Tuesday, March 3, 2009

NASCAR Fan Council Wants To Know About "Digger"


It's never good when NASCAR has to take time to ask about an animated character during an official survey of the fans about NASCAR TV. That is, however, just what the NASCAR Fan Council did in the most recent survey sent to participants.

Click here for the page that will let you sign-up to be on the NASCAR Fan Council. You will get surveys in your email asking about all kinds of different NASCAR issues from TV to merchandise. This company is basically the marketing survey arm of NASCAR.

The latest survey asks if fans like the NASCAR on Fox animated creation called "Digger." This season Fox has been on an unabashed push to get this character on the TV screen for one single reason. That would be a new revenue stream.

Fox Sports Chairman David Hill is not shy in speaking his mind on this topic. He wants to develop "Digger" as a brand in the same way that drivers market T-shirts and caps combining sponsor and sport to make additional money.

The problem for many fans is that "Digger" is inserted into live NASCAR racing at moments that some consider inappropriate. Serious explanations of crash replays or incidents on the track now are concluded with the forced chuckles of the NASCAR on Fox announce team as the animation plays once again. Key moments in the race have to wait while the Director shows the track-level camera angle and cues the animation one more time.

Over at cawsnjaws.com, Cheryl and her gang report that "Digger" appeared 38 times in the 231 minutes of the live race coverage. The character also has an episode of an original animated cartoon series that airs during the pre-race show on Fox.

One element to keep in mind amid all this talk is that "Digger" is gone when the Fox coverage of the Sprint Cup Series is over. Recently, we saw Darrell Waltrip hawking "Digger" merchandise on QVC and then appearing on SPEED's Trackside show with a full-sized "Digger" costume character in tow.

Should Fox decide to push the "Digger" agenda over to SPEED for the rest of the season it would signal a distinct change in the agenda of that network at the race tracks. "Digger" during practice and qualifying on Fridays and Saturdays would open a whole new chapter of this retail saga.

Unfortunately, the results of the Fan Council surveys are not made public. The one thing we do know is that when a question is asked about a specific made-for-TV element, something has happened to get the attention of the sanctioning body. For better or worse, "Digger" has now made the list.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Click on the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when adding your comment.

Thanks again and happy posting.

74 comments:

Newracefan said...

Digger on Speed, please NOOOOOOOO

RonF. said...

Well, the survey is closed already and I missed my chance. Let's just say I consider Digger to be an insult to my intelligence, it detracts from the experience of watching a NASCAR race, and it has no place in a race telecast.

Dot said...

Why don't we TDPers sign up for the council? That way we would get to participate in their surveys, etc.

Thanks for the info JD.

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Flyinelvis said...

Boring races on any track over 1 mile, RAP Music during pre race, and an annoying cartoon character. A recipe as to why I do not care if I see a race on Sunday afternoon any more. NASCAR and FOX just don't get it.

I would rather watch a truck race on SPEED than fall asleep again watching a boring up race.

Glenn said...

The council left me out on this one. Their surveys have been ok so far. I just wish they would give some feedback on how the surveys make a difference.

Sophia said...

Sorry to read the survery is closed.

More *D* on SPEED? Say it ain't so, JD!!!!...it's sickening enough he is already MENTIONED on EVERY SPEED SHOW.

SPEED has shown their savvy-ness already with their "Classy lifestyle shows" (insert sarcasm)during the week at the expense of real racing shows.

Yes I know it's about RATINGS but at what expense, people? I was disgusted to read online news of some reality show called the bachelor had 15 million viewers last night??? I can not believe wome (or men) watch this stuff (no offense to fellow TDP'rs who watch this show)

Thus since cheap McTV on SPEED gets ratings (I am guessing) No more car/motorcycle races can be shown at night and only informercials during the day?

Let me guess: A "D" infomercial is coming. Oops, too late, that's what the FOX PRE-race show has become.

Researchers and focus groups rarely agree with what my friends and I think. Media NEVER influences what my friends and I buy either though I know marketing has it's place.

NASCAR has so many serious issues I do not even know how to respond to the new digger article.

Today I wore my Home DEPOT hat to the drugstore. An older woman working there asked if I was for "Joey or Tony". I thought OMG! and quickly said "TONY!! though I am a fan of many drivers but had this hat long before "Sliced bread/toast" came along..and she laughed. She had a lot of Jr stuff but she knows, drivers do make changes... Then as she got to the end of the aisle she turned and said to me "NASCAR has no idea how much money they cost us when they make so many changes". I just laughed and said "yea". But later thought "Oh, yes they do!!"

We know they are OUT TO MAKE MONEY of course but this D Deal is shoved down our throats.

PLEASE, keep him off more SPEED SHOWS.
Is it not enough the poor SPEED guys have to smile and laugh and seem GENUINE about a "CARTOON BECOMING the FOCUS OF this NASCAR SEASON". And now TRACKSIDE and TWIN?

Caps for emphasis. Not shouting.
What if DIGGER is on on a race scene where they (heaven forbid but it does happen!) take the bodies out on stretchers on ARCA, truck race or something? Will that not be a proud moment for Mr. Hill? It seems this season is ALL ABOUT HIS EGO.

A good cartoon will sell itself.

For the record, the folks who have seen DIGGER on the tv in this house during the races found him and I quote "UGLY" (the dancing digger statue thingie waving a trophy or something during promos on FOX)

Sorry for the manifesto, er~~rant.

The Track Girl said...

As one of the members of the Fan Council, I am really curious to see where this goes.
I was picked for this survey (Glenn- curious to see which ones we get left out on..) and not only checked the "sad faces" about Digger, but let them have it in the comments section.
We'll see. Hopefully our opinions mean something, anything, to the powers that be of NASCAR.

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Charlie said...

I wonder if we will see a Digger sponsored car this season with Digger painted on the hood and the pit crew all dressed in Digger outfits.
Hope I am not giving Hill any ideas.

Anonymous said...

I don't get all the comments on Digger. I think it's cute and so do my grandchildren.

Nascar.com superstore sells lots of Digger stuff (more than some drivers)and there were kids all over LV wearing the Ts.

JD, not sure if you are aware how QVC works. They had a special on the network, how it started and what it takes to get on the show. They screen all items and everything they sell has to be a best seller before it goes on QVC.

I don't believe the Fox gang has to have "forced chuckles." Like thousands of us, I think they really think Digger it cute.

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Anonymous said...

Children love Digger. Nascar is a family sport. Why can't viewers ignore the Digger pre-race cartoons and be more considerate of families?
We all live thru the commercials.

Dot said...
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JT said...

As I said in an earlier post, I was enduring DW and the Fox crew during Daytona pre-race. When the Digger cartoon came on, I felt insulted and switched off and didn't return until time for the green flag. I understand going for the younger demographic, but in reality, how big is that group?

Anon @ 1:02...I find much of the humor from the Fox crew is "forced", especially DW's inane attempts at humor. How can any adult find the ads nauseum use of Digga funny?.

majorshouse said...

Digger has got to go. There is no room for real racing with this kind of inane garbage. I remember the good old days of racing television and what the Speed channel is doing is a throwback to those days where less is definitely more.

Anonymous said...

To the poster who asked "why can't people just ignore the pre-race cartoon..." Of course, we all have the option to not watch the pre-race shows (an option I happily exercise for Fox), but we don't have "the option" to ignore the intrusive graphics and noises inserted into the actual race broadcast! And the fact the director chooses to show the camera that invokes the graphic over and over again during the race.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we all just love the gopher? Oh, its all about the children! They love it! All about the children. What about the fans that made racing what it is?

What crap. If children want to watch, let them watch and learn the sports without the saccharine addition of a silly ground hog. Rent them an animated DVD if children want to watch a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

I did the fan council servey and told them DIGGER HAS TO GO!!!! If I wanted to watch cartoons I would watch the cartoon channel.

R.W. from charlotte

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Mi.Mike said...

I hate that damn rat! Market all you want, make money get rich go for it but not while I turn in to watch a race and am forced fed such nonsense. I still cant beleive adults aka broadcasters going orgasmic over this cartoon charcter. Get a life! On with racing down with that damn rat!

Tracy said...

The digger camera angle is fine for now and then - but deliver me,Lord, from Diggerdumdum. I actually watched the cartoon last week just so I could form an educated opinion (overly educated), and it (the cartoon) had nothing to do with the upcoming race, racing, or anything remotely connected to racing.

Okay,I get that kids like it. Some big, some little. But why do we need a "filler" when you have the most exciting sport on television?

People must have more money than the government believes if they're buying diggerjunk en masse.

GinaV24 said...

I'm on the council and I gave them opinion -- I don't know that anything the fans say has much impact, but I pretty much conveyed the negative impact this has on my enjoyment of NASCAR racing.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

Yes, the noble TV producers give us Digger for the children. Would that be the for the same reason they give us Go Daddy commercials and ED commercials....because they care about the children?

Look, if they want to do something to attract children, that's fine. But Digger is overwhelming the telecasts.

As a first time grandparent, I am looking forward to introducing her to NASCAR, but she will never see a commercial as long as I control the remote...LOL!!

Just can't understand how a simple camera angle that has been used years before has morphed into an annoying joke.

chase said...

Thanks John -- FOX has completely lost me thanks in no small part to Digger, incredibly long and totally ridiculous pre-race program and Chris Myers (does anyone know why he is there in the 1st place?). I will no longer watch any FOX pre-race - I think the killer was Digger for me - too bad the survey site is closed. I got rid of my subscription to Speed months ago when I realized that they had very few programs having to do with racing of any time -- am not into reality series, could care less about watching a towing company, and do wonder where the REAL SPEED TV went. The dumbing down of NASCAR fans - what an insult.

Ziggy said...

Plain & simple.
Dump the rodent !
Absolutley has no business on the racetrack.
It belongs on the Saturday morning cartoons.

Zig

David said...

It was a cool idea with the camera but now that its turned into a gimmick, the camera serves little to no use anymore. Its FORCED. Then someone tried to be funny and throw a cartoon character with it...then guess who, DW! Decided to try and run with a money making idea. Id be very curious to know just how much is made of this "phenomenon" and just who gets what. Maybe if the $$ was being directed to a charitable cause I wouldnt get AS up in arms over it, but with no mention of such I have to assume this is a tv network and larger than life ego trying to line some pockets. Guess the gopher made me cynical lol.

Lets hope Digger is gone once NASCAR on FOX is. This is really hurting their ranking in my eyes, TNT looks better by the minute.

Anonymous said...

I see that some think that Digger has hurt the ratings. I wish there was some kind of proof.

For many years Fox NASCAR has beaten every other sport during their part of the season. Nothing has changed. They still got about twice as many viewers as the next sport. It's hard for me to believe that Digger has had any influence one way or the other.

I read that a show called the Bachelor is getting really trashed, and yet they got something like 17 million viewers. I don't watch it, but their network is doing what they are supposed to do--get more people to watch their show than the others on the same time frame.

That is the goal of every network. Looks like Fox NACAR is doig their job.

Mikey O said...

As far as The Rodent goes, I was watching a old tape of a race from 2003. It was The COCA-COLA 600 from LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY... wait... never mind. I think I see already where FOX gets the idea this is okay.

Anonymous said...

JD, I think you went delete happy on us. I see no reason why my post would be deleted. I have been to races on race weekends and I do indeed see digger merchandise EVERYWHERE. Again, placement during live race broadcasts needs some help, but Digger is selling so it is not going to completely disappear anytime soon. Now did I break the rules here? I might consider sending you an email later today to get more details.

Andrew said...

As if these polls/surveys mean anything to begin when. They Fox/ESPN/NASCAR will do what want anyway, like DW asking about B,B,B saying and if he should quit using it....LOL he has it Trademaked ....sure he will keep using it. It is all about money with these people plain and simple, and very little to do with what people want to see or hear. I swear at times DW, Larry Mac and Co. think we are tuning just to see them and not the race.

Anonymous said...

first it's the cocky football robot, now the childish and corny rodent. FOX sports is as messed up as their news.

zarchasmpgmr said...

Last year's Digger - simple, 2D animation, not so bad, kinda cute. Not annoying.

This year's Digger - complicated, 3D animation, cartoon vignettes aimed at people with IQs of 45 or less - GTF off my screen! Annoying. Annoying. Did I say annoying?

Face it, methinks Fox Sports is in big financial trouble with the current economy. Why else would they be trying to go the merchandising route? Maybe the bucks aren't flowing in like they thought...

(Unrelated: DW, quit brown-nosing and apologizing for DEJr. It's truly embarrassing.)

Anonymous said...

Remember, when you sign up for these types of "marketing" surveys always adjust your birthdate to that of the "prime" advertising demographic of the under 35 crowd. Otherwise they'll just filter out your answers when they compile data.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the survey would prove a lot if it differs with the way Digger items have been selling. I went to NASCAR.com Superstore today and it has added more Digger stuff. I imagine it is because of demand. The stuff must be flying off the shelves, and it is not cheap, either.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10:40am

Fox ratings are off this season. even though they "win" timeslots, their ad sales sre predicated on growth, not staying flat or falling.
Maybe Peter Chernin's replacement will be smart enough to make wholesale changes at SPORTS

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:40AM,

You had a typo that turned a simple word into a profanity. Just repost, no problem. As the king of typos, it happens to all of us.

JD

Anonymous said...

I don't blame just Fox. The powers to be at Nascar seem to think that we are a bunch of morons that live for crap like the foolish movie "Talladega Nights" and of course this stupid rat cartoon character Digger. As long as Ol' Brian is in charge we will have to carry this cross. Gotta make monies to pay for them " Ice Teas".

Anonymous said...

Won't it be fun to hear all of the pundents call for the FOX coverage back when we get to TNT's and ESPN's part of the season....

JD, I challenge you and the board to a 5 and 5 list. 5 good things and 5 bad things about each broadcast. We seem to get so caught up in the negative that we forget what we enjoyed about the race.

I hate the Digger concept too, I also dislike the use of too many wall cameras, too many incar cameras, the "RaceBreaks" during greenflags, and FOX's tendency for self-promotion.
But, I love the way FOX covers the pits and garage, the boxes for green flag pits, the way the booth explains replays, Mike Joy's excitement level, and their "thru the field" segments.

Now it your turn.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:57PM,

Did you read the TDP column titled "Las Vegas Truly An Amazing Race For ESPN?"

How about these quotes from the most recent Fox race:

"Long runs were rare and Joy again showed that he is still the best at his play-by-play position by keeping order and adding the kind of excitement that makes NASCAR racing on Fox a lot of fun."

"Solid graphics, good pictures and outstanding natural sound rounded-out the NASCAR on Fox presentation. In the end, the race came down to a shootout and went well past the 8PM scheduled off-time. The Fox team did a great job wrapping-up the event."

I am always going to express my opinion, which is the reason I started this blog back in 2007.

Hopefully, the purpose of allowing all readers to express theirs will continue to be a crucial part of the success of this project.

JD

hotaru said...

Three words- No more Digger!

Janice said...

all this digger stuff reminds me of when that horrible movie....talladega nights....came out. they had sourviner rigg at all tracks selling all kinds of stuff from that movie, like it was an actual team. it was there at tracks for a year and one-half. to this day i cringe when i see that it's being shown on a tv station.

so what, fox has a camera in the ground at various spots on the track. doesn't espn do the same thing with "lipstick" cameras?

personally, digger and his trusty side kick idiot meyers need to take a long journey off a short pier.

Anonymous said...

anon@1.29

Ad rates are based on ratings. Even when Super Bowl goes down, as it did this year, the price of a 30 second ad did not go down.

Everything in our economy has been affected by this recession, but NASCAR Fox Sports is still ahead of its competition.

Richard in N.C. said...

I have no real objection to Digger, but how, where, and when he appears is another matter.

I believe the Pittsburgh Pirates now have 2 mascots.

Grover said...

I like the Fox crew alot, and digger did not bother me last year. But this year they have gone over the hill on it.

If it were not for Joy and crew in the booth I would seriously stop watching this year because of digger.

Hes almost as annoying as Jerry Punch.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but David Hill is a loser. He was a bandmember in high school, so he decided to inject at least one shot of the band after EVERY SINGLE PLAY of the BCS games that Fox covered during the college football postseason. Even as people were enraged and creating drinking games about it, Hill commended the producers for including shots of the band reacting to every play or in some cases just sitting there doing nothing after every play.

Reason I mention this...same thing applies with Digger. He either doesn't care that people end up hating the coverage as a result or doesn't pay attention to anything. It's probably somewhere in between those two reasons.

red said...

i am a member of the nascar fan council and know from experience that not all members get each survey nor does the same survey go out to each member. i did not receive the "digger" survey but here's what i would have said:

use the cartoon character, digger, and his supporting cast in pre-race show only: i don't watch pre-race on any channel thus i will not have to watch digger. whatever marketing philosophy drives the use of this character is obviously not intended to reach or appeal to me so its use during pre-race will make no difference to me at a personal level.

i would prefer that the cartoon character and his costume character never appear during the race itself. if it is intended to reach young children, then it should be used during pre-race (or perhaps as a stand-alone cartoon on fox?) but then put away for the week. or have the costume character at the race, walking the midway area and greeting the younger fans. i can dodge that as well with no effort and that would allow those who enjoy "digger" to interact with the costume character. that might serve fox well at some level.

as we all know, the camera angle itself that is now being called "digger cam" is not new and certainly not something that fox pioneered. it should be used sparingly and only when it can add to the experience -- same as with any other camera angle used during a race. cartoon graphics need never accompany its use.

the constant interruption of the race by the cartoon character, screaming at the cars and diving into a cartoon hole is what annoys me. that partnered with the booth personnel having to act amused each time and point out the cartoon just adds to my anger. use the cartoon before the race and at the race and as a stand-alone but keep it off the actual race broadcast.

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Daly Planet Editor said...

Sorry folks, trolls are out and moderation is on.

Price of doing business.

JD

Anonymous said...

I would like to say that the "ado" about Digger is a good example of why I think that a single Nascar channel would be a mistake. With 3 of them we know that when we get to summer...no more Digger. If there was just one channel there would be no end of it. Last year the promotion of Digger was bad enough, this year is too much, too big, too loud, too often.
Marybeth

SallyB said...

I find it hard to believe that Fox and/or Nascar need a phoney cartoon character to attract younger fans. I started watching the race snippets I could get on television in my early teens, and didn't need any of the bells and whistles to get me hooked. Most young children will see Nascar because their parents watch, thus exposing them to racing. It seems to me that the only 'real' reason for the whole embarrassing mess is to make more money. Perhaps, if they were giving the proceeds to charity, it wouldn't be so offensive? (That's a hint, Fox.)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Mr YO,

google Federal+Internet+Harassment+Law.

Thanks again to your ISP for providing your personal information.

JD

Colorado said...

I'll guarantee that Fox will do what MTV has done for years: They set up a bank of telemarketers, aka: computer geeks, and they will flood the Fan Council with "thousands" of votes For Digger, as opposed to against. It's the same as it was on Speed, where at the beginning of the season, DW had a poll where he asked "Do we keep Boogity Boogity Boogity, or do we can it?" The poll that I had seen online showed an overwhelming NO, yet we are subjected to that childish phrase every week. So it won't surprise me to see Digger get Bigger. I think I'll go clean my guns..... Just kidding.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why anyone thinks that Fox "needs" votes from the Council. Those vote totals are not scientific. On the other hand, selling millions of Digger items does provide them lots of proof to go full steam ahead. So, as long as people are voting with their cash, Digger will be along for a long ride.

Lou said...

gotta tell ya jd,

I remember when that poll was on for the BBB deal, ref comment in Colorado 1007hrs. I followed it and refreshed as needed for me. the numbers were overwhelming that fans did not care for it. BUT THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN. the website said tech problems or such the numbers are wrong. that may be a true fact. But I just do not to this day believe it. the bbb just got old. It was good for awhile, just move on, PLEASE. I feel it degrades how I remember DW during the time he was a great driver for many years. And he does not need this for us to remember how good he was. DW still offers good insight concerning the race stuff during the race.

It just seems a step down to be promoting gopher stuff(still a freakin woodchuck to me) when you are a nascar champion. There is so much more DW can offer race fans than the gopher dodo. I cringe when I hear larry and dw mention the gopher. It just seem so fake.

Anonymous said...

I guess it must be that some folks think that if they don't like something, no one else in the world likes it either.

It's like all the NASCAR fans who hate Jeff Gordon. They think eveyone else does too. They are wrong, Jeff comes in 2nd to the overwhelmingly popular Jr. But just the same, Jeff comes in 2nd. That means that MILLIONS of fans love him, and he has more fans than 40 other dirvers.

I remember on this site when Digger first came. Before he even had a name. I don't think one single comment was positive. Then Fox came up with a T-shirt, and again the naysayers chimed in.

Well, it's been a year. And what do we see. There are a ton of Digger items being sold. Who makes the stuff? Chase Authentics, who is a leader in NASCAR stuff. Their biggest sellers are of course, the stuff the make for Jr, Jeff, JJ, Harvick, and all the caps worn on the track.

Then who sells Digger? Well, we know NASCAR.com, DW store, go racin, featured on QVC, and even Dick's Sporting Goods now sells Digger. I think you can call it a marketing sucess.

Lou said...

yep, it may be true. But now I can add to nascar.com, DW store, go racin, the woodchuck featured on QVC with DW, and now even Dick's Sporting Goods , items i have never bought concerning or related to the gopher and or racing from them and as of now, this date no longer will for the time being.

I have bought my racing items at the track to the race i was in attendance. Their loss not mine. Yes, I did buy autographed items from dave marcis #71 and Robby Gordon #7 at the track and some through the mail, for both drivers as i can recall.

And as long as they support the gopher, those are places that will not get my hard earned dollars.

SK said...

Die Digger, Die! Digger has got to go! Digger is stupid. Digger is inappropriate. No other sport has a "Digger". The NFL doesn't have a cartoon character appear on the field when watching a play. Major League Baseball doesn't have a cartoon character run out on the field when watching a play. And if there's a sport that desperately needs livening up with cartoon characters it's MLB!

JTB said...

Digger, Digger, Digger...what a PITA. If FOX thinks this is a way to bring in new young race fans they are way off track. What has been bring them in for years, a cartoon or the excitment of racing? If Fox feels the need to do a cartoon, then at least make it related to true racing and not this foolish cartoon. Kids would be better of watching Speed Racer.But, get rid of Digger during the race, it takes away from the race 100%.
Also, to Zarchasmpgmr(Unrelated: DW, quit brown-nosing and apologizing for DEJr. It's truly embarrassing.)DW needs to quit the lovefest with Kyle Busch and remember there are 42 other drivers on the track. It's not embarrassing, it's disquisting.

Anonymous said...

Digger is right up there with that stupid robot (or whatever it is) character that Fox uses during football broadcasts - just dumber and more obnoxious.

As noted above, Fox has already destroyed Speed as far as racing coverage goes, guess now they will just make it worse.

Adam said...

Whenever I would peel away from my work or computer game to see how my favorite drivers are doing, I keep running into Digger.

Fox, you're not doing any favors to your viewers.

VideoDude said...

To the people who think Digger is cute. Fine, buy your kid a stuff doll and watch Cartoon Network. NASCAR racing is supposed to be about racing. If kids are going to watch a race, then they will watch the race without "Digger". I did when I was a kid, because I was a race fan. If a person is not a race fan, inserting cartoons is not going to make him one. When the FOX coverage ends at mid season, where will those new "fans" (cartoon watchers) go? To the afformentioned Cartoon Network.

The ideal of putting a camera low on the track or in the infield, is not new either. All you have to do is check out ESPN Classic and watch a Cup race from the 80's.

Nascar GeeMaw said...

I think "Digger" and his "posse" is a nice add on. It makes my grandson(a future Nascar Fan) watch the race to see him.(he is only 2 right now) I love the little cartoon at the begining and have missed the last 2 races. Hang in there "Digger" we got your back.

Kolie said...

Honestly, I don't mind Digger at all... I actually find him kinda cute, and the cartoon has a little bit of a Dukes of Hazzard vibe to it. And for the record - I got hooked on racing at a young age from a combination of watching my dad race on Friday nights at the local go-kart track and watching the races on Sunday afternoons.

...but really people, if you're going to be all up in arms about someone getting tons o'cash from the Digger cartoons what about Keith Urban and singing the theme song?