TV Rear View Mirror: TNT

TNT stepped into the 2009 television line-up with another run through the summer stretch of the Sprint Cup Series schedule. The network carried six races in June and July before handing off to ABC/ESPN for the final television run of the calendar.

The 2009 TNT season was unfortunately punctuated by an on-air talent shake-up early in the network's schedule when veteran announcer Bill Weber was relieved of his duties.

Weber was involved in what was described as a loud, public confrontation at a hotel in Manchester, N.H. the weekend before TNT's coverage of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Bill Weber will not be part of TNT's NASCAR coverage of the Cup Series from New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend," read a statement released by TNT senior vice president Sal Petruzzi. "As this is a private issue, it's the policy of the company not to discuss personal matters involving our employees."

Veteran announcer Ralph Sheheen stepped into Weber's role for the Loudon weekend and anchored the telecast with analysts Wally Dallenbach and Kyle Petty.

However, Weber did not return for the remainder of TNT's run and whether or not he'll be back in 2010 has still not been announced.

Sheheen did his usual solid job in the booth with the combination of Dallenbach and Petty gelling further after their first pairing the previous season. The two brought a playful yet knowledgeable presence to each telecast and having Petty on board with his sometimes unbridled perspective, as well as first-hand information from the garage area, gave viewers an enjoyable insight into the sport.

Pit road was patrolled by Marty Snider, Matt Yocum and Lindsay Czarniak, a solid trio while Larry McReynolds returned as the go-to voice for technical data and information.

But TNT's signature was again its "Wide Open Coverage" of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona as the network carried the annual July Fourth weekend race without commercial interruption. Sponsor logos were displayed throughout the race and while ads did run, race action never left the screen. Not surprisingly, fans praised the concept and requested similar telecasts from all of NASCAR's television partners.

The addition of a "Race Buddy" interactive online feature also added to TNT's portion of the television schedule and there appears to be more initiatives in that arena on tap for 2010.

Overall ratings for TNT's 2009 NASCAR effort were very close to the previous season but down overall. For the 2009 season, NASCAR on TNT averaged a 3.3 rating, a decrease of 8% from last year's 3.6.

Its on-air talent controversy aside, TNT turned in an impressive 2009 season and its array of fan-friendly components from the "Wide Open" telecast to interactive and online additions were well-received by viewers.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2009

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