Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The NASCAR On Fox Gang Walks Away Quietly
It certainly was not the type of day that Mike Joy and the rest of the NASCAR on Fox TV crew had hoped for as their final Sprint Cup race. One big wreck had taken-out a lot of the contenders and the reality of the COT at Dover had taken-out the racing.
Once again, it came down to the Kyle Busch show and the ability of Joy and the pit reporters to chase down every single "other" story of the race. Ultimately, Busch ended the season for Fox by pulling away from the second place car. The COT added a special touch by crushing any hope for final lap battles in the top ten.
From the beginning of the telecast, it was Darrell Waltrip who was almost overcome by emotion several times. TV viewers saw this with Waltrip on the Trackside program on SPEED earlier in the weekend.
For some reason, the end of Waltrip's year on TV has hit him very hard. Along with his Fox job ending, Waltrip also turns-over his spot on Trackside to Elliott Sadler for the next five months.
Several times in the Hollywood Hotel pre-race show, Waltrip veered off the topic and talked about the end of his TV time. Chris Myers tried to keep things on track, but it was Jeff Hammond who talked Waltrip off-the-TV-ledge several times. Maybe Waltrip will write in his Foxsports.com column about his feelings during this clearly emotional weekend.
Larry McReynolds was all business in Dover with good reason. He really is the Energizer Bunny of NASCAR TV as he will continue his multiple TV roles on SPEED next week and also add a new assignment as a commentator for all six TNT races. Last season, McReynolds was the star of the "summer six pack" even while located in the infield. This season should be no different.
Other NASCAR on Fox personalities will also continue their pursuits in the sport. Krista Voda heads back to the Truck Series, Matt Yocum will report from the pits for TNT and Steve Byrnes will continue his multiple SPEED roles.
This season, one of the biggest strengths for Fox has been the veteran pit road reporters. Sometimes criticized for not asking the tough questions, this group has to walk a fine line in a sport where they deal with the same personalities for ten months. They seem to always get the right information, and they do it more successfully than the other two NASCAR TV partners in the Sprint Cup Series.
Mike Joy is about to give way to Bill Weber in the play-by-play position. Much like Dr. Jerry Punch, Weber is a reporter who has been moved over time into the play-by-play role. Weber is a skilled writer and great at interviews, but perhaps a bit short on some aspects of a true play-by-play announcer.
Joy has more patience in the broadcast booth than any other on-air NASCAR talent. Last season, Weber was hard-pressed to match Joy's level of professionalism and good humor. Since Weber has recently begun to appear on NBC doing off-road races with Wally Dallenbach, it may be that he comes into this short NASCAR stint with a much better attitude than 2007. Marty Snider is also a part of that CORR TV package.
This year on Fox, we met Digger. As if the 43 NASCAR teams and the high speeds and racing were not enough, Fox decided to create a name for a piece of equipment used by the TV crew. Then, the network launched a line of merchandise around that "concept" and collectively beat it into the psyche of the NASCAR TV viewers.
This camera angle was not new, did not serve a purpose and was over-used in several races to the point of fan anger. Here is a column about the original track-level camera used on ESPN over fifteen years ago that won a Sports Emmy Award.
Fox also could not solve the Achilles Heel of its coverage, which was the final lap. Columns like this and even this documented the amazing production decisions to eliminate all the racing other than the leader on the final lap.
Overall, the body of work that the NASCAR on Fox crew created for 2008 is going to be negatively affected by the COT and positively affected by the emergence of Kyle Busch. One young man with something to prove driving a Toyota for an old football coach has dominated even the Earnhardt Jr. saga this season.
As TNT unveils their new and innovative RaceBuddy approach to NASCAR, it will signal yet another fundamental shift in the level of integration and technology surrounding Sprint Cup Series racing.
By the time Fox comes back around in February, there will no doubt be a new level of viewer interactivity that will make 2008 appear archaic. Imagine asking Jeff Gordon a question live under caution from your Sprint phone on the Fox broadcast.
How about being on the Hollywood Hotel live from your computer camera? NASCAR TV technology is going to make the future TV broadcasts very different. For this season, farewell to the entire NASCAR on Fox gang.
This is a good time for Daly Planet readers to think about what impressed you as a viewer this season and what things you did not particularly like during this stretch of coverage. You can post your thoughts right here, keeping in mind the rules listed on the right side of the main page.
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