Sunday, May 11, 2008
Fox Watches As The TV Plot Thickens
Things are certainly taking an interesting turn where the TV network coverage of the Sprint Cup Series is concerned. Despite the track, the location and the weather it seems that Kyle Busch is the story on a very regular basis.
As the NASCAR on Fox crew walked into Darlington, the idea was that this time the track itself would serve as the plot for the racing story. Once again, that was not to be as Busch single-handedly determined the TV coverage would be on him. The veteran TV crew knew just how to handle it.
Chris Myers casual attitude sometimes does not mesh with the intensity that surrounds the sport at various tracks. Darlington was hanging onto its lone race date by the skin of its teeth. The little South Carolina town is deep in racing history, but not deep enough in hotels or grandstand seats for the NASCAR brass.
The track had been repaved, and speeds were excessive while the racing line was even more narrow. The installation of the SAFER Barrier was well-timed. Myers quizzed Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond in the pre-race show on a variety of important subjects. Unfortunately, Myers attention just seems to be elsewhere.
This was an intense race weekend after a big incident in Richmond and a very big mess in practice. Somehow, that intensity translated well to RaceDay's John Roberts and NASCAR Now's Ryan Burr. It never penetrated to Myers. Of the pre-race shows on Saturday, Myers was the host that really needed focus.
Luckily, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds never need to be reminded of racing reality. Those two have seen it all, and kept the pre-race show on track. Once Waltrip joined them in the booth, DW got his focus back and kept himself involved during the entire race.
Jeff Hammond worked hard from the Hollywood Hotel with technical information updates. Hammond had worked in the booth for SPEED earlier in the week, and sometimes one gets the feeling he would rather be upstairs calling the action than downstairs dealing with Myers antics for several hours.
Great pictures and sound were made even better by the limited use of the "Gopher Cam." The in-car cameras were also not over-used, and the racing action was certainly a challenge to cover. The upper screen graphic "ticker" updated instantly again, and the transition of cars as they changed positions was outstanding.
The tough pit road made the use of the four video "boxes" tough on caution flag stops and quite often left viewers confused. Luckily, the "race off pit road" graphic ended the chaos with a good overview of who was where when the smoke cleared.
As usual at Darlington, this race was tough on everyone including the TV crew. During the entire broadcast nothing was broken, out-of-place or "technically challenged." If the worst TV problem was trying to wipe-off the hand-held camera lens in Victory Lane, that means it was a great night for the production and technical teams.
Once again Major League Baseball blocked some viewers from seeing the entire pre-race show. This time it was the Brewers and the Cardinals. Luckily, the delay was minor and no NASCAR fans missed the start of the race.
Once underway, it was clear that the challenge for Waltrip was going to be how to deal with Kyle Busch. Normally accused of just about everything under the sun, DW faced a tough problem. Busch was the story and he was going to be the story for four hours. Try as he might, Dale Earnhardt Jr. could not get Kyle off the TV screen. Waltrip worked hard to stay objective even though it is clear Busch is "his boy."
The normally mild-manner Larry McReynolds showed his temper when he decided that Kyle Busch had done enough complaining over the team radio. On-the-money as usual, McReynolds used both Waltrip and Hammond to reinforce that Busch's continual whining on the radio might not be a problem for the crew chief, but certainly was having an effect on his pit crew.
The NASCAR on Fox gang did a good job of tracking down the lugnut problems in the Gibbs camp and documenting the issues for Greg Biffle that ultimately put him out of the race. The ebb-and-flow of the race was highlighted by Kyle Busch coming back from a pit road problem to win the event.
At the finish, Busch had enough of a lead to allow the Fox Director to use his regular zoom into the flagman as the winner crosses the line without a problem. A nice wideshot showed the rest of the lead laps cars cross the line in style. Fox has a great pop-up graphic for the race off pit road. This would be a perfect compliment to use as the cars cross the finish line to show unofficial final positions.
Good racing often makes for good TV. Darlington was long, grinding and sometimes surprising. The NASCAR on Fox race telecast was solid and the new elements of the coverage like the "ticker" continue to be a welcome addition. The Kyle Busch story going into the Coke 600 should keep things very interesting in "TV land."
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