Monday, February 28, 2011

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Phoenix On FOX

Here are the TV facts and just the facts about the coverage from PIR:

Chris Myers anchored the pre-race show from a new set on the end of pit road. There were no guest on the set and after Darrell Waltrip left for the TV booth, Myers and Jeff Hammond moved into the Hollywood Hotel for the remainder of the race. This duo appeared several times during the race as accidents and a red flag paused the action.

Mike Joy called the race from the TV booth with Waltrip and Larry McReynolds alongside. These three appeared on-camera from the roof of the PIR tower prior to the race and then moved inside for the remainder of the telecast.

Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum were the pit road reporters. Several accidents in the event resulted in garage interviews. Pit stops involving damaged cars that had returned to the track kept this group busy for the entire event.

FOX experienced no weather delays and the telecast featured significant sponsorship from Subway. That appeared in the form of large logos before select race graphics. After the big accident, the field settled down into a rhythm that limited the passing.

A late restart allowed for some racing to develop and the Kyle Busch vs. Jeff Gordon story to emerge. Mike Joy called the run to the finish without interruption. The director chose to show only the winning car cross the finish line on TV and then follow the celebration. No other cars were shown finishing the race.

FOX interviewed the top five drivers in the post-race show, reviewed the entire field finishing order and then the season points. The telecast left the air at 6:50PM ET, running 20 minutes past the scheduled off time.

We are providing this post with only facts and without opinion so you will be able to post your comments about the FOX coverage without being influenced. We would like your opinion of the total telecast. We are looking for the good, the bad and what you would suggest could be changed as the season moves on.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, we do this for every Sprint Cup Series race once the live telecast is over. As always, this is a family-friendly website so please keep that in mind when posting.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nationwide Regulars: TV's Wooden Indians

It made absolutely no difference that Kyle Busch dominated the Nationwide Series race in Phoenix on Saturday. It made absolutely no difference that his only competition came from fellow Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards. NASCAR had taken a bold step during the off-season and made this a non-issue.

The big boys could come over from the Cup side and race in as many events as they wished. There was no problem with them winning, but the days of scoring driver points and snatching the Nationwide Series championship using superior financial resources were gone.

Now, only the Nationwide Series "regulars" could run for the prize and publicity. This season, there would be a race within a race. While the Cup drivers might be leading, there would be a snarling pack of "regulars" battling for the driver points and the championship.

Just like in the Chase for the Cup, there would be two stories to cover from the drop of the green flag in every Nationwide Series race this season. That would bring added exposure for the "regulars" as well as new story lines for the media covering the sport.

Theory met reality in Daytona a week ago when ESPN put the TV focus squarely on the Sprint Cup veterans and Danica Patrick. It's an old song that ESPN knows how to hum all too well. When the race was over, ESPN interviewed some Cup drivers and Danica before rudely departing. What was on next? A Daytona 500 preview show, of course.

In Phoenix the TV pre-race show was shortened by live college basketball. The emphasis was once again on the Sprint Cup Series drivers in the race and Danica. A Trevor Bayne Daytona 500 review was the big feature. Even as Bayne stood in front of his sponsorless Nationwide Series car, the questions were about the Daytona 500.

Since 2007, ESPN has been slowly driving a stake into the heart of the Nationwide Series. Click here for a classic TDP article describing the ESPN/ABC pre-race show for the 2007 Busch Series race at Talladega. There was one little problem. The announcers never mentioned the Busch race.

ESPN is basically livid that it is playing second fiddle to FOX and TNT during this part of the Sprint Cup Series season. On weekends, that anger is exposed by the constant use of Sprint Cup Series drivers and Sprint Cup story lines on the Nationwide Series telecasts.

On weekdays, the network takes out its frustrations by refusing to include the Sprint Cup Series races on its NASCAR Now motorsports TV calendar for the week until ESPN starts producing them. This has been the case since the new TV contract began in 2007.

ESPN takes the first seven months of the racing season to express its righteous indignation and then dumps the Nationwide coverage like a hot potato when the Cup series comes calling. Suddenly sandwiched between Saturday college football games on a stick-and-ball TV network, the Nationwide Series limps to the finish with a resounding thud.

Over the last four years ESPN has offered Nationwide Series fans live races without a play-by-play announcer, races called by pit reporters debuting in the TV booth and on-air line-ups featuring a "wide variety" of personalities. The Nationwide Series is the TV testing grounds for ESPN.

In Phoenix, the new points saga continued to unfold with neither of the top two finishers in the Saturday race competing for the driver championship. Luckily, there was plenty of time on the TV clock and ESPN would be able to work through the top finishers in the post-race show.

Reed Sorenson led the "regulars" with a fifth place finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was seventh, Justin Allgaier was eighth and Brian Scott was ninth. Two of the best stories of the night included Kenny Wallace running tenth after a rough 2010 and former start-and-park king Joe Nemechek finishing fifteenth.

The network worked through the Sprint Cup Series drivers and Danica. Then, Reed Sorenson was interviewed. The tone was as if the interview was forced on ESPN because Sorenson was now the points leader. Then, things got even stranger.

With the "regulars" still standing on pit road, ESPN went back into the studio and began to wrap-up the coverage with about six minutes still left in the TV time. It quickly became apparent that a choice had been made when Allen Bestwick signed-off.

Instead of offering the "regulars" TV time for sponsors and fans, ESPN had decided to go five minutes early to the college basketball studios for highlights. In a flash Stenhouse, Allgaier, Scott and Wallace had become wooden Indians standing along pit road. Everyone knew they were there, but no one acknowledged their presence.

Thirty seconds of national TV time in a post-race show is a bonanza for "regulars." Thirty seconds of TV after a good finish with a sponsor mention is a dream. Instead, the NASCAR TV partner that carries every single race decided to pass those drivers by and run.

The unsponsored cars, the short field and the start and parkers who towed all the way to Arizona tell the tale of Nationwide Series reality. Without a viable TV partner actively interested in supporting the teams and sponsors, the outlook for the "regulars" is bleak.

ESPN has four more seasons of exclusive Nationwide Series coverage in the current NASCAR TV contract. It makes one wonder what the network's motives really are when events like this unfold. It certainly should make NASCAR wonder.

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.

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Phoenix (FOX - 2:30PM ET)

The real season starts this week as the ten month grind begins at the Phoenix International Raceway. FOX starts with a thirty minute pre-race show, then opening ceremonies and race coverage.

Chris Myers, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond are first up. It should be interesting to see if FOX keeps the new smaller outdoor set used in Daytona. That put the trio out among the fans and gave the pre-race show a very different vibe.

Waltrip joins Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds in the TV booth for the race. Waltrip took away Joy's final lap call last week by talking over top of the TV veteran. We will see if Waltrip learned anything from the criticism he received or if he continues to be the primary voice in the booth.

Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum, Krista Voda and Dick Berggren are the pit reporters. Unlike Daytona, this group should be busy today with tires, fuel and pit strategy being the big stories. We still have to see how long the tires last on a green track scrubbed by rain overnight.

While Daytona and the lovebug style of racing demanded wideshots and special coverage, PIR will tell the tale of whether the TV director is going to continue this style or return to the classic FOX approach of single car shots and in-car cameras.

The weather looks good and the scenery from PIR is outstanding. With some good racing, PIR has the potential to erase a lot of the bad memories of the lovebug push show seen at Daytona.

This post will serve to host your comments on the FOX coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from PIR. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Phoenix (ESPN2 - 5PM ET)

Nothing can describe the post-race chaos that happened to the NASCAR on ESPN team last weekend in Daytona. The audio failed on the Nationwide Series winner interview, then the network suddenly started a Daytona 500 preview show.

There were no interviews of key Nationwide finishers and a long delay of almost twenty minutes before a replay of the Nationwide winner interview with sound this time. It was just awful.

The icing on the cake was veteran broadcaster Marty Reid calling the wrong car dramatically crossing the finish line as the winner. Channeling his best Rick Allen, Reid tried to call the side-by-side battle, but wound up being embarrassed on national TV once again.

ESPN returned the same cast in front of the camera with the exception of Ray Evernham, who left to work on a project with Rick Hendrick. Jamie Shiftan is the new line producer and was a popular choice with the crew. Ultimately, the network returned to exactly the same type of coverage and ended the first telecast with a thud.

Phoenix is going to be a challenge for the ESPN TV director who likes to shoot the races tight and show only one or two cars at a time mixed with in-car camera views. PIR demands keeping a perspective for the TV viewers and that can only be done by effectively mixing wideshots with low-angle camera views.

The race off pit road is going to be key all night long and it will be important to use and hold the triple-split until all three cars are done with service. Otherwise, the viewer perspective will be lost. As we know from past telecasts, pit road at PIR both on the way in and the way out can be tricky.

Reid needs to rebound with a strong performance and cut-out the nonsense and hype. The Nationwide Series race looks to be dominated by three or four Cup drivers who are crossing-over and racing despite getting no driver points for a win this season.

It should be very interesting to see how ESPN handles two stories. The first is Danica Patrick, who is at her home track (Arizona resident) but struggling in the series and secondly keeping viewers up to date on the driver points race. That is, focusing on the drivers who have declared to run for the championship.

There is no catch-can man on pit road, so watching teams make adjustments on cars will be important. With the gas man busy, it will be up to one of the over-the-wall gang to get it done. It may be that the rear tire changer carries the first tire with him to free-up a crew member. Hope we see this on camera.

Allen Bestwick will handle the pre-race with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Wallace is feisty already, mixing comments that are clearly motivated by his own perspective as a team owner with items like sponsor mentions. Daugherty has nothing to add except his enthusiasm and without Ricky Craven things may be a little less exciting in the pit studio.

There are plenty of good names in the field, which was short so no one went home. Several are still expected to start and park, while there are some new faces in the rear of the field who might make it interesting once lapping begins.

PIR makes for a beautiful aerial shot and has a ton of scenery. Hopefully, ESPN makes use of this for bumpers into and out of commercial instead of pre-packaged content. Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns, Vince Welch and Jamie Little should be busy with pit stops but little else unless a multi-car incident happens. The red comes out quickly here as the track can be blocked instantly.

This post will serve to host your comments about the ESPN2 coverage of the Nationwide Series race from PIR. 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. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, February 25, 2011

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

Here comes SPEED with another chance to show ESPN and FOX how to produce compelling live NASCAR TV coverage.

Krista Voda starts off the telecast with The Setup pre-race show. Simple, effective and focused describes the way Voda delivers her information. Fans have come to know her and enjoy her Midwestern style for years now on SPEED.

Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will call the race with Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap on pit road. This is the team that fans will be seeing all season long on SPEED. Waltrip rejoins the telecast after racing at Daytona in the truck series race and winning.

It should be interesting to see how Waltrip deals with the issue of his spoiler breaking on the final lap and the controversy that has dogged him since that time. NASCAR has already fined and penalized his crew chief and truck series owner, so Waltrip may simply choose to remain mum.

PIR works well for the trucks and it should be interesting to see if any teams towed all the way to Arizona only to start and park. Keep an eye on the ticker in case Allen decides not to include that info on the telecast.

SPEED left the air after qualifying without posting the rundown of the full field. It was a very strange error for a veteran TV crew. Perhaps this telecast will include some explanation of why this happened.

This post will serve to host your comments about the SPEED coverage of the Camping World Truck Series race from PIR. 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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

TV Police: FOX Handcuffed In Daytona

The substantive changes in the NASCAR on FOX telecast of the Daytona 500 were apparent from the start of the pre-race show. Then, the green flag dropped.

FOX impressed for the entire hour before the race as the network unveiled a new infield set that allowed Chris Myers, Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip to leave the sterile confines of the Hollywood Hotel and get out among the fans.

Myers dropped the act he has perfected over the years playing the fool and instead brought his professional TV presence to the program. It made all the difference. Waltrip was not in charge this time and Myers did a tremendously effective job of directing traffic before the race.

As this is the first race of the season, FOX again mixed some features designed to provide an update for casual fans with news and some entertainment. The entertainment is part of the Daytona TV deal. The features worked to remember the history of this race and the anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s passing.

This was the most effective and focused NASCAR on FOX pre-race show in four years. Not only for Daytona, but for any race covered by the network. The power of having happy fans shown on national TV at a NASCAR race cannot be underestimated.

Martina McBride delivered a tremendous version of the national anthem and the Thunderbirds on the flyover made it almost perfect. Then, FOX encountered the issue that many believed was going to deeply affect the race this season. Even after attempts by NASCAR, the only way to race was in teams of two and that was the order of the day.

Despite bringing super slo-mo and a thermal imaging cam, FOX was thoroughly handcuffed by the actual racing on the track from the drop of the green flag. The two car drafting partners completely changed the scoring, call of the race and the ability of TV to choose the pictures.

Darrell Waltrip continues to be a powerful presence, but his on-air comments are now often wrapped in personal emotion and contain opinions based on family, friends and politics. Waltrip had a very long week working for SPEED, but to his credit he stayed focused on the endless on-track issues as the saga unfolded.

Mike Joy continues to be a presence in the booth that brings a balance to this team. Once again this year, he allowed the comments of others to be heard in full while filling-in the details and providing the commentary that the sport has come to know so very well.

The FOX production team tried early on to repeat the pattern of in-car cameras and tight shots, but the racing on the track made that impossible. Wideshots were the order of the day, simply to be able to see the two-car groups gaining speed and then passing each other.

The pit reporters were muted, only because tires were not an issue and there were many chances for teams to get fuel. Updates on drivers out of the race were done in a timely fashion and the questions were on target. It was not an easy task to explain to the viewing public exactly what was going on.

As expected, the close of the race was a mess on the track. TV followed the chaos, it was explained as it happened and the final portions of the event were commercial free. We may never really know what FOX had in mind for this event, because the two-car drafting handcuffs were placed on them early and never removed.

After every race we take an opportunity to allow you to offer your comments on the Spint Cup Series telecasts. This is a rather unique post because of the nature of the racing, but here we go. Happy to have your comments on the NASCAR on FOX coverage of the Daytona 500.

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.

Here Comes Travis Pastrana

If you think Danica Patrick came to NASCAR with lots of fans already in tow, get ready for a very interesting weekend in Phoenix. Travis Pastrana and his public relations juggernaut is chugging into NASCAR land.

It's only a K&N Series race, but Pastrana in his Boost Mobile Toyota out of the MWR shops looks to be a major story. When is the last time a K&N Series driver was interviewed by satellite on SPEED's Race Hub in only their second race? Pastrana will join host Steve Byrnes on Thursday at 7PM.

“I can’t wait to get back in the race car this week," said Pastrana in a press release. "We had a very successful debut at Irwindale last month and I learned a lot during the race. I don’t think our goals have change from our debut. We want to go out there and make laps and learn as much as we can. I haven’t been able to test at Phoenix so I am going to have to spend most of the practice time just learning the best way around the track."

Pastrana has been over in New Zealand performing with the Nitro Circus. Click here for a little taste of that extravaganza. It is from this background that Pastrana comes to NASCAR.

Now 27 years old, Pastrana has the ability to bring an entirely new group of fans to the sport and the PIR weekend should be interesting to watch. Although he will not make his official Nationwide Series debut until Indy in July, Pastrana is the same type of marketing machine as Danica.

When Ms. Patrick walked into the sport, it was TV that rushed to document her every move. Now that moment is long gone and Patrick looks a lot like just another struggling open-wheeler who doesn't get it. Even after a push to the front at Daytona, it was clear that Patrick hasn't come close to mastering the stock car skills needed at this level.

Pastrana has no such problems. Much like Trevor Bayne, Pastrana has no bad habits to break and no luggage from another series to carry as he arrives. An 11-time XGames gold medal winner, Pastrana's background is speed mixed with safety. He showed that in Irwindale, where he took home sixth place in the Toyota Shootout.

Click here to visit the Pastrana website, that will give you a much better overview of the successful and sophisticated athlete that has targeted NASCAR as his next goal. It should be interesting to see just how much media Pastrana generates and how often he appears on SPEED, ESPN and even FOX during the PIR racing weekend.

Please feel free to share your opinion on another high-profile star coming to NASCAR with money, a good car and a big marketing agenda. 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, February 22, 2011

Trevormania: The TV Aftermath

The irony of the quick interview of Trevor Bayne by FOX's Krista Voda in Victory Lane was made clear once the race telecast was over. Actively or passively, Bayne subsequently appeared on more media outlets than any Daytona 500 winner in history. He was a media dream.

After handling the liveshots for various TV shows in Victory Lane once FOX was done, Bayne then worked his way through the Victory Lane show on SPEED and NASCAR Now on ESPN later Sunday night. By then, it was clear that the camera just loved this driver.

Monday morning saw the Daytona 500 highlights and soundbites from Bayne featured on cable news networks, local TV stations and ESPN's various channels. Still smiling, Bayne then handled the satellite interviews from Daytona USA as the 500 car was put on display.

The next stop was ESPN and a turn in the company car wash. That is the current term used to describe a person who is whisked through the media giant's TV, radio and online channels in one day and then spit out into the parking lot with a handshake.

Instead of a babbling mess, Bayne walked through the various ESPN programs with maturity and good humor. He delivered a positive message for NASCAR that sports TV viewers had not seen or heard in a long time. Here was a smart, young person who was excited about racing.

Rusty Wallace had some airplane issues and was unable to fly into Bristol for the big Monday one-hour NASCAR Now show. It might have been kismet. Instead, Bayne sat with just host Allen Bestwick and reporter Marty Smith for the entire hour.

This long-form program allowed Bayne to talk about all kinds of diverse issues. It clicked. The always structured Bestwick led him through the topics that race fans wanted to hear while Smith leaned back and brought some outstanding questions from the journalism side of the aisle.

Along the way, Bayne never faltered. He was never mean, never grouchy and never made an on-air joke at another's expense. In speaking with David Pearson by phone on the show, Bayne reported to him that he had followed Pearson's advice and simply tried to be careful in order to finish.

It should be noted here that for once ESPN's SportsCenter put together an outstanding edited feature on the race, Bayne's win and what it means for the sport. Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News made his contribution with a very nice story on the impact of an outsider and fresh face taking one of the biggest prizes in the sport.

Despite the continuing lunacy of stick-and-ball curmudgeons on shows like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, ESPN in general handled the subject matter quite well and gave the Daytona 500 and NASCAR unprecedented exposure.

The polar opposite of Allen Bestwick is Steve Byrnes. Casual on the Race Hub set in Charlotte, Byrnes used his unique style to have fun with Bayne in an interview taped via satellite from Daytona USA. Bestwick keeps it professional, while Byrnes makes it personal.

Bayne again sold himself, the Wood Brothers, Ford and NASCAR with little effort. His enthusiasm and previous interactions with Byrnes made it clear to SPEED viewers that this was the type of star lurking in the Nationwide Series and looking for a future.

For the race telecast, FOX reported an 8.7 cable rating which translates to 15.6 million homes. That's only one point higher than last season, but there was some interesting data released. Some of Nielsen's top ten metered markets turned impressive numbers.

In Chicago, viewership was up 61%, in New York 32% and in Los Angeles 46%. Needless to say, those are some key markets for NASCAR with tracks and races in two of those cities. Another good tidbit was that ratings started higher from the green flag and then peaked for the finish. That means a whole lot of people stayed put. passes along the incredible number of 11.2 million pageviews on Sunday, with 3 million additional pageviews from mobile devices. There is little doubt that the upcoming focus on the sport's media outreach will center on an increased online presence that is user-friendly and driven by video and social media content.

Update: Wood Brothers will be in Phoenix and Bayne will run in both series. Thank you for the information.

For one rather glorious 24 hour period, NASCAR got the kind of national media spark that it cannot buy, create or command. It should be very interesting to see how FOX, ESPN and SPEED handle the transition of Bayne back into mediocrity and what each network does to try and keep the NASCAR ball rolling in the right direction.

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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Daytona (12PM - FOX)

The NASCAR on FOX team comes out of the gate in 2011 trying to get different results from exactly the same personalities in front of and behind the cameras. It's going to be a tall task to get the momentum flowing in the right direction where NASCAR fans and TV are concerned.

As you can tell from the picture above, the theme of this one is going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. trying to win the race on the 10th anniversary of his father's passing. Fans will once again hold up three fingers on lap 3 of the race. Keep an eye on how FOX handles this topic during the event.

Chris Myers is back in the Hollywood Hotel and it should be interesting to see if he continues the same act of being Mr. Confused. In fact, Myers is now in his second season of hosting Inside NASCAR on Showtime. Myers has a long history in TV as an informed and sophisticated on-air professional.

Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond join Myers for the pre-race show. Hammond has been outstanding this season with focused TV comments and an informed presence. Waltrip has been overused by SPEED and the result has been a tired guy who is talking too much. A well-rested Waltrip is going to be needed for this race that promises to have a very different dynamic.

Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds join Waltrip in the booth for the race. This mix has been effective for many years, but Waltrip's non-stop chatter last year at this event set the tone for what was to be a rough season. If the producer allows Joy to take charge and direct traffic, things should be fine.

Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, Matt Yocum and Dick Berggren are the top of the heap in terms of pit road reporters. A diverse group of professionals with other interests and TV projects, FOX has failed to effectively use their talents for several seasons. Hopefully, a new focus on information will allow them more air time.

There is no RaceBuddy for the FOX races this season. That means during TV commercials fans have nowhere to continue watching the race. has a live leaderboard but no free scanners. Basically, FOX and the radio are the only two information sources for the event.

FOX has not embraced social media and there is no focused location for tweets or Facebook conversation with fans during the telecast. Darrell Waltrip has an active Twitter account, so it should be interesting to see if he will be interacting with fans from the TV booth during the race.

The network has FLIR technology, new in-car camera angles and a race where two cars can pull away from the pack. It's an interesting combination of elements where making TV is concerned. FOX has a long history of overusing in-car angles, trying to build drama and focusing on the winner instead of all the finishers.

There are four years left in the current TV contract. In reality, FOX may well have only four more cracks at covering the Daytona 500. After last season's pothole issues and the erosion of TV viewers, the pressure is on to deliver a memorable and informative telecast.

We will use this post to host your comments on the TV coverage of the Daytona 500 on FOX. 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 for the fifth season.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Daytona (12PM - ESPN2)

The ESPN boys had all winter to lick their wounds and recover from the thumping they took in the media and with the fans about the TV coverage of both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series down the stretch last season.

Now, instead of making changes in the broadcast line-up, the only news is that Rusty Wallace's TV contract has been extended through 2014. That is the current end of ESPN's NASCAR agreement to cover the sport. The fact that Ray Evernham quietly stepped away wasn't even a blip on the radar.

In ESPN's world, everything is always fine. In reality, it certainly is not. Marty Reid struggled with the sport and his play-by-play down the stretch was off-balance. He returns to this role today with the Nationwide Series race from Daytona.

Alongside of Reid are Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. It should be interesting to see if Jarrett takes this role and expresses his opinion or continues to be just a bit too polite and far too politically correct. Jarrett still has tremendous credibility and he could be the key to returning ESPN to a position of authority in the sport.

Consistency has defined Andy Petree but the faces around him have continually changed. He started with Rusty Wallace alongside, then the next season Jerry Punch left and Reid came aboard. His original producer is gone and this year he again is cast in the role of the third guy in the booth.

Allen Bestwick will lead the Infield Pit Studio group. Wallace and Brad Daugherty are alongside and assuming their normal roles. Wallace gets agitated and intense, while Daugherty speaks in broad and general terms about any topic in the sport. While Bestwick is the best in the business on TV right now, he is surrounded by a less than stellar cast but still makes the best of it.

There really is nothing to say about Tim Brewer and the Tech Garage. He is cast in the role of making guesses about incidents on the track and is often completely incorrect. His updates on the very basics of the sport make fans feel stupid. In his fifth season in this role, it should be interesting to see how he is presented.

Jamie Shiftan is the new ESPN producer. He is popular with the crew, a homegrown production veteran and maintains good relationships with almost everyone in the sport. The reaction when he was named to this position was overwhelmingly positive. Now, it is his turn to make the TV donuts beginning with the biggest race of the Nationwide Series season.

This blog will host your TV-related comments as we watch the pre-race and race coverage from Daytona. 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 today to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Live Blogging Trucks in Daytona (SPEED - 7PM)

The familiar feel of the Camping World Truck Series TV package comes back tonight in Daytona. One face is gone, however, and a new one steps in.

Adam Alexander has left the truck TV package to anchor the new SPEED Center show back in Charlotte, NC. It will be Hermie Sadler stepping in to fill his shoes for the entire season. Sadler will also continue his reporter duties on the RaceDay show for the network as well.

Krista Voda kicks off another season as the host of the pre-race show and sometimes a pit road reporter. Voda's style has always meshed well with this series and she has proven her value to NASCAR and SPEED for many years.

Rick Allen will call the race with Phil Parsons. These two have been the core of the TV package in the booth for a long time. Tonight, Darrell Waltrip steps in because younger brother Michael is racing.

Yes, Michael has an in-truck camera and it should be interesting to see how the producer manages the contact between the two Waltrips. These two have been on a self-promotion tour this week and frankly, it's getting to be too much.

Ray Dunlap will be returning to anchor pit road along with Sadler. Watching these two this season should be fun. This is the first opportunity for Sadler to put his personal stamp on something for the entire season. This assignment is quite different than the scripted RaceDay program.

The same producer and director return as well, two guys who strive to produce old school television coverage that focuses on the racing and the drivers instead of fancy TV gizmo's and announcer personalities.

The field is packed with a ton of personalities from Kyle Busch to 18 year-old Johanna Long. No two-by-two drafting in this series. The trucks should put on a good show.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Camping World Truck Series race from Dayton on SPEED. 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.

Trucks Ready To Steal TV Spotlight

While the Sprint Cup Series still has the established superstars and the Nationwide Series boasts dynamite new cars, this weekend it just might be the Camping World Trucks stealing the TV spotlight in Daytona.

Throughout practice sessions and now after the Gatorade Duels, it's become apparent that the Sprint Cup Series is going to look like well, click here for a wonderful video of the chain races at Bowman Gray Stadium. Two cars, forever locked, until something bad happens. Motorsports ballet if you will.

We also saw a bunch of the Sprint Cup guys cross-over and do the same thing in the Nationwide Series cars. They were even switching partners in practice just to find out how the bumpers of the different manufacturers lined-up. The Nationwide Series race could also be a story of the best two-car drafters having a big advantage.

Meanwhile, over in truck land there is a whole lot of shaking going on. A ton of good drivers did not make the race, including Mike Skinner, Rick Crawford and Tayler Malsam. Ultimately, the starting grid for the race is an incredible mix of motorsports personalities.

While Austin Dillon capturing the pole might be expected, Ricky Carmichael and 18 year-old Johanna Long, pictured above, sneaking into the top five certainly was not. Experienced drivers like Kyle Busch, Elliott Sadler and Aric Almirola will be racing with Jeffrey Earnhardt, Miguel Paludo and Craig Goess Jr.

Even good old Michael Waltrip decided to take a ride in this one. He is joined by hard-charging Johnny Sauter and truck series veteran Todd Bodine. There is no lack of speed in the field and none of the start-and-park chaos that dogged this series in 2010.

SPEED knows it suddenly has an opportunity to outshine ESPN and FOX. Instead of a cult classic, this may well be the season that the trucks move up the ladder in terms of respect among the competitors and the NASCAR media. In addition to the new faces, there is a neat twist in the series coverage.

Ford Trucks is the company that has made arrangements to sponsor TruckBuddy for every single race this season. That means at the free four-box live video application with sound, scoring and social media chat will be ready to roll.

This is the first of NASCAR's three national touring series to offer an online video companion for all the races. While this does not have all the bells and whistles of the RaceBuddy app used on TNT's Sprint Cup Series races, that's not an issue.

The truck series has always been different and prided itself on that. New faces have come while others have gone as drivers on different career paths converged in this interesting form of racing. The one constant along the way has been TV coverage.

SPEED picked-up the entire series in the last TV contract and got off to a slow start. The race coverage developed into a strong presentation, but the network offered absolutely no support programming in terms of a weekly show. Fans got the pre-race, the race and a nice goodbye until next time.

This year, SPEED has come slamming out of the gate with a mature Race Hub program backed by additional live shows from the tracks. Steve Byrnes and company have made sure to provide the truck series with a lot of exposure it has been lacking.

All of a sudden, a series that in one race featured over 20 trucks starting and parking of 36 total now looks very different. Live TV coverage for practice, qualifying and the races. RaceBuddy for every single race free to fans online worldwide. Support programming in the form of Race Hub four days a week and added TV in the form of NASCAR Live from the tracks., Jayski and SPEED's website have all been beefing up coverage of the trucks and that is only going to help a fan base increasingly using online resources to follow racing. Throw in Twitter and Facebook pages for the drivers, teams and sponsors and suddenly the Camping World folks look pretty smart for sticking with this series.

Krista Voda hosts The Setup pre-race show at 7PM ET Friday night to start the coverage. With Adam Alexander moving to the new SPEED Center show on weekends, it will be Hermie Sadler pairing with Ray Dunlap in the truck series pits this season. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Darrell Waltrip will call the Daytona race since Michael is racing.

We will live blog this race, but in the meantime feel free to add your comments on the series, the new media and the TV coverage. 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, February 17, 2011

Live Blogging Gatorade Duels (SPEED - 2PM ET)

It's a tough time of the day with most of America at work. It's not available online from NASCAR or SPEED as a video stream. The rules are confusing and it's basically the NASCAR on FOX production team appearing on SPEED. Welcome to the Duels.

The twin qualifying races for the Daytona 500 are on SPEED. Krista Voda moves into the Hollywood Hotel in place of Chris Myers, as she has for several years. Myers is a FOX guy, not a SPEED guy. Other than that, it's Mike, DW, Larry and the FOX gang on TV.

RaceDay kicks off the coverage at 1PM with an hour special. John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace will be on the SPEED Stage with Hermie Sadler and Wendy Venturini reporting. RaceDay is supposed to have a new look this season, we will see.

FOX had a rough season last year and these races should be a sneak peek of what the Daytona 500 coverage will have in store. New in-car driver angles, more technology and additional team scanner traffic are what FOX said they would be delivering this season. Be interesting to see if they keep if for the 500 or use that approach here.

An edition of Victory Lane follows the second race on SPEED and is scheduled for 5:30PM ET. Roberts, Petty and Wallace are on the show.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED coverage of the Gatorade Duels. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by. This is year five of TDP.

Day Two: "PTI" Targets NASCAR - The Aftermath

Update: This story was splashed all over the media on Wednesday morning. ESPN NASCAR announcers and executives were asked about it during their Daytona preseason press conference. PTI added Jimmie Johnson as a Wednesday guest and he asked Tony Kornheiser to attend a race as his guest so Kornheiser could begin to make "educated comments" about the sport.

The female reporter named by Kornheiser, Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, appeared on Sirius NASCAR channel 128 to clarify her comments. ESPN's top motorsports executive said Kornheiser's comments do not reflect the views of NASCAR by ESPN.

Add to that Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had a practice crash and will start at the rear of the field for the Daytona 500 after switching to a back-up car. So much for leading the field to green on national TV. This story will stay up until the live blog of the Duels Thursday afternoon.

There are two schools of thought at ESPN where NASCAR is concerned. One group of employees enjoys the sport as part of the motorsports landscape, while another group is firmly convinced that NASCAR is completely fixed from top to bottom. It was this way when I worked at ESPN back in the 1980's and it is that way now.

Stick and ball sports are played out in the open. You make the catch against the wall for the final out. You intercept the ball and run for a touchdown. You shoot the puck into the net, putt the golf ball into the hole and it all seems so simple.

The dark voodoo of NASCAR perplexes those not exposed to motorsports as just another form of real sport. The reason ESPN has Tim Brewer on telecasts telling us wheels are round and fuel makes cars go is because the network believes that viewers need that basic level of assistance. In other words, people who watch this stuff are idiots.

Over the past four seasons, there have been many hilarious moments when the need to discuss NASCAR-related content fell to ESPN on-air employees with no clue. SportsCenter announcers rush through brief highlights so they can return to real sports. ESPNEWS anchors have that deer in the headlights look when a NASCAR interview surfaces. Names are mangled, details are wrong and the sport suffers.

The most bizarre graveyard for NASCAR on ESPN has been the weekday show called Pardon the Interruption. Originating from Washington DC, the show features two hosts discussing sports stories of the day with a time limit on each discussion.

Tuesday, fulltime host Tony Kornheiser was paired with Dan LeBatard, a substitute host and writer for the Miami Herald newspaper. In the picture above Kornheiser is on the left and LeBatard on the right. The fourth topic on the show rundown was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Daytona 500 pole run.

Here is the conversation on the program that ran on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS only days before ESPN will start NASCAR racing coverage and FOX will telecast the Daytona 500:

LeBatard: Since we are already questioning college football's integrity, why don't you start investigating NASCAR's too, Mr. Restrictor Plate.

This is the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death, (TV) ratings are down since. Two hundred thousand fans will hold up three fingers in his honor at the Daytona 500 on Sunday. It just so happens that his son, Dale Earnhart Jr., has the pole position for that race. You believe the fix is in, don't you?

Kornheiser: Well, it's a great America moment isn't it when Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona can have the pole position...a guy who has not won a race in his last 93 starts.

There are people in and around the NASCAR world, not just drivers but people who cover the sport as well, who are winking at this one. Who are wondering if this wasn't a set-up because it's the pole position, it's not winning the race.

It's just getting on the pole, having the lead and bringing the viewers in. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the most popular driver for the last seven or eight years and he can't win a race. This is a good set-up moment, is it not?

LeBatard: But is it a great American moment or is it professional wrestling? If you're going to lob this accusation out there...and look, I've heard the comments where people say you let something go on the car and give a guy a certain advantage. I can't deny that Junior winning would be good for NASCAR.

Kornheiser: Everytime he runs if he wins it's good for NASCAR because he is the most popular guy out there and they want to get the ratings back up. I think the suggestion here, someone I talked to who covered auto racing for a lot of years, said she believed there was a 60% chance that Junior qualified with a car not quite up to code and people looked the other way.

There are no points involved, the other drivers don't get hurt and running three good laps is not the same as running 500 miles. Everybody in NASCAR is going to feel good about this.

Needless to say, even though Kornheiser's comments lasted less than two minutes, the damage done was pretty thorough. What Kornheiser did was dredge up an issue that has plagued the sport for years. That is integrity.

Last season, Denny Hamlin was fined fifty thousand dollars for commenting on a late caution flag in one race. All Hamlin did was say he expected it and it did not bother him. The hint that NASCAR put out a caution to close up the field for a better finish lightened his wallet.

Kornheiser chose to ignore almost all the reality surrounding Junior's qualifying run in order to make his point. He chose to not reach out to NASCAR for a comment or help with an understanding of the situation. More than that, he did not take a moment to speak with Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree.

The allegation that the NFL fixed a coin toss to give the home team a favorable starting position would cause outrage. The suggestion that Major League Baseball allowed a corked bat for a slumping hitter to get better results would get a phone call from the league.

What NASCAR chooses to do with this should be interesting, especially because ESPN has a scheduled preseason press conference with all the NASCAR reporters in the Daytona Infield Media Center at 11:30AM on Wednesday.

It will be VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg along with Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree talking about the network's approach to NASCAR this season. Perhaps the two analysts will be asked about one of ESPN's top rated programs alleging that Junior was placed on the pole to help with slumping TV ratings.

It is ESPN that televises the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races, including the entire Chase for the Championship. Any negative fan reaction during the off-season is a direct result of ESPN's efforts down the stretch.

Kornheiser was once suspended for remarking on the retro 80's fashion sense of a certain female ESPN anchor. In this case, he simply alleges that one of the top professional sports in North America orchestrated the pole position for the biggest Sprint Cup Series race of the season.

We welcome your comments on this topic and will update this post after the morning press conference. 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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bud Shootout TV Comments

The NASCAR on FOX gang made no changes in the off-season and is bringing back the same on-air group of announcers. Some folks find that makes a lot of sense while others wonder why no changes if the sport is struggling on TV.

Darrell Waltrip is the leader of the pack and has the high-profile assignment of being on both the pre-race show and in the booth for the race. Waltrip is one of those love him or hate him kinda guys. There is no middle ground with DW.

Mike Joy had a tough year in 2011 for one reason. Waltrip was given the green light to talk over top of Joy anytime and he certainly used that right on a continual basis. Joy wound-up fading into the background for the first time in a long time.

Larry McReynolds is a lightning bolt for fans these days. Two years ago he gave an interview critical of NASCAR and then got rebuked by the powers that be in the sport. Since that time he has been nothing short of a public relations employee. During this season's media tour, McReynolds took the time to tell the assembled reporters to make sure and keep their message positive. It did not go over well.

Jeff Hammond has been great on SPEED in several different roles but on FOX he is shoved into the Hollywood Hotel and hung-out to dry when the race starts. Hammond has a lot of offer and it should be interesting to see how much he joins the telecast during the racing action.

FOX has a great group of pit reporters. Dr. Dick Berggren, Krista Voda, Steve Byrnes and Matt Yocum are all stars with the fans. It's a shame that FOX does not use them much because Waltrip is a constant source of conversation during green flag periods. FOX suffers without field recaps and regular updates from pit road on key stories.

The Shootout is a small taste of what NASCAR on FOX will be bringing to the table this season. Look for some new graphics, a new in-car camera angle and the continuing emphasis on dramatic storylines. After the rough ride of last year, it should be interesting to see how the fans react to the coverage tonight.

We invite your comments before, during and after the telecast. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. This chat is geared toward the telecast, not the teams, drivers or racing action. TDP is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for joining us.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Media Mayhem

Lots of diverse media news and information has been coming this way over the past couple of days. I'm just going to empty the old email and let you pick and choose:

For Sprint users: The company announced that the Sprint Cup Mobile application has added some new elements. Read these words from Sprint carefully.

The new design (shown above) features updated driver banners and buttons that provide customers instant access to information personalized to follow their favorite driver. The updated layout also offers improved graphics throughout and Twitter updates from drivers, crew members and other NASCAR insiders.

Beginning on Friday, Feb. 11, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile will carry live broadcasts of Bud Shootout practice, as well as NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane on Saturday, Feb. 12. The following week, fans can see both Gatorade Duel races, all practice sessions for the Daytona 500, along with NASCAR Live, NASCAR RaceDay, NASCAR Victory Lane and Trackside via the application.

That's right, select NASCAR shows on SPEED can be seen on your Sprint phone. We will see how this service performs over the weekend and review it next week. Happy to get your input on this topic at if you try it as well.

10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's passing: SPEED will offer a special on Friday at 7:30PM called The Day. Previews show amazing interviews with Michael Waltrip, Kenny Schrader and former DEI executive Ty Norris. ESPN offers an exclusive interview from Marty Smith with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the Sunday Conversation on SportsCenter. Originally airing at 10AM, the segment can also be seen on the 6 and 10:30PM shows.

NASCAR on FOX checking in: The network confirmed the same on-air line-up that viewers have come to know for Saturday night's 8PM Bud Shootout and Sunday's 1PM Daytona 500 qualifying.

Host Chris Myers along with analysts Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond provide prerace coverage. Once the green flag drops, race announcer Mike Joy will be alongside Waltrip and Larry McReynolds to call the action while Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda and Matt Yocum patrol pit road.

Celebrity update: Hollywood actress Amber Heard will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 33rd annual Budweiser Shootout. Heard will next be seen in the action thriller “Drive Angry 3D” starring opposite Nicolas Cage, which is set for release on Feb. 25. Meanwhile, country music singer/songwriter Laura Bell Bundy will perform a pre and post-race concert in addition to singing the national anthem.

Big new TV show: The Speed Report has ended and on Sundays at 7PM starting this weekend, SPEED Center rolls out with host Adam Alexander. This is the start of a new concept for the network that will be expanding rapidly. Alexander will begin to appear on Saturdays and Sundays to offer highlights, news and information from all forms of motorsports. We should get a feel for the show this weekend. It's a solid move by SPEED to serve more fans.'s big fantasy push: The folks over at are rolling out the newest fantasy game featuring a twist. Since gets all the live scoring information sent directly for its other services, the company has now created a new fantasy league featuring live lap-by-lap fantasy updates. Click here for the link.

Gossip Girl: After the new Miss Sprint Cup line-up was announced, some folks were asking about newcomer Kimberly Coon. Yes, she was on the hit TV show The Bachelor. Click here for an interview from WSOC-TV about her reality TV experience. Thanks to the eagle-eyed TDP readers.

Other side of the pond: Confirmed this week was the fact that Premier Sports TV will be carrying all the Sprint Cup Series races in the UK while Setana Sports will be handling the distribution for Ireland. Both countries have hardcore fans and loyal TDP readers.

Online motorsports programming: The website is a portal for online motorsports viewing. Click here to see the homepage. Currently, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse Networks are the two primary carriers. I am told this service is in the process of expanding and may be available to over 15 million cable TV homes by mid-year. More great news for additional racing content.

Please consider Twitter: There is no way to describe just how much fun NASCAR is on Twitter. This free social media service lets fans interact direcly with drivers, teams, officials, media members and each other as nothing before. Pictures, videos and news links are constantly flowing. One try at Twitter and you will be hooked. Check out and then search The Daly Planet or John Daly to see who I follow and just how much NASCAR has become Twitter nation.

Well, those are the updates before the first weekend of NASCAR racing action gets underway. Please feel free to offer a comment on any of those topics by clicking the comments button below. Email me anytime at with suggestions.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Media Day Offers Live TV And Online Webcast

Let's face facts. The success or failure of NASCAR this season is going to be due in large part to the on-air efforts of ESPN and SPEED. NASCAR's other TV partners like Showtime, TNT and FOX focus only on promoting their own programming for a variety of reasons.

It's up to SPEED and ESPN to do the heavy lifting and this might be the first year that both of those companies got the message. Aside from offering solid weekday news shows, another sign that things are changing is this season's television coverage of media day at Daytona.

On Thursday over fifty drivers from all three national touring series will shuffle through media interviews. It might seem like a boring exercise, but it really is a focused media event. National TV, Sirius radio, online video and tons of social media content will flow from Daytona for an entire day.

Content is king these days and the off-season has not been kind. This is an opportunity for drivers to escape the politics of the recent media tour and engage in some interviews specific to Daytona and of a more personal nature. It's a very different environment from the shops back home.

ESPNEWS is set to offer three hours of live coverage from noon to 3PM ET. It will be Mike Massaro and Nicole Briscoe co-hosting with Ricky Craven providing analysis. This is a great opportunity to get some quality national TV time, especially for some of the Nationwide drivers since ESPN2 televises that entire series. Massaro will then be back at 5PM on ESPN2 with a full version of NASCAR Now.

As we have suggested for several years, ESPNEWS could play a key role in helping the sport this season by integrating NASCAR content into the mainstream sports reporting and highlights. When NASCAR Now is preempted, ESPNEWS is the perfect place for the show to air.

SPEED is going to edit highlights of interviews into a special that will air at 7PM ET. The network has been good at exposing the sport at a later hour when more viewers are home and this timeslot is normally used for the popular Race Hub series. SPEED's new NASCAR show called The Ten will follow.

Click here for the direct link to's online streaming webcast of media day. This presentation is set to begin at 8AM ET and run the full length of the day until 4PM. Marty Snyder, Matt Yocum, Lindsay Czarniak and Larry McReynolds will be handling the hosting duties for the team.

Pushing more content online is going to be huge this season, whether it is through or additional media partner websites. After the success of's efforts at the recent Daytona test, it should be interesting to see just how does with this daylong production.

Finally, Sirius/XM NASCAR Channel 128 will be on-site in Daytona and on the air starting with The Morning Drive program at 7AM. Sirius and NASCAR would get a lot more bang for their buck if the Sirius 128 signal was made available for online streaming as well. Hopefully, this impasse between several parties can be solved down the road.

2011 Media Day in a year that is going to be dominated by social media means only one thing. NASCAR fans will be swarming Facebook and Twitter on Thursday for videos, pictures and interactive conversations with personalities in the sport and the media members who cover them.

All of this might just come together in a brand new way as the interactive synergy of today's online media merges with NASCAR's existing television partners. It should be interesting to watch the different media outlets offer their own unique approach to this content.

This post will host your comments on NASCAR Media Day 2011. 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, February 8, 2011

ESPN2 And SPEED Face-Off In Studio (Updated)

Update: Did you watch the two shows? What did you think? Leaving this post up for one more day for your comments on NASCAR Now and Race Hub.

It's been a long time coming, but NASCAR finally has two healthy and credible studio news shows comitted to a full ten months of TV coverage. This season, NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and Race Hub on SPEED may play a key role in helping the sport regain its footing.

The story is a classic. ESPN was lost in the woods with its NASCAR studio show until Allen Bestwick stopped by one day and the rest is history. Click here for that story from a while back. NASCAR Now got itself sorted out and was the first to become a valuable TV conduit for the fan base.

All along ESPN had good reporters and contributors in the field. The problem was the personalities in the studio. Hype, incompetence and ego made the early shows laughable. Now, a tight trio of Mike Massaro, Nicole Briscoe and Bestwick offer familiar faces and a straightforward approach to NASCAR topics.

Last season, Shannon Spake was among the pinch-hitters in the host role and showed her versatility. Veteran fans may remember her from earlier hosting roles with SPEED. Even Marty Smith was pressed into service for vacation relief and managed to depart the mothership with no damage done.

This year Bestwick's influence is greater than ever on this series. Last week ESPN announced that Johnny Benson and Kenny Schrader would be frequent panelists on Bestwick's flagship one-hour Monday roundtable version of the show. Combined with outstanding studio analyst Ricky Craven, Bestwick may now have the top studio team on TV.

Monday nights with Bestwick, Schrader, Benson and Michael Waltrip were mandatory viewing for many fans as SpeedVision and then SPEED carried a NASCAR talk show under several titles for years. With Waltrip off doing Inside NASCAR for Showtime, Craven is about to have a very interesting season of Mondays.

There are two fundamental drawbacks to NASCAR Now that ESPN is unable or unwilling to solve. First, the show is on at 5PM Eastern Time and then re-airs at various times for West Coast viewers. We often refer to this timeslot as "DVR Theater" because most East Coast workers are not yet home and the overnight re-air is too late for both the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Bottom line, it's tough to catch sometimes.

Secondly, the show is preempted for everything from Little League baseball to ladies tennis. Fans joked that ESPN stood for Ever Seeking to Preempt NASCAR. Click here for the ultimate insult that happened last season. It was jaw-dropping for fans and brushed off by the network.

In order for ESPN to save its own NASCAR efforts, the move for NASCAR Now when preempted has to be to ESPNEWS. At 5PM, ESPNEWS is mostly bored announcers who have shown last night's stick-and-ball highlights endlessly and are now just waiting for the 7:30PM scheduled games to begin.

This move is done by ESPN for in-house branded shows when there is a conflict, but has never been done for NASCAR in the four seasons of ESPN's participation in the sport. Now is the time for ESPN's Julie Sobieski to make her case to the senior programmers and get NASCAR Now on the schedule on the weekdays throughout the season.

Things are shaking at SPEED as new management is changing the programming and production sides of the network once again. This has to be at least the fifth or sixth major overhaul of this network in the last ten years. This time, FOX's David Hill and veteran TV executive Patti Wheeler are calling the shots.

Race Hub was one of the first to feel the effects. Steve Byrnes was brought off the road and installed as the fulltime host of this Monday through Thursday program. Byrnes kept his FOX pit reporting gig, so the first several months of the season are going to be quite busy while Byrnes works on both assignments.

Byrnes has been just what the doctor ordered for Race Hub. The show is now one-hour long and that means good opportunities for longer-form interviews, analysis and conversations. It had paid off in a huge way for SPEED.

Leveraging the North Charlotte location of the SPEED studios, Race Hub has become a destination for drivers, owners and personalities seeking to update information, make announcements or simply respond to an interview request. It takes someone with the lengthy and diverse experience of Byrnes to handle the challenge.

SPEED hired reporter Danielle Trotta full time and assigned her to the show. She clicked from the start and has been the surprise of the new format. Moving between the NASCAR shops and facilities in the greater Mooresville area, Trotta has fit right in with the good-natured but frank approach to discussing topics in the news.

While it is clear that Race Hub is being used to reinforce the NASCAR on FOX brand, viewers need a break from Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds on the weekdays. As the producers continue to tinker with the format, perhaps making area journalists a regular part of the show would lessen the feel that this is an in-house effort.

Jimmy Spencer continues to struggle on this program, now fully immersed in the cartoon image of himself he has created. Spencer deserves to be on the main set, interviewed as an analyst and taken out of his demeaning attire. If he is being paid to play, let him play with the big boys or go home.

Both Race Hub and NASCAR Now have embraced social media with active Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. The shows often take fan questions for guests in advance of show tapings and fan feedback has resulted in change. This ability for any fan to speak directly with Bestwick, Massaro, Byrnes or Trotta makes both shows score high on the interactivity meter.

ESPN has a suit and tie dresscode that is not going to change. The formal on-air look is now part of the Bristol, CT culture despite the fact it does not fall in line with the NASCAR fan base in any way. Polo shirts or long-sleeve oxfords would be a simple change for NASCAR Now that might make a big difference for some TV viewers.

Byrnes and friends are casual on the air, but Race Hub has come a very long way from the early days when a bunch of tired middle-aged men in acid washed jeans stood around a workbench in the studio to offer race analysis. SPEED has always had issues with building working sets, but Race Hub seems to have settled right in to the current design.

Monday on ESPN2 it will be Mike Massaro leading NASCAR Now back on the air with a 5PM show for thirty minutes. The one-hour roundtables with Bestwick do not start until the following week. Race Hub has been on the air for several weeks now and on Thursday at 7PM will feature a look at NASCAR's media day from Daytona.

It's certainly nice to have a slice of the NASCAR TV pie all squared away. Now fans have a daily choice for news, highlights and interviews between two of NASCAR's official media partners. The schedules, including any guest information provided, are on the left side of the main page.

Thanks for stopping by, we welcome your opinion on this topic. To add your comments, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday TV/Media Notes

Some television and media items for you:

SPEED passed along that Adam Alexander will be the host of the new SPEED Center program on weekends. This show replaces The Speed Report on Sundays, but is actually an expandable update show that can be used on racing weekends and for special events.

The potential for Alexander to increase SPEED's overall integration into updated news, highlights and interviews from all forms of motorsports is absolutely fantastic. Stepping up to the plate is the right thing at the right time for SPEED.

While Alexander will be keeping his role as the play-by-play announcer for the six TNT races, he will be leaving his longtime assignment as one of two pit reporters for the Camping World Truck Series. It will be Hermie Sadler replacing Alexander on pit road and also keeping his Sprint Cup Series role on the popular RaceDay program.

Krista Voda will be stepping aside from her frequent studio role now that The Speed Report is gone, but she will remain with the Camping World Truck Series as host and as a pit reporter for the NASCAR on FOX telecasts.

Sticking with SPEED, the network has revamped the SPEED Stage and also the sets used for Trackside and RaceDay. This time, the fans are going to be included and not spend the entire time staring at the backs of the on-air announcers. Great news for all concerned.

Word is that SPEED is talking with the NASCAR Hall of Fame about moving the NASCAR Performance production into that facility. Since the show is now produced in advance of the racing weekends, it might be a nice touch to have visitors and fans in the background and even participating. Larry McReynolds will be back with Chad Knaus and Bootie Barker on that series.

For those fans who have been asking, the trio of Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be returning to call the Camping World Truck Series races for SPEED this season. Ray Dunlap will be a pit reporter along with Sadler, while Voda hosts the pre-race show.

In case you missed the earlier announcement, SPEED and have teamed up to offer the online TruckBuddy application free for every truck race this season. Again this year, it will offer four different video sources along with customized scoring information and a location for live chat from all types of social media sources.

Also over at, a new fantasy league has been opened featuring the real time data and scoring that NASCAR provides from the tracks. NASCAR Fantasy Live is apparently a pretty big deal. Information on how to participate and the rules are available at the website.

Finally, last week ESPN extended the contract of lead studio analyst Rusty Wallace through the 2014 season. Wallace is the first ESPN announcer to have his contract extended to the end of the current NASCAR TV deal with the ESPN networks. While we also know that Ricky Craven will get the opportunity to call seven Nationwide Series races in the booth, there is no word on whether Randy LaJoie might get the call to rejoin the NASCAR Now panel.

Happy to have your comments on these topics. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion. 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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jeremy Mayfield TV Follow-Up

Update: Mayfield's appearance on SPEED's Race Hub show is now done. Leaving this post up for one more day to continue comments. Questions are do you think he made any sense, did you learn anything new and was it appropriate of SPEED to invite Mayfield on national TV?

The Tuesday version of SPEED's 7PM Race Hub show is going to feature a familiar face. Jeremy Mayfield will be in the studio talking with host Steve Byrnes about his life since his NASCAR career ended with a bang.

Mayfield's twisted saga began back in May of 2009 with a failed random drug test administered under NASCAR's new drug policy. The sport's drug czar first said it was a drug of concern. Then, the late Jim Hunter ruled out alcohol in a statement to the media. Eventually, the legal process revealed that Mayfield tested positive for the amount of methamphetamine consistent with someone who is addicted to the drug.

Mayfield's inconsistent statements and behavior early on led to a logical conclusion that NASCAR was right. Mayfield told ESPN's Marty Smith that he had never been informed of what drug had caused him to fail the test. That was not true. Mayfield famously got lost on the way to another random test at a lab after taking and failing one administered at his home.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the chaos NASCAR made a very bad decision. Some officials involved in the sport back in 2009 chose to climb right down in the gutter beside Mayfield. Statements obtained by NASCAR from Lisa Mayfield, Jeremy's stepmother, were presented to back-up the drug claims. The statements were completely outrageous.

In August of 2009, Lisa Mayfield was arrested by police for public intoxication and being what one police officer called "very high" at the time. She had been found banging on the door of Jeremy Mayfield's home by a neighbor. When Mayfield and his wife arrived back at the house, his stepmom threatened to kill them in the presence of police.

This was the woman NASCAR put forward as the "person of character" who provided a sworn affidavit that Mayfield had used meth at least 30 times in her presence and that she had seen him cooking the drug. Suddenly, because of this one poor choice NASCAR faced an issue that has still never been resolved. Just what exactly were they defending?

As adults, many of us have dealt with random drug testing in the workplace. It's a common way to make sure that safety comes first and also to catch and then help fellow employees who may be trapped in the cycle of addiction. The policies are made clear when someone signs on the line for a new job.

From the start, Mayfield insisted that NASCAR paid his stepmom and tried to solicit damaging statements from other family members in return for cash. In the media, former Mayfield co-workers from Ray Evernham to then crew chief Tony Furr painted a picture of a hardcore racer who did not drink alcohol and had never smoked a cigarette.

If NASCAR had just held the line professionally, Mayfield would not have a story to tell. A failed drug test led to a failed retest and then the end of his participation in racing. What makes Mayfield a great guest for Race Hub is that his allegations against NASCAR are of a personal nature. Like a good used car salesman, Mayfield exploits the fan distrust of NASCAR Chairman Brian France in every interview.

Race Hub host Steve Byrnes is good natured, but he simply does not allow guests to throw stones at the sport. Since being named the solo host, Byrnes has presided over the growth of a very important media property for SPEED. The dynamic of a TV series produced in the backyards of the NASCAR shops and just down the street from the Charlotte Motor Speedway is pretty powerful.

No one knows exactly what Mayfield will say on Tuesday. Others nabbed by NASCAR's random drug testing like Randy LaJoie have already completed mandatory treatment programs and been reinstated. It's doubtful that Mayfield, who has never admitted any drug problem or sought treatment for one, will back down an inch.

Hopefully, this is only the beginning for Race Hub where welcoming in controversial guests is concerned. SPEED needs to reinforce that this program is not another cookie-cutter show from the NASCAR Media Group, but rather an independent news and interview show that can make a name for itself. Mayfield should start that ball rolling quite well.

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