Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NASCAR Regains Digital Rights

The buzz has been around for several months, but Monday it was made official. After many years of the Turner Sports Interactive group running the NASCAR.com website and controlling all the digital (Internet) rights to the sport, big change has arrived.

Here are excerpts from the official news release provided by Turner Sports:

NASCAR and Turner Sports announced today a restructuring and extension of their long-standing digital partnership. The new agreement takes the relationship through 2016, with NASCAR managing business and editorial operations for its digital platforms beginning in 2013 and Turner Sports continuing to oversee advertising sales and sponsorships across NASCAR-branded digital platforms.

"Turner Sports has been and will continue to be a great partner for NASCAR," said Brian France, chairman and chief executive officer of NASCAR. "Taking a leadership role as it relates to our digital rights is something we as the sanctioning body know is important for the future of our sport, the development of our drivers and most importantly the experience for both our current fans and future followers."

"Turner Broadcasting and NASCAR have helped make each other successful for more than 28 years through a working relationship that, over time, has evolved with the media and technology landscape," said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. "The latest extension of our partnership is a strategically and fiscally enhanced business model for our company and ensures that NASCAR.COM remains a core asset of Turner's leading digital ad sales portfolio. Our unrivaled sports assets and scale offer advertisers the means to deliver the most targeted and relevant marketing messages across multiple digital and mobile platforms and properties."

Under the new partnership, NASCAR will assume operational control in 2013 of all of its interactive, digital and social media rights including technical operations and infrastructure of all NASCAR digital platforms. Turner will continue to represent sponsorships and advertising for all NASCAR digital platforms, with the unique users from the NASCAR digital properties continuing to roll up to the Turner digital portfolio.

NASCAR’s comprehensive digital and social media portfolio includes NASCAR.COM, fantasy games, video highlights, social media elements and in-depth editorial content. NASCAR.COM, and the sport’s other digital and social media platforms, have been managed by Turner Sports since 2001.

"This move is about the media, our sponsors and most importantly, our fans," said Marc Jenkins, vice president of digital media for NASCAR. "We will build an innovative portfolio of platforms that strives to be as diverse as it is comprehensive. For our fans our digital platform will become the online destination for all things NASCAR. For everyone else, it will be the vehicle we’ll use to turn them into fans."

The bottom line is that NASCAR has taken back full control of its online content from a third party. Not mentioned in the release is what financial agreement really made this deal happen. Speculation was that NASCAR would be on the hook to pay Turner anywhere from $25 to 50 million to get out of the existing agreement.

Perhaps, the news that the relationship is going to continue in several key revenue areas through 2016 mitigated or negated the payment issue. We should eventually know those details as the story continues to be reported in the media.

This is good news for fans and opens the door to NASCAR scrapping the current NASCAR.com model and creating a viable and modern home website for the sport. This change should be a springboard for portable live video, online streaming of SiriusXM content and much more. Stay tuned for details as this story continues to evolve.

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

Monday, January 30, 2012

ESPN's Little Monsters

It was a press conference ten days ago that featured some memorable images like the one above. While NASCAR fans will recognize the Busch brothers, the two men sitting down really tell the tale.

Seven-time Supercross champ Jeremy McGrath and BMX legend Dave Mirra look like the brides in a double shotgun wedding. Their friend and former motorcycle champion, Ricky Carmichael, had just been unceremoniously dumped from his NASCAR sponsorship by Monster. The GOAT was out and the Busch brothers were in.

Here is part of the official Monster release:

A collection of world class Monster Energy action sports athletes welcomed Kyle and Kurt Busch to the Monster Energy team today with the announcement of a multi-year agreement as primary sponsor of the team’s No. 54 Monster Energy Camry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"It’s great to have the Busch brothers join the Monster team and be wearing the Claw – they have the right attitude for Monster and they’re proven winners, which is what Monster is all about,” said X-Games champ and Monster athlete Jamie Bestwick.

I’m thrilled to a be part of a team of athletes like this,” said Kyle Busch, who will drive the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway and the subsequent four races before splitting the balance of the season with Kurt.

The Nationwide Series has ESPN coverage with races appearing mostly on the ESPN2 TV network. Over the past five years it has primarily consisted of watching Sprint Cup Series stars race each other for wins while thoroughly thumping the Nationwide Series regulars into the asphalt.

All that was supposed to change this season for ESPN. Carl Edwards is gone from the Nationwide Series by choice and is expected to join ESPN in some on-air capacity. Kevin Harvick disbanded his growing KHI team and the focus of Kyle Busch Motorsports was the Camping World Truck Series. Much of the Sprint Cup Series cloud appeared to be lifting.

The reason ESPN wants so desperately for the Sprint Cup Series drivers to get out of the Nationwide Series races this season is easy to understand. Her name is Danica Patrick. It's nice that guys like Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish Jr. will be running for the title, but it's a TV ratings gold mine that Patrick will simply be in every race.

With the January 20 announcement that the Monster dollars would be leaving Carmichael, ESPN's world has changed. In the blink of an eye there will now be either Kyle or Kurt Busch running a car in every single one of ESPN's Nationwide Series races with the goal of winning the owner's championship.

It was 2006 when then ESPN president George Bodenheimer called the Nationwide Series NASCAR's diamond in the rough. Two years into the coverage, things were not going well. "Diamond In The Rough Not Shining" was a TDP column from July of 2009. Click here to read it in full.

No part of the NASCAR TV package has been worse than the Nationwide Series on ESPN. The series was a victim of the Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace failed experiment in the TV booth. It was also a victim of ESPN pushing it to the back burner when the network started Sprint Cup Series coverage in July.

Finally, it has been a totally helpless victim from September to November. Jammed into an ESPN2 schedule totally filled with "College Football Saturday" programming, the Nationwide Series is made to look like the redheaded stepchild and every season since 2007 has gone out with a whimper.

This year ESPN is in an interesting situation. Come July it may well have Carl Edwards on the telecast team, Danica Patrick in the top five in driver points and the Busch brothers in the middle of another ego-driven total meltdown.

Joe Gibbs made a point on the NASCAR Media Tour to say he did not approve of KBM's Nationwide Series plans. As Kyle's Sprint Cup Series employer, Gibbs is clearly not pleased with the prospect of the Busch brothers running door-to-door with the JGR Nationwide Series drivers.

Last year's Kyle meltdown almost cost Gibbs a multi-million dollar sponsor. Many thought it would cost Kyle his JGR job. The Kurt meltdown at Penske resulted in a series of laughable press releases that tried to frame his firing as a mutual decision. The video of the Jerry Punch incident told another tale. The captain had enough.

So, instead of the carefully scripted TV reality series that features golden girl Patrick against a weakened field of contenders, the ESPN pit reporters may regularly be walking to Victory Lane to speak with a grinning Busch brother sporting "The Claw" and trying to say things that fit the extreme action sports athlete mold.

ESPN's new little monsters may also affect the TV coverage when they lose. It would only take an incident with Kyle and a JGR car or Kurt and a Penske entry to shift the TV spotlight from the winner. Let's not forget Richard Childress as someone who has a vested interest in his Nationwide Series team and also a past with the Busch family. "Hold my watch" was a phrase that is forever etched in NASCAR history.

Love them or hate them, expect to see a lot of Kurt and Kyle on the ESPN Nationwide Series telecasts. Monster hired them to win races and they can both come in and do just that. Where they fit into the ESPN script is yet to be seen, but there is little doubt it's not going to be what the network had planned. With the Busch brothers, it just seems to happen that way.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sports Cars Take Daytona Center Stage

This is the weekend of the Rolex 24, a sports car event at the Daytona International Speedway run by the Grand-Am organization.

The race starts at 3PM on Saturday but SPEED will come on the air at 2:30PM and set the scene during a pre-race show. The network will stay live until 11PM ET and then rejoin the race at 9AM and continue until the conclusion.

Click here for the Grand-Am website that has information, updates and live timing and scoring for the race.

Click here for the organization's Facebook page that has more photos, interaction and video links.

Click here for the Daytona Speedway website that updates all the information for fans who are attending and those who might want to come on raceday and buy tickets.

We will return on Monday. Hope you all enjoy the race and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday TV/Media Notes

Been a wild week with NASCAR TV starting up, the preview in Charlotte and now the NASCAR Media Tour underway. Here are some tidbits from the week to date:

SPEED veteran Elliott Sadler will enter the Daytona 500 in an RCR car sponsored by General Mills and Kroger Food Stores. Sadler will race the #33 RCR car that is locked in from points last year. Gil Martin will be the crew chief. We haven't seen Sadler on RaceHub yet this season. He normally appeared on Mondays to review the Sprint Cup Series races. In the past he also appeared on Trackside.

The media buzz on Thursday will no doubt be the announcement during the NASCAR Media Tour stop at RCR that Kevin and DeLana Harvick are expecting a baby. That puts a spin on the KHI story and it will be fun to see how the NASCAR media connect the dots on that one.

Steve Byrnes dropped the Sadler news at the tail end of RaceHub and there was a good reason why. SPEED is pushing for the Tuesday through Thursday shows to be live. They will certainly include some same-day recorded material, but having Byrnes live in the studio adds a solid touch for news.

As many of us have suggested, either moving the show to 7PM ET or replaying it in this timeslot will solve a problem for those not yet home at 6PM and unable to record the episodes. RaceHub does not repeat right now until 2AM ET/11PM Pacific.

Last season NASCAR got blasted when the media discovered and then reported that several drivers had been secretly fined for things they posted on Twitter. As part of a social media overhaul, NASCAR Vice President Steve O'Donnell disclosed that there will no longer by any secret fines.

"NASCAR will no longer issue fines that are undisclosed," he said. "We looked at this issue from every angle and gathered feedback from the industry. While there are always sensitivities related to sponsor relationships and other leagues may continue issuing disclosed and undisclosed fines, NASCAR has decided that all fines moving forward will be made public after the competitor or organization that has been penalized has been informed."

In TV news, Bob Pockrass from Scenedaily.com passed along on Twitter that 25 Nationwide Series races this season would be streamed online. As you may remember, ESPN televises all the Nationwide Series races and there has been no RaceBuddy or streaming except for the Watch ESPN service available to current ESPN subscribers.

Pockrass later updated the information to say that ESPN subscribers would get the Watch ESPN service, but what is going online is the RaceBuddy type companion application that features selected in-car cameras and some other race angles. Once again, the actual races will stay on cable TV only.

Brian France, Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton and other NASCAR executives will be on a media conference call Thursday starting at 12:30PM ET. Check social media like Twitter and Facebook shortly after things get underway for updates. No doubt Daytona tandem racing, car counts and even good old Jeremy Mayfield may be on the agenda.

Speaking of social media, it continued to expand as Mark Martin joined Twitter at the urging of car owner Micheal Waltrip. Just like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, it should be interesting to see if Martin takes to social media like so many of the other drivers have done. Still no hope for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the horizon, he just says no.

Many fans have been asking about Bootie Barker. Right now, there is no information available about him appearing on any SPEED shows. Jeff Hammond stepped into his place on the new NASCAR Performance show and he is not listed as appearing on RaceHub. The SPEED PR folks will pass info along if he joins an existing series.

Just a reminder that the motorsports season kicks-off this weekend with the Rolex 24 from Daytona. The race does not start until 3PM on Saturday but SPEED has the live coverage and there are a slew of big names from all forms of motorsports competing.

We will update the breaking news during the day on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. It's free to join both and there is lots of great NASCAR information available. Twitter and Facebook both work on laptops, tablets and smart phones like android and iPhones. Our blog auto-opens on smart phones, no app needed.

As usual, we welcome your comments on the topic mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day Two: SPEED Rolls Out 2012 NASCAR Changes

It's the time of the year when TV changes are announced and SPEED did just that following a staff get together on Monday night in Charlotte, NC.

New network president Scott Ackerson said in the gathering that the network was going to increase "storytelling" and ramp-up production for this season. SPEED originates the NASCAR studio shows from Charlotte and handles the Camping World Truck Series races, but employs the NASCAR Media Group to produce the other programs from the race tracks.

Ackerson took over at SPEED on January 1 after coming to Charlotte from FOX Sports in Los Angeles, CA. A studio producer and veteran executive, Ackerson worked at ESPN prior to FOX and has a solid reputation as a people person and a "TV guy."

Changes in assignments announced by SPEED started with Jeff Hammond leaving the Trackside series. Now completely changed from the hardcore racing show of the past into an entertainment-style program, that was perhaps a good move.

Krista Voda will once again step into the host role with Kyle Petty and Rutledge Wood as the panelists. You may remember SPEED tried Wood in the host role late last season. Voda has also been in the host role for this series before and it did not click.

Love her or hate her, Marianela Pereyra is back as the show's reporter. Another LA person, Pereyra is the star of the World Poker Tour programs this season and frankly it is surprising that she is back on the NASCAR beat. The hot rumor was that former Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo would fill the reporter role.

SPEED has also decided to split the Trackside series into two shows this season. As logistics and schedules permit, there will be a thirty-minute show on Friday night and another on Saturday. Obviously, the issue is the Saturday night Cup races.

Wood will also appear on the RaceDay show that remains as the network's Sprint Cup Series preview program. John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace are the trio seen above and they return as the core of the show. This year, they will be joined by Larry McReynolds on the stage. A crew chief perspective should be good for the series.

Veteran RaceDay reporter Hermie Sadler is not returning for this season. He has been replaced by former pit crew coach and now RaceHub regular Matt Clark. Wood and the true star of the show, Wendy Venturini, are the other two reporters.

While Hammond might have left Trackside, he has joined the NASCAR Performance series. In the past, the show was hosted by McReynolds. This season, SPEED has added RaceHub reporter Danielle Trotta as the host with McReynolds, Hammond and Chad Knaus on the panel. While produced last season at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, this year the show moves into the SPEED studios.

One of the positive changes for this season is the commitment of SPEED to showing the NASCAR Victory Lane show immediately after the TV network carrying the actual race goes off the air. This puts an hour of conversation, interviews and highlights on the air after every Sprint Cup Series telecast, including the Saturday night races.

While the SPEED information did not mention it specifically, the Victory Lane show is Roberts hosting with Petty and Wallace. When Wallace has been away driving in the stand-alone Nationwide Series races, it has been McReynolds or Hammond filling that void.

Additional information from SPEED confirmed that the SpeedCenter show will return. This was the pet project of Patti Wheeler, the former head of programming and production at the network who resigned suddenly in December. The series is the only one that offers additional motorsports news, highlights and interviews on SPEED.

Last year it was Adam Alexander who struggled through the season as host of SpeedCenter. The depth of the show's coverage was rough for Alexander, who is limited in his motorsports knowledge. The SPEED release did not mention how many episodes of the show will appear on the weekends or who will participate as the host. Ray Evernham also appeared to talk NASCAR last season, but he was also not mentioned in the SPEED release.

The final topic is Wind Tunnel. I have long advocated a second all-NASCAR version of the program at 8PM on Monday nights. With all the different motorsports topics on Dave Despain's agenda on Sundays it's tough to get a thorough discussion on NASCAR topics done with the fans.

Needless to say, once again this concept did not fly and Despain will be returning for his show on Sunday nights only. The studio will get an update and the show will have a new look. Fans should remember this is the only show on SPEED that has an Internet-only thirty minute webcast after the TV hour is done.

That's the basic scoop about SPEED in 2012 where NASCAR is concerned. No doubt on Tuesday there will be some things added and others clarified with all the information we tried to get across. Those items will be updated right on this post.

We welcome your comments on any of the topics above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Danica Patrick In The TV Hotseat (2 Updates)

Working both sides of the street in 2011 gave Danica Patrick an opportunity to leave a lot of issues on the table when she was pressed about her racing future. She made sure to tell the NASCAR media she was still pondering her future plans right up through late July when she confirmed the NASCAR switch.

In a Sports Illustrated article last week, Patrick's former IndyCar owner Michael Andretti told a different tale. "In January of '11 she had to let us know what she was doing for '12," Andretti told reporter Brant James. "We purposely put it in the contract so in case she decided to leave, we had time. I'm glad we did that."

This weekend, Scenedaily.com's Bob Pockrass followed up on this topic when speaking to Patrick at the NASCAR Preview in Charlotte, NC. She had a new spin on why she hid the reality of her NASCAR plans.

"It was just part of my contract – it was just the date I had to tell them what my decision was," Patrick told Pockrass. "That’s just a contractual thing. There are lots of contractual things that go on behind the scenes with drivers and teams."

"At the end of the day, we had a lot of good times and a lot of success," she continued. "We won together and I’ll never forget that. But that was just a contractual obligation I had to do. I was pretty sure the NASCAR thing was going to work one way or another."

Yep, she was pretty sure the NASCAR thing was going to work out because behind the scenes multi-million dollar deals were being done for both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series rides in 2012. All the while Patrick was essentially working a marketing plan that involved a fundamental deception of the NASCAR media and fan base.

Go Daddy is the company that is paying the way for Patrick's transition to NASCAR. The picture above is from one of the new Super Bowl ads Patrick and Go Daddy girl Jillian Michaels will be featured in this year. So far, none of the commercials feature NASCAR content...so far.

Patrick's full time arrival to NASCAR is going to be highlighted by her attempt to get into the Daytona 500 field with help from Stewart-Haas Racing. In the blink of an eye, the fact she is actually racing full time in the Nationwide Series will be eclipsed by the possibility she could win "The Great American Race."

FOX has already latched onto this publicity generating topic and used Patrick when promoting the upcoming Daytona 500 during the NFL playoff game on Sunday night. While Darrell Waltrip got a nice nod on his Hall of Fame induction, it was Patrick that once again raised eyebrows with the possibility of a woman in the Daytona 500.

Monday, host Steve Brynes will start another season of the only daily NASCAR news and interview show on SPEED called RaceHub. Byrnes has worked very hard to forge a personality for this franchise that features a one-hour topical show produced Monday through Thursday during the season.

SPEED is owned by FOX and was moved to Charlotte years ago to become the official NASCAR TV network. While the deal fell through, the result is that SPEED finds itself located in NASCAR's backyard with almost unlimited access to the key personalities in the sport.

Last week the network announced that the first in-studio guest of the new season of RaceHub was going to be Patrick. Not the current Sprint Cup Series champion, not the NASCAR on FOX announcer just inducted into the Hall of Fame and not the Sprint Cup Series owner last seen with his airplane in pieces in Key West.

Veteran writer Larry Woody talks about what is about to happen when Patrick hits Daytona with making the 500 and winning the Nationwide Series race in mind.

"The only thing that’s dead-solid certain is that Patrick will create an early-season sensation unsurpassed in the sport’s history," said Woody in the Murfreesboro Post. "Next month at Daytona, Patrick will be the talk of the track. She will dominate coverage of the Nationwide Series and when she makes her Sprint Cup Series debut it will overshadow everything else in the vicinity."

Each new season brings a new hot driver who comes into Daytona with lots of buzz. Patrick has JR Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing and Go Daddy signed, sealed and delivered. She has the racy TV ads, the modeling pictures and her own fragrance.

Monday on RaceHub it should be interesting to see just what new marketing topics this experienced saleswoman introduces in her interview. Byrnes is a media veteran and has a way of getting to the heart of the matter. These days, the heart of the matter is whether or not Patrick is there to win, place or just show.

"Can she or can’t she? Nobody knows," says Woody. "But, watching her try is going to be the most intriguing NASCAR storyline to come along in a long time. Patrick pandemonium is barreling toward NASCAR."

That TV exposure from SPEED and FOX begins Monday. Expect it to build and be at a fever pitch by the time practice and qualifying begins in a couple of weeks. SPEED carries the twin Daytona 500 qualifying races, ESPN televises the Nationwide event and FOX beams "The Great American Race" around the world.

The common thread among these items for 2012 is Patrick. With the IndyCar excuse gone, Patrick is now on the spot to deliver just like any other competitor. It's going to be fascinating to watch the NASCAR TV partners deal with this new and unique challenge. She's back and this time, it's for real.

Update 12PM ET Monday: Patrick just announced on the Charlotte Media Tour at SHR that she has added the Coke 600 to her Sprint Cup Series schedule. That means that she will not be in the Indy 500 this year. Pretty big news, especially for IndyCar.

Update 12:30PM ET Monday: Greg Zipadelli just told the media that Danica Patrick will be locked into the Daytona 500. He would not say where the points would come from to lock in that car. This is huge news, expect the media to run with it over the next couple of days. Patrick in the "Great American Race."

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

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No Live TV For Hall Of Fame Induction

Friday night the five newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame were inducted in a ceremony in downtown Charlotte, NC. It was an important night for the sport in many ways.

On hand to document the events were the Motor Racing Network and the gang from SiriusXM NASCAR radio. The assembled media used social networking to pass along updates on what was said and post pictures as the evening went along.

NASCAR itself established a Twitter and Facebook presence to document every aspect of the induction ceremonies. A lot of good information was being sent to the fans in an almost real time stream.

Originally, there was no loud objection when it was announced that the television coverage of the induction was not going to be live. The reason given was that the event was not "Made for TV" and needed to be edited into a program that fit the commercial format and time restrictions that come with airing a program on SPEED.

As the Hall of Fame evening went along, a fan buzz began to build as more and more fans began passing along their objections to the fact that SPEED was selling used cars instead of honoring old DW and his friends. The Barrett-Jackson auto auction from Arizona was on the air and had been filling primetime on SPEED for days.

All of this was made even more ironic when NASCAR itself passed along a live online streaming video link. NASCAR invited fans to watch the remarks of the new inductees live as they spoke to the assembled media immediately after the ceremony.

In terms of scheduling, unofficial word passed along by fans was that SPEED had made the Barrett-Jackson auction deal before NASCAR changed the Hall of Fame induction date to late January. Basically, SPEED's position seems to be that its hands were tied and any scrutiny of the situation needs to be turned in NASCAR's direction.

That leads us to believe that perhaps the most logical option would have been to stream the live induction ceremonies online and then let SPEED air an edited version on Sunday. Hardcore fans would be able to see some significant history being made live and more casual fans would still be able to watch a finished TV program all about the event only days later.

Either way, it was a tough night in NASCAR land as information flowed from many sources about memorable moments, words and emotions that could not be seen by any fan. In this world of live coverage, instant news and portable video perhaps there needs to be a mandate in place that future Hall of Fame events be made available to the widest amount of fans live using whatever technology is needed to get the job done.

What is your opinion on this topic? To add your comment, just click the comments button below. Thank you as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The 6PM TV Traffic Jam

It's a topic that becomes relevant for NASCAR fans starting once again on Monday. As the 2012 racing season gets underway, host Steve Byrnes will crank up another year of RaceHub on SPEED. This series became the de facto daily NASCAR TV show in the middle of last season.

In order to make way for a new block of afternoon talk shows, ESPN2 moved the NASCAR Now program from 5PM to a much earlier afternoon timeslot. The 5 year-old series that had finally come into it's own never recovered. This season brings more of the same. It's 3PM ET again for NASCAR Now on ESPN2 when the series starts in February.

Byrnes and company put a one-hour show together Monday through Thursday all season long. Despite the carefully controlled agenda, RaceHub puts out a ton of quality news, interviews and features. It's an important show that keeps a weekday NASCAR presence on national TV.

On September 12 of last year SPEED changed the air time of RaceHub from 7 to 6PM ET. This move was made without explanation and by a senior management team no longer in place at the network. "Puzzling TV Changes At SPEED" was the TDP post that discussed some of the inherent problems in committing the series to this timeslot. Click on the title to read the original column.

In addition to going head-to-head with the traditional East Coast hour of local and national TV news, RaceHub faced another significant problem. Most NASCAR fans also are fans of other sports. Coming off a lead-in from the powerhouse Pardon The Interruption, 6PM on weekdays is the time for ESPN's franchise series SportsCenter.

ESPN puts a ton of resources into this show that primarily serves to preview the key sports match-ups of the day. In addition, any breaking sports news is also featured. Where sports fans are concerned, the 6PM SportsCenter is the king of the TV hill.

This month, VERSUS was rebranded as the NBC Sports Network. Part of a massive allocation of sports resources was the commitment by NBC to establish a daily sports news program. The new series, airing up against SportsCenter at 6PM, is called NBC SportsTalk.

Hosted by sports TV veteran Russ Thaler, SportsTalk is currently focused squarely on the stick-and-ball world long dominated by ESPN in terms of covering daily sports news. It's very clear that the new management at NBC is ready for a fight. Appearing on the show are a wide variety of personalities from different TV networks, websites and publications.

What NBC has cleverly done with SportsTalk is unite the sports media resources outside the ESPN bubble into a powerful mix of experts, analysts and commentators. What makes the series click are the diverse points of view freely presented.

As RaceHub enters the 6PM battle once again, it resembles SportsCenter in that the show line-up is comprised of FOX and SPEED personalities almost exclusively. There have been no independent journalists, traveling media members or NASCAR critics featured. Any difference of opinion comes from within the FOX/SPEED family of on-camera personalities.

RaceHub's strength is in it's geographic proximity to most of NASCAR's shops, vendors and suppliers. This allows for easy access to personalities across the NASCAR spectrum. The results have been simply tremendous in terms of additional exposure for drivers, teams and sponsors. Danica Patrick is the in-studio guest on Monday's show.

SPEED's programming schedules confirm RaceHub at 6PM ET through February. That is surprising given that SPEED's 7PM hour is filled will repeats of shows like Pass Time and Pumped!

Looking down the dial at SportsCenter and SportsTalk in the height of the NFL playoff season might suggest to SPEED that the original 7PM timeslot would make a lot more sense. Perhaps, even re-airing RaceHub again at 7PM would reap better benefits for the network than repeats of lifestyle shows.

The regular cast of characters returns with Byrnes. Danielle Trotta is the full time field reporter, Matt Clark is the pit crew coach and Jimmy Spencer is...well...Jimmy Spencer. The FOX and SPEED personalities on the show include Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond, Bob Dillner, Ray Dunlap and Randy Pemberton.

Before the season gets underway, perhaps you can share your perspective on this NASCAR TV series, the personalities involved and the impact it has on your viewing habits. Just click the comments button below to add your opinion. Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ABC Moves "Bachelorette" To Charlotte For Emily Maynard

Reality TV is in pretty tough shape. The backlash against the reported deception and scripted marriage and divorce of Kim Kardashian continues to grow. Clones of cheap-to-produce shows about storage lockers, pawn shops and repo men now dot the TV landscape.

Amid this chaos, ABC continues to push ahead with the franchise shows that draw female viewers of all demographics. There is just something about The Bachelor and The Bachelorette that women cannot resist.

Last year viewers of the Bachelor saw Emily Maynard selected by Brad Womack to be his wife forever. The loving relationship lasted until June and never made it to the altar. What it did make was a reality TV star out of Maynard. Now, she gets to take center stage in a melodramatic reality with NASCAR wrapped all around it.

In stories from People magazine and Entertainment Weekly, Maynard has reportedly agreed to become The Bachelorette for ABC as that reality TV franchise rolls on. As you may remember, Maynard was engaged to Ricky Hendrick, the son of NASCAR team owner and car dealer Rick Hendrick, before Ricky lost his life in a tragic plane crash back in 2004.

Shortly thereafter, Maynard revealed she was pregnant with his daughter and now Ricki is a happy and healthy young girl. In agreeing to take on this central reality TV role, Maynard made it clear she did not want to be away from her daughter. ABC reportedly responded by moving the entire production of the series to the Charlotte, NC area.

On The Bachelor, Maynard played out her Hendrick connection in an interesting and rather scripted scene at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Womack brought some of the ladies for a "date." It pointed out just how much the Hendrick and NASCAR connection can be used to exploit the mostly female audience.

The management at LVMS had no idea who was involved in the production, but NASCAR itself did work with the Bachelor production team when it came to the involvement of the NASCAR Racing Experience, a drive or ride along race car program.

This time, Maynard's connection with the Hendrick family will be out in the public eye on national television. The specific shooting locations for the program have not yet been reported, but NASCAR country figures to play a strategic role. It will also be interesting to see if any NASCAR personalities, many of whom already have extensive TV experience, make an appearance.

The Mooresville and Concord areas are ripe with colorful locations that have racing connections. There is little doubt as the word filters out that this series is coming the phones will be ringing with offers of locations that the production team can use to create some additional "reality TV."

As this is an ABC property, expect to see promotional integration with the NASCAR on ESPN programming as the season rolls on. Filming of the series begins in March and the first episode hits the air in May.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday NASCAR TV/Media Notes

As we move closer to the actual start of the season, the TV and media news is starting to heat up a bit. Here are some items from this week.

Bob Pockrass from Scenedaily.com said on Twitter that he recently talked to Carl Edwards and was told that Edwards has not yet made up his mind about working for ESPN on the Nationwide Series telecasts. I find that hard to believe, but there continues to be no comment from ESPN on the issue. Edwards recently confirmed he will not be driving in any Nationwide Series races in 2012.

A media favorite, Monica Palumbo, left her Miss Sprint Cup duties at the end of 2011. Sprint dropped a hint this week about who is replacing her. The hint was that the new Miss Sprint Cup team member had interviewed every 2011 X-Games gold medalist. Pretty good hint and I bet it starts some folks on a mission. Let me know if you think you have the answer.

Kind of a bombshell here. Apparently, Showtime is scaling back the Inside NASCAR show this season in a big way. As some of you might remember, this started out as a very expensive weekly hour show produced by the NASCAR Media Group from Charlotte, NC. It was cut to 30 minutes last year and now it is being slashed. I'm hearing only 11 episodes, one for the Daytona 500 and then none until the Chase begins. Still waiting for Showtime contacts to return emails to confirm.

Pete Pistone from SiriusXM radio mentioned earlier this week that he was told this season NASCAR on FOX will be using a side by side commercial format. This is a tough sell, as FOX is a broadcast network and has a totally different logistical method of running commercials. It is certainly possible for those truly national spots, but it cannot work for local station breaks. The FOX guys are working on a statement that should be coming Wednesday or Thursday on the topic.

Let's address some Hall of Fame issues. The actual dinner and induction ceremonies are going to take place on Friday night in Charlotte. The NASCAR Media Group is going to record the festivities and will edit the jacket ceremony, dinner and induction speeches into a show for SPEED that will air Sunday at 6PM ET.

The entire concept of the January induction was meant to hype Daytona and the start of the season. Instead, it happens at the height of the NFL mania currently engulfing American sports fans. There is no doubt that NMG will do a solid job, but there has to be a better way of handling this in the future.

I'm not a Barrett-Jackson fan, but this media release from Penske Racing got my attention:

"Tune into the Barrett-Jackson auction Thursday, January 19th at 8 pm ET on SPEED as NASCAR’s Roger Penske and Brad Keselowski along with Bruce Halle and Michael Zuieback from Discount Tire and members from Paralyzed Veterans of America will be in attendance to auction off the car Keselowski drove to his first win at Penske Racing. The auction of the 2010 No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger, which won the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway, will benefit Paralyzed Veterans."

Stewart-Haas Racing sent along a note that Tony Stewart will appear on an episode of Last Man Standing with Tim Allen scheduled to air in February. Click here to see some behind the scenes pictures of the shoot. I am certain we will hear more about this over the next several weeks.

Ben Grossman at Broadcasting & Cable just interviewed NASCAR Chairman Brian France. While much of the conversation was things we have heard before, France did point a finger at ESPN and talk about future TV negotiations. Here are those two questions.

B&C: You say you’re pretty aggressive about what your TV partners need to do for NASCAR. What do you want from them?

France: We are always the sport that is under-covered given the ratings and size of the events. In particular, ESPN. They just have so many platforms. So we are pushing real hard with them to have a more integrated approach. We have hired people to service them better, so we can help them accomplish that. They have the most assets to be deployed; it doesn’t mean everyone else doesn’t have some big ones and good ones. We are going to work to make them a better partner.

B&C: Your TV deals are up in 2014, but when do your negotiating windows open with your current partners?

France: Not for a little while, but we are having conversations, because a lot of our partners have been clear they would prefer to renew. All things being equal, our first hope is that the incumbents do renew. . . I think [talks] could heat up at any time, that’s my sense. It’s not cold now, we are having conversations, my sense is things will happen sooner rather than later, and sooner than they normally would in a cycle of renewals.

This week marks five years since Benny Parsons was taken from us by lung cancer. Younger viewers may not have known this wonderful man, but veteran NASCAR fans certainly did. His knowledge about the sport and pleasant nature on the air helped to form an image of the sport that helped it to travel outside of the southeast and become truly national.

Former NBC and TNT announcer Bill Weber is a tremendous writer. He scripted a tribute to BP that aired during the TNT coverage. Click here to see it. You can also use the YouTube index to the right to locate other BP material, including the famous Buffet Benny segments on ESPN.

Please feel free to comment on the above topics. If any additional news rolls in, it will be posted right here. Thanks again for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day Two: Dude Where's My Phone?

It was one of the strangest testing sessions in history at Daytona. Usually a relaxed and rather boring affair, this time NASCAR was actively changing the rules as they frantically tried to break-up the two car tandem racing seen last season on the restrictor plate tracks.

The last day featured this TV screen shot of Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup Series garage watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. take his Lowes Chevy out for a spin. Junior had been involved in an on-track incident with Jeff Burton and Juan Montoya a bit earlier.

Aside from the total confirmation that NASCAR hates the two-car tango, the other theme of the testing was the complete and total penetration of social media into the sport. The flood of information from the teams, NASCAR and the drivers themselves directly to the fans was nothing short of amazing.

Drivers sit in their cars while the crews make change after change during testing. Normally, boredom and idle radio chatter are the order of the day. All that has changed with smart phones. Now Twitter, Facebook and texting are the preferred pastimes.

It was Carl Edwards who showed SPEED viewers the cell phone video he took of himself taking a lap around Daytona. He took it from the driver's seat...while driving. It was Jimmie Johnson who showed the SPEED cameras the velcro pouch inside the driver's door where he kept his cell phone with him as he hit the track.

While NASCAR talk on Twitter was a mix of cautious users and curious fans last year at this time, this specific form of social media has quickly become the most vital line of communication within the sport. Three days of testing at Daytona confirmed it.

While the drivers were fun and their comments on everything from drafting to the lunch menu made for entertaining reading, it was the use of Twitter by SPEED that stole the show. Finally, a TV network made a concerted effort at breaking down the final barriers between the viewers and the on-camera personalities involved in the programs.

The early testing sessions were streamed online at SPEED.com and the afternoon activity was shown on the SPEED TV cable network. While these two very different media platforms resulted in different viewing experiences, the one constant in them both was the seamless integration of direct viewer interaction.

From the start, SPEED made it clear that NASCAR fans would be a vital part of every form of the coverage. In addition to integrating fan tweets into the coverage from the analysts in the TV booth, the reporters in the garage worked tirelessly to answer questions and get information directly for fans on Twitter.

The result was an interactive frenzy of questions, suggestions and comments never seen before in any kind of NASCAR telecast or Internet webcast. It created a river of information that flowed simultaneously with the live program.

We have all been partially taken by surprise that the very diverse personalities in the sport have almost all taken a liking to this simple 140 character text-based free service that also lets users link pictures, videos and website pages.

While the SPEED experience at testing was a welcome one, the reality of both ESPN and FOX while in Daytona will no doubt be a sharp change of direction. FOX is a broadcast network and the NASCAR on FOX coverage has long since been designed in many ways to serve the broadest general audience, including the infamous "casual fan."

ESPN is knee-deep in social media guidelines and the network has been slow to integrate any type of Twitter interaction in the telecasts. Last season, one freelance ESPN technician had been tweeting informative pictures and interacting with fans. She provided an informal social media documentary of each ESPN effort at the Nationwide Series races.

From her perch in the TV booth during the race, she continued to interact with fans and offer a unique perspective. At no time did her social media activity interfere with her job. In fact, she often worked to solve issues associated with the telecasts for the fans.

"Social Media Smackdown" was the TDP column that resulted as ESPN subsequently banned any of the TV crew from using Twitter or any form of social media during the races. When the season was over, she was immediately fired.

Unfortunately ESPN shot themselves in the foot again as that crew member was a well-respected TV veteran and had attended many tweet-ups at the track with fans. She had probably done more to directly interact with the fans than anyone on the entire NASCAR on ESPN team. No doubt she will be missed by many this year when Daytona's Nationwide Series race on ESPN comes along.

SPEED will return to Daytona in February to handle various practices, qualifying and races including the twin qualifiers for the Sprint Cup Series. Hopefully, the positive social media experience the network had at the track for these three days of testing will provide a solid foundation for continuing this level of fan interaction.

Kudos to the TV crew, the NASCAR personalities and the fans who took the time to participate in this amazing experiment and set the new tone for 2012. This is truly going to be the year of the fan in the sport and social media is going to drive this point home. Get on the Twitter bus now folks, it's going to be a fun ride.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday - NASCAR TV Live Blog Daytona Testing

Here we go with the final day of Daytona testing for the Sprint Cup Series teams. This has been an interesting experience as a fan. The morning online sessions and the afternoon TV sessions have been two very different styles of programs.

John Roberts is hosting the coverage and channeling his inner-Musburger from the infield. No information on whether or not he is wearing his sneakers in full tribute.

Rick Allen and Jeff Hammond have been having a blast doing the morning online sessions. They have been working the social media angle hard as both are active Twitter users. Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds are calling the afternoon sessions.

The reporting from the track has been first class. Hermie Sadler has been outstanding and his absence from RaceDay will be missed this season. There has still been no information passed along to me about who will be replacing Sadler on that series.

Wendy Venturini, Bob Dillner and Randy Pemberton have been working the garage area from every angle and passing along a ton of information. The best thing about the SPEED reporters is that they are also active on social media and tweeting directly with fans as the sessions are in progress.

This has been the season of social media so far. Fans asking for interviews have seen the producer and reporters follow up quickly. SPEED has every member of the on-air team on Twitter as well as the show producer and other TV crew members.

It's been a kick to watch an interactive live NASCAR TV program in every sense of the word. SPEED and TNT were the first two NASCAR TV partners to understand the power of Twitter and Facebook in terms of opening up the "wall" between the sport and the fans.

While TNT has a very limited presence in the sport, SPEED is NASCAR's top TV partner due to the total amount of coverage throughout the year. It should be interesting to see how SPEED leverages this ability to communicate directly with fans during the season on other programming.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED.com and SPEED coverage of the final day of Daytona testing. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday - NASCAR TV Live Blog Daytona Testing

Friday should be a very interesting day in Daytona. NASCAR is talking about trying some new drafting techniques after once again the day closed on Thursday's practice sessions with the two-car "tandem style" drafting going on between teammates.

It will be 9AM ET again for the online portion of the coverage at SPEED.com. There is a link on the webpage specifically for iPhones and iPads, so thank you SPEED. John Roberts hosts the day while Rick Allen and Jeff Hammond will call the early session. Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will handle the afternoon 1PM ET session on SPEED TV.

The difference on Thursday between the online and TV coverage was striking. The casual and less formal online style really seemed to serve NASCAR, while the standard one segment of program and then another commercial style on SPEED TV was solid on information, but tough to take after the non-commercial streaming show.

There is also a link to the live streaming over on NASCAR.com and for those of you on Twitter, the announcers are taking questions and offering behind the scenes pictures and comments before, during and after the sessions.

Friday will be a good day for TV and media-related comments as NASCAR tries to come to grips once again with a possible season of "tandem racing" on the restrictor plate tracks. What NASCAR might change and how the teams may react will be playing out live during this coverage.

Big thanks to SPEED for stepping up and hosting this testing "combo platter" of online and TV coverage once again. The network has a new interim president in FOX veteran Scott Ackerson and he should be making his presence felt in the NASCAR programming and production category this season.

We will use this post for your comments on the Friday coverage and all the media and NASCAR happenings coming from Daytona. To add your comment, just click the comment button below. This blog auto-opens on android and iPhones, no app needed! Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday - NASCAR TV Live Blog Daytona Testing

The off-season is over and NASCAR is back on TV and the Internet from Daytona as testing gets underway for the Sprint Cup Series teams.

Three days of testing have the same format. The 9AM to noon session will be streamed online at SPEED.com and the afternoon 1PM session will be on SPEED TV.

John Roberts hosts the testing coverage. Rick Allen and Jeff Hammond have the AM session with Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner reporting. Steve Byrnes has Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip in the TV booth for the afternoon session. Randy Pemberton and Hermie Sadler are the reporters.

The idea of covering this by SPEED is to accomplish several things. First, to point out the new driver, team and crew chief combinations. Secondly, to update fans on news from the off-season by speaking to the personalities involved. Finally, to explore the new rule changes for Daytona by watching the action on the track and in the garage.

It is very clear from the radiator and cooling changes that NASCAR is still trying to break-up the "tandem racing" that fans saw at Daytona and other restrictor plate tracks last season. This will be a key element of the coverage.

This post will serve to host your TV and media related comments as the coverage rolls along. Please feel free to add an opinion, ask a question or give a review of just how you feel the Daytona activity is being translated online or on TV by SPEED.

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet, now in our sixth year of providing daily NASCAR TV and media coverage.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NASCAR's Dress Rehearsal Starts Thursday

Following one of the most tumultuous off-seasons in years, the survivors of NASCAR's sponsorship woes are finally heading to Daytona. It's testing time for the Sprint Cup Series teams.

SPEED is going to handle all the activity and will split the morning and afternoon sessions between online and cable TV coverage. Thursday through Saturday at 9AM SPEED will stream coverage on the SPEED.com website. There is no charge and the video stream should open on portable devices as well.

Rick Allen and Jeff Hammond will be up in the booth talking about the on-track happenings while Wendy Venturini and Bob Dillner will be covering the ongoing stories in the garage area. There should certainly be a lot of things happening live.

After lunch, the 1PM sessions will feature the big boys up in the TV booth on SPEED. Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will be talking a lot about the new rules package and what effect it will have on the "tandem racing" we saw last season. Hermie Sadler and Randy Pemberton will be the reporters.

John Roberts will be hosting all of SPEED's coverage and should provide a solid presence from the infield, even without the SPEED Stage. Daytona weather is always changing and the current forecast does contain the threat of rain and also changes in temperatures during testing time.

NASCAR has made it very clear that the newest set of rule changes in radiators and cooling systems is clearly aimed at stopping the two car "tandem racing" that fundamentally alters the dynamic of racing as we knew it. Teams adapted quickly to this style and poured resources into this type of racing.

SPEED returns after a hiatus that saw the NASCAR news continue at a frenetic pace on social media and racing websites. Unfortunately, the only designated motorsports-themed cable TV network stepped aside and despite one off-season special following Kurt Busch's departure from Penske, there was silence on SPEED where NASCAR was concerned.

One week after the testing coverage is over, SPEED returns the Monday through Thursday RaceHub program anchored by Steve Byrnes. Right now, the original air time is still listed as 6PM but perhaps the network might reconsider and move this important show back to the original 7PM ET timeslot.

West Coast viewers used to get the RaceHub repeat at 9PM Pacific, but SPEED also changed this time in mid-season. The 11PM timeslot meant many viewers had to record the show and try to catch it a day later. Returning the re-air to 9PM Pacific would certainly help the series and the sport at a time when both need it.

Thursday really starts the NASCAR TV season, this will be our sixth since opening the TDP blog. Next up is the Hall of Fame induction and then things get underway in Daytona for real. We will keep updating the media listings on the left side of this page.

We also encourage you to take a moment and join Twitter. This easy to use and free service will put information from your favorite drivers, teams, tracks and media personalities right on your computer or phone. You don't have to type anything or disclose any information. It's just a great way to stay plugged into the NASCAR scene with the most up to date information. We are at twitter.com/thedalyplanet.

There will be a live blog open for testing each day, but please feel free to add your TV and media-related comments to any of the topics mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comment button below. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rusty Wallace Saga Continues

The NASCAR TV world has been a tough environment for Rusty Wallace. Now, that rough road has extended to his racing business.

This from Rusty Wallace Racing on Friday:

Officials of Rusty Wallace Racing announced today that the team's on-track activities will be put on a temporary hiatus. "This was a tough decision to make, but it was the prudent one from a number of perspectives," said Wallace. "We just didn't feel like we had enough sponsorship in place to accomplish all of our goals."

"I promised myself and my family long ago that if the team wasn't funded to a level with which we were comfortable, we just wouldn't run it," continued Wallace. "I've worked way too hard to put part of my life savings into a race team."

Wallace continues to actively seek a ride for his son Steven in the Nationwide Series. RWR's other driver, Michael Annett, and the 35 remaining RWR employees were let go on Friday. There will be no RWR presence in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

Click here for a Dave Rodman interview from Saturday with Wallace on NASCAR.com.

Wallace spoke to Rodman passionately about his state of the art shop and then plead poverty in the same interview. Wallace said he has made absolutely no financial profit since 2004 on his Nationwide Series racing operation, but then said his shop is really designed for two Sprint Cup Series teams.

Five years ago, Wallace was the "Great White Hope" of ESPN. He was paired with loyal ESPN soldier Jerry Punch and former crew chief Andy Petree to anchor ESPN's combined Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series coverage. That honeymoon lasted exactly one year.

Click here to read "ESPN Changes Take Many By Surprise" from January of 2008. Wallace had been moved to the infield and paired with Brad Daugherty and Allen Bestwick. Wallace would continue to appear on the NASCAR Now studio show and also fill-in on select Nationwide Series telecasts when new lead analyst Dale Jarrett was off.

Wallace had clear contempt on the air for certain NASCAR personalities with whom he had clashed as a driver. They included Sprint Cup Series drivers, crew chiefs and owners. It was clear Wallace could not step away from his past and into the new role offered to him as a network TV analyst.

Bestwick proved to be the best thing that ever happened to Wallace in his TV career. A consummate pro, Bestwick kept Wallace on a very short leash and immediately cleaned-up any mess that Wallace made live on the air. Unfortunately, Bestwick could not help Wallace with his off-track issues.

As the picture above documents, Wallace put his trust into a company called US Fidelis. Click here to read "Trouble Brewing For Rusty Wallace And US Fidelis Sponsor" from June of 2009. Rusty and Steven Wallace were featured on TV commercials that ran endlessly across cable TV networks. The Wallace duo personally assured NASCAR fans and general TV viewers that US Fidelis was trustworthy.

It all came crashing down in 2010 in a very big way. Eleven states went after the US Fidelis owners for fraud and deceptive business practices. At the core of the complaint were the misleading TV commercials done by the Wallace father and son. Tens of thousands of people had been defrauded out of millions of dollars and were left with worthless extended warranties.

Click here to read "NASCAR Fans Got Fleeced By US Fidelis" from November of 2010. Neither Wallace ever apologized to NASCAR fans and ultimately it was revealed that RWR was left with over $500 thousand in unpaid sponsor fees by US Fidelis as the company collapsed.

In January of 2011, ESPN decided to sign Wallace as a network analyst through 2014 and the end of the current TV contract. This new comfort level led Wallace to more actively promote his RWR team cars during Nationwide Series telecasts. That led to some interesting moments during the season.

"NASCAR TV's New Lightning Rod" was the most recent TDP column involving Wallace. It was published on August 2 of last season as ESPN's coverage expanded as usual to add the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races to the network's existing Nationwide Series coverage. Click here to read the column and the fan comments.

Now, Wallace begins the final three years of his ESPN contract without a race team, without his son currently driving in any NASCAR series and with the clock ticking on his expensive shop and racing inventory. It's a new perspective brought about by the current economy and perhaps by choices made in the past.

ESPN begins the network's sixth season of NASCAR coverage with the Nationwide Series race from Daytona on February 25. Rusty Wallace will be in the Infield Pit Studio as usual, although this time he will be speaking as both a former driver and a former Nationwide Series owner.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website and comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekend: FOX Betting On Waltrip Brothers In 2012

Update: This topic has generated a lot of conversation and comments here, on Facebook and Twitter. Leaving it up as the lead story.

The NASCAR on FOX gang will be returning the core group of on-air talent for this season's coverage, but there will be one significant addition.

Michael Waltrip will take a seat in the Hollywood Hotel beginning with the Daytona 500. His role will be to appear on the pre and post-race shows, as well as providing analysis as needed during the race. In the event of rain, Waltrip and infield host Chris Myers will quickly become the show.

Moving aside is Jeff Hammond, the NASCAR on FOX on-air personality perhaps most identified with this infield position. This season, Hammond will become a roving reporter and has said he was absolutely fine with the change.

In 2011, FOX-owned cable TV network SPEED paired Darrell and Michael Waltrip in the TV booth for several races. The family dynamic between the two was interesting and the FOX executives loved the result.

"Michael is simply one of NASCAR’s most gregarious, genuine personalities and we loved the dynamic between him and Darrell when we paired them up on occasion last season," said FOX Sports Media Group Executive Producer Eric Shanks in a release.

"Michael has also been featured in numerous television commercials over the last decade, which makes him familiar to a much broader audience," continued Shanks. "I expect a lot of ‘gotta see’ TV coming out of an all-Waltrip Hollywood Hotel next season."

Shanks also made it clear that Michael Waltrip will remain in the Hollywood Hotel during and after the race. Waltrip will not be attending to his multi-car team duties, but dedicating himself to providing analysis for the full TV telecast.

This means that Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds in the TV booth will have to deal with the sometimes overbearing presence of Darrell Waltrip upstairs and now the powerful and very vocal media personality of Michael downstairs.

"The TV Lightning Rod" was a post from last season. We discussed the much more emotional and sometimes out of control aspects of Darrell Waltrip's last two seasons in the booth for FOX. Click on the title to read the entire post.

"Waltrip Negotiating To Purchase Red Bull Racing" is a post from Dave Moody's Sirius Speedway blog. Click on the title to read the story. This is part of the very real issue on the NASCAR on FOX table.

The younger Waltrip is actively involved as a multi-car Sprint Cup Series team owner. He will also drive a limited schedule in the series, focusing on restrictor plate races. Waltrip-Pastrana racing will run at least seven Nationwide Series races in 2012 with driver Travis Pastrana. Waltrip's K&N East team appears to have been shut down for this coming season due to lack of sponsorship.

The younger Waltrip has been embroiled in the normal controversies involving changes of personnel, driver contracts and sponsor issues for years now. His off-track issues are well-documented and his continuing presence on social media outlets is legendary. His tweets tell the story of perhaps a lonely man, working hard to establish his place in the sport and reclaim happiness in his personal life.

Against this complicated backdrop comes the most challenging television assignment of his career. A veteran analyst on SPEED's Camping World Truck Series telecasts, Waltrip has plenty of practice up in the broadcast booth. On FOX, however, after his time in the pre-race show is done his role will be quite different.

This time, Waltrip will literally be waiting in the dark for an opportunity to add his opinion into a telecast that already has his older brother squarely positioned as the star of the show. There is little doubt that the on-air dynamic at FOX will be significantly different than it had been with Hammond in that position.

SPEED indicated years ago that the reason it was permissible to have Waltrip in the truck series TV booth is because he did not own any teams in that series. There could be no claims of favoritism, questions about his agenda or suggestions that his comments on other teams were motivated by an ownership perspective.

Now, the new management at FOX Sports is brushing aside those issues and banking on the fact that the reaction to the younger Waltrip, both good and bad, will lead to a bump in the TV ratings. Despite the PR spin of last season, NASCAR TV ratings are far below the popularity of the sport only four or five years ago.

The point is well taken that the senior Waltrip will be 65 years old in February and has been doing this for a very long time. FOX is beginning the final three years of an existing TV contract and will be opening negotiations with NASCAR this year to determine the network's role in the future.

It may well be that Shanks is investing in what he sees as the potential successor to be the lead announcer for NASCAR on FOX. Should the network continue in the sport, the younger Waltrip will have three seasons of experience under his belt and perhaps the torch will simply be passed within the same family in 2015.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. TDP does not allow profanity, hateful speech or derogatory comments. Please do not post links to other websites. Comments will be moderated before posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best 2011 Pictures

We will return on Wednesday with new content. TV listings for Daytona testing are up. We will now list online, cable and broadcast TV programs and series. In the meantime, enjoy this picture post of the best from last season.

Last time you will be seeing a lot of these pictures used in TDP posts from the 2011 racing season. Right click to download them to your computer.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! TDP Will Return On Tuesday

Hope it is a very happy and safe New Year for everyone. We will be on a brief holiday and return with updated TV schedules, media news and opinions on Tuesday.