Friday, April 25, 2008

"NASCAR On Fox" Buys A New Wagon

The theory was a good one. NASCAR on Fox's Mike Joy and veteran analyst Larry McReynolds would remain "upstairs" in the announce booth to call the on-track action of the Friday Sprint Cup practices from Talladega.

Meanwhile, down in the empty pit road area, Steve Byrnes would act as the host to Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip. The two analysts would respond to questions and issues about the practice sessions using the resources available to Fox.

These would include the cut-a-way car, the various COT body parts and the assortment of shocks and tires. But, on this day there was something new. The network bought a pit wagon.

In what can only be described as interesting, a massive pit road wagon complete with TV monitors and elevated seating was set-up to anchor this new practice compound. While the wagon and surrounding hardware were impressive, the same could not be said for the decision to put both Waltrip and Hammond in white NASCAR on Fox driver suits.

While the duo pictured above may have cut a smooth profile on pit road back in the day, the choice of attire for this Friday TV program was not flattering for either man. Since they were both on-the-air for many hours live, matching the attire of Byrnes for these segments should have been the thing to do.

During practice, Waltrip and Hammond used the tools at their disposal to follow-up on the on-going issues being raised by McReynolds and the reporters in the garage. The innovation turned-out to be quite effective, in much the same style of ESPN's Tim Brewer who attempts to address equipment and car issues in that network's Tech Center. Of course, Waltrip and Hammond were outside.

The entire SPEED and NASCAR on Fox group had an outstanding Friday at Talladega. Sprint Cup practice, Nationwide Series qualifying and Trackside went off without a hitch. Even the NASCAR Live programs designed to bridge the gaps when the action was stopped on the track were effective. These types of programs are called "interstitial," which means they provide a bridge between two other programs or events.

Both Steve Byrnes and John Roberts hosted the Friday versions and while Bob Dillner appeared with good interviews on both, it was again Rutledge Wood who had a tough time deciding if he was a comedian or a reporter. His disjointed interview with Kasey Kahne proved the point. Talking to professionals in the middle of their workday requires preparation and planning. Perhaps, keeping the playtime for the two hour RaceDay would be the thing to do.

As the NASCAR on Fox crew began to experiment with the "Fox pit wagon," Hammond and Waltrip began to offer good explanations for a variety of current issues. The only problem was, behind them were Sprint Cup cars at full speed on the track at Talladega. The key words there are "behind them."

Fans tuning-in to see the on-track action were instead confronted by two men in drivers suits pointing at the cut-a-way car. In the same way that ESPN had to figure out the Tech Center, Fox discovered that putting Waltrip and Hammond on-the-air like this requires just one little thing. That is a second video box on the screen.

Simply by putting the full-speed Cup action on the screen along with the two analysts, viewers would have gotten the best of both worlds. Fox is very good at using this effect during the race, so perhaps it will become standard for the "pit box" segments when they appear during practice and possibly qualifying.

With good weather and great pictures, fans got a solid warm-up for the action to come. SPEED returns Saturday with Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 11AM Eastern Time. The Nationwide Series appears on ABC Sports at 2:30PM and the Craftsman Truck Series takes to the air from Kansas at 5:30PM. There will be a full rundown of shows, announcers and other TV notes posted on Saturday morning.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy directions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page, and thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Daly, I believe the pit wagon you are talking about has been around all season, used for the prerace track analysis segment when DW is on the track and Hammond is his crew chief.

SallyB said...

Fox just LOVES their toys, don't they? As with most of the others they have (in car cameras, the 'gopher cam'), they don't seem to know how to use them appropriately. Trying to be heard over the roar of engines on track is seldom a good idea, as it drown out what is being said. I tuned in to watch practice, not an extensive rundown on things I've heard before. Particularly when it means I'm not seeing what was supposed to be practice. It's almost asif Fox has to find even more ways to show anything but the cars on the track.

I still can't figure out why they have Rutledge involved in anything at all, except for the 'fluff factor'. Nice guy (I assue), but totally useless.

Mary said...

I don't like having to listen to folks having to yell to be heard - guess DW will be losing his voice again soon!

Ritchie said...

I understand why they tried this at Talladega. With each lap lasting almost a minute, and the first of the two laps being the "get up to speed" lap, it left viewers rather bored.

I enjoyed the up close look at the different tricks they use at restrictor plate tracks. I think they were giving us good information.

However, I agree with you. A split screen would have been helpful, and those two do not need to be in fire suits on TV.

Daly Planet Editor said...


The guys said this one was new, but I remember the one you are talking about. I think it was a great idea, and gave lots of info.


Anonymous said...

I agree with JD. The driving suits were a bad choice. What was the point? I thought DW and JH both looked very goofy and it was a distraction to what they were trying to do. Of course it did give them a bigger billboard to plaster an advertisement across their chests.

Anonymous said...

I've always wished I were as great as Jeff Hammond thinks he is. Maybe this article will bring him down a notch or two.
I thought it was funny how he profusely apologized Friday afternoon for being late for one of his stints on the air. I guess he thought we couldn't do without him. Little does he realize that nobody even missed him.

Anonymous said...

funny how ESPN and TNT pit reporters use fire suits but Fox crew doesn't but yet Hammond & DW are in driving suits - I thought they were getting ready for a lap. Probably were at some point.

Think NBC sold their old pit box that Weber used 2001-2007 at garage sale.

Having Hermie Sadler in booth for NNS qualifying on Speed is a nice touch.

Anonymous said...

I really hope Rutledge reads this article. He is so totally useless and if he was only half as funny as what he thinks he is he would be more useless. Hey Rut, there is a worthwhile job out there somewhere, as being a comedian, UGH, is not your forte.

Newracefan said...

DW and JH had just finished their hotlap or what ever it was called so that's why the suits. I've seen them do this before. However I would prefer they wait a few minutes and have them change back into street clothes. Those suits are not that flattering, maybe it's the white. Or maybe it's the concept. I agree they should have split the picture however I liked the info DW and JH gave us. I think the box is pretty cool but I wonder how much of it is them wanting to feel like they are still racing.

GinaV24 said...

I tuned in to see practice, instead I got a lot of talking heads and stuff I already knew. What is wrong with just showing the cars on the track and talking about what is going on, rather than using all the toys and NOT showing the action.

GinaV24 said...

OK, I know the idea of the word verification is so that computers can't just log in, but egads, some of them are just impossible to read!

Anonymous said...

I like Rutledge but agree he has a "spot" in the SPEED shows but not on the practice/qualifying type shows unless they are doing a funny bit for whatever reason.

Did we lose Randy? I hope not, I really like him :). It could be because I've slept since then but it feels like it's been forever since I last saw him :(.

@ginav24--if you click on the wheelchair symbol it's supposed to give a vocal of what the captcha says. I tried it once because I couldn't figure out what on earth the captcha said, but it was no help at all.

Anonymous said...

For me I enjoy the coverage on SPEED, but I just don't understand the use of Rutledge Wood. For me he is just a no good goober. I don't get his so-called humor, or his use to the coverage?
When his segments are on air I turn the channel. For me Wendy is the REAL STAR. She is a real professional.

Anonymous said...

For me I enjoy the coverage on SPEED, but I just don't understand the use of Rutledge Wood. For me he is just a no good goober. I don't get his so-called humor, or his use to the coverage?

>>>Rutledge Wood must be related to somebody high up in the network. He is about as useless as "Hollyhead" Hammond.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like they did a pretty good job if the only thing you can pick out is what Darrell and Jeff were wearing.