The Frontstretch: Settling The Gopher Cam Debate, And The NASCAR TV Weekend That Was by John Potts -- Tuesday March 11, 2008

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Settling The Gopher Cam Debate, And The NASCAR TV Weekend That Was

The Race For Ratings Points : Critiquing NASCAR TV · John Potts · Tuesday March 11, 2008


Starting this week, The Frontstretch asked me if I’d like to try writing a TV column.

OK. My policy has always been to try anything once, and twice if it was fun the first time.

I’m not sure I’m the right guy to go criticizing TV coverage of racing, though. Why? Because I go back to the days when we didn’t get anything on the tube… even before the highlights on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”

Now, we even get practice on TV. Go figure.

However, since there’s more coverage now than we can wrap our hands around these days, I do have some thoughts to start what will become a roundup around the NASCAR TV circuit each Tuesday …

My main displeasure with FOX as of late isn’t with the talent, or even the barrage of sponsors; instead, it’s their personnel’s contention they brought us the new invention of “Gopher Cam” (with the cartoon mascot now being called “Digger”).

Don’t they know that the Lingner Group — a production team based in Indianapolis — pioneered that concept in the ’90s, when they were televising “Thursday Night Thunder” from what was Indianapolis Raceway Park? They have to; as a matter of fact, when a driver tried to mention that in an interview a week or so ago, the commentator cut him short.

Well, let’s state the truth. For the record, the in-track camera was the brainchild of a Lingner Group technician and cameraman named Jamie Fishman, and he’s got the Emmy to prove it.

The thing was, Fishman didn’t put the camera on the inside of the track. He put it square in the middle of the low groove, where the cars couldn’t miss it. In the beginning, that led to some fine tuning. During the Busch race at the track the first year it was used, Kenny Wallace got in a tangle on the front straightaway, and dragged a wheel over it after the tire had blown. Ripped the camera right out… needless to say, that led to bigger and better improvements down the road.

Carl Edwards may have been struggling under the weight of last week’s penalty … but at least he has the AFLAC commercial to fall back on.

But while FOX is struggling to give credit where credit is due, I like the way both networks are handling the technical stuff. Jeff Hammond’s explanation about Carl Edwards’ oil tank cover was extremely enlightening this weekend, and gave fans a true glimpse into the advantages such a setup would pose.

I’ll tell you what, he certainly set me straight. When I first heard about the penalty, I had this vision of a cap off an oil reservoir, with oil spraying all over the inside of the car. You have to realize, I go way back; last time I was actually on a pit crew, we had side windows all the way around — with hand cranks — as well as wing vents. And we communicated with blackboards, not radios. Boy, it’s a whole different racing world today …

A final note before I take off. One of the more interesting parts of the TV coverage is the way they’re trying to make the commercials more “viewable,” for want of a better word. Because of that push, there have been some outstanding spots over the past year, including Dale Jr.‘s bit with the camel, the radio-controlled Toyotas (lots of fun watching Tony run from his race car), the Craftsman robot pit crewman, Kasey’s new Allstate spots, and so on.

But in particular, I have two favorites that stand out…

I really like the NAPA spot where the guy dumps his “replica” of Michael’s 1990 Bristol car on the table. Priceless; for those that remember what happened, it’s a humorous way to look back on one of the biggest wrecks in NASCAR history. But more recently, the one that’s caught my attention is Aflac’s spot where Carl has the duck in the car. The feathers all over the place get me every time …

Wonder why they didn’t show the nude duck at the end?

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 John Potts and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Faux Sports
03/11/2008 02:44 AM

With Faux Sports the whole day is nothing but one big commercial from the “In Car by- insert paying sponsor here-” to the nonstop focus on the teams with the big paying sponsors. Faux Sports will do everything in their power to get the sponsors who pony up the big bucks on the screen to the detriment of any action on the track. I always look for at least one and maybe two Tri-Fectas’ from Faux during the race when we get a shot out the back of the “In Car By……..” looking back at two of the big money players with great shots of the sponsor logos all the while we have a spirited battle somewhere else on the track for position.

Another good one used a few years back was with Dale Jarret and UPS. Dale would be riding around in about 25-30th place all day when suddenly DW would yell out that DJ is zooming up through the field and we would be treated to a couple of minutes watching DJ run around the track all by himself at the back of the pack. Gotta get those sponsers on Tee Vee.

How about DW this week. For 5 laps we heard nothing but how that was tire smoke coming off Carl Edwards car, then Mc Reynolds had to chime in about low air pressures causing the smoke off the front tire. That DW, he knows it all.

03/11/2008 07:45 AM

TV coverage is so bad I refuse to watch it any longer, never mind about the poor quality of “racing” good ole’ NA$CAR puts on these days! I often have complimented the announcers, must be hard trying to sound enthusiastic for 500 miles of crap!

Turned on TV after the race Sunday, watched Tony on his tirade against GOODYEAR, and rightly so, then Hammond comes on and says “I disagree with Tony, GOODYEAR supplies a great product”!! (or something like that anyway)!!

Tony just drove 500 miles on their, GOODYEARS crap! And Hammond thinks he knows better! Wonder if Hammond was in the car with Tony when he took his ride at Vegas due to the disaster of a tire they call GOODYEARS?

How is that for credibility Hammond??

I think you have none! ZERO!

I simply don’t know how anyone could ever watch a race start to finish on the current TV coverage!

It really sucks!

ed hatley
03/11/2008 07:45 AM

i agree get rid of the gopher cam. to much of this. mike joy is just to happy about this. whats up with that.

03/11/2008 08:02 AM

I think that Mike Joy is about the only thing on the broadcast worth listening to. But People I know HOW to cure it quick!!Just don’t watch the race for a couple of weeks, listen on MRM or Sirius and watch the sponsors put the heat on fox. DW and company will be gone in a hurry!!

Steve Cloyd
03/11/2008 08:17 AM

I have no problem with the camera itself. It’s the naming of it and the constant references they make toward it that get old. It seems so forced and “gimmicky”. Just show the stupid shot like any other camera and stop patting yourselves on the back.

What next? They name the wall cameras that have been used at Indy for 50 years and call it their own?

I also missed the actual naming apparently. The first time I heard them say “digger” I thought they were speaking of either Digger Phelps or the largest fine in FCC history was about to be levied.

03/11/2008 09:57 AM

There is only a few things about the Fox broadcast worth watching besides the racing. Mike Joy is a total professional, hands down. As is Dick Bergren and Steve Byrnes. That’s about it. Please get these good ol’ boys out of that booth. I don’t watch the start of the race anymore because I’ll have to hear “Pull dem belts tight!” and “Boogity Boogity Boogity.” Yeah, the boogity thing was cool and clever about 5 years ago. It’s time to let that go.

The old NBC/TNT crew was awesome. I’m referring to way back in 2003 when it was Allen Bestwick, Wally Dallenbach, and the late Benny Parsons. All were awesome. Even the pit crew was good. Bill Weber was tolerable as the head pit road reporter. As was Dave Burns and Marty Snider. The biggest mistake they made was switching Bestwick and Weber. No wonder Bestwick jumped to ESPN.

Which reminds me, why am I listening to dumb and bumbling idiot Brad Daugherty. What credit does he have? Nothing. He’s a former basketball player who once owned a team years ago. That doesn’t make him an expert. It makes him rich.

I don’t like to listen to the country folk in the booth, but hell, I’d like some quality. Let’s bring back Buddy Baker, Ned Jarret, and Bob Jenkins. At least there was something to be learned.

P.S. For all the stations. Stop “teaching” the viewers every week. I know what the draft is. I know what marbles are. You don’t have to tell me every week about it. I get it. We’re not experiencing that many new fans every week that you have to shove it down our throats.

03/11/2008 10:16 AM

Johnboy60 has it right. The racing generally sucks so there’s really nothing of interest to watch. At least on MRN the announcers call the action on the track with excitement and genuine enthusiasum due to their physical location in the corners of the track.

03/11/2008 10:52 AM

It is very apparent to most race viewers that you only need two individuals in the booth calling the race. Three is overkill. I think Mike Joy and Dale Jarrett would be a perfect team. Dale is really good and easy on the ears like his daddy was. If we need the Crew chief’s perspective, they can go to Tim Brewer for that. I assume that is why he is on board. So Larry Mac can go. And DW? He couldn’t shut up when he drove, and sure can’t shut up now. Boogety indeed!

Marty C
03/11/2008 11:51 AM

You and I must come from the same time, back when we use to BEG for TV coverage, any TV coverage, even a report on the nightly news telling us who won the race. Personally, I’m getting sick and tied of everyone continually blasting the TV coverage. Just be thankful you have something to complain about. Sure, there are things I’d like to see changed like getting rid of the Bogity, Bogity, Bogity, but I’m willing to put up with that in order to be able to see the race!

03/11/2008 11:56 AM

The buried camera has been in use for over twenty years by a number of networks . I watched it many times on Saturday Night Thunder . Fox should try something they haven’t had to steal .

03/11/2008 01:41 PM

DW is nothing but a 4 hour Toyota commercial and I’m sick of hearing it!!! All he talks about is Toyota and his stupid brother’s bottom feeding team!!!

Larry Johnson
03/11/2008 02:33 PM

My 2 cents. Most of what I read I agree with, except D.J. cant stand him as TV anouncer. How about R.W.and his “driving his brains out“L.M.“yeller flag”. I could go on & on and they dont know whats the reason for lower ratings???? JMO

03/11/2008 04:02 PM

Mike Joy can’t seem to stop himself from trying to make us believe he is the reigning expert on nascar and racing in general . He keeps giving the viewers the same information over and over and over . Who does he think hasn’t heard his” deep insight” five hundred times . And his other on – air buddies are just as bad . They seem to think that we have forgotten everything about stock car racing from last week . Come up with some fresh information and stories instead of the same old voice modulating tripe . Most fans know just as much as you do about stock car racing . According to the ratings , over 90% of us are not new to Nascar , so stop pretending you have to explain everything everyweek .

03/11/2008 10:40 PM

The thing that drives me the craziest is how DW acts like he was a clean driver and says stuff like, he doesn’t need to move him like that or that’s how a pass is supposed to be made, cleanly. I miss the chrome horn, the once to let you know I’m here, twice to let you know I’m faster, Third time I’m moving you. Also, if I hear “I kid because I care” again, I may just have to shoot my tv.

03/14/2008 06:44 PM

Thanks for pointing out the disastrous results that the older camera you talked about had, and you are wrong that Fox has said they invented the concept.

1. That camera is and was a standard def camera. Gopher is native HD.

2. The audio with the old camera was primitive, listen to the clips on their website. Not so with Gopher.

3. Nascar Media Group is the one behind the camera, not Fox. Don’t be surprised to see it on Turner and ESPN.

4. The only similarity in the 2 systems is that they include a camera. Every other part of the system is different. I have seen pictures of both.

5. Last year for the tracks that Gopher visited the location was in the track, not on the edge. Remember Texas’s, Charlotte’s and Dover’s coverage? I guess not.

Maybe it would be useful to do a but of research before you criticize something again.