Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rusty Wallace Leads Montreal Mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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