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.
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Thanks again and happy posting.