Saturday, February 9, 2008
"NASCAR On Fox" Off To A Good Start
That big sigh of relief you heard on Saturday night was the entire NASCAR Nation exhaling as the NASCAR on Fox guys took to the airwaves for the Bud Shootout.
After a tough summer, a rugged "Chase" and a very long winter the new NASCAR TV season had dawned just the way network executives like it. There was plenty of controversy, good storylines, and the one thing that everyone really needed. Good TV coverage had returned to the sport, just in the nick of time.
As the returning veterans of the NASCAR TV package, Mike Joy lead a crew of announcers who have established their own individual identities with the American public. There are no question marks, no one to get angry at, and no facts are in doubt.
The conversations from the Infield Studio are done by men who actively participated in the sport, and give good-natured grief to the one host who has not. The relationsips between the entire on-air crew are displayed for all to see. There might be some kidding, but this group has checked their egos at the door. The resulting level of communication is outstanding.
Fox makes good HD pictures, brings a good graphics package, and seems to have put their 3-D animation feature on-the-shelf. This on-air package, without a lower third "ticker" on the screen, worked cleanly and without a problem.
This time at Daytona, the Fox Producer and Director chose to show all cars equally, although Dale Junior will always be the story when he is at the front. It still is a little tough with all the cameras not to turn-up a replay or two, but that issue should be put to bed by the Daytona 500 weekend.
Mike Joy was in fine spirits, and led a group that enjoys the pace and enthusiasm that Joy can seemingly maintain for the length of any race. There just cannot be enough said about the importance of the play-by-play announcer setting the tone for the entire broadcast. This was a cast of characters that enjoys racing, and it showed.
With laps winding down, the Fox Director borrowed from the "old school" approach and kept the cameras wide so the size of the lead pack and the speed of all the cars could be seen clearly by the viewer. Allowing Kevin Harvick to directly comment on the action was a good compliment to the regular Fox voices.
While the graphics for the in-car cameras were large, the sound from the same location was outstanding. The audio mix was a key part of this program, and never did anything but push the announcers to talk over the actual natural sound of the event.
Timely replays are tough to insert in live action, but Fox kept them to a minimum and never interrupted with any in-action promos or celebrity interviews. The focus on racing was a welcome change from the disjointed TV effort during The Chase of 2007.
The final three laps after a restart were a nice way to finish the broadcast. Darrell Waltrip was outspoken and clear in his analysis. His points about the rear spoiler of the COT keeping the cars from crashing was just fundamentally interesting. Old DW was on top of his game, and the fact that Junior won was just icing on the cake.
Fox returns with pole qualifying on Sunday at 1PM Eastern Time, and then the countdown clock to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 gets down into single numbers. With the Bud Shootout as a warm-up, NASCAR fans can breath a little easier. The "pros" are back in town, and we even saw the entire field finish the race.
On a Saturday night in February, it was just nice to be able to watch good NASCAR TV again. Maybe, this year could be the shot-in-the-arm that NASCAR really needs.
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