The Frontstretch: Talking NASCAR TV: TNT return is dyn-o-mite! by Doug Turnbull -- Tuesday June 10, 2008

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Talking NASCAR TV: TNT return is dyn-o-mite!

The Race For Ratings Points : Critiquing Stock Car Programming · Doug Turnbull · Tuesday June 10, 2008

 

A new segment of the NASCAR broadcasting season began this past Sunday, as TNT hosted the first of six races that it will cover this season. Many anticipated the weekend’s race at Pocono to lack the excitement and the drama that both NASCAR and TNT pride themselves upon. Fortunately for both, Sunday’s race delivered; and TNT had a huge hand in conveying that excitement to the viewers at home.

Why the uptick in enthusiasm late? As correctly anticipated by Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds early in the broadcast’s pre-race show, the Pocono 500 boiled down to fuel and pit stop strategy. This correct prediction by these current racing veterans further goes to show the worth in paying top dollar for seasoned participants in the sport.

Throughout the race, Bill Weber, Wally Dallenbach, and Kyle Petty toiled and debated about the outcomes of different pit strategies for teams. They smoothly and constantly referred to Larry McReynolds, who had a “smoking” calculator from his using it so much during the race.

The broadcast team seemed to gel well despite any technical glitches. Though Bill Weber does get stuck reading many corny one liners, he blended well with Petty, Dallenbach, and Larry Mac in this setting. Petty was not at all hesitant to share his opinion during the race, and Wally did not seem to have missed a beat, despite having been out of the booth for almost an entire year.

Also not missing a beat was the pit road team. The FOX pit road crew has been criticized several times in this column for botching tosses and getting behind on calling the actual pit stops. In contrast, although the TNT crew had not been together for nearly a year they turned in the strongest pit road reporting performance of the season. Reporters Lindsay Czarniak, Matt Yocum, Marty Snider, and Ralph Shaheen have little room to improve; the only deficiency I noticed amongst them was that during the post-race interviews, they did not toss to each other. In other words, the shot simply cut to the next reporter on the list.

TNT has a unique pre-race lineup, with a soft news pre-race show hosted by Marc Fein. Fein seems natural in his role on that show and should be used more during the actual race broadcast. He could fill the role that Chris Myers plays on FOX, with Larry McReynolds playing his Jeff Hammond. This particular pre-race show did not have many lulls, but during the story about the crew members competing in a short track race, I recommend that they should have actually shown the guys race instead of just talk about it. One short note: it was great to see Kyle Petty interviewing Denny Hamlin. I was waiting for him to slap Denny’s hat again.

The Allstate Countdown to Green, the network’s second pre-race show, also had quality roundtable discussion and covered most of the sport’s news. Wally and Bill sure deemed cramped in their booth above the track though, which did not seem necessary considering Pocono is a 2.5-mile superspeedway.

But overall, the broadcast was quite strong. Here are a few weak spots and other observations from both TNT and other NASCAR broadcasts from the past week:

  • TNT’s biggest mistake occurred less than a quarter of the way through the race, when the audio for the broadcast failed. The picture showed the racing action, but the audio was completely silent, then interrupted by a bleedover of the other Turner audio from the Braves broadcast. TNT eventually went to commercial and then rejoined the race with less quality audio, before the problem was completely fixed. This was the glaring weak spot in the TNT presentation.
  • Rusty Wallace proved that he does not belong in the broadcast booth during ESPN’s broadcast of Nationwide Series qualifying. He rushed to make the final “slam dunk” statements of a discussion — without fully thinking through his thought. This led to some less-than-stellar observations and some mouth and foot unity.
  • TNT introduced Race Buddy, a program designed to allow fans to follow the race via NASCAR.com. I did not use the feature for this race, but it sure seems like a good example of at least one of the networks trying to catch up to the media innovations of our time and expanding the coverage it offers. This is a good example for both FOX and ESPN and a good sign for the future of NASCAR broadcasting.

Despite a solid season, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. seems to have a sour face all too often when faced with the prospect of answering questions from reporters.

  • Network producers and reporters have to be disappointed with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s interviews this season. Every time a mic and camera are put in his face, he speaks slowly, mumbles, seems dejected, and does not even bother to mention his $30 million sponsor. An example of this again occurred after Sunday’s race. When the reporter began asking him about the day’s events, Junior seemed very disinterested in talking. Well, people always want to know what he has to say, and Junior’s plight is usually one of the top stories of every race. His dejection and non-enunciation must torque off the network brass. I do not doubt that his interest and passion in and for the sport, but with all of the hub ub that surrounds him, I am sure that the media expect a little more energy out of him in interviews.
  • Larry McReynolds sure does make the rounds. He is a prominent member of the FOX broadcasting team and Speed Channel, then immediately jumps the fence to help out rival TNT. He is obviously talented and warrants the exposure he gets. ESPN should go ahead and use Larry Mac in its coverage in place of Tim Brewer, who has been disappointing in his role with the network. Go for the triple like Kyle, Larry!

That covers this week’s round of Talking NASCAR TV. Next week, the big circus travels to Michigan, where we will cover all three network’s coverage of the sport again. Ciao!

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SallyB
06/10/2008 06:05 AM
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The most outstanding difference with the TNT broadcast to me was that the commentators knew when to shut up! There were several times during green flag racing that the only sound I heard was that of cars running on the track. What a welcome relief from the non stop frantic levels of ‘excitement’ from the other networks. The discussions of strategy weren’t given in a hyped up, overly frantic pitch. How refreshing.

Mike
06/10/2008 08:06 AM
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No cheerleading or shilling for any one driver or team made it a blessing. Weber managed to keep his foot out of his mouth most of the race and Larry Mac was quiet a lot of the time which definitely contributed to the TNT coverage being better than Fox.

If they can overcome a few glitches, they might have an excellent 5 remaining weeks.

When Kyle finally does decided to retire, he needs to replace DW on Fox. His analysis and commentary were much better than anything DW has delievered during his tenute at Fox.

bob mc intyre
06/10/2008 08:18 AM
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some of us look forward to the FOX coverage ending so that we don’t have to endure Mr. McReynold’s massacre of the american adaptation of the english language. he must have slept through the parts of grade school and high school where verb conjugation was taught. and he could, if he thought it was important, do a whole lot better at enunciation. let me be clear, i am not expecting perfect diction, but his constant slaughtering of the language wears me out. and now i have to endure him on TNT. well, i guess why the TV has a mute button.

marshall
06/10/2008 09:08 AM
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The director of the Pocono race deserves our thanks for keeping Larry off of the airways as much as possible . I’m sure it was a constant battle throughout the race with Mac constantly in his ear with his usual “ throw it to me guys ,. throw it to me , i’ve got a great observation “ . The master of stating ( and usually overstating ) the obvious is Larry Mac . And his ability to destroy the English language knows no bounds . Why is he allowed to keep his job at one network , much less two ?

Ginger
06/10/2008 10:07 AM
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Good article except a huge thumbs down on the Jr item. When he was interviewed, he had just gotten out of a Hot as Heck car and was totally exhausted. He hardly had the breath to speak. Later he talked by the hauler and felt a little better (not much). Just how much does the media expect from him? Some other drivers had to go to the medical center to be treated and after treatment they talked to the media. Where were you Mr. Turnbull?

Dennis
06/10/2008 11:41 AM
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Are you kidding me? What broadcast were you watching? Within the first hour, trouble with audio. I couldn’t hear the announcers for the background sound was way too consumming. It was so annoying that I headed for my computer to find TNT’s contacts.
I really like Wally and Kyle but dislike listening to Weber. At least Alan Bestwick had personality and knowledge of the sport.
I so like the fact that they show the rest of the 35 racing. Not just the front 8. But they do need to get together if they expect fans to turn in and watch/listen.

chris
06/10/2008 11:50 AM
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Except for the couple of annoying glitches previously mentioned…this was definitely the best TV broadcast I’ve seen this year. I like to see what’s going on all over the track…it is the first TV broadcast I’ve seen in a couple of years that was even close to comparable to the radio broadcast in quality.

HankZ
06/10/2008 12:38 PM
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One race broadcast on TNT beats all of FOX’s this season. It was good but they can be better. They’ll work out the minor glitches I’m sure….but no DW to listen to.

As far as the diction goes, I’m already tired of Rusty’s sentence ending “…thats for sure”. Almost as bad as DW’s Boogityx3 and Stewarts midsentence “buddah” (but, ah….I presume).
Eh, whatever! If that is all I have to pick on right now, its a minor complaint and that is a heck of a lot better than anything FOW has ever done, IMO, of course.

Bob
06/10/2008 12:50 PM
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My only real complaint with the broadcast was the stupid light pole graphic superimposed on the screen when they went to green. It looked like it should have been at a drag race. Just cause you have the technology to do something does not mean that you should.

mad-dog 20/20
06/10/2008 12:52 PM
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If you were Jr. you wouldn’t be comfortable not being able to live up to other peoples expectations either!

Kevin in SoCal
06/10/2008 01:45 PM
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Junior’s just tired of being a loser, that’s all. He ALWAYS gives the same monotone, I’m too tired to give another interview speech when he gets hounded by yet another reporter.

Haroof
06/10/2008 03:51 PM
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Hey idiot, the guy was suffering from HEAT EXHAUSTION.

Do you really think you’d be in the mood to answer questions after riding around in a car that’s probably hotter than anything you’ve ever experienced, for over three hours?

Kevin in SoCal
06/10/2008 04:57 PM
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I guess the stress of not winning is wearing on Dale Junior (and his fans) as several other drivers who were in the same race were able to give interviews that didnt look as tiring as Dale Junior did.

Karne
06/10/2008 06:32 PM
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What is it with some of you in the media? Junior doesn’t give good enough interviews for you? I wouldn’t care if he didn’t give you guys the time of day ever again. It’s the same dumb questions over and over and over. And he’s not a shill either. Tough. As for Kevin in SoCal, sorry he’s a “loser” in your eyes. Fortunately, your opinion doesn’t mean squat in the long run.

jerseyjim
06/10/2008 06:35 PM
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face it folks, no one did it better than larry nuber and bob jenkins and early day espn. todays coverage sucks. its just over-produced with too much filler.

Kevin in SoCal
06/10/2008 07:15 PM
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Neither does yours, Karne, but thankfully we live in America, where we still are allowed to express our opinions.

mikey15
06/10/2008 09:00 PM
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I can’t stand Weber and his pompous readings. He doesn’t seem like he would ever go to a race if it wasn’t his job. At least Larry Mac, DW, Petty, and Rusty are true racing fans! Tnt might be okay without Weber, but for this part of the season we are recording and watching later. It’s too painful to waste an entire afternoon listening to Bill weber.

Tracey
06/10/2008 10:50 PM
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TNT coverage was much better than FOX’s Kyle Busch Gospel Hour. . . As for Dale Jr., yes several racers did give a better interview than him (it’s possible their team has the heat thing worked out) but there were others that didn’t (i.e., Denny Hamlin). Before you start condemning someone, please go through what they have gone through and then you will be an expert on drivers tones after a race.

Terry
06/10/2008 10:55 PM
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Doug, try getting YOUR butt in the car, race it around for just an hr in the heat, have a reporter stick a mic in YOUR face and tell us all how your feeling. How many drivers went to the Care Center? Easy being a reporter sitting in the AC and not racing in the car. Jr does give interviews, maybe you just have to pay attention. Hmmm, have you listened to Kyle Busch when he wrecks, pissy with the reporters and throws his team under the bus. Check your ears out Dougie. Thank God we have Kyle Petty in the booth, should make it a little easier on OUR ears. You have a nice day now.

Johanna
06/11/2008 09:09 AM
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Great article!
I’m glad someone had the guts to tell the truth about Jr!! He can’t talk like any normal adult male, so he has to talk like a 5 year old little girl. I think he was trying blaming everybody else as to why he can’t win anymore. Heck his rabid little fans cry all the time, how nothing is ever Jr’s fault. Sounds like he bought into that lie too! Well it is his fault he always loses!! He is not good enough to get the job done, no matter how many people, including NA$CAR, do everything in their power to give him wins!
JR IS A LOSER!! LIVE WITH IT!!

Dennis
06/11/2008 09:19 AM
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I sure miss Benny Parsons.

What was with showing the 55 for so many laps at one point. Where they just waiting for the inevitable Mikey screw up or did DW get a hold of a TV camera.

The audio mess was embarrasing. Thank God for MRN But that just highlighted how much more was going on around the track during the unexplained extended rolling NAPA commercial.

Jerry D
06/11/2008 08:42 PM
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I have no idea what race all yall were watching but the one I saw sucked a big one. No list going across the top of the screen most of the time where your driver was and there pittyful try at distance from the leader the pack was. TNT blowed up in my book.