The Frontstretch: Confidentially, SPEED Excels While ESPN's Chemistry Needs Work by John Potts -- Tuesday March 25, 2008

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Probably the best thing about racing television coverage over the Easter weekend, in my humble opinion, was the introduction of “NASCAR Confidential” by SPEED on Sunday evening. This was a fresh look at the 2008 Daytona 500, with some insights from some interesting people, including legendary photographer Warren T. Taylor. Taylor hasn’t missed a Great American Race, and he’s one of the truly unique characters in the sport that’s come up through the years. For the For my part, I also enjoyed Jay Howard’s explanation of the pre-race show presentation. Anybody who has ever helped try to choreograph a pre-event show from anywhere, including the local track level, has to have wondered what it must be like in a situation like that.

As for that “other” network, here’s an overview of ESPN’s stab at Nationwide Series coverage below:

Nashville Nationwide Racing Broadcast
TV Networks : ESPN

The Good

One of the more interesting parts of this weekend’s NASCAR TV experience again came when the sport’s aficionados began discussing the bumpstop question, which seems like it’s going to be with us for the entire season on ESPN. Andy Petree explained to Rusty that “these guys” – I assume meaning the people who set up the cars – are going to figure out how to get the front of the car down so they can get an aerodynamic or other advantage, and when they do they’re going to use it as long as it’s available.

There was one pretty funny comment in this past week’s telecast. Rusty noted that once when he had the lead late in a race, he started rehearsing his Victory Lane speech in his head. Then, something happened to the car, and “I didn’t do that anymore.”

The Bad

Frankly, maybe the best thing that can be said about ESPN’s coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Nashville Superspeedway is that they covered it.

At first, they had me wondering if the recent rainouts of qualifying had prompted them to simply ignore it. Not covering it, I can understand with the NCAA tourney getting so much attention; but if they so much as mentioned it, other than saying who was on the front row, I missed it.

I’m not sure what the problem was between Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, and Brad Daugherty in the pit studio, but they were clearly uncomfortable, and they let it show.

When they got to the booth, things weren’t much better; it was clear that Marty Reid hadn’t done much of his homework. Early in the telecast, he said Richard Childress Racing had won the “Manufacturers’ Championship” in the series in 2007. I must have missed that; I thought it was the car owner’s championship. Toward the end of the program, he said it again, so maybe he was right. Or nobody in the truck figured it was worth trying to correct him.

At one point, it was reported that Scott Wimmer wanted to know why Kyle Busch wasn’t being shown the blue “layover” flag every lap when he was clearly in the way, and I think the sport could have expanded on that. NASCAR doesn’t require the driver being shown that flag to actually move over — as is the case at many short tracks — but they didn’t even mention that. However, it would have been nice to know why Kyle wasn’t being advised that there was a lead lap car right on his tail, which is apparently what NASCAR uses it for.

To me, it was something of a “blah” telecast all the way around. I’m not sure that the ratings will reflect it, but they should. It gave me the impression that the network was there because they had to be, and wanted to get it over with rather than promote a new vehicle for their product.

I wonder what Bob Jenkins is doing these days.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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03/25/2008 11:47 AM

While there are a few talented on-air types , overall the Nascar broadcasts are terrible on both networks . Both networks could lose 80 % of the on air people ( thats no exageration ) , and no one would miss them .

03/25/2008 08:34 PM

The best thing both networks could do to improve their broadcasts is to get rid of their infield studios and the deadwood occupying them plus have permanent audio difficulties so we don’t have to listen to the lame talking heads week after week.