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Rainy day fill-ins

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, October 21, 2009


If your occupation happens to be executive producer or director of a live television project that's being held in the great outdoors then you already know that rain is your natural enemy. When Mother Nature catches a live television team off guard with a change in the weather it's panic time because these people are going to have to come up with a means of filling air time.

That's pretty much what happened to the ESPN2 Network, at the Lowes Motor Speedway last Thursday, while they were trying to present live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide practice session followed by Sprint Cup qualifying.

While the jet dryers ran hot laps around the Lowes Motor Speedway, a small squadron of television reporters were busy running up and down pit road lining up interviews to fill the air time. At this particular time you would have thought this process would have been fairly easy. After all, the day before, NASCAR had announced the names of their inaugural class going into their brand new Hall Of Fame. There was also, of course, the current state of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship.

But one couldn't help but notice that the majority of the answers to the questions from the drivers all pretty much sounded the same. That's when a television director reluctantly implements plan B. That would be sending a reporter, sometimes a want to be stand up comic, out into the rain soaked infield to visit fans in the campground area.

There's also plan C. That would be frequent visits to the trailer that houses the cut away car technology where a former NASCAR crew chief can educate us on the geometrical configuration of a lug nut.

But in most of these cases a good director and producer is aware of an impending weather forecast and plans for video fill ins. ESPN2 scored a checkered flag when they introduced Ellen Page: handwriting analyst expert. Her job was to examine the autographs of Sprint Cup drivers. The expert said often a signature can reflect inner feelings and even stress levels.

For example, Jeff Gordon's signature informed Page that he is an extremely private man that goes to great lengths to keep his personal life and public persona separate.

Page felt that Jimmie Johnson's autograph style totally defines him as a race driver. She noticed that the bottom of the capital J's from his first and last name has dramatic circular loops that resembles the wheels of a race car. She came to the conclusion that Johnson wants everyone to know that he drives race cars for a living.

After examining Kasey Kahne's autograph, Page determined that this driver was a very humble and low key man. No news there.

Young Joey Logano's autograph told the handwriting expert that he was both "jerky" and "insecure." I'm not sure I get that analysis. Following his horrific wreck at the Dover Nationwide Series race Logano was cool, calm and collected and had his now trademark toothy smile on his face. Seven days later he parked his car in victory lane. I'm not sure where the insecure part comes from.

In fact, the last time I saw someone smile that much it was "Smiling Bob" the star of those Enzyte commercials for erectile dysfunction.

Finally Page turned her attention to the Busch brothers. She determined that Kurt and Kyle Busch each had high energy levels but were not on the same page and would not make very good team mates as race drivers. She also felt there was a sense of resentment towards the feeling of "containment" they need to maintain to keep themselves in check and further determined they felt losing any race as being devastating.

Did she hit that nail on the head or what?

By the time the segment was over the jet dryers had made remarkable progress and it was time to let the cars back out on the track.

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