Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pocono Weather Causes TV Networks To Scramble

It's not just the teams and officials that have to scramble to deal with rain delays in the Sprint Cup Series. NASCAR's remaining two TV partners, ESPN and SPEED, had to make a whole lot of changes on the fly due to the wet weather.

Fans saw the NASCAR RaceDay gang run inside at Pocono when the rain was really coming down at 11AM on Sunday morning. Eventually, the trio of Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace and host John Roberts made it outside to the SPEED Stage. Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler both did an outstanding job of chasing down the interviews and news despite the weather. Venturini was the only TV personality all day long who told the truth about the rain.

The RaceDay gang is going to stick around and provide a one hour pre-race show on Monday at 11AM ET. ESPN will only be covering the race, so this will be the old style of RaceDay, with the show leading right up to the green flag.

The ESPN crew from the Infield Pit Studio and Tech Garage flew back to Connecticut Sunday night. Originally, the Monday one-hour version of NASCAR Now was scheduled to be the annual pit reporters show. Instead, Allen Bestwick will be hosting Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Tim Brewer in the ESPN2 studios for a live version of the show.

ESPN's four pit reporters will stay behind, dry off and get ready for a full race on Monday. Joining them will be Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree upstairs in the broadcast booth. These three got an opportunity to loosen up and tell the TV viewers some stories on Sunday afternoon. The on-air change was amazing.

The strength of the NASCAR on ESPN line-up is their experience. That is often lost in the carefully managed and scripted world of the current ESPN production philosophy. When Punch, Wallace and Brewer got some time to tell some stories it really showed what this team could be if the ESPN management loosened the reins.

Sunday night, SPEED plugged NASCAR in a Hurry and NASCAR Smarts into the timeslot normally held by the Victory Lane show. That program will air at 8PM on Monday and take the place of This Week in NASCAR. Kasey Kahne was going to be a panelist with Michael Waltrip and Steve Byrnes, no word yet on rescheduling him for a future show.

ESPN cancelled Sunday night's one hour NASCAR Now show and just extended the XGames coverage. No word yet on a Tuesday night version of NASCAR Now. Once the race is over on Monday, ESPNEWS will have coverage from the track, including the live press conferences from the media center.

It would be a mistake not to take a moment and point out the tireless work of Allen Bestwick during the almost four hours of ESPN's marathon rain delay coverage. Bestwick is an organized and deliberate TV professional who likes to come in prepared and exit without a sound. On this day, he served as the backbone for ESPN and once again let the other panelists have the spotlight.

TDP will be live blogging the pre-race show and the race beginning at 11AM. Stop by and leave us your opinion of the coverage. For those of you recording the race, program in some extra time as the threat of rain is still in the area on Monday.

We welcome your comments on the Sunday TV network scrambles. To add your opinion, just click on the comments section below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series In Pocono (Cancelled - Monday 12PM ET)

Note: The Sprint Cup Series race on ESPN from Pocono has been cancelled due to rain. RaceDay on SPEED will air at 11AM and then ESPN will have the live race at 12PM. Thanks everyone, see you tomorrow for a live blog of the TV telecast.

Most everyone knows by now that Pocono is having a tough time with rain. After a long night of rain, the track is now under fog and the jet dryers are out and working.

There is no doubt that the 2:18 race start is going to be pushed back. Our interest lies in how the NASCAR on ESPN TV team handles the day. There are several options.

First, present the entire pre-race show and then move to stand-by programming after 2PM when the actual race was scheduled to start. Second, stay live and continue to use the eleven announcers, all the drivers and the resources of ESPN to fill the time until the race begins.

It should be interesting to see who quarterbacks this coverage. Allen Bestwick will be in the Infield Pit Studio and Jerry Punch will be upstairs in the broadcast booth. Bestwick has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside, while Punch has Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree with him for the duration.

Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage on-site in Pocono. The pit road reporters are Jamie Little, Shannon Spake, Dave Burns and Vince Welch. All of these TV personalities will be heavily involved in filling this time during the rain delay.

One big challenge during a wet weekend like this is the TV equipment. We saw problems happen for NASCAR Now this morning and there is no doubt that something will probably fail before the day is done.

This is Pocono, so the excitement is limited to the frontstretch and the accidents happen everywhere else. Cars fan out three and four wide crossing the start finish line on the longest frontstretch in NASCAR racing. The second and third turns of this track are flat and do not make for good TV. Since the infield is not paved, cars off the track are in for a very wet ride in the grass.

If things get underway, we should be watching to see if ESPN changed the philosophy of playing back driver soundbites and going to Tim Brewer under green flag racing. The stories of the race throughout the field are also a challenge to the network right now and hopefully the pit road reporters will be used to fill-in the gaps.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Pocono. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Rain In Pocono (Continually Updated)

Rough weather in Pocono. Raining hard, still overcast and flooded.

First pictures should be from Marty Smith on-site at 10AM during the NASCAR Now show on ESPN2. RaceDay follows from the outdoor SPEED Stage at 11AM.

Update: Raining behind Marty Smith and Brad Daugherty on NASCAR Now. Weather radar does not look very good. Rain chances over 50% all day.

Update #2: From Elliott Sadler - I doubt we will race today. Don't sit at home waiting around. Go do something fun. Looks bad all day and the track seeps real bad.

Update #3: Kenny Wallace advised that RaceDay on SPEED has been moved inside because of the weather. No idea of the location.

Update #4: Drivers meeting as scheduled, but nothing happening. Continuing to rain at 11:30AM with no end in sight.

Update #5: Jet dryers are on the track at 12PM, the drivers meeting is in progress and things are looking up a bit.

We will continually update the rain story as the 2PM race time approaches.

The 24 Hours Of Pocono Is Calling

Let's begin with the easy questions about Pocono. Yes, NASCAR was just there a short while ago. Yes, it is going to rain. Yes, there are four hours of pre-race TV. Yes, there are no lights for night racing. Yes, the drivers and the teams hate it.

So, there you go. As a fan there is just not a whole lot that motivates you to watch a live race from this track on TV. Antiquated, outdated and unmotivated describes the vibe that jumps out of the TV when images of Pocono hit the screen.

Into this fun steps ESPN with one hour of pre-race coverage at 1PM ET and then live race coverage from 2PM until, well, it's all over.

Rusty Wallace had to be happy as he flew his airplane back to Pocono from the Iowa Speedway. The track that Wallace built hosted its first Nationwide Series event on Saturday afternoon. The Iowa area turned out 56 thousand fans for a track with only 25 thousand permanent seats. Is there such a thing as a double sell-out?

The temporary stands worked just fine and Wallace watched his track host side by side racing and draw rave reviews from the teams. Now, Wallace will join Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty for the long day's journey into the Pocono night. These three will handle the pre-race show and then get ready to fill a lot of time if the rain showers arrive. TV viewers may get to hear a whole lot about Iowa depending on just how wet it gets in Pocono.

After a rough Indy race, Jerry Punch leads the NASCAR on ESPN team onto the air for what is a very challenging telecast. Especially with the COT, the racing at Pocono tends to take place on pit road and restarts. With long green flag runs, it just might be time on pit road that produces a winner.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree seem to be having a blast. They tolerate Punch, but often take over the telecasts and try to get the excitement of the racing relayed to the TV viewer. At Indy, these two answered endless questions from Punch throughout the telecast while the action on the track went virtually unnoticed.

Look for Petree to be especially vocal about the different ways that crew chiefs have gone about setting up their cars and how the strategies unfold on pit road. No Larry McReynolds on this broadcast, just Tim Brewer in the Tech Garage pointing to shocks and springs as if fans just found the sport yesterday.

The Saturday ARCA race at Pocono showed the good and bad side of this track on TV. Shooting the long frontstretch from the Turn 1 camera allows viewers to watch the field widen-out as they all pick up speed. Unfortunately, the second and third turns of this triangle are flat and boring.

It takes a good aggressive director to keep fans interested through the mixing of aerial shots, in-car cameras and low angle speed shots. Once the field sorts out, the only way things do not go downhill fast is with the TV crew keeping the pictures interesting.

ESPN drown viewers in pre-recorded soundbites from drivers during Indy that played right over the live racing in the background. The network also put Brewer and his tech explanations front and center, again with the race in the background. It seems that the fundamental issue of the race being the most important thing is still being missed.

The IRL, ARCA, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Trucks all presented races on Saturday that did not feature an infield studio set. The action on the track was the theme of the show. ESPN will have eleven announcers once again on the race telecast and this is simply proving to be too many.

Trying to get the broadcast booth, the Infield Pit Studio, the Tech Garage and all four pit reporters time on the air is hard to do. Add in the sponsored features, the commercials and the result is that ESPN finds itself in the same situation it did last season. Ten pounds of NASCAR TV in a five pound bag.

TDP will start a live blog during the day to follow the weather and the pre-race TV coverage. After the Connecticut-based NASCAR Now show at 10AM, RaceDay on SPEED has two hours to fill outdoors in Pocono rain or shine. Depending on how bad the weather is, there could be lots of changes to the TV schedule. Our first update should be at 9AM.

We welcome your comments on the topics discussed above. 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.

Rutledge Wood Crashes The ESPN Pocono TV Booth

Don't let SPEED's Rutledge Wood wander around the Pocono Tower with a camera. Someone left the door open to the ESPN broadcast booth and Wood got a quick pic with the ESPN TV team on the air during final Sprint Cup Series practice. Click on it to see it full-size.

Great view of the TV monitor in front of Jerry Punch and the set of scoring and computer monitors on both sides of the booth. Also, this lets us see the very long view toward the backside of the track from this location.

The large object in the front of the picture is the camera used for the "stand-up" at the opening, during extended cautions and for the post-race. You can see the two TV lights above to illuminate that camera shot and back of the TV monitors used by the talent during their time on-camera.

Thanks to Rutledge for sneaking around the tower and taking some pics. Comments are welcome.