Sunday, March 8, 2009
Pit Reporters Missing Element In Fox Broadcast
The story began to unfold shortly after Chris Myers signed-off from the Hollywood Hotel and the Sprint Cup Series cars took to the track at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The cars strung-out quickly and the race took on the look that fans know all too well. The COT was racing in Atlanta on Fox.
Mike Joy may be the best NASCAR play-by-play guy in the business, but the burden of keeping the fans interested in this telecast should not have been placed squarely on his shoulders. Once Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds had exhausted their Atlanta stories and anecdotes, it was Joy who carried the day.
This season has seen a very different dynamic in terms of the teams coming to the track each week. Between the contraction of the power teams and the back markers clawing their way into the field, the stories of the sport are now spread from the pole to the final qualifier.
To that end, Fox has been struggling with their own form of tunnel vision. Once the race is underway and things have settled down, the pit reporters begin to fade into the background. The production priorities in this race were Digger, video race recaps from the Hollywood Hotel and then a return to the action on the track.
While several drivers who fell out of the race were interviewed, Fox has dropped a fundamental tool that the other NASCAR TV networks use on a regular basis. The radio networks covering the Sprint Cup Series use this tool as a key piece of their overall coverage. Call it a full field rundown, a through the field feature or even a race recap. What Fox has dropped is the information on the teams outside of the top ten.
The dynamics of this event were certainly scrambled when many teams went a lap down, but that should not be an excuse to remove those teams from the TV coverage. This is not a normal NASCAR season and it is crucial for almost every team to try and get some TV exposure regardless of the circumstances or their position on the track.
Once again, the Fox ticker at the top of the screen was the only reference for fans of those cars who had faded from the lead lap. While clumps of cars were seen racing, once the field strung out for a long run, the tunnel vision returned. Since NASCAR does not pay anymore for the leader at the halfway point, the TV networks are basically free to comb through the field and look for the stories of the race that would be interesting for the viewers.
This is where the top team of NASCAR pit reporters on TV was once again left out in the cold. The Fox trio in the booth this season loves to talk and talk they did about almost everything under the sun. When they were not talking, it was time for Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond to follow-up on something the trio in the booth had...well...talked about. At times, this circle was maddening.
Unfortunately, technical problems probably caused by solar interference happened across the country during the race. TDP readers started reporting the problems in California and by the middle of the race those of us in Florida were staring at green screens with no audio on both the SD and HD feeds.
On the good side, nice pictures and great sound meant another strong performance by the TV tech team at the track. Quick access to the NASCAR video of the cars leaving pit road and the overhead shots of the racing action were very useful. Fox changed the lower right video box on the pit stops to show pit road instead of a fourth car. This worked, but is still hard to see without a big screen TV.
Luckily, the closing laps gave the TV telecast some excitement and featured several good stories. The new graphics and camera wideshot showing the cars on the lead lap crossing the finish line are a wonderful addition to the telecast. Once again, despite running late, the Fox team finished the telecast with all the right interviews and explanations.
The Digger factor was as annoying as usual, but the announce team now routinely ignores the animation being played if something is happening on the track. The cringe factor is still there when Digger is used as a "funny element" over a replay of an accident that has just ended the racing day of a Sprint Cup team.
The NASCAR on Fox team has next weekend off and then it is on to Bristol for the most hectic TV telecast of the season featuring laps of fifteen seconds in length. There is no bigger challenge for a TV crew than Bristol.
Please add your comments about the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind while posting.
Thanks again for taking the time to read The Daly Planet.