Saturday, February 23, 2008
Truck Series On Fox Just Not The Same
The NASCAR on Fox gang produced the Craftsman Truck Series race live on Saturday afternoon from the California Speedway that aired on the Fox Network.
This was a hybrid announcing team consisting of Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Darrell Waltrip. During the regular season Truck Series coverage on SPEED, DW's little brother Michael serves an the analyst. Down on pit road, Adam Alexander carried over from the SPEED package, but Ray Dunlap did not.
Matt Yocum stepped-in to fill that role, and Krista Voda also reported from the pits since there was no pre-race show on this telecast. Normally, Truck Series fans have become used to a well-produced thirty minute show called The Set-Up before each race. Voda has worked hard to make it a success, and often has memorable guests as co-hosts.
With all the good stories coming out of the Truck Series after Daytona, it was a shame that SPEED could not have carried a pre-race show, and then switched fans over to Fox for the race.
Instead, it was Chris Myers and his Hollywood Hotel "act" that welcomed fans to Fox's Truck Series coverage. Voda and company have set a very professional tone over the last several seasons for these races, and that made Myers seem out of place. Luckily, Jeff Hammond kept things on an even keel with his strong knowledge and support of the Trucks.
Voda was playing sick, as several of the TV crew were ill with flu-like symptoms. All three pit reporters worked well and really provided the content that set the tone during the abbreviated pre-race coverage. It was definitely a big moment for Adam Alexander appearing on the Fox Broadcast Network.
Outside the Hollywood Hotel, Jeff Hammond did the first side-by-side comparison of the new COT and an existing Craftsman Truck. As Myers stood awkwardly alongside, Hammond ran down how the Truck Series had influenced and then changed the future of the Cup Series as we know it. That was a good little feature.
When Rick Allen and company took to the air, things were looking up. Parsons and Waltrip had a blast during this event, and "old DW" was especially on his game. Coming off his strong performance on the Daytona 500, he seems to be a lot more involved with the details and specifics of NASCAR than in the past.
When it is not raining, California Speedway makes great pictures, and the Truck race was no exception. Unfortunately, Fox had a driver name spelled incorrectly for the entire race on their graphic ticker, but sometimes the new computer software does not allow for changes when the program is in progress. I think we can assume this would not have happened with the SPEED Channel Truck Series regulars.
The announcers did their best to keep things interesting, even as it became clear that there were two completely different levels of performance on the track. It was nice to see Kyle Busch and Todd Bodine compete, but it was a shame that the trucks could not get themselves involved in an exciting finish.
As the Trucks crossed the line for the final time, viewers again saw the winner and then the NASCAR flagman shot from an infield camera position. Then, they saw a series of shots that focused on the reaction of the winning crew while the rest of the field began finishing.
Ultimately, the Producer and Director allowed TV viewers to glimpse some trucks as they crossed the finish line without any explanation or coordination with the announcers. Then, Fox suddenly focused on two trucks racing to the finish in the back of the top ten and viewers watched them cross the line. It was a mess. This is the Achilles Heel of the NASCAR on Fox crew.
Race fans do not change their loyalty to a driver during the race. If "your driver" has battled back to try and get a top ten position on the last lap, you deserve to see it at home. It could be the turning point of his season. It could be the end of a day of struggling with all kinds of problems. It could be huge.
To summarily dismiss the fundamentals of racing to "make drama" is a huge mistake that manifested itself last season in lower ratings. Why would fans return to a TV broadcast when their driver will not be shown racing to the finish line? If fans cannot see him, they might as well just turn on the race on the radio and go about their business.
The lure of NASCAR on TV is not to see the winner of the race. It is to see all of the drivers equally regardless of their position on the track and at the finish. If NASCAR cannot get this point across to Fox, things are not going to go well.
This moment really threw a wrench into what was a good and fun broadcast with an excited and interesting on-air team. Stripped of the pre-race show and with the Finish Line problems, this telecast came up a bit short of the normal quality we see on SPEED.
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