Sunday, June 14, 2009

TNT's Michigan Coverage Also Ends On Fumes

What a tough chore for the NASCAR on TNT team. Despite the parity of the COT's and the new fancy restarts, MIS once again offered little in the way of racing excitement as the Sprint Cup Series took to the track.

TNT is loaded this season with all kinds of good pre-race interviews and features. After the rather unique pre-race approach of Fox, Marc Fein and his TNT show has proven to be right on-target for the last two races. Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds look at ease and really provide a good one-two punch for the network.

After the troubles of last season, TNT worked very hard to revamp the Wally's World feature with mixed results. There is no doubt that this season's offering of Dallenbach superimposed over racing footage is unique, but the information being offered is sometimes lost in the special effects.

Bill Weber retired the sky blue jacket and led Dallenbach through the second pre-race show. These two work well together and their conversation around the TNT cocktail table covers a lot of topics that other networks would never touch.

One issue addressed by TNT honestly throughout the telecast was the start-and-park teams. After the dents in the credibility that other NASCAR TV networks took by not mentioning the many teams who retired early, TNT kept the viewers updated as the numbers grew.

No matter how hard the cameras searched, there was quickly little excitement to be found on the track. The COT's stretched out and the familiar pattern of passing on pit road began again. TNT kept the triple-splits on the caution flag pit stops and set a good example for other networks to follow.

Weber also worked very hard to provide updates on the field. Sometimes using his pit reporters and sometimes just going it alone, this is an element that really helped the TV viewers whose only perspective is the TV screen for the entire race.

RaceBuddy was again a hit, but with one glitch along the way. The team did not do a very good job of matching the in-car camera video to the correct team audio. Other than that, the designated pit reporter and the battle-cam make this online-only function a total success that should be exported to other networks.

Kyle Petty continues to be the star of the show, speaking his mind and opening the kind of dialogue between announcers that is just not seen on the other networks covering the sport. Petty enjoys picking the brain of McReynolds, the infield genius working his calculator all race long.

In Pocono, TNT focused on winner Tony Stewart even as other cars spun-out and ran out of fuel racing to the finish. At MIS, this problem was corrected with a tremendous wideshot of the finish line and an electronic graphic displaying easy to read information. It was perfect. Unfortunately, it was after the race that problems began again.

Last week, TNT left NASCAR fifteen minutes before the scheduled "off-time" of the Pocono race. The race was over, but there was plenty to talk about. This week, the network left more than twenty minutes before the scheduled end of the MIS coverage. How and why this has become an issue is unknown. One thing is for certain, it left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans. TDP comments and email tell the tale.

The reason for this frustration is easy to understand. Before the MIS race, there were over five hours of pre-race TV coverage on three different networks. One of those networks was TNT. Fans were asked to watch ninety minutes of TNT programming before the green flag fell.

Why then would a network so dedicated to getting NASCAR information to the fans leave the air and then have the audacity to show TNT viewers twenty minutes of a show on police chases? The closer is that TNT only does six races a year, so why the rush? On the TV side, lots of stories were left untold.

TNT has four races remaining with perhaps the most challenging up next. The network has struggled at Sonoma, but this year's on-air line-up and production team seems ready to finally master the road course chaos. It should be interesting.

We welcome your comments on the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Michigan. To leave 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 and have a great week.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series Race From Michigan on TNT

TNT rented a house on a Michigan lake for the NASCAR on TNT announcers. It was close to the track and made the travel and logistics a lot easier. Kyle Petty quickly dubbed the place Camp Weber.

When not fishing or having a sing-a-long with Petty on the guitar, the TNT guys were talking about the issues with MIS. Junior fans remember him creeping across the line on fumes last year, saved by a late caution flag.

Now, the Sprint Cup Series comes to MIS after a wild season that has featured as many stories off the track as on the racing surface. MIS has the potential on TV to either provide a great telecast or become an exercise in gas mileage once again. NASCAR is hoping that the double-file restarts will add a kick to the middle and closing parts of the race.

The irony of General Motors announcing the withdrawal of funding for the truck and Nationwide series this week is not lost on the Cup teams in the garage. Putting on a good show is more important then ever when the survival of the series as we know it may be at stake. Next week will bring the real world fall-out of the GM news.

TNT is off to a good start in 2009. Petty, Larry McReynolds and Wally Dallenbach have been working well as a unit with Bill Weber directing traffic. Petty may be the star, but Weber sets the tone and he got annoyed in the closing stages of the Pocono race.

That break in communication caused a failure on the final lap that resulted in a big hiccup. The TV perspective was lost on the last lap, the cameras only showed the leader and the drama of cars spinning and running out of gas was never shown. Weber's words about Tony Stewart being the story made no sense with blue tire smoke in the background and other cars slow on the apron. In NASCAR TV, the final lap is more important than the first.

TNT's online companion is RaceBuddy. Again offered free to any broadband computer user at, RaceBuddy offers a designated pit road reporter, four camera angles and team scanner audio. For those fans who enjoy multi-tasking, it just does not get any better.

Petty continues to push the envelope by Tweeting while he is on the air and this week TNT has added a direct link for fan questions at the website. Upping the interaction between the fans and the TV crew is something that TNT has been doing well. Hopefully, somewhere ESPN is making notes.

TNT has been great with the directing, including the triple-splits in the pits and the priorities assigned on the track. With the huge MIS facility, the TV coverage is going to have to jump continually to the best racing on the track, regardless of the position of those cars in the line-up.

The network offered good recaps last week and seems to be aggressively including the pit reporters continually during the race. Interviews of the drivers who are out of the race this week is going to be important, especially if there is a big incident early on.

The biggest complaint emailed to TDP about Pocono was the fact that TNT left the air 15 minutes before the scheduled off-time. The remainder of the post-race interviews were done online at, but that eliminated those not multi-tasking and did not seem to be fair since there was time remaining.

In 2007, TNT did the same thing during a crucial race and explained that it was more important to start the vampire movie early and keep the audience than offer interviews to NASCAR fans. The resulting anger changed that policy rather quickly. Perhaps, it might be a time to review that memo.

MIS offers the clear opportunity for both NASCAR and TNT to put the sport squarely back in the spotlight. Great weather, evenly matched cars and double-file restarts might be just what the doctor ordered to change the momentum for this series.

TDP welcomes your comments on the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from MIS. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

We appreciate you taking the time out of your Sunday to stop by The Daly Planet.

Johnny Benson In Serious Condition After SuperMod Accident

Late Saturday night came word that current Camping World Truck Series Champion and well-known driver Johnny Benson had been injured in a racing accident.

Click here for the original story from the website. Benson was racing his SuperMod (shown above) and wound-up in an accident that caused a fire.

Click here for the WZZM follow-up story that listed Benson in serious condition at a local Grand Rapids, MI hospital.

Report was that JB was awake and alert when removed from the car after the fire. These are high-speed open wheel cars and are a handful.

Click here for an article where JB talks about his new supermod and racing.

1:30AM ET Update: Hospital told WOOD-TV that Benson is in serious but stable condition. Continued to say "he's expected to be fine." Great news. More Monday morning.

Sunday morning update: JB is resting in the hospital and told his sister Barb that she looks worse than he does. I will take that to mean he is going to be fine. One broken rib on the injury report right now, more info when available. (Get some sleep Barb!)

TDP will continue to update this information. Benson is a NASCAR favorite for his personality, his driving skills and his many years on TV with Michael Waltrip and Kenny Schrader on Monday nights.

Pre-Race Shows Go On Forever

Nicole Manske kicked the TV day off with NASCAR Now at 9AM on ESPN2. Manske has Boris Said in the studio and both Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis at MIS. This one hour show also features a wrap-up from Jerry Punch and his Nationwide Series TV team.

At 10AM, Adam Alexander reviews the past couple of days in racing on SPEED's NASCAR in a Hurry. This show uses video clips and offers a sometimes humorous perspective on the weekend's activities.

The franchise is up next as RaceDay hits SPEED at 10:30AM. Two hours of programming will include interviews with Tony Stewart, Roger Penske and even MIS Grand Marshal Kid Rock. John Roberts hosts with Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace alongside. Wallace should have the latest news on his friend Johnny Benson. Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler are the reporters for this program. The show is on a bit early to avoid a conflict with the ninety minutes of TNT pre-race programming.

The first TNT pre-race show is NASCAR on TNT Live at 12:30PM. Marc Fein hosts Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds from the infield stage. Guests will include Richard Childress and Clint Bowyer. Kid Rock will also stop by. This show has a fun twist as Petty provides updates and photos on Twitter while the show is in-progress.

TNT is quickly getting known for its quality features. This week Ralph Sheheen visits Jack Roush and gets a tour of his extensive car collection. Libdsay Czarniak goes into Race Control and gets an explanation of how they figure out the double-wide restarts during the race.

Wally Dallenbach offers another version of Wally's World featuring the big MIS track. This feature will appear on the final pre-race show called Countdown to Green. This thirty minute show comes directly from the announce booth and Dallenbach is joined by Bill Weber.

TDP will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race at 2PM. Please feel free to add your comments on the pre-race TV programming to this post. 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 time out of your Sunday to stop by The Daly Planet.