Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NASCAR Fan Council Chasing Shadows

This week's double-secret NASCAR Fan Council (NFC) survey asked the chosen participants about a part-time Nationwide Series driver. Normally, this would be highly unusual.

The NFC topics offered are usually the ones that are pretty high-profile for the sport in general. Opinions on the top drivers, events on the track and even reviews of the network TV announcers have been on the menu in the past.

Apparently, even the NASCAR Fan Council is trying to get a handle on how one driver's arrival next season will affect the sport, the fans and the TV coverage.

Once again, it's Danica time. Here are some NFC topics:

Is she good for NASCAR? Are you tired of hearing about her in the media? Will you watch more races if she is in them? Is she a good driver? Will she be competitive? Are female drivers good for the sport?

These are just a handful of the questions asked by the market research company chosen by NASCAR to operate and maintain the NFC. It's pretty interesting that these questions come before Patrick has done anything but turn a casual wheel in a part-time Nationwide Series ride.

Don't get turned off by this topic, it's not about Danica. What we are watching is a major professional sport with a multi-billion dollar TV contract try to prepare for something it has never experienced.

What the NFC is trying to determine is if NASCAR has hit the jackpot. Is Patrick a ticket-selling machine who will also sky the TV ratings as a full time driver? Is she a face and personality that can get NASCAR across media bridges it has never been able to cross? Is this NASCAR's dream come true?

At speedweeks in Daytona, a fully funded and highly prepared Nationwide Series team is going to show up ready to run for a championship. The team's sponsor will buy TV time, promote the racing product and give the series a much needed shot in the arm.

The driver is a media darling with celebrity status who has promoted her personal brand around the world. On pit road, this Nationwide Series driver will be autographing Sports Illustrated swimsuit pictures of herself. She will be surrounded by professional media handlers who will carefully craft her image.

The topper is that the only larger media personality currently in the sport is her NASCAR owner. There will be a regular media frenzy when Danica and Junior get together to face reporters. It should also be very interesting to see exactly who those reporters will be.

The dwindling NASCAR press corp took another hit recently with the announcement that veteran reporter Dustin Long will released by his employer, Landmark Newspapers, after this season. It's an all too familiar scenario as the painful shift from print to online media continues around the world.

Now, for better or worse, new media outlets are going to have to consider coverage of NASCAR's Triple A series for next season. Will TMZ Sports and Entertainment Tonight hit the dusty Nationwide Series trail? How many entertainment reporters will suddenly pop-up at key races?

Nothing is hotter right now than celebrity-driven reality television series. You think perhaps the NASCAR Media Group will be producing a primetime TV series about Patrick's first full time season? Remember, the person does not need to actually succeed, but just generate enough content to keep Americans interested in watching. Sound familiar?

Imagine being at ESPN right now. The network has Danica exclusively next season in the Nationwide Series races but SPEED televises most of the practice and qualifying for that series. Patrick may well enjoy the younger and more casual TV approach of SPEED to the suits and ties of ESPN.

Having the NFC make Danica a topic is just a tiny peek into the very active conversations taking place in the sport right now about how to make the best of her presence and just how to change the current Nationwide Series media coverage to support that effort. The Danica countdown clock is officially running.

We invite your comments on how you think Danica might affect or change the media coverage of the Nationwide Series and the sport in general. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tuesday TV/Media Notes

You know it's going to be an interesting media week when the news of Hurricane Irene damage is mixed with the announcement that Headline News anchor Nancy Grace will be on Dancing With The Stars.

Reports are that none of the East Coast racetracks involved in hosting major NASCAR events sustained any damage. Pretty rare moment in time to face both an earthquake and a Hurricane within days.

Speaking of earthquakes, Richmond International Raceway has the Wonderful Pistachios brand as the sponsor of its upcoming Sprint Cup Series race. The spokesperson for that brand is going to be the honorary starter and wave the green flag for the race.

Most of you are familiar with Nicole Polizzi by her nickname of Snooki. Yep, the controversial star of The Jersey Shore is going to mount the starter's stand and wave the green flag on 43 Sprint Cup Series cars. Click here if you are not of the current MTV generation and would like to meet the spokesperson.

Earlier this season, many fans enjoyed a TV special called The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt. SPEED aired this special produced by The NASCAR Media Group back in February. This Thursday at 8PM ET, another show in the same type of tribute style will air on the network.

The Day: 1992 Hooters 500 will be a special recalling the amazing group of stories surrounding that race in Atlanta. Richard Petty's final race, Jeff Gordon's debut and a championship that came down to the final laps made for a memorable day of racing.

Veteran crew chief Tony Gibson was heading up the rag-tag team for driver Alan Kulwicki. "We were the underdogs, we were the underbirds and we did it,” said Gibson. "We went out and beat these guys with multi-million dollar sponsorships. Here is this group of guys that pushed lawn mowers all day long and we go out and win this championship. It'll never be done like that again."

Some interesting NASCAR marketing news came down this week. Mike Myers wrote about a new initiative that involves 12 colleges. Click here for the full article at Q4G.

Here are some excerpts:

NASCAR has teamed up with University Directories on Campus (UDOC) said to be the leading media and marketing company on US college campuses. Their plan is “designed to engage college students by establishing unique NASCAR events on campus and at the track. With the assistance of two brand ambassadors per school, NASCAR will be integrated into the college lifestyle.”

"NASCAR and the social component of watching and attending races lends itself very nicely to the college lifestyle," said NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps. "NASCAR U CREW will allow us to interact with college students across the country in a fun and relevant way, giving our current fans the avenue to express their passion and our future fans the vehicle to experience the sport."

It should be interesting to see how the NASCAR U CREW is received.

Saturday night in Bristol was tough to watch on TV due to the amount of commercials inserted during green flag laps. Jayksi reports the total broadcast time was 184 minutes. That total was comprised of 132 minutes of coverage mixed with 52 minutes of commercials.

ESPN will return the same broadcast team for this weekend in Atlanta. Marty Reid will call the Nationwide Series race while Allen Bestwick will handle the Cup race. This weekend both races are under the lights. ESPN2 Saturday night at 7PM for the Nationwide telecast and Sunday on ESPN at 6:30PM for the big boys.

When ESPN's Dale Jarrett was driving, he was deeply involved with UPS. Remember "The Big Brown Truck" ads and marketing campaign? Click here to see the most recent UPS move in sports. Former NASCAR executive George Pyne has snagged UPS and created a major college sports package for his company, IMG.

Keep an eye on UPS and the continuing commitment to NASCAR after the current contract expires with Roush Racing at the end of this season.

Finally, you may have noticed that NASCAR Now is again taking it on the chin this week. Rather than move the 5PM airing over to ESPNEWS, the early show is preempted for the early rounds of the US Open Tennis coverage. The solo airing for NASCAR Now is early morning East Coast time.

As we mentioned a short time ago, it's a double-whammy for the series. Starting in September, NASCAR Now will be pushed back to a 3PM timeslot while ESPN's own Sports Nation show will take over 5PM permanently. Tough demotion for a series in year five.

Happy to have your comments on any of these topics. Just click on the comments button below.

Post Race TV Wrap-Up: Sprint Cup Series From Bristol

Hurricane Irene was coming up the East Coast while NFL preseason football games were being played around the country. The problem was that the hurricane coverage and the NFL games were both on ABC stations where NASCAR coverage was scheduled.

ESPN did a great job of showing the technology involved in cable TV and moving coverage in many areas from ABC to various ESPN cable networks. After some early issues, the complaints settled down as fans found the coverage. It really was a solid job of solving what could have been a big problem.

Once the telecast got underway, the pre-race trio appeared from a temporary infield location. It was much better than the Pit Studio that was parked outside the backstretch. Nicole Briscoe was with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty.

Wallace again supplied the excitement and has the credentials, but Daugherty provided little. There has to be a way to get some kind of focus on a subject that will allow him to add something more than the tired hype he has offered for years.

ESPN's Sprint Cup Series TV team was ready for action. It turned out to be a tough night. From the start the race was about fuel mileage and track position. Brad Keselowski had found a loophole in the pit road speeding lines and was gaining positions on every caution flag stop. It would be an important story.

Allen Bestwick had very little to work with. ESPN's cameras jumped from one random battle of two or three cars to the next. By the time Bestwick explained what viewers were watching and let Dale Jarrett or Andy Petree make a comment, it was time for another commercial break.

On a short track like Bristol, with green flag laps around fifteen seconds, going to commercial break is deadly. This absolutely killed the telecast. There was simply no opportunity to develop any story lines. There was no time.

The producer tried to use the infield pit studio crew for recaps and even inserted Tim Brewer several times, but the racing action that was being missed was just too hard to recapture. TV viewers just missed too much to get back in the groove.

Pit road was loud and the reporters were limited to calling stops and shouting comments under green. Once again, some left-over time allowed for an extended post-race that ran the pit reporters around for lots of post-race interviews.

The stories that many of the drivers told in post-race were ones that often were never told on the race telecast. It's now a familiar refrain. The cycle of a short segment of live racing and then an extended TV commercial once again meant that the actual issues that happened within the race would be explained on the weekday review shows.

Our live chat revolved around the troubles ESPN had trying to figure out what to show in the content segments between commercials. Sometimes following the leader, sometimes focusing on one car and sometimes jumping around randomly just was not getting it done for us as veteran fans.

Let's open this style of coverage topic up a little bit and add it to our usual post-race comments. To add your opinion to our discussion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your NASCAR TV thought with us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Bristol (ABC - 7PM ET)

It's a night to remember at Bristol, TN. ABC is the network for the Sprint Cup Series race, but there are some issues out there.

Some markets have local coverage of NFL preseason games on ABC tonight. In those markets, viewers who want NASCAR need to tune to ESPN2. That channel will be used for alternate distribution. In Houston, TX, viewers need to look for the ABC digital station that is carried by local cable systems.

The second story is Hurricane Irene. Should an ABC local station decide to continue with storm coverage, viewers will be told where to turn for NASCAR viewing. Our best guess is also ESPN, but some markets may distribute the signal locally on another channel. It's going to be interesting.

The race itself it all about Kyle Busch. He is the story and emerging as the driver to beat down the stretch. Defeated after an incident in the truck series race, he came back with a vengeance and won Friday night in the Nationwide Series.

Nicole Briscoe hosts the show from the Infield Pit Studio. She has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside. These three are located outside of the track due to limited space in the infield. Rusty and Brad are nothing if not enthusiastic.

Allen Bestwick will call the race. This is a big change for ESPN/ABC. Lackluster lead announcers have plagued this coverage since 2007. Bestwick should be right in his wheelhouse with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside.

Pit road communication is impossible under green flag racing at Bristol. This race is the ultimate challenge for pit road reporters. Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns are the Sprint Cup Series team in the pits.

Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. With green flag laps taking less than 15 seconds, it should be interesting to see how the producer works Brewer into the telecast. The producer faces the same challenge for dealing with TV commercial breaks under green.

Bristol features side-by-side racing with cars close all over the track. Focusing on just one small group of cars robs the viewer of the experience of this race. ESPN's choice is to work to relay the reality of the racing or just to "make TV" tonight.

This post will serve to host your TV-related comments about the telecast. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

A Fly In The Ointment Named Irene

The late Howard Cosell used a phrase when things started to get interesting on the football field. "We have a developing situation!" he would yell.

Well, that certainly is true for the planned ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Bristol, TN this Saturday night. Hurricane Irene is chugging up the Eastern Seaboard.

If the race was scheduled for ESPN, there would not be an issue. Cable TV just keeps rolling right along when bad weather is striking an area of the country. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for both local TV stations and their network news big brothers.

Looking at The Weather Channel map pictured above, the timeline of the current storm puts it coming on shore in the outer banks of North Carolina late Saturday afternoon. As hurricane veterans know, that spins lots of "feeder bands" of thick rain and high winds out from the storm.

Those are the kind of regional weather issues that cause local stations to cut into or preempt programming for updates and radar views. Having a significant number of ABC stations in the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland breaking away at that time to track the storm throughout the evening could impact the race coverage.

The bigger story looming on the horizon is that if Irene continues on her current path we are going to see New Jersey, New York and most of New England impacted by a major hurricane. That story may take on new meaning Saturday evening.

Thursday afternoon a state of emergency had already been declared in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes had begun in areas of New York City. There is little doubt Friday will bring an even more heightened state of urgency.

By the time Saturday evening, primetime for TV networks, comes around there is going to have to be a decision made to either show the race from Bristol or move to national network news coverage of the impending storm situation.

Remember, broadcast networks and TV stations operate to serve the public. These are government regulated over-the-air businesses that are under a lot of pressure to serve as the information conduit to the public in time of need.

Luckily, there is a very viable alternative available and it can all be traced to the NFL preseason. In several markets, the ABC stations on Saturday night are already contracted to show a preseason game. That meant that ESPN had to provide a way for those markets to see the race.

The solution was to use ESPN2 in those areas for NASCAR. The same kind of technology ESPN uses to handle blackouts for events like college basketball was brought into play to get the race into the homes affected by football.

Simply put, ESPN uses zip codes to switch groups of viewers from one signal to another. Thanks to the NFL, the live race will already be underway to selected viewers. This opens the door to lots of solutions.

If an ABC station decides to dedicate the evening to live storm programming, then perhaps ESPN will use some switching technology and make an effort to get the ESPN2 program authorized for viewers in that area. Of course, the priority is not NASCAR for some folks and that is absolutely understood.

Should ABC decide to dedicate primetime on Saturday to the hurricane, ESPN can simply use ESPN2 and show the race nationwide. Either way, it's an interesting comparison between the two very different systems in the country for distribution of TV content.

We will use this post for updates from ESPN about this situation as they happen. In the meantime, please feel free to leave us a comment by clicking on the comment button below. As someone who has been through three hurricanes here in Florida, I hope all our readers affected by this storm stay safe and sound. Remember, there is always another race.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Bristol (ESPN - 7PM ET)

As the Nationwide Series race approaches, the weather in Bristol, TN is "iffy." Not originally on the list of issues, it looks like rain might play a role in tonight's event.

Nicole Briscoe has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty in the Infield Pit Studio tonight. Expect these three and a lot of guests to pass the time if the raindrops fall. Briscoe has done a solid job of directing traffic, but she can't control some of the gems that come from her two analysts.

Marty Reid returns to work the race tonight with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Allen Bestwick is designated for the Sprint Cup Series events. Reid was demoted this season and the spotlight is squarely on his ability to deliver under pressure.

Jarrett and Petree have been solid, but the one reason did not return to the Cup races was the lack of chemistry between these three. It should be fun to watch this dynamic play-out on the air tonight.

Bristol is a mess for TV. There is just no good way to get a quality product on the air with the amount of commercial inventory ESPN carries. There is no RaceBuddy for the Nationwide races, so TV is the only source for video.

With laps around 15 seconds, each 30 second commercial element covers two laps. It's a tough task to integrate commercials on this track with a race that features long green flag runs. Only lots of caution flag periods change the game.

The same ESPN battle that has been discussed on this blog for the last four seasons will again be a topic. Seeing the race involves wideshots, aerial angles and the search for the best racing on the track regardless of position. It does not involve in-car cameras on restarts, key passes or live during accidents. It does not involve following the leaders.

ESPN has changed a lot of things behind the scenes. Let's see if it makes a difference tonight.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Nationwide Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"SPEED Center" About To Play A Bigger Role

One of the most interesting changes to SPEED since Patti Wheeler took over the programming and production departments at the network has been a show called SPEED Center.

Many viewers may remember The SPEED Report, a one-hour show aired on Sunday night at 7PM. It was the network's only true motorsports program for news, highlights and interviews.

Wheeler's idea is to expand the TV portion of that concept and tie it to the instant information available through new technology. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter contain a steady stream of information about virtually every series racing worldwide.

"In continuing to differentiate SPEED Center as the definitive source for news and analysis from across the motorsports world, we wanted to create a ‘command center’ that not only incorporates all forms of racing but also integrates the latest technology to deliver up-to-the-second information from any racing venue in the world," said Wheeler. "The show is as fast-paced as the racing it covers, and we think the new look reflects the sense of urgency in motorsports and live television."

The bottom line is, she is right. TV is changing and much of it is quickly falling apart as it lags behind in technology. How many local TV news shows use YouTube clips, tweets and Facebook page information? The answer is a lot.

The missing link for SPEED for years has been updated motorsports news and information presented in a timely fashion. The new SPEED Center is designed not only to host the one-hour show on Sundays, but to be active throughout the racing weekends. That is a huge undertaking.

The good news is that the show host Adam Alexander has toned it down. He is much more effective working at a deliberate pace and passing along information without fake excitement or his personal volume control set on high.

The new SPEED Center set rolls out on Friday at 7PM as Alexander hosts a NASCAR-themed edition of the show. Here are some specifics on the technology he will have available.

This from SPEED:

The motor sports news program unveils a contemporary and completely interactive set anchored by an 85-inch on-air touchscreen linked to a real-time timing-and-scoring database. The new set also boasts a graphics overhaul and more than 31 video display devices controllable from multiple points.

The set was designed by Lead Designer Jim Fenhagen and Senior Designer Larry Hartman of the Jack Morton Company. They have designed some of the most recognizable sets on television, including those of Good Morning America, Piers Morgan Tonight, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and World News Tonight.

SPEED has come a very long way from renting studio space from a religious network and then having to rent office space across the street. These days, the network is settled into a High Definition studio in the Greater Charlotte area put together specifically for the TV operations.

It should be interesting to see Alexander work the new set and all the gizmo's this weekend. It just might be that SPEED has added a key piece of the puzzle as the network grows more toward motorsports programming and news than "lifestyle" shows and infomercials.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

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

It's going to be a fun night for the Camping World Truck Series at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The track was slick during qualifying and now a full Whelen Mod race has laid down a different rubber compound. This is going to be a show.

Krista Voda starts off the coverage with The Set-Up pre-race show. Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap are the reporters. Once the race is underway it will be Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Micheal Waltrip calling the action.

Waltrip was working the qualifying earlier in the day and had returned to his overbearing personality. It was tough to listen to him talk overtop of his two booth mates. Let's hope someone whispered in his ear to tone it down for the race.

The director is critical for this race. With short laps and fast action, if the director makes the decision to use tightshots and in-truck cameras, then most of the incidents will be shown on replay and the overall telecast will suffer.

The fact of the matter is that Bristol offers two of the most dynamic highshots in sports TV. One if from on top of the tower and shows the entire track with the cars just whirling around at speed. The second is the aerial shot that is tremendous on restarts and for showing groups of trucks racing in a pack. Let's hope we see those tonight.

A good showing at this track is just what the series needs. It is still reeling from lack of sponsorship and the fact that several top drivers are at home this weekend and without a ride. Some solid racing in primetime on national TV could be just what the doctor ordered to set the series up for the long run to Homestead.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED coverage of the Camping World Truck Series from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Live Blogging Whelen Mods From Bristol (SPEED - 6PM ET)

Every year the Whelen Modified Tour fights for TV time. Bristol Motor Speedway gives the teams an opportunity for national TV on a Wednesday. Sometimes, something is better than nothing.

The good news is that Mod fan Mike Joy is calling the race along with regional racing expert Dick Berggren. Bob Dillner, who is also deeply involved in the regional racing scene, will be the pit road reporter.

It's great of SPEED to air this race that gives fans an opportunity to see the teams and personalities of a tour that is famous throughout the greater New England area.

The Mods put on a great show and the bumping and passing style of the series should make for some interesting racing. Look for Joy to pass along a lot of information about the drivers and the history of this tour during the telecast.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED coverage of the Whelen Modified Tour from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below.

Weird Week Of NASCAR TV

This week is always a little bit different for several reasons. Luckily, both SPEED and ESPN have the Bristol Motor Speedway TV scheduling information out for viewers in a timely fashion.

Things kick-off Wednesday with the Whelen Modifieds and the Camping World Truck Series on SPEED. The truck TV team of Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons will offer qualifying at 5PM ET to start the day.

Then, coverage of the Modified race will begin at 6PM. Mike Joy and Dick Berggren will be in the booth for this event with Bob Dillner working pit road. These three men are deeply into the regional racing scene and always have a blast with this telecast.

Krista Voda, Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap start the truck series pre-race show at 7:30PM and then race coverage begins shortly after 8PM. SPEED continues to present the most consistent TV coverage of any NASCAR national touring series with the truck telecasts.

Thursday is Food City Race Night in beautiful downtown Bristol, featuring the hot rod shopping cart seen above. So there is no TV from the track, just NASCAR Now and RaceHub will be providing the usual Thursday programs.

Things pick back up in a big way on Friday. SPEED is once again providing all the support programming right up to race time. Rick Allen, Jeff Hammond and Phil Parsons will work the Nationwide Series sessions. Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond will handle the Sprint Cup Series activities.

Both qualifying sessions will be on SPEED, with the Nationwide Series at 3:30PM and the Sprint Cup at 5PM. As usual, John Roberts will handle the gaps between the on-track sessions with his NASCAR Live show. Randy Pemberton will be his reporter this weekend.

Marty Reid and the ESPN gang finally show up on Friday night at 7PM for a thirty minute pre-race show and then the Nationwide Series race. It's the usual cast of characters with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree working with Reid.

It's always interesting to watch ESPN try to squeeze 11 on-air voices into a live telecast from a track where a green flag laps takes less than fifteen seconds. Even more interesting are the commercial breaks. Think of it this way, two laps missed for every thirty second spot.

Mike Massaro offers NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 10AM on Saturday from the other Bristol with Ricky Craven in the studio. David Newton will be reporting from the track. This is the hour long Sprint Cup Series preview edition.

The chaos that is SPEED's RaceDay is always amplified for the Bristol night race. 5PM should bring an interesting group of fans to the stage for John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace. As usual, Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler will be holding down the fort in the infield.

The Sprint Cup Series race is on ABC and that poses a couple of problems this time of year. Those come in the form of NFL preseason games being carried by some ABC stations that will be preempting the live race.

Here is the information offered by ESPN for fans in those markets:

Due to some ABC affiliates carrying telecasts of NFL pre-season football games or other programming on Saturday night, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol will air regionally on ESPN2 in eight markets: Nashville, Tenn.; Duluth and Rochester, Minn.; Phoenix; Casper, Wy.; Sioux Falls and Rapid City, S.D.; and Weslaco, Tex. In Houston, the race will air on the local ABC affiliate's digital tier station.

What this essentially means is that ESPN will be providing to the cable systems in those markets the ability to use ESPN2 as a channel to replace ABC. Viewers in those markets should be able to see the entire race by simply going to the ESPN2 channel.

In Houston, that TV market is big enough for the ABC local station to have a second channel available on the cable dial and over the air. That is called a digital tier station.

This is a solid plan from the ESPN/ABC group designed to make the NASCAR race easily available to viewers in the affected markets.

The big finale Saturday night puts Rusty Wallace in the Infield Pit Studio with Brad Daugherty. These two get pretty fired-up about this race, so host Nicole Briscoe may have her hands full at 7PM for thirty minutes.

It is going to be a joy to have Allen Bestwick on the race call. After years of sub-par announcing of this event, ESPN has given Bestwick an opportunity to get this coverage back on the right track. One gets the feeling Jarrett and Petree are ready to help.

Sunday features the return of Dave Despain from an Alaska motorcycle trip to Wind Tunnel at 9PM on SPEED. Prior to that program the usual SpeedCenter and Victory Lane shows air. It's still amazing that SPEED cannot figure out doing Victory Lane live after the race would be a home run with fans.

So, set the DVR for Wednesday and get ready for some early racing this week. Keep an eye on the weather forecast as well to see what happens with Hurricane Irene and potential landfall on Saturday morning. We'll keep you posted.

Happy to have your comments on these topics, just click the comments button below.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Post-Race TV Wrap: Sprint Cup Series From MIS on ESPN

Rain was a worry, but luckily the weather stayed good and the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from MIS went off without a hitch.

Nicole Briscoe hosted the coverage from the Infield Pit Studio. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were the analysts who joined her. ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard stopped by after giving the command to start engines. The college football talk was interrupted by racing.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree handled the race from the TV booth. This was an MIS script that all three of them knew very well. Bestwick did his best to concentrate on keeping viewers up to date on who was where and why.

Jarrett and Petree were again saddled with a fuel mileage and track position event without major incidents except for engine woes. Both of them understood the issues and talked clearly about what teams could make what decisions to keep themselves in contention. You just had the feeling for them it was a long day.

Speaking of long days, the ESPN pit road reporters were struggling for some reason. It's a big track and there were several caution periods that made for group stops, but it was still a rough race. The booth dominated the commentary and there were almost no crew chief interviews, unlike the last race.

Tim Brewer has now been upstaged in the pre-race show by ESPN's own Sports Science features that have now been adapted to NASCAR. This really steals Brewer's thunder and makes his subsequent reports seem rather basic.

ESPN made good pictures and sound. The director crept back toward his tendency to frame camera shots tight and lose the larger perspective. On a big track like MIS, that was tough. ESPN has a good split-screen effect, but it was rarely used for green flag racing.

In the end, NASCAR may have been guilty of providing some early cautions for minor debris and was rewarded with a late caution that bunched the field for the finish. It was a storyline that TV viewers had seen before.

Once again, ESPN framed the finish so the lead lap cars could be seen crossing the line as the graphics revealed the finishing order. It wasn't perfect, but at least the cars could be seen. Kind of a fitting way to end a rather mediocre telecast.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from MIS. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rusty Wallace Leads Montreal Mess

There are times in TV when you just can't make things up. What happens live on the air is just so entertaining that no embellishment is needed. May we present the NASCAR Nationwide Series in Montreal.

The pre-race show featured a slight delay for a Little League game on ESPN. Once the Nationwide Series was on the air the Camping World Series trucks were still live on SPEED from Michigan ending a crashfest with a win by Kevin Harvick.

When the green flag finally flew on a beautiful day, this telecast quickly became a tribute to all the issues we have with Nationwide Series owner Rusty Wallace being in the TV booth. Some of his statements were outrageous.

Live chatting here and on Twitter documented the fan reaction to the same issues. Wallace is ill-prepared for this kind of telecast even after five years of working for ESPN in both the TV booth and infield. When he is put in the lead analyst role, his observations are often driven by his personal and professional agendas.

In this telecast, Wallace started by mispronouncing the names of several Canadian drivers. That quickly mushroomed as the race began to play-out in a very different form with drivers ducking in right after the green flag to top-off fuel tanks.

In just a short time, Wallace had no clue who was on what fuel strategy or what was going on. Luckily, Wallace was teamed with another driver in the TV booth. Ricky Craven worked endlessly to help Wallace with his remarks and patiently added his own comments to the telecast.

TV veteran Allen Bestwick has lead this telecast for years, but this race featured Marty Reid. After six months of working on Nationwide Series telecasts this season, Reid has built up a legacy of saying the wrong thing at critical times in key races.

In this event, Reid never was able to help viewers by tracking fuel mileage or strategy. His comments were limited to what was being seen on the TV screen, as Montreal is a road course and TV visibility is limited. This meant that Reid could not know what else was going on unless the ESPN producer told him.

One critical part of the race featured Wallace talking passionately about his son Steven racing hard in the top five. Just as Wallace finished his comments, Steven caused a crash that took out Canadian hero Patrick Carpentier who was racing in Montreal for the final time.

Like it or not, ESPN soft-pedaled the incident and the replays. Craven called Wallace out, but not even by name or car number. Reports via other forms of media detailed the crowd reaction which was not seen or heard on ESPN. After the race, the Carpentier crew chief grabbed Steven Wallace by the hair in his car and shook his head rather vigorously.

Click here to see how ESPN and the senior Wallace handled that moment on the air.

Here is the bottom line. ESPN paid the money and can use any personalities in the booth that the network chooses. Fortunately, part of the same bottom line is that we can continue to speak about the fact that Wallace does not add to the telecasts in his role and has become a running joke for fans on websites and social media.

It's all about ratings, so if this is what ESPN believes might draw in viewers for telecasts then expect more of the same down the stretch. If you watched the telecast, let us know what you thought of ESPN's effort by clicking on the comments button below.

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Michigan (ESPN - 12PM ET)

NASCAR has already raced trucks and the Nationwide Series cars this weekend. Both were exciting races that featured a lot of action. Today, the Sprint Cup Series cars take to MIS for what many media members are predicting will be another gas mileage race.

Nicole Briscoe opens the coverage from the Infield Pit Studio. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are alongside. This will be a one hour preview show that has plenty of topics to discuss. It should be interesting to see what the producer chooses to include in the show rundown.

Allen Bestwick leads the race coverage with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. Down on pit road are Dave Burns, Vince Welch, Jamie Little and Dr. Jerry Punch.

Expect the Chase to dominate the telecast as the stories playing out about the post-season are not on the front burner. This is going to be our first opportunity to see how Bestwick will balance the race vs. the Chase.

For the past four seasons, ESPN has clearly struggled to deal with the Chase and keep the race fans of all teams and drivers also informed. The recent change to Bestwick in the booth might be the perfect solution. Finally someone who understands how to handle multiple topics unfolding in one event.

MIS is a track that could really use an online RaceBuddy application. When the field gets strung out and the gas mileage wars begin, it would be nice to have some additional video and audio sources that fans could use online.

ESPN makes good pictures and has a sparkling tech record this season. Expect the issues to be the same. Choosing to follow the leader, not showing green flag pitstops in a split-screen and not updating drivers outside of the top twenty are familiar topics for TDP readers.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Michigan International Speedway. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series from Montreal (ESPN - 2PM ET)

This road course race from Montreal is always interesting. First, it often rains although the weather today is clear. Secondly, there are a lot of Canadian road course ringers, so it kind of makes for a race within a race.

If the final laps of this are run under caution, it sometimes turns into an exercise in who can spin who on the final lap to win. Sometimes, it's just not pretty.

ESPN provided no coverage of practice or qualifying. The B-team of Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven will provide the coverage. Down on pit road will be Shannon Spake, Jim Nobile and Rick DeBruhl.

Road course coverage mandates that the director follow the leader and then jump backward to any incidents on the track. Hopefully, ESPN uses a lot of split-screen coverage today for things like green flag pitstops, soundbites and pit interviews.

It's hard to lose track of the leaders and then suddenly snap back to them on-camera. The only thing that helps to restore a sense of perspective is an aerial view. The scenery is beautiful and the crowd at the track is legendary for enjoying hardcore racing.

There are several NNS regulars running for the points championship who will have to be rather careful today. There are many drivers who appear in the NNS only on road courses and their only agenda is to win.

Danica Patrick is in the race, had told the media she will have no comment on her NASCAR future and will start 25th of 43 cars.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Montreal. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks From Michigan (SPEED - 12PM ET)

The comfortable truck series TV team is on the air from MIS. Krista Voda leads the pre-race show. In the booth is Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are on pit road.

MIS today is a short race that looks more and more like another green flag gas mileage affair. It should be interesting to see just how much racing is done in comparison to driving to a specific gas strategy.

SPEED also has RaceBuddy free at for the truck races this season. This is an event where having some extra angles and elements to use may come in very handy.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED coverage today. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mike Joy Returns This Weekend For SPEED

Since ESPN has both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series race telecasts this time of the season, SPEED has been rotating various TV personalities through the lead announcer position to work on the practice and qualifying coverage.

Perhaps you might recognize that young man in the center of the picture. Mike Joy has been in the racing game for a long time. That is Jim France on the left side of the picture and the late Ed Yerrington on the right.

Joy will be in Michigan this Friday and Saturday anchoring the network's coverage of the Sprint Cup Series activity. Joy is on the air Friday at noon ET, but his fellow announcer Rick Allen will start the day at 11AM with Camping World Truck Series practice.

There is a lot going on in the sport right now and SPEED has simply been outstanding at getting information on these topics across to fans in a timely fashion. While John Roberts is known for hosting the RaceDay extravaganza on Sundays, he is very effective with his NASCAR Live shows on Fridays and Saturdays.

Creating the Monday through Thursday hour-long RaceHub series has been the best thing SPEED has done in years. By the time coverage begins from the tracks on Friday, viewers are already up to speed on the topics in the news and issues to be discussed.

This week ESPN's Marty Smith offered a factual report on NASCAR Now that Danica Patrick is coming to NASCAR starting next season. Greg Biffle and Boris Said also traded verbal jabs on RaceHub this week over the Watkins Glen festivities.

JD Gibbs also appeared on both daily NASCAR TV shows, speaking frankly about the fact he was negotiating with Carl Edwards to make a move to JGR but the pieces just did not fall into place. Edwards himself has yet to comment on his owner Jack Roush saying Edwards will leave the Nationwide Series as a driver to join ESPN in 2012.

One positive thing about SPEED's coverage is that much of it is streamed online for Sprint users through the NASCAR Mobile and SprintTV apps. With NASCAR lagging many years behind in online distribution, this feature is handy for those brand-loyal fans who stayed with Sprint.

We invite you to post your observations on these topics and the Friday TV coverage from SPEED as we move through Friday. We will also update any breaking news on this post. To add your comment, just click the comment button below.

Thanks for taking the time to join us and we look forward to your opinions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NASCAR's Social Media Whirlwind

Boris Said made the media rounds of TV and radio shows on Tuesday. In his mind, that was the right way to address the issues surrounding the dust-up after the Watkins Glen race on Monday.

In fact, Said was scheduled to be a panelist on the "road course" edition of Monday's NASCAR Now show from the ESPN2 studios in Bristol, CT. It was only because the Sunday race was delayed by rain that Said was not talking to NASCAR fans as an ESPN analyst.

Instead, host Michelle Bonner handled Said on Tuesday's NASCAR Now while Sirius Speedway let Said talk about the situation for the SiriusXM subscribers.

Said repeatedly told the TV and radio hosts that he preferred to handle things the old way. That he was an old school guy who did his talking in person. He made it clear that things like Twitter and Faceboook were not for him. He ridiculed social media and the drivers who used it to express their opinions after the race.

Unfortunately, what Said is actually doing is missing the boat. In today's world, speaking about an incident one day later on TV or radio is considered light years down the road.

The same NASCAR fan base that embraced the Internet and online racing websites is migrating to social media in droves. Facebook and Twitter provide different types of interaction, but both have become two of the most powerful media tools for NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors.

In interview after interview with Said, hosts used information received through social media outlets to ask questions and make references. As Twitter users have seen, this season the NASCAR TV networks have gone out of their way to integrate updated tweets into all kinds of programming.

The power of social media was offered a high-profile boost when Darrell Waltrip began carrying his iPad with him to the TV booth during races and scanning it for updated information and topics being discussed by fans. That is a pretty profound statement in terms of the power of instant communication.

Some NASCAR drivers have come and gone from Twitter after bad experiences. In most cases, they did not receive solid guidance from their team's media relations staff on the pitfalls of social media. Just like every other form of communication, there are good points and bad points about sharing information.

Jimmie Johnson is a recent convert to Twitter and has been a tremendous example of a powerful and high-profile NASCAR personality who has learned to use social media effectively. Johnson's personal tweets convey a sense of humor, a toughness and a level of understanding of the sport that has never been conveyed in the mainstream media.

At first, Johnson was formal and offered information and updates. Now, just a couple of weeks later, he is chatting with fans directly, giving media members grief and having a blast. Johnson's most recent exploits involved photos of a pint size cardboard cut-out of Chad Knaus placed in various colorful locations at the race track. "Mini-Chad" is a hoot.

When the race is over, the hottest place to be is Twitter. Drivers often grab cell phones and sign-on before they leave pit road. Happy or sad, hearing directly from the participants of a high-profile sports event directly instead of through the media is a whole new experience.

In many cases, fans have been able to watch the interaction between drivers as issues are brought up and then sorted out post-race. Most interesting perhaps is the fact that the tracks, the various series and NASCAR itself have become veterans at offering information to both fans and the media through Twitter.

If you have not given it a try, take a look before you reject it. Twitter is just a small free program that runs on a cell phone, tablet or any type of computer. The technology offers each user the opportunity to put together a list of personalities, news organizations and almost any type of interest that will update automatically.

By checking the Twitter timeline, users get updated information instantly. While the Twitter fan base for most NASCAR drivers is still modest, celebrities and mainstream media outlets like Time and CNN have millions following their updates.

It's fun to watch the information offered by NASCAR during races migrate from Twitter to the various live media chats and then onto the NASCAR racing blogs and websites. One thing is for sure, until something else comes along expect to be hearing a lot more about Twitter and NASCAR as the Chase closes in.

There is little doubt that this will be truly the first social media Chase in NASCAR history. This season may be about gas mileage on the track, but it clearly is about instant information outside of the driver's seat.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Motorsports Media Notes

There are a lot of tidbits flying around today involving various kinds of motorsports media types. Here are some items crossing the TDP desk.

Peter Windsor is back on SPEED's Formula 1 coverage. You may remember his ill-fated US-based F-1 team effort. SPEED promoted it endlessly and then slowly crept away as it fell apart. Windsor is now based in London and will be contributing to the website expansion of F-1 content. He will not be a pit reporter. Will Buxton remains in that role.

Click here for a link to the story on Adam Corolla. He is currently fronting the new Car Show series on SPEED. This is the network's attempt to clone the popular Top Gear franchise. Unfortunately, Corolla is still stuck in his Man Show character and his sexist behavior toward women on the program is amazing. Now, he may just have a little bit more to deal with after his most recent rant.

Back on the NASCAR trail, two items are being discussed today. First, after perhaps the most memorable interview on NASCAR Now in years, ESPN executives made the incredible decision to cancel the only re-air of that show and instead re-air the entire Watkins Glen Sprint Cup Series race.

Greg Biffle had called into NASCAR Now live at 6PM Monday and proceeded to unleash his feelings on Boris Said. Biffle referenced incidents from the previous year's race and also explained what went on during and after the race with Said. This interview featured some of the most memorable NASCAR quotes in recent memory.

Since the re-air of the Biffle interview was cancelled, SPEED was quick to get Biffle into the RaceHub studio today where he will be speaking with Steve Byrnes on the 7PM ET show. Byrnes has a good interview style that gets the most out of guests, so it should be interesting to see what Biffle has to say now one day after the fireworks.

ESPN has confirmed it will be sending Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven to Montreal this Saturday to team with Marty Reid on the Nationwide Series race. As usual, there will be no coverage of practice or qualifying. ESPN certainly has a love/hate relationship with the Nationwide Series once the network's Sprint Cup coverage begins.

I'm a fan of and the dedication of the small group working on that website. Big honor today as Time included on the list of the 50 best websites of 2011. Click here to read the story.

The full three hour scheduled re-airing of the Sprint Cup Series race from Watkins Glen will be on SPEED, as usual, at noon ET on Wednesday.

More items will be added to this post throughout the day, please check back later and make sure to give us your comments on these topics.

Post-Race Comments: Sprint Cup Series From Watkins Glen On ESPN

Rain delayed the Sprint Cup Series race on ESPN from Watkins Glen until Monday morning.

On this delayed coverage, ESPN does not have the Infield Pit Studio and Tech Garage. The telecast was simply the trio in the TV booth and the pit road reporters.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree called the race. On pit road were Dr. Jerry Punch, Shannon Spake, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

The race coverage was straightforward and basic. The early laps featured a wet track and foggy conditions. Once the fog lifted, the real racing started after the halfway mark when the race was official.

ESPN stayed focused on the battles and stories within the field. There were few distractions as the sequence of green flag pit stops and lead changes was the order of the day.

A crash involving Kurt Busch featured ESPN using an in-car angle of the accident, including the impact on the driver. The producer waited until Kurt was out of the car and walking around to show this angle. Busch was also interviewed.

Denny Hamlin had a hard crash while coverage was in commercial break. Hamlin's accident was replayed numerous times and a follow-up interview was done.

The final lap of the race featured a large crash in the back of the field that involved at least one car rolling over. ESPN stayed with live coverage of the race for the lead until the caution flag was displayed.

Replays documented how the final lap accident occurred. This was one of the hardest road course crashes involving multiple cars in years. ESPN interviewed the winner of the race and also the drivers involved in the accident.

A skirmish in the pits involving Boris Said was also documented. ESPN remained live on-site and provided very complete post-race coverage.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Watkins Glen. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series from Watkins Glen (ESPN - 10AM)

Update: Here we go again. The rain delayed race is now set for 10AM on Monday. Click to the comments section and join us for live chat.

There is rain in the area and Watkins Glen is a big road course that takes a long time to dry. The good news is that the race itself has the potential to really make some good TV.

Nicole Briscoe hosts the Infield Pit Studio with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. No doubt these three will be talking about rivalries and the points leading up to the Chase. ESPN has an hour to fill, so keep an eye on the mix of pre-produced features vs. live interviews.

Jamie Little is off working the IndyCar race today from Loudon, NH for ABC. Shannon Spake is working pit road at the Glen with Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree worked the Nationwide Series race on Saturday which produced very little excitement. Luckily, the handful of Sprint Cup Series drivers who dominated the Saturday event cannot do the same today.

Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. The normal road course issues include fueling the cars on the passenger side, pitting with driver's side away from pit wall and stopping early to get a break late. It's a road course.

ESPN had a tough time on Saturday telling the stories of anyone except the cars in the front of the pack. Sometimes, the current leader means nothing as fuel will not allow that car to finish. The stories are who can go the distance and what strategies are unfolding for teams throughout the race.

The network has a wonderful aerial shot mixed with all the normal angles we see at the Glen. Saturday's finish was shown from the camera at the far end of the frontstretch. While viewers did see the lead lap cars finish, it was tough to tell who was who at that distance.

While the Nationwide Series has rain tires and wipers, the Sprint Cup Series does not. Rain at this track could well delay the race until Monday. There is no information yet, but ESPN2 would probably be the destination. NASCAR would likely not make that decision until late afternoon. There are no lights at the Glen.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Watkins Glen (ESPN - 1PM ET)

Rain is on the way toward The Glen. NASCAR has move the start up five minutes to 2:09PM because that is about all they can do.

Nicole Briscoe cranks things up with the NASCAR Countdown show at 1PM. She has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty alongside. There are lots of stories unfolding, some involving the race and some involving The Chase.

Shannon Spake joins the pit reporters this week as Jamie Little is off doing the IndyCar race for ABC. Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns and Vince Welch round-out the pit road group. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are the trio in the TV booth today. Bestwick has been exactly what ESPN needed to get this coverage back on track. A road course requires a very different kind of TV coverage and this is the only such track for ESPN during the network's 17 races.

SPEED has been handling the support coverage, including the practice and qualifying. Once again, ESPN is only at the track for the NNS race. It makes for a little bit of an awkward transition, since the drivers and teams have been dealing with SPEED all weekend.

The challenge for the director is to try and back-cut to the best races on the track while also keeping a good handle on the ever-changing location of the leaders at full speed under green. This means he needs some good assistance both in the truck and from the camera spotters around the track.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series coverage on ESPN from Watkins Glen. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Friday, August 12, 2011

ESPN's Goals For Watkins Glen

When ESPN begins the Sprint Cup Series telecasts, there are some "advancer" stories that are prepared by reporters working the local beats. Click here for the story titled "ESPN ready to rock its NASCAR coverage at Watkins Glen International."

The story by Shawn Vargo is featured at, which is a Corning, NY publication. What's great about Vargo's story is that he uses quotes from Rich Feinberg, ESPN's VP of Motorsports, who is pictured above.

Here is Feinberg talking about ESPN's approach to NASCAR coverage being a simple one.

"We have our style and philosophy of how we broadcast a race," Feinberg said. "The focus of everything we do is about the drivers and the competition and not about us. People are tuning-in to see the NASCAR stars, the drivers, the racing. That’s where we try to keep our eye on the ball."

Here is Feinberg speaking about the in-race technology.

"We have to make sure our technology doesn’t get in the way of documenting and telling the story of the race,” Feinberg said. “(Technology) can enhance it, make it more entertaining, provide insight into what’s happening and perhaps help us foreshadow what’s going to happen. But it’s important for us to remain balanced in our usage of everything we have at our disposal."

Finally, Feinberg summarizes ESPN's goals when televising Sprint Cup Series races.

"Whether it’s the technology, the number of announcers we use or whatever makes up the entire picture, (the goal is) to balance out the use of all those elements, to ensure that our overall broadcast remains focused on what’s happening on the track."

"ESPN is in close to 100 million homes throughout this country," Feinberg said. "Our job is to serve those fans. We try to make the most compelling, entertaining coverage of a NASCAR race, on a weekly basis."

"The tricky line we try to walk is offering general basic storytelling to new viewers, while not alienating hard-core fans who really want the nitty-gritty and the strategy of what’s happening on the racetrack and we try to serve both with everything we do. At the end of the day, they all want to be entertained."

This is a very timely picture of Feinberg's mindset as ESPN gets into the very heart of the season and heads for the Chase. As most fans know, Feinberg made a very big decision just one week prior to the Brickyard 400. Allen Bestwick was brought in as the lap-by-lap Sprint Cup Series announcer and Marty Reid was asked to continue on the Nationwide Series telecasts.

This helped fans to understand that perhaps ESPN finally got it. When something isn't working, just fix it. Feinberg also shelved the infamous Draft-Tracker and several other gadgets along the way and this year seems to have the right pieces in the right places.

While ESPN sometimes is blind to the work of other networks, NASCAR fans see various SPEED personalities every race weekend handling a lot of the support programming like practice and qualifying sessions. There no bells and whistles involved, it's just NASCAR people talking NASCAR.

This weekend, SPEED puts the unlikely trio of Leigh Diffey, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds together in the TV booth to handle Sprint Cup Series practice and qualifying. Those are the kind of colorful characters that make good TV. This combo should also make for some interesting uses of the English language.

It's not really the memories of TNT that the ESPN coverage is compared to, but the fact that SPEED is right there side-by-side at the track and seems to have few problems covering exactly the same content. This weekend, it seems that SPEED is doing the heavy lifting once again.

Friday and Saturday, ESPN will be deeply involved in Little League Baseball coverage. There will also be tennis and soccer coverage on the air while SPEED handles live on-track session after session from Watkins Glen.

Unlike FOX and TNT, there will never be a reporter, host or analyst on the ESPN staff shared with SPEED for this support coverage. Like it or not, ESPN sometimes appears to be a network that shows up for the race and leaves when it is over.

Fortunately, there is real potential for this weekend's mix of practice, qualifying and racing to produce some of the best NASCAR TV of the season. If Feinberg and his crew stay focused, the network might come away from the Glen with the best momentum ESPN's NASCAR coverage has enjoyed in years.

We invite your comments on reactions to Feinberg's comments and also on the SPEED coverage from Watkins Glen on Friday. The complete TV schedule is on the left side of this page. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ESPN's Odd Man Out

On a weekend where three races dominated the headlines, a little blurb of TV news still has NASCAR fans and media members talking.

Jack Roush answered a post-race question in Iowa about tension between star driver Carl Edwards and young gun Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Nationwide Series. Roush said he would control it this season, but next year it would not be an issue.

"I think he's (Carl) made his decision," said Roush. "I think he is going to become a sportscaster for ESPN for the Nationwide Series races. I'm not sure if he is going to just do the companion races or all the races."

When veteran reporter Bob Pockrass from contacted ESPN, the network spokesman said he had "nothing to announce" about the topic at this time. That's a pretty good indication that Roush was right on the money.

When ESPN opens each season with the Nationwide Series race in Daytona, the network has eleven on-air voices. Three announcers are up in the TV booth and four reporters are on pit road. There is a host and two analysts in the infield studio and of course, Tim Brewer in the Tech Garage.

During the season when one on-air personality takes a vacation there is simply a little switch of roles and the show goes on. Since 2007, ESPN has built up a group of approximately twenty on-air talent who work on race telecasts.

Last weekend was a great example of the depth of personalities. Marty Reid, Ricky Craven and Kenny Schrader worked the Iowa race with Jim Nobile, Rick DeBruhl and Shannon Spake on pit road.

Meanwhile, the 2011 starting line up of Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree called the Sprint Cup Series race in Pocono. Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty manned the infield pit studio. The four pit reporters were Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

All of this raises a very interesting question where Roush's recent Iowa remarks about Edwards are concerned. It's not likely that ESPN is going to put four men in the booth, use Edwards as a fifth pit reporter or squeeze a fourth person into the infield studio.

The bottom line is that in order for Edwards to join the team, someone has to go.

It's very doubtful that Dale Jarrett will be moved from the booth. Jarrett and Bestwick are ESPN's NASCAR TV future for the next several years. The other former driver on the team, Wallace, just had his contract extended by ESPN until 2014.

Petree and Brewer both bring to the table a veteran crew chief perspective that Edwards lacks. That leaves only one person in the mix. Is Daugherty the odd man out for ESPN next season?

It's been an awkward TV role for Daugherty since Bestwick christened him the "Voice of the fans" years ago. Daugherty is a cheerleader for the sport who speaks in politically correct generalities. Since he became a Sprint Cup Series owner, his comments are even more generic and his role has lessened.

Daugherty came to this NASCAR on ESPN TV package with an agenda. He and NASCAR chairman Brian France co-founded NASCAR's Diversity Council several years ago.

"Brian said to me that the cultural impact of this is huge and I think that's what intrigued me the most," Daugherty told in 2006. "I thought that if I don't step up and take this opportunity, who will? It probably wouldn't be another African-American. So I felt some responsibility as well as being a big racing fan who loves the sport."

These days, the color of Daugherty's skin makes little difference to TV viewers. Last year, ESPN's struggles to provide compelling Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series telecasts resulted in an emergency meeting with NASCAR in Charlotte, NC.

ESPN has spent the last four seasons featuring the Nationwide Series until late July when the network's Sprint Cup Series coverage begins. Shortly after that, the Nationwide telecasts are unceremoniously sandwiched between two college football games in a timeslot that usually guarantees the pre-race show will never see the light of day.

Suddenly, the series gets lip service from disinterested announcers on a TV network completely in a stick-and-ball frenzy over college and pro football. Since 2007 the Nationwide Series has been thumped over the head with a TV hammer by ESPN from September through November. It's affected the sponsors, the ratings and the sport in general.

Arriving at Daytona in 2012 along with Carl Edwards will be Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana. The Nationwide gang is betting on Patrick and Pastrana to bring the media focus back to a series that has long been ignored by TV networks, including the one telecasting the races.

It should be fascinating to see how ESPN positions Edwards for Daytona and if a member of the existing on-air team steps aside to make room for him. Once Edwards puts on his TV hat, it will also be interesting to see how Nationwide Series drivers, team owners and TV viewers react to his opinions and analysis.

As an ESPN NASCAR analyst, Edwards will still be a full time Sprint Cup Series driver who is closely associated with one manufacturer and employed by a major team that continues to race in the Nationwide Series. That's a tough sell.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Monday, August 8, 2011

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Pocono On ESPN

Sheriff Andy Taylor is going to come over and investigate as soon as he is done fishing. Time goes by slowly in some places and certainly Pocono is one of them. Almost everyone agrees this race is too long, the track is pretty boring and making good TV is a challenge.

Sheriff Taylor investigates issues without a gun and by simply talking to people about their problems. Despite a good management structure, Pocono has been having a rough time of it for several years. It's off the beaten path and simply is not producing the type of racing that fans want to see.

Mayberry had a cast of memorable characters and Pocono does as well. It just seems that time and time again it's a tough sell to fans. This weekend, a truck series hauler knocked down the flagstand during the load-in process. That's just Pocono.

Nicole Briscoe quickly found herself in the middle of a TV mess during the pre-race show. The TV signal is sent from Pocono back to ESPN. A room called Master Control mixes that signal with commercials and sends that finished program feed out for the viewers.

Right after going on air, ESPN's Master Control experienced an equipment failure that resulted in the inability to switch-in commercials. Unfortunately, it left ESPN's Pocono crew awkwardly without direction and on the air nationwide. Briscoe kept her composure throughout the hour while the Bristol team changed facilities and finally got things ironed-out.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are having a tough time. Rusty's comments are often head-scratching while Daugherty is now just a loud cheerleader. These two are sometimes more comical than informative. That is not their intended role.

Allen Bestwick has made the lap-by-lap issue for ESPN go away completely. The information is passed along, the exciting issues are described that way and the sense of having someone in charge on the air has been restored.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree knew going in that the field was going to be strung-out under green and that they would have to work hard to keep the viewers interested. Combined with Bestwick, the team put in a strong effort to keep the conversation flowing and point out the racing on the track. It was not an easy task.

Tim Brewer was a non-issue, but the pit reporters had to earn their money during an extended rain delay. Lots of interviews were done that ranged from outstanding to excruciating. In the infield, Briscoe got everything she could from Wallace and Daugherty. The TV team filled about 90 minutes.

The second chunk of racing quickly resembled the first. Intense on restarts until the tires started to fade and things became single-file once again. Pocono is a different kind of experience for teams and fans.

ESPN made good pictures in the weather conditions. Dual-stream in-cars were not utilized to their potential, but the director stayed wider than usual and showed multiple cars on camera shots. That really made a difference as the race went on.

Bestwick did a good job of bringing the race home with all the excitement one can muster for Pocono. At the finish, ESPN stayed wide and showed the leaders battling to the finish off the final corner. A basic post-race was done since NASCAR was over the scheduled timeslot.

This post will serve to host your race telecast wrap-up comments on the ESPN telecast. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Pocono (ESPN - 12PM)

Rain is an issue as ESPN heads into another Sprint Cup Series telecast. Nicole Briscoe will host from the Infield Pit Studio. Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace will be alongside.

Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree from the TV booth. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dr. Jerry Punch are the pit reporters.

Bestwick made a big difference in the last telecast. Information gaps were gone, the commentary was smooth and all things were put into a veteran's perspective. It was like having a good referee in a basketball game. You never knew he was there.

ESPN's issues continue to be what battles to highlight, easing back on the promotion of other events and figuring out how to handle the finish. Those topics may have been discussed in meetings this week.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Pocono Raceway. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below.

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks From Pocono (9AM - SPEED)

Update: Truck Series race will be live on SPEED at 9AM weather permitting. Here is the resumtion of the original live blog.

The rain is threatening at Pocono while the Camping World Trucks are trying to get their race in at this track with no lights.

Krista Voda starts the pre-race show with Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler as the reporters. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will call the race.

Kevin Harvick is on the pole. Hopefully, the trucks will put on a good show. This track is just not the kind that is meant for truck racing. It's too big, too fast and results in little real racing. A series designed for short-tracks is one again racing out of its element.

Rain would be tough for this series as Sunday is not an option for making up the race since the track has no lights and the Cup race will run until at least 4PM ET. Hopefully, the trucks can keep it green and get the race in as scheduled.

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