Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NASCAR Fans Are Screaming At Fox Sports


There is simply no way for NASCAR fans in today's corporate TV world to express their pleasure or pain with the performance of the NASCAR TV partners. Since The Daly Planet began publishing opinion-based columns in February, there has been a tremendous fan reaction to the TV issues being discussed.

Following the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday night at Lowes Motor Speedway, that "fan reaction" has become a hurricane of anger. The Daly Planet was overwhelmed with emails and comments filled with personal and very direct emotion toward NASCAR and Fox Sports. The two questions that need to be addressed are, where should all this energy be aimed, and why did this have to happen?

Earlier this season, the sport's top drivers battled at Bristol Motor Speedway in a good solid NEXTEL Cup short track race. The NASCAR on Fox gang had a blast telecasting the event, and followed many stories as the race unfolded. As usual, toward the end of the race the drama was building, and the finish was going to be a good one. Then, something very strange happened. There was no finish.

With thirty seven cars still on the track, the final laps at Bristol are usually just a fantastic run to the checkers. Everyone guts-it-out on the final lap and brings whatever they have left to the run for the flag. In person, it is just a fantastic site. A driver might be running in twentieth place, but he wants nineteenth, and with clumps of cars heading for the stripe, its mayhem. There is a reason why tempers run hot after Bristol, and often it is because of the last lap.

In this race, the TV viewers were denied that pleasure. They were separated from the reality of what was actually going on by the one and only group with the power to do that. That group was the NASCAR on Fox television production crew. On the final lap, only the winning car was shown. At first, it seemed like a mistake, but then it became a harsh reality. The TV crew had decided that only the fans at the track would see the field finish the race. Everyone watching on TV only saw the winner, and absolutely no one else. It was mind blowing. Thirty-six of thirty-seven cars were never shown finishing.

Across the country, there was a lot of yelling. I know this because the hundreds of fans who flooded The Daly Planet email told me so. When you have a room full of Junior fans, he is battling for fifth place, and he is not shown on the final lap or crossing the finish line...there is going to be yelling. Many people also mentioned the words that they were yelling, but that is not really for me to relate. The NASCAR on Fox gang decided not to show Dale Junior, Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears, Jimmy Johnson, and Greg Biffle finish the race. They were all in the top sixteen.

In every race, aside from the "big boys," there are great stories. At Bristol, they included Ward Burton and Kyle Petty finishing in the top twenty. Well, we assume they finished because we never saw them actually do it. Ward was returning to the sport after a hiatus, and Kyle ran strong to finish just ahead of the popular Kenny Wallace. A Petty car in the top twenty is still a big story.

Almost every major sports telecast has an "Achilles heel." Something that is just plain wrong when everything else is just so right. It sticks out, and it hurts. Sometimes it is a bad sideline reporter, an obnoxious host, or even an event that runs way too long. Everything else could be great, but this just bugs everybody.

This year, for the NASCAR on Fox gang, deciding to eliminate the entire field from being shown finishing the race is their "Achilles heel." And to those fans whose driver was battling for third, fifth, eighth, or anywhere else...it really hurts.

This past weekend, NASCAR held its longest race at one of its most important tracks. The winner of the Coca-Cola 600 can claim "home field advantage" until the fall race. Lowes Motor Speedway is the closest track for almost every team, and the "600" is one of the most demanding races of the entire season. The stage was set for an interesting evening with a slick track and a hard tire.

The day before the race, Kyle Petty made a surprise appearance at the racetrack's campground. He was going to drive the Coke Zero Dodge in the race, and to promote that brand he had a gift for a couple of fans. Kyle picked a couple of folks to come back to the track, and ride with him in a two-seat stock car for a couple of laps. It worked great for Coke, and the fans ate it up. Petty is slated to step aside and work for the TNT announce team after Dover, so this would be his next-to-last race for several months. His Petty car was done in a special Coke Zero paint scheme for the race.

The "600" is a race best described as "mind-bending." We used to call it the "24 Hours of Charlotte" because it seemed to go on forever. If it is hard to watch, then it certainly must be hard to drive. Everyone puts their game face on, but after three hours it is just survival of the fittest. This year, the race featured a big wreck, lot of solo spins, and a whole lot of complaining about the tires.

The NASCAR on Fox guys have always had fun with this event. There are a lot of weird things that happen before the race, and lots of celebrities and dignitaries at the event. When you throw in the Armed Forces and Memorial Day, its big. Just the kind of thing that fits the "Fox attitude."

As usual, Mike Joy and his partners led viewers through this marathon with a keen eye for stories and a strong amount of good information. As the race went on, one thing began to be very clear. The Producer and Director were just not on their game. Several times cars on-camera would begin to spin or smoke and the telecast would just move along as if nothing happened. The camera would cut-a-way from a spinning car and Fox would have to replay the accident that they could have shown live...if anyone was paying attention. They missed a lot of action on the track, and the viewers knew it.

As the race began to wind-down, it was clear that it might turn into a fuel run after all this time. While situations like this are usually saved for huge ovals like Michigan, the combination of the tire and the track had brought up something very new for this race. Who had to peel off for fuel, and who would stick it out?

Fox was great on following this complex and developing story. They detailed who was diving into the pits for fuel, and who could "go all the way." Casey Mears emerged as the man-of-the-hour, and the situation behind him began to be the story. One by one the big boys stopped for fuel. Cars not normally seen in the top ten began to creep up the leaderboard. Sorenson, Vickers, Rudd, and a forty six year old driver named Kyle Petty.

On the last lap, the race revealed the survivors. Casey Mears would get his first NEXTEL Cup victory, and behind him was an incredible story of strategy and perseverance. The NASCAR on Fox cameras followed Mears as he made his final turns and headed for the finish line. When he crossed it, TV viewers saw more of his car, his crew chief, and then his pit crew celebrating on pit road. That is all anyone saw of the finish of the Coca-Cola 600...unless they were there.

As the pit crew did a lot of jumping up and down, a blur went by in the background. Then, there was another. As pictures came on the screen of Casey Mears slowing down, the remainder of the field for the Coca-Cola 600 was screaming to the finish line at full speed. But to Fox, none of the other cars suddenly mattered.

One of those cars had Coke Zero on the outside. That same car had Kyle Petty on the inside. The Coke Zero Dodge with Kyle Petty at the helm finished third under the lights in the Coca-Cola 600 after more than five hours of racing. Kyle's first top five in over a decade with the race sponsor on the door and the crowd screaming.

The NASCAR on Fox Producer and Director chose to ignore it completely. Let me say it again clearly. No TV viewer saw Kyle Petty finish.

Viewers also missed Brian Vickers giving Toyota a fifth place finish. They missed Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd, and Earnhardt Junior battling to the line for sixth, seventh, and eighth position. They missed Jimmie Johnson edging out Mark Martin for tenth. Let's be realistic. Other than the winner, TV viewers missed everything.

In the Busch Series race at the same track one day earlier, ESPN managed to show a wideshot of the famous frontstretch "dog leg" and allowed viewers to watch the field stream across the finish line with electronic graphics revealing the cars info as they crossed the stripe instantly. Fans knew how their driver had finished the race because...they watched him do it. Then, ESPN picked-up the winner and had plenty of time before the burnouts and Victory Lane celebration began.

That, my friends, is how NASCAR TV is done for the millions of fans across the nation who have just invested hours of their life into this sport, and into the network televising the race. While I have several friends involved in the Fox telecasts, the sheer arrogance of the Producer and Director to "decide" that only the winner suddenly matters is amazing. As one emailer put it, "imagine televising the Kentucky Derby and only showing one horse finish."

Somewhere, Kyle Petty is savoring a third place finish at Charlotte. It may be his last moment in the sun before he steps aside as an active driver. It may be a momentum builder that changes the fortunes of the Petty teams. It may be one of his most prized NASCAR memories. I certainly hope he took a good long look at the scene as he crossed the finish line, because his memory is the only place he will see it again.

The Daly Planet invites comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS link below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This business of only showing the first driver across the finish line didn't start after NASCAR stole the Daytona 500 from Mark Martin, did it? In that race, they showed the field behind the "winner" and everyone could see that a caution should have been thrown before Harvick edged Mark. Only showing the front car certainly took care of THAT controversy!!

Gwen said...

Great article. Glad someone besides fans making a cry for good coverage. I watched the Busch race and thought .. "what a breath of fresh air" compared to all the silliness that goes on with the Cup races. Yep, my guy didn't win and I wonder if he really finished the race??

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan that is had it with Fox Sports, They don't understand the sport or the reason for a fan to watch a nascar race. I'm also a NFL fan and Fox Sport has screw football fans the same way. I do not watch a football to see the coach and people in the stands before the ball is snap. Fox has always has a bad habit of zooming in on one player or coach. And fans miss the entire play because of it. Talking about Nascar race this last weekend how many time did fox move the camera a way from a wreck just starting to happen and then comeback with replay. I'm not happy with Fox at all and I've got to were not going to watch nascar racing because of Fox sports.

Andy said...

Its amazing how NASCAR fans griped about how little emphasis NASCAR placed on winning in the points system. The didn't think the 5 additional points is enough. Basically, winning was the only thing that mattered. Some people even would have required a driver to win a race to make it to the Chase, and give a spot in the Chase to any driver who get lucky due to fuel mileage and just happens to end up winning a race, no matter how bad they were throughout the season. They cried at night over the plight of Kasey Khane last season on how unfair that was. Consistancy is meaningless to these people. Again, winning was the only thing that mattered.

Now, these same people are upset over how they are covering the finish of the races. Well, Fox is only doing what NASCAR fans wanted, only paying attention to the driver that wins the race. Winning is the only thing that matters.

I can't fault these NASCAR fans too much, however. They are only following the lead of NASCAR officials, as they are as consistant as a NASCAR debris caution!

William said...

Thank you for an extremely well written piece on what exactly happened Sunday night. It's a shame that we so rarely get the rundown as they cross the line, even if it's at the awkward angle they like to show it in.

Anonymous said...

ESPN is not so great. They made it so that the races they televise will not be available to Good Ol Boys with big dish satellites.

Anonymous said...

Great article! Thanks for saying what a lot of fans feel. It used to be that we could watch the race, mute it, and turn on the radio broadcast so we didn't have to hear Darrell YapYap. Now that doesn't even work because they don't show the 'race'.

Anonymous said...

Then join the 21st century and ditch the big dish for a more stream line version.

Anonymous said...

that's why we have all been waiting for the return of ESPN, where announcers announce and don't scream and a green flag means racing is under way, not "boogity boogity" etc.
How great to see Ned again and don't we all miss the understatement and emotion of Bob Jenkins

Anonymous said...

Great article and I agree with what was said. I didn't see the finish of the race, but listened on the radio. (Didn't know Kyle finished 3rd by listening to the radio either.) I've pretty much given up watching Cup races altogether, Mr. Daly's points in this post are just part of the reason.

Jeff Gordon, Dale Sr., the Brickyard, and ESPN really brought NASCAR to where it has become the number 2 sport in the US. As a fan of the sport since the time you had to follow the races by reading Speed Sport News it's been very disturbing to see where the sport is heading now. The "TV Deal", Brian France, COT and they way it has been handled, and The Chase have not brought the sport up, but is ruining it, in my opinion.

If the Chase is so great, why is it only used in the Cup series? The Tv deal, Fox isn't the only network that gets complaints, Brian France? Please, I for one Hoped he was going to buy a Pro sport team and would turn over NASCAR to someone who had a clue.... COT? the list is too long to get into here.

It's not just Fox's bad direction that is bringing NASCAR down, it's just a small part of it...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Comments are only added to the story when they represent a point of view without crossing the line into bad language or personal attacks. Many comments today have not been posted because they contained insults, expressions of anger toward an individual, or profanity. Understand that many top TV industry executives read this blog every day. If you want to make a point about something you feel strongly about, there is no better place to do it.

Anonymous said...

THE FOX COVERAGE HAS BEEN QUITE MARGINAL AS FAR AS SHOWING THE FIELD AND ACTION THAT GOES ON THRU THE ENTIRE RACE AND ACTION THAT KEEPS THE FANS INTERESTED;HOWEVER;THEY SURE DONT MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW COMMERCIALS.I REALIZE THEY MUST SELL ADVERTISING IN ORDER TO PRESENT THE RACES BUT WHEN IT REACHES THE POINT THAT COMMERCIAL TIME OUTWEIGHS CONTENT I FOR ONE GET FRUSTRATED AND CHANGE CHANNELS OR TURN THE TV OFF.IF NASCAR IS SO POPULAR MIGHT THEY CONSIDER CHARGING ADVERTISERS A BIT MORE AND HAVE A FEW LESS COMMERCIALS.
I HAVE TALKED TO NUMEROUS FRIENDS AND WE ALL SEEM TO AGREE THAT WATCHING A NASCAR RACE JUST ISNT A PLEASANT EXPERIENCE DUE TO THE POOR COVERAGE AND WAY TOO MANY COMMERCIALS.TO QUOTE JIM CRAMER OF CNBC"BULLS MAKE MONEY;BEARS MAKE MONEY;AND HOGS GET SLAUGHTERED!! THE GREED OF NASCAR AND TV COULD WELL LEAD TO IT`S POPULARITY DECLINING.JUST LOOK AT THE RATINGS.

Anonymous said...

I love to watch nascar on fox, but I really agree with the comment on the "WAY TOO MANY COMMERCIALS". How in the world can they not know that if someone is going to sit and watch a television brodcast, for hours at a time, They get really sick of seeing the same commercials 12 to 14 times in one race? My wife just loves #9, but even she gets tired of seeing the same thing over and over, year after year. I (as probably most of you) have worn the letters off of my remote's mute button. Please just give us ther race facts, and be fair with every one who made ther race, i.e. exposure time should be a lot more fair to the (so called) no names. There in the race for a reason. Give them the exposure they so well deserve, if there one of the "YOUNG GUNNS" or not.....

Anonymous said...

Very good article. For all those NASCAR execs who read this blog every day, ARE YOU LISTENING? Has anyone noticed how many of the commercials during a race feature the sponsored driver? Do they not realize that studies have shown how LOYAL Cup fans are to a brand? Do they seriously think we need that reinforced? Or, that we're going to switch based on 30 seconds of propaganda? Oh, puhlease......

Anonymous said...

great article.

Luke said...

"ESPN is not so great. They made it so that the races they televise will not be available to Good Ol Boys with big dish satellites."

I beg to differ. I've got satellite, and all the races come in just fine.

7 Weeks, and we'll see what a broadcast team can do.

Although, another debacle like the Busch coverage at Bristol, or lack there of, and it won't be a pretty sight.

Anonymous said...

At least on FOX you actually get to see the races happening. When they are televised on TNT or NBC it seems like every three to four minutes they have to "break away for a commercial". And on top of that, everytime something does happen they miss half of it because they were away at commercial. In my opinion its hard to beat the FOX broadcast guys,they actually have some knowlege of the sport!

Anonymous said...

As bad as Fox is for some people, there are others who prefer it over TNT & ESPN. Too many people thought ESPN would rush in & have the same coverage as in the glory days, but now those same people are complaining about the coverage on the Busch races. Didn't Fox's director (Artie Kempner) move to ESPN to helm their NASCAR coverage?? Those complaining about Fox now, will complain when TNT covers six races after Dover as well as the remainder of the season with ESPN.

So, the new director / producer at Fox screwed up. They naively thought that people would want to see all of the "excitement" of a first time Cup winner ... and forgot about the rest of the field. Frankly, I don't know if that happened or not because I changed the channel as I did not like the winner.

The 3-way split of the season was a bad idea. Some of the personnel choices that TNT & ESPN have made were extremely poor. Both TNT & ESPN have missed stuff. Sometimes, the computers take over & cuts are made to other cameras without realizing it.

Sadly, IF people think the coverage is bad now ... They're gonna hate it for the rest of the 7 2/3yrs that remain in this tv contract.

I like Fox & Speed's coverage. I'm not fond of TNT & ESPN's coverage. But, I know that they're "free" as long as I pay my cable bill. With them being "free" I know that I can't really expect that much out of any of the networks.

Anonymous said...

Keep screaming! Thanks to The Daly Planet for keeping up the drumbeat on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the coverage is very poor. Not only do they not show the end of the race but I have made a game of seeing how many laps it takes before they mention my driver. It is usually 125 laps and then it's just a passing comment. In the meantime we have to watch the usuals whether they are in 1st place or last. If a not so popular with the commentator driver has a different colored car than usual you can't even find him or know he's in the race unless you watch the scroll.

Anonymous said...

I wish the people at FOX would realize we are there to WATCH A RACE. They need to look back at some of the early 90's races to see how to vocer a race.

I'll give you hint #1... you should use the wide angle camera the vast majority of the time. It let's the viewer SEE WAHT IS GOING ON WHEN THEY ARE WATCHING THE RACE. Imagine that novel concept.

Also... when you show a wide angle you are seeing multiple cars which means more fans are seeing THEIR DRIVER and more sponsors are getting coverage.

You speed shots and bumper cams are ridiculous because we can't see what is happening.

skeetvette said...

As an American, I am so tired of the people who is contracted to sing our National Anthem in the version they decide they want do perform it in. NASCAR race, 2/24/08 was a disgrace to everyone.

skeetvette said...

I AM SO TIRED OF SO CALLED CELEBS OR SINGERS RUINING THE NATIONAL.THIS OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM FOR A REASON,I HAD JUST AS SOON HEAR A RECORD FROM SOMEONE THAT KNOW HOW TO PERFORM IT.TODAY' RACE AT CALIF.WAS PROBABLY THE WORSE 2 24 08 NASCAR IS BASICALLY TRUE AMERICAN SPORT SO WE NEED TO GET PEOPLE ALONG THOSE LINES TO SING OUR ANTHEM AND START OUR RACES .