Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kyle Petty Gets No Respect From Fox Sports

It was a long day and night in Concord, North Carolina. Between the SPEED Channel shows and the NASCAR on Fox coverage of the NEXTEL Cup race, most of the TV crew had been working for over twelve hours. As the longest of all NASCAR races dragged on, it was apparent that a tired crew was running on empty. Unfortunately, the victim of their biggest mistake was Kyle Petty.

After years of breaking new ground in NASCAR technology and innovation, the NASCAR on Fox crew is going out this year on a strangely sour note. Beginning with the short track races at both Bristol and Martinsville, the Producer and Director of the NEXTEL Cup races made the decision only to show the first one or two cars cross the finish line. Just like that, it was decided that the race was only for the win, and nothing else mattered to the millions of NASCAR fans watching on TV.

This left a bad taste in the mouths of fans after Martinsville, but all hell broke loose after only the winning car was seen crossing the finish line in Bristol. Among the cars not shown were Dale Junior and Tony Stewart, both of whom finished in the top five. As the entire field came across the finish line beating and banging for every position, viewers were treated to shots of the winner's wife, crew chief, pit crew, and in-car camera. Basically, all the people we would see in Victory Lane anyway, including the driver. Not one other car was shown from the entire field.

The Daly Planet received several emails from friends indicating that this issue was being discussed in Fox Sports production meetings. It was assumed that this initial attempt at manufacturing some drama would go by the wayside. It was assumed that cooler heads would prevail and that the lead lap cars being shown crossing the finish line would be returned to the telecast. Fans of the lead lap drivers would get to see the stories that the on-air announcers had been documenting for several hours finally pay off. Wow, were we wrong.

What made this all so confusing was that Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip were often still calling the action of the other cars in the field racing to the line while the NASCAR on Fox cameras were showing all the "artsy" reaction shots of wives and pit guys. Even stranger was the fact that PRN Radio was still calling a race that was fully involved in heavy competition by the rest of the field roaring to the line.

Often times, watching the NASCAR on Fox pictures while listening to the Radio broadcast led one to believe that these people were at two different races. How could we be watching the in-car camera of the race winner slowing down on the track, while The Radio Guys were calling a side-by-side battle of two NASCAR Champions for a top five finish? Sound strange? Well, it happened already this season.

Lots of "conspiracy theory" folks have been emailing me this year with their ideas on why this very strange decision was put in place. One theory is to drive NASCAR fans to the DirecTV Hot Pass package. Only by buying the package of their favorite driver could any fan be guaranteed of seeing him finish. Fox can always say, "well we showed the winner, what more could you want on free TV?" If you want to be sure to see your driver finish, buy the package.

As "conspiracy theories" go, that's a pretty good one. With no pay-per-view package on either the Busch or Craftsman Truck Series races, both ESPN2 and SPEED make sure to show a ton of drivers crossing the line at the finish. There has never been an issue in the other two national touring series, even when they are produced from the exact same production truck with the exact same crew. This is a conscious decision by the NASCAR on Fox executives to "eliminate" the entire field no matter what the circumstance before they cross the finish line...unless they win.

The other working theory is that after several years of doing the same races on the same tracks with the same crew...things got boring. Since there is very little opportunity to change the "in-race" television production, the Fox Sports Producer and Director decided to use the football and baseball TV models to "build drama" and crown a single winner.

Lots of dramatic shots suddenly pop-up of the coach, the quarterback, and the team. Then, one long pass for the winning touchdown. Its a nice idea, and its always great to see the Wide Receiver make the catch, but this is NASCAR. As fans know all too well, every position in every race can make or break a team for "the chase."

In the overall scheme of things, someone who did not win may clearly be the story of the race. Sunday, at Lowes Motor Speedway, the NASCAR on Fox gang did a great injustice to Kyle Petty. The worst part is, they did it on purpose.

Kyle Petty is slated to step-out of his car and assume a broadcast position with TNT after just one more race. He has been working hard with SPEED at a television career this season, and his racing has been continually mediocre. Many assume that this is his last season as an active driver.

Sunday, just days short of his 47th birthday, Kyle Petty finished third in the Coca-Cola 600, one of the biggest races of the year. Other than the people in the stands and on pit road, no one saw him finish. Fox Sports got caught up in the excitement of Casey Mears first Cup win, and then got lost. What may become Kyle's last moment in the sunshine was ruined by this strange focus on the winner. Once again, no other cars were shown finishing the race...including Kyle in third.

With only one race left in Dover, the NASCAR on Fox gang leaves a great legacy behind this year of drama, change, and excitement. Those elements are generated by the forty-three drivers that take to the track each race to provide the "content" that Fox Sports needs to make its millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

The ultimate irony is that often the cars "eliminated" by Fox because they did not win the race are sponsored by the heaviest advertisers in the Fox telecast. That leads to a very good question. I wonder if the Fox Sales Department ever watches these races?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


Sal said...

It has become increasingly obvious that Fox and ESPN neither know or care what fans watching races want to see. Or what creates 'excitement and drama' about racing. Overuse of in car camera shots leaves viewers with no perspective of where cars are on the track in relation to each other. Focusing on one car at a time does the same thing. Is you favorite driver closing on the car ahead of him? You'll never know by watching the broadcast. The frustrating crawler that takes up so much room at the top of the screen rarely gives relevant intervals between cars, or the cars a lap down...that would help fans keep perspective on what's happening on track beyond what TV chooses to show.
Several times last night, Fox was focusing on one car, accidently shoaing other cars in the background. At least twice, one of those cars started to have trouble, and the shot was switched to another car, forcing them to show the incident in replay. Someone in the booth isn't paying attention to what's happening on the track.

Anonymous said...

I have read your article ,that Kyle Petty gets no respect from fox.I agree with you 100%;I am a huge fan of Kyle Petty and while I was happy for Casey Mears I was angry that I did not see Kyle cross the finish line.Now if they are doing this to get people to order direct tv's hotpass it will not help,I have ordered hotpass and it is pretty cold from what I have seen.It has the same drivers week after week and your viewing is limited to a couple of cars with in a short distance of those drivers.So don't waste the money.If your like me,I am a Petty fan but I still like to see whats going on with the rest of the drivers because I'm a RACE FAN!Congradulations to Kyle Petty and Petty Enterprises,I knew you still have it in you Kyle.AS for these T.V. stations,Stop sitting on your brains and give the fans what they want to see whether it is pay tv or not.I have Direct tv and even though it is on fox I still have to pay for it.Thank You,Richard Dayton

KP Chick said...

As a Kyle Petty fan, I will note that DW and Mike Joy both, in the last laps, were making the comment (as fuel ran low) that not only might Mears or Yeley win, but so might Petty. (I will also confess to yelling at the TV for them to shut up, or they'd jinx Kyle!)

I must overall agree - for Petty's best finish since (I believe) his Dover win in 1995!, this was a sad commentary. They sure took their time getting to interview him after the race, too.

Mike Evans said...

I would think that Coke would be upset,and have something to say.
Afterall it was the COKE 600 and the car they picked to sponsor,was not shown crossing the finishline in third.
Not to mention it was also his best finish in twenty years,and he is a former winner of the 600.
And the car just looked Great,put it on TV !

Anonymous said...

You've nailed what Fox has done-trying to create "drama" for the non-race fans by focusing on the leader.

My first recall the over-the-top attempt at drama in live televised racing was when Dale Jarrett won the Daytona 500. CBS kept showing his mother inside the her van, not wanting to look, she was so nervous. Nice sidelight, but it went on and on, and folks I talked to about it recalled it as too much then too.

Now we get that kind of crap all the time. I'm afraid the ESPN racing coverage of the 80's won't be the ESPN we see later this season, so prepare for it. At least they show most of the finish-they did it for the Busch race Saturday.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if NASCAR makes he top 3 drivers stay to talk to the media, then the media should AT LEAST show the top three drivers across the finish line.

Just a thought.

bevo said...

I don't think that Fox has any interest in driving fans over to HotPass, it doesn't put more money in their pockets. The only driver who is on every week is Junior, they do a pretty good job of rotating the other four. On the Stewart channel last night though they started to play music for some unknown reason. Entire songs with song title and artist on the screen. Also with about 20 laps left they turned off all of the feeds, somebody with a real big brain forgot that they needed more time for a 600 mile race than a 500 . We ended up missing about 5 laps before they turned them back on.

Anonymous said...

I saw that Kyle's dad, Richard Petty, was as the Indy 500. To bad Richard didn't see his son finish in third in the Coke Zero car in the Coca Cola 600. Thank goodness the ball and stick producer from Fox will only ruin the finish of one more race this season.

Anonymous said...

Hey bevo, I never got my HotPass feeds turned back on!! I had a black screen starting at about 9 pm, plus the info screen showed the information for the next race. I called DirecTV and complained and got a $15 credit. I missed the music stuff because I had the alternate audio track on for the in-car radio.

Daly Planet Editor said...

DirecTV was recently purchased by the parent company of Fox Sports, called News Corp. The former Executive Producer of NASCAR on Fox, David Hill, is now the head of DirecTV. The former VP at SPEED, Chris Long, is now at DirecTV running the Hot Pass package. Yes, that is the Chris Long that created NASCAR Nation.

Anonymous said...

After twenty plus years of dedicated Nascar support I have pretty much given up on Nascar as a whole. If you ever attend a race, they will suck you for every penny you have if you let them, from a $6.00 beer to a $3.00 bottle of water.
I was reading an article on last night where Humpy Wheeler was complaining about Nascar taking the drama out of qualifying and the attendance for qualifying at his races suffering for it. I was at the fall race at Charlotte last year and myself and five others planned on going to qualifying. When we got to the track and we were told that it would cost us $22.00 per person we left. What happened to watching qualifying for a couple of bucks.
I will attend many more local dirt tracks in my area (non Nascar tracks) and eventually faze Nascar out completely.

Tony said...

As a Former ARCA/Busch Series Crew Member I found out real quickly when I was in the sport that the main thing is the all "Mighty $$$" Now it doesn't matter how much talent you have it all depends on how much $$ you can bring to the table. This sport is going to be ruined by the greediness of people who are only involved to make $$.

Anonymous said...

I have the Hot Pass and never lost the sound or the picture. Maybe it was just the particular channel you were on?

Anonymous said...

The same Chris Long who also got Alan Bestwick removed from INC and sent to pit road instead of the broadcast booth for the races because Long and Bestwick didn't get along.

amy said...

I agree with you 100% about the injustice that Fox Sports did to Kyle Petty. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time and they aren't the only TV crew to do it. I have been a fan of The King all my life, and now I am a fan of Petty Enterprises as a team. When ESPN used to carry all the races, you would get a rundown of the field, you'd get to see 'your' favorite car, even if it wasn't running in the top 10. The past few years, the Petty cars might as well have been invisible as far as the TV coverage is concerned. Oh sure, if they wreck we see the coverage OVER and OVER again and have to listen to the inane 'commentary' of the morons in the booth. But let one of the Petty cars do well, and you don't hear anything. It's hard to even FIND the cars when you're looking at the TV unless you're sitting right up against the TV. When they do a 'rundown' of the top 20 cars, all of the TV crews will skip over either Bobby Labonte or Kyle Petty if they are running there. This sport wouldn't be where it is today if it weren't for the Pettys, and the TV crews need to have some respect. The Petty Fanbase may not be as big as the Budweiser nation, but there's still a big Petty contingent, and we're TRUE BLUE! GOOD JOB KYLE ON THE 600 FINISH--YOU MADE US ALL VERY PROUD!

JHD said...

You know what? This is the first time I've been glad they've only showed the winner. Why? Because I'm a long-suffering Casey Mears fan, and I NEVER get to see him during the course of a race, much less where he finishes or why he finished that way.

This time, there was a legitimate reason for showing only Mears as he crossed the line - it's the first time he has ever won a Cup race. I would think that a first win is a big deal, no matter who the driver is, and that focus on him in this situation is warranted. I certainly wouldn't have begrudged this particular policy if it had been JJ Yeley or Reed Sorenson who had won his first race last night instead, or if Kyle Petty had won his first race in a long long time.

Kyle Petty gets plenty of respect from all quarters. But right now, you're not respecting Casey Mears and his first Cup win. For the most part I agree with your columns, but not this time.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Casey Mears and his team on a great job in the Coca Cola 600. I'd like to comment on today's version of Nascar. It reeks not only of false drama, very questionable yellow flags when a driver gets too far ahead of the field, and downright race fixing. The announcers it seem have a script line to stick to and if they don't someone starts to talk over them. I believe this problem starts at the top levels of the sport. What I thought would never happen seems to have happened. They lost touch with their core base of fans, fans who liked going to Bristol to see if anyone could beat DW that year, fans who would root against Dale Earnhardt as he bumped their driver out of the way and went on to win the race. Race fans nowadays don't have the foggiest idea of what the sports roots really are. Nascar has sold out. I think it all started when they took Nascar away from ESPN and let the highest bidder take away what ESPN had helped build. Without ESPN's coverage I would not have become as big of a fan as I was. I find my interest in the sport fading away as fast as Nascar's integrity. There doesn't seem to be anything real in Nascar anymore. Drivers who actually are real (Tony Stewart) speak their minds about the sport and get called into the hauler to be reminded that while they live in America they don't enjoy the same freedom of speech as the rest of the country unless it to sing the praises of today' corporate business. Well I for one am tired of Nascar telling anyone who will listen that they understand their audience and that they are making changes for the fans. This fan says you can have today's nascar, give me back my Nascar of the 70's and 80's where there were no scripts to follow, drivers who actually said what was on their minds, and the races were decided by the action on the track, not in the almighty nascar hauler.

Tim G.

William said...

Now you've gone and gotten my panties in a wad. It didn't bother me so much, the winner centric ending to a race. It's all about winning right? But now, after reading your blog for a few weeks, I'm really frustrated about seeing the end. It really doesn't make sense to not show more than one car cross the finish line after a six hour race. I guess that since fox doesn't carry the chase, they aren't interested in the points race?

While at the track, I usually feel that PRN is airing a different race. Thier version of what's going on usually is more of what they wish was going on instead of action on the track.
It did push me to listen to driver chatter more and that's good. But PRN and Doug Rice suck a big one.

Anonymous said...

I was on the Tony Stewart channel when it happened - actually I was out of the tv room and came back to find the picture frozen, when I flipped over to the next HotPass channel it was black, when I flipped back to Tony's it was black. All 6 HotPass channels were totally black for the rest of the race.

Figures that horrid guy who came up with NASCAR Nation is the one in charge!

Anonymous said...

John, I have to agree that Kyle's not getting any respect...especially when you have his picture on your page with a sponsor that he hasn't had in a couple of years!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Unfortunately, NASCAR tries to limit the access of the non-paying media (websites and blogs) to pictures and video. This is a picture of Kyle that is currently in the public domain. Thanks for making the point.