Tuesday, April 19, 2011
TV Police: NASCAR on FOX from Talladega
Buford Pusser retired from professional wrestling and moved back home. He quickly found that corruption riddled his county. He ran for sheriff, got the job and proceeded to unleash a clean-up campaign that made for a powerful 1973 movie called Walking Tall starring Joe Don Baker.
Pusser wanted to deal with the elephant in the room, which was the gambling and moonshine activities in his county. It was an issue almost no one wanted to admit existed, but almost all wanted solved.
This week, the NASCAR elephant in the room was the two-car teams that drivers were forced to form in order to compete. No single car could race at Talladega and remain in contention. This was the single biggest issue that the TV telecast would deal with from start to finish.
The pre-race show contained all kinds of features and guests. Chris Pizzi toured the Talladega infield and discovered NASCAR fans eating food. The Auburn football coach got TV time as Michael Waltrip was driving a car with AU football sponsorship. The starting command was a tad weak.
Darrell Waltrip called the racing "different, but an exciting different." Waltrip, Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond were on the infield outdoor stage at the end of pit road. This time, fans were present around the stage.
Waltrip's "Revved-up" segment was about Talladega racing. His commentary was about last minute passing, accidents and surprise winners. Never in his comments did he mention the fact that the entire race was going to consist of teams of two-drivers who must stay nose to tail to win.
At one time, Waltrip appeared to drop the S-bomb. He did not, but was struggling in his unscripted commentary to talk about "sitting around a fire" (Survivor) as a reality show he hated and Talladega as a reality show he liked. This "Revved-up" segment has never clicked.
The race began with Mike Joy trying very hard to explain the new drafting format to fans. Larry McReynolds and his famous "pull the belts tight" is apparently gone for good as Waltrip screamed his customary "Boogity!"
The race immediately settled down into drafting practice with pitstops. There was not much the TV announce team could do. Some teams raced while others controlled the speed and hung in the back of the lead lap. Accidents between teammates were the order of the day early on.
FOX continued to deliver on caution flag pitstops with good angles and the graphic of cars as they left pit road. Green flag stops got a double video box with the leader on one side and the key car making a stop in the other. It worked well.
On the Kyle Busch accident, the network came back early from commercial. At one other point in the race, FOX returned to show a bumper bar on the track as the field continued to race under green. A caution flag was quickly thrown.
The event continued with little racing as the two-car teams just drafted up, then faded back as they had to swap positions to cool down the cars. It was a struggle for continuity as random teams appeared and then disappeared from contention.
A caution with less than 30 laps to go bunched-up the field and made it better for the finishing laps. The field stretched out again and then bunched up resulting in two accidents involving Ryan Newman. Waltrip claimed Newman's dirt track driving skills saved him from bigger problems.
The final segment was a two-car team dash for the cash with eleven laps to go. It was a lottery and ultimately resulted in Jimmie Johnson being pushed over the line by his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the race. The post-race interviews revealed drivers frustrated by this style of racing. Look for some changes by NASCAR to make this go away before Daytona in July.
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