Tuesday, March 31, 2009
A Little Less "Digger" And A Lot More Racing
There was not a lot to talk about for the NASCAR on Fox gang from the Hollywood Hotel in Martinsville. Practice and qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series had been rained out.
The conversation quickly turned from the serious to the ridiculous. Hot dogs, birthdays and inside jokes are subjects that turned the pre-race show into a combination of the useful and the useless. Jeff Hammond appears to be tired of Chris Myers and his inability to take racing seriously. For many teams, Martinsville was a critical race.
Just like NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and RaceDay on SPEED, Rick Hendrick made an appearance on the Fox pre-race show. His story about Martinsville fits right in with the roots of NASCAR. Darrell Waltrip handled the recorded interview.
"The biggest mistake you can make in life is pulling the trigger when you don't have a plan," said Hendrick. He was talking about the changes that might be needed to help Dale Earnhardt Jr. improve this season. Waltrip raises this point on a regular basis and Jeff Hammond has already called for Tony Eury Jr. to be replaced. Hendrick himself seems to have other ideas.
Chris Myers and his recent birthday was a theme that was drummed into the NASCAR fans who watched Fox's rainout coverage of the Camping World Truck Series on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around, it just wasn't funny anymore. Dick Berggren is a nice guy, but isn't it time to put the whole "kid because I care" thing away for good?
Mike Joy had a tough task ahead of him. Martinsville and the COT make for a different style of racing then we used to see with the old car. Early tire problems were not followed up in the pits and only the booth announcers told us that the bead was melting because of the brake heat. Goodyear was off the hook.
Three "start and park" cars ended the day early without follow-up. NASCAR had said these cars needed to show why they came off the track and it had better be a mechanical issue. Past issues for the "valet parking" set have included...no pit crew.
The Sprint Cup teams delivered a good set of stories that included two MWR drivers running in the top ten, but everyone knew the day would belong to Hendrick. It did not matter where his cars finished, because Hendrick is a favorite of the Fox booth. Once again, the racing actually followed the suggested TV script in dramatic fashion.
It was nice to hear an instrumental version of the National Anthem and even better to see a good crowd on-hand to hear it. The TV crew never had to explain empty seats or even deal with the fan issue. The pictures told the story.
Mostly absent from this telecast was the animation of Digger. While the Digger logo was stuck in the picture in each segment, both of the annoying animations were essentially gone. That is a picture from Fox Sports of the Martinsville Digger-cam above.
This simple change deeply affected the telecast. No more forced jokes or comments from Joy, he just kept calling the race with the Digger logo on the screen. No more homemade commercials from Waltrip advertising his website under green flag racing.
It may be that Fox has finally struck a good balance where this merchandising gimmick is concerned. As many emailers reminded us, there was also no Digger cartoon before the race.
Once underway, the positive aspects of the telecast began to emerge. Good camera work on the small track, good use of the in-car cameras and effective coverage of the entire field was the early order of the day. Unfortunately, that would change.
Two video angles of the Kenseth pit road violation were outstanding and the explanation from Larry McReynolds was even better. Also solid was the triple-split on the caution flag pit stops that allowed for a view of the entire pit road.
As we have said so many times before, the technical crew delivered another flawless race with every piece of equipment working well and the pictures and sound in HD delivering the intensity of this sport on a short-track.
Tougher to figure out were the AT&T Racebreaks. Presented as an update on the race, the video highlights showed spins and some lead changes. The problem was that this was not a rundown of who was where and how they got there. Once the racebreak was over, the silent ticker at the top of the screen was the only thing telling the whole story of the race.
Fans once again had to migrate to the radio broadcast to get a rundown of the field and the progress of the teams outside of the top ten. Just like Fox used to struggle with covering the final lap, this season rundowns of the field are just nonexistent.
With many top teams a lap down or more, the Fox production team kept the focus on the leaders and brought the telecast home with another good wideshot of the finish line. Luckily, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson provided some action in the final laps.
Post-race interviews told the story of the race and it appeared that all concerned were ready to get to Texas and get back up to speed. Two short track races are done and while Martinsville may reflect the past, it certainly did not deliver the kind of energy that NASCAR has created with the larger tracks that dominate the season.
TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.