Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Post That Will Not Die: NASCAR On FOX From Darlington

Update: This is the post that will not die! Just topped 100 comments and what a diverse group of fans we have posting. So, I am leaving this up as the lead post for one more day.

There was little doubt that TV viewers were going to see a lot of Danica Patrick on Saturday night. Her sponsor was also the race TV sponsor and her story of driving at Darlington was destined to attract viewers.

This week, we will once again let you offer the first comments on the NASCAR on FOX coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Darlington Raceway. This removes any suggestion that I have set the tone or moved the discussion in one direction or another.

Chris Myers opened the show with Michael and Darrell Waltrip from the Hollywood Hotel. Jeff Hammond continues in his role as a roving reporter. Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum, Dick Berggren and Krista Voda were the pit reporters. Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip called the race.

There were no weather problems and aside from some viewer complaints about the audio mix, there were no serious technical problems.

We are looking for your wrap-up of the NASCAR on FOX coverage. Comments with hateful speech, profanity or derogatory comments will be deleted. The way to make your comments count is to voice your opinion as a true fan. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Edwards Moves Into ESPN TV Booth

This Wednesday a simple press release went out from ESPN about the upcoming Nationwide Series coverage from Darlington, SC. The actual content was anything but simple.

Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett is taking the weekend off and joining Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree in the TV booth for qualifying and race coverage on ESPN2 will be Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards. He will also be in that role for the June 29th race at Kentucky Speedway.

"Having a past NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and active NASCAR Sprint Cup driver in the booth will certainly bring some unique perspective to our viewers,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president of motorsports. “We have a very strong on-air team for NASCAR and this addition makes it even stronger."

It was September of 2011 when Jack Roush was answering questions at Iowa Speedway. He was asked about the budding Nationwide Series rivalry between two of his drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Edwards. "I think he's (Carl) made his decision," said Roush. "I think he is going to become a sportscaster for ESPN for the Nationwide Series races (in 2012). I'm not sure if he is going to just do the companion races or all the races."

That started the speculation that Edwards was following up on his frequent TV appearances during the 2011 season on both TNT and ESPN with an expanded role in 2012. Then, Edwards himself addressed that issue before the start of the current season. He spoke to Insider Racing News reporter Becca Gladden while in the Phoenix area for a golf tournament.

Gladden: Will you be spending more time in the broadcast booth on ESPN in the Nationwide Series this year?

Edwards: We haven’t made a final deal and there’s really no ‘deal’ – you know, it’s not a money deal or anything like that. It just basically comes down to time. If there are weekends where I can go up there and help the broadcast and they’ll let me do it, then I’d love to do it, but I don’t know if I’ll do one race or ten races …

Gladden: There was a rumor out there that you were cutting back on driving in the Nationwide Series in order to do more TV broadcasts.

Edwards: No, that was not my intention. Number one for me is to win the Cup championship. But, I do think – after thinking about it a little bit – I think that I might actually be able to learn some things being up there in the broadcast booth, to be able to watch the races that closely. Sometimes you see things up there that you don’t see either on television or in the race car. So, if it turns out to be something like that, I might do a lot more of them.

Well, the time is now and Edwards is heading into the highest-profile role on ESPN's motorsports coverage with no experience. Well, TV booth experience that is. Edwards is a past Nationwide Series champion and has also spent a lot of quality time over the past season or two popping-up in various support roles on ESPN.

Darlington's Nationwide Series race will feature the typical battle between the Sprint Cup Series cross-over drivers and the Nationwide regulars. Sprinkled in will be stories like Danica Patrick tackling the track and veteran Jeff Green stepping in for Eric McClure, who was injured in a Talledega crash.

The Infield Pit Studio will also return for Darlington so Edwards will be interacting with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Nicole Briscoe before, during and after the race. ESPN's four pit reporters will also be working, so Edwards will basically be in the key position with a full NASCAR on ESPN TV team at his disposal as the Lead Analyst.

Several times since the season began Edwards has specifically pointed out that his goal this year is to win the Sprint Cup Series Championship and stay focused. Now ten races in, he is 11th in points without a win and has two-time winner Brad Keselowski only one point behind him in the standings.

The interesting TV note this weekend is that the Nationwide Series telecast will have an active Sprint Cup Series driver as the Lead Analyst in the TV booth while the Sprint Cup Series coverage will have a multi-car Cup team owner and part-time driver as the Infield Analyst in the Hollywood Hotel.

All of this points to the struggles of the TV partners to capture and keep the attention of the fan base in the era of online radio streaming, real time social media coverage and the easy recording of live events via the DVR. It should be interesting to watch the fan and media reaction to Edwards on TV this weekend.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Buzzwords Flying In Latest Media Mess

Just as the buzz over Darrell Waltrip's recent comments about the fan base was starting to die down, a former NASCAR crew chief and now a top executive of the sanctioning body has heated things back up.

This time, the topic was the late debris caution at Richmond that was called out by various drivers, crew chiefs and fans as being thrown only to bunch up the field for the finish of the race. NASCAR disputes those contentions and apparently has some other issues with the topic of justifying cautions.

Here is how Jeff Gluck reported it over at SBNation:

"Sometimes, some people are a little more needy than others and they want to see that for whatever reason," NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton (pictured above) told reporters attending a function at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "And whatever their thought process and beliefs with the governing body (are), they think they need proof.

"Sometimes you see (the debris) and sometimes you don't, and that's based on TV coverage, basically."

But Pemberton said FOX "didn't do anything wrong" and he doesn't mind TV not showing the reason for debris caution because, "I don't have an issue with (the reason for the caution)."

He also said NASCAR does not keep the debris as evidence of why it called the caution. "We don't inventory it, we don't tag it and put it a library anywhere or anything," he said. "It's just trash."

"A lot of times, you call it for one thing and then you pick that up and anything else that's in the vicinity," he said.

So what was the debris at Richmond? Pemberton said there may have been a water bottle on the track, but there was also a beer can or piece of aluminum that had been run over.

The ripples from Pemberton's rock thrown into the pond did not take long to spread. This same issue has risen to the surface several times over the last couple of years. It's basically a shame that it had to be discussed at all, but it just comes down to one simple truth.

The FOX telecasts are not produced to serve the hardcore fans. They are produced to serve the network, the advertisers and the production team. FOX paid the money to telecast the races and that brings them the ability to pick and choose what to include and what to exclude.

If FOX chooses not to show viewers the debris that brought out the caution, NASCAR has nothing to say about it. As Pemberton stated sometimes you see the debris and sometimes you don't. That mostly depends on which Sprint Cup Series TV partner is televising the race.

If FOX chooses only to show the winning car cross the finish line, NASCAR has nothing to say about it. Fans of the other lead lap drivers who have been watching the telecast for hours may be frustrated, but the FOX production team can decide that it is more important to show the winner slowing down, the pit crew jumping around and the crew chief smiling than the field racing to the finish.

As Jeff Hammond detailed in a recent report, the FOX team focuses the cameras on two cars at a time under green flag conditions. Jumping between tightshots of cars instead of presenting the best racing on the track at the time is their right as the official TV network. Mixing these tightshots with in-car camera views serves to top-off the production approach to green flag racing.

The network does many things well including having the best corps of pit reporters, a flawless record of making superb pictures and sound as well as adding side-by-side commercials this season for the final scheduled hour of the races.

What they do not do well at FOX is respond to fans. Gluck wrote both last year and this year about his experience and subsequent frustrations of watching a full race on TV away from the track. He and I exchanged views on Twitter recently about that. His words serve as a popular view on the relationship between FOX and NASCAR fans.

"Those words from last year ring true today. The TV networks don't care about fan input, and that's my point then and now," tweeted Gluck. "It does need to change, but they don't care what you or I think. They're going to do what they want."

There are four more Sprint Cup Series races this season that will televised on FOX. The existing NASCAR TV contract runs through 2014. This means there will be two more full years of coverage by the current TV partners after this season.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.