Saturday, June 20, 2009

Truck And Nationwide Series TV Networks Awaiting Rule Changes

There was no better example of just how badly both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series need rules changes than Saturday's TV coverage.

SPEED was up first with what is left of the rag-tag truck series. On this Saturday, the flat track action on the historic Milwaukee Mile was going to be just what the teams needed to get some momentum back into the series. Then, reality hit.

The already thin field was scrambled by the pit stop rules that limit the stops to either tires or fuel. Combined with the restarts that keep the leaders single-file, the combination pushed truck-after-truck off the lead lap.

Rick Allen led Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip on a very good TV outing for SPEED. These three were focused on finding the racing in the field and getting it on-camera. This philosophy worked very well until the number of trucks on the lead lap began to dwindle to single digits.

Luckily, the story of Ron Hornaday Jr.'s birthday worked well for SPEED since he won the race. Without that, it would have been a rough afternoon. The shame of the thin field is that SPEED made great pictures, provided great sound and was solid from top-to-bottom.

Since TDP has pointed it out when Waltrip brings his over-the-top pitchman mentality to the series, we should point it out when he is on his game. Milwaukee showed Waltrip can be a partner in the booth and understand his role as the third man. On this telecast, he allowed Allen to call the action and Parsons to be the lead analyst. This trio clicked.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the trio ESPN put together to call the Nationwide Series event. The evening started well with Allen Bestwick running Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty through a variety of topics on the pre-race show. These three rarely leave anything on the table and Wallace clearly enjoys this role.

Wallace then moved up to the broadcast booth and was joined by Jerry Punch and Ray Evernham. While the NASCAR experience between these three is robust, the on-air dynamic was not. These three rarely work together and Punch's regular partners Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett were off.

Both Jarrett and Petree have gotten very good at generating the excitement in the broadcasts that Punch cannot muster. On this night, Punch was presented with great side-by-side racing, tense restarts and emerging stories throughout the field.

The only time Punch's voice rose above the monotone delivery of a news reporter was when he threw to commercial or read a promo. There was not a moment of excitement during the racing action. It was brutal.

Rusty Wallace tried to fill the air time, but by the end of the telecast he sounded like he had a very long night. Evernham is apparently used to being cued to talk and never was a factor in the telecast. Often, he simply agreed with Wallace.

The Producer tried to make use of Bestwick and the excitable Daugherty in the infield frequently, but when the telecast was returned to Punch the wind again came out of the sails. If there was ever a race where Bestwick and Punch could have traded places to see how it went, this was it. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

The shame of it all was that the racing was outstanding and the TV production by the NASCAR on ESPN team was solid from the start. The pit reporters hustled during the race, but a Kenny Wallace interview should have happened after he went to the garage with mechanical problems.

After the race, ESPN had almost forty minutes to fill and it was Punch and company who handled the post-race. Normally, this is a time for Bestwick and Daugherty to work with the pit reporters to chase down the stories. The infield gang only appeared for the last couple of minutes before sign-off.

Pit reporters Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Dave Burns unfortunately lapsed into the "how does that make you feel" and the "walk me through that" questions as time began to drag. But, it was nice to see some Nationwide faces on national TV after a race.

One big question for both of these TV networks is when will NASCAR change some rules? The trucks need the new restart rules and a second look at the tires or fuel pit stops. It just does not work at some tracks. The Nationwide Series race would have been much more exciting if the new restart rules were in place.

Several times on both broadcasts various announcers mentioned the lack of the new restart rules as a gentle prod to get changes. NASCAR needs only to look at the number of start and park cars and trucks to realize that those changes better come now. Smaller fields mean that the lapped cars and trucks really change the race dynamic on the restarts in the later laps. That was very clear to see for TV viewers.

Saturday was a big day of racing with good weather and another NASCAR TV doubleheader. These side-by-side comparisons between series and TV networks really give a good look at just how different the racing and the approaches to televising it can be.

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

Live Blogging The Nationwide Series from Milwaukee on ESPN2

The ESPN2 block of Nationwide Series coverage begins at 6:30PM with qualifying. Then, Allen Bestwick is next with NASCAR Countdown at 8PM. The racing action begins at 8:30PM.

Bestwick will be joined in the Infield Pit Center by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty for the pre-race show. Wallace will then move up to the broadcast booth and join Jerry Punch and Ray Evernham, who is in for Andy Petree.

With Vince Welch off to an IRL Sunday event, it will be the trio of Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Dave Burns handling the action on pit road.

The weather has finally cleared in the area and SPEED was able to telecast a live truck series race earlier on Saturday. The NASCAR on ESPN team should enjoy great pictures and sound just like SPEED.

The Milwaukee Mile is a rough place to race with typical flat-track action that normally results in a caution flag or two. Both Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards were trying their best to get from the practice session at Sonoma to the Milwaukee track to keep their Nationwide Championship hunt under way.

The rest of the field is weakened a bit, but does contain several drivers like Ron Hornaday Jr. and Dennis Setzer who raced in the truck series race. In fact, today is Hornaday's birthday and he won the CWTS event. Keep on eye on "Grandpa."

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

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

Trouble Brewing For Rusty Wallace And US Fidelis Sponsor

The Internet is littered with websites, big and small, where Americans are expressing their outrage with a company called US Fidelis. Click here to go directly to the US Fidelis homepage. There you will see some familiar faces.

Rusty Wallace and his son Steven are featured prominently on the mainpage. The reason is simple. US Fidelis sponsors one of the Wallace team cars in the Nationwide Series.

As with most sponsorships, the agreement includes Rusty personally appearing in TV commercials for the company. Wallace promotes US Fidelis as a company that offers an extended warranty on vehicles once the original manufacturer warranty expires.

Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the whole truth. Simply because of the TV commercials, Wallace appears to be right in the middle of the situation.

Click here for a video expose on US Fidelis from the Today Show on NBC. Based in St. Louis, the company is portrayed as nothing more than a wholesale telemarketing scam with no interest whatsoever in following through on the warranties being sold.

In fact, the President of the company with whom Wallace made his sponsorship deal is a convicted felon on both a state and federal level. Now 19 years out of federal prison, Darain Atkinson is only in his mid-forties. Regardless of his past convictions on counterfeiting, burglary, theft and forgery charges, he is now a very wealthy man. US Fidelis is the reason why.

One project Atkinson is currently working on is an 18 million dollar mansion that will cover more than 20 thousand square feet on the banks of Lake St. Louis. It includes a bowling alley, beauty salon and an auto courtyard that features a seven car garage.

Click here for a jaw-dropping story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that presents a sinister profile of the family at the helm of this allegedly corrupt company. It contains a reference to what many believe is the most controversial part of Atkinson's claims. The halo on the company logo shows what Atkinson confirms. In his mind, US Fidelis is a faith-based organization.

"There is an order in the Kingdom of Heaven," Atkinson told the Post-Dispatch. "God has blessed us. Why he has blessed us, I don't know."

Apparently, the criminal justice system cannot figure it out either. At last count, 40 Attorneys General were actively involved in pursuing criminal complaints against US Fidelis. Click here for the information on the class action civil lawsuit filed in April against the company.

All of this puts Wallace in a tough position. On one hand, US Fidelis is paying the bills or the company logo would have been removed from the hood long ago. On the other hand, Wallace himself is a brand and it is being tarnished every time a US Fidelis commercial airs.

ESPN is certainly an issue. Wallace has been trusted by ESPN as a multi-car team owner in the Nationwide Series to remain impartial on the air. Recently, Wallace has been handling the pre-race show and the race analysis as he will in Milwaukee on Saturday. Essentially, what Wallace says to the national TV audience needs to be regarded as honest and the truth.

Finally, these tough economic times have put the financial squeeze on NASCAR teams like never before. 5 Hour Energy Drink and US Fidelis are perhaps not exactly the gold-plated team sponsors that Wallace would like to have for the long run.

It should be interesting with the controversy and pending legal action against US Fidelis to see if Wallace tries to ride-out the season with this tainted brand or walks away to keep his personal and professional reputation intact.

Wallace joins Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty Saturday at 8PM on ESPN2 for the pre-race show. He then moves upstairs with Jerry Punch and Ray Evernham to call the race at 8:30PM. Green flag from Milwaukee is at 8:45PM. TDP will be live blogging this event.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. We do not want your email and there is nothing to join. We just want your views on Rusty Wallace and the US Fidelis situation.

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.

Additional story references: Click title to view.

CNBC: On The Money Blog from April 27, 2009 Warranty Sales Skim Top Profit from May 23, 2009 Florida Man Behind US Fidelis Robo-Calls Had Criminal History from June 15,2009 Class Action Lawsit Filed Against US Fidelis from April 10, 2009

Live Blogging The CWTS Race From Milwaukee On SPEED

Rain delayed the Friday night Camping World Truck Series race until Saturday afternoon at 1:30PM. SPEED tells us that the Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour coverage will air after the trucks at 4PM ET.

Michael Waltrip is joining the broadcast team of Rick Allen and Phil Parsons for the call of the race. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander will handle the pit road coverage.

The trucks need to put on a good show this week for TV viewers. The series has some Nationwide cross-overs this week, but no Kyle Busch in the line-up. This should open up some opportunities for new drivers to run for the win.

We will be keeping an eye on the start and park teams, who have been ignored by the SPEED broadcast crew up to this point. The issue is not a secret, but Milwaukee may see less of this practice with the Nationwide drivers in the field.

SPEED offers a straight forward approach to these telecasts that features the racing and nothing else. There is no infield pit center, no cutaway car and no Digger. Allen and Parsons know the series inside-out and Waltrip has proven to be a complement to them when he is on his game.

This one mile flat-track should return the trucks to the roots of the series where beating-and-banging gained the drivers their tough reputations. One good TV race with competitive teams battling for the front would be just what the doctor ordered.

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

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