Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finish Line TV Debate Rages On (Day Two)


It's been a hot button topic since this blog began in 2007. Folks like me who believe that watching the lead lap cars run to the finish on TV is crucial vs. folks who think the winner deserves the TV coverage. This season, NASCAR on FOX has essentially chosen to show only the leader finish the Sprint Cup Series races.

Click here to read Kyle Petty Gets No Respect From FOX Sports. This is an excerpt from that TDP column in May of 2007:

"Sunday, just days short of his 47th birthday, Kyle Petty finished third in the Coca-Cola 600, one of the biggest races of the year. Other than the people in the stands and on pit road, no one saw him finish. Fox Sports got caught up in the excitement of Casey Mears' first Cup win and then got lost. What may become Petty's last moment in the sunshine was ruined by this strange focus on the winner. Once again, no other cars were shown finishing the race...including Kyle in third."

The ultimate irony of that moment is that Kyle was driving the Coke Zero car in the Coke 600 and was stepping out of the sport to work in TV after the race. Instead of showing Kyle and the other lead lap drivers finishing, FOX chose to capture the "drama" of Mears, his pit crew and the folks on top of his pit box.

The NASCAR TV partners have a choice. As a production philosophy, the networks can either stand back and let the live action be the star or use the television tools available to them and insert their own agenda. Attempts to do just that including Digger, the Draft Tracker and even Brent Musburger as "the host" have all backfired.

My feeling is that showing only the winner of the race cross the finish line, for whatever reason, is fundamentally unfair to the fans of the other teams on the lead lap. Two good examples from Sunday are Ryan Newman finishing fifth and both Red Bull cars finishing in the top ten. Great stories, but never shown finishing the race.

SPEED regularly televises practice and qualifying sessions for the Sprint Cup Series. Often, the very same on-air personalities we see on the NASCAR on FOX telecasts are involved. The productions treat all teams with respect, chase down stories as they happen and simply work to keep fans informed.

On Sundays, all that changes. NASCAR on FOX is a personality-driven production and Darrell Waltrip is the focus. While there has been a lot of colorful personalities in the NASCAR TV booth, there have only been a handful of producers and directors who have regularly worked Sprint Cup Series races.

At FOX, Barry Landis produces the races and Artie Kempner directs. This team has been together for many years. The decision of whether to focus the attention of the television coverage on the winner or show all the lead lap cars on TV is made by these two men.

Over the last four seasons, FOX has gone back and forth between trying to create "drama" at the finish or showing all the lead lap cars. Many times after only showing the winner, FOX has been forced to actually replay the finish so fans could see the side-by-side races to the line for final positions.

This issue came to a head at the Bristol Motor Speedway several years ago. The FOX team showed only the winner finish the race on a track where laps take less than twenty seconds. In a snarling pack for second were names like Montoya, Earnhardt and Martin. Once again, FOX had to resort to replay to show TV viewers what they had missed.

The second half of Kempner's year is taken up by directing NFL football for FOX. His telecasts feature the same type of coverage. Lots of tight shots, quick cuts and always an attempt at building drama. The winning pass, the key tackle and or the great run back all end with a blur of tightly-shot images of faces and emotion.

As we have often said, FOX paid the money and can produce the NASCAR telecasts as it pleases. However, in a time of lower ratings, less sponsor exposure and a big push to promote the personalities within the sport it might just be time to step back a bit and save the drama for the gridiron.

How do you feel about this topic? Let us know by clicking on the comments button below. You can remain anonymous, but comments are moderated for content. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

40 comments:

allisong said...

JD, I'm one of those "hard core" fans of a certain driver (who finished in the high teens on Sunday). I watch the races focusing on their day, good or bad. When he's not running near the front, or moving toward the front, he's not covered much - and I accept that.

On Sunday, I watched the whole race, including the finish, and frankly, until I was reading this blog on Sunday evening, I hadn't even REALIZED I hadn't seen the car cross the finish line. That's how little it matters to me. I knew where he was running, and if he managed to find a spot or two, well, I would know when they showed the full field finishing order on the post-race.

Now, if the network didn't take the time to show the finishing order graphic, then I'd have a problem. But as it is, what they do is fine by me. I don't need a visual to confirm that he did, in fact, finish, which is what you seem to suggest.

In fact, in my opinion, a better option than demanding the camera focus on the rest of the field coming to the line, would be the drop-down graphic that SPEED uses for the trucks.

On an unrelated note, I really am starting to like Jimmy Spencer's spots on Race Hub. NEVER thought I'd say that.

Jonathan said...

YES please go back to showing the cars cross the finish line!!!! I miss the drop done finish thingy that was ALWAYS used a few years back!!! Speed still uses it for the Truck Series

Fox you started the season off strong but same story different year you drop off as always thanks much Fox you make the viewing experiance SO AWSOME!!!! NOT

Photojosh said...

I will never ever understand why a TV broadcast can't take 15-30 seconds to show the lead lap cars coming over the line.

For that matter, what about that newfangled device called "split screen"? Show me the boring shot of the winning driver in-car while showing me the finish in the other 60% of the screen. Then jump to the crew members or the wife or the dog jumping around as soon as the last lead lap car has crossed. Everybody wins!

Oh wait, this is NASCAR TV we're talking about. The only people who don't win are the fans who make the sport run.

Anonymous said...

To quote Ricky Bobby, "If you ain't first, you're last." All I care about is who the winner is. The runner-up is really just the first of 42 losers.

Anonymous said...

JMO but seeing the Woods team celebrate at Daytona was good.I really dislike seeing the winner drive around disconnecting the window net and waving when others are trying to finish.If anything should happen to the remaining finishers as they rush to the line maybe we'll see it on replay after the commerical break.

KoHoSo said...

At FOX, Barry Landis produces the races and Artie Kempner directs. This team has been together for many years. The decision of whether to focus the attention of the television coverage on the winner or show all the lead lap cars on TV is made by these two men.

An honest question, Mr. Daly...are we all certain that it is Landis and Kempner who decided on their own to go to the current style of Fox coverage or have they been influenced or outright told to use constant tight shots, etc. by advisors to Fox or people further up in the NewsCorp hierarchy?

As for my thoughts on this subject...I like to see every car on the lead lap finish the race regardless of whether or not one of my favorite drivers won or dropped out before the checkered flag. Viewers were almost always given this in the past yet there was still plenty of time to see the winner's crew, owner, and wife/girlfriend whoopin' and a hollerin' in celebration. I see no legitimate reason to have discontinued this practice especially since both Fox and ESPN have mostly given up on covering the full field even in the most perfunctory manner.

To paraphrase (and butcher) William Shakespeare, the race is the thing wherein I'll catch the finish of the cars of The King...but now, alas, only later upon Jayski's. :-(

Anonymous said...

My opinion is to show all the cars crossing the line. The finish rankings don't give perspective. I'd like to see how good or bad someone did relative to the competitors. If there is exciting stuff happening in the pits, it can be replayed without losing the significance. Christ,they replay some of that footage 100 times over the next week on the Nascar TV shows. Split screen might also be an option. If I were a sponsor and my car finished 5th and it wasn't shown, I'd be ticked.

OSBORNK said...

Can you imagine the worldwide outrage if the race finishes in the Olympics were presented like Fox shows the NASCAR finishes? If the 2nd or 3rd place finisher was from the US and not shown, there would be a backlash clear to Washington. How is auto racing different for the fans of the different drivers? 5-10 seconds would be an adequate time to show most of the strong cars cross the finish line. I don't care if we see the cars farther back in the field but the contending cars need to be shown.

The winning driver and crew normally do the same thing every week in the first minute or two after the win. Change the faces and uniforms and it would be very difficult to tell one celebration from another.

GinaV24 said...

I'd like to see all the cars come across the finish line at the end of the race. they have split screens, heck sometimes they have a triple or quad screen. they could put the winner in one, his excited wife, girlfriend, crew, whatever in another and still show the field crossing the line.

Like others, I use other methods to follow the race besides the TV or I would simply lose my mind so yes, the ticker will show me or the leaderboard on trackpass, but that's not the point.

sometimes the field is really strung out at the finish but I want to see MY driver cross the finish line, too. It's a big part of why I tuned in for the race.

Bruce Ciskie said...

To be perfectly blunt, John, I think we have much more significant issues with FOX (commercials, tight shots, overall lack of coverage for anyone not leading the race, D. Waltrip) than this.

If there are some good races going on for top ten or top 20 finishes, I'd like to see those play out, rather than watching a pit crew celebrate. Outside of that, I couldn't care less about seeing other cars cross the line as long as they eventually tell me what order they actually finished in.

Anonymous said...

Your comment describes perfect what is wrong with so much of TV, and not just NASCAR:

"His telecasts feature the same type of coverage. Lots of tight shots, quick cuts and always an attempt at building drama. The winning pass, the key tackle and or the great run back all end with a blur of tightly-shot images of faces and emotion."

This is what I call the MTV effect. It started years ago and is now so pervasive people don't realize it is everywhere. You can't watch a local TV newscast without some cameraman/editor's "artwork" on display via quick cuts, etc in an attempt to manufacture drama, come heck or high water.

If ESPN ever shows one of the old races from the 80s, look at the style then and now. Radically different.

Anonymous said...

I think they only need to show those who finish within a second or two of the leader. The ends of the truck races on SPEED make for extremely boring television.

Zieke said...

I like to see the results of the races as soon as possible. Even tho I have no clear cut favorite driver after Bill Elliott, it's nice to see the order. One network (?) used to post the finish on a crawl as soon as the finishers crossed the line. Is that too hard for Fox to comprehend, or would it take away from Waltrip's valuable shilling?

Brian said...

I for one enjoy having a field rundown, viewing of the finish. Most of the time they do this the pull back is toofar though and it is hard to distinguish the cars. There are battles for position at the finish and these are typically missed.
Fans would care more about these finishes as well if the storylines would be followed during the race. There is action on the track most of the time it is just not on the TV which might also explain the poorer ratings. If the race is "stable" upfront then what is the harm in showing racing for 10, 15 or 20th? I believe this is the reason for fans losing interest because stories are not being developed before and during the race. The 17's run too fourth after restarting 10th is one example. Granted the racing for the lead was intense but not until the last three laps.

Anonymous said...

You want coverage - win the race. Simple as that.

We always talk about how important winning is, but then we want to find out who finished 22nd as long as he was on the lead lap?

Want the TV time - win.

Vince said...

Ok everybody, I'll make it simple for you. When I go to a race, the last lap I'm standing and watching all the cars go across the finish line as long as there is racing going on. And that is what I expect to see when I'm watching the race on TV. How hard is that?

I'm not watching the winning crew jumping up and down. I'm not watching the drivers wife/girlfriend crying. I'm watching the cars finish the race. How hard is that?

I'm not using my binoculars to look inside the winning car to see what the driver is doing. I'm watching the cars cross the finish line. How hard is that?

Got it? Good, now fix it!

marteney said...

Fox trats the race like it is a video game. All the animation and cartoon characters it seems like my grandchild would enjoy the race more than an adult.

bevo said...

Anonymous said...
To quote Ricky Bobby, "If you ain't first, you're last." All I care about is who the winner is. The runner-up is really just the first of 42 losers.


There's this thing called "The Chase" in Sprint Cup racing. It works on a points system which is determined by your position at the end of each race. These points are added up and at the end of the season a champion is determined.

larry said...

Showing more cars cross the line would be nice, but not doing so is only a symptom of the total disregard for the fans. Just show the race...including finishers.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with what Vince said. He made some excellent points.

What they show on tv does not show respect to the other 42 drivers, teams, owners and sponsors.

I would imagine that Fox takes their lead from people like DW on what and who to show and trust me, they have their favorites and those are the only ones we get to see which in turn has influence on who the younger generation becomes fans of. Sad because there are some great drivers and up and comers out there who don't get the attention because of the announcers. Every race I see several things on track that it may take the announcers at least one to two minutes to even notice and mention, if they ever notice. There are times when they never even mention what I saw.

Justin said...

In general, I agree with Bruce Ciskie's sentiments that there are much larger problems with FOX's coverage than the finish line debate. However in response to the topic at hand:

In NASCAR we place significant importance on race wins and consequently the winning driver, more so than in some other auto racing series. Even through the current points system, we see a greater emphasis on winning races (though in my opnion it could go even further).

We must also remember that there are no podium finishers in NASCAR, only the race winner gets a trophy and goes to victory lane. I think it's important to capture the thrill of victory in the moment, especially in a suprise close finish like we had on Sunday at Fontana.

Waiting for the remainder of the lead lap cars to cross the line not only diminishes the impact of the race win, it also quite honestly becomes boring if we must wait for a strung out field to finally make it to the finish.

This is not to say that FOX or any other network should overlook "important" close races to the finish by cars other than the leader. Whether through quick cuts or via replays, the broadcast should at least address those moments back in the pack where ther are tight races at the stripe.

In essence, the winner has earned his TV time and deserves his moment, but that is also not an excuse to never show the audience close racing to the line further down the field.

Perhaps FOX could utilize its ticker to help mitigate some concerns on this issue. What if FOX used the ticker at the top of the screen to place the top ten finishers or so as they cross the line? This way the camera can give the winner a much deserved moment of glory while letting the audience know when the eighth placed car crosses the line.

Anonymous said...

A good example from last week. What happened to the 14. Kenseth followed Stewart to the bottom and got slowed up. Kenseth had the best tires but went to the low side instead of up top. Stewart fell to 13th and Kenseth charged to fourth. No coverage by FOX. Please, show the finish beyond first and second!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, who cares that Kyle Petty ran third in the All-Star race? It's a winner-take-all, million-dollar, no-points race!

Hmmmn, let me think - which would I rather see - a guy who just won $1 million in cash... or the 2nd-loser who gets nothing.

Gymmie said...

Well GRRRRRRRRRRRR looks like my post got nommed :(

What I was saying earlier was that I don't need to see drivers taking off their safety equipment, crew members, wives/gfs, owners, celebrating or things along those lines.

Now wins like Trevor's last month or Dale's winning the 500 that's different. But when talking about guys who can win any given Sunday I don't need to see the celebrations.

I want to see people coming across the line, if there's some battles going on for the finish I want to see that.

They know how to use the multiple boxes they can do that & show various shots.

Anonymous said...

Every team pays the same fee to race - every team should be shown finishing the race. Every sponsor should have the opportunity (good or bad) to be shown on the tv screen.

A split screen would be fine with me if, as some one else said, we could actually see the cars. Put the winner in the smaller screen. We will see enough of him for the next week.

Those who have no means to follow the race other than on TV are lucky to ever have a clue where their driver is running (unless he has a certain name, or happens to be running near certain names). The ticker is constantly being stopped for commercials, to show who is reporting, to show a taped segment, to show Tim Brewer, to show a replay, and, on and on...

PammH said...

anon 6:48-might want to read JD's article again. It was the Coke 600-looongest race of the year, in the heart of Nascar, where KP has TONS of fans!
I don't care if they show the whole field crossing the line, but show the guys racing for position! That's some of the best racing of the day, imo. Fox doesn't give a damn tho, so it's a moot point.

Charlie said...

Nascar is made up of racing teams. On a Sunday there are 43 teams on the track not 43 drivers on one team. I like to know how my team did when I watch a race from beginning to end and that means how this team finished.

If the NFL had a race with all the different NFL teams, say a one lap race around a track with one guy picked from each NFL team to run this race would you just watch the winner finish and then be happy with watching that team’s teammates jump up and down or would you like to know who came in 2nd, 3rd, etc. Would you like to know if the Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings even if they weren’t the winners? Each runner represents a team. Each team has fans and these fans want to know how their team finished.

To me Nascar is the same. A driver represents a team and as a fan I want to know how my team finished.

The Mad Man said...

If this is an example of Faux concentrating of showcasing the drivers, like they said they were doing this season, I'd hate to think what it would be like if they showcased the race.

Between the gimmick shots, commercials, in-race ads for baseball, and other assorted trash, it's getting harder and harder to follow just what really is happening on the track and the commentary, for lack of a better term, leaves you wanting for some real info and updates. I don't care if Joe Blow shot a hole in one playing golf last week, I want to know what's going on with Fred Fumducker's smoking engine or Vinnie Babaganoosh's flat left rear tire. Give me info, not fluff or unrelated yammering or cheerleading.

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with the comments Vince has in his letter.When I am at the track I see the winner cross the finish line then my focus goes to where others are finishing.It would only take a matter of a few seconds for Fox to show the entire race. Where do they get the idea that the race ends when the winner crosses the finish line? In many races there is still a lot of good racing going on behind him.
Nascar drivers and crews are some of the best people in racing today.An awful lot of money is being spent to provide them with the very best equipment possible. Sponsors spend many millions of dollars to have these teams help showcase and promote their product. Why Nascar would allow a group of airheads like those in Fox Sports to make a mess of their product as has been done for too many years now, just boggles the mind.

cdh said...

In a perfect world I'd like to see each car cross the finish line. I'll compromise and only request seeing the top ten. The winning driver has to drive back around to the line anyway so its not like he's going anywhere. Every time I have to look at the winner's wife/girlfriend/mom celebrating it makes me want to put a shoe through my TV. I'm here for the cars and drivers only. If I want to see your family then I'll check your facebook page.

Anonymous said...

really guys if you have such a prob with the Fox video portions of the broadcasts just close your eyes and listen to it in stead! I am blind and besides the fact that yes I would like to know where the other drivers finish, I have absolutely no probs with what is said during the broadcasts..! everything that is wrong with them is not automatically DW's fault! He is awesome and does a good job! even if he has his faves! who doesn't ?! I enjoy the in car cams especially when they play the in car audio with it! and Fox is the only channel that does the crank it up segment...I will admit they have a prob with comercial placement. perfect example was during Bristol when twice they went to comercial under green and when they came back they were under caution! that was not cool! but DW alone is not responsible for this nor most likely does he have much control over it or the power to change anything Fox does!!

Anonymous said...

So far, (IMHO) Justin makes the best argument.

They didn't show the field finish when any of the 3 Dale's won Daytona. They didn't show the field finish when Tim Richmond won at Watkins Glen, or Buddy Baker in Charlotte, or most of Petty's televised wins.

It's a team sport. A win is as much the drivers accomplishment as it is the crew chief, the wife, the owner, etc. If there is no battle for other positions on the lead lap, bask in the win. Show the world that is does mean something to win a race.

Otherwise, we could just stop counting them and I'm sure The King would not be in favor of that.

Dot said...

I agree with a majority of the comments.

Couldn't they compromise and show just the lead lap cars cross the finish line? Would take seconds and would get the TV fans off FOX's back.

Crews & WAG's will still be cheering and crying so we won't miss much of that.

Isn't this why the show VL was invented? To show us more indepth coverage of the winner and team? All the more reason FOX needs to show us all finishers.

starrcade76 said...

I agree with the comments stating that not showing the whole field cross the line isn't a major deal. It would be nice to see cars that are side-by-side coming to the line. But it doesn't ruin the race for me.

For those that do want to see the whole field finish, I wonder what the best way of even showing that is. It all varies based on the size of the track. And is obviously easier the smaller the track.

The camera positioned over the track, just past the start finish line, is one option. But on bigger tracks it would just be a blur of color coming down the front-stretch until they got close enough to identify the cars.

The camera angle from on top of the the grandstands might be best, as it could pick up the cars coming out of turn 4 and follow them to the line. The problem with that is, there will be cars continuing to come out of turn 4 while the camera is following others to the finish-line.

The way the Speed broadcast showed the finish at Darlington is another option, with the camera aimed from turn 1 down the front-stretch. The issue I see with that is it can be hard to tell the cars apart especially with knowing who is racing whom with lead-lap and lap-down cars all together.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

JD believe it or not, I am going to have to agree with Justin's and Anon at 1:21am's posts. I checed on you tube and watched all the old school races on ESPN, CBS, Mizlou & SETN. They did pretty much the exact same thing that Fox is doing right now and that is show only the leader cross the finish line, and show a battle for a finishing position but that is it. The four networks i mentioned did not show only the leader and didn't juggle shot from shot. They all showed wideshots and showed battles throughout the field, not like Fox.

I don't know what the big deal is about showing all the cars finish, very interesting to say the least.

fbu1 said...

One wonders what the sponsors of the rest of the pack think when only one car gets TV exposure at the race's end. A lot of those sponsors are also Fox ad clients. If I were a car sponsor, I'd rather see my car on TV than see predictable "high 5's" from the winning pit crew. As has been noted, many cars get little notice during the race itself. Seeing their car at the finish would be better than nothing.

The celebration can easily be tape delayed. Car sponsorship is expensive, and Fox not showing their cars diminishes their investment value.

Vicky D said...

Like Bruce said, FOX has a lot more issues besides showing us the cars crossing the finish line although that is very important for me to see. The tightshots, DW, you name it c'mon Fox let's get with the program!

Don B said...

Anon 1:18...In one paragraph you say youre blind, then in another you say you enjoy the in car cameras!!!!!!!Now Im sure you cant this...but something tells me you you just wanna pull peoples cranks. Trust me the day Mikey really does retire.....Faux will show him crossing the finish line in 27th...

batchief said...

I am for a drop down of the first 10 finishing, but no more. It is a sporting event and to me sporting events are about winning. Besides, with the overhead camera shot of the finish line I can't tell one car from the other because of the speed they have crossing the line.

Anonymous said...

If Fox had the NFL broadcast rights the way they have and use NASCAR cup broadcasts, this is what you would see -

Every football team would play during the same three hour period on Sunday afternoon. There would be no games on other days, no other networks, no doubleheader games, nothing else. You have one three hour broadcast to see every team in the league.

As the kicker ran toward the ball on the opening kickoff, one of the announcers would yell "Boogity Boogity Boogity! Let's play football, boys!" During the remainder of the broadcast, he would openly root for particular teams. He would be a huckster promoting his own personal and financial interests with blatant conflicts of interest.

During the three hour broadcast, Fox people would decide which action to cover on all of the competing teams. They would focus almost completely on a top few teams that are network favorites and/or are in contention for first place. Even when there is no interesting action involving their favored teams, they will ignore interesting play involving lower teams. Fans of other teams will have to depend on a ticker to try to learn how their favorite team is doing. This will be ineffective because the ticker is usually cut off in mid-run. League summaries covering every team are rare or nonexistent.

Camera shots during the game will feature closeups on the quarterback's face even when the action is elsewhere. On complex running/blocking plays, the director will use a body-cam on a lineman which shows a flurry of limbs and jerseys. On long pass plays, they will use an ankle cam to give the sensation of speed by the receiver.

As the game that will decide first place nears its end, the broadcast focuses solely on the winning quarterback. We see a closeup of him as the game ends followed instantly by shots of his wife, his mistress, and his dog celebrating. Although other games have not ended, all football coverage instantly ceases when the first game ends. It doesn't matter whether other games feature a great come from behind story or a spectacular individual play, they are unworthy of coverage. It doesn't matter if playoff positions depend on their outcome. They are all losers and don't matter. If you are a fan of one of those loser teams, you will have to find another source of information to see what happened to your team.

In spite of how crappy the game for first place was that Fox showed, they will tell you that it was a great game. The broadcast team would congratulate themselves on what a great job they did. Ratings will continue to slip. Fox will blame everybody but themselves.

I haven't watched a football game in 20 years. Would today's fans be satisfied with this sort of coverage for their sport? Why am I expected to accept this coverage for my favorite sport?