Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fox Sports: Rick Allen Steps-Up To The Plate

NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series was racing this Saturday at Martinsville, and the NCTS announcing team from SPEED Channel got an opportunity to move up to the major leagues. The race was telecast live on Fox Sports, who allowed SPEED's Rick Allen to call the action and Phil Parsons to provide the color. Added to the mix was Darrell Waltrip in the booth as an analyst, and Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond downstairs in the Hollywood Hotel.

This interesting mix provided some unexpected synergy that energized both the SPEED and Fox Sports teams. As mentioned previously by The Daly Planet, Phil Parsons is one of the most underrated color announcers in NASCAR. He blended easily with the Fox pros and felt confident in swapping opinions with Waltrip and Hammond.

Rick Allen and Chris Myers are very similar in their style and delivery. Not perhaps the two most exciting announcers in sports, they are low-key and possess a dry sense of humor. When Allen is working alone, he sometimes seems like a fish out-of-water. With Myers along for the ride, it helped Allen to loosen up and put in a solid performance on national broadcast television.

It certainly seemed that Hammond and Waltrip loved this race. There was lots of fun while the trucks slugged it out, and put on the usual good short-track show. The SPEED Channel production crew showed the Fox Sports audience that SPEED puts on a solid telecast, and handles things a in a slightly more relaxed manner than the Fox NEXTEL Cup shows. Lots of low angles, in-truck cameras, and track trivia made first-time NCTS viewers comfortable with both the series and the track.

As the race wound down, Parsons stepped-up to the plate and assumed control of the facts in the race, including the race strategy and issues. Waltrip and Hammond enjoyed Parsons, and one had the feeling that there was real respect in the air where Parsons was concerned. Normally, Parsons is joined on SPEED by Michael Waltrip, who speaks over top of Phil and is always on his own individual agenda. This change was a positive one for SPEED, Fox Sports, and NASCAR.

There is always one "odd man out" in this type of relationship, and this time it was Krista Voda. This season, Voda has hosted an outstanding pre-race show that has energized the NCTS and been a fan favorite. For this race, Fox Sports and SPEED chose to continue to use Chris Myers as the "infield" host. In retrospect, it certainly might have been an interesting moment for all concerned to put Voda in charge of the Hollywood Hotel for this event. She has already proven her worth as a studio host, a pit reporter, and now a top-notch event host. Many of us thought she would have been a natural for ESPN's NASCAR Now, but for the time being we can still enjoy her talents when the NCTS pre-race show returns on SPEED.

For a race fan, Martinsville Speedway is a treat with its excellent facilities, good food, and southern hospitality. Today, the speedway was also a treat for those fans watching on television.