Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 78- NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot, Special Championship Edition

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I return from a brief hibernation to talk more television. Now, we’ve had a full week for Tony Stewart’s championship to sink, but what of the TV coverage. Last week, I talked all about ESPN’s contributions, but what of SPEED? Like last year, they contributed an expanded three-hour edition of NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot.

However, before we start, I want to announce to all of my readers that yes, I will be back for a fourth year of TV criticism with Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will return as well, but possibly in a more limited form. To be honest, I need to monitor myself better in 2012 because I was near complete burnout with a month left in the season. The Annex is officially an “optional” column. However, the Annex has not missed a week during the racing season over the past two years, by my choice. Expect that to change in 2012. I might not cover quite as many series after the new year, but I will have series that if they race, their telecasts will be given priority. As of now, those are the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series from NASCAR, the Izod IndyCar Series and either the ARCA Racing Series or the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. The top-3 NASCAR series will always be covered in the main critique no matter what, since NASCAR is our main focus at Frontstretch. The Annex will likely focus on those other three series in 2012. With that said, onto the critique.

The show started out with John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Kenny Wallace introducing the broadcast surrounded by a group of fans. Wallace usually introduces the show, but it’s not usually surrounded by fans. Interesting touch.

A nice touch that is not unique to NASCAR RaceDay (I noticed it on Sunday’s broadcast of the Grand Prix of Brazil) is the listing of all SPEED personalities’ Twitter usernames under their names on graphics. I’ve never seen anything that states that the network actively encourages their personalities to join Twitter, but it seems like almost everyone is onboard now to varying degrees. It’s great to see. Also, note that Larry McReynolds was the only personality not to have a Twitter page listed on the show. Since Homestead, he has joined Twitter and seems to be taking to it quite well. You can find his page “here”:http://twitter.com/LarryMac28.

SPEED assigned Hermie Sadler to cover Tony Stewart during the show, while Wendy Venturini covered Carl Edwards. Both are quite solid in their roles, although the show was Sadler’s last appearance on NASCAR RaceDay (at least for now).

Following Sadler and Venturini’s intros of the championship contenders, the show segued to taped footage from the championship press conference, held in a tent on Miami Beach the Thursday afternoon prior to the race.

For a big show such as this, SPEED decided to expand their roster of personalities. In addition to the normal group of six on-air personalities (the five regulars and Rutledge Wood), FOX’s broadcast booth of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and McReynolds also showed up on the telecast on the mobile stage used during FOX’s Pre-Race shows back in the Spring.

Following a break, SPEED reviewed the 2011 season in montage-style. Radio chatter was included from notable instances (Greg Biffle ranting about losing time on stops due to having to wait on fuel, excitement from Steve Letarte ahead of the Harvick-Kyle Busch confrontation at Darlington). Discussion was about some of the epic moments during the season. Kenny Wallace singled out Regan Smith’s win in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington and claimed that Regan “…is a race car driver.” Uh…ok. I’m sure Smith has been a race car driver for quite a while now, having just completed his fifth year in the series (third full-time). I’m not sure if that is what Wallace meant to say, or if he was meaning that Smith took his career to another level by winning that race. Regardless, it was a little weird.

The main feature shown on SPEED was a taped piece where Waltrip sat down with both Edwards and Stewart at what appeared to be a local park to discuss the weekend. Both drivers appeared to be quite relaxed while responding to Waltrip’s questions. There wasn’t the sniping that had been the hallmark of Stewart’s quotes in interviews and press conferences since Martinsville…at least for the first segment. Afterwards, Joy and McReynolds commented on the piece. McReynolds compared the two drivers to Dale Earnhardt and Davey Allison. Interesting choices from McReynolds since he served as the crew chief to both drivers during their careers.

In addition, there was a look back at Jimmie Johnson’s streak of five consecutive championships with input from the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer and Dave Moody from Sirius Speedway.

Compared to a normal two-hour episode of NASCAR RaceDay, there were very few regular interviews. Both Stewart and Edwards (along with their crew chiefs) were interviewed, along with Jimmie Johnson and Trevor Bayne. There was also a taped interview with Jeff Gordon. I think a normal episode has closer to 20 interviews.

One of the themes throughout the show was an overwhelming desire for Edwards and Stewart to battle it out on the track for the win and the title. I guess they got what they wanted. Convenient, actually. Having Stewart and Edwards finish one-two made it so that everyone else more or less didn’t matter. Much like Michael Larsen’s two opponents on his infamous double episode of Press Your Luck in 1984. Of course, I covered that in detail “last week”:https://frontstretch.com/pallaway/36577/.

The show that SPEED presented clearly had a very strong championship bias. Other than the championship, there was very little discussion of the race itself. No one else mattered, at least until the weekly Sunoco Performance Picks towards the end of the show. That basically goes against the point of the show, which is to preview the race. Normally, SPEED spends two hours on this show previewing the race. At the very least, a few segments should have been spent previewing the race and covering potential contenders (in addition to Edwards and Stewart). Alas, we got diddly-poo.

I hope you enjoyed this look back at SPEED’s three-hour Special Edition of NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot from Homestead. Until next year, I hope your holiday season is exquisite.

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