Sunday, March 16, 2008
Tired TV Crews Need A Break (Updated)
It did not start out well for the NASCAR on Fox gang when the star of the show could not talk. (Updated info on DW in the COMMENTS section)
Surrounded by a veteran supporting cast, Darrell Waltrip is the center of the Fox NASCAR coverage around which everything else revolves. Love him or hate him, "old DW" really is the show.
After a long stretch of bad weather and lots of pesky illness going through the NASCAR garage, the TV guys just need a break. This feeling was clear on Fox as the Sprint Cup broadcast was just a little bit off from the network's normal presentation.
Why Waltrip was not moved to the Hollywood Hotel or given the day off is anyone's guess. If the network had moved Jeff Hammond upstairs for one race, or even called on SPEED's Phil Parsons to step into the broadcast booth, the viewers would have been better served. Some folks suggested asking Ned Jarrett to sit-in for a while, since he was the honorary starter.
All this was not to be, as TV viewers were subjected to hours of listening to someone who was clearly under the weather try over-and-over again to talk. The Fox executives made the decision to keep Waltrip in the booth, after having him croak his way through the Hollywood Hotel pre-race show.
Cold and wet weather affected not only the announcers, but also the NASCAR TV networks who struggled with some TV glitches throughout the weekend as well. Fox had computer problems which affected some in-progress graphics, but veteran Mike Joy was quick to keep the audience informed about the issue.
Joy had to deal with the new racing dynamic at Bristol, which actually featured racing instead of demolition derby action. His cool and calm manner kept things on-track even with DW ailing and the pit reporters having trouble hearing in the infield.
Larry McReynolds stepped-in to take a lot of the replay calls normally assigned to Waltrip, and McReynolds continues to be the most focused person in NASCAR TV. With Waltrip contributing on a very limited basis, Jeff Hammond was also asked to remain live throughout the telecast and his active participation helped to fill the gap.
Timing at Bristol is always tough, and Fox worked well to coordinate commercials. Unfortunately, just like ABC on Saturday, late commercials always seem to come when something major is happening in the race. Fox did well to keep viewers updated on what they missed, and kept the "Digger" cam to a minimum.
This year, the finish of the race was seen in a nice wideshot that allowed fans to see the final scramble to the line. What is missing is the graphic that pops-up the car numbers as they cross, so fans can know where their driver finished. Tracks like Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond are especially important in this regard.
A quicker than normal race left the crew to fill, and the veteran pit reporters did a fine job of catching almost everyone who needed to be interviewed. This time, Steve Byrnes drew the job of walking on thin ice and trying to open the door to get Tony Stewart's comments. Byrnes threw a softball, but he clearly was trying to get an answer out of a very frustrated Stewart.
Krista Voda did a nice job with Dale Jarrett. The always well-spoken Jarrett closed-out his career with a tough showing, and Voda kept the questions framed in the positive manner she needed to get DJ's "bigger picture" answers about his career.
Fox also recapped the Top 35 issue, which is going to become another weekly story beginning in Martinsville. Some big teams are on the outside looking in, and it is going to be a sad time if more historic NASCAR teams slowly fade out of the sport as the season progresses. This conversation was capped with a condemnation of points swapping in mid-season to allow certain teams and drivers to make the race fields.
Hopefully, after a week of rest and no travel, a refreshed NASCAR on Fox crew will be able to ramp-up the excitement of a tough old Martinsville Track.
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