The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Television, Their Equipment, And Team Dream by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday July 25, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: Television, Their Equipment, And Team Dream

Summer Bedgood · Thursday July 25, 2013

 

There were a lot of questions heading into Wednesday night’s race at Eldora Speedway, one of which is “Will it live up to the hype?” After all, as exciting as dirt track racing is in the World of Outlaws series or at your local dirt track, the Camping World Truck Series trucks weren’t built for that. Would the trucks be able to pass? Would it be a demolition derby?

Would it be worth it?

I think the overwhelming answer to that question after last night’s race is “Yes!” In a sport that has fans who nitpick even the smallest bit of change, this was a novelty that was welcomed with open arms by even the most disgruntled NASCAR fan. The smile that was on their face when the green flag waved became that much wider as racing progressed, with passing at a premium and cautions at a minimum. It was the perfect combination and one that you rarely see in NASCAR even when the trucks are on asphalt.

The initial response to such a successful event is “When can we do it again?” With the series heading to Indianapolis this weekend, it’s easy to see why. A track that has much prestige but little excitement is taking the wind out of NASCAR’s sails, and many in the industry are ready for “NASCAR on Dirt: Round 2.”

I wouldn’t personally balk at the idea of adding more dirt tracks, but I would caution everyone not to get ahead of themselves. One dirt race only once a year makes it novel, special, and something to look forward to. If we add too many more dirt tracks to the schedule, the novelty wears off. And, as much as I hate to say it, the possibility that there might be some “boring” races on dirt or, at the very least, less exciting ones that don’t live up to the hype that this one has now created.

Basically, the gist of what I’m saying is that it’s not smart for everyone to start demanding more of the same. This event was special because it was the one and only, and won’t happen again for at least another year.

While I, too, would enjoy another race at Eldora, I’m not sure we should put the cart before the horse. Let’s give this event a few more years before we start throwing these guys back on another dirt track, especially in a higher series.

Now onto your questions:

“I was wondering why NBC finds so much value in NASCAR and is willing to spend so much money on it over such a long period of time, yet ESPN never really seemed to care? Don’t get me wrong. I loved NBC’s coverage from a few years back and I’m glad they are taking this seriously. But I always thought ESPN sucked and saw NASCAR as a second class citizen. When did they give NASCAR coverage outside of NASCAR Now or post-race? You never saw anything from it, and I didn’t think their at-track coverage was great either. Why does one network see such value and the other doesn’t?” Miguel

Well let me first say that ESPN always denied outright that they didn’t “care” about NASCAR. But, you’re right, very rarely would you see them talking about NASCAR outside of their scheduled programming and, when they did, it was with people who obviously didn’t know what they were talking about. Not every anchor has to be a “fan” of NASCAR or even like it, but my goodness, I’m surprised they are allowed to embarrass themselves like they do or completely dismember the sport as irrelevant or meaningless.

The reasoning behind it is, quite brutally, most of the people tuning into ESPN are not doing so for NASCAR coverage. ESPN is going to cater to their audience, and when most of their audience cares more about football or basketball than motorsports, then guess which one they are going to choose?

If you don’t believe me, I always make a point to try and gage how the public views the sport, especially when the sport reaches mainstream programming. Every time ESPN did put some NASCAR coverage into their daily rundown or when there was a major breaking news story that they couldn’t ignore (Danica…), my Twitter timeline would blow up with people saying, “Why does ESPN have NASCAR on here? No one cares about that!”

The inconvenient truth is there were many more ESPN viewers saying those things than NASCAR fans looking up and saying, “Oh, that’s interesting” or new fans saying “Oh, that looks cool, I’ll check that out.” In other words, while exposure is a good thing, it’s just not something that generates a positive response to ESPN from their audience.

NBC, on the other hand, has wholly embraced motorsports and even acknowledged during the press conference in which they made the announcement that they hoped to fill the void that SPEED’s switch to Fox Sports 1 would leave. Their IndyCar coverage is, in my opinion, superb and though I’ve watched very little Formula 1 racing this season, I’ve heard great things about NBC’s coverage of that series as well.

Additionally, they have some very well-produced original motorsports programming, such as the behind-the-scenes focused show called “IndyCar 36”. Even though my specialty is NASCAR, I find it hard to look away when I flip my television set onto NBCSN while it’s on.

Finally, I agree with your point that they just genuinely seem to care. They are taking this partnership seriously, and I think that will be a positive for the sport.

ESPN is a sports channel. NBCSN is quickly becoming a motorsports-based channel. At the end of the day, that’s the big difference as to who values NASCAR and who doesn’t.

“Does NASCAR still use aerial cameras? I really like the shot ESPN has at Indianapolis that follows the cars down the frontstretch, and I was wondering if it would still be there after what happened in Charlotte.” Ashley

I wouldn’t count on it. After a cable fell from one of FOX’s aerial cameras during the Coca-Cola 600, injuring some fans, damaging some cars on track, and even forcing to NASCAR to throw a red flag to clean up the mess, NASCAR did force the networks to stop using aerial cameras until they could figure out what happened.

It looks like that decision is permanent, however, since they announced late last week that they have permanently suspended the use of aerial camera from their tracks at any sanctioned events, saying, “The safety of our competitors and our fans remains NASCAR’s number one priority.”

While NASCAR didn’t release the details of what they discovered over the course of the investigation, the fact that they are making this a permanent part of their coverage means one of two things to me: (1) what they found was a genuine flaw in the system or (2) they don’t know why it happened and don’t want to take the risk of it happening again.

I have a hard time believing that they don’t know what happened. At the same time, if they had, they would have fixed it, let the spectators know, and move on.

However, if it was a freak accident and they don’t know how to prevent it in the future, it makes more sense for them to make the decision that they made last week. I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, if that’s the case, but I understand why they had to make it. The whole “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” mantra rings true here. I think the spectators and general public were willing to forgive NASCAR (and FOX) for what was likely just a freak occurrence, and leave it at that. However, if NASCAR and the TV networks don’t change anything and it happens again in the future, the sport as a whole will have a public relations disaster on their hands.

So if you’re heading to Indianapolis this week and you happen to look up, don’t expect to see any special acrobatic cameras. It’s just too big of a risk for NASCAR to take this soon after such a scary incident.

“What is going on at ThorSport Racing? Joe Shear Jr. makes it sound like they’re as corrupt as Hendrick Motorsports!” Bruno

Um ….. yeah, ok.

Anyway.

Joe Shear Jr., Johnny Sauter’s crew chief in the Camping World Truck Series up until a couple of days ago, cited a lack of qualified manpower and lackluster management as the reason for his resignation from ThorSport Racing. He didn’t cite any, ahem, “corruption” in his decision, just a lack of decision-making that he felt was necessary for the organization to grow.

I haven’t quite decided yet how I feel about it even though I’ve heard both sides of the issue. Both Shear and David Pepper, ThorSport’s team manager, told their sides of the story and it was difficult to come to any conclusion other than that ThorSport was making some decisions about how to grow as a company and Shear just didn’t agree with those decisions. The intricacies of this sport run so deep, that I couldn’t even begin to decide what that would be. Shear did mention the treatment of himself and his team as a reason for him being upset, but whether that means they weren’t getting equipment that was as good as teammate Matt Crafton’s or if that just simply meant the camaraderie was lacking, I have no idea. I don’t imagine it’s anything small, though, or Shear wouldn’t have left one of the most competitive teams in the sport right now.

Bottom line, the only people who really know what is going on here is Shear and the executives over at ThorSport.

Also, if you are going to accuse a team of “corruption”, at least have the decency of providing some evidence.

~

Now it’s my turn. My question to you, the reader: *The race at Eldora was obviously great, but is there another dirt track that you think might have provided a better show?

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sal
07/25/2013 12:50 PM
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I enjoyed the race at Eldora, but to me, what it proved is that slower cars and shorter tracks make for more exciting races, period. The fact that Nascar has recently exploded with 1 1/2 mile tracks that (whatever their individual quirks) tend to produce races that are all alike might have an influence on the decline in interest. Fuel mileage, track position, aero dependency and the majority of passing happening during pit stops does not make for compelling races week after week. Since I can’t tell if a car on the track is going 200 mph or 150 mph, why make it such a big deal? These days, the faster they go, the less exciting the races are to watch.

Sherri T
07/25/2013 02:00 PM
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I agree with Sal!

My take was that the changing conditions of the track, the shortness of the track and the differences of racing on dirt made it a driver’s race and that’s what I like to watch.

IMO: If we could get more short tracks that are more difficult to run and show off the driver’s skills – you get a better watching experience.

Doesn’t necessarily need to be dirt (although it was a great experience), just slower tracks with a high level of difficulty that let the skills of the driver shine.

The bigger “fast” tracks just don’t put on a good show in most cases.