Monday, November 29, 2010

RPM News Welcome Before Sprint Cup Series Banquet

Monday the news came from several outlets that Richard Petty had emerged from his latest financial crisis not only intact, but in charge. Petty and a group of investors bought out RPM owner George Gillett and took control of RPM.

This is welcome news as the Sprint Cup Series gang heads for Las Vegas and the post-season awards show. Monday on SPEED, Steve Byrnes and Danielle Trotta will be reporting from Las Vegas for Race Hub while John Roberts will anchor the show from the network's Charlotte studios.

Race Hub is on at 7PM ET Monday through Thursday this week, then the two banquet shows air Friday. The combined Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series show is at 7PM, while the live Sprint Cup Series banquet is 9PM ET.

More on the format of the live coverage during the week. We hope to avoid the issues experienced in the past where the live portion of the banquet was non-existent.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. Just click the comments button below.

Waiting For Evernham To Get Back In The Game

It's no secret that Ray Evernham has been itching to get back in the NASCAR game. Confined to ESPN's Infield Pit Studio as the third wheel behind Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty, Evernham is limited to a sentence or two in his TV comments.

On select Mondays, Evernham is put in the tight "Bestwick box" of NASCAR Now. "Agree or disagree" is a favorite term of host Allen Bestwick as he holds a tight leash on his panelists. When the show is over, Evernham records segments used during the week where he points at car parts a la the legendary Tim Brewer. Something's got to give.

Sunday morning Evernham dropped the following message on Twitter: "Firming up 2011 plans and will make a formal announcement when it all comes together. Will make sure to tweet before announcement is made."

Before the Homestead race, Evernham confirmed that he has not signed with ESPN for 2011 and is weighing his options. Ruled out is working as a crew chief, traveling the entire Sprint Cup Series circuit or taking on a full time role in senior management for a NASCAR team or manufacturer.

So, where might Evernham go? SPEED is in a transition right now, but that network only televises the Camping World Truck Series and two non-points events on the Sprint Cup Series side. The Monday through Thursday NASCAR Race Hub show mixes interviews, field reports and highlights. FOX and TNT are set in their on-air line-ups. The TV options appear slim.

All of this Evernham conversation began after he announced that he was suddenly free from his legal entanglements with what is now called Richard Petty Motorsports. Even Rick Hendrick chimed in. "Ray and I are very close,” Hendrick told's Bob Pockrass. “He’s a very smart guy, and we had talked over the last year about things that I’m doing that he likes. So there’s just an array of things that we do in our companies that Ray has been in and around for years, so I’m sure that Ray and I will be doing something together, and hopefully it will be fun.”

Many fans believe that part of the "fun" Hendrick refers to is getting the struggling dynasty that is Dale Earnhardt Jr. back on the right track. With yet another crew chief gone, Junior continues to be an enigma where many fans are concerned. Talented, yet troubled and perhaps more in need of a father figure who speaks his language than another high-tech crew chief chasing the COT dynamic.

The NASCAR on ESPN management has been mum on the issue. Perhaps, still in shock from the TV debacle that was the Homestead coverage. Evernham worked well on TV and when paired with Ricky Craven provided a wonderful discussion of NASCAR topics and issues in the news. Evernham's absence on TV would be a loss for fans.

So, we wait for news that should prove to be interesting. Will ESPN stick with Evernham if he works at HMS? Will Junior prove to be a part of the equation? Perhaps, a wild card like SPEED might step into the mix and offer Evernham his own TV project? The answers should be coming our way shortly.

We invite 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 The Daly Planet.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Flashback: Those Footsteps Might Sound Familiar

Update: The Chase for the Championship was designed with several things in mind. One key element was to create additional excitement during the overlap of NASCAR and the NFL. Once again this year, the final September through November slate of races on TV were topped by regional NFL games in the ratings.

The column below was originally published on August 12, 2010:

It was only the first Sunday exhibition game of the season. The NFL Hall of Fame game is a casual affair featuring sideline interviews with the new members of the Hall. While the play was sloppy and the score didn't count, the TV results were nothing short of spectacular.

"NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage of the NFL’s preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals was the most watched preseason telecast in nine years and the most watched Hall of Fame game in 11 years," said the website.

"The Cowboys’ 16-7 victory attracted 11.4 million viewers and logged a final rating of 6.8, up 39% in ratings and 44% in viewership from the Buffalo Bills-Tennessee Titans outing last year. The Hall of Fame Game more than doubled ESPN’s 2.7 rating for its Sunday Night Baseball coverage of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox."

Meanwhile, NASCAR was at Watkins Glen Sunday afternoon and drew a 3.2 U.S. rating and 4.932 million viewers on ESPN. The Sprint Cup Series has been racing since February and is in the heart of the season right before the playoffs.

We are now officially one month away from the first Sunday of regular season NFL football on September 12. Last season, the NFL simply crushed NASCAR. ESPN's struggles combined with the lack of a compelling Chase storyline motivated many sports fans to change the channel on Sunday afternoons and watch their local NFL team in action.

This year, things are a bit different. ESPN has made changes to the coverage that are working and the energy of the telecasts is much better. Marty Reid had partnered with Allen Bestwick putting two top television professionals front and center to lead the series to Homestead.

"TV Troubles With The Chase Easy To Understand" was a TDP column from October of 2009. Click the title to read the entire post and the attached fan comments.

While the various TV networks providing NFL coverage on Sunday afternoons were watching teams simply trying to win games, the NASCAR on ESPN crew was involved in something very different. Three distinct storylines were playing out within the same telecast. This confusing scenario began with something called "The Chase."

These were our words last season:

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500. The fundamental problem with the Chase is there are more drivers outside of it than in it.

Last season this resulted in a scenario that drove ESPN into a frenzy and viewers away from the TV screen. This from TDP last November:

As we have seen with ESPN over the past three seasons, the biggest struggle down the stretch is to try and satisfy three different agendas on TV during each of the final ten races.

First, NASCAR fans across the nation are sitting in front of the TV and waiting to see their favorite driver. It does not matter where he is running, how he is running or if he made the Chase. Fans of a certain driver want to see that driver on TV, period.

Secondly, the actual race is underway and the dynamic of the fastest car is being played out at the front of the pack. There is a story unfolding about who can win the race and who hopes to challenge before the day is over. That has to be followed.

Finally, NASCAR created a playoff points system that demands that 12 cars be treated differently by ESPN for one simple reason. Those cars are now the only 12 that can possibly win the season championship. NASCAR has added a third storyline that trumps the first two and skews the final ten races for many fans.

As the NFL closes in, the biggest television question for NASCAR in 2010 is how ESPN is going to cover the Chase races. Follow only the Chasers and lose the fans of other teams. Follow the race leaders and lose the battle among the Chasers. Follow the best racing on the track for any position and lose track of the actual Chase.

Last year, the "Chase points right now" graphic and ESPN's man crush on all things Jimmie Johnson were brutal. The network chose to focus on the Chase and the approach fundamentally failed. It's fair to say that few teams outside the Chase were featured unless their car was in the top five on the track.

ESPN's Nationwide Series coverage last Saturday at the Glen was outstanding. The network chose to present the telecast simply as a race. The best battles on the track were featured, cars out of the race were updated and the announcers were open and honest with analysis of what was happening. Results and points were sorted out after the event was over.

NASCAR and ESPN need do nothing more than glance over at the NFL for motivation. Unless a new and fresh approach to covering the Sprint Cup Series down the stretch is put in place, the results are going to be the same. It should be very interesting to see how Reid, Bestwick and the NASCAR on ESPN production team take yet another shot at keeping fans in front of the TV when the NFL comes calling.

We welcome 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 The Daly Planet.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 Flashback: NASCAR Issues Still Confusing ESPN

Update: Well, it's over for another season. The Chase is done and some time has passed. Before the banquet, we thought it only fitting that we offer one last opportunity for comments about the clash between trying to cover the race and trying to cover the Chase in the same live telecast.

This specific column was a response to ESPN attempting to blame everything under the sun except ESPN for the ongoing problems with TV ratings and fan reaction to the coverage.

The content below was originally published on October 5, 2010:

October 2nd was perhaps not the best Saturday for ESPN programming executive Julie Sobieski to address the network's NASCAR issues. Once again, poor scheduling had allowed a college football game to preempt the pre-race show and start of the Nationwide Series race from Kansas. That was nothing new for fans.

Earlier in the week, Sobieski had stood by while the NASCAR Now program was preempted on the day of the recent RCR appeal. This original ESPN series has taken it in the teeth this season. Shows have been cancelled so often fans have come up with a new slogan for the network.

ESPN: Every Sport Preempts NASCAR

Click here to read about Ms. Sobieski's recent concerns. Bob Pockrass from put together an article that certainly got the attention of many fans.

Let's face facts. Ms. Sobieski is trying very hard to dance around a huge topic that has plagued ESPN since they rejoined the sport in 2007. Despite some outstanding reporting, a solid daily news show and an extended post-race the real NASCAR problems have all come from the live event coverage.

Sobieski is confused simply because she will not look in the mirror and see her own reflection. The problem isn't the fans, it's ESPN.

While memories of Brent Musburger and Suzy Kolber have faded, they have just morphed into the production catastrophe that is ESPN's fourth attempt at covering the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season. It's flat-out awful.

For many, the commercial run with ten laps to go in the Dover race was the straw that broke the camel's back. Those fans sent us nice notes and left to watch the NFL. ESPN is burdened with too many commercials, too much scripted storytelling and an impossible job of trying to sell a Chase within a race.

In Kansas, the first in-race commercial came before lap ten. That has been the rule this season. Fortunately, ESPN allowed the end of the race to play out without interruption. That has normally not been the case. Let's look at the reality of ESPN's commercial overload.

Like most cable networks, ESPN has what is called a dual revenue stream. Money is made not only from commercials, but from the fees paid by cable and satellite companies. This has allowed ESPN to pay billions of dollars in rights fees to get a wide variety of programming while also remaining very profitable for its Disney shareholders.

The ultimate irony is that fans watching at home are getting hit twice. First by all the commercials in the event and then by having to pay their cable or satellite provider just to watch ESPN every single month.

You can click here to review the recent TDP column calling for side-by-side commercials in the sport and the truly positive effect that would have on the TV ratings. Sobieski never mentioned this topic.

ESPN has been NASCAR storytelling since 2007. Back then, it was endless hype and a pre-determined script that the production team brought to the table. They failed miserably. Last season Dr. Jerry Punch stuttered and stammered his way through the Chase as the play-by-play announcer and was immediately sacked after Homestead. Instead of being fired outright, he was allowed to return to pit road as a reporter.

In the new world of ESPN, something called "hyper-focus" is king and that is exactly what the NASCAR TV team did to Jimmie Johnson last year. It got so bad, it was laughable. Analyzing his pitstops lugnut by lugnut. Watching his car get fixed in the garage while a Chase race roared in the background.

The TV battle was the reality of the race vs. what ESPN chose to show of it. Often, those two did not match. The Chase is everything and the race is nothing. Ask the teams that fade from view despite hard racing and good performances. Unfortunately, they are not Chasers. Suddenly, they simply do not matter to TV.

Whether it's a script, a network agenda or just the love of celebrity there is no doubt that ESPN has disconnected from the fans once again this season. Names like Earnhardt, Logano, Sadler, Newman and Martin should not be invisible on TV unless they are leading the race.

As the TV Chase coverage clearly showed last season, featuring the Chase contenders from the pre-race show through the checkered flag results in nothing but a decline in viewers. Those Junior, Joey, Mark and Ryan fans did not change their shirts and hats because their driver did not make the Chase.

There is no doubt that ESPN has talented people on the production team. There is no doubt that the on-air staff means well and is working hard on this series. None of that matters if the producer and director again narrow the focus of the coverage on cars and drivers selected in advance to meet a scripted NASCAR and ESPN agenda.

What are your feelings of how ESPN is handling the Chase coverage this season? To add your opinion on this topic, 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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

2010 Flashback: NASCAR's Star Mangled Banner

Update: We are starting our look back at the 2010 season with one of the most popular topics. Click here for a listen to the Bret Michaels and friends version of our national anthem at the Sprint Cup Series finale in Homestead, FL. This was just one of the many interesting versions of this song heard along the NASCAR trail in 2010. We invite your comments on this topic as NASCAR and the various tracks make plans for next season.

This column was originally published August 17, 2010:

One Twitter user referred to the Saving Abel rendition of the National Anthem at Michigan International Speedway as "The Star Mangled Banner."

Click here to see what folks are still talking about and what got the MIS phone lines lit up for hours.

Here are some other comments from around the media world:

Even by the woeful standards of NASCAR national anthems, the rendition before the MIS race, by members of the band Saving Abel, was wretched. (Monte Dutton, Gaston Gazette)

The band Saving Abel performed on Saturday night and apparently didn't save much for Sunday's national anthem. Several folks commented it was the worst rendition of the anthem at the track in years. (George Sipple, Detroit Free Press)

NASCAR and track promoters have sold out what should be the privilege of presenting the American national anthem to whatever singer has a new CD to promote, without regard for any sense of patriotism or talent. (Carol Einarsson, Race Journal Online)

While recent anger may be directed at Saving Abel, one only has to click here to remember the disaster at Loudon, NH when the remnants of the 1970's rock group Foghat delivered the anthem.

A favorite of many TDP readers is Jesse McCartney, a former Dream Street boy band member, who did the honors last October in Fontana, CA. Click here to see McCartney forget the words on a very public stage.

It may well be the individual tracks that provide the singers, but the impression is very different for fans watching on TV and even at the track. NASCAR and the associated TV partners, especially FOX, have tied themselves to patriotic and military themes since the new TV contract began in 2007.

At a time when the military is actively engaged in dangerous missions, the presentation of this song is the centerpiece of a pre-race show that has real meaning for fans and TV viewers. We pray, sing, flyover, start engines and race in America.

NASCAR has been more responsive to ongoing issues this season then ever before. Town Hall meetings have addressed financial, technical and competition topics. It's time to NASCAR to step-in and make sure the anthem is presented by a properly dressed singer capable of fitting into the pre-race show of a major professional sport.

We welcome 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 The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving For The Fourth Time!

It was 2007 when we set out simply to write a little bit about the new NASCAR TV contract. There were lots of interesting TV players and a ton of money had been spent for a sport on the upswing.

Now, four years later here we are. Plenty of new friends who have made this place very special and helped to grow it beyond my wildest dreams. Good or bad, happy or sad it's very clear NASCAR fans love to talk about the way the sport is presented to them on TV.

The racing season is over and the TV shows are winding down. It's a great time to take stock of how NASCAR has been handed down from one generation to the next.

As we take this day to look around at our lives, families and traditions it should be interesting to see how many conversations come around to topics like Johnson winning five, Hendrick swapping crew chiefs and what the heck is the matter with Junior. It's more than a sport. It's a part of who we are as Americans.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks for taking some time out of your life to stop by and share your NASCAR opinions with us over the last four years.

Wednesday Media Scramble

Lots of folks are on vacation. Some are just heading out of town for Thanksgiving and still others planning on a half day at work on Wednesday. As usual, these are the times when the big off-season NASCAR stories break.

In this case, it was late Tuesday afternoon when word came of the crew chief changes and team shuffles at Hendrick Motorsports.

Here is the brief official announcement:

Hendrick Motorsports has made personnel adjustments in preparation for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. being teamed with new crew chiefs.

Below are the driver-crew chief pairings for each Hendrick Motorsports car, effective immediately:

No. 5 Chevrolet
Driver: Mark Martin
Crew Chief: Lance McGrew

No. 24 Chevrolet
Driver: Jeff Gordon
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

No. 48 Chevrolet
Driver: Jimmie Johnson
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus

No. 88 Chevrolet
Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte

The cars of Martin and four-time Sprint Cup champion Gordon will be fielded out of the same facility, now known as the 5/24 shop. Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolets will be prepared out of the renamed 48/88 shop alongside those of five-time and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "We had a championship season (in 2010), but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams. We've made the right adjustments, and I'm excited to go racing with this lineup."

Since ESPN2's NASCAR Now was already done for the season, that left only SPEED's Race Hub to offer TV information. However, the Tuesday program had already been recorded so the only mention of this breaking news was a brief update from Steve Byrnes.

Race Hub does have a Wednesday show scheduled. Right now, it is supposed to be a conversation about the season with Mike Joy, Larry MrReynolds and Byrnes. SPEED tweeted that the show will now have more on the HMS shuffle. That's good news.

If Sirius 128,, SPEED or ESPNEWS decides to carry the 10AM press conference live we will pass it along right here. It should be an interesting day to skip around the various NASCAR media outlets and see how this story is handled.

Update: Hendrick event is a teleconference. Info should appear online shortly after 10AM ET. Siruis channel 128 will carry the teleconference live and speak with Rick Hendrick after it is over.

Thanks again for stopping by, this post will be updated first thing in the morning for more information on this topic. To add your media-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hail To The Chief

Lots of fans emailed and tweeted about the media interview that Brian France gave in Homestead. In this wide-ranging discussion, France took questions on lots of topics. Some of them concerned television and online media. That is our focus today.

His opening remarks before the question and answer period directly addressed the ratings struggles of the Sprint Cup Series on TV.

Here are his words on that subject:

Obviously we would like our TV ratings on an upswing, and when they are not, we are working on all kinds of things to look and see what is a better formula for us. Clearly we moved start times back, to accommodate our race fans at the at-track experience. We did that. We also did that to uniform start times between the East Coast and the Midwest and the West Coast.

We took ourselves out of some more homes by doing that; also by switching networks on ABC to ESPN. So we did some things to try to help in one area that might have had an effect in another. So we'll be looking at all of those things in the off-season.

Once the questions began, this was posed to France about TV:

Earlier you mentioned wanting to grow the audience and expose NASCAR to as wide an audience as possible. With that in mind, why does the move from ABC to ESPN where you go down some homes, why does that make sense for the sport going forwards? And are you comfortable with having it on ESPN next year, and as you look to reach younger fans, is there a way to get more of the races online or things like that?

This was his answer:

Well, we are having a lot of success with some of our digital efforts. So that being one.

ESPN is our partner and they have been an enormously good partner, and they actually have a younger demo on ESPN network than does their sister network, ABC.

But obviously, so you know, we are going to look with everybody at ESPN to make sure that we have the right times, the right promotion, the right everything, that puts the sport in the best possible position to have had the biggest audience. Our interests are completely aligned in that.

And I suspect we'll sit down in the off-season and talk about that and we are going to share everything with them and they have been a great partner. By the way, I think the broadcast has been as good as I've seen in a long time. I think the energy level and the calling of the action, the on-air talent, I think is top-notch right now on their network, and they have been working at that for a few years to get all of the things just right, and I think they have.

Click here to read Jeff Gluck of SBNation's blog posted immediately after France concluded his remarks. Gluck works the NASCAR trail full time and his impression of the NASCAR Chairman was interesting. Here is an excerpt:

What stunned me was that France – who has tried to be more engaged than ever by holding "town hall" meetings with drivers and follows the results of a 12,000-member Fan Council – seemed to have no clue what many fans think.

France also went out of his way to effusively praise ESPN – the network that has riled a vocal group of fans who believe it makes races unwatchable with excessive commercials and difficult-to-follow action.

France isn't in a position to bash NASCAR's TV partners, of course, but being so complimentary seemed like a slap in the face to fans who are begging for more watchable broadcasts.

Again, while I only agree with part of the anti-ESPN crowd (the part concerning far too many commercials), you'd think France would at least be aware there's a decent number of people who want to feel like they're being heard on the topic.

Like so many others, Gluck misses the point when he used the term "Anti-ESPN crowd." There simply is no such thing. NASCAR has many television partners and all of them produce content of one kind or another. Each of those events, programs or series elicits opinion.

While FOX and TNT had some bumps in the road this season, the focus at this time of the year is clearly on ESPN and rightfully so. They paid the big dollars to get the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series events of the year, including the ten Chase races.

After a crisis meeting with NASCAR several weeks ago in Charlotte that included ESPN President George Bodenheimer to address the TV issues, absolutely nothing changed. The final three races of the season were a confusing mess of uninformed announcers, disjointed pictures and far too many on-air voices wanting to be heard.

Fans of Joey Logano and Juan Montoya could only stare at the TV as ESPN chose to ignore the Homestead incident that took them both out of the race and the confrontations that followed. During the race Twitter, scanners, and chatrooms offered key information that was available to the public. On the track cars hit the wall, front-running teams pitted and drivers reported debris that brought out cautions. None of this made the telecast.

Instead, four lines of graphics stayed on the TV screen for the entire race. It was the ultimate electronic crutch for a production team that had long since thrown in the towel. Read the ticker to see where your driver is running. Check the Championship points on every single lap. Look down for the scores from other sports.

At the end of the race, with the title on the line, this was the quote from ESPN's Marty Reid that will be heard every time the video is replayed:

That hammering you hear is the sound of the nail in the final coffin on the chase contenders hopes of upsetting Jimmie Johnson.

Reid's poorly chosen words may come to summarize the ESPN efforts down the stretch. Despite France's comments to the contrary, the 2010 Chase for the Championship was the worst-produced ESPN coverage of a major professional sport in decades.

Finally, in reference to France's remarks about the digital agenda, he has presided over an organization that has never made practice, qualifying or races available online. Internet partner Turner Sports recently forced the issue by streaming ESPN's Homestead coverage at for free to anyone. It seems they have had enough.

On the radio side, the Sirius NASCAR channel 128 has never been available online. Original content produced every day is simply delivered to a small group either in their vehicles or capable of downlinking a satellite signal. Instead of solving the distribution problem, the sanctioning body instead concentrated on focusing the Sirius message on positive aspects of the sport and the dismissal of all other viewpoints as anti-NASCAR.

If this is what France means as his digital agenda it is sorely lacking. Without online streaming of all NASCAR television programs, Internet and cell phone access to Sirius 128 and a full time "Race Buddy" style offering for every Sprint Cup Series event in 2011, the technology wave will have left this sport in the dust.

When times get tough, all eyes turn to the top. After this past weekend, the spotlight is on only one man who needs to announce substantive changes across the board in almost every aspect of the sport. That's what comes with being the NASCAR Chairman. Hail to the chief.

We welcome 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 The Daly Planet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series On ESPN From Homestead

It's been a long season for the Sprint Cup Series on TV. Four networks, over thirty on-air personalities and very different telecasts provided for fans.

SPEED handled the Daytona Duels and the All-Star race. FOX, TNT and ESPN/ABC covered the points races with ESPN televising all ten Chase races. A combination of SPEED and ESPN2 handled practice and qualifying.

Sunday, it all came down to the final ESPN telecast from Homestead. After a one-hour pre-race show on ESPN2, the coverage switched to ESPN and the race began. Investigating this coverage requires the ultimate TV cop.

Allen Bestwick anchored the pre-race with a full hour in the Infield Pit Studio. Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham discussed the topics of the day and watched a lot of edited features with the TV viewers.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France showed up for a brief interview where he spread his positive message of change for the better and promoted a new eco-friendly sport. Wallace and Daugherty both asked him clearly scripted questions for which he was well prepared.

Bestwick and company eventually handed off to Reid and the guys in the booth. For several years now, ESPN has struggled with trying to cover the Chase and the race. It's a tough task that may be rather unique in sports.

On this Sunday, fans saw a new element this season with a designated graphics bar at the top of the screen detailing the Chase points as they changed live. This made the graphics stack at the top of the screen three deep. As usual, ESPN continued to also insert a lower third graphics crawl with other sports scores.

Denny Hamlin had a spin early on, creating a story that ESPN was challenged to cover. The Hamlin saga continued to unfold during the race, with the situation of updating the other two Chasers, the race and Hamlin proving to be tough.

Joey Logano was an accident victim and his exit was followed-up with a garage interview. The normal TV issues like showing debris on caution flags, following the racing instead of the stars and updating Lucky Dogs and restart information continued.

As we have seen so often in Chase races, new names like Stewart and Burton would suddenly pop-up as being in contention and passing cars. These top teams were never updated and big names like Junior, Mark Martin and Juan Montoya were rarely uttered.

For those fans who are also online during the race, there was certainly lots of information flowing that never made it to the TV telecast. Conversations between drivers were replayed many minutes later, information like cars hitting the wall was never mentioned.

A late penalty on Kevin Harvick was not really shown because of a pit road injury to another crew member. Cautions with Dave Blaney and Jeff Gordon were reported on the air long before the cameras found the cars involved. Joey Logano and Montoya mixing it up was never shown and mentioned only once. It's been an issue when something happens that ESPN has not planned to cover in advance.

The accident with Harvick and Kyle Busch was treated delicately on the air. The follow-up interview was polite, but the incident in general was brushed aside by the TV booth. There were once again no strong opinions expressed.

Commercials are part of every race. During an event like this that is being run both for a race win and a championship, commercial breaks are rather painful. ESPN stayed with the heavy commercial rotation and it was rough for an event like this with no big caution periods.

ESPN has allocated post-race time for this season and it has worked out very well. Finally allowing the stories developed during the race to be completed made sense. Hopefully, this practice will continue for next season.

This post is designed to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the final Sprint Cup Series race from Homestead. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Homestead (12PM ET - ESPN2/ESPN)

The 2010 season draws to a close with the final Homestead race telecast on ESPN2 and ESPN. Due to NFL programming, the one hour pre-race NASCAR Countdown show will be on ESPN2. The race coverage at 1PM will be on ESPN and the green flag waves at 1:15PM ET.

ESPN has twelve voices working today in South Florida. Allen Bestwick hosts from the Infield Media Center with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. Marty Reid will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Down on pit road are Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

The pre-race show will have a familiar theme, it's one of the best Chase for the Championship finales in history. Three drivers, three crew chiefs and three owners will get the spotlight for the hour.

The trio in the TV booth will once again be torn between the race and the Chase. Lots of teams are ready to race hard with nothing to lose while the three top contenders have to mix a cautious approach with the reality that this is the final event.

It should be interesting to see how ESPN chooses to frame the coverage with this tough task on the table. Cover three different cars on every lap in case something happens. At the same time, cover the battle for the lead of the race and the stories that play out once the green flag flies.

ESPN's "micro-coverage" approach has featured small clumps of cars chosen by the producer for TV viewers to watch. ESPN has dictated who will get the TV exposure, despite the reality of what is happening on the track. It's been a great debate for years. Does TV have the right to exclude the best racing in order to follow a script?

Lots of questions should be answered today and it should be fun to watch. This post will serve to host your TV-related comments on the final Sprint Cup Series telecast of the season. 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 for this final live blog of 2010.

Sunday Morning TV Showdown

The normal Sunday morning TV script for a racing weekend reads like this. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 9AM for one hour, then RaceDay on SPEED at 10AM for two more hours. Finally, a third hour of pre-race show from the network actually televising the race. If that sounds like a lot, hold on.

This final Sunday in Homestead is going to see SPEED expanding RaceDay to three hours in length. That means both NASCAR Now and RaceDay start at 9AM ET. Let the fun begin.

Nicole Briscoe will anchor NASCAR Now from the Infield Pit Studio. Field reporters are Mike Massaro and Marty Smith. Briscoe can also draw from her infield companions Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham. As this is the final race of the season, perhaps a Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree sighting is also possible.

Allen Bestwick, who will be hosting the race and post-race is the key to the ESPN franchise. He has proven himself to be a steady voice amid chaos at times in both the TV booth and production truck. Bestwick has been there and done that for many years on both TV and radio. His love for NASCAR is real, his devotion to selling it to the fans is easy to see and if he is not in the ESPN TV booth next season calling these races it would be a crime.

Massaro and Briscoe have kept the NASCAR Now franchise on point this season during tough times. ESPN2's scheduling issues where NASCAR is concerned are well known. Smith and other on-air personalities like Ryan McGee, David Newton and Terry Blount have served the sport very well even while often delivering tough news.

The 9AM NASCAR Now and the 12PM NASCAR Countdown show may look quite similar. There are only two sets of stories to discuss. One is the Chase and the other is the race. Most fans know where the drivers are going next season, what kind of cars they are driving and who are the sponsors.

That means a pretty intense focus on the three drivers left in the Chase for the Championship. ESPN presents a rather formal show with on-air talent in suits and ties both in the studio and out in the field. It's a network thing, so look for a well-produced but rather scripted hour at both 9AM and noon.

RaceDay is actually produced by the NASCAR Media Group for SPEED. This is a much different scenario than programs like Race Hub, The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel that are produced in-house. RaceDay is in many ways a third-party show.

TV veteran Patti Wheeler has recently taken over the production and programming departments at SPEED. There is little doubt that one significant change is going to be the balance of power between programs produced by SPEED and those "packaged" by third parties, including the NASCAR Media Group.

RaceDay currently features John Roberts hosting a panel that includes Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace. Sunday, FOX favorite Darrell Waltrip will also be added to the main panel for the full three hours. Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler are the infield reporters.

Another addition for Sunday is the trio of Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds holding court on the man-made beachfront in the infield. These three join the discussion on various topics and also handle some sponsor elements.

Over the past four years we have called RaceDay the Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR, the Speed-a-palooza festival and several other terms that do not bear repeating. Basically, RaceDay is controlled chaos mixed with a dash of opinion and a smattering of news.

Fans have recently discovered that unique signs held behind the set get the attention of folks on websites and those chatting online. Keep an eye out for what is being displayed behind the panelists on Sunday. "Nothing says team like ditching your crew" was the best sign recently at Phoenix.

Venturini has been a part of this show for a long time. Now on the verge of delivering her first child, Venturini has once again proven to be an outstanding example of a television professional. Nothing has slowed her down this season, but the loss of her acclaimed "Real Deal" interview feature sure put a big dent in the program.

Hopefully, Venturini can migrate over to SPEED's Race Hub and also perhaps get an opportunity to host The SPEED Report in the 2011 season. Whatever needs to be done, it's going to be important to keep Venturini in the TV family even as her own family expands.

Friday night, Darrell Waltrip was added to the TV team for the truck series race and dominated the commentary. Rick Allen was unable to add his normal level of excitement to the race because Waltrip threw-off the rhythm of the on-air crew. It should be very interesting to see if Waltrip steps into RaceDay and tries to take over. Perhaps, Petty might have a little something to say about that.

This post will serve to host your comments on NASCAR Now and RaceDay. To add your comment on these two programs, 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, we will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race on a new post at noon ET.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Homestead (4PM ET - ESPN2)

It's been a very long year for the Nationwide Series. While young drivers have come and gone, it's been a show that primarily featured Sprint Cup Series drivers dominating the races. NASCAR says that is about to change.

Homestead will be the final race for the current NNS cars. All of them head off to ARCA and other series after this event. The new NNS cars will run the full season in 2011 and that is a very positive change.

ESPN2 will start with NASCAR Countdown. Allen Bestwick has a full house with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham. Wallace has just announced a new driver and sponsor for his NNS team next season. Evernham made news today by confirming he has no deal in place with ESPN for 2011 and is evaluating his options.

Although the series championship has been clinched by Brad Keselowski, pictured above, there are lots of storyline for the pre-race show to discuss. From Danica Patrick finishing her first season to potential paybacks in this race, there is no shortage of topics on the table.

Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree call the race. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. On pit road are Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. This is the same team that has been prepping for the big Sprint Cup Series telecast on Sunday. Today's event should show just how much energy was focused on the Nationwide Series this weekend.

Homestead is a wide track with great camera angles. The aerial shot is great, the low angle speed shots work well to relay the speed and it's easy to do good TV. The ESPN director has been working in a format dominated by tight shots and in-car cameras for the entire season. The results have been lower ratings, bad reviews and no fans.

Despite TDP encouraging change in these tough times, ESPN has simply stuck with the same formula. Same announcers, same pictures and same results. Hopefully, Homestead will provide some good racing and encourage the TV team to back out and finally show the fans at home what is going on in the field.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN2 coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Homestead. 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 for this final NNS race of 2011!

Note: We will be live blogging the Nationwide Series race Saturday afternoon. Join us for TV talk!

Here's a rundown of the next week:

Sunday 9AM - Live blogging three hours of "NASCAR RaceDay" on SPEED.
Sunday - Live blogging the Cup race from Homestead.
Sunday night post-race - Final "TV Police" column of the season on ESPN's coverage.
Monday - "TV Police" comments continue.
Monday night 8PM ET - Addressing Brian France comments from Saturday on TV partners.
Tuesday night 8PM ET - Season review of Camping World Truck Series TV coverage on SPEED
Wednesday night/Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving and open comments for readers.
Friday - News updates on Race Hub, NMG, ratings and more.

New columns every day during the off-season. Stay with us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Live Blogging Truck Series From Homestead (7:30PM ET - SPEED)

It's been a mixed year for the Camping World Truck Series. The economy put the whammy on some of the top teams and drivers, changing the line-up of the series and the competition for the championship. The good news is once again the simple and straightforward telecasts on SPEED kept hardcore racing fans coming back for more.

As the series heads into the final race, Todd Bodine has clinched the championship but other stories are perking up for 2011. Jennifer Jo Cobb, pictured above, is headed for a top 20 finish in the series, possibly as high as 17th place. That will make her the highest finishing female in any of the three national touring series in NASCAR history.

Aric Almirola leads a group of well-known drivers who will be coming full time to the NCWTS next season. There is hope on the horizon for this series with the continuing TV package with SPEED and perhaps the best driver line-up in many years. Head over to and click on the truck series link for more information.

Krista Voda will host The Setup pre-race show with Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander as the reporters. Voda has put her stamp firmly on this series with her Midwestern style meshing perfectly with the overall production. There is a lot of information passed along to viewers in this pre-race format featuring only one voice.

Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons will call the race. This TV team is comfortable with each other and reliable on the air. Waltrip's former tendency to drift off into sponsor mentions and politically motivated content has been mostly curtailed. His understanding of his actual role as the third member of this team made a lot of difference on the air.

Allen keeps the excitement high and is the ultimate NASCAR salesman. On the positive side, Allen keeps the focus on the racing and follows in the tradition of strong play-by-play announcers in the sport. On the negative side, Allen himself admits that he chooses what to tell TV viewers in order to paint a positive picture of the sport for fans.

Our fundamental belief is that fans should make those decisions and that the role of TV is to pass along as much of what the fans at the track are seeing and hearing as possible. It that includes start and parkers, trucks pulling off the track or other items that might not paint the sport in a glowing light, it should still be included.

Parsons had a tough summer as he stepped into an unfamiliar role as a pit reporter for TNT and his on-air behavior drew criticism. Comfortable in the TV booth for years, Parsons simply could not bring himself to fill the reporter role and ask the tough questions before, during and after the TNT Sprint Cup Series races.

It should be very interesting to see just how SPEED chooses to present this final race. There is a new management team at SPEED. The rumor is that there will be some new faces in some new places for next season. Look for every member of this on-air team to be intense all night long.

Homestead holds few TV surprises. The night pictures and sound are great, the Florida weather has cooperated and the wide racing surface lets the trucks put on a good show.

Don't forget that has an online app free called Truck Buddy. Dodge Ram sponsors a couple of extra cameras and two in-truck cams so viewers can have some fun. Hopefully, this streaming project will grow next season to include all the races in the series.

This post will serve to host your comments on the TV coverage of the final Camping World Truck Series race of the season from Homestead, FL. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

There will be a post-race column asking for your views on the entire NCWTS season of coverage on SPEED next week. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Biggest TV Friday Of The Season

Who knew it was going to come down to this? First, the trucks are going to race under the lights on Friday. Then, the Nationwide Series sets the stage with a day race on Saturday. Finally, the big showdown between three top Sprint Cup Series drivers for the championship with everyone else running all out just to win the race.

It's going to be important to get Friday started right. ESPN's TV team is up first with Cup practice at 11:30AM on ESPN2. The late Thursday truck series practice got rained out, so the trucks have the track in the hour prior to this telecast. That should make pre-production a bit noisy.

SPEED is up at 1PM for Nationwide Series practice. Steve Byrnes flew down to anchor this coverage after coming off the road for several months to anchor the new one-hour Race Hub show. Kudos to Wendy Venturini who is working at a reporter for SPEED this weekend despite being in the late stages of her first pregnancy. She and Bob Dillner are the reporters for SPEED.

At 2:20PM it's going to be interesting. Both ESPN2 and SPEED are live. Over on ESPN2, Allen Bestwick hosts NASCAR Now. Meanwhile, it's John Roberts from the SPEED Stage hosting NASCAR Live. Tough choice these days with both shows being solid and offering essentially the same information.

3PM is the big Cup Series qualifying show on ESPN2. Very important to qualify well in this race for the top three championship teams. Avoiding a start at the back could be avoiding potential disaster. ESPN will have Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree and a cast of thousands on this program.

At 5PM the truck series team for SPEED will call qualifying. Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons have been a steady presence all season long. at 6PM Roberts comes back with another edition of NASCAR Live and at 6:30PM Byrnes will wind-up his day with Nationwide Series final practice.

We will live blog the truck series race Friday night on a new post. This will serve to host your comments on all the daytime TV on ESPN2 and SPEED on Friday. It should be fun to watch. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Final TV Push To Homestead

Thursday starts the big push of the two remaining NASCAR TV partners, ESPN and SPEED, toward the championship weekend.

At 1PM ET NASCAR is holding the traditional championship press conference at a Miami area hotel. This is an opportunity to get Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick together for one last media availability before action starts on the track.

This year, SPEED is stepping up with live coverage on TV and online. Danielle Trotta, pictured above, will anchor the event for SPEED on television while will stream the entire press conference. That's the kind of media cooperation from SPEED that NASCAR wants to see more of in the future.

Allen Bestwick cranks-up the Infield Pit Studio at 4PM to host a one-hour preview of the weekend's events on ESPN2's NASCAR Now. Bestwick has Marty Smith and Mike Massaro on the ground in Homestead as reporters. He also has ten other ESPN on-air personalities from which to draw.

Hopefully, ESPN will right a wrong and give the Friday Camping World Truck Series race equal treatment. One criticism of ESPN across the board, especially on college football and basketball preview shows, is that the network focuses only on the games being played on the ESPN family of TV networks. Ask football fans about College Gameday.

The trucks have lots of stories to be told. This is part of a tripleheader arranged by NASCAR to have all the national touring series finish their seasons in this manner. Simply focusing on the Sprint Cup Series is unfair to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series drivers, teams and sponsors who have raced all season long.

SPEED has a huge hit on its hands with NASCAR Race Hub. The big decision by Steve Byrnes to come off the road and host this series full time Monday through Thursday has paid tremendous dividends. Driver, owners and sponsors now understand that access to national TV is just a short drive away.

7PM will bring a final preview edition discussing the three weekend races. Ray Dunlap, Hermie Sadler, Bob Dillner and Randy Pemberton will be breaking down the final events in Homestead. SPEED has effectively used in-house talent to do the heavy lifting on big topics, leaving rookie reporter Trotta to cover stories from the team shops and surrounding area.

The good news is that Race Hub will continue for two more weeks after Homestead, the bad news is SPEED has not confirmed yet it will return for 2011. New management at SPEED is now in place and whatever transitions are going to happen will do so in the off-season. TDP will keep you posted.

The complete NASCAR TV schedule for the Championship weekend is posted on the left side of this page. Some items of note are Darrell Waltrip coming back to SPEED's Trackside and RaceDay shows. On Sunday, between ESPN2 and SPEED there are four hours of wrap-up and post-race shows. Let's hope the race lives up to the hype.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Thursday coverage by the NASCAR TV partners. Please tell us what you think about the press conference, NASCAR Now and Race Hub. The push is on and this is the final day to preview the final events.

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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NASCAR's Silent Online Showdown

With only one race to go in the Sprint Cup Series for 2010, the championship has yet to be decided. It's a great scenario for a sport that has been taking some hits in popularity this season.

Behind the scenes there is another big issue that is a long way from being settled. Moments after the Sunday race from Phoenix began, there suddenly appeared a new option on the website. It was a link that simply said "Watch Live."

A simple click of the mouse produced a streaming version of the live ESPN telecast. Without any fee, without any sign-up and without any fanfare the next to last Sprint Cup Series race of 2010 was available to Internet users worldwide.

To understand what is going on, two terms need to be discussed. The first is called convergence. Most of us deal with this every day, even though we might not understand how significant of an issue it is where NASCAR is concerned.

Convergence simply means that different machines can now deliver the same end product. In this case, the television and computer both provided the live ESPN signal of the PIR race. Many folks have smart phones that can provide Internet, email and social media access in a snap. Convergence is all around us.

The second term is "cord cutting." This is the revolution underway to disconnect from cable TV service and access the same content online. In 2010, the number of cable customers opting to end TV service has shaken the major system operators (MSO's) and forced cable TV networks to explore new options for distribution.

"Cord cutting" is thought to be driven by two factors. First, the recent economic downturn has forced a new set of priorities on many families and expensive cable TV service is just not a financial option. Second, the younger generation has been brought up in the land of convergence and has little patience for any video content that is not available on demand through any device.

Most major professional sports have addressed convergence by creating a multi-platform distribution package for live events. Cable TV, home satellite TV, cell phone and Internet streaming is coordinated well in advance and sold or provided as a package.

Needless to say, NASCAR is a sport that screams for Internet distribution. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are filled with all kinds of NASCAR-themed live TV programming provided by the sport's four key television partners ten months of the year.

ESPN holds the over-the-air and cable TV rights to the Chase races, but Turner Sports holds the online rights. As long as ESPN does not make it's own NASCAR coverage available online, Turner cannot stream the races at the website it operates and undercut the sport's biggest and most valuable TV partner. It's been this way since 2007.

Well, last month in an effort to fight "cord cutting," ESPN made its network signal available online full time to Time Warner Cable (TWC) customers already paying for ESPN cable TV service. That changed everything for Turner and NASCAR.

The moment that the Phoenix race started on ESPN for TWC's online customers, Turner was essentially free to offer streaming as the Internet rights holder for NASCAR content. Once ESPN pushed the first online domino, the rest very quietly began to fall.

At this time, ESPN continues to provide TWC customers with an online network feed. In fact, to further address "cord cutting" issues ESPN is planning to offer paying customers expanded online and even cell phone access to multiple ESPN networks.

ESPN's actions suggest that the Homestead race should be available online through in much the same manner as the Phoenix event. Hedge that bet with the fact that ESPN must leave the online door open in order for to walk through.

It seems ironic that with little fanfare and no promotion a small number of hardcore NASCAR fans in the know may wind-up watching the first Sprint Cup Series season finale streamed online in the history of the sport. In a way, it's a microcosm of the season. Something so right that is being handled so incredibly wrong.

We invite you to comment 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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Phoenix On ESPN

It's the PIR weekend, so we pick Sheriff Joe for our TV Police cover picture this week. This was the next to last race of the season and live on ESPN from start to finish.

Allen Bestwick anchored the coverage from the Infield Pit Studio. Bestwick tried over and over again to crank some excitement into the telecast, but that ended whenever Marty Reid took over.

The infield crew of Brad Daugherty, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham was chomping at the bit during the race, but was forced to sit back and watch several lengthy features during the pre-race show. Any momentum was broken as fans watched the videos.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were in the booth as analysts, but it's up to Reid to provide the excitement and he simply did not deliver. As we heard from Jerry Punch in the same role, Reid began to sigh deeply about one hundred laps into the race and was totally out of gas until the end.

The script for ESPN this week was the three title contenders and they followed it. Time after time, teams appeared on camera racing for position or even being lapped and no explanation was offered of how they got in that position. Kasey Kahne was reported to have gained over twenty positions after one pit stop. It was Bestwick who suggested that perhaps Kahne has missed his pitstall. He was correct.

Reid eventually surrendered any attempt to provide information before restarts on Lucky Dogs, wave arounds, pit road penalties or even the basic restart order. ESPN eventually surrendered any attempt to update anyone in the field except the three Chasers and the leader of the race.

This is exactly the type of coverage that we talked about before the Chase began. Despite the dominant performance of Hamlin, there was racing and storylines unfolding throughout the field. They were not even visited, only tolerated.

The "Up to speed" recaps done by ESPN were listless and infrequent. The reports contained nothing more than recaps of points as they ran right now. ESPN simply had a formula and they followed it to the letter.

This was perhaps the least informative NASCAR telecast in the four-year history of ESPN. There are simply no words to try and relay just how much information was not passed along by the on-air team on the telecast. Fans of drivers and teams outside of the top three in points were hung out to dry.

If this is what NASCAR envisioned with the Chase, then so be it. They can deal with the consequences of fans whose teams were never even mentioned leaving to watch NFL football. As for ESPN, they will forever be connected with the phrase "if the race ended now" for the endless fake updates on points.

You watched this race. Tell us what you thought of the TV coverage from 12 voices on ESPN for four hours. To add your TV-related comment, 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 Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Phoenix (2PM ET - ESPN)

This is going to be the last real example of how ESPN chooses to present the Sprint Cup Series races in 2010. The final event in Homestead is always very strange. Lots of network executives are on hand, there are extra TV programs to do and the tone is very different.

This season, despite changes in personnel behind the scenes, ESPN has clung firmly to a philosophy that has been used since the network's Sprint Cup Series coverage began. The pre-race show offers "talking points" that the telecast then follows. Regardless of the actual racing, this pre-race script is followed throughout the live telecast.

The result has been a loss of viewers for several reasons. First, the focus on fewer and fewer drivers as the Chase progresses alienates fans of drivers no longer mentioned. Second, the lack of attention to the stories of non-Chasers who are in the top ten on the track. Finally, the inability of the director to open the cameras wide and show the actual racing for position instead of focusing on drivers selected in advance.

It's not the Chase, the COT or the racing. Those are elements that TV just has to deal with in any motorsports series. Those are the rules. The responsibility of the network covering the race is simply to step back and provide an accurate view of what is going on in the event for the fans watching on TV. It sounds relatively simple.

Allen Bestwick has been a rock for ESPN since 2007. First as a pit reporter, then as a Nationwide Series booth announcer and now as the anchor of the telecasts, Bestwick is often the voice of reason. This weekend, he has Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside.

The Infield Pit Studio is rather unique. Used for both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races, Bestwick and crew are often limited to in-race recaps once the green flag falls. This season, ESPN has added a convoluted SportsCenter post-race show. This format stripped Bestwick of the NASCAR focus and inserted a usually ill-informed Bristol, CT announcer into the NASCAR telecast.

The end result is that many viewers switch to SPEED for the three hours of Sunday night programming that begins at 7PM ET every week. Had ESPN allowed Bestwick to anchor the coverage and throw to Bristol for some highlights of other sports, the results would have been much different.

Marty Reid sounds like a man who needs a break. Handling both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races during this time of the season, Reid has been struggling to keep up with the information that needs to be passed along to TV viewers. Lucky Dogs, restart orders, pit road penalties and even on-track incidents have all been sometimes lost in space.

Reid has often been caught watching the TV monitors in the booth as opposed to the action on the track. Accidents are relayed by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, who are once again providing most of the credible content on the telecasts. This duo has quietly cemented themselves as the foundation of the ESPN coverage.

Keep an eye out today on how tight the director chooses to shoot the cameras. Criticism is mounting and ratings are plummeting as fans at home simply don't get to see what is actually happening on the track. As we often say, when the TV coverage does not even relate to what fans hear on the MRN radio coverage, there is a big problem.

Jimmie Johnson is loved by ESPN almost as much as Carl Edwards. Last year, JJ was the focus of the final telecasts and the fan reaction was brutal. ESPN is a network that likes "hyper coverage." That is a seemingly endless focus on only one item. That item last year was the #48 team.

Tim Brewer has become almost a cult figure. Popping-up in the telecast to relate fundamental issues about tires, shocks and even fueling, Brewer's presence is often forced into the telecasts quickly after an incident. This makes Brewer's explanations of what he thinks happened often proven incorrect later when a pit reporter interviews the drivers. Talk about a no win situation.

At the end of this season, ESPN will once again evaluate the entire on-air line-up. Personalities like Ricky Craven and Ray Evernham deserve bigger roles. Meanwhile, those struggling like Reid and Daugherty may find themselves looking over their shoulders.

All of this means that this PIR event is big for many reasons. Like the race teams, a good performance today may mean an extended TV contract for some and a bad performance may mean a change for next season. It's going to be very interesting to watch.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Phoenix International Raceway. To add your TV-related comment, 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, November 13, 2010

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Phoenix (4PM ET - ESPN2)

This is really the final telecast that can be used to judge the ESPN Nationwide Series team. Next week in Homestead there will be lots of extra bells and whistles, along with special TV programs and lots of ESPN executives on hand.

Today at PIR there is just the hardcore crew that has worked on these telecasts for the entire season. This is the only NASCAR series where the ESPN family of networks handles the races from start to finish all year long. Daytona to Homestead, the races are all on one media source.

Allen Bestwick anchors the coverage from the Infield Pit Studio. Bestwick is solid and has been a master at dealing with his duo of Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Wallace is a walking conflict of interest where this series is concerned and Daugherty continues to be a NASCAR cheerleader on any topic.

Marty Reid cut his teeth on the Nationwide Series before stepping into the bigger and longer Cup races this year. In Phoenix, Reid is going to be happy at PIR that he only has to track the race since the NNS championship has been decided.

Dale Jarret and Andy Petree have been doing double-duty again this season and it is the Nationwide Series that suffers. Rather then bring in Ricky Craven and the still suspended Randy LaJoie to generate some excitement down the stretch, the network continues to use the announcers now focused on the Cup Series telecasts.

The good news is that PIR is a great track for the Nationwide Series. The drivers and teams are going to be running all out for this win and the series has lots of good things happening for next season.

ESPN is again working with the NASCAR Media Group to make great pictures and deliver outstanding audio. The lack of any technical troubles in the Nationwide Series telecasts this season has been a fantastic tribute to the television engineering and technical folks involved.

This post is going to serve to host your comments on the ESPN2 telecast of the Nationwide Series race from Phoenix International Raceway. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by!

Krista Voda Leads The Team For SPEED

Saturday starts with Nationwide Series qualifying on SPEED at noon ET. Krista Voda will call the action with Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds in the TV booth. Bob Dillner and Wendy Venturini are the reporters.

That TV team continues at 1:30PM with coverage of the first of two practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series teams. It should be interesting to see who has dialed-in their car after a very dynamic qualifying session on Friday.

ESPN2 has a college football game at noon as most NASCAR fans already know. The good news is that the Nationwide Series telecast does not start until 4PM with the pre-race show. The bad news is that ESPN2 is slated to carry Happy Hour at 3PM.

We all know college football runs 3.5 hours and sometimes longer. It should be interesting to see if ESPN2 slides back and tape delays coverage of Happy Hour or if the live practice is just joined in progress in order to get to NNS at 4PM.

Either way, the legacy of college football directly affecting NASCAR telecasts on ESPN2 has continued for the fourth consecutive season. It's a tragic situation for the struggling Nationwide Series that routinely loses the pre-race TV shows for Saturday afternoon races after September.

This week, it's the Sprint Cup Series that is affected with only two races to go in a ten month season. Should ESPN decide to join Happy Hour in progress they may have missed something that happened on track or in the garage that may well affect the Championship. If they delay the hour, they risk losing the entire NNS pre-race show yet again.

We will use this post for comments about the daytime coverage on SPEED and the situation with ESPN right up to the transition point for the NNS event. We will open our normal live blog for TV coverage comments that that time.

To add your opinion on these topics, 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 stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks From Phoenix (SPEED - 7:30PM ET)

Only two to go for the trucks and Phoenix is the place for SPEED's Friday night coverage. It's the regular gang ready to go.

Krista Voda hosts The Setup pre-race show with Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander as the reporters. Rick Allen is next to call the race with Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons.

Once again this weekend, TV viewers will be able to compare the production style of SPEED with ESPN as both networks produce races from the same tracks. There is a very significant difference in styles and that has been a hot topic of discussion over the past several weeks.

PIR works well for the trucks with the unique track producing great racing. The coverage will once again be basic and focused on the racing. No infield set, only five race announcers and no cut-a-way truck.

This production team had been bringing quality NASCAR telecasts to fans for many years now on SPEED. With only two races to go, look for PIR to be an outstanding telecast.

This post will serve to host your comments on the truck series race from Phoenix on SPEED. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for joining us on this Friday night.

The Nitro Circus Comes To Town

It certainly is interesting to watch a series written off as almost dead roar back to life. The Nationwide Series is now a playground for Sprint Cup Series stars who either want to have some fun on a Saturday or support a team in which they have a financial stake. Either way, the result is often horrible racing.

The Nationwide Series gets a fresh start next season with new cars and that has prompted several high profile types to step-up and play. Along with the continuing education of Danica Patrick and the new mega-team of Turner Motorsports, we heard Thursday that extreme sports star and Nitro Circus veteran Travis Pastrana is coming to NASCAR.

Pastrana, pictured above, may not be well-know to some NASCAR fans but it's a sure bet he is known to their children. This young man has blazed a trail through sports outside of the mainstream but strongly embraced by teens. Pastrana is someone who connects with young TV viewers in ways NASCAR can only dream about doing right now.

Add to this equation the fact that Michael Waltrip is probably the perfect owner for Pastrana and it all makes a lot of sense. The quirky Waltrip and the over-the-top Pastrana can bring some much needed national media focus to the Nationwide Series in a flash.

Even at the ripe old age of 27, Pastrana has a fan base that is global and a wonderfully crafted public relations and marketing image. This man is no fool and nothing happens in his life without a detailed sponsorship plan to go along with the project.

Pastrana's father Robert will also bring his personality to the table in the family sport of NASCAR. The elder Pastrana is a native Puerto Rican and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. The cross-over appeal of Travis in so many ways is simply huge.

NASCAR TV is going to love Pastrana because he is the polar opposite of Danica Patrick. Rather than speaking in carefully scripted interviews and supervised media availabilities, Pastrana is an enthusiastic shoot from the hip guy who loves every camera that turns his way.

Even though Pastrana is only doing seven races in 2011, his plans are for 20 races in 2012 with an eye on eventually becoming a full time NASCAR driver. There is little doubt that Pastrana has his eye on the prize and that prize is ultimately the Sprint Cup Series. His owner has a little experience in that world.

For those of you wondering if Pastrana can drive something with four wheels on pavement, click here. This is the type of offbeat and interesting project that Pastrana has done for sponsors like Subaru and Red Bull. These videos spread the news to YouTube users globally of both brand identification and extreme sports.

Click here for a peek at the new Pastrana Waltrip Racing website that includes links to Facebook and Twitter for information on this project. It certainly sounds buttoned up and brings with it just the kind of new blood that the Nationwide Series and the sport in general certainly needs.

We welcome your comment 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 The Daly Planet.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NASCAR's Online Standoff Continues (Updated)

This is a topic that is near and dear to our heart. It's a topic that has very diverse opinions expressed by those on both sides of the equation. It's time to talk about streaming NASCAR races and other NASCAR video content online.

As you may know, Turner Sports holds a contract to operate the website that also includes control of online NASCAR video. The current offerings on include leaderboards, stats and even electronic tracking of cars as they race, but there is no live video.

Each weekend, NASCAR uses a combination of TV partners to originate practice, qualifying and race coverage for its three national touring series. Unlike other professional motorsports, none of that coverage is made available online.

FOX and ESPN have been adamant that any streaming, even of the network's own NASCAR programming with commercials, would undermine their respective network agendas. FOX wants to protect the exclusivity of programming for local stations while ESPN wants to be the sole source of events like The Chase for the Championship.

Click here to see what Time Warner Cable subscribers got recently. It seems that in response to the large amount of consumers using online video sources instead of cable TV, ESPN has changed direction.

In fact, ESPN has gone ahead and started streaming it's networks to TWC customers. Needless to say, that includes NASCAR races and other NASCAR programming. As you may well imagine, this did not sit very well with the folks at Turner Sports.

Having been forced to sit on the sidelines for several years now where NASCAR was concerned, Turner responded aggressively. Registered users and those on the email list received a surprising note shortly before the Sprint Cup Series race from Talladega began. That is a piece of the email shown above.

Update: The folks at Turner pointed out that the format of the email pictured above is similar to one sent before every Cup Series race. We did not mean to imply that this type of communication was a one time thing.

It was an invitation for computer users to watch the live ESPN coverage of Talladega online at for no charge. Talk about a shot across the bow.

Sure enough, there was a nice big window with the ESPN coverage. In the blink of an eye, online users had access to a live NASCAR race. Just as ESPN was streaming the race to TWC customers, Turner Sports was streaming the race to users. ESPN held the TV rights and Turner held the online rights. Both chose to use them. You knew something had to give.

Suddenly, before the race was over the screen went black. Whether someone from ESPN, NASCAR or Turner pulled the plug is not known. What is known is that the Talladega race never came back online and the next race in Texas never even appeared. The online door had been slammed shut again.

It's pretty clear that there are some discussions going-on behind the scenes that feature NASCAR's biggest TV partner in ESPN and NASCAR's online partner in Turner just squaring off like the two Jeffs on the backstretch.

Turner issued a statement to us that addressed the issue:

One of our goals as a programmer is to make sure our audience receives an optimal viewing experience, regardless of the platform. We continue to have productive conversations with our NASCAR partners to develop opportunities and a model that supports the fans desire to consume content on multiple platforms for the 2011 Sprint Cup and Nationwide series.

That is a very polite way of saying that it's time for ESPN, FOX and even SPEED to wake-up to the fact that making NASCAR content available online should have happened years ago. Whatever the model, it has to happen for 2011.

In this day and age there is no excuse for a sport like NASCAR not to stream every single live telecast for the entire season. There is no excuse for the sport not to offer shows like NASCAR Now and Race Hub online.

Click here for a 2007 offering from the first season of The Daly Planet. It is titled "NASCAR Fans Turn To Internet As TV Networks Fail To Deliver."

In the first year of the new NASCAR TV contract, hardcore fans had no daily show on SPEED, two complete clowns on ESPN2's NASCAR Now and no designated post-race coverage on live race telecasts. SPEED was dark, ESPN was confused and only the Internet provided relief.

Now, four seasons later, we are still fighting to get even one Sprint Cup Series race streamed online as the sport suffers through an incredible downturn in TV ratings, popularity and attendance. That's a sad commentary on the inability of NASCAR's media partners to address the growing reality surrounding them.

Let's hope for the sake of the sport that cooler heads prevail and we can begin 2011 with a fulltime online TV application for NASCAR programming. Streaming may well hold the key to getting fans to return to the sport by making additional cameras, technology and information available in addition to the single channel TV feed.

We should have an update on this topic prior to Homestead. At this point, neither of the final two Sprint Cup Series races will be made available online. In an age of laptops, desktops, and iPads it seems almost amazing that this struggle continues.

As usual we welcome 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 The Daly Planet.