Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday TV/Media News And Notes

Here are some items crossing the news desk here at the Worldwide Headquarters in North Cuba:

Hermie Sadler is returning to SPEED in 2012 working pit road for the truck series and also doing other at-track programs. Sadler was informed he would not be returning to the RaceDay program earlier this year, but no replacement for that role has yet been named by the network.

Sadler informed us that his new deal is two years with SPEED. He is expected to work on NASCAR Live, qualifying and practice shows for SPEED on the weekends.

The city of Charlotte, NC has been working hard on a deal to lure Chiquita Brands to the Queen City. Now, the deal has been done but not without a very unique twist.

"The company has been looking for about 150,000 square feet of office space and is expected to make the 19-story NASCAR Plaza office tower uptown its headquarters building, according to real estate sources. They say the 19-story property at South Caldwell and East Stonewall streets could be rebranded as part of the lease agreement." That from the Charlotte Business Journal. Click here for the story.

As many readers know, NASCAR has struggled to avoid foreclosure on the NASCAR office tower and the Hall of Fame that are essentially one big building on a plaza in the downtown area.

Chiquita headquarters is currently a large office building in Cincinnati, OH. It is called the Chiquita Center.

The permanent fixtures currently in the office tower include the NASCAR Media Group on the lower floors, a radio studio used by SiriusXM NASCAR and a TV studio used by Showtime on the first floor. The top NASCAR execs enjoy spectacular views from the top floor. It should be interesting to see just who moves where as the new major tenant comes to town.

NASCAR fans may soon be visiting the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the Charlotte Chiquita Center.

There was an update on extreme sports TV star Travis Pastrana this week from Bob Pockrass of Since Pastrana is the co-owner of his Nationwide Series team with Michael Waltrip Racing, he will be racing around his other scheduled commitments. Pockrass says that will leave Pastrana running in approximately 20 Nationwide Series races next season.

This is the final week for RaceHub on SPEED this season. Steve Byrnes has just finished his second season of hosting the program. SPEED is to be commended for keeping an hour-long NASCAR news and interview series on the air even as ESPN backs off NASCAR Now.

SPEED has confirmed that RaceHub will return in 2012. The series will take December off and return in mid-January probably around the time testing resumes. Hopefully, the network will return the show to a 7PM ET airing with a 9PM Pacific re-air.

In an odd twist, it was Sprint Cup Series champ Tony Stewart at a NASCAR industry marketing function who announced that NASCAR and SiriusXM radio had extended their agreement for an additional five years. This means that through the 2016 season SiriusXM will be the exclusive satellite radio provider for all three of NASCAR's national touring series.

The down side is that the online stand-off between Sirius and Turner Sports, the holder of all online audio rights to NASCAR, continues. Turner wants payment in order to allow the SiriusXM NASCAR channel to be streamed online in the existing player that carries other SiriusXM channels. There was no news released on that issue with the announcement of the contract extension.

During the same function, veteran TV executive CJ Olivares made a point about NASCAR TV during a panel discussion. Olivares is now coordinating NASCAR's West Coast marketing activity. He said it is important for NASCAR to get more documentary-style TV shows on the air.

As we have often said on this blog, that is the only way for both existing and potential fans to experience the sport away from the racing. There is simply no way to develop the personalities of the drivers and other characters in the sport without support from NASCAR's existing TV partners.

There was a time when SPEED was the home to a very strong group of just that type of program presented on Monday nights after the long-running This Week in NASCAR show. With TWIN basically replaced by RaceHub, SPEED has yet to develop any additional NASCAR programming and the network's new TV projects ordered for 2012 do not include any NASCAR series.

Right now, it is shaping up to be a tough off-season for NASCAR TV and this is a big issue. The NASCAR Media Group cannot stream any long-form programming online due to the Turner rights issues.

It's amazing that once SPEED goes dark after the banquet, it will only be YouTube and other online video services that take care of the fan base during the off-season. There is something seriously wrong with this situation.

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Reading Material

It's time for Americans to get up early, head out the door and shop till they drop. That leaves us non-shoppers with some time on our hands while we watch the chaos. Here is a look back at some of the more interesting posts on TDP recently that evoked reader comments. Click on the title to read the column.

ESPN Agenda Still Bothers Stewart (from November 15, 2011)

TV Ratings vs. TV Production (from November 9, 2011)

Media Watch: Jeremy Mayfield (from November 5, 2011)

NBC Sports Invades ESPN's Backyard (from October 27, 2011)

SPEED Takes Another Swing At "Trackside" (from October 21, 2011)

In Praise of Kenny Wallace (from October 14, 2011)

Still No Greenlights For NASCAR (from October 13, 2011)

New Cable TV Network Looks Familiar (from October 4, 2011)

Whether you are grinding it out at the mall, in line at the local big box store or simply have some time on your hands, hope that little flashback helps you through the holiday weekend. New columns start Monday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving My Friends

Taking some time today for family and friends. Hope that your holiday is also filled with good times. Stay safe and thanks for another (our 5th) amazing NASCAR season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday TV/Media News And Notes

The big TV news this week was the final numbers coming from the Nielsen TV ratings folks about the Sunday race. NASCAR Chase races have been holding steady just below the 4.0 cable rating level for years now. Thanks to Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards that all changed.

"With a peak audience of 10.5 million when the checkered flag fell on champion Tony Stewart at 8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN’s telecast of the Ford 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway averaged 6.7 million viewers and earned a 4.6 household coverage rating (4.0 U.S. rating), according to the Nielsen Company. The viewership average broke ESPN’s previous record of 6.6 million viewers for the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Final figures do not include a rain delay from 4:45-6 p.m." That from ESPN's PR folks.

Pretty nice way to end a season full of the same old complaints about coverage during the ESPN telecasts. It seems a tad ironic that a two-man battle involving drivers racing with respect topped last year's effort that involved lots of TV hype and personal sniping among competitors.

The other big story is the Tuesday afternoon apology issued by Kurt Busch to Dr. Jerry Punch and the NASCAR on ESPN team. Click here to view the video of Kurt after his car's transmission failed early in the race and he was waiting to be interviewed on TV. Be aware that it contains profanity and is not suitable for youngsters.

"In my frustration with the loss of my transmission early in the race, I let my emotions get the better of me," said Busch. "I regret having done this and apologize to the sponsors of Penske Racing, to NASCAR, its fans, to the media and in particular, Dr. Jerry Punch."

Punch has been in tougher situations in the garage than having a driver throwing some poorly chosen profanities around for effect. ESPN acknowledged the apology and things will move on. Social media, in this case YouTube, once again playing a role in a NASCAR incident.

Speaking of ESPN, spokesman Andy Hall has confirmed that NASCAR Now will be returning next season. There are no details yet about in what format or timeslot, but it's clear after being pushed to mid-afternoon and having the later re-air cancelled the series needs some help. We will keep you posted.

Many fans asked why ESPN flew Tony Stewart to Bristol, CT on Monday and then did not have a final NASCAR Now show of the season. That is a great question. Instead, Stewart did some interviews on stick and ball shows and then hung a banner before departing. With three years left in the current NASCAR TV contract, perhaps someone at ESPN might make a note of this issue.

Here is a little DVR alert. The Sprint Cup Series race from Homestead re-airs on SPEED at noon ET on Wednesday in a three hour timeslot. That one is a keeper.

We are working with SPEED to find out future plans for the RaceHub program. It will continue next week at 6PM Monday through Thursday. Hopefully, there will be a holiday break and then it will pick right back up. Info on talent assignments was supposed to be out this week, but it looks right now like next week will be the time to find out who is going where.

The Camping World Truck Series schedule is finally out. There are only 22 races and both Richmond and IRP in Indy are not on the list. Rockingham will host a race and the series will wind-up in Homestead for a finale. Looks like a tough year for trucks coming up. We are waiting to see if Michael Waltrip's FOX duties will change SPEED's on-air truck series line-up for next year.

Click here for a great article by Karen Hogan on Bill France Jr. as he is an inductee for the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. The late NASCAR chief was a colorful character who saw the sport through a period of amazing growth.

Tuesday night I participated in a podcast with Ken Fang of and Keith Thibault of talking about NASCAR TV. Click here for the link page, the podcast will appear at the top of the page when it is posted. Thanks to those two for inviting me.

We invite your comments on any of these topics. If you have a question about the NASCAR media or TV, ask it. We will try to get everything wrapped-up before the Thanksgiving break. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Boo Heard Around The World

To some folks in the news business, it did not matter that Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards put on a great show. The tension of the final laps, the tight points race and the great sports TV pictures were pushed aside.

Many mainstream media members, online news sites and international publishers had struck gold long before the first lap was in the books.

It was supposed to be a quick stop for First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in Homestead on Sunday. Just a visit with the families of military service members who had been invited to the track for the final race. Obama and Biden would then join in with some of the children at the gathering to give the starting command.

The appearance was part of the "Joining Forces" program that encourages Americans to support military families going through the hardship of having loved ones on deployment. There were five thousand active and retired military and their families at the race. It certainly seemed like a good idea.

Click here and take your pick of sources to see the NASCAR fans in the grandstands boo Obama when she was introduced with the children to give the starting command.

This blog is not about politics, political parties or debating freedom of speech. Save your comments on those topics. We watch the media happenings in and around NASCAR.

What we are discussing is the viral spread of less than one minute of NASCAR-themed video around the world. Instead of a smiling and happy Tony Stewart, many media outlets chose the Obama booing video to distribute.

At first, this might seem harmless to the sport. It's just a video snippet of some folks choosing to express themselves on one topic when actually another is the one being celebrated.

But in today's world, the media can't help but add-on to the story. Since Obama did nothing but stand there, guess who took the hit for this one? That's right, it was the NASCAR fans and the sport.

The New York Daily News: "NASCAR fans revved up the boos for Michelle Obama and Jill Biden at the car-racing league’s season-ending event in Florida."

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia): "Further signs of the polarisation of American politics was evident at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday when the First Lady and vice-president's wife were booed by the crowd at the NASCAR season finale."

The Guardian (England): "NASCAR is a good old southern sport dreamed up in Florida in the 1930's. It's a sport whose viewing audience is almost entirely made up of white Southerners and the soundtrack is country music and hard rock."

Los Angeles Times: "NASCAR officials downplayed reports that Michelle Obama faced a hostile reception at the Sprint Cup finale in Florida on Sunday, despite the sounds of booing heard during the live television broadcast."

In today's world of specialized new media interests, there were plenty of personalities who took it upon themselves to interject.

Rush Limbaugh (Syndicated Radio): "The NASCAR crowd doesn’t quite understand why when the husband and the wife are going to the same place, the First Lady has to take her own Boeing 757 with family and kids and hangers-on four hours earlier than her husband, who will be on his 747. NASCAR people understand that’s a little bit of a waste. They understand it’s a little bit of uppity-ism.”

Jay Busbee (Yahoo! Sports): "This is not about politics. This is not about free speech. This is about being enough of an American, whoever you are, to recognize that we should hold ourselves to some higher standards in our public life. You just harmed the image of NASCAR worse than anything that Obama ever could have done."

Terrance Harris (BET): "NASCAR has for years claimed it gets a bad rap as a conservative hillbilly outfit where the Confederate flag flies as a symbol of racial divide. And then those who support NASCAR go out and prove those who believe as much right."

This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic. Basically, what we have here is a wonderful example of just how an unintended media event overshadowed what many of us consider to be a historic one. I live about 2 hours north of the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Our local TV news featured the booing video, but none of the stations showed even a moment of race footage on Monday.

Speaking of Monday, the Obama's hosted a night of country music at the White House that included Dierks Bentley and Allison Kraus. Perhaps used to just this kind of media issue, it seems the first couple have moved on. The performances were recorded and will be aired Wednesday night on PBS and later this week on American Forces Network for military personnel.

What's left behind after this mess is more work for NASCAR's new Integrated Marketing Communications team (IMC) to get out there and make some noise about this championship outside of the motorsports media. The IMC gang has a little over two months to turn the actions on the track into public relations gold off of it.

In a sport splintered by four TV networks with different agendas, the official NASCAR website in disarray and a shrinking media corps, the task of erasing the perception that drunken rednecks booed a black First Lady standing with the children of soliders might take a little bit of work.

It should be interesting to see in 2012 just how many politicians are involved in NASCAR pre-race activities and who is asked to be the Grand Marshal of the upcoming Daytona 500. What a fascinating 24 hours in media land.

We invite your comments on how the media used this story and where you saw it. Please avoid political comments, this is a media blog and we are just watching the ongoing NASCAR media happenings. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Race Wrap: ESPN In Homestead

Sometimes, the reality matches the script. ESPN could not have asked for a better scenario than the battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that featured both contenders in the pit studio. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were joined by ESPN reporter Marty Smith for a portion of the hour.

Features were mixed with interviews. ESPN paid a lot of attention to Jimmie Johnson, a driver the network romanced for many years. While Edwards is an ESPN favorite, it is no secret that Stewart does not enjoy ESPN's approach to the sport.

The race was called by Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Early on, Kurt Busch exploded his transmission and a piece punctured the radiator of Stewart. Despite many camera views, ESPN did not have a replay.

This got the team off-balance as hyper-tight shots returned and ESPN was plagued by caution flags happening in commercial break. Since the Nonstop format did not start until halfway, there was a lot of replays used to show viewers what was going on.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch got a chance to do some bonus interviews when a red flag stopped the race for a rain shower. Despite the fact that almost all of the ESPN personalities are on Twitter, there was no interaction with fans during the delay.

The restarts resulted in some wild action that ESPN followed with aerial shots and wide camera shots for one or two laps. Then, the familiar pattern followed of showing only one or two cars in the camera view at a time. Incidents were replayed and the announcers often sounded frustrated when what they were describing was not what viewers were watching.

With under 100 laps to go, another caution for rain scattered the field and put distance between Edwards and Stewart. Bestwick is a master at working through those kinds of issues and took his time to explain who was where and why. This is exactly the problem the network had with Marty Reid.

Edwards and Stewart both had radio contact with ESPN. Jarrett was outstanding in keeping his conversations short and to the point. Gas mileage became an issue and it took a lot of talk to figure out what was actually going on.

NASCAR really needed a fresh and new storyline and it was delivered. This kind of Homestead excitement will attract the mainstream media and get NASCAR exposed on lots of outlets Monday that may not normally report on the sport.

The race restarted with slightly less than 40 laps to go, ESPN got the job done with coverage as the race narrowed down to the top two cars. Ultimately, the action on the track for the first time in a long time pushed any concern about the TV coverage aside. ESPN simply had to follow the unfolding reality.

ESPN made good pictures, great sound and once again delivered a telecast free of technical problems. Early in the race, the network pulled the lower third sports ticker and left it out for the rest of the championship event. There were several special effects tried with special graphics and in-car cameras, but ultimately it was just cameras aimed at two cars fighting for the championship.

The finish line coverage focused on the championship after a solid final lap call from the TV booth. The top three cars were shown crossing the line and sound from both contenders was used. One of the hardest thing in sports broadcasting is knowing when not to talk and Bestwick did a superb job in the moments after the race.

Little interviewed Edwards post-race and Punch handled Victory Lane and the presentation of the championship. It's always awkward, but Stewart finally showed some emotion with Punch in a very open and honest interview the kind that NASCAR just loves. Somehow, the final rain shower made for a fitting ending to a historic day.

We invite your comments on the final Sprint Cup Series race coverage on ESPN. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for hanging with us all season, we will be updating every day with NASCAR TV and media information. There are plenty of things about to be announced next week, so check back with us please.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Homestead (ESPN - 2PM)

Here we go! The big finale is on the TV from Homestead. ESPN has 72 cameras, 16 in-cars and tons of announcers. The script is written, but the big question is will reality let it happen?

Nicole Briscoe has Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty in the Infield Pit Studio. Upstairs it's Allen Bestwick with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. On pit road is Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Vince Welch.

This is ESPN's biggest NASCAR telecast in years. The nation is watching two veteran drivers, teams and manufacturers end the season in a head-to-head battle.

We have discussed all year long the issues with "hyper-tight" coverage. The challenge today for ESPN is to maintain the integrity of the race telecast while keeping viewers updated on the Chase.

There is little more to say. This is the ultimate pressure cooker for a sports TV telecast.

This post will serve to host your comments on the final NASCAR race of 2011. To add your TV-related opinions, just click on the comments button below. Thanks you so much for taking the time once again to join us.

Long Day's Journey To Green Flag

Sunday's NASCAR TV action starts with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. This leads a blitz of 4.5 hours of pre-race programming. That total does not include ESPN's own one-hour NASCAR Countdown show.

Mike Massaro kicks things off with Ricky Craven from the ESPN studios in Bristol, CT at 9AM. Craven has been wonderful this season in a variety of roles, it should be interesting to see what ESPN does with him next year. Marty Smith and Shannon Spake are in Homestead. Smith has been shadowing Tony Stewart while Spake drew Carl Edwards as an assignment.

Adam Alexander and Ray Evernham are next with Speed Center on SPEED at 10:30AM. There will be tons of SPEED personalities joining them via liveshot from Homestead. It seems every on-air talent who could find a reason headed for Florida.

The Big Kahuna is next as SPEED unleashes three hours of mind-numbing RaceDay programming. John Roberts is the ringmaster for a show that has two different sets and nine on-air talent mixing with the many scheduled guests. We don't call it the Super Wal-Mart of NASCAR TV for nothing!

Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace will be on one stage while Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be on another set located in the infield. Wendy Venturini, Hermie Sadler and Rutledge Wood will be the reporters.

The sad news in all of this is that Hermie Sadler is leaving RaceDay after this program. The network will announce on-air changes next week, but Sadler has been a solid addition to the program for the last several years. SPEED has been making some rather strange staffing changes recently, it should be interesting to see who steps into that role.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Ms. Biden will be at the track, so that means increased security and certainly a more hectic time for teams already dealing with the many visitors and headaches that a big season-ending race brings.

It's a bittersweet time for many of the NASCAR teams as well. Two top Sprint Cup Series teams are losing a car for next year and at this moment it appears the two-car Red Bull team is also closing it's doors. It is pretty certain there will be a significant number of folks working on Sunday who may be unemployed on Monday.

This post will serve to host your comments as the pre-race shows zoom by. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

The weather is holding up and the track is fast. Early camera views show the track is amazingly empty of fans. Hopefully, they are out enjoying some food and the scenery around the track and will head for the grandstands shortly.

Nicole Briscoe has been wrestling with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty all season long. Wallace is sometimes brilliant and sometimes embarrassingly off the mark. Daugherty is a NASCAR cheerleader who stays on message and adds very little in terms of opinions about the week to week happenings in the sport. Briscoe has done a very good job keeping both of them in check and focused.

The Nationwide Series race has a diverse group of teams and drivers. There is also a diverse group of goals. Some are simply in for the win, others for the season points and still others for the experience and exposure. It's going to be interesting.

Danica Patrick has faded from view, but she has lots of open wheel experience on this track. It should be interesting to follow just how much TV time ESPN gives her in the pre-race show. The network is banking on Patrick to save the series in 2012 when she runs full time.

Marty Reid is finishing out a bittersweet season for him. Removed from the Sprint Cup Series coverage on ESPN only days before it started, Reid is doing his final NASCAR telecast for the year and perhaps for a lot longer than that. Bestwick has been solid in his role and since ESPN only does Nationwide series telecasts up to July, Reid's future plans may be changing shortly.

Reid will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. ESPN once again this season did not bring in two other analysts for the Nationwide Series races once the Cup coverage began. This leaves Jarrett and Petree to do the vast majority of the prep work for the Cup events, but then still have to handle the live Nationwide Series telecasts.

Imagine if ESPN has brought in Ricky Craven and Randy LaJoie for these races. Something to make the series different from just being a AAA Baseball version of the Cup telecasts. With only three seasons remaining for ESPN, it's doubtful things will change.

Jamie Little had some interesting moments last race with driver interviews. She is back on pit road today along with Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. There are sometimes hot tempers in the final race, especially after incidents on the track. Keep an eye on how ESPN uses the pit reporters today.

Homestead was wonderful on TV Friday night as SPEED produced the Camping World Truck Series race. TV viewers saw clumps of trucks, wideshots of the track and kept a perspective of just who was where. That is the challenge today for the ESPN team.

This post will serve to host your comments on the TV coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Homestead-Miami Speedway. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below. Thanks as always for adding your voices to our conversation this season about the NASCAR TV partners.

Live Blogging SPEED In Homestead Saturday

The rain changed a lot of things on Friday and the result was a quick rescheduling of Sprint Cup Series practice. SPEED has added two sessions at 9:30 and 11:30AM ET in addition to the Nationwide and Cup qualifying coverage already scheduled. This means a big day for SPEED leading up to the Nationwide Series race at 4PM on ESPN2.

On this final race weekend, SPEED has a habit of dusting off Darrell Waltrip and returning him to the track. Saturday, he will work both Sprint Cup Series practice sessions with Larry McReynolds and Mike Joy.

There are a lot of stories unfolding and several that may develop into headline news as the series heads into the final race. Crew chief rumors, secret fines and the potential loss of the entire Red Bull organization may slightly overshadow the Chase on Saturday.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have been fun to watch and professional in their approach to almost all of the media this week. It should be an interesting transition for them to go from the familiar faces of the SPEED reporters on Saturday to the over-hyped world of ESPN on Sunday.

Saturday should be all about serious on-track business for most teams as the weather has not allowed them track time to this point. There is a lot on the line not only for this year, but for 2012 when it comes to this final race.

Rick Allen gives the FOX crew a break when he calls Nationwide Series qualifying with Jeff Hammond and Phil Parsons at 1PM. Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds return for Cup qualifying at 2:30PM. It will be interesting to see if Mother Nature allows all this to happen.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Saturday day shift coverage on SPEED. To add your TV-related question, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

ESPN's Homestead Battle Plan

Sunday is a big day for the Worldwide Leader. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have delivered the kind of fan-friendly Chase for the Championship that the sport has needed.

Both drivers will be at a Thursday afternoon press conference for a final Chase update. SPEED will break into a re-air of last Saturday's Nationwide Series race at 1PM ET and carry the press conference live. No word if ESPNEWS will also have coverage.

What ESPN does these days is big things. Lots of big things. The network announced this week that a total of 72 cameras will be deployed at Homestead on Sunday. The usual compliment of equipment will be supplemented with some special bells and whistles.

An "iso cam" is a camera that is used full time for only one purpose. When producing an NFL game, the producer has a couple of designated "iso cams." As the offensive team breaks the huddle, the producer will say "Iso-1 number 88, Iso-2 number 44." He is telling the "iso-cam" camera operators the jersey numbers of the players he wants "isolated" on that play.

That is how TV gets those cool replays of just one player at a time. After you see the wide receiver make a great catch live, you suddenly find yourself seeing a replay of just him running his route from start to finish. You may wonder just how TV did that. Well, he had an "iso cam" on him for that play.

Sunday in Homestead ESPN will have two high camera platforms above the speedway. One "iso cam" will stay with Stewart and another will stay with Edwards from start to finish. That will give ESPN the opportunity to show the race while also keeping a full time eye on the championship contenders.

Meanwhile, back in the garage there is also something going on. Both Edwards and Stewart are going to get additional "iso cams" in their garage stalls. Operated robotically (like the in-car cameras) viewers will be able to get an overhead shot of the teams at work during live practice coverage as well as any crisis repairs that happen as a result of an incident or equipment failure during the championship race.

I don't know if they flipped a coin to decide, but ESPN reporters Shannon Spake and Marty Smith drew the assignment of shadowing the two points leaders from the time they hit the ground on Thursday up through the green flag. Not surprisingly, Shannon will be with Edwards while Smith will spend the weekend with Stewart.

Edwards turned down the opportunity to be an in-race reporter, although his car will have an in-car camera unit with many different angles. It will be Stewart speaking with Dale Jarrett before and during the race in that capacity. Stewart will also be carrying an in-car camera set-up.

This year Allen Bestwick will be in the TV booth for ESPN. That means he cannot be down on the finish line stage to conduct the championship interview and be the TV host for the Sprint Cup trophy presentation. Instead, it will be Dr. Jerry Punch handling those duties. His college football sideline reporting skills may come in handy for this assignment.

Finally, for the first time there is some real innovation in the TV coverage of the sport that is about to pay-off. The RaceBuddy application over at that is free to any Internet or smart phone user will be on during the race. Six in-car cameras with team radio audio will be combined with a backstretch and pit road cam.

ESPN will also once again be using the ESPN Nonstop commercial format for the second half of the race. This is the first step toward integrating commercial content without interrupting the action. The race continues to be seen on a video box while the commercial airs in another on the same screen.

There have been a lot of changes since ESPN last came to Homestead. This is a perfect opportunity to end the season on a high note with a solid race telecast. The equipment, manpower and storyline is in place. As usual in sports TV, it's just a matter of putting the pieces together in a way that keeps the fans watching.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

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

It's been a mess today in Homestead due to rainy weather. The day had most sessions scrubbed, but the truck race looks to be happening on time as the jet dryers are working hard and the rain has stopped.

Krista Voda starts the best pre-race show on TV with The Set-up. No hype, no fancy set and nothing but information. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are the reporters who join Voda for this program and then work the race.

Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Micheal Waltrip are going to call the final race. These three have a unique chemistry. Waltrip can be a solid third guy in the booth, but if he gets too excited and loud he can ruin the entire telecast. We will see which Waltrip shows up tonight.

The trucks series TV teams kicks it old school. The telecasts are cut very wide, let the fans see packs of trucks and continues to be the best live NASCAR TV presentation. It's easy to watch because the SPEED team knows racing.

If the rain stays away, it could be a fun night of racing on SPEED. As always, we appreciate your comment on the SPEED telecast. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Busy Friday Of NASCAR TV

There will be lots of TV coverage from Homestead and beyond before the Camping World Trucks race on Friday night. The full TV schedule is on the left side of this page.

Latest news is that Brad Keselowski was fined 25K by NASCAR for his comments about the new Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) system being developed for Sprint Cup Series cars. Keselowski's opinion was that the entire thing was a sham promotion and not effective in changing the sport in any way other than increased cost to teams.

"We made it clear to him that these kind of comments are detrimental to the sport and we handled it accordingly with him,” said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp in a media statement.

That just might be a topic for Mike Massaro and Ricky Craven on a special edition of NASCAR Now on ESPN at noon. This show follows an hour of Camping World Truck Series practice over on SPEED. Craven has been on the money with his comments and this has really been a breakout season for him as an analyst.

ESPN2 hosts back-to-back Nationwide and Sprint Cup practice sessions at 1:30 and 3PM next with Marty Reid and Allen Bestwick leading the TV teams. SPEED is next and keeps the TV ball right up through the truck race at 8PM.

One highlight of the day is the return to the air of the NASCAR on FOX trio of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds for Sprint Cup Series practice. After this long off the air, you know Waltrip is going to have a lot to say.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Friday daytime TV coverage. Feel free to add your comment on the production, personalities or content. If you have a question, post it in the comments and we will get it answered ASAP. This is a big weekend for the sport, we certainly appreciate your comments on the TV coverage.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Preliminary TV Overview For 2012

The last big TV change was Allen Bestwick stepping-in to take over the Sprint Cup Series races for ESPN only days before the coverage started. Tuesday, there was another item involving on-air personalities that caught our attention.

This tweet from SPEED's Hermie Sadler shortly before noon: "Bittersweet week for me as I prepare to do my last @racedayonspeed show this Sunday. Been a hell of a lot of fun."

In response, Kyle Petty offered: "You are still the man." Other TV production personalities echoed Petty's comment. It would seem that Sadler is indeed done with RaceDay for good.

Sadler has been working as a reporter on the series alongside Wendy Venturini for quite a while. Like Venturini, Sadler works well in the garage area. His past racing experience and easygoing personality allow him to maneuver through the tangled web of PR reps and high-profile personalities in the Sprint Cup Series.

SPEED also uses Sadler as a pit reporter on the truck series, a field reporter for NASCAR Live and in the TV booth for Nationwide Series practice and qualifying shows. It will be interesting to learn if Sadler is done just on RaceDay or across the board with SPEED.

As the final weekend of racing approaches, let's take a look at some of the things we know about the 2012 line-ups for the NASCAR TV partners in talent and programming.

FOX informed us a while back that Jeff Hammond was out of the Hollywood Hotel next season and driver and current multi-car owner Michael Waltrip was in. Hammond is moving to a "roving reporter" role says the network.

Both Waltrip brothers will become centerpieces in the NASCAR on FOX telecasts. This change resulted from the Waltrips working together on several NASCAR races carried on SPEED earlier in the year. Network execs apparently liked what they saw.

The rest of the NASCAR on FOX team should stay intact. This crew has been around a long time and the personalities and their roles are well defined.

TNT lost infield host Lindsay Czarniak, who moved to ESPN as a studio anchor after the summer race telecasts. The network still needs to fill that position, but the remainder of the crew including pit road newcomer Chris Neville should return.

It should be very interesting to see what ESPN does with Marty Reid. After being moved off the Sprint Cup Series races, Reid was left with the Nationwide Series and a handful of IndyCar races. When ESPN cranks back up for year six, it will probably be Bestwick in the TV booth at Daytona. Reid has a long history in both IndyCar and the NHRA. We should know how this issue shakes out after Christmas.

While the core of ESPN's team is set to return, the odd twist is Carl Edwards. Next season Edwards is rumored to be hanging-up his driving shoes on the Nationwide Series side and joining ESPN fulltime to work on the telecasts. His current owner Jack Roush let that cat out of the bag a while back.

As a driver, Edwards would be looking at two familiar faces already in place. Dale Jarrett currently works in the TV booth and Rusty Wallace in the infield studio. Wallace has been re-signed through 2014 and Jarrett is the face of NASCAR on ESPN. In fact, Wallace left the booth to make way for Jarrett several years ago. What slot Edwards might fill will not be disclosed until after Jan. 1.

The heart of SPEED's Camping World Truck Series team is poised to return. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Ray Dunlap have been the face of the series for years. Sadler was one of the pit reporters and Waltrip was the third man in the booth. We should know next week if Sadler's RaceDay departure and Waltrip's Hollywood Hotel deal will change things for 2012.

One rumor swirling right now is that NASCAR Now has been cancelled by ESPN. As most fans know, the show was moved from 5PM back to 3PM and the only re-air was cancelled a couple of months ago. ESPN2 has a new afternoon line-up and NASCAR was pushed to the back burner.

Nicole Briscoe lives in the Charlotte area and commutes to Bristol, CT for her hosting duties. Mike Massaro relocated to Connecticut fulltime and Monday show host Allen Bestwick continues to reside in his beloved Rhode Island. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

ESPN has a significant number of reporters and analysts who rely on this series for employment. The show is on six days a week and during the Chase races adds a one-hour wrap up show as well. The loss of this series due to basically logistical on-air issues would be tough for the sport.

Update: Thursday late afternoon ESPN advised that NASCAR Now will be returning for 2012 as a daily show with the same staff. Time of the series airing is not yet known. Good news for NASCAR fans, just need a better timeslot!

Even though SPEED moved RaceHub to 6PM, the network loves the show. Steve Byrnes and Danielle Trotta originate an hour of NASCAR-themed content Monday through Thursday. Almost all of the SPEED and FOX analysts appear and the series is dream for promotion of the network's agenda. Expect that lead duo to return.

It's been a grand experiment seeing Jimmy Spencer in his role as on-air curmudgeon. His RaceHub antics include the awarding of cigars and straight-jackets. His "Kurt Busch Radio Sweetheart" segment is hilarious. The question is, does the new production management team at SPEED feel the same way.

There is no information out about the return of Inside NASCAR on Showtime. This series is said to be under contract for another season, but the show has shrunk to thirty minutes and seems to be all about promoting the profanity on the team radios.

On a non-TV note, veteran reporter Dustin Long of the Landmark Newspaper chain is ending his role as a NASCAR beat writer after this weekend. Long is a past president of the National Motorsports Press Association and has been helpful with our efforts here for years. His company is eliminating his position. We wish him well and hope his next assignment is a great one.

There has been a lot of breaking news this week. Should any new information become available on additional on-air changes, we will update this post.

In the meantime, please feel free to offer your opinions on the personalities and programs listed above. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ESPN Agenda Still Bothers Stewart

It was just a post-race press conference after the Sprint Cup Series race in Phoenix on Sunday. The second and third place drivers were sitting on a stage with three chairs only feet away from the NASCAR media corps.

The laptops were buzzing as various media members asked questions that they would be including in online stories, radio updates and TV reports. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards looked tired, but both were very pleased they had continued the championship fight by finishing behind winner Kasey Kahne.

Shannon Spake currently is a utility player for ESPN. She works on NASCAR Now, is a part-time pit reporter and provides NASCAR news for various ESPN outlets like SportsCenter. Her question was different in tone from the previous media inquiries.

Spake: We watch you come in and sit down next to each other after battling on the track. What is it like to sit down and have to talk about your race and the Chase next to the guy you're battling?

Stewart: We've been doing this how long together? I mean, it's no different. Our demeanor isn't any different than we always are.

It's you guys and ESPN that loves to try to build that crap in between everybody. The total drama network, for sure. At least they're consistent about it.

Everybody at ESPN is consistent about it.

I don't see it being any different than normal. If you want, we can eliminate the chair, if that will make you feel better.

Edwards: We're good.

Stewart: I think that answers your question, though, doesn't it? Can you make sure everybody at ESPN understands that? Thank you.

Edwards: Thanks, Tony (laughter).

While the media session rolled on, one important thing to remember is that all of this was streamed live on as part of the normal post-race online feed. NASCAR fans on the Internet saw this as it happened.

It was the fall of 2007 when Stewart first clashed with ESPN over a perceived agenda of TV-driven hype and innuendo. His target was then NASCAR Now reporter David Amber, who had absolutely no motorsports experience. Amber tossed a loaded question to Stewart. It did not go well.

"If every time we do an interview you want to stand here and dig-up dirt, you might as well go and find somebody else because we will wait until you leave," said Stewart. "Do we always have to leave with a dagger in our back from ESPN? That's all I'm curious about." Click here to read the original TDP column from 2007.

Over the past few years, ESPN has assembled a solid group of reporters who work for NASCAR Now, ESPN the Magazine and the website. In stark contrast to these veterans, many other ESPN news and anchor personalities have to be literally force-fed NASCAR content.

Inside the live race telecasts, ESPN continues to juggle a complicated agenda. Norby Williamson, the executive in charge of both studio and remote production, emphasizes what he calls "storytelling" in event coverage. That has shifted the focus from catering to the hardcore fan to more of a hunt for stories within the race itself.

In 2008, both Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke out about ESPN's repeated use of a heated radio conversation between Stewart and then crew chief Greg Zipadelli moments after the Richmond Sprint Cup Series race.

What was shown to TV viewers and Internet users was the outburst, but not the apology that was offered minutes later. The video clip was used all over the ESPN TV networks and the website for days after the race.

"I think it's just poor taste by the networks and I'm seeing it too often," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., making reference to multiple problems this season.

"That's ESPN," said Stewart. "We've had a terrible relationship with ESPN for years. We've been very outspoken with them as a company about how they treat the drivers, treat the teams."

"They're a (TV) production team that wants to do everything they can to stir the pot up," continued Stewart. "It's no secret ESPN and I don't get along."

"Do they have a right to air it?" Stewart continued. "Absolutely. Trust me, if there's anything negative I do, ESPN is going to pick up on it and run with it every chance they get."

"That just shows you what's important to them (ESPN). It's not the positive things in the sport. They want to pick up on everything negative they can," said Stewart.

"It's taking it too far where they're putting those type of conversations on network television and it's getting the kind of press it's getting," said Earnhardt. "It looks terrible for Tony. (It was) heat of the moment. You're going to say things you regret and I'm sure he regrets saying what he said and maybe Zippy regrets coming back at him."

"It's just what angle do they (ESPN) want to work with and how they use that," Stewart said. "Should they or shouldn't they? I don't think it's right or wrong. I don't think right or wrong comes into play."

It's really about class...or the lack of it," said Earnhardt.
Click here to read the entire TDP column.

We recently saw Dr. Jerry Punch press a clearly embarrassed Joe Gibbs for a verdict on the continued employment of Kyle Busch when it was apparent a decision had not been made. Gibbs was gracious, but Punch kept chasing what was just not there.

This past weekend, Nationwide Series driver Jason Leffler halted pit reporter Jamie Little in her tracks after she skewed his words from a previous answer about his accident with Elliott Sadler. Little was trying to drive up the conflict level between the two, despite Leffler just having said the accident was his fault.

It's a fine line to walk between calling the race on TV and also trying to develop stories or pay-off topics set-up in the pre-race show. Jumping from the reality of simply racing and moving to the scripted agenda of conflict has not been the best mix.

As ESPN now heads into its final Sprint Cup Series race in year 5 of covering the sport, what is your opinion of the network's efforts to date? Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Additional story links on this topic:
Just how big is the Cup drivers vs. ESPN feud? (from 11/2/08)
The two faces of ESPN on display (from 9/14/08)
Why SportsCenter hates NASCAR (from 6/16/11)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Wrap: ESPN in Phoenix

The rain cleared out, the sun began to shine and the Chase was tight. It turned out to be a very nice day for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series telecast from Phoenix.

Nicole Briscoe led Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace through a pre-race show that featured three themes. They were the Chase, this race and Kyle Busch. The Chase got plenty of attention, the track condition was reviewed and finally both studio analysts gave their opinion on the Busch situation. It was interesting.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were in the TV booth. These three had plenty of action in the early going with accidents and incidents happening constantly on track. The early coverage was wide, informative and on target.

Shortly after halfway, ESPN returned to "hyper-tight" coverage where the announcers simply talk about the racing as if they are watching from home. Rarely did Bestwick call a lap like an announcer. Rather, he introduced topics that Jarrett and Petree then discussed.

Camera shots were changed to the single and double-car coverage that quickly lost any on-track perspective fans watching on TV had from earlier coverage. ESPN has a script and they went back to it. Despite flashes of groups of cars racing hard, the TV coverage went back to the leaders and the two top Chasers.

The booth announcers showed flashes of personalities and opinions when Brian Vickers wrecked Matt Kenseth on camera. It just so happened that the ESPN script had been focused on Kenseth at that time. This was the only outspoken moment of the race for Jarrett and Petree.

In this telecast, there were often five graphic bars and tickers on the screen offering all kinds of information for TV viewers. Sports scores, a NASCAR ticker, Chase points and race status were all on the screen at the same time. It had that CNBC feel when the stock markets are open.

Down the stretch, the TV team was just as out of gas as the cars. The event ended with an understated Bestwick talking in a monotone as Kasey Kahne won the race. For the final few segments, coverage consisted of single shots of the leader coupled with side-by-side video boxes of the crew chief.

Instead of slamming action on a single-groove track, it was a non-Chaser taking the race and the top two Chasers finishing second and third. Luckily, Kahne is a popular driver who is moving to a top team next season. It might have been the last time we ever see a Red Bull car win a race.

What ESPN misses is perspective. One comment on the live blog said it was the best race we never saw. Simply isolating on a car or two at a time removes any sense of speed, excitement or real racing action. It's just a shame that TV simply will not widen out, go to the best racing on the track and tell the stories of all the teams equally. That familiar refrain has fallen by the wayside once again.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from PIR on ESPN. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by and add your views.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Phoenix (ESPN 2PM ET)

It was a rough Saturday for ESPN in Phoenix. College football ran 35 minutes longer than scheduled, covering the entire Nationwide Series pre-race show. As this was the next to last race, you would think ESPN would have some plans in place, but nothing happened. ESPN2 joined shortly before the National Anthem and the race was on.

After Sam Hornish won, ESPN2 switched immediately to a college football game without any interviews, including the winner. Announcer Marty Reid told viewers that the entire post-race would be done on ESPNEWS. Eventually, the Hornish interview and one other was shown. It was not a stellar day for the only NNS TV partner.

Today, ESPN faces another challenge. It rained hard during the night and the weather forecast continues to call for an 80% chance of rain through 4PM. PIR has lights, so it could be a very long day on the air. There are no live program conflicts on ESPN tonight, so the race window can continue until NASCAR postpones until Monday.

Nicole Briscoe lost her pre-race show yesterday, but hosts an hour today with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Rusty's son Steven had quite a moment in the NNS race on Saturday. It should be interesting to see if that race is recapped.

Allen Bestwick is once again teamed with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. The single-groove track widened out in the Nationwide Series race to allow for passing and strategy. After the rain Saturday night, the newly-repaved track should be the topic of conversation.

Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns and Vince Welch are on pit road. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. Little had a rough outing Saturday, including a memorable interview with Jason Leffler. Punch has changed gears and tries to work his own agenda into interviews. Joe Gibbs and Elliott Sadler come to mind.

ESPN's producer and director made a decision to shrink the PIR Nationwide Series pictures sent to fans to a single car at a time. If there were two cars in the picture, it was tolerated. ESPN missed every incident but one and used replays to explain the happenings on the track.

If this approach is taken to the longer Cup race today, it may simply prove to be a reason for sports fans to switch to NFL games. Instead of selling the racing action, ESPN has followed the "storytelling" script where announcers talk overtop of the action as if they are watching a movie. It's very strange.

The new dogleg on the backstretch has given drivers the option of cutting low and then sliding up in front of those still on the track. This angle will have to be covered on every lap and it will be tough to do. Even getting the right replay angles recorded will be a challenge.

Once again ESPN has to cover the Chase, the race and Kyle Busch. In his first race back, Busch is racing without the M&M's sponsorship. The Chase now features only two participants and the race is absolutely anyone's to take.

Throw in the rain delays and this is going to be a very interesting race telecast. This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage from PIR today. To add your TV-related opinion, just click the comments button. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Phoenix (ESPN2 - 3PM)

The situation could not be worse for ESPN in Phoenix. Sunshine today has made the newly-paved single groove Phoenix International Raceway into an ice rink.

The start of the race and double-file restarts are going to be almost impossible. No drivers were able to run two-wide in any of the practice sessions. Despite being on the track alone, Nationwide qualifying was determined by who stayed on the rubber in the groove and who went high.

Nicole Briscoe opens things up at 3PM with NASCAR Countdown. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are alongside Briscoe in the Infield Pit Studio. The track is the big issue but other stories include the championship, Danica Patrick racing today and no Kyle Busch in the field.

Marty Reid is limping his way though this season of disappointment. He was removed from the Sprint Cup Series telecasts and replace by the infield host just days before the ESPN coverage began. He has two Nationwide Series telecasts remaining and his assignment for next season has not yet been revealed. He should have his hands full today.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are the color commentators. They are focused on the Sprint Cup Series, but ESPN refuses to bring in two other announcers for these final races. Petree continues his solid performance, while Jarrett waffles between outspoken and politically correct. It's been an interesting season for these two.

Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns are on pit road. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage. Expect Brewer to be on the spot for the track conditions and tire issues. The pit reporters may be very busy if this race becomes a crash-fest.

ESPN is going to have a tough time staying "hyper-tight" with the track problems. Anytime two cars are double-wide the cameras need to move in that direction. There is simply no way they will make it through the corner. In qualifying, we saw that sometimes one car could not navigate the turns at speed.

PIR is one of the tracks where a red flag is thrown quickly. The track has speed, but there are many locations were a two or three car incident will immediately block the track. NASCAR race control's radio will be live on today. Look for the Nationwide Series scanner link. You have to sign-in, but it's totally free.

This post will host your comments on the ESPN2 coverage of the Nationwide Series telecast from PIR today. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Friday, November 11, 2011

ESPN2's NASCAR Friday Could Be Kooky

It's really great that Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are in a Sprint Cup Series Championship fight. Unfortunately, that fight will not play-out until Sunday at the Phoenix International Raceway.

On Friday the only network live from the track will be ESPN2 with Sprint Cup Series practice coverage at 1:30 and 5:30PM ET. That means two two cracks at covering the biggest story of the weekend. Tony are Carl are not even on the radar.

Kyle and Samantha Busch may have hidden in Gomez and Morticia Adams costumes for Halloween this year, but there is literally nowhere to hide on Friday in Phoenix. Busch has to participate in both practice sessions and his recent run-in with NASCAR officials in Texas means every lap will be watched.

The news breaking on Thursday was that the M&M's sponsorship had been removed from the #18 car for PIR and Homestead. Busch will be behind the wheel, but the familiar Interstate Batteries colors will be on the car. Earlier in the day it was rumored that Busch being removed for those two races and would be replaced by Aric Almirola.

At 9:30PM on Thursday night, reporter Dustin Long from Landmark Newspapers tweeted that although M&M's would not be involved in the final two races this season, Joe Gibbs Racing had confirmed the company would return as Kyle Busch's sponsor in 2012.

This leaves the NASCAR on ESPN team a whole lot to talk about on Friday. This story has been very fluid, but finally seems to have settled down into something that makes sense. Of course, no one can predict what might happen to Busch in the garage or on the track in Friday's two Cup sessions. He is not in the Nationwide Series race.

The regular media availability for Busch will be 11:30AM ET on Friday. Normally, this is carried on the website. This is where the media gets to ask questions of the drivers before the events of the weekend. Check the front page of for the link.

That means ESPN will already have the basics of the story before the cars hit the track for the first TV session. It should be interesting to see if JGR chooses to have Busch, Joe Gibbs or his son JD do a one-on-one interview with ESPN as well.

This is a unique situation, having a driver who is active along with his wife on social media in this position. Kyle and Samantha talk regularly with fans on Twitter and Kyle is quite different in his conversations than the hot-head we witnessed wreck Ron Hornaday under caution.

Busch has been absent from social media for five days, his wife for two. This type of instant communication tool is key for the NASCAR teams, drivers and sponsors these days. It should be interesting to see what Busch, his wife and JGR tweet to the NASCAR fans on Friday.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Friday media coverage of the Kyle Busch story. Feel free to add your opinion of the coverage on the various NASCAR TV, radio and online outlets throughout the day. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TV/Media Question And Answer Session

It's getting down to that time of the year. Two more weekends of racing and then the whole thing starts over again before we know it.

As usual, there are lots of questions out there about the NASCAR TV partners and media issues associated with the sport. This is your time to ask them.

Here are some issues that have been asked about this week to start:

The current NASCAR TV contract runs through the end of the 2014 season. Negotiations on a new deal, possibly with new TV partners, will be done in 2012. We should know what TV networks will begin to televise the sport in 2015 by the end of next year.

There are currently no plans for NASCAR on FOX to offer side-by-side commercials or RaceBuddy for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series races.

The suggestion has been given that the Nationwide Series add a RaceBuddy application at and also stream post-race interviews live from the infield media center. We will keep you posted on that one.

Wednesday NASCAR announced Kid Rock will perform his hit "Born Free" to open the Dec. 2 Sprint Cup Series banquet at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.

Click on the comments button to ask your questions and we will try to get them answered on Thursday. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TV Ratings vs. TV Production

This past Sunday, ESPN's coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Texas Motor Speedway attracted 4.7 million cable TV viewers. The TV rating number attached to that is a 3.4 Household coverage rating. To most NASCAR fans, that doesn't mean a lot.

As Sprint Cup Series TV ratings trended up late this season, some folks tried to tie the network covering the events to the increase. The suggestion was that a higher rating was the result of good production of the race itself. While that might be good in theory, it has little basis in reality.

NASCAR TV ratings are simply a scientific method of trying to measure the number of viewers or households that tune-in to a live sports event. The Nielsen Media Research company is the primary source of audience measurement information in the US.

The term "Nielsen rating" is the number that results from a combination of set meters, devices attached to TV's that record viewing habits, and actual viewer diaries completed by selected households. That is a viewer diary pictured above.

The system is far from perfect. This from Wikipedia: "In 2009 of the 114.5 total million U.S. television households, only 25,000 (0.021% of the total) participated in the Nielsen daily metered system."

Click here to view the Nielsen website and get updates on the company trying very hard to use updated technology to chase more accurate ratings. Click here for an article from TV industry website Splitsider about just how off-base the entire ratings system may be in today's world.

Sprint Cup Series TV telecasts are exclusive. That means that NASCAR has delegated only one TV network for each race. In other words, the only TV choice for NASCAR fans is to tune-in to the designated network or not.

Three TV networks cover the points races in the Sprint Cup Series. FOX, TNT and ESPN combine to produce hundreds of hours of racing from venues across the country. Each network has its own approach to NASCAR and distinct style of producing sports telecasts.

FOX is over the top with hype. Darrell Waltrip is everyone's big brother, dad or grandpa depending on the age of the viewer. "Ole DW" will hype anything for money. Digger, the COT and even pothole repairs at Daytona have all received that treatment. Who can forget the many years of DW pushing the fact that Digger t-shirts were available at the website. All of that while the race was under green, of course.

FOX leans heavily on a corps of pit reporters and analysts who are TV heavyweights. Steve Byrnes and Krista Voda could easily interchange with Mike Joy and Chris Myers. Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond work every weekend on the NASCAR trail and earned their stripes. Waltrip's "act" works because the other FOX personalities can deliver the goods.

TNT banks on being the irreverent partner. Kyle Petty is encouraged to voice his not politically correct opinions while Wally Dallenbach is basically a NASCAR outsider. Adam Alexander is still new in his position while the veteran pit road reporters enjoy snarky inside jokes as part of the telecasts.

The Turner agenda is not about NASCAR. TNT's six races are simply a vehicle to promote the Turner cable TV networks programming line-up. Veteran viewers still cringe at Bill Engvall Show mentions and the fact that Kyra Sedgwick was The Closer is permanently burned into many brains. The racing might be fun to watch, but for TNT the goal is network programming promotion.

ESPN is a mess. Five years into the current Sprint Cup Series TV contract the lead announcer has been changed three times. The original producer was arrested, fired and never returned. The telecasts are as dry as toast and through it all Tim Brewer is still explaining that roof flaps don't let the cars flip over.

While ESPN is good at hype and promotion, this network's agenda is quite clear. It is an approach the executives call "storytelling." Topics are addressed in the pre-race show and then reviewed throughout the telecast. Rather than strictly focus on the race, ESPN continually goes back to a script it prepared and faithfully sticks to it.

These three NASCAR TV partners don't speak to each other, don't particularly like each other and are owned by major corporations in direct competition with each other. To say that a change in ratings is tied to the TV production by these three parties just does not fly.

The only storylines fans want are the ones that concern the racing on the track and the personalities of the drivers. Rivalries, feuds, danger and fast cars bring Americans to the TV set. No one cares if Joy, Alexander or Allen Bestwick is calling the lap as long as cars are at speed, the racing is good and a feud is boiling over.

The fundamental stance we have maintained since 2007 was that the role of TV in NASCAR is to simply show the viewers at home exactly the same thing the fans in the stands are watching. Click here to read the "NASCAR TV Bill of Rights" complete with some sensational reader comments.

Fans in the stands are watching the best racing on the track among the lead lap cars regardless of position. The current Sprint Cup Series TV partners have never gotten that message. FOX loves Junior, TNT loves themselves and ESPN loves Carl Edwards. It's a pretty simple equation.

The Sprint Cup Series races have been on TV since the early 1980's. The original idea was to simply point cameras at the racing and let announcers describe the action on the track. Fans tuned-in and the sport grew. Rivalries, danger and speed made the telecasts.

Today the Sprint Cup Series car, fuel mileage races and aero tracks with little passing have altered the dynamic that originally attracted TV viewers. It's a different product on the track. Tire choices on pit road have replaced the chrome horn. The race off pit road is often the key to the win.

Solid TV production is important, but ultimately NASCAR TV ratings are driven by the product on the track. That is one reason we have tried to maintain a healthy distance from the ratings numbers as they came and went over the last five years.

Holding the current NASCAR TV partners to a high standard for TV production, good information and balanced reporting is still our goal. Throw in a good product on the track and a mix like that is ripe for the return of the fan base that the sport saw a decade ago when TV ratings were through the roof.

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 2 Race Wrap: ESPN in Texas

Update: Jury duty for me on Monday in Florida. Enjoy one more day of ESPN at Texas. There will be a new column up Tuesday early evening. Thanks all.

The story of Kyle Busch getting parked faded quickly after Busch silently took a seat on the pitbox and the JGR cars faded in the race. It was up to the action on the track to entertain and it was a tough sell.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that featured a 25 minute segment on all things Kyle Busch that was not interrupted by even one commercial break. Mike Helton appeared in the Infield Pit Studio and repeated his statements on parking Busch for the weekend.

All of the ESPN analysts weighed in on the situation. Pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch interviewed Joe Gibbs and pressed him hard on one issue. Punch wanted to know if Gibbs would fire Busch if the sponsor, M&M's, demanded it. Gibbs talked around the question, but was clearly flustered on the topic.

Once the racing began, Busch walked out to the pitbox and never said a word. In typical style for the Cup cars at TMS, once things got strung out passing was at a premium. That made it tough for ESPN to follow any of the storylines.

The "hyper-tight" coverage began around lap 20 and continued for the entire race. Rather than chase racing, the slow and deliberate discussion of one or two cars racing began in typical style. The production choice was to zoom-in on a featured car or two and talk about it. Then, move on to another framed camera shot.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree talked about everything under the sun but the pictures selected for them to discuss were nothing more than pre-selected topics mixed with commercials, features and promo's. It was rough to watch.

The race played out with few incidents, no major accidents and pit strategy playing the key role. Tight shots of the cars lap after lap removed the feel of speed and any perspective of where cars were on the track in relation to each other.

ESPN continues to have a great run in terms of technical issues, TV equipment and making good audio. Unfortunately, it all comes down to what the producer and director decide to let viewers see at home. ESPN has an approach and they have maintained it this season.

RaceBuddy at offered a backstretch camera that provided many exciting moments in the race. Also offered was the white line that marks the race off pit road and six in-car cameras. While Michael McDowell was included, he faded from the start.

With 20 laps to go, Bestwick tried to recap the strategies unfolding on the track. The cameras just sat on Jeff Burton for lap after lap once it was revealed he was trying to nurse his fuel mileage to the finish. Even a late recap of the Chasers was framed so tight that it was impossible to tell where they were in relation to each other. Ultimately, Burton ran out and Tony Stewart won the race.

The finish line was framed with the famous "flying head" graphics swooping in as the cars ended as they started, in orderly fashion. Another fuel mileage race, this time toward the end of the Chase. A standard post-race show followed.

This post serves to host your comments about the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Texas Motor Speedway. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Texas (ESPN - 2PM ET)

Everybody is groggy from the time change, Kyle Busch is sitting this one out and the Chase is coming down to the wire. Happy Sunday, folks!

Nicole Briscoe gets Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty to re-voice the opinions they gave Saturday on Kyle Busch. Since the ESPN2 Nationwide Series race, there has been an apology from KB on his website and a Facebook posting from #18 sponsor M&M's USA.

It should be interesting to see what interviews and guests ESPN is able to land for the pre-race show. No word on Twitter this AM about the location of Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs has been on the other NASCAR TV shows doing full-out damage control.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will call the race. These three appeared earlier on Sunday's NASCAR Now show. Jarrett said he expected additional penalties from either JRG or NASCAR where Busch is concerned.

Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Vince Welch and Dr. Jerry Punch are the pit reporters. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. This is a dynamic track and it might be a long day for those working pit road if the action is similar to last week in Martinsville. There was not a lot of giving and taking going on.

ESPN has quite a task on its hands today. Three storylines must be followed from start to finish. First, the Chase and the saga of Carl vs. Tony. Secondly, how Michael McDowell is doing in the #18. Finally, coverage of the actual race.

In the past, this has been a tough issue for a network that likes to script things in advance and keep working back toward those stories in the telecast. One big incident today might scramble all three of those main storylines. It should be interesting to see how they respond.

We invite your comments on the ESPN coverager of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Texas Motor Speedway. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Updated: High Noon For "RaceDay" On SPEED

Updated Sunday 11AM: Facebook statement from M&M USA - "The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of M&M'S and we're very disappointed. Like you, we hold those who represent our brand to a higher standard and we have expressed our concerns directly to Joe Gibbs Racing."

Saturday evening a letter was released via the Kyle Busch website. It referenced the incident in Friday night's race and other issues associated with his being parked for the entire weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Here is the text:

To all,

I've had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can. I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night's Truck Series race at Texas.

I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports. After talking with my team, it's great to have their support and encouragement to assure me that there are better days ahead. Even though this took place while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, I am sorry for how difficult this has been for everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing's Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams.

I'd also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr. and everyone associated with the No. 33 team in the Truck Series. I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions.

As a race car driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself.

Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I've made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward. Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now.


Kyle Busch

All of that serves to set-up Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace to offer comments on this situation on SPEED's RaceDay show. Sunday at noon the network gets two hours before ESPN hits the air with the pre-race to discuss this topic.

ESPN2's NASCAR Now show is buried at 9AM on Sunday morning. Mike Massaro has Ricky Craven in the studio with Shannon Spake and Marty Smith at the Texas Motor Speedway. Craven's comments will be interesting, but the timeslot is not.

Instead, it will be Petty and Wallace front and center for two hours. Saturday, Wallace tweeted that he will be telling his opinion of the situation with Busch, but that was before the public letter or apology was released. Wallace finished 13th in Saturday's Nationwide Series race.

Few of NASCAR's media personalities have a higher profile right now than Kyle Petty. Unlike Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett, Petty is on the air every week on multiple platforms. RaceDay on SPEED, Inside NASCAR on Showtime and even 30 Minutes You Won't Get Back on are all in addition to his highest-profile TV position as the Lead Analyst for the six TNT Sprint Cup Series races.

Petty has a very unique perspective on these types of issues and has been speaking his mind this season without reservation on key NASCAR issues. One aspect of Petty's interaction with NASCAR fans has been his ongoing Twitter conversations. Petty is blunt and to the point with fans who ask questions on more topics than any TV show could handle. He tweets constantly during the RaceDay show.

Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler are the reporters for RaceDay. While both have deep personal ties to the sport, they have shown the ability to chase down stories and often use those same connections for access. Sunday's show should be a good indicator of those abilities.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Sunday TV coverage of the Kyle Busch incident, subsequent parking and public apology. To add your comments on this topic, just click the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.