Sunday, October 11, 2009

NASCAR TV Changes On Monday

It's not very clear why SPEED would put so much effort into a new NASCAR TV program this late in the season. It's also not clear why it would revamp the entire SPEED programming line-up to insert this new show at 7:30PM ET from Monday through Thursday.

The new series is called NASCAR Race Hub. It will be anchored from the new SPEED Studios right down the street from the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Here is the official explanation on this new effort:

"We know more about our NASCAR on SPEED audience than ever before," said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. "Avid NASCAR fans watch SPEED and ‘the Hub’ will be built with this in mind. With year-to-year ratings up for SPEED’s coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR RaceDay and several other NASCAR on SPEED programs, as well as the historic announcement of the inaugural class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, this is the perfect time to launch a nightly show."

Here are the highlights of what Race Hub will be offering in the first couple of days:

Monday: Krista Voda and Adam Alexander co-host the inaugural episode. The special guest will be Richard Petty and the big topic will be the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday: Voda hosts with a broadcasting guest list. Mike Joy, Rick Allen, Doug Rice and Ken Squier will continue the Hall of Fame discussion as they all have a Hall of Fame vote. Nice to see Doug Rice get some TV time.

Wednesday: One hour version beginning at 7PM. Voda co-hosts with Steve Byrnes. They will recap the Hall of Fame activities from Charlotte. Driver Bobby Labonte and SMI's Marcus Smith will be studio guests. The new 2010 Ford Mustang will be brought over from Roush Racing and will also be in the studio.

The network insists it will be rotating on-air talent through the studio hosting role, but the name Voda seems to be rather consistent in the first week.

That is a pretty good start to a brand new NASCAR TV series. This is a major change in the direction of SPEED's primetime programming. Other than TWIN on Monday nights, there has been no NASCAR presence on weekday evenings for a very long time.

Many quality TV series from the NASCAR Media Group have been cancelled by SPEED over the years. They range from NASCAR Confidential to Beyond the Wheel. Quest for the Cup now airs on Versus Tuesday evenings. Even TWIN was rumored to be on the chopping block. Now, suddenly there is a daily show and an emphasis on NASCAR with only weeks left in a ten month season.

Over at ESPN, that group has needed every bit of two years just to get NASCAR Now dialed-in to being the solid program it has become six days a week. While ESPN's emphasis is on traditional news gathering and reporting, SPEED continues to insist that Race Hub is going to be different.

The big advantage for SPEED is location. The TV studios are literally right down the street from the vast majority of the NASCAR shops and many other companies directly involved with the sport. Once NASCAR folks figure out that a quick drive over to SPEED can result in live national TV exposure for their sponsor, manufacturer or special interest, it could get interesting.

As Voda preps for the start of this project, veteran Bob Dillner comes off the road to make an appearance on The SPEED Report this Sunday night at 7PM as a co-anchor with Adam Alexander. Randy Pemberton is taking Dillner's reporting role in Fontana.

TDP will put Race Hub in the TV listings and follow this program just as we followed NASCAR Now when it began back in 2007. It should be interesting to see how the new series grows and what happens in November when the season ends. SPEED is leaving that issue up in the air for right now.

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Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series From Fontana, CA (2:30PM ET on ABC)

Here we go with a race that is wide open. The Saturday Nationwide Series race at the Fontana track sizzled. Now, the big COT's get ready to try and pass on a track known for aero issues.

It will be Allen Bestwick leading the ESPN production team on the air at 2:30PM with a one hour version of NASCAR Countdown. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. There are plenty of topics for Bestwick to talk about and hopefully the TV team will try to balance the stories of the race with the stories of the Chase.

Jerry Punch is next with the race coverage. He will take over slightly before the 3:31PM green flag. Punch is going to have a very long day calling the action. This is a 500 mile race and covering all the stories is going to be crucial.

Now in year three, fans are used to watching these races without a true play-by-play call. Instead, Punch offers minimal information, no excitement and begins to lapse into asking questions of his broadcast partners about halfway through these races. Fans still email me about his total silence during the Logano accident two weeks ago. How much longer ESPN will tolerate this remains to be seen.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree look and sound like they have had a long season. Jarrett has worked with Punch, Marty Reid and been also asked to handle the play by play alone several times this season. As a result, his formerly crisp and interesting comments are not as well-placed because he holds back.

Andy Petree is the one who has just stepped up and let it fly recently. His ability to step in and point out action on the track that Punch and the producer are missing is key to these telecasts. Petree often calls out the accident location and then fans wait while Punch and the TV cameras try to find it.

Tim Brewer is about out of new things to tell the fans. Saturday, he detailed for fans who have watched the sport since February what a driver has to unbuckle to exit a car. It was painful. Who ever is producing this venue needs to understand fans want knowledge, not repetition.

Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch are the reporters on pit road. Last week, this team was forced to ask post-race questions to everyone except the security guards as the network had to fill over thirty minutes. Amazingly, once the reporters got away from the questions they were forced to ask by the producers, they did a great job. Hopefully, a lesson learned.

Fontana is rough for tight camera work. It is rough to show the cars racing away from the camera. On the backstretch, only a wideshot shows the pack fanning out to set-up for the passing zone. In-car cameras work best for replays. How much of this is followed and how much is disregarded is about to be seen.

This post is going to host your comments on the ABC presentation of the Sprint Cup Series race from Fontana, CA. 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 stopping by The Daly Planet.