The Frontstretch: Talking NASCAR TV: Montreal Has Great Action, But TV Doesn't Tell The Whole Story by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday August 31, 2010

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to another edition of Talking NASCAR TV. Between the normal column and The Critic’s Annex for our Frontstretch Newsletter, this is the 100th critique I’ve written for Frontstretch. Last weekend, the Nationwide Series was in Montreal for the fourth running of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series and the Izod IndyCar Series ran at Chicagoland Speedway for the EnjoyIllinois.com 225 and the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300, respectively.

Before we begin, based on the comments from last week’s critique, I need to clarify a point regarding the referencing of races on ABC as being part of ESPN. Four years ago, The Walt Disney Company phased out ABC Sports in favor of the current “ESPN on ABC” setup. My best guess is that it was because of redundancy. ESPN is 80 percent owned by Disney (the Hearst Corporation has the remaining 20 percent stake and has held it since 1990). As a result, ESPN on ABC telecasts are effectively considered to be ESPN telecasts (the only on-screen mention of ABC during the Bristol race was the ABC logo in the lower right corner of the screen). I hope this helps you figure out the strong interconnections between the two.

EnjoyIllinois.com 225

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to action at Chicagoland Speedway. SPEED was back to provide coverage with their usual crew. However, NCWTS Setup started a little late – 12 minutes, to be exact – due to the coverage of the Ansell Protective Gloves 150 running long. That’s generally OK, because that race served as the undercard to the Truck event; despite the late start, SPEED still had a full 30-minute show for viewers.

As the production got underway, there was what I can only describe as an ad for KidsEmbrace, a company that makes special car seats for kids, during one segment. Mike Guerity described the seat while Ken Butler III watched. The way this feature was shown was a little stilted in that SPEED jumped to the clip very abruptly, cutting Krista off in the process. Also, since this was definitely an ad, SPEED should have acknowledged it as such.

SPEED showed a feature on Todd Bodine taking a tour of the Tootsie Roll Industries headquarters in Chicago to see how Tootsie Rolls are made. Todd is a mass consumer of Tootsie Roll Pops — he always has one handy during pre-race. Of course, this segment was only tangentially related to racing, but it was still somewhat interesting, in a Marc Summers Food Network Unwrapped kind of way. A Tootsie Roll – Todd Bodine sponsorship deal would be absolutely perfect for both parties.

Of course, SPEED followed this up with a “how many licks does it take” question. We were treated to drivers (and Ray Dunlap) licking lollipops and impersonating Mr. Owl from the classic commercial. The Tootsie Roll people were loving the free advertising, but this act got a little annoying.

Something that SPEED should have covered more than they did was the parking of the No. 81 (Randy Moss Motorsports / David Dollar) due to money troubles. Yes, we knew about it already – it had been a few days since the news broke – but this is a team that has been in the series for over a decade (as the No. 46 and No. 85 before it became the No. 81). They deserve better than that.

Last week, the main complaint was Michael Waltrip seemingly hijacking the broadcast with his comments. Now, this doesn’t mean that he was off-topic. However, if you have one person dominating the commentary, what is the point of the other two people? This week, it was not quite as bad. but there were instances in which Waltrip spoke for minutes at a time, and executed throws to pit road that are usually Rick‘s responsibility.

In addition, Waltrip appears to have a habit of picking favorites and cheerleading from the booth. Now, there are ways to go about this technique that are more professional than others. It is perfectly fine to want drivers to do well. However, Michael needs to watch himself at times. He did better with the Truck race than with the ARCA one before it, where he seemed to come off as unprepared.

The long green-flag runs allowed SPEED to do what amounted to a “Through the Field” around halfway. Allen stuttered while calling this, making me think that SPEED prohibits Allen from using the term “Through the Field” like FOX prohibits their commentators from using the term “Lucky Dog” because of the Aaron’s tie-in. This “Through the Field” ended up getting cutoff due to a caution.

Post-race coverage was about average for this network. There were interviews with the top-5 finishers, in addition to checks of the unofficial results (outside of the scroll) and the point standings before SPEED left the air.

This race telecast was similar in tone to last week’s from Bristol, but the glaring issues that were evident at Bristol were not present at Chicagoland. There was no ridiculous moment that stands out from the race like when Kyle Busch took out Jennifer Jo Cobb. Waltrip still needs to watch how often he controls the action, though. He’s technically the third guy on the totem pole behind the scenes – which means he shouldn’t be out there running the show.

Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300

On Saturday night, the Izod IndyCar Series returned to Chicagoland Speedway for the tenth running of the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300. This event might be the last time the series races at the 1.5-mile oval, as rumors persist that the track will be dropped for next year.

IndyCar Central consisted of interviews with Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Will Power, Dario Franchitti, and Ryan Briscoe.

There was a brief montage of Hideki Mutoh’s apartment in Downtown Chicago after the first commercial. This short segment was done, Cribs-style, like the MTV series. Mutoh talked about his place and showed some helmets from his racing career.

Another feature had Ryan Briscoe giving Versus a tour of the Penske Racing shop and talking to some of his crew members. After a short stint at the shop’s gym, we see Ryan at home with his wife, Nicole (the subtitle stated that she hosts NASCAR Now, for what it’s worth) and their pets, having a good time.

An Izod Performance Pit feature had Jack Arute showing off the device that locks onto the cars in order to add fuel. GPS has been an issue this season due to flash fires from cars leaving pit stalls with the assembly still attached. Arute also talked about fuel mileage calculations, while holding a GPS device. Not really sure how the GPS ties in though, to be honest.

As compared to last week, where there were plenty of errors to gripe about, this week’s race was much smoother. Camera shots were generally on target. We didn’t have any instances of confusion, like at Infineon. Perhaps that is simply because covering an oval race is easier than covering a road course. In the case of Infineon Raceway, the capital improvements that have been made to the property over the past decade have moved the TV booth from overlooking the Esses to being on top of the main grandstand. This setup means that the commentators cannot see certain parts of the track, and are completely dependent on the cameras to be able to commentate on those areas. An oval like Chicagoland Speedway, though, doesn’t give them those types of issues.

Enthusiasm in the booth was generally typical on Saturday night. The action on track, as is the norm for an intermediate track race in the Izod IndyCar Series, was fast and furious, and the booth was able to keep up with it.

However, Versus was not all that good at keeping tabs on cautions Saturday night. You’d think this simplistic task would not be an issue, but the yellows had as many incidents as the racing under green did. The whole second caution was quite painful in that the booth couldn’t figure out why it was thrown. Thankfully, the production crew bailed them out with a replay that showed Ana Beatriz hitting the wall in Turn 4.

Then, there was a collision in the pits between KV Racing teammates Takuma Sato and Ernesto (E.J.) Viso. After that, a stack-up before the restart eliminated Alex Tagliani and involved Vitor Meira, among others.

Neither of these incidents were covered by the broadcast booth when they happened, though. Instead, all the coverage received was reactionary in nature. The broadcast booth needs to do a better job, but the production trucks have to help the broadcast booth out more.

Post-race coverage was fairly extensive. There were nine post-race interviews conducted. In addition, there were also checks of the unofficial results (outside of the scroll), regular point standings, and oval point standings. Finally, Versus wrapped up their telecast with a return to Jack Arute, who talked about how the fuel mileage calculations were key to Franchitti winning the race. A wrap-up, high school essay-style way to do it, I guess, but it works.

The Nationwide Series visited Montreal this week.

NAPA Auto Parts 200

On Sunday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned to Montreal for their annual assault on the flat as a pancake quasi-street course known as the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. As this was an off weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, a slightly smaller production was sent up to Montreal for the race. For instance, the Infield Studio did not make the trip over the border.

Allen Bestwick hosted NASCAR Countdown from pit road before scurrying to the booth to call the race. During Countdown, ESPN aired a casual sitdown conversation with Jacques Villeneuve, where he talked at length about what it would mean for him to win at the track named for his late father, Gilles. This was OK, but I didn’t really learn anything from it.

There was then a tour of the 2.704-mile circuit with input from six drivers, including Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards, and eventual winner Boris Said. The Tech Garage stayed behind in the United States, but Tim Brewer still filed a report about brake bias and how adjusting can affect handling. From the looks of the car in the background, it appeared that these segments were taped during the Michigan weekend.

The actual race telecast was fairly decent to watch. Bestwick, after moving up from pit road, runs a relatively tight ship. You don’t see instances in which analysts can just talk over the play-by-play announcer with impunity. All three of the commentators were definitely into the race, though, that’s for sure.

However, there were some issues with the telecast. For example, when Steve Wallace blew his engine, the booth pointed out, it seemed like it was a full 30 seconds before ESPN actually cut to the No. 66. The commentators (mainly Rusty) didn’t help the camera crew all that much by not telling the production crew where the No. 66 was on the track after his spin and pit stop, but they have to have a better reaction time than that.

There were some graphical issues in regards to the telemetry once again. This glitch seems to happen almost every time that ESPN (or any of NASCAR’s TV partners, for that matter) goes to a road course. The RPM’s were screwed up at times, not following the car’s actual RPM’s. Luckily, the problem was fixed later in the day.

Another gripe I had was that Up to Speed didn’t make an appearance again. I don’t understand this, especially with a 42-lap green flag run. That’s over an hour of time. C’mon, now. Its omission also leads into another point. Despite all the issues out on track, there were a lot of stories that weren’t covered at all. Parker Kligerman, outside of his wall contact (while avoiding Leffler) and spin, was basically not mentioned at all (I think there was one mention early on, and that’s about it). D.J. Kennington, who finished 11th, got nothing. There were plenty of other stories that ESPN could have informed the viewers about, but chose not to in order to cover Edwards leading the race unopposed.

Due to the fact that the race went over its timeslot by more than a half-hour, post-race coverage was very brief. ESPN conducted interviews with the top three finishers (Boris Said, Max Papis, and Jacques Villeneuve) and Said’s crew chief, Scott Zipadelli. The unofficial results ran by in the scroll during these interviews. Sadly, there was no display of the point standings at all before ESPN left to show tape-delayed coverage of the United States-Slovenia basketball game. It could be argued that no one really cared about the points on Sunday, at least not the three drivers fighting for the win. However, there are drivers fighting for positions in points and fans of those drivers would like to know how Sunday’s results would have affected the standings (Just in case you don’t know, Brad’s lead is now 365. The Top 10 stayed the same, except for Joey Logano moving up two places to ninth at the expense of Jason Leffler and Brendan Gaughan).

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is Labor Day weekend, the “traditional” end of summer (which I generally don’t subscribe to). The Sprint Cup Series returns to action after a week off, with the Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night. The Nationwide Series will support Sprint Cup with their race, the Great Clips 300 on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series will be back in action at Kentucky Speedway Friday night in support of the Izod IndyCar Series. Here’s your schedule:

Friday, September 3
Time Telecast Network
5:00 – 6:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying Versus
6:00 – 7:30 PM Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED*
7:30 – 8:00 PM NCWTS Setup SPEED
8:00 – 10:30 PM Camping World Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225 SPEED

Saturday, September 4
Time Telecast Network
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
1:30 – 2:30 PM Sprint Cup Happy Hour SPEED
2:30 – 4:30 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN2
4:30 – 6:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
6:30 – 7:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN2
7:00 – 10:00 PM Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 ESPN2
8:00 – 11:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Kentucky Indy 300 Versus

Sunday, September 5
Time Telecast Network
9:00 – 10:00 AM NASCAR Now Pre-Race ESPN2
10:00 – 11:00 AM NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Round 1 Qualifying ESPN2*
11:30 AM – 2:00 PM NHRA Mac Tools U.S Nationals Qualifying, Rounds 2-3 ESPN2*
5:00 – 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Deport SPEED
5:00 – 7:00 PM * NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Round 4 Qualifying ESPN2 *7:00 – 7:30 PM * NASCAR Countdown ESPN *7:00 – 8:00 PM * The SPEED Report SPEED
7:30 – 11:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Emory Healthcare 500 ESPN
11:30 PM -12:30 AM (September 6) NASCAR Now Post-Race ESPN2

  • Tape-Delayed

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series races for next Tuesday’s edition of Talking NASCAR TV.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you would like to follow me via Twitter, you can go to my Twitter page here. And if you would like to contact the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following link:

SPEED
ESPN

As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

Tuesday on the Frontstretch:
Grading The Pack, Part I: The Teams
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In NASCAR: Off-Week Edition
5 Points: S&P, Out of Business? Too Little Too Late For Boris, and ARCA Favorite?
No Bull: Cup Cars A Good Idea In Montreal? Think Again

Contact Phil Allaway

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melz2
08/31/2010 05:05 PM
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As a race fan I tuned in to watch the ARCA race. I knew M. Waltrip did the trucks but I thought he didn’t do the ARCA races. NASCAR is wondering why TV ratings are down? Hello!! Do they ever listen to their own broadcasts? ie, the Waltrip brothers. I read your column and the list of negative issues you gave for him, I agee with them all but he has many more that I see. I watched until he drove me away,TV off, and that hurts me a lot as I love any kind of racing. But I am highly insulted by his commentary, like us fans are stupid. He’s getting worse and needs to find another job, FAST!!

bronco 213
08/31/2010 09:22 PM
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this is the best site ive been on ‘’‘

Steve_S
08/31/2010 11:40 PM
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How about in the last laps of the race they show where Gordon had parked off the track while there was a tight race for the lead! Like we were interested in seeing a parked car out of gas during the best part of the race!