Monday, March 2, 2009

NASCAR On Fox Crew Trapped In The Breakdown Lane


After a tumultuous Nationwide Series race Saturday on ESPN2, the NASCAR on Fox crew walked into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway knowing they were about to televise a very interesting Sprint Cup Series race. They were not disappointed.

Chris Myers and the Hollywood Hotel pre-race show continue to present a mix of content that swings wildly between interesting and ridiculous. The analysis of Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip continues to be right on the money, but the time spent on fluff was tough to handle. The reason for that was because Fox was on the air at the same time as the final thirty minutes of RaceDay on SPEED. Fans had to choose.

Once Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Waltrip took to the air to call the race, they were quickly trapped in the breakdown lane. Matt Kenseth started his engine and the equipment failures never seemed to stop. Hour-after-hour of live TV coverage was dominated by the curious failure of Sprint Cup teams to do things right.

As Joy pointed out at one frustrating point in the race, there were no engine failures at this event in 2008 and yet that situation dominated this race. Waltrip and McReynolds tried their best to keep up with the situation, but most of it was simply blamed on high rpm's and engine stress.

Fox presented the race in a straightforward fashion. There were no problems with commercial integration or pit road coordination. Several pre-race soundbites were used during the race to reference driver stories and Myers presented several video recaps during the event.

Unfortunately, Fox continues to not take advantage of the best crew of pit road reporters on TV. Unlike ESPN on Saturday, the Fox team did not provide regular "through the field" rundowns with the pit road reporters talking about the teams to which they were assigned. This was a big hole in the telecast, even though a brief update was done with about 40 laps remaining in the race.

It may be that time spent on setting up Digger in every segment of the race takes away from the time spent getting current information ready to be told to the viewers. The Fox team makes sure that Digger is a constant presence. It would be wonderful if information from the pit road reporters was presented as regularly as the animated cartoon character.

Mike Joy again presided over a constantly changing live telecast that was never lacking for action. 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. Unfortunately, many viewers on the East Coast checked-in with TDP to say that weather updates from their local Fox station were being done regularly with little regard for how the race was proceeding. The local stations were more concerned with presenting the information every fifteen minutes or half-hour. Snow has a way of whipping local TV stations into an update frenzy.

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. The win by Kyle Busch at his home track was another good story for the sport and one that it probably needed. Seeing all the lead lap cars cross the finish line was wonderful. Thanks to the production team for making that change this season.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, so please keep that in mind as you comment.

Thanks again and happy posting.

74 comments:

Lou said...

I enjoyed the race. Still wish more cars were covered during the race. Good to see the change at the finish watching the cars cross the finish line. The announce crew in the booth were great as usual. Still, the ground hog detracts from the race. Although I was hoping he would get run over lol.

trish in nc said...

Great Booth coverage as usual with the Fox guys. You can tell they have fun working together. Pit road coverage?? Where Did it go?

btw we have snow, thunder & lightning

The J said...

sure it had some holes, but it was a good telecast. minus the prerace show fox still has the best race telecast.

Newracefan said...

It was a confusing race and Fox did a good job of letting us know what is going on. I use to be able to count on Fox doing a thru the field several times a race and now for some reason that is gone and it is sorley missed. I still like the Fox PXP the best but I need those field rundowns from the pit reporters, they ARE the best reporters for cup races so use them please.
OBTW the race is now over I still have no snow despite those all important updates that let me miss cautions, restarts, passes for the lead and almost the last lap, hey guys it obviously could have waited.

Newracefan said...

Oh I almost forgot, shorten up the prerace it's a mess, too much fluff and not enough substance, I don't remember it being this bad last year, too much Digger perhaps.

Gary said...

Mike did a slick job of correcting DW's slight "mock" of the GPS sponsor, TomTom during one incident.

That was a class act, in these days of new, limited-race sponsors.

AMS fan said...

TDP said
Unfortunately, Fox continues to not take advantage of the best crew of pit road reporters on TV. Unlike ESPN on Saturday, the Fox team did not provide regular "through the field" rundowns with the pit road reporters talking about the teams to which they were assigned.

That is one of the reasons I hate listening to ESPN. The, "I talked to *** this morning" or "Earlier today", or "So and so told me" sayings that usually lead to useless information drive me crazy. Also it takes so long for them to go through the field, a lot of racing gets missed. JMHO

darbar said...

I just read in a racing magazine that the head of Fox Sports was quoted as saying they developed Digger in order to sell merchandise and to up their bottom line. Sounds about right seeing they now have quite a line of Digger stuff they sell.

BTW, the Milwaukee Fox affiliate stayed on the race until 7:40.

Vicky D said...

Gary - Michael Waltrip made fun of Tom Tom on TWIN Monday night and Aric spoke right up about it. It's tough getting sponsors nowadays, but keeping them they need to do everything to promote them even from the broadcast booth. Yes, since the race had so many cautions the telecast was a bit disjointed and not much info from the pits. Yesterday's were much better. All in all, I guess it was satisfactory. Be careful of the now tomorrow folks too.

Sophia said...

@Lou

DITTO to your post.

@Trishin nc "Thunder snow is wild"!! We have only had that a few times over the years but it's amazing phenom .

Sophia said...

FYI

KYLE BUSCH DID NOT say "goodnight Gracie" he just said on VLane.

Well at least he admitted it was from a different reference from his cc and not the Burns and Allen.

Off to get food.

Daly Planet Editor said...

AMS fan,

I don't know if you had a chance to watch the Saturday Nationwide Series race, but ESPN must have passed a rule on that expression. It is gone.

So are the Jerry Punch catch-phrases and most of the hype. I think you would be impressed, even with Jamie and Shannon.

JD

stricklinfan82 said...

I personally thought the overall race coverage was very good. It was especially enjoyable to have the Fox director make a major change in philosophy and actually reward the viewers' 5 hour investment in their program by letting us see all the races for positions decided live on our TV screens.... after all that is what we all had been waiting around all that time to see. One can only hope that this wasn't a fluke and will carry over to Atlanta and beyond.

My only disappointment on the day was the cartoon influence being ramped up even more this week. Not only did we have the usual overdose of screaming cartoon characters covering up the cars, but now they've added on-screen advertisements to go online and buy Digger phone accessories and spent commercial time advertising their Digger die-casts, Digger toys, Digger mugs, Digger shirts, and anything else Digger you can find on DW's website.

Other Fox money-making ploys like "Boogity Boogity Boogity", The Hollywood Hotel merchandise, the NASCAR Love song, and the Fox NFL robot are harmless. They don't get in the way of the live coverage of the sport.

In my opinion this particular money-making ploy is excessively over-the-top, it's distracting from the coverage of the on-track racing, it gives me a black eye as a race fan having my sport's TV broadcasts be have sport / half cartoon, and most importantly of all it does not add any positive value at all to the coverage. None.

Inevitably "Digger" will be put on the shelf just like the talking baseball, the glowing hockey puck, and so many other failed TV gimmicks. It's just a shame we all have to sit here and suffer while we wait and wait and wait for Mr. Hill to finally pull the plug on yet another failed gimmick and move on to his next "great revolutionary idea" that will fail in no time at all.

To paraphrase from Tony Stewart's latest Goodyear rant at Daytona a few weeks ago.... Mr. Hill sure seems to love getting attention, he just doesn't realize he should be looking for good press and not bad press.

SquidBuzz said...

Was showing the 10 top on the last couple of laps on the top of the screen new this week or have I missed it the past two races?

I liked that. And they did keep the camera at the finish line while the cars finished. I think they have finally gotten the hint.

Is everything ok with DW? He seems to have the head shake thing going on like Reagan did in the end.

Anonymous said...

REPORT: All NASCAR Team Planes have been grounded.

How will this affect NASCAR TV tomorrow??

Anthony said...

They have done the Top 10 thing for the last couple of years, but inconsistently.

It was nice seeing that FOX was on-air until about 8:40p/et. If the race was on ABC, we would've been on ESPN2 for sure. This shows, yet again, that FOX cares.

The race was odd, with 15 cautions, a lot of unexplained failures, and 'different' running orders. Congrats to Labonte and Reutimann for their excellent runs.

Sophia said...
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The J said...
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The J said...
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Sophia said...

Sorry but back on track, if the FOX crew said that on a tv broadcast, heads would roll.

Anyway I once again second Stricklanfans comments on giving us pay back at the end of the race (finish line, seeing more than two cars!)

and the overdosing of DIGGER.

But strick. somebody posted the 'inventor' of said critter says DEMAND IS HIGH so that makes you and me and some others in the minority.

Sophia said...

Is ESPN already back on the east coast or is that a dumb question?

Not that I watch that show but I hope we get a heads up about TWIN.

Especially since the "Odd couple" is on.

p.s. deleted my comment JD, sorry to get off topic.

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Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about ESPN. All of the technical crew for the Monday NASCAR Now show is already in Bristol, CT, where ESPN is based and I bet the on air folks are already back too, they fly back early.
As for TWIN, it will be tough for their on air people to get back now that the flights to the area have been grounded.

majorshouse said...

Digger absolutely has to go. The race was great but get tired of all of the animation and all of the references to Digger and I would have liked to have seen the pit crew do as good of a job as the Nationwide race yesterday.

Anonymous said...

The J,
exactly. Just a heads up for anyone, WindTunnel is not a show for kids.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anyone can convince FOX to let go of Digger. Digger merchandise has been selling like hotcakes and David Hill was just on a business channel talking about all the interest digger has received.

Dot said...

Is there a reliable source that tracks Digger sales? Or is it Hill cooking his own books?

Sophia said...

Dot said...

Is there a reliable source that tracks Digger sales? Or is it Hill cooking his own books?
~~~~~~~~~~
Well, he's tootin' his own horn!!

Sorry couldn't resist.:)

Just because somebody might spout hyperbole does not make it fact.

Who has BEEN to a race..seen many t shirts of the critter?

Anonymous said...

Well, I might try and look for stats on sales later, but just from going to a few different tracks and races and seeing so many fans wearing Digger stuff, I'd say they defiantly are selling a decent amount.

Anonymous said...

"Who has BEEN to a race..seen many t shirts of the critter?"

I just answered that for you.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Sophia,

Let's agree that you will not do that again anytime soon...OK?

Just drop me an email if you have a topic that you would like to suggest for a post.

Thanks,

JD

Sophia said...

anon

well there is the answer.

it's more what JD and most of us have alluded ..the placement of the thing in LIVE racing.

I've nothing against a NASCAR mascot. As long as the crew does not talk about it constantly tho I know THEY ARE TOLD what to say.
:)

but on another note, I always get the feeling the FOX GUYS are having fun.

I did not feel like trying to watch the taped show from ESPN I fell asleep to last night. But I am sorry I missed such a basic broadcast. ESPECIALLY NO LAME videos of drivers used as bumpers or whatever they call it on TV.

Just basic racing.

LESS bells/whistles/videos is a great start.

Sophia said...

Sorry JD

Got it, captain!

glenc1 said...

I didn't really have an issue with the Digger I saw today...it's like the NFL robot guy, just intros and exits. Mentioned too much, but not to where I was going ballistic. I thought they had good coverage all around. DW seemed on his game; several times he had things right that others had missed. Didn't watch any post race cause I can't stand the 18.

I wondered about the Nor'easter. I figure not many are going to be at the shop tomorrow. Snow in Charlotte, go figure. Welcome to our world, lol (central NYer here.)

darbar said...

The only ones heading home are the hauler drivers as they won't hit Charlotte until late Tuesday or early Wednesday. But, I'm wondering what affect this delay, perhaps until Tuesday, this storm will have on teams? The TV people have enough time to get their stuff to Atlanta, but how this affects teams, and their preparation for the next race, could be interesting. I hope Nascar Now will have a segment on this.

I was at the Vegas race last year and didn't see one driver at the Bellagio, but I did see them taping the pre-race segment with Hammond. I bet these guys might be liking the night to blow off steam in the casinos.

Maybe they'll forgo This Week in Nascar or tape it later, maybe on Wednesday. According to the Weather Channel, the storm warning for Charlotte ends at 9am on Monday, so perhaps the private jets can get off the ground late on Monday.

Anonymous said...

I have a 2 and a half year old son and a 6 and a half year old daughter. They love Digger. It drives me crazy but FOX hit their target. Not only the cartoon but everytime the little guy pops up in the race whether it's animated or a still shot, they go crazy. My daughter asks every week..."is Digger going to be on next week?" I say I hope not but I think so. Anyway, just wanted to say that it does appeal to some and maybe who they want it to appeal to.

Dot said...

I'm watching VL. They keep talking about Digger when they show the grass cam. Digger isn't even on the screen. Can they see him on their monitor?

They showed some good shots that would have killed a mortal gopher. Wouldn't little kids be worried that he's going to be run over? Their perception of reality/fantasy is sometimes blurred.

NorCalFan said...

@Sophia,
I was at the track this weekend and saw a Digger booth selling shirts, stuffed toys, etc and the customers were lined up 3-wide and 20 yards deep. Didn't see anyone in line who looked under 30 so I figured they were mostly grandparents buying stuff for the grandkids back home.

JD, FYI - The track reduced the price on all beverages (including beer) by $1 due to the economy.

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Anonymous said...

Another vote against The Ground Hog. Strong against. I want to see full field rundowns, and show me the car, not Fox 3D animation.

The Ground Hog, animated robots, 3d animated cars for field rundown, "crank it up", Aflac duck crossing the screen, overloaded graphics...the broadcast is literally a cartoon. And the info from the HH at prerace is good, but I don't watch it because of the rest of the silliness.

Where did the pit road coverage go?

Jim
NC

Ari in DC said...

The blog and comments have 2 common themes: too much Digger and not enough full field rundowns. Let's take this lemon and make some lemonade. Since many agree Digger's frequent appearances on screen are gratuitous let's suggest that Fox give them some purpose. Fox ought to brand the full field rundown as a Digger feature. I noticed that one time they did give a rundown of the first 5 or 6 cars it was done using Fox's video game-like 3D animation. Just put Digger prominently in the animation, voice over with the pit reporters voices, call it something catchy and you have a branded and purposeful promotion several times during the race. We could stop cringing every time we see that animation pop up in the lower left corner of our TV because we would know we were about to get some useful information.

Vicky D said...

And with the late race ending, Windtunnel was pushed back for Victory Lane and we missed the ending because we recorded it at it's regular time. Maybe the early replay this morning the dvr caught all of it.

GinaV24 said...

I was wondering if I had somehow just missed the through the field updates because of weather forecaster interruptus -- for heaven's sakes it wasn't even snowing yet -- the storm was predicted to begin AFTER the race, but the local stations just couldn't help themselves. I thought most of the broadcast was decent -- Mike Joy is the best -- if Digger is pre-empting the pit reporters, that is REALLY stupid. How clear can race fans be? We tune in to watch and hear about the race in progress, not some dumb cartoon. As usual, I used multiple sources to follow the race -- TV, radio to find out what was going on through the field and my computer to follow MY driver.

GinaV24 said...

oh, yeah, I didn't bother with any of the pre-race shows, they've lost me with all the silliness. That isn't what they were doing back in 2001, now it is just dumb.

GinaV24 said...

Hey, Ari in DC, I think you've got a good idea. Use the gopher to a purpose -- or we could pretend we're all in college again and make it a drinking game! LOL -- that's a joke folks.

I was shocked that the camera stayed on the field as they crossed the line, but I actually cheered when they did. Thanks, Fox, that's one change I can really enjoy.

. DOSVader said...

Well, at least FOX added a "countdown to start engines" clock in their pre-race broadcast so I can watch FOX News until the actual race begins.

I find Chris Myers not authentic and his continued "side jokes" about everything being discussed are very stupid. He adds nothing to the discussion and is an utter distraction.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane(still from Key West) said:

Commend all of you who watch live (I know...TDP makes it fun) but I can't do it. Digger, the over the top commercials...too much. If we see a commercial while FF that looks funny or has a driver we like, we check it out. So, because of Go Daddy and ED ads, other sponsors lose out on us viewing their ads.

Tried watching Digger cartoon in prerace just to be objective...lasted 30 seconds. Digger for the camera work...ok...I could live with it. But a cartoon. No way.

Agree with needing through the field and also some updates on some back in the field.

More pit reporting. Especially resetting the field when teams are on different pit stop cycles or people taking none, 2 or 4.

Intervals on ticker more often, especially after pit stop issues in comment above.

We actually had 35MPH winds yesterday and all night...some rain yesterday. Not complaining :-)

All with bad weather...be safe.

Anonymous said...

How about that Top 10 positions graphics during the last lap? That was an excellent new tool. It was a live scoring for just the top 10 droped below the usual spot occupied by the scrolling scoring feed.

Great addition!

chad said...

Boogity, boogity, boogity has got to go. No amount of cartoon characters can degrade the broadcast more than that mindless warcry at the start of each race.

Ken said...

If they could just kill digger, I can take the coverage even with the other problems. It was snowing hard here in Virginia but our local Fox station only had an occasional scroll at the top of the screen with weather reports. It did not distract from the coverage.

I don't understand NA$CAR having a break between Atlanta and Bristol when it would make more sense to have it after Vegas so the teams would have more time to recover from the long trip from the west coast. Most of the crew members (not the drivers) won't be on the top of their game at Atlanta because of jet lag and exhaustion from the travel and work out west.

Anonymous said...

Asking David Ragen why his engine failed two minutes after he drove into the garage and got out of his car was simply pathetic.

Like his team had the time to pull the engine, take it apart, and identify the root cause in just a few seconds.

Fox pit reporters are becoming the worst in the business.

Anonymous said...

The Digger thing is getting annoying. Is it about Digger or the race? It's hard to tell sometimes. Also, not an 18 fan so the cheerleading for him gets a bit much too. I laugh when people say they favor Junior. The only references to Junior are usually in the negative and if they could all adopt Kyle, they'd do it. Too funny! I though DW would have a heart attack when Busch took the lead! His mancrush is funny!

Anonymous said...

Agree with the comments about the constant Digger barrage, and was amazed that the Victory Lane crew is also pushing him now - enough already.

Also agree with the lack of pit reporting - for example, it was mentioned (but never followed up on) when both Newman and Stewart pitted within a lap for a vibration that could have been a loose wheel, causing them to become non-factors in the rcae.

Finally, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the gushing over Kyle Busch was a little over-the-top.

Still, for the most part, I have to say I enjoyed the broadcast.

Don said...

I assumed Digger was for the Kids, but My Wife wants a T shirt, guess I shouldn't complain, she watches the races, and doesn't complain when I want to attend one, as long as I take someone else besides her

glenc1 said...

anon 11:53--someone called in to Wind Tunnel to complain that the analysts don't talk about the 18 enough...lol. Despain explained his mail says fans feel quite the opposite. I know it's not the analyts job to cheer or not cheer for anyone specifically, but I do get the feeling sometimes they're *trying* to make people like him better. They made mention of the 'hometown crowd', but that was the same crowd that cheered when he wrecked on Saturday. You could hear it (of course, wrecks always get some cheers no matter who it is.)

BTW, all--gophers and groundhogs (woodchucks) are different. Gophers are smaller and don't swim or hibernate like groundhogs. I looked it up, lol. But I have stopped watching Fox prerace because I have no interest in the gopher. I get that it's working on a segment of the population, but I still feel like it's insulting to the rest of us. Not that Fox cares. I find myself in fear that they will get the idea to market the NFL robot now (kind of like a transformers toy...)

Anonymous said...

I echo the statement by Anon March 1, 2009 11:47 PM,my kids loved the Digger segment in the prerace,don't need it during the race though.I have that Tom Tom theme in my head,lol!!!
Terry

Lesley said...

Its becoming pretty clear that the Digger deal has been forced on Mike,DW,and Larry..The fake chuckles from these guys trying to sell this marketing disaster every time this insect pops up on the screen is getting uncomfortable for those of us at home! I think Fox is very lucky to have a class act like Mike Joy on board...He could fill in any void just with his expertise and trivia about anything that has to do with cars!!But No...We get a gopher!

batchief said...

Gotta say I really enjoy Digger and the fact the Fox crew can put some humor in a sometimes not so humerous world. Thanks Fox, keep up the good work.

dabar said...

Is there any way at all to find out how much money digger generates for Fox and does Nascar get a cut? I'd be surprised if Brian France didn't get some of that money---I mean he has to pay for that $10 million dollar apartment he just purchased in NYC.

JD, is there any way to find out why Nascar shares little, if any, of the TV contract money with the teams? According to the latest Forbes magazine, the France family keeps all the money from the TV contracts. That seems way out of line since there is revenue sharing in other sports. And why aren't the teams screaming about this in view of the difficult economic times?

Richard in N.C. said...

The recent FORBES article on NASCAR is a disaster and, in my view, has completely killed any credibility FORBES had. The article is full of significant errors which I found shocking - in particular the errors about the sharing of the TV revenue and whether the teams get any of the revenue from ticket sales. Analysis is one thing, but citing erroneous "facts" as a basis for reaching a conclusion is another thing.

Dot said...

According to Caws & Jaws, there were less Digger sightings in LV.

For those wanting more KyB coverage, just tune in to our local news channels and papers. It's a KyB love fest, man crush and bromance all rolled into one.

As much as I don't llke him, he sure can drive. And, he does add some excitement to CUP racing. He should not be in the lower series.

Richard in N.C. said...

There is something about Kyle B that reminds me of Jaws in his early years in NASCAR, before Rusty bumped DW into being a good guy.

Sophia said...

Richard would love to see the NASCAR article in Forbes. WHICH Issue is it in so I can see if my library has it. Thanks.

Dot, I agree KB should NOT be allowed in the lower series..well the trucks anyway. A world series driver should NOT be playing in AA leagues.

Less digger? Don't believe it. And if NASCAR is presenting itself to be more GENEROUS to the teams (in forbes article, that makes me mad)

Anonymous said...

I was a little surprised that Joy apparently didn't under the Cause, & effect of sliding a tire, & it sxploding.

dawg

Richard in N.C. said...

Sophia, I read the article off Forbes' website. However, if you go to Yahoo Sports From the Marbles, Jay Busbee has a posting dated 2/26 & updated 2/27 which links to the article and to a rebuttal written by S.E. Cupp at FOX News. It appears that the Forbes NASCAR article is the cover article on the current issue. Forbes also had a recent article on what NASCAR drivers are supposed to earn, but did not give any explanation at all for the source of their figures.

Anonymous said...

Digger sucks. Most race fans are moter heads or wives of moter heads and they could care less about a stupid cartoon.

darbar said...

Sophia, here's the link

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0302/082_trouble_at_tracks.html

Anonymous said...

The kids like Digger but I think thay over do it. Mike & Larry Are ok but I don't like any waltrip in the booth or on track,and I'll never understand why Fox,Speed or na$car puts up with such biased commentating it's not a lot of fun tryin to enjoy a race as a diehard underdog fan. I wish thay would understand that.

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Anonymous said...

Enjoy reading your post. Agree with most about too much Digger. Really wish there was a way to get Chris what's his name to STOP saying "we kid because we care" about 3 times a show!!

Bart said...

why so many commercials today this talledega we are missing the race stuff and the strategy plays...whats up with this we are averaging over 20 spots per 30??? wtf....