Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finish Line TV Debate Rages On (Day Two)

It's been a hot button topic since this blog began in 2007. Folks like me who believe that watching the lead lap cars run to the finish on TV is crucial vs. folks who think the winner deserves the TV coverage. This season, NASCAR on FOX has essentially chosen to show only the leader finish the Sprint Cup Series races.

Click here to read Kyle Petty Gets No Respect From FOX Sports. This is an excerpt from that TDP column in May of 2007:

"Sunday, just days short of his 47th birthday, Kyle Petty finished third in the Coca-Cola 600, one of the biggest races of the year. Other than the people in the stands and on pit road, no one saw him finish. Fox Sports got caught up in the excitement of Casey Mears' first Cup win and then got lost. What may become Petty's last moment in the sunshine was ruined by this strange focus on the winner. Once again, no other cars were shown finishing the race...including Kyle in third."

The ultimate irony of that moment is that Kyle was driving the Coke Zero car in the Coke 600 and was stepping out of the sport to work in TV after the race. Instead of showing Kyle and the other lead lap drivers finishing, FOX chose to capture the "drama" of Mears, his pit crew and the folks on top of his pit box.

The NASCAR TV partners have a choice. As a production philosophy, the networks can either stand back and let the live action be the star or use the television tools available to them and insert their own agenda. Attempts to do just that including Digger, the Draft Tracker and even Brent Musburger as "the host" have all backfired.

My feeling is that showing only the winner of the race cross the finish line, for whatever reason, is fundamentally unfair to the fans of the other teams on the lead lap. Two good examples from Sunday are Ryan Newman finishing fifth and both Red Bull cars finishing in the top ten. Great stories, but never shown finishing the race.

SPEED regularly televises practice and qualifying sessions for the Sprint Cup Series. Often, the very same on-air personalities we see on the NASCAR on FOX telecasts are involved. The productions treat all teams with respect, chase down stories as they happen and simply work to keep fans informed.

On Sundays, all that changes. NASCAR on FOX is a personality-driven production and Darrell Waltrip is the focus. While there has been a lot of colorful personalities in the NASCAR TV booth, there have only been a handful of producers and directors who have regularly worked Sprint Cup Series races.

At FOX, Barry Landis produces the races and Artie Kempner directs. This team has been together for many years. The decision of whether to focus the attention of the television coverage on the winner or show all the lead lap cars on TV is made by these two men.

Over the last four seasons, FOX has gone back and forth between trying to create "drama" at the finish or showing all the lead lap cars. Many times after only showing the winner, FOX has been forced to actually replay the finish so fans could see the side-by-side races to the line for final positions.

This issue came to a head at the Bristol Motor Speedway several years ago. The FOX team showed only the winner finish the race on a track where laps take less than twenty seconds. In a snarling pack for second were names like Montoya, Earnhardt and Martin. Once again, FOX had to resort to replay to show TV viewers what they had missed.

The second half of Kempner's year is taken up by directing NFL football for FOX. His telecasts feature the same type of coverage. Lots of tight shots, quick cuts and always an attempt at building drama. The winning pass, the key tackle and or the great run back all end with a blur of tightly-shot images of faces and emotion.

As we have often said, FOX paid the money and can produce the NASCAR telecasts as it pleases. However, in a time of lower ratings, less sponsor exposure and a big push to promote the personalities within the sport it might just be time to step back a bit and save the drama for the gridiron.

How do you feel about this topic? Let us know by clicking on the comments button below. You can remain anonymous, but comments are moderated for content. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From California On FOX (Day Two Of Comments)

Ponch and John had something in common while patrolling the highways of California. They both looked good. In Hollywood, that certainly counts for a lot. On the racetrack, it's all about performance.

A drizzle made for dreary weather at the Auto Club Speedway. The Hollywood Hotel was the home for Chris Myers, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond. The pre-race show was a mix of topics that somehow always try to tie-in to Hollywood.

Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds called the race. The pit reporters were Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, Matt Yocum and Dick Berggren.

The wide racetrack made for lots of green flag racing and limited passing once the field was stretched out. Denny Hamlin went out of the race after an engine problem and was interviewed quickly.

FOX made good pictures and had no technical problems. The telecast started in typical FOX style with tight shots and in-car cameras as the primary video. With about 60 laps to go, wideshots began to be used to show the intervals between cars.

The network was in commercial for the first round of green flag pitstops. This was surprising given that radio traffic indicated when the teams would begin to pit. The pit reporters were good with information and often provided a news item when the telecast slowed down.

FOX seemed confused in terms of what to cover on the track and often followed cars in the lead without providing a field recap of moving back to tell the stories of other teams. Eventually, Waltrip and McReynolds kind of ran out of things to say about the same few cars being covered.

The way that radio solves the problem of a boring race is by going back and telling the stories of the teams that are struggling or coming back from adversity. FOX has a problem doing that in any kind of coordinated manner. It is just not a part of the telecasts and has never been.

A restart with less than 10 laps to go jump-started the telecast and allowed it to end with some actual racing. Joy brought the race home and it was thankfully done.

Update: I am being flooded with email about fans not seeing their driver finish the race. FOX has consistently shown only the winner cross the finish line this season. Feel free to leave a comment referencing that topic below, but it does not appear that this is going to change.

This post serves to host your post-race wrap-up comments on the FOX telecast. 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.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

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

Mark Martin just does not cut it as a Go Daddy Girl, so Jillian Michaels came to the Auto Club Speedway and drummed-up a bit of publicity by working out some of the TV and media personalities in the sport.

ESPN's Allen Bestwick and David Newton were alongside FOX's Krista Voda and SPEED's Rutledge Wood. Three of the four made it through unscathed. Pictures of Wood on the floor in the fetal position beside a trash can were making the rounds shortly after the workout session was over.

Now it's Sunday, Michaels is nowhere to be found and the only thing at the speedway is rain. Luckily, it's a fine mist and the weather is supposed to be clearing. The journalists were grumpy because the free pace car rides were cancelled. It's a tough life.

The conflict between FOX and fans continues. Ratings were down last week and into the awful range. Media members pointed to ticket sales, expensive hotels and the price of gas as the problems. Thousands of fans on TDP pointed directly at FOX.

This season, the conflict between director Artie Kempner and the fan base has hit critical mass. Kempner has completely disconnected from NASCAR fans. When FOX is done, Kempner is off to other assignments and does not return until Daytona in February. Unlike the SPEED and ESPN folks, Kempner can simply walk away from the train wreck he has helped to create.

Many people said that last week's FOX coverage from Bristol was perhaps the worst NASCAR race ever produced by that network. From the start, the issue was the pictures. There is no RaceBuddy for the Sprint Cup Series races. There are no free in-car camera feeds. FOX is the only game in town.

We labeled Kempner's insane approach to NASCAR racing on TV as "hyper-tight" coverage. Single car shots, extended in-car cameras and essentially no perspective on the actual race itself are the hallmarks of his NASCAR efforts. The topper is showing only the winner of the race crossing the finish line.

Kempner has decided that the race is over when the leader finishes. Unfortunately, fans of the other top teams and drivers have made the commitment to watch FOX for four hours. Not seeing their driver race to the finish has caused them to simply walk away from the TV coverage.

Saturday, ESPN telecast the Nationwide Series race from ACS. The coverage was solid and featured one key element. The director kept all the cars racing for position in the camera shot being sent to viewers. In-car cameras were, for the most part, used to embellish the coverage and not provide primary video.

The Auto Club Speedway features passing on pit road and restarts. There is very little passing in the race once the field gets strung out. The stories of the race are fuel, tires and pit strategy. FOX has the best pit road reporters on TV and in Bristol they were rendered useless. This week, they must play a key role or the real stories will never be told.

Darrell Waltrip will have plenty of time to talk with long green flag runs and it should be interesting to see how much he interacts with fans live on Twitter. Waltrip has recently become aware that the fans have strong opinions on the live telecasts and seemingly wants to make things better.

Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond have become non-factors this season. Waltrip is the leader and FOX has decided to make him the focal point of the coverage. It should be very interesting to see what topics he decides to discuss and how his opinions on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch are presented.

FOX has all the tools to make this race a treat. A veteran play-by-play announcer in Mike Joy, good analysts and solid pit reporting. Ultimately, with radio offering an alternative to the FOX commentary it may come down to the simple choice of what pictures are being sent to fans.

We will update the rain situation in the comments section and pass along any race delays. As always, we invite your comments on the TV coverage today from ACS. 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, March 26, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From California (ESPN - 5PM ET)

Jennifer Jo Cobb has a new ride for the weekend and a chance to continue to keep her name in the media if she comes through with a solid performance. It's been a wild week for Cobb that included walking away from her former car on the starting grid, appearing on tons of TV and radio show and now jumping into the Rick Ware Racing ride and running the entire race. TV will be keeping an eye on this issue.

Some new faces in new places this weekend for ESPN. Allen Bestwick steps into the broadcast booth as Marty Reid is over in St. Pete working the IndyCars for ABC. Dale Jarrett is off this weekend, so Rusty Wallace will once again fill-in as the Lead Analyst. Andy Petree will be the third man in the booth.

Down in the Infield Pit Studio, it will be Nicole Briscoe and Brad Daugherty. Rusty may or may not be joining that group for the pre-race show at 5PM ET. It might depend on the weather. Friday was rainy and the track had water leaks, called "weepers," coming up in several places. Hopefully, that same situation will not present itself on Saturday.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake will be the pit reporters. Tim Brewer and the Tech Garage rolled all the way to California. Jamie Little and Vince Welch moved over with Reid to work on the IndyCar race.

California is a track that has quickly divided the Nationwide Series teams in the past into two groups. Those with big budgets and Sprint Cup Series drivers who can run at top speed and those Nationwide Series regulars trying not to go a lap down.

I am told by some veteran reporters that this race may feature ten or more "start and park" cars. The teams that towed all the way to the West Coast can apparently get a head-start on traffic if they pull-in before the first set of Goodyear Eagles are out of tread, load up and hit the highway. This issue should be one to watch.

This series continues to be an experiment in marketing and public relations. The Sprint Cup Series drivers winning the races are not getting driver points, so the leader in the points clubhouse and perhaps even the season champion may in fact never win a single race. It would be nice for a regular to break through.

ESPN is going to have to work very hard to get the excitement level cranking once the race settles down. Bestwick has a very good historical perspective on the sport and can ask questions and bring up topics that Reid simply cannot.

This is a track where high speeds look boring on TV until something happens. Then, the intensity of the crash and the distance the cars go until they stop is a quick snap back to reality. Even with a SAFER Barrier, this is a dangerous track.

Veteran fans will remember this speedway has the black marks that are caused by the sealer put down between the strips of asphalt. Those marks have been cursed by more drivers that anyone can count in terms of ruining a good day or affecting a good run. Telling the tale of the challenges on the actual track is going to be key.

Needless to say, both ESPN and FOX need a ratings kick to get things rolling in the right direction. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Bestwick in the booth might be just what the doctor ordered to change the tone and direction of telecasts that have sometimes bordered on embarrassing. Last week's scoring fiasco comes to mind.

This post will serve to host your comments before, during and after ESPN's coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. 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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday From California On SPEED

There might be a pesky little college basketball tournament hanging around, but SPEED has 7.5 hours on tap from the Auto Club Speedway on Friday.

John Roberts gets things rolling with NASCAR Live at 2:30PM ET. Kyle Petty will be alongside Roberts with Hermie Sadler and Randy Pemberton doing the reporting. This show has been a solid addition to the SPEED line-up and sets-up the day for fans with news and interviews.

The Cup guys come out at 3PM and Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be there to greet them. Krista Voda and Dick Berggren are the reporters. It should be interesting to see how the rainy weather has treated the tricky track and what happens with cars at speed.

Next up is Nationwide Series practice at 4:30PM. Steve Byrnes is joined in the TV booth by Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond. Bob Dillner and Wendy Venturini are the reporters. There are certainly some very hot stories in the Nationwide Series and it should be interesting to see what goes on in practice and the garage.

The Sprint Cup Series gets a nice TV pop with qualifying at 7PM for the East Coast fans. Joy returns with Waltrip and McReynolds for this session. Matt Yocum and Voda are the reporters. This is a good opportunity to get some cars and driver faces in front of East Coast fans looking for something other than basketball.

A solid nightcap to the day on SPEED is up at 9PM with Trackside. Jimmie Johnson is the perfect guest for this venue. Byrnes hosts with Waltrip and McReynolds. It should be interesting to see Johnson as the solo guest for the full hour.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Friday coverage of NASCAR TV from SPEED at the Auto Club Speedway. To add your TV-related opinions or ask questions, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for stopping by.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting The Band Back Together (Update)

Update: Kenny Schrader will be joining Ricky Craven and ESPN the Magazine writer Ryan McGee on Monday's NASCAR Now program on ESPN2 at 5PM ET. Allen Bestwick hosting.

This is a repost of an item that ran earlier after ESPN's original announcement of Schrader and Johnny Benson appearing on NASCAR Now this season.

To many who read the recent NASCAR on ESPN media release, it was just another sentence about the network's plans for 2011. The impact on most of the NASCAR media was a resounding thud. There is a group, however, that found deep meaning in the following words.

Veteran NASCAR drivers Johnny Benson Jr. and Ken Schrader will be frequent guests on the Monday roundtable edition of NASCAR Now in 2011.

It was not lost on hardcore fans that a happy Allen Bestwick recently posted pictures of his off-season marriage on his Facebook page. That was a big departure for the formerly very private and highly-organized TV pro who has been a presence in NASCAR for decades.

Allen Bestwick's most personal venture on television began as a Monday night show on a fledgling cable TV network called SpeedVision. It was a one-hour show taped in the late afternoon that featured three local NASCAR personalities discussing the racing from the weekend. At least, that was the theory.

Johnny Benson, Kenny Schrader and Michael Waltrip became cult TV hits as Inside Winston Cup Racing hit the air. Seen under several titles, the show featured the kind of uniqueness that has now been almost wiped from NASCAR TV. Unlike the current crop of cookie-cutter shows, this one was different.

Bestwick relished his role as the ringleader of the NASCAR circus. His personality just meshed so well with the three troublemakers. Waltrip repeatedly bounced comments off the wall that just defied all forms of human logic. Benson was the straight man who tried to keep his cool and interpret Waltrip's observations. Schrader was the enforcer who kept everything in perspective, including Waltrip.

This show clicked because of Bestwick. He arrived early on taping day, reviewed the highlights and prepared the entire show format with the producer. It was clear to those who watched that it was his baby.

Instead of finding it annoying, Bestwick celebrated when the dumpster truck arrived in the middle of the show and was clearly heard through the thin walls of the Sunbelt Video studios. In the early years, so many things just happened that discussing the show with fans became a great conversation. Remember the replay controllers? Not a good idea.

As with all things in TV, change is usually awkward and forced. A new production executive swept through SPEED and decided that the network was going to go Hollywood. Among the changes was the firing of Bestwick and Benson on the spot. No goodbye show, no video memories and nothing but the awkwardness of Dave Despain trying his best to follow orders. It was miserable.

The saga of Bestwick includes his rebirth at ESPN. Starting as an entry level pit road reporter, Bestwick has risen in five years to his current status as the senior man on the NASCAR totem pole. Along the way, the network wasted time, effort and money on a ton of wannabees before putting Bestwick in the Infield Studio and as the host of the Monday NASCAR Now . The idea that Bestwick should replace Marty Reid in the broadcast booth was a popular one after Reid struggled in the Chase.

They say good things come to those who wait and Bestwick has been a patient man. This season, his influence may finally help to guide ESPN back into the good graces of many fans. The faces of Benson and Schrader, along with a bit more fun and a bit less formality, will go a long way toward bridging what we call the "Bristol gap."

With Michael Waltrip gone to the Inside NASCAR series on Showtime, the popular suggestion among the ESPN personalities to fill the final place on the Monday panel is Ricky Craven. It should be fun to watch this dynamic unfold. It should also be fun to watch Kenny Schrader at ESPN in his High Definition make-up and necktie. I wonder how long that will last?

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.

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Bristol On FOX (Day Four)

Sheriff Buford T. Justice is on the case. Some further investigation seems to be needed judging from the comments, tweets and emails already arriving.

The first conflict arose when the Bristol Motor Speedway again had hyped-up driver introductions with each driver picking their own theme song and making a brief statement over the PA system. SPEED helped the problem along by ending RaceDay with reporters talking about these introductions as they were about to happen.

Then Chris Myers, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond appeared on the FOX pre-race show without being able to address the topic. Instead, fans got upset because what had just been teased by SPEED was not followed-up by FOX. The pre-race show was a jumble of topics. The situation was exaggerated by the fact that FOX moved the outside pre-race set to the head of pit road.

Either the FOX program had been recorded earlier or somehow the entire speedway reacting to the chosen driver music and comments was magically muted. It made for a wild TV transition for those who had been watching RaceDay.

After several hours of SPEED and ESPN2, it's still a rough change to the act Chris Myers does on FOX. Like it or not, Myers has adopted a "goofy guy" approach and repeats it on every pre-race. It is a complete and total act.

FOX proudly uses its philosophy of shooting NASCAR races in a "hyper-tight" style. This is the style the network team has used all year and it appears that they will run it all the way through the FOX portion of the season.

At Bristol, there was no opportunity for TV viewers to have a perspective of the racing on the track. Rarely under green was the entire track or even half the track show on-camera. "Hyper-tight" shots and in-car cameras dominated the day.

At one point of the race, under green, FOX actually had split-screen views of two in-car cameras on drivers. There they were...driving. The philosophy of jumping from one tight shot to another and just identifying the cars on the screen is certainly an interesting one.

As we spoke about in the live blog post, the pit reporters and the Hollywood Hotel gang disappeared early on in the telecast. Green flag racing with super-tight shots of only two cars made field recaps and updates on big name drivers non-existent.

Fan attendance is not an issue for this blog, but FOX certainly took every precaution to not show the grandstands. We all know hotel prices, tough economic times and gas prices are affecting the sport. That is one reason TV coverage needs to be so focused on telling the stories of all the teams in the race.

Mike Joy is having a tough time because he must react to the pictures on the screen as the primary source of his commentary. Jumping from one two-car battle to the next just loses the flow of the race and makes him look out of the loop.

The big crash was with about 60 laps to go. FOX was on a tight shot and when the large crash began to unfold chose not to cut to a wideshot. Instead in-car camera angles caused TV viewers to miss virtually the entire incident. Literally, the commentary from the announcers did not match the pictures for a good ten seconds.

FOX immediately began to flood viewers with replays. This is the primary way that the network offers information on what has transpired on the racetrack. It is a direct result of the "hyper-tight" coverage philosophy.

After choosing to show only the winning car cross the finish line in the first few races, the FOX director was forced to cut back to one race among three cars in the field when Mike Joy called out for coverage. Those three were the only other cars shown finishing. This "single car finishing" appears to alwo be a part of the new FOX production philosphy.

There is no doubt that the technical folks are producing good pictures and sound. There is no doubt that Mike Joy and the pit reporters can offer solid and accurate information. There is also little doubt that this style of production will continue through the end of the FOX portion of the season.

We welcome your comments on the FOX production of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Bristol, TN (FOX - 12:30PM ET)

After a week off, the NASCAR on FOX gang seems to be eager to get back to work. Some of the announcers have been working for SPEED this weekend on practice and qualifying coverage. The single storyline that has emerged is tires.

Equipment issues are the great equalizer. After trouble on Friday, Goodyear and NASCAR switched right side tires for both races. The Nationwide Series race went off without a hitch, but the Sprint Cup Series cars are a bit different.

Tires may be the hot topic for Chris Myers, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond on the pre-race show. Waltrip has already said FOX has a surprise in store for viewers. The hint is that the location of the outside stage may be rather unique.

On Saturday, NASCAR lost all timing and scoring at the track for a good part of the Nationwide Series race. Marty Reid responded by simply ignoring the big scoring pylon in the infield and telling viewers nothing. No top ten, no lap counts, nothing.

Luckily, Mike Joy is a veteran and is great at passing along information. The key to Joy being effective at Bristol is having Waltrip give him time to talk. Last year, the emotion of Waltrip overpowered the race telecast. Waltrip told stories, updated his opinions on NASCAR topics and generally ruined a good portion of the race for TV viewers.

The 16 second laps at Bristol require focused commentary from all three men in the TV booth. While Larry McReynolds has faded into the background this season, Waltrip has continued to dominate the telecasts. At Bristol, that leads to another problem.

Once the race begins, the pit reporters are basically in a bowl of sound. The noise is so loud hand signals are the only way to communicate with crew chiefs, officials and field producers. As the stories of the race unfold, the pit reporters are going to be key to keeping viewers informed, especially with the new points system in place.

On the video side, pictures from Bristol are both beautiful and challenging. Wideshots and aerial views can show TV viewers just how small the track really is in relation to the grandstands. Low angle "speed shots" work on restarts and replays, but are tough to cut-in live. In-car cameras live are just a disaster.

This season, FOX has refused to show the lead lap cars racing to the finish line on the final lap. Instead, the drama of the NFL approach is back. Several key members of the NASCAR on FOX production team also work on the network's NFL coverage.

While it might be nice to see a tight shot of a wide receiver catching a long pass for the winning touchdown, this approach has fallen flat in NASCAR. Watching only one of the 43 drivers who are racing in 36 events over a ten month period win a race loses a little something. That something would be the entire rest of the field.

As we have said since 2007, fans of all the drivers deserve to be treated equally by the NASCAR TV networks. While SPEED and ESPN do a great job on the final lap, the FOX production is simply a misguided mess. If only one car is seen crossing the line at Bristol on TV, there is going to be a fan backlash of epic proportions.

This post will serve to host your comments on the FOX coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related comments before, during or after the race 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.

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Bristol, TN. (ESPN - 1PM ET)

Update: Jennifer Jo Cobb news can be found in the comments section.

The ESPN TV booth at the Bristol Motor Speedway is waiting for Rusty Wallace. He is a former stand-out at the track, a former Sprint Cup Series champion and a current Nationwide Series multi-car owner. Saturday afternoon, he gets a shot at moving up from the infield pit studio and calling a big race on a critical weekend for the sport.

Wallace has to contend with the pending Goodyear tire problems, the presence of the elephant in the room with Danica Patrick in the field and the fact that he has not called a big race from the TV booth for some time.

Forget the presence of his own teams in the event. Forget the fact that he just signed with ESPN through the 2014 season. Forget that he is clearly in the middle of building a racing organization with Sprint Cup Series participation in mind for the future.

The history of Rusty Wallace in the TV booth is that sooner or later his temper will get the better of him and the comments will begin to fly. The upside of Wallace is his knowledge of racing. He was a hands-on guy who came up the hard way. The downside was that when he lost it, he just lost it. Hothead all the way.

One key to Wallace's current success on the ESPN telecasts sits to his right. Allen Bestwick simply knows how to direct traffic on the air. He did it on the radio and has been doing it on ESPN as a pit reporter, a substitute play-by-play announcer and now as the fulltime host of the Infield Pit Studio since 2007.

Bestwick knows when to give the infield analysts time to discuss topics and when to step right back in and take control. The challenge for Wallace in Bristol this Saturday may be having a different man sitting to his right. Marty Reid has been having a tough time since coming over from the NHRA and IndyCar beat.

Despite early optimism, Reid has struggled in this role and last season's NASCAR coverage on ESPN ended with a thud in Homestead. It wasn't pretty.

Reid and Wallace will be joined by ESPN's voice of reason in Andy Petree. He is the one man in the booth who has been in that position since ESPN returned to NASCAR. Petree and Wallace frequently disagreed when they worked together side-by-side. At a track like Bristol, it will be very interesting to watch the dynamic between these two analysts.

Bestwick will host from the infield with Brad Daugherty alongside. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch, Jamie Little and Dave Burns will be covering pit road. This time, ESPN brings ten voices to Bristol.

TV fundamentals apply across the board at this track. Focused comments from the analysts mixed with excitement and information from the play-by-play announcer is the only combination that works when laps take 16 seconds.

Pit reporters work with hand signals to their production teams because of the noise level under green. It's tough to slip in any Tech Garage segments or use the infield studio unless there is a caution. The action is just too fast.

Each season, the biggest complaint is the TV commercials. 16 second laps and three minute commercial breaks simply do not mix. Without any side-by-side commercials or an online RaceBuddy for the Nationwide Series, be prepared to miss a lot of this race when ESPN is in commercial under green.

This is the new Bristol and the Nationwide drivers have shown that racing side-by-side is easy to do. Banking on countless caution flags for commercial breaks could be a rough philosophy. It should be very interesting to see how the ESPN producer handles this challenging element of the telecast.

As we have discussed for years, using the in-car cameras at the wrong time can ruin a viewer's experience at this track. Instead, an aggressive TV director stays ahead of the field and shows viewers "more headlights than brake lights." If you begin to see the back ends of race cars, someone is getting tired.

Bristol has some great angles and views from the high cameras because the track is so small. Also, the aerial shots can really show the beauty of the area and the unique location of the track to TV viewers. Returning from commercial break, offering a "scene set" by using these types of shots allows for a smooth transition.

In the old days, the rule was no music into commercial break when the cars are under green. The theory was that TV viewers tuned-in to see and hear the cars, not someone's selection of tunes designed to "fit the location." This has certainly been an issue with ESPN this season.

The NASCAR Countdown pre-race begins at 1PM and the green flag should fly around 2:14PM ET. The weather looks good.

This post will serve to host your comments about ESPN's production of the Nationwide Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your comment before, during or after the race 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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

SPEED Delivers Friday TV From Bristol

This is the time of the season when SPEED is in all its glory. ESPN's entire on-track TV contribution from the Bristol Motor Speedway consists of the Nationwide Series telecast on Saturday afternoon. SPEED dominates the weekend and begins in a big way on Friday.

SPEED has a flexible little show called NASCAR Live that has been working well for years. John Roberts and Randy Pemberton anchor the early edition at 11:30AM with Hermie Sadler and Bob Dillner as reporters. This show does a great job setting up the day for fans with stories, news items and previews.

When the big boys hit the track at noon, the big boys come out in the TV booth as well. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds call the first Sprint Cup Series practice session. Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum are the reporters.

It's an interesting little study in contrast when Steve Byrnes, Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond come along next at 1:30PM with Nationwide Series practice. This trio has been clicking in the TV booth and is fun to watch. Dillner returns with Wendy Venturini as the reporters.

Qualifying at BMS is always interesting. Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds return at 3:30PM to cover the Cup session. Yocum and Krista Voda are reporting. This should be a good time for interviews with track position meaning so much even in the new configuration.

The final session of the day is at 5PM and is Nationwide Series practice. Byrnes, Petty and Hammond return with Voda and Hermie Sadler reporting. There are some good stories in the Nationwide Series and once again SPEED will essentially be working hard to set them up for ESPN to deliver on Saturday.

One of the most frequent questions asked during the season is why the Nationwide Series races do not switch from ESPN to SPEED once the college football season begins. TV does not work that way but Byrnes, Petty and Hammond certainly show that SPEED could handle those events if and when the offer came along.

Nicole Briscoe pops-in on ESPN2 at 6PM with NASCAR Now. Mike Massaro and Dr. Jerry Punch are going to be handling the on-site reporting duties for this show from BMS. Basically, ESPN will be updating what SPEED has been showing.

Steve Byrnes has returned to Trackside on SPEED during this FOX portion of the season and he hosts the program at 7PM. Waltrip and Hammond are alongside Byrnes. SPEED moved McReynolds off the series this year and that is a shame. He prepared well and asked good questions but apparently SPEED felt there were just too many voices on the program. Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch will be the guests.

As we all know, the biggest drawback to this Friday coverage is that so many more people could access it if the content was streamed online. There would be a lot of iPads, laptops and cell phones with the SPEED coverage on live. Hopefully, this is a goal for NASCAR as we have seen SPEED increasing the content being made available over the Internet.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Friday coverage on SPEED from the Bristol Motor Speedway. 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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Waltrip And Wallace Share Bristol Media Spotlight

Last month NASCAR on FOX Lead Analyst Darrell Waltrip got on an airplane and flew to Bristol, TN with ESPN's Lead Infield Analyst Rusty Wallace. Waltrip later remarked that putting him on the same airplane with Wallace was like putting Jeff Burton in the same ambulance with Jeff Gordon last year in Texas.

These two very distinct personalities were in town to promote the fact that longtime Bristol race sponsor Food City was renaming the March Sprint Cup Series race the Jeff Byrd 500. In October of 2010, the former Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager lost his battle with cancer. It is a fitting tribute.

"In all my years of being around race tracks," said Waltrip. "I know of no one that was more loved and more respected than Jeff Byrd." The live press conference was streamed online as BMS continues to cement it's reputation as a group that understands the power of the Internet and the role of social media among race fans.

Waltrip will be in his normal role on Sunday for FOX. He will start in the infield on the pre-race show at 12:30PM ET and then move to the broadcast booth to call the race. Normally, he is then seen on-camera when the event is over offering his summary of the action. Clearly, Waltrip is the face of NASCAR on FOX.

This week Wallace will share that TV stage. Dale Jarrett has the weekend off, so Wallace will be in the ESPN TV booth alongside Marty Reid and Andy Petree in the Lead Analyst position for the Nationwide Series race. In support of his role, ESPN has worked hard to get Wallace as much exposure this week as possible.

On Monday, a feature story on Wallace appeared on by reporter Erik Spanberg. Click here to read it. The story came on the heels of the news that Wallace had signed a contract extension with ESPN that would carry him through 2014. That is the final year of the current TV contract between ESPN and NASCAR. Clearly, Rusty was a top priority to ESPN.

Two of the quotes from the Spanberg story are very interesting in terms of NASCAR TV:

"Oh my God, I’ve learned so much in television, it’s unreal," said Wallace. "You can be the greatest driver in the world, but if you can’t explain it correctly, you’re no good."

"I really had a bad habit of trying to dominate the conversations (and) talk way too fast, that was a real big hit on me," Wallace explained. "I really had to go back and listen to some of my work. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to it early enough. I think I could have been better quicker. Now when I listen to what I did back in ‘07 and ‘08 and I listen to what we’re doing now, I think it’s way different. I understand. The way you pause in between your sentences, the way you share the microphone. I’m constantly learning. I’m totally open to it."

There is perhaps no tougher stage for a NASCAR TV analyst than trying to tackle a live race at Bristol. Short laps, fast action and a hectic pace means that the play-by-play announcer and the pit reporters are moving a lot of information to the TV viewers. Trying to step-in with analysis without stepping on the call of the race is a delicate balance.

TDP readers may remember that in 2007 Wallace was the original analyst up in the TV booth and had Dr. Jerry Punch alongside calling the action. First Wallace and then Punch wound-up getting moved out of those high-profile positions. Wallace moved to the infield and made way for Dale Jarrett while Punch returned to pit road and Marty Reid took over the play-by-play role.

Since SPEED will be handling all the practice and qualifying coverage for the Nationwide Series at BMS, Wallace will not get any on-air practice before the race. There will simply be a one-hour pre-race show at 1PM ET and then the live race at 2PM on Saturday.

Just like Wallace, Waltrip's TV contract was recently extended until 2014 as well. FOX has been working hard on raising the visibility of Waltrip on sister network SPEED and continually puts him in high-profile roles on news programs and specials.

Waltrip has also been working the media hard, including a first-time appearance on the SpeedFreaks radio program. Click here to listen to the entire interview.

Some of Waltrip's TV and social media comments were interesting. Here are some excerpts:

"I've learned a lot in the last year and a half," said Waltrip. "I'm on Twitter. I'm on Facebook and I've just started recently on YouTube. I've learned so much from fans. In the TV booth, I keep my iPad on and follow Twitter during the race."

"We (FOX) are very unstructured and we never rehearse. We found out early on that rehearsing really screws us up. I watch the other group (ESPN) and they rehearse all the time. That's all they do. They rehearse three hours. I have enough knowledge and all of us (at FOX) have kind of been around enough that it's hard to stump us."

Waltrip's point is well-taken. Reid has been having trouble with his NASCAR knowledge and Jarrett's lack of emotion during a race continues to be puzzling. Only Petree has been the steady influence for ESPN since the network returned to the sport five seasons ago.

It should be very interesting to watch Wallace on Saturday and then Waltrip on Sunday. Two former drivers who were once bitter rivals working in the TV booth at the very track that helped propel them to stardom. Both men draw the same reactions from fans. There is no middle ground.

Love them or hate them, it will be Wallace and Waltrip as key players in NASCAR's return to national TV on this critical weekend of racing.

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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bristol TV Flashback: NASCAR on FOX

In 2010 we started to offer a platform for fans to voice their comments immediately after TV coverage of a Sprint Cup Series race.

Last March, over one hundred fans stopped by after the NASCAR on FOX coverage of the spring race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. The topics they raised were diverse, but several threads ran through the posts.

Presented without comment, here are excerpts from some of the comments as they appeared that day. Click here to read the entire post and fan comments.

On the topic of announcers:

"No one is CALLING the race!! All they do is chit-chat like teenagers at a high school dance. 16 years of watching NASCAR shot to hell!" (from John P.)

"I would love it dearly if Mike Joy would have told Darrell Waltrip about lap 178 to shut up & let him call this race. It never happened. Replay is not the same as seeing it happen live. We saw lots of replays. Even when Fox was "showing the race" reporters Tweeting from the track got word out about cautions & who was involved before TV bothered to tell us." (from JoJaye)

"I have no idea why Fox has 3 guys in the booth and reporters on pit road. It certainly isn't to keep viewers informed about what is happening on the track! Has someone at Fox lost the memo about going 'through the field'? Very few explanations about cars that went forward or back during the race, so I had no clue what happened." (from Sally)

"The disconnect between the camera shots and the TV booth was startling. Cars would be shown on the screen but the announcers were talking about something completely different. At first, I tried to make a connection but soon realized there wasn't any to be made. The TV truck was calling for shots & the booth was talking about something unrelated. One or both sets of individuals was failing the TV viewer each time that happened." (from Red)

On the topic of producing and directing the race coverage:

"I'm a NASCAR viewer from the days of 'Wide World Of Sports'. There is too much dependence on special cameras. I don't see that the ground-cam gives us any additional knowledge. The bumper cams can be useful, but too often we just see that one car is close to another. A medium shot of both cars could have established that. If there's an incident, look at all of the possible replays and pick the best one. ONE in-car, ONE wide-shot. I don't need to see the accident from every in-car camera in the field. Show me the shot that adds information." (from Don)

"Is it against the rules to show fans in the stands in order to get a wider shot of the action? What's the point of HD if you're focusing in on one or two cars at a time? I'd think with HD technology today they could probably show at least 10 cars at a time to allow us to see all the racing - and we'd still be able to read the ads on the cars. Instead they "zoom" us back to 4:3 days by zooming-in on two cars at a time. It just doesn't make sense. During the pre-race show they had this really cool live shot of the entire race track from the top of the stadium - stands, track, and all - that would have been even more cool with the race going on. Show us some racing from the blimp. Allow the "crank it up" cam to see the entire field go by. Mix it up a bit. Watching one car go around the track and talking about the driver in it doesn't equate to going through the field. Going through the field is telling us when a position is being fought for. What's going on with the drivers fighting for 35th in points? We never heard any of that." (from James)

"The coverage has gone from bad to worse. Locking in on the same dozen cars, in-car shots that are uncalled for, roof cam shots that are unnecessary, and managing to miss action on the track because someone is asleep at the wheel in the production truck is unforgivable. But by golly they'll make sure the plugs for the gopher are correct." (from TheMadMan)

Fox showed the winner and the next three cars finish the race on the TV coverage. Here are some comments on that topic:

"I love how those TEN SECONDS it would have taken to show the whole field finish were far too valuable for the Fox director. TEN SECONDS!" (from Anon fan)

"I want to see the cars cross the start finish line at the end of the race, it's why I bothered to watch all day, to see them cross the finish line and what order they did it in. Instead I'm seeing the inside of the 48 car or the crew celebrating. I'm no longer "hooked" on NASCAR TV and if I was a new fan, this would not make me come back next week." (from Gina 24)

"I understand the race ran over, but for crying out loud, would it kill you to show the cars crossing the line. I don't give a rat's behind about the joyful crew of the winner. I want to see where my favorites finished. And why did you post the graphics before the race ended? Did you NOT know what lap it was? I did." (from TexasRaceLady)

"The final 3 laps were poorly produced. The finishing order was posted before the race was completed and only the first five cars were shown finishing before there was a cut to the winner's in-car camera while the top five's faces remained across the top of the screen. I had to go to a website to get the actual finishing order." (from Red)

"I was livid when Fox failed to have the courtesy to show all of the cars finish the race. This is especially maddening at Bristol where a lap only takes about 16 seconds. Why they did not take that small amount of time to show the field coming across the line when that would miss only moments of JJ's celebration is beyond my comprehension." (from KoHoSo)

Those three topics dominated the live chat during the race and the post-race comments. Bristol is a completely different track that requires a completely different type of TV coverage.

Fans wanted more focused commentary and less story-telling from the announcers in the booth. More information from the pit reporters was also a concern. In the race, using wideshots instead of in-car cameras and shots of single race cars that forced FOX to replay most of the important moments was a hot topic. Finally, the lack of showing all the lead lap cars racing to the finish was a very popular issue.

Sunday's race coverage starts on FOX at 12:30PM ET. The same broadcast team, including producer and director, returns for this telecast. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1:13PM.

This post is simply meant as a reminder of the challenges TV viewers faced last season on this event. Each new year brings a fresh start and it should be very interesting, with the above fan comments in mind, to see how the NASCAR on FOX team handles the race telecast.

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday TV/Media Notes

Some items of interest that came our way this week:

Monday night was the conclusion of The Bachelor on ABC. Emily Maynard, the former fiance of the late Ricky Hendrick and the mother of his daughter was the contestant chosen to marry Brad Womack. Various websites continue to report that the two are not going to get married in real life. Maynard is a TV veteran, having hosted the syndicated 3 Wide Life show several years ago. It should be interesting to see if Maynard winds-up on TV again and if her new role is associated with racing.

Rusty Wallace will move up from the infield and join Marty Reid and Andy Petree for the Nationwide Series race this Saturday afternoon on ESPN. Dale Jarrett has the weekend off.

Nicole Briscoe hosts NASCAR Now this week on ESPN2. Mike Massaro will travel to Bristol, TN as a reporter for the weekend edition of the show.

The most recent double-super top-secret NASCAR Fan Council survey asked if more of the actual pre-race activity, including concerts by musical groups, should be on TV. Fans have been asking to see the Bristol, TN pre-race either on TV or online for years. Wonder what the NFC is thinking about?

The History Channel has announced that it will be sponsoring the Nationwide Series race in May at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Top Gear 300 incorporates the name of a TV series with versions produced in both the US and UK. This sponsorship is from the US budget, so expect to see Rutledge Wood, Tanner Foust and Adam Ferrara front and center.

Apparently things are not working very well for the 2011 version of Inside NASCAR on Showtime. It looks like Randy Pemberton has been pushed aside for the new presence of Kyle Petty, but that has not made a dent. The show was downsized from one hour to thirty minutes and is struggling in this format. Showtime is leaning on uncensored scanner highlights that essentially keep the profanity on the team radio as an attraction for viewers. There is little in the way of conversation and analysis due to the time restrictions. Should be interesting to see if the series hangs in there after this season.

SPEED is front and center on Friday from the Bristol Motor Speedway as the network handles all the on-track activity for both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. The network comes on the air at 11:30AM ET and ends with Trackside at 7:30PM. Even on Saturday, SPEED will handle the Nationwide Series qualifying in the morning before ESPN takes over for the 2PM race.

The television voice of the AFLAC duck, Gilbert Gottfried, has been fired. Gottfried is a comedian by trade and he posted several poor attempts at humor using the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami as a topic on Twitter. AFLAC does 75% of its total business in Japan. One in four homes in Japan has residents insured by AFLAC. Gottfried was fired immediately after his social media blunder.

Jeff Gordon continues to be a popular talk show guest. He will appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show on Friday, March 25. Check TV listings for the time of the show in your area.

Country star Billy Ray Cyrus will sing the national anthem on Sunday for the Sprint Cup Series race. Family musical group "Carter's Chord" will handle the anthem duties on Saturday for the Nationwide Series race. That country group is currently signed to Toby Keith's record label.

This post will be updated on Tuesday as more news items appear as the sport heads to Bristol. We invite your comments on the topics above. 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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Online Motorsports Disaster

There used to be no better example of a professional racing series that offered an outstanding online streaming version of its events than IndyCar. Practice, qualifying and races were all made available worldwide on the sanctioning body's website in 2010.

While major sports like the NFL, MLB and NHL all have sophisticated online streaming packages available to fans, motorsports has lagged behind. The biggest reason is the complicated world of programming contracts that often result in a clash between television and Internet rights.

After being unceremoniously chopped into pieces by ESPN several years ago, the remaining IndyCar television package took refuge at VERSUS. At the time, that obtuse network was a chaotic mix of sports, paid programming and reality TV. Now, things have changed.

The network's owners, Comcast, have essentially bought NBC Universal. Suddenly, IndyCar is in a whole new world. Comcast brought in some heavy hitters as executives for NBC Sports, the Golf Channel and VERSUS.

Back in the original contract, IndyCar gave VERSUS both the TV and online rights to the 12 races that the network carries. 5 other races are on ESPN/ABC. At the time, IndyCar was over a barrel with nowhere else to go. Essentially, IndyCar gave global online video control of the majority of the races to an American cable TV network owned by an American cable TV provider.

Needless to say, VERSUS has lowered the boom. There will be no streaming of any content from the 12 events on VERSUS in 2011. No practice, qualifying or races. Currently, there are no published plans for the other five races to get any online exposure from ESPN.

IndyCar is an international series featuring drivers from all over the world. The fan base is truly global. VERSUS does not even distribute its TV signal across the border into Canada or South America. Reaction has been swift.

"This would be the most significant step backward in the last twenty years of IndyCar," said the Disciple of IndyCar blog.

"The main problem is how it affects international viewers, especially in Canada, the UK, and Australia. That’s a serious issue and I honestly don’t know what the solution is," said the Triple League Racing blog.

"Way to kill the fairly big international audience the series has. I used to watch every session when I had the chance. Now I have to miss practice and qualifying and watch an illegal stream of the race. My passion for IndyCar just dropped by a mile," said Miguel from the Netherlands on

While the NBC/Comcast senior management team says this move is designed to drive viewers to VERSUS and raise ratings, that statement flies in the face of reality. It's not the potential erosion of American fans who choose a laptop over VERSUS that is the issue. It's the international fan base and ultimately perhaps the very survival of the series.

Comcast/NBC lawyers may be well within their rights to force this move, but VERSUS does not carry a significant amount of the content that was being streamed live. In fact, VERSUS and NBC have not even suggested that any IndyCar online content might migrate to an NBC-owned website on a subscription basis. Instead, it is simply being ended.

In 2011, this is a tremendous example of the clash between the traditional American television model of sports programming and the reality of online streaming. IndyCar races on ABC or ESPN other than the Indy 500 drew less than one million viewers. The numbers from VERSUS were nothing short of pathetic. Less than 400 thousand viewers per race.

Instead of seeing the online environment as a problem, the only pathway for IndyCar is to use the existing online fan base to spread the IndyCar message on a global scale. VERSUS and NBC have no stake in IndyCar. It's up to the sanctioning body to get across the table from the TV folks and determine what Internet strategy can benefit both parties.

Perhaps, just one more season of online streaming as the new VERSUS executives settle in and get a feel for the racing landscape may be a workable solution. Better to count the legal viewers worldwide on an official live stream than force international fans to resort to illegal Internet sites for the races.

It would be a crying shame to have part of the new VERSUS legacy become the death of IndyCar. Unfortunately, that is a very real possibility if the current distribution plan stays in place. It's time for some crisis management and folks with knowledge of the bigger picture to step-up and save the day.

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, March 13, 2011

SPEED Makes A Statement In Darlington

This is year five of anger and frustration with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series television coverage.

This year, NASCAR on FOX has decided to only show the winning car finish the Sprint Cup Series races. The sheer arrogance of FOX in terms of selecting pictures to simply show a race to fans on TV is off the chart. Sunday afternoon, FOX will present a review show of the Daytona 500. Replaying video of what actually happened is something the NASCAR on FOX production team knows how to do very well.

Over at ESPN, Marty Reid is lost. He is not just a little bit lost, he is off the beaten path and looking for a way out. Reid does not know the history of NASCAR and that lack of perspective has crushed him in terms of credibility and on-air comments. Meanwhile, Allen Bestwick continues to quietly try to steer the ESPN ship from the infield.

Since 2007 there have been hundreds of posts and many thousands of comments on TDP about the struggles of FOX and ESPN. From the screaming favoritism of Darrell Waltrip to the decimation of the Nationwide Series when ESPN's college football starts, it's been a TV mess.

Meanwhile, hardcore fans have found a fix. Quietly carving a niche on the TV landscape is SPEED's coverage of the Camping World Truck Series. The network's own production team handles the producing, directing and announcing. When Darrell Waltrip was loaned to SPEED at Daytona he promptly returned the favor by screaming overtop of announcer Rick Allen on the closing lap. Truck series fans noticed.

The theory of racing TV is to show up, introduce the participants and let them race. While FOX now has two pre-race sets including the Hollywood Hotel, SPEED has none. While ESPN uses three or four announcers strictly for the pre-race show, SPEED uses one. The winner of the pre-race show sweepstakes is SPEED.

Host Krista Voda has offered a consistent and informed pre-race show for years. Standing alone, Voda walks viewers through the topics in the news, then shows a feature and sets up the field. It's simple, straightforward and effective.

Here is a comment from a TDP reader on the Las Vegas race coverage from FOX:

As a fan of the sport, it is painful to watch it presented like garbage. FOX presented this race like a practice session, hopping from car to car to tell a story and move on. Tight shots and in-car cameras robbed viewers from experiencing many race changing events live. FOX had to resort to replay again and again. I changed the channel about a third of the way through. When I turned the race back on with 15 to go, nothing changed. FOX showed Edwards win and blew off the rest of the field.

Saturday afternoon SPEED telecast a one-day stand-alone show by the truck series from Darlington, SC. One hour of qualifying was followed by the thirty minute pre-race show and then the race. Once again, it was a step back to what racing used to be on TV.

The network had Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Larry McReynolds in the booth. McReynolds was subbing for Michael Waltrip. Voda handled the pre-race show while Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap were the only two pit road reporters.

SPEED has understood for some time now that just telling the stories and letting the viewers judge is the ticket. Instead of cherry-picking the top drivers like ESPN or forcing agendas on fans like FOX, SPEED treats drivers equally on the air. It's a concept that has clicked with fans.

At Darlington, wideshots from the director were used to show the relationships on the track between trucks. Establishing that perspective is key to understanding the actual race. Then, the stories of a fuel run or time between cautions can be told. Without taking the time to let the field sort-out, jumping to a close-up ends any sense of what is actually happening in the race for the viewer.

Here is a fan comment about SPEED with the Darlington race in progress:

It's so refreshing to be treated like an intelligent fan by this booth tonight. These guys have brought their "A" game and I'm enjoying it.

Allen, Parsons and McReynolds took turns speaking, respected each other and wound up presenting an outstanding telecast. Excitement from Allen blended with the driver perspective from Parsons and the crew chief comments from McReynolds. From beginning to end, these three worked without an embarrassing moment.

Despite many accidents, cautions and even a red flag there was no problem with information from pit road. Sadler and Dunlap chased the stories, grabbed the drivers out of the race and followed-up on topics raised by the TV booth. In the post-race show, the two reporters put out a ton of information and talked to the key drivers.

Both FOX and ESPN have four pit reporters. The issue isn't their ability to get to the story, it's the problem with funneling that story through to the air. ESPN's Nationwide Series agenda has classically been driven by interviewing and featuring Sprint Cup Series drivers. FOX's broadcast network time crunch often collides with Waltrip's desire to have the last word.

SPEED has perfected the art of enabling others to take center stage. Over the years in the truck series post-race it has been drivers, crew chiefs and owners emotionally telling viewers what the race meant to them. SPEED has used the microphone and camera as they are intended, to relay what is actually happening and not interfere.

Here are just two of many comments from TDP readers after the Darlington race telecast was over:

Perfect coverage. Anyone who does not understand the complaints many members here have with the FOX & ESPN coverage needs to see this race. The flow of the coverage was smooth and relaxed. The camera did not have to jump from truck to truck. The director found the racing, saw when there was about to be trouble. The reports and commentary were informative, not dumbed-down lectures. We all got to see the entire field rush to the finish line, bouncing off the wall and each other. Great job by everyone at SPEED!

Entertaining race, informative coverage. Worth the while when production team knows their job and gets it done, such a pleasant way to enjoy a broadcast.

It was back in July of 2007 that TDP featured a column titled "Craftsman Trucks On SPEED Are The Best Show In Town." Even then, we focused on the professional tone set by Voda, the fairness to all the competitors and the open style of the directing.

Both ESPN and FOX are heading to Bristol, TN. After an off-week, the opportunity to continue the momentum of the sport is going to be in the hands of these two TV networks. Bristol is a track where good directing is key, words chosen by announcers must be brief and action happens without warning.

After SPEED's performance in Darlington with the trucks, this season's benchmark for professionalism and production has been set. It should be interesting to watch how ESPN and FOX respond to that challenge.

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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Live Blogging Camping World Truck Series From Darlington (SPEED - 3:30PM ET)

It's a tight one-day show for the Camping World Series trucks in Darlington, SC. Qualifying is on SPEED at 3:30PM for approximately one hour. Krista Voda then hosts the pre-race show at 4:30PM and the trucks race at 5PM.

Rick Allen will call the action along with Phil Parsons. Micheal Waltrip is off this week, so Larry McReynolds will call the race. I am told this is not an audition, just a guest appearance. Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap will handle the pit reporting.

With each passing week, the truck series looks more and more like the feeder series for Sprint Cup. While the Nationwide Series has become clogged with drivers on various agendas, the trucks continue to be the place where drivers can stand-out against good competition.

Darlington in the daylight is a reminder of old-style racing, despite the fact that the start/finish line was flipped years ago to what was formerly the backstretch. This type of track makes great TV pictures, especially from low angles when the trucks are allowed to race into and then through a "speed shot."

SPEED produces its own races in this series and has a style that is very different from ESPN, FOX or TNT. Over the years, fans have simply come to expect that this TV team will describe the action, cover the racing and let the teams take centerstage. That is almost the opposite of FOX and ESPN, two networks that thrive on TV personality-driven telecasts.

Despite his TNT gaffs last summer, Parsons continues to be the informed voice of the series and offers a perspective that can't be beat. Allen was simply abused by Darrell Waltrip at Daytona, but can pump excitement into a live telecast and that is his role. It should be interesting to see how McReynolds adapts to this series.

This post will host your comments before, during and after the block of TV truck series programming on SPEED. 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.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Faces But Same Issues For Showtime

Update: Got some email this week from fans who had just watched "Inside NASCAR" on Showtime. They were upset that profanity from the team radios was used. In fact, that uncensored radio traffic is a centerpiece of the show and something that Showtime promotes on a regular basis. It's only one of the issues associated with this TV series. Here is our column previewing the 2011 version of the show originally published February 9.

Last year NASCAR trumpeted a multi-year agreement for a new weekly TV series that would be produced from the downtown Charlotte, NC studios of the NASCAR Media Group for 2010. Inside NASCAR was going to be a flagship mid-week show with a twist.

Showtime would offer the series to its universe of subscribers and then make the show available online through both the Internet and cell phone streaming technology. It was Sports Business Journal reporter Michael Smith who offered the following information back in 2010 before the series began.

Showtime's new weekly Inside NASCAR show will be available via the Internet and mobile phone, which required clearance from NASCAR's rights holders in that space.

NASCAR Media Group, which manages those multimedia rights, had to clear the broadcast of Inside NASCAR with its TV, web and mobile partners before giving final approval for the new show.

Unfortunately after the studio set was built, the announcers were signed and money changed hands the other shoe dropped. Click here to review "Showtime Throws NASCAR a Curveball" from TDP last January.

The powers that be at Showtime contradicted the NASCAR Media Group and told us they never intended the series to be distributed outside of the Showtime universe. You want to see it, subscribe they said.

The upshot is that a very good NASCAR TV show is only seen by a very small group of fans. That was the worry going in when the deal was announced. Healthy national cable TV networks may have 90 million homes or more across the country. Showtime is available to less than 19 million subscribers and something big is looming on the horizon.

"Netflix streaming added 3.1 million subscriptions during the fourth quarter of 2010 and now has more than 20 million subscribers," said Gary Kim of IPCarrier. "That's more than the total subscribers of premium channels Starz and Showtime, which have 17.3 million and 18.2 million subscribers, respectively. What that means is that Netflix is competing with the premium cable TV channels."

Once you shake-out the Showtime viewers who are there only for the original entertainment shows and movies, the remaining number of viewers for a sports series like Inside NASCAR is tiny. This season, there are also other things that are getting smaller.

Despite adding Kyle Petty as a panelist, Inside NASCAR is downsizing from one-hour to 30 minutes in length. Chris Myers hosts the show with Randy Pemberton, Michael Waltrip and Brad Daugherty as the original panel members.

The Showtime folks are entertainment-oriented and it shows. The big feature of the series is the re-airing of the profanity-laced team radio traffic without editing. The Showtime PR folks refer to this as uncensored scanner audio and boast it is a Showtime exclusive.

“The show aims to bring NASCAR fans deeper inside the sport than ever before,” said Ken Hershman, General Manager of Showtime Sports. “We delivered precisely that in season one. Now, with the new half-hour format, Inside NASCAR will become the fastest show on television.”

If Inside NASCAR has a challenge this season, it will be to provide commentary from four panelists, weekend race highlights and the infamous uncensored scanner audio in a 30 minute format. It has not gone unnoticed that two of the panelists participating in this shorter program are named Waltrip and Petty.

Our original suggestion was to make the show available online at the website on Fridays, two days later than the 9PM ET Wednesday original air date. Online viewers would get to see what Showtime can do with NASCAR content while Showtime subscribers would still have an exclusive two day window for viewing re-airs.

Perhaps as the Showtime universe of subscribers continues to be affected by Netflix, offering this one series online will become a smart business and public relations decision. After all, that was the original idea when Inside NASCAR was created.

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

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

The content below was originally posted on January 1 as a reminder of some key issues that would be present in the sport in 2011. On this Sprint Cup Series off-week, it's interesting to take a peek at what we knew then and what we know now. The comments section is open.

Just click on the title to read the story:

SPEED Will Not Be The NASCAR Network - The new shows for next season have been announced and NASCAR is not well represented. More lifestyle and enthusiast series with none of them about NASCAR. So much for the rumor that it was going to be all NASCAR in 2011.

Can A Video Game Save NASCAR? - The new "NASCAR 2011: The Game" is headed our way in February and the sport has a lot riding on the reception. The designers say the game is off the charts, but some folks are wondering if COT's will excite younger fans.

With Howard Stern Deal Done It's NASCAR Time - Sirius made it official, re-signing Howard Stern and making his show available online as well. Recently, Sirius made a new deal with the NFL that also allows for online streaming. The only major piece of the puzzle missing is NASCAR. It needs to happen now.

The Ethanol Time Bomb - Mainstream media is silent as Ford, Chevy and Toyota sue the EPA to prevent E15 gasoline from being distributed nationally. This is the same E15 that NASCAR just signed as a key sponsor and will run in all three national series in 2011. Good move for NASCAR or worst decision in history of the sport?

Can ESPN Save The NASCAR Hall Of Fame? - There are lots of suggestions on how to increase attendance at this attraction. Why not enlist NASCAR's biggest TV partner and let TV save the day? It makes a lot of sense.

Does The Sprint Cup Series Banquet Belong On TV? - Even with the move to Las Vegas the post-season function has no zip on TV. Does NASCAR need to tailor this event to please the fans or should this be a night for sponsors and teams?

NASCAR Fans About To Be Rebranded - 2011 will bring a new approach to dealing with the public, the media and the fan base. NASCAR is leaning on a group of brand marketers to revamp the sport's public image. These guys talk the talk, but now they have to walk the walk. It's showtime!

Hail To The Chief - NASCAR Chairman Brian France says everything is fine in TV land, the Chase is the best format and nothing major needs to change for 2011. I'll have some of what he's having please!

Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet . 2011 is our fifth season of talking about NASCAR TV and media topics. It never would have worked without your participation. Thank you.

We invite your comments. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NASCAR TV Bill Of Rights (Repost)

After Phoenix and Las Vegas, this is a repost by request. Bristol, TN has the potential to be a huge TV weekend for the sport. Here are some fundamentals that we have formed as TV viewers. See if you agree and leave us a comment.

NASCAR is entering into the fifth season of Sprint Cup Series coverage provided by FOX, TNT and ESPN. Each of those three networks are different businesses not inclined to cooperate with each other. News Corp, Turner Broadcasting and Disney are three parent companies who bring very different approaches to NASCAR coverage.

The result has been that fans attempting to watch the entire ten months of Sprint Cup Series coverage have been forced to deal with three completely different styles of TV. From the good old boys of FOX to the tech-savvy TNT and the very formal ESPN, the top level of the sport is chopped into three very distinct pieces.

As we enter year five, here is a compilation of issues that readers have helped to define as basic concerns with the television coverage.

Active owners of Sprint Cup Series teams should not be on the air as network TV announcers. Despite the best intentions of those involved, the opinions expressed by those with a significant financial and professional commitment to the sport simply draw too much skepticism.

The pre-race show is to inform viewers of the ongoing stories involving the teams about to race. It is not for features designed to sell a product, promote a cause or advance a TV network's own agenda. "Face time" on national television should be for athletes, not announcers.

The driver starting on the pole of every Sprint Cup Series race should be interviewed during the pre-race show. This right comes with sitting on the pole and makes an impression on the national TV audience that this is an accomplishment for the driver, the team and the sponsor.

Speaking to a driver and/or crew chief via the team radio during the pace laps makes no sense. Asking the driver a random viewer question is ridiculous. Once again in 2010, this practice provided no new information, resulted in awkward moments and was openly despised by some drivers. The only thing worse is contacting a driver during the race to ask the same set of questions.

There is not one "new fan" watching the telecast. The entire NASCAR TV audience has a favorite driver and knows who is who. Showing a prerecorded "bumper" of a driver posing and grinning or trying to look tough or playing the drums while going to commercial under green flag racing is a travesty.

Updates on the basics of NASCAR car parts should be reserved for specialty TV shows. Inside the live telecast of a Sprint Cup Series race there is no need to review the basics of tires, fuel cells, shock absorbers or any other car part that will be used in every event.

The TV network's infield studios are useless once a Sprint Cup Series race begins unless it rains. Viewers have seen who is sitting where and what they are wearing during the pre-race. There is no new information to be shared by putting the same announcers on-camera once the race has started. This fact has been proven by all three networks since 2007.

A driver who starts a Sprint Cup Series race and suddenly pulls off the track and heads to the garage should be identified on TV immediately. It is not the role of the TV networks to edit "start and park" cars from the telecasts. The responsibility is to report what is happening to those who are watching on TV and are not at the track. Reality is not subjective.

No NASCAR TV network covering a live race should go to commercial under green flag racing in the first ten laps or the final ten laps of the event.

Any driver transported to the infield medical center should be interviewed. Each one has fans and it is not the role of the TV network to use popularity or points standings to determine whether an athlete is worthy of TV time.

The scoring ticker is on the screen to help with information, not to be the primary source of scoring information for TV viewers once the race is underway. A key role of the play-by-play announcer is to update positions on the racetrack. What TV seems to be unable to do, the NASCAR radio broadcasters do on a regular basis. The scoring ticker is not a crutch.

Prior to every restart in a Sprint Cup Series race TV viewers should be told what cars got a wave-around, who is the Lucky Dog and if there were any pit road penalties. Coming to the green flag, viewers should know at least the top ten cars (first five rows) and whether the leader chose the inside or outside.

Full field recaps within a race should be done through the complete field at regular intervals and not just include the top ten or twenty cars. Television often misses the real stories of the race by continually focusing on the front of the race and the current leaders. All the drivers on the track have fans.

After a multi-hour race, TV viewers deserve to see all the cars on the lead lap finish the race live. The race winner, pit crew and crew chief will have TV time in Victory Lane. Watching the rest of the lead lap cars racing to the finish is often much more exciting than seeing the winner cross the line.

The TV commercial mess can only be handled one of two ways. Either move to a side-by-side scenario with a video box of the live race on the screen or offer a RaceBuddy style online application. It has been proven for the last several years that fans are simply not going to watch a live event where one-third of the action is completely blocked by commercial content. Why force fans to record and fast-forward when live viewership is the focus of the entire TV effort?

Online information in some form must be provided by the on-air TV staff. Pit reporters updating their assigned teams, infield announcers interacting with fans or even a designated social media producer is needed to fill the demand for interactivity on Facebook, Twitter and the network's own website. This aspect of NASCAR is key to attracting and keeping younger fans.

Since the beginning of NASCAR television coverage, the fundamental idea has been for the TV production team to be the eyes and ears of the fans unable to go to the track. The focus is to capture what is actually happening and pass it along. The play-by-play announcer adds the drama, the analysts relate their own experiences and the pit reporters update the specifics. It all seems so simple.

We invite our readers to add any topic that we may have missed in recapping the issues that have been dogging the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series for the past several years. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Update #1 from reader comments: Cameras show debris when any debris caution is thrown. Cameras do not zoom in on single cars under green flag.

Update #2 from reader comments: No bumper-cam during a pass for the lead or live incidents on track.

Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet. All this week we will be updating the happenings of the Charlotte Media Tour as the teams and NASCAR preview the coming season.