucks and the struggles of NASCAR Race Hub.

If you would like to offer a comment or recollection of Rev. Marchman, please feel free to do so. Just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Night TV Mayhem

Krista Voda wore a hat, Marty Smith was stuck in the airport and somebody told Michael Waltrip to be quiet. Monday's NASCAR TV was certainly interesting.

This is the new Monday TV line-up that features NASCAR Now on ESPN and then Race Hub and This Week in NASCAR on SPEED. Fans get five more weeks of this TV tripleheader.

Allen Bestwick and the suit and tie set started the day from the ESPN2 studios. NASCAR Now is the most polished of the three shows and Bestwick played a big role in establishing this Monday power hour. Ray Evernham and Ricky Craven were alongside Bestwick as usual, but this week Marty Smith rounded out the panel.

Smith looked a little glazed after a nightmare air travel day. Bestwick did his best to avoid yet another Hendrick Motorsports lovefest, but to no avail. The #48 dynasty was front and center, including a telephone interview segment with Chad Knaus.

Craven and Evernham are a dynamic team in this environment. Once again they were finishing each other's sentences and sharing opinions. Smith held his own despite the circumstances as Bestwick led the panel through the highlights.

Ultimately, Smith offered to confirm that the Chase is basically over. Craven and Bestwick are still pushing the scenario that anything can happen in racing. In an ironic twist, it was Evernham that tried to work both sides of the street.

SPEED's mystery show is called Race Hub and runs Monday through Thursday. Now entering its second week, the Monday program had little original content and no featured drivers in the studio. Instead, Larry McReynolds and some recorded interviews tried to fill the thirty minutes. It did not work.

Krista Voda and Adam Alexander co-hosted. These two are great on TV with some structure, but this program gave them very little to work with. Monday is a key day because This Week in NASCAR is next on SPEED and is going to offer one hour of race highlights and commentary.

Race Hub was designed to get drivers, owners and other NASCAR personalities in the studio for casual conversation. On this day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was featured. Unfortunately, his contribution consisted of recorded questions from the weekend with Alexander. His Hall of Fame responses were now days-old information.

If SPEED is going to have on-air talent and guests walking around the studio, it's important to have the place well lit. The network continues to struggle with this element, which was made worse when Voda wore a hat for the program. While this may be her trademark outside, it certainly did not work in a studio environment.

TWIN has been changing ever since Jimmy Spencer was added to the program to shake things up a bit. Spencer was his outspoken self once again, which has positive and negative ramifications for the show. Spencer challenged panelist Chad Knaus on several issues and also made his opinions known to Michael Waltrip.

In return, Waltrip tried to force himself into the program and finally heard the words "be quiet" from host Steve Byrnes. These are words that perhaps Byrnes should have said to Waltrip long before October.

The same race highlights seen on NASCAR Now and Race Hub flew by again, this time with a different set of faces making the comments. Knaus is a patient man and he often seems personally amused on this program simply by watching Waltrip and Spencer.

When asked about his ringing cell phone, Knaus told the panel he had other interviews to do after the show. That would be NASCAR Now calling. Knaus brings a fun spark to this show and offers top flight information on tracks, cars and the latest technology.

What exactly Spencer and Waltrip bring to the show these days is debatable. Waltrip offered several pro-NASCAR rants. Spencer struggled once again to even put a group of sentences together. He likes making statements. A lot of statements. Spencer should learn this is not RaceDay.

Byrnes is a veteran and navigated his way through the program with ease. What this show is becoming in these last few weeks of the season is unpredictable. That may be exactly what SPEED wanted when the network inserted Spencer into the line-up.

A little more respect for the person speaking and a little more control over the panelists by Byrnes would go a long way toward letting TV viewers really see what this group has to offer. A lot of content was lost with multiple panelists speaking at the same time this week.

All in all, an interesting Monday of NASCAR TV. If you watched, how about taking a moment to give us your opinion of these programs. Just click the comments button below to add your views. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Chase TV At The Tipping Point

It took hours to clear over 500 emails after the Saturday night Sprint Cup Series race. TDP logged over 750 comments on our website's live race blog. Hundreds of fans used Twitter to send us messages. All of them focused on just one thing. ESPN's coverage of NASCAR racing.

Rather than offer another column from my perspective, I'm just going to publish one note from a longtime fan we received. It is written as an open letter to ESPN:

I'm wondering just how much disdain you (ESPN) have for NASCAR and the fans of the sport? Are you now so angry that you bought the sport with this expensive and long (TV) contract that you're just throwing substandard broadcasts at us each week?

Or do you truly not have the expertise and understanding of NASCAR to deviate from "the script" that's been discussed in the days leading up to the race?

There have been pages of solid, specific feedback offered to you via this (TDP) and other websites. There have been emails and letters from fans. There have been comments on the NASCAR Fan Council surveys and plummeting TV ratings.

Yet, in the face of all that, you still determinedly and stubbornly stick to your same (TV) formula and essentially tell us, the fans, that we're wrong. That we are ignorant of what goes into a great race broadcast and that because you are "the professionals" we should just sit down, stop talking, and be grateful we're even getting to see anything on the TV screen.

It doesn't work that way any more, ESPN. We now have other options, choices and alternatives. We can keep up with our sport in new ways. Listening to new (and old!) voices and watching new images. We can Twitter and blog and online chat. We can tune-out your sponsors and DVR the race so we can speed through the bulk of the broadcast without even listening to the on-air talent.

And we're doing exactly that. Making informed choices, turning to sources who respect us and our sport. That means we're tuning you out and may opt to not tune back in to your portion of the season next year.

You are no longer the only game on town for NASCAR fans. We are responding to your substandard work by turning off the TV, cancelling or not beginning subscriptions to the magazine and not rewarding your website with hits. Some of us have already tuned you out, more will do so as the rest of the season plays out.

So, good luck with the balance of the season. You've already messed it up so badly for many fans that they have simply disappeared and won't be back until February. Others will hang on because we're NASCAR fans. We love our sport and can't turn our backs on it for even a week.

Make no mistake. If you offer nothing new next year, if you refuse to accept fan feedback as having value and knowledge, we will punish you across every part of your empire. You are perilously close to a tipping point with us, ESPN.

Well, that got my attention. Maybe it got yours. Hopefully, it will get ESPN's.

We welcome your comments on this topic specifically. To add your opinion of ESPN's performance in this Chase, 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.

"Race Hub" Faces A New Challenge In Week Two

From out of the clear blue sky, SPEED suddenly dropped a weekday NASCAR news and interview show into the network's line-up. To say this program was a last minute scramble is an understatement.

The Monday through Thursday shows are designed to bridge a huge gap that has existed in SPEED's NASCAR coverage for years. Why this new series appeared with only weeks left in the ten month NASCAR season is anyone's guess. SPEED certainly isn't talking.

Week one of NASCAR Race Hub revolved around the Hall of Fame selections made last Wednesday. Now, that sideshow is gone and the reality begins to sink in. There is a new thirty minute NASCAR show to produce from the SPEED studios four days a week.

Back in 2006 when the new NASCAR TV contract was announced, I wrote a letter to ESPN's head honcho John Skipper about how important it would be to establish a small TV studio in the Concord or Mooresville, NC area.

NASCAR is unique in the fact that almost all the teams and associated businesses are located in a relatively small area. I reminded him of the RPM2Night legacy as the new NASCAR Now series got ready to launch.

ESPN declined and now often uses the ESPN Regional TV and ESPNU facility that is located in the far South end of Charlotte, almost on the South Carolina line. That is often the nameless location for Ryan McGee and Marty Smith's appearances. Not exactly the same as having NASCAR folks just stop by the studio.

Well, now SPEED has jumped into the game and this week some heavy hitters are on the line-up at the Hub. Perhaps, none bigger than Dale Earnhardt Jr. who will be on the Monday show. Tuesday features driver Matt Crafton while Wednesday's doubleheader is Tony Stewart and David Gilliland. The week ends with Jeff Gordon and Richard Childress on Thursday.

SPEED's location and intentions are good, the question is do they have the manpower and production planning to pull it off? ESPN is in the third season of NASCAR Now and is on a roll. Changes in talent and format have made that show solid all six days of the week it airs.

Unlike the hundreds of TV crew folks at ESPN, SPEED is patching together a crew for this new series at a tough time of the year. Lots of other sports keep the Charlotte area freelance TV folks rather busy. Keeping things simple and basic is the only way to go for this new show.

Krista Voda seems to be at the heart of this series, although she has not been formally named as host. Voda lives in Pittsburgh, PA and has a very real life outside of the sport and the Charlotte area. She also hosts the truck series pre-race shows and is a pit reporter for the NASCAR on Fox telecasts. What a combo platter.

This week, Voda is matched with Adam Alexander on Monday, John Roberts on Tuesday and Steve Byrnes on Wednesday. She has Thursday off and I am guessing it's a mental health day. She hosts the truck series this Saturday in Martinsville, VA.

No plans have been announced yet for what will happen to Race Hub once the NASCAR season is over. SPEED has just abruptly ended NASCAR coverage over the past several years and then picked things up again in late January.

Since ESPN also ends NASCAR Now in November, perhaps SPEED will be smart enough to keep things going during this very important off-season and become a new TV information source for fans.

We will keep up with the guest and hosts on this show as it develops. Despite the interesting timing, fans now have a locally produced show that targets NASCAR and hosts extended conversations on topics that are current in the sport.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your opinion about NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED, 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.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Your Turn: Sprint Cup Series From Lowe's Motor Speedway on ABC

Saturday night under the lights ABC carried the Sprint Cup Series race from the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Alen Bestwick anchored the pre-race show that featured Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Center. This show has four pit reporters. Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns handled the interviews.

Jerry Punch handled the play-by-play coverage with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside as the analysts. Marcos Ambrose was the in-race reporter.

This race featured long green flag runs, green flag pitstops and a cluster of caution flags in the final 40 laps. ESPN's NASCAR team made good pictures and the sound was solid.

There was one caution for rain, but no red flag period. This race was a fast-paced affair with cautious drivers trying to stay in the Chase. Several big names faded early and were lapped. One pit crew member was injured on pit road and transferred to the hospital.

We would like your comments on this ABC telecast produced by the ESPN TV team that has been working together since February on the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series telecasts.

To add your opinion about the TV coverage, just click on the comments button below. We appreciate your comments which are read by many other fans, NASCAR media members and TV folks. Thanks for taking the time to give us your comments.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From Charlotte (7PM - ABC)

This is one of the biggest races of the Chase. Lowe's Motor Speedway is the home track for almost every Sprint Cup Series team. It's a night race under the lights and in primetime on ABC.

Allen Bestwick starts the night with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show at 7PM. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Center. Handling the interviews are Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

The pre-race show is thirty minutes and then the NASCAR on ESPN team takes the air. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will handle the live action.

Last night, ESPN started the night off with a great pre-race show for the Nationwide Series race. Bestwick handed the race off to announcer Marty Reid and the action began on a great note. The first thirty minutes consisted of wideshots of racing, aerial views of the speedway and interviews with drivers out of the race.

Then, ESPN turned the page and started down the road fans know all too well. Extremely tight shots of one or two cars. Recorded soundbites played back during the live race under the green flag. Bizarre oldies music blaring while the announcers threw to commercial. It was the same bad dream again for NASCAR fans.

Marty Reid and Dale Jarrett repeatedly told the producer and director that there was "three wide action further back in the pack." It did not matter. Stories like Mike Bliss and Dave Blaney carving their way through the field were poorly covered.

It was all Sprint Cup drivers all the time. It has been that way since Daytona with the exception of the short-track race this summer from Indy.

On this Saturday night it should be interesting to see if ESPN learns from the Friday night struggles or just repeats the same TV production pattern. One thing is for sure, we will all learn the answer to that together.

To add your TV-related opinion of this broadcast, 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.

Live Blogging "NASCAR RaceDay" On SPEED

This is the home track for SPEED with the network's new headquarters and studios right down the street from the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

RaceDay is the franchise for SPEED. This program has been around for a long time and is now two hours of an incredible mix of elements. Last year, we described it as the Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR TV. Eventually, there is something for everyone.

John Roberts is at the heart of it all. Fans may remember that several years ago Roberts would put himself right in the middle of the funny skits and outlandish crowd baiting routines. Now, he has taken on more of a serious host role and there is a good reason why. Actually, there are two.

Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace began this TV series as two NASCAR drivers with mediocre pasts who were in the middle of a career change. Wallace had been a familiar face as a frequent panelist on the old Inside Winston/NEXTEL Cup on SPEED. His personality and outgoing nature seemed to be a natural for TV.

Wallace brought his St. Louis background to the table, while Spencer represented his rough and tough Pennsylvania roots with frank talk and sometimes harsh comments. Spencer quickly became the lightning rod on this show with Wallace providing the comic relief.

This season, the reporter role is being shared by two familiar faces, Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler. Venturini is a true television professional. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in TV production and has worked in the field since then. Make no mistake about it, Venturini is the star of RaceDay.

One trademark of a TV pro is being confident enough to share the stage. Venturini has done that with Hermie Sadler. Coming from a minor role on the series providing track descriptions, Sadler was perhaps best known for spinning out the SPEED camera car during one memorable effort. Now, he has developed into a self-taught pro who is comfortable on-camera in a variety of situations.

Rutledge Wood is getting a little bit old to be the class clown. There is no doubt that he may be a nice guy in person but SPEED's continual use of him to portray the fool is ridiculous. If he has something to offer, let him show it. Wood is buried in sponsor-driven features, ill-prepared celebrity interviews and embarrassing TV moments.

RaceDay drives a lot of viewer email that is almost all focused on the words and antics of Spencer and Wallace. This year these two seem to be speaking directly to the viewers each time Roberts tosses them a questions. "Let me tell you something," says Wallace at the start of almost every answer. Something is missing.

Spencer has recently been added to the Monday This Week in NASCAR show and removed from Victory Lane. Larry McReynolds replaced Spencer on Victory Lane and the difference was remarkable. Spencer's emotional questions were replaced with informed inquiries about specific issues.

Every TV series goes through changes and it now seems like Roberts, Sadler and Venturini are in a different league from Wallace and Spencer. The first three are involved in heavy TV duties and interviews while the last two are disconnected and struggling to fit in.

Long gone are the judges robes, the fake court and the table dancing. Now RaceDay has become a serious pre-race show for hardcore fans who want information, interviews and opinions. As we watch this two-hour show from Lowe's Motor Speedway, keep these issues in mind.

We want your comments on this program and the series in general. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, so please keep that in mind when posting.

TDP will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race with a post going up at 6:30PM for the 7PM pre-race show. Thanks for stopping by.

Drivers Use TV To Deliver "Think Pink" Message

It's a message that is very close to the hearts of Elliott and Hermie Sadler. Their mother Bell is still with us after a brave battle. It's a cause that picked up steam with the reality that prevention can be relatively easy and directly save lives. NASCAR is set to make a statement this weekend. Here is the reason why:

Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation. That concern for others continued even as Susan neared the end of her fight. Moved by Susan’s compassion for others and committed to making a difference, Nancy G. Brinker promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever.

That promise is now Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the global leader of the breast cancer movement, having invested more than $1 billion since inception in 1982. As the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, they are working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, and generous contributions from our partners, sponsors and fellow supporters, we have become the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

Five Sprint Cup Series cars are going with pink wrappers this weekend at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Drivers running these pink paint schemes are Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler, Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip, and Bobby Labonte.

In the Friday night Nationwide Series race the three Braun Racing cars will also run pink schemes. Brian Vickers, Reed Sorenson and Jason Leffler will have new colors with the full support of their regular season sponsors.

Terri Miller is the Vice President of Marketing for Great Clips, the primary sponsor on the Leffler car. Her words really drive home the importance of this cause.

"We are so proud of Braun Racing for taking the opportunity to "go pink" and focus on this cause that affects so many people around the world," said Miller.

"Having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years ago personally gave me a new perspective on the importance of awareness and all the ways we can fight this disease and find a cure for our daughters. Great Clips is very happy to be a part of this effort and look forward to seeing the pink No. 38 on the race track."

Make no mistake, this is a grassroots effort that will bring millions of dollars in national TV exposure to this cause. The most impressive thing to remember is that these are completely separate NASCAR teams. Different businesses with different sponsors that have managed to all arrive at the same place at the same time for a good cause.

Here are some additional resources for those who are interested:

Click here for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure homepage.

Click here for the Passionately Pink homepage to get active in the cause.

Click here for the Circle of Promise homepage to educate young women about this disease.

Half of all NASCAR fans are female. They are our wives, mothers, daughters, relatives and friends. Thanks to all the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams that took one weekend out of this very long season to focus national attention on this deserving cause.

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, join us for a live blog of the Nationwide Series race on Friday night.
Note: Rain delayed Formula 1 qualifying from Brazil has cancelled NASCAR Performance on SPEED that was scheduled for 3:30PM. No word yet on remainder of TV schedule or a revised off-time for the F-1.

Update: SPEED's Master Control in LA just made a series of horrible decisions. The huge episode of NASCAR Performance with Chad Knaus and Larry McReynolds was joined in progress and 15 minutes was dropped.

Coming up later is NASCAR Smarts, a game show with fans. That program should have been collapsed and this HUGE episode of NASCAR Performance from LMS should have been aired entirely.

Documentary TV Series Right Thing For Johnson?

Here is the official story from Jenna Fryer of the AP that got the email and Tweets flowing:

CONCORD, N.C. — There's two sides to Jimmie Johnson, the three-time defending champion often perceived to be a stiff, corporate spokesman who has sucked the drama out of NASCAR.

But he plays hard away from the track, where those who know him well insist he's a laid-back California guy who loves a good party.

The public will get to judge for themselves next year when Johnson, who is trying for a NASCAR record fourth consecutive title this season, opens his life for HBO Sports' award-winning "24/7" program. The four-episode series will air beginning in January and focus on Johnson's preparation for the 2010 season-opening Daytona 500.

"I'm confident that my personality will come out, and for those who may think I'm boring, they'll see a different side of me," Johnson said Thursday from his office at Hendrick Motorsports.

The show will mark HBO's first in-depth venture into NASCAR, and it will be the first time its "24/7" franchise will stray from boxing.

The project was brought to HBO by Creative Artists Agency on behalf of Johnson, who signed on with its sports division in 2008 for a marketing, licensing and endorsement deal. CAA asked Johnson for a list of projects he'd like to do and "24/7" was at the top.

He and his wife, Chandra, had become hooked on the series during the Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather edition, and Johnson wanted a chance to do a similar project.

"I think it would be awesome to show what goes on in my life, the team, NASCAR, and truthfully to hit new fans," Johnson said.

First up will be at least 1,000 hours of filming to create the four 30-minute episodes. Cameras have already filmed a bit with Johnson and his wife, and the project will pick up steam as they head into the offseason and then to Daytona next year.

Although Johnson said his wife isn't comfortable around cameras, he's confident they'll adapt. And he's trusting the experience will be much different from what good friend Nick Lachey experienced doing "Newlyweds" for MTV with his now-ex, Jessica Simpson.

"I feel that this is much different than a reality show," he said. "It's certainly our real life but it's more of a documentary than a reality show. That's a big difference. And Nick would kill me, too."

The show will have total access to Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, and the No. 48 race team in its preparation for NASCAR's biggest race of the year. Greenburg expects an adventure or two with the notoriously intense crew chief Chad Knaus, who has little time for media when the pressure is on. Knaus can also be super secretive when it comes to strategies and planning, and the exposure could potentially unnerve him.

"We laugh about it, but it's going to be interesting," Greenburg said. "If Chad has trouble with it, that will be part of the story, too: Chad can't handle this.

"He may bite Jimmie's head off at times, and tell Jimmie to get these cameras out of here. Hopefully, we're rolling when that happens."

But Greenburg is most excited to expose NASCAR to a new audience.

"There's so much to this sport that people don't see," he said. "That happened in boxing (with "24/7") and that happened in pro football (with "Hard Knocks"), and we want to just bring it all out in NASCAR. We are going to show a different side of Jimmie Johnson to America and I think that people will maybe change their tune."

So, what do you think? Is this a star reacting to a call from the fans to prove he is interesting? Perhaps, Johnson truly believes this behind the scenes show will open parts of his life to the public that have been hidden. Either way, it will certainly expose NASCAR to a new group of television viewers.

We are looking for comments relating to the TV series, not Johnson's racing exploits or personality. 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.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Live Blogging The Nationwide Series From Charlotte (7:30PM - ESPN2)

Here we go with a very fast and exciting Nationwide Series race from the Lowe's Motor Speedway. ESPN2 is providing the live coverage.

Allen Bestwick will start the day with the pre-race NASCAR Countdown program. Alongside of him will be Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. On pit road will be Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

The broadcast team will be Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. ESPN has been working Jarrett and Petree very hard. They will already have been on the air for many hours by the time that the race rolls around..

This is one of the most challenging races of the season for the ESPN Producer and Director. Action happens to fast that using the in-car cameras live or playing back recorded features is almost impossible.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series race from LMS on ESPN2. To post your comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by.

Early Friday NASCAR TV From LMS

Let's offer a post for comments on the early Friday TV coverage from SPEED and ESPN2. The full TV schedule is on the right side of the main page.

This should be a good couple of hours leading up to the Nationwide Series race. Without Chasers and on a cool and very fast track, the Friday race could wind up being the highlight of the weekend.

Just a quick note, Marty Reid will be filling in for Jerry Punch on the Happy Hour coverage for the Sprint Cup Series tonight. Punch has a scheduled off night for a function in the area.

We will be live blogging the Nationwide Series race tonight, but in the meantime please feel free to add your TV-related comments on this post. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Powerful TV Coverage For Hall Of Fame

Unless you live under a rock, you know that NASCAR has been struggling with TV ratings and coverage issues as the Sprint Cup Series heads down the homestretch. Wednesday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame selection announcement provided a golden opportunity to get things pointed in a positive direction.

At the head of this effort for ESPN was Jerry Punch. As a Hall of Fame voter, Punch finished those duties and then appeared on both ESPNEWS and the NASCAR Now program. Mike Massaro hosted both from the ESPN studios and showed his maturity as he gave Punch the spotlight.

As those who watched the outstanding Ultimate NASCAR TV series can attest, Punch is best when speaking about the sport in the role of a reporter. Once again, this was the case as Punch spoke eloquently and sometimes emotionally about the history of NASCAR and the personalities involved.

Massaro interviewed a stellar line-up of Richard Petty, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Junior Johnson, Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy in the NASCAR Now program. It was the first time many NASCAR fans had seen Kennedy on-camera and while her comfort level was not high, it was important that she participated.

The high point of ESPN's coverage was Punch talking about his own experience of standing up and speaking about Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the deliberations of the voting panel. He relayed that Kennedy had become emotional while others were making comments about the impact her father and grandfather had on their lives.

This was the Jerry Punch that veteran fans knew and loved from the early ESPN coverage of the sport. Later on ESPNEWS, Punch continued to relay his personal experiences and provide a first-person account of this historic day. It was a nicely shining moment for ESPN in what has been a tough couple of months.

SPEED has recently discovered NASCAR...once again. A hastily added daily TV show debuted on Monday and the Hall of Fame announcement filled the network's schedule during the day and evening hours.

The afternoon program was fascinating and featured some of the best NASCAR content in recent years. The tightly controlled world of NASCAR was forced open during three hours of live TV. Led by Mike Joy, the panel of Kyle Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Ken Squier finally showed fans what is actually right with the sport.

They traded viewpoints and opinions prior to the announcement. Then, they captured the moment with interviews and the most powerful weapon of all, experience.

The panel welcomed France and Kennedy together for a live interview. There were many years of history between the family represented and the panelists. It showed in the interviews. Both France and his sister answered a variety of personal and professional questions.

It was a good moment especially for France, who was able to speak directly about his father and grandfather. Squier told the TV audience that Brian had also spoken during the deliberations. France had pointed out that his father would probably have preferred to have another driver included in the five selections rather than himself because it would sell more tickets.

Wendy Venturini and Randy Pemberton were reporting on this program and it was Pemberton who caught up with David Pearson shortly after the vote that left him out. Pearson advised that he was OK with not being selected, but there was little doubt he was the odd man out in this scenario.

While Teresa Earnhardt also made an appearance, it was Richard and Linda Petty joining the panelists on the TV stage that brought down the house. Ms. Petty has a wicked sense of humor and it was on display in stories that ranged from her husband's big wreck at Daytona to why in the world she let Michael Waltrip live with her family.

This type of living history lesson is sorely missing from the current NASCAR TV scene. The pathway of rebuilding the fan base for the future is clearly the past. These were not polished corporate spokespeople. They were regular folks just like us who liked racing. Isn't that how it all started?

In the end, this was a very positive day for the sport. Now, the action turns to the track. ESPN and SPEED are looking to carry this momentum into a weekend that will allow them not to compete with the Sunday NFL games but shine under the lights on Saturday night.

If you watched the Hall of Fame TV coverage, we would like 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.