Monday, February 23, 2009
The NASCAR On Fox Crew Grinds It Out
The letdown after Daytona is always interesting. The meager Saturday attendance at the Auto Club Speedway was the first sign that this was going to be a very long weekend of racing. Even with a doubleheader, the fans stayed away.
As usual, it was up to SPEED to set the table for the NASCAR on Fox team. Hours of programming ended with a disjointed RaceDay program that actually overlapped the live Fox pre-race show by thirty minutes.
Kenny Wallace has suddenly decided to lecture the TV viewers at every opportunity. Jimmy Spencer can barely put two words together and John Roberts is having a tough time directing traffic. The saving grace for RaceDay this season has been Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler.
These two have combined to form a cohesive crew that can handle a wide variety of assignments in a live TV program format. Venturini continues to grow in her prominence as a reporter who can tackle serious issues on the fly. Sadler continually uses his sense of humor to his advantage and is tremendously improved over last season.
This pair ended the program with live interviews of Cup drivers as they moved through the red carpet set-up to allow them to interact with the fans before driver introductions. Just like the pit walks Venturini used to do, it made for good TV that no other network offers.
The transition to the Hollywood Hotel signaled the difference in audiences and approaches to the sport. Chris Myers, Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip cater to a much broader audience and address only the larger issues in NASCAR. This Sunday, Waltrip spoke with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Sounding more like a concerned father than a reporter, Waltrip drew comments from Junior in regard to his struggles at Daytona. Perhaps, the most telling was Waltrip pretending to be Rick Hendrick and suggesting Junior ease up on his "outside interests" and concentrate solely on racing.
Once Mike Joy and the race crew took over, they were in for a very long night. Rain delayed the race several times and never really allowed the action on the track to materialize. Kudos to the TV team for hanging in there and staying steady as the racing action tried to slowly lull fans across America to sleep.
Fox used Chris Myers in the Hollywood Hotel, Jeff Hammond at the cut-a-way car and even replayed a piece of the Earnhardt interview during some of the delays. The pit reporters offered all the information they could, but there were simply no stories to follow.
One interesting aspect to the broadcast was the decision by Fox to update the Oscar winners as they were announced. Addressing the movie fans who had chosen to watch NASCAR was a smart move. Unfortunately, Fox could not make the action on the track more exciting by simply opening an envelope.
Fox continues to feature the cars at the front of the pack and update the favorites. Those fans whose driver and team did not fall into those categories found themselves continually reading the scoring ticker and never hearing their driver mentioned. More full field rundowns would have been a great addition to this telecast.
Digger is always an issue. The announce team tried for a while to laugh at the animation, but then just let Digger do his thing while they talked about the racing action. The placement of the animation was better, but the distraction of meaningless movement really is now officially annoying.
The best part of this race was Darrell Waltrip. He stayed consistently interested and excited about this event from his appearance on the pre-race show through the final lap. Waltrip has developed an ability to find and then point out the parts of the race that perhaps might be overlooked by cameramen and even the Fox producer.
Time and time again Waltrip pointed out specifics that were then followed-up by the production team and paid off completely. Fox chose not to use as much in-car audio as viewers get from ESPN and even stayed away from the in-car camera hysteria that has sometimes troubled this production team.
All of this allowed Waltrip to team with Joy and McReynolds to offer a balanced and interesting broadcast. Each of the three has a very clearly defined role and it worked very well during this long and difficult telecast.
Did you hang in there and watch the entire race? What did you think of the Fox telecast and what would you like to see added to the coverage? We value your opinion. Just click the comments button below and add your thoughts.
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