Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TV Police: NASCAR on FOX from Talladega

Buford Pusser retired from professional wrestling and moved back home. He quickly found that corruption riddled his county. He ran for sheriff, got the job and proceeded to unleash a clean-up campaign that made for a powerful 1973 movie called Walking Tall starring Joe Don Baker.

Pusser wanted to deal with the elephant in the room, which was the gambling and moonshine activities in his county. It was an issue almost no one wanted to admit existed, but almost all wanted solved.

This week, the NASCAR elephant in the room was the two-car teams that drivers were forced to form in order to compete. No single car could race at Talladega and remain in contention. This was the single biggest issue that the TV telecast would deal with from start to finish.

The pre-race show contained all kinds of features and guests. Chris Pizzi toured the Talladega infield and discovered NASCAR fans eating food. The Auburn football coach got TV time as Michael Waltrip was driving a car with AU football sponsorship. The starting command was a tad weak.

Darrell Waltrip called the racing "different, but an exciting different." Waltrip, Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond were on the infield outdoor stage at the end of pit road. This time, fans were present around the stage.

Waltrip's "Revved-up" segment was about Talladega racing. His commentary was about last minute passing, accidents and surprise winners. Never in his comments did he mention the fact that the entire race was going to consist of teams of two-drivers who must stay nose to tail to win.

At one time, Waltrip appeared to drop the S-bomb. He did not, but was struggling in his unscripted commentary to talk about "sitting around a fire" (Survivor) as a reality show he hated and Talladega as a reality show he liked. This "Revved-up" segment has never clicked.

The race began with Mike Joy trying very hard to explain the new drafting format to fans. Larry McReynolds and his famous "pull the belts tight" is apparently gone for good as Waltrip screamed his customary "Boogity!"

The race immediately settled down into drafting practice with pitstops. There was not much the TV announce team could do. Some teams raced while others controlled the speed and hung in the back of the lead lap. Accidents between teammates were the order of the day early on.

FOX continued to deliver on caution flag pitstops with good angles and the graphic of cars as they left pit road. Green flag stops got a double video box with the leader on one side and the key car making a stop in the other. It worked well.

On the Kyle Busch accident, the network came back early from commercial. At one other point in the race, FOX returned to show a bumper bar on the track as the field continued to race under green. A caution flag was quickly thrown.

The event continued with little racing as the two-car teams just drafted up, then faded back as they had to swap positions to cool down the cars. It was a struggle for continuity as random teams appeared and then disappeared from contention.

A caution with less than 30 laps to go bunched-up the field and made it better for the finishing laps. The field stretched out again and then bunched up resulting in two accidents involving Ryan Newman. Waltrip claimed Newman's dirt track driving skills saved him from bigger problems.

The final segment was a two-car team dash for the cash with eleven laps to go. It was a lottery and ultimately resulted in Jimmie Johnson being pushed over the line by his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the race. The post-race interviews revealed drivers frustrated by this style of racing. Look for some changes by NASCAR to make this go away before Daytona in July.

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

Why Twitter Makes Sense For Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Tuesday mornings there is a weekly online live video chat at the NASCAR.com website. It is about the Nationwide Series and features all kinds of folks. This week the session hosted a Nationwide Series owner and occasional driver talking with moderator Joe Menzer. His name is Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Although far from reclusive, Earnhardt has a strange relationship with the online world. While active in personal pursuits like iRacing, his online video exposure last year consisted mostly of Amp Energy chats through his sponsor's website.

This season, it has been abundantly clear that the hot ticket for NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors is social media. Specifically, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook creates a controlled web presence and provides an online platform that serves millions of users worldwide.

NASCAR's Facebook page has 1.4 million fans. Earnhardt's own Facebook page managed by his JR Motorsports folks has almost 900 thousand. This page is only a presence for official updates. Earnhardt himself does not participate. Imagine what kind of response Earnhardt would get if he took a moment to say hello.

Perhaps the most powerful and effective communication tool in 2011 is Twitter. It gives users the ability to offer up to 140 letters or numbers in each message that is called a tweet. Pictures, videos, Internet links or just plain text can be passed along. The format is simple.

Twitter is designed to be the ultimate portable communication tool. In the blink of an eye, one check of a cell phone can immediately offer customized and instant information to users. Laptops, iPads and almost every portable online device can use Twitter without a glitch.

My Twitter moment came when, as a new user, I griped about something Kyle Petty said during a live TNT telecast. I was shocked when seconds later he responded to my tweet live on TNT. Not only did Petty respond to my issue, but during the next commercial break he tweeted me back and wanted to know if I heard his answer!

Petty has used Twitter for years. He now regularly interacts with fans during his shows on SPEED and will do so again this summer on TNT. Petty embraced the fact that direct interaction with NASCAR fans is a positive thing and moves the sport forward.

It has been interesting to watch the NASCAR personalities creep onto Twitter and then embrace it. The most recent has been Jimmie Johnson, who has been having a blast. He hosts giveaways for fans, interacts with them and seems to be having a lot of fun. Twitter is showing his personality to fans like television never could.

Twitter veterans like Kevin and DeLana Harvick work this technology very effectively. Whether answering fan questions on the morning of a race or offering pictures of new KHI sponsors, Twitter has proven to be a tremendously effective marketing platform for this NASCAR power couple.

Many other NASCAR television personalities use Twitter extensively. Even Darrell Waltrip, who was dragged on by his SPEED co-workers, has fallen in love with the simplicity and efficiency. Now, Waltrip keeps an iPad with Twitter running alongside of him in the TV booth so he can interact with fans and stay current on information and news.

Before the NASCAR.com chat session, I asked my Twitter followers to put the question of why he won't join Twitter to Earnhardt. Sure enough, it got asked and he answered. It followed along the lines of others who have never given it a try. Too time consuming, too invasive and a burden. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What Earnhardt would find on Twitter is what he may have been searching for all along. NASCAR fans are informed, funny and opinionated. Junior's fans on Twitter would do nothing more than offer him the opportunity to be himself.

There are no obligations that come with Twitter. No issues with time-consuming work. You just come and go as you please, leaving what content you want to share with others. In a fast-paced NASCAR world, some top drivers like Brad Kezelowski, Denny Hamlin and even Kyle Busch have sometimes used Twitter just to have some fun with the fans. I think that all three would say it has been a rewarding experience.

In this season of personal and professional transition, direct contact with a supportive fan base might be just what the doctor ordered for Earnhardt. It's a personal yet non-invasive way to tap into the very heart of those people supporting his efforts on the track and in the sport.

It's pretty safe to say that Earnhardt has millions of fans across the country and around the world who may never actually get to a race in person. Giving those fans a little controlled glimpse behind the scenes and into the real life of their hero can only yield positive results.

A personal Twitter account makes sense for the most popular driver in the sport. It makes sense for a businessman with a variety of interests to promote. It makes sense for someone who genuinely cares about others and enjoys making new friends.

Right now seems to be a very opportune moment to get Junior to stick his toe in the water and see why hundreds of NASCAR personalities and millions of NASCAR fans interact on Twitter every single day.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Jeremy Mayfield Finds Equal Ground

It is a saga that is one part Talladega Nights and one part Southern Fried Stings. It has NASCAR lawyers, drunk stepmothers and wild allegations. Buzzwords like meth and urine sample clash with aero-push and tight in the middle.

Jeremy Mayfield was supposed to be in the rear-view mirror of NASCAR and fading into the distance right about now. Frozen out of the sport and mired in continuing legal action, Mayfield was yesterday's news.

In February, Mayfield's name suddenly appeared as a featured in-studio guest on SPEED's Race Hub program. This one-hour show airs at 7PM Monday through Thursday and is hosted by SPEED and FOX veteran Steve Byrnes.

Many media outlets, including this one, worked hard to promote the appearance after being told Mayfield would be allowed to speak his mind. It would be a good way to get things settled before Daytona and the beginning of the Sprint Cup Series season. Instead, the result was quite the opposite.

Click here to read a post from Dave Grayson at Racing West.com about the topic.

Here is an excerpt:

WAZZUP with last Tuesday's live television interview with Jeremy Mayfield on the SPEEDs Race Hub program? The promos suggested that the embattled driver was finally going to get to tell his side of the story. What we saw instead was a vague interview that offered nothing new. I truly felt sorry for host Steve Byrnes who had to carefully navigate his way through an interview that was a waste of perfectly good television time.

One had the feeling that Mayfield had been carefully coached by attorneys to be extremely careful regarding comments on his legal issues with NASCAR. "I've got a lot things to say that I can't obviously because of the litigation," he said during the interview. "I don't want to get into any more trouble whatsoever by what I'm saying. It's just hard because, when you're in this situation, there's a lot of anger now and things could come out that wouldn't be good for either one of us. It's tough when you walk around everyday and you get the chance to finally tell your side of the story, there's so much more to it that would really enlighten a lot of things that you just can't tell."

Well, that was Mayfield on TV back in February. Now, he is singing a much different tune. The theme of his current complaint is that SPEED "got the call" after his Race Hub interview was recorded. That call was supposedly from NASCAR.

Mayfield recently referred to the Race Hub situation in a rambling interview at the CaptainThunder.com website. Click here for the entire interview including the audio portion.

Here is an excerpt:

I had a great interview with the SPEED Channel about a month ago with Steve Byrnes, the best one ever. It was going to be great! I couldn't wait for them to air it. It was honest. From his (Byrnes) point of view, he was asking me honest questions that I could answer, he wasn't trying to set me up. Everything was great and then NASCAR gets wind of it.

Paul Brooks (President of the NASCAR Media Group) calls Hunter Nickell (President of SPEED) and says, "If you air this show with Mayfield on it, it's going to jeopardize our relationship." So, they took out everything I said, anything that amounted to anything at all...took it all out and basically made me look like an idiot on TV, like I wasn't saying anything. That's what I'm dealing with.

So, rather than solve a problem as it was originally intended, the Race Hub interview controversy has created another one. This time around, however, something is different. Mayfield has discovered Twitter.

Few communication technologies have impacted NASCAR as much as Twitter. It has established a NASCAR information superhighway that can yield amazing results. Suddenly, Mayfield has a very effective forum to air his complaints about Race Hub and NASCAR.

Although with still a relatively small amount of followers, Mayfield has found a theme that seems to resonate with some fans. He continually points his finger at NASCAR Chairman Brian France as the wizard behind the curtain controlling the action. That ranges from Mayfield's original drug test to the supposedly doctored Race Hub interview.

Now without real access to TV, radio or the mainstream media it should be interesting to watch and see how Twitter works for the Mayfields as they continue to ultimately battle for what they see as justice.

We will keep you posted as the season rolls along. Twitter is free and available to anyone by going to twitter.com or downloading a free mobile app. We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.