While FOX has broadcast the races up until this point, TNT’s NASCAR Summer Series will commence this weekend with Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR on Sunday at noon eastern. The Summer Series marks Turner Sports’ 30th year of NASCAR coverage and will comprise of next six races. These six races look to be exciting, as Kyle Petty states it’s the heart of the season.
“This is where teams begin to kind of pop out of the pack to be championship contenders,” Petty says. “You really know coming out of our six races who's going to be -- who's going to contend for the championship. So I think that's why it's just a lot of fun to do these races.”
The first race the TNT will broadcast, as previously stated, is Pocono Raceway, which saw a repave in the Spring. Petty says it will make the track smoother, however not as quite as smooth as glass. He says it does change the racing as drivers before were just trying to find a way around the bumps, so it’ll change the racing due to less bumps in the track.
“I think when you look at Pocono, it's going to be interesting to see guys go across the Tunnel with that much grip on the outside,” he adds. “It's going to be interesting to see where they run in Turn 1, if they could back to the bottom of the racetrack, if they've fixed those bumps because that was the preferred line for so many years, was right on the grass going through 1 and 2.
“It's going to be interesting to see if the bottom of the racetrack comes back through 3. Hopefully we'll see some better racing and some guys move around.”
Another race that the TNT team will be broadcasting also saw a repave - Michigan. Petty says that everybody is talking about the speeds, but sometimes speed doesn’t translate to the best types of racing as a lot of fans enjoy the short track action at 80 miles per hour. However, Petty says he does expect to see a good race due to the different grooves available for drivers.
“We've seen in the past when these guys go to qualify they run right on the bottom or in the middle of the racetrack, then late in the race they're all the way up next to the wall,” Petty comments. “We may see that early in some of these races, some experimenting and trying. But there's going to be so much grip that guys to going to get in line and race at a place like Michigan. Michigan is really hard to predict, and I don't think we've ever had great, great racing at Michigan, whether it's paved or worn out, doesn't make any difference. Somebody always checks out on everybody else.”
Petty and Alexander will be on the broadcast team that will also include Adam Alexander and Wally Dallenbach.
Petty is excited about being back on the team. He says that he, along with his collagues, look to frame the picture the best they can with talking about what is going on. He also is excited as TNT has worked at improving their total package.
“They always step back and look and say what can we do different than we didn't do last year,” he says. “And I think they've done a great job. You talk about them being in the sport for 30 years. That amazes me. I drove a race car for 30 years, and I know how tough that was. But to be relevant in the sport and to keep moving the ball in the sport has been something that TNT and Turner has always strived for.”
Also, Alexander will also be part of the pre-race show as the host.
There will be some changes to this year’s coverage as it was recently announced that the pre-race show will include a NASCAR Generations panel, featuring Jimmie Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty. They will discuss different topics each week, speaking about how the sport has changed over the years. Alexander states that it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been done for a pre-race show, but he thinks this is going to be something the fans enjoy.
“It will be very enlightening for fans who have latched onto the sport in recent years dating back to fans who have followed it for 50 years,” he comments.
The idea came about through what Turner has done with their basketball coverage as they sit down with a number of people – former players, coaches, general managers – and discuss topics that are hot in the NBA.
“We came to the conclusion that we should do that in the NASCAR world,” Alexander says. “Now, obviously there are differences in how the NBA is viewed and how you view the history of NASCAR and what's important to current viewers and fans. But I think what we found out in sitting those three drivers down is they all have interesting stories to tell, and if you're a race fan, I think you can relate to a story that Ned Jarrett had of something that happened back in the much earlier days of the sport, and it doesn't really matter what era you come from a racing perspective.”
TNT will also have a new touch screen application and says it will work closely with NASCAR to enhance the social media side as part of NASCAR’s new partnership with twitter. Petty, who is always on twitter, says involving social media is a good idea as he has seen while working in the broadcast booth before that if fans have questions, it’s a good way for them to get them answered.
Though can also be negatives he says sometimes instead of focusing on the action and what is going on, people tend to focus towards what’s being said on twitter.
“You can't get caught up in that,” Petty comments. “I don't think we can get caught up in that. We're there to do our job, and our job is to talk about the race and talk about Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. and guys like that and not get caught up on a conversation about Twitter or let Twitter drive the broadcast. I think we have to drive the broadcast.”