Monday, May 25, 2009
Patience And Patriotism Mix At LMS
After a while, it did not matter if you were a TV viewer or a crew member. Patience was at a premium during the long weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Fox defaulted to non-NASCAR programming on Sunday as rain delayed the Coca-Cola 600. The TV effort began on Monday with a one-hour version of RaceDay on SPEED. That group did a good job of resetting the scene for the race and updating the mood of the drivers and teams.
Once Mike Joy led the Fox team onto the air, circumstances continued to test the patience of all involved. Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond were the relief team for the guys in the booth as the rain interrupted the racing time and time again.
During one break, Larry McReynolds gave fans his report card for the various Sprint Cup teams through this first part of the season. Fox only has one more race remaining at Dover, so they are beginning to transition into wrapping-up the details of their part of the Sprint Cup season.
Waltrip and Hammond disagreed frequently on the grades being assigned to the various teams by McReynolds. Opinions are good to hear, but there was a lot of judging going-on in terms of what should have been and what could be.
After a while, the TV coverage was just following the leaders after the restarts. Trying to capture the racing at the back of the field was apparently a tough assignment once again. There were no triple splits on pit stops, but the real-time scoring worked well as the cars left. Several times, major changes in the field were lost when they happened on pit road.
Mike Joy did a good job of keeping on top of the stories, but the inability to then show what he and the other members of the booth were talking about was rough. Over these final Fox races, Joy has taken to calling out the number of the turn where the action was happening. This is certainly a gentle reminder for the TV team to follow the real leader of the pack.
As the racing action ground toward 3PM, a new wrinkle developed in the officiating of the sport. NASCAR threw a caution flag, slowed the field to a stop on the frontstretch and shut-off the car engines. In the same kind of show of patriotism that fans know from the opening ceremonies, the crew members lined pit road and the entire speedway joined the nation in a minute of silence honoring the military veterans who have served this country. That was a great moment to put things in perspective.
The rain started again shortly after the restart, beginning the familiar cycle once again. The TV scramble was on and everyone possible who cooperated was interviewed. Unfortunately, that did not include Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Eury Jr.
It was over five hours after the first laps when the Fox TV cameras showed a pensive David Reutimann squatting next to his wet car. He was leading when the rain came after taking a chance by staying on the track. The tension on his face was in sharp contrast to the smiling Michael Waltrip who seemed to be smelling a Sprint Cup Series win as an owner.
Eventually, the normally optimistic Jeff Hammond began to tell the tale that in his mind things should be done. He pointed to the crews, drivers and others who needed to begin the turn-a-round to head for Dover. Ironically, it was Hammond on Sunday who kept telling TV viewers that the race was getting set to begin in just a short while. That never happened. Talk about a real turn-a-round.
The final rain showers came around 6PM and NASCAR finally called it a day. The winner's interview was solid and having an underdog like MWR win a race made for a good story. There was one final deep breath from the TV crew and then it was done.
This was a bittersweet way to close-out the Fox telecast. The TV team travels to Dover for what is normally a grinder of a race and then is done. LMS was really the last big stage that Joy, McReynolds, Waltrip and Hammond get to share. It will only be remembered as wet, dreary and very long.
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