Sunday, May 13, 2007
Rainout No Problem For "NASCAR On Fox" Gang
During this stretch of the season, the scheduled night races on the NEXTEL Cup circuit are often delayed or postponed by weather. This week, the NASCAR on Fox gang was involved in yet another event delayed by a full day. In some ways, this delay allowed the TV crew to focus on the race itself.
Since Fox was on the air Saturday night to talk about the rain delay, all the interviews and features that were prepared for the telecast were mostly used in the rain delay. This allowed the Sunday race to air without a pre-race show, without a lot of outside focus, and with one singular purpose...a NASCAR race.
This telecast had the "focused" feel of an old race on ESPN. There was basically nothing but the race. Once Fox used a little footage of Darrell Waltrip interviewing Dale Earnhardt Junior, things were all about racing. This made the pit reporters even more important, allowed Jeff Hammond to jump in and make his points, and let Mike Joy run the show with total control.
It also seemed that Darrell Waltrip got most of his "sponsor plugs" in on Saturday night. He was focused on the racing, and really contributed some good perspectives on the lap-by-lap grind of Darlington. This was the real "old DW" that fans loved when Fox first hit the airwaves with NASCAR. Lots of things have changed since then, and no one has remained immune. It was nice to hear DW remind us of what he knows, and deliver it in a style that was not "over-the-top."
Larry McReynolds has always been a strong provider of information, and a poor provider of english grammar. In this event, he proved once again that mixing tenses and mutilating verbs cannot prevent the best inside information from being given to the viewers. Larry Mac stayed excited from the green flag to the checkers, and added some classic lines like "the crew chief don't even go over to the team." Got to love it.
One feature that the NASCAR on Fox crew has perfected is incorporating the audio of the pit road reporters during green flag racing. In much the same way that Jeff Hammond is allowed to contribute, the pit reporters are allowed to make points about their assigned drivers while the action is in-progress on the track. This has really allowed the telecast to be almost an "open conversation" between all of the on-air announcers. Hopefully, TNT and ESPN are taking notes...we know they read The Daly Planet.
Late in the races, sometimes things happen that make directing the telecast tough to do. Fox still lingers too long on cars that are out of the race, and often goes in-car when fans would like to see a higher perspective of cars battling. Better to replay the in-car later if something happens, than lock fans into a "one view" perspective during racing action. It has helped that both Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip have been forceful in calling for certain racing action to be covered, and the Director has responded.
Unfortunately, one serious problem reared its ugly head again. What makes this issue even harder to deal with is where the race took place...Darlington. The Fox Director chose not to show any cars crossing the finish line except Jeff Gordon, who won. It is hard for fans to imagine that the entire field at Darlington, on slippery worn tires and with smoking cars, is thundering to the checkered flag, but that suddenly becomes completely non-important.
Apparently, what was most important was the fact Jeff Gordon's smoking car was slowing down. My favorite driver again finished on the lead lap, was battling for position, and I did not see him finish. What do we have to do to change this? How does this happen at crunch time to a veteran crew who supposedly knows what is important on the track?
What made it worse this time was that there was no battle for the lead, Gordon just cruised across the line and slowed down. Meanwhile that noise we heard in the background was the entire rest of the field beating-and-banging at a classic NASCAR track all the way to the finish line. What a let-down for viewers after wonderful coverage of the race itself, except for the last lap. This has clearly been the most bizarre element of the NASCAR on Fox coverage, and the most dissapointing.
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