The Frontstretch: The Magic Of McDowell, "Forgetting" A Blowout, And Watching TV Blow The Finish In Texas ... Again by John Potts -- Tuesday April 8, 2008

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The Magic Of McDowell, "Forgetting" A Blowout, And Watching TV Blow The Finish In Texas ... Again

The Race For Ratings Points : Critiquing NASCAR TV · John Potts · Tuesday April 8, 2008

 

From the wild (Michael McDowell’s crash) to the wacky (Kyle Busch spouting off … again), here’s your guide to the past weekend of NASCAR television at its best, its worst, and its most confusing down in the Lone Star State.

The Good

The best part of the coverage down in Texas was the professional way that the Michael McDowell qualifying crash was handled by the SPEED / FOX crew all weekend. It was obviously a really bad incident, and the announcer’s responses were both appropriate and applicable to the situation at hand. You could almost feel them holding their breath until McDowell stepped out of the car on his own; and once he emerged miraculously unhurt, detailed explanations of the many ways in which new safety advancements helped save his life provided a pathway for the viewer to understand just how this miracle occurred. The slow motion replay with the footage of the SAFER barrier moving was particularly impressive, as everyone worked together to cover the incident from all angles.

One of the better interviews of the weekend was Bob Dillner talking to Jeff Burton on NASCAR Live! Burton apologized for throwing McDowell under the bus after the previous race, and said McDowell seemed to understand why he had been upset. It was the perfect line of questioning to clarify an issue that had gained traction in the media over the past five days, but had been clearly wrapped up by the drivers long before.

Kyle Petty’s smile faded at Texas when asked about the decision to leave him outside the driver’s seat this weekend.

I also liked the way Kyle Petty told an interviewer, “This is our business!” when it came to the controversy surrounding Petty Enterprises. But at the same time, you could tell he wasn’t happy with the situation; so in his own way, he’d said a thousand words with the matter of a pained look. Sometimes, reporters have to ask tough questions knowing they won’t get the answers they want, just to get the facial expression we all need in order to know the real story.

On NASCAR Race Day, Wendy Venturini’s piece on multiple sponsors was enlightening, as were the comments from Jack Roush and Ray Evernham as part of the explanation. It’s an issue that’s been on the minds of many, and SPEED did a good job attacking the topic and how it serves to affect the sport in the future.

As for coverage of the actual race itself, FOX didn’t have much to work with in the way of excitement; but there were some bright spots. They did a nice job keeping the camera on the battle between Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. However, it might have been the only battle they had to work with all race long.

I also liked the way the network commented on the changes that a crew could make on a car and the effect it would have, as well as the discussion on possible strategies with a late caution flag. People look for that type of analysis, especially newer fans who we often forget are always working to understand the sport.

Finally, one of the better comments from a FOX reporter came when it was mentioned Kyle Busch had said, “This is fun, watching all those people sit down when I pass the No. 88.” It’s that injection of driver personality we need from our men and women working the pits all race long.

The Bad

Mike Joy is one of my favorite announcers, but he wasn’t completely on his game on Sunday. On lap 9, he said Junior’s lead was disappearing, but I had the leaderboard up on NASCAR.com at the time, and it showed that in the last lap, it increased from 0.2 to 0.4. Later, when they came back from a break, Joy reported that there had been a lead change, with Kyle Busch passing Carl Edwards for the front spot; but the replay clearly showed Busch passing Junior instead.

I guess it also had something to do with trying to make the race more exciting, but FOX was really quick to point out when the gap between Edwards and Jimmie Johnson was shrinking; however, they made no mention of it when it was widening. There was one remark that it was down to “almost a hundredth of a second,” but the camera shot belied that statement, and the crawl across the top of the screen showed it to be 0.972 seconds. That’s almost “ten tenths,” guys.

And again, FOX blew the finish, except for the winner. After a boring race, at last they have a battle for position to cover in the Top 5 spots; and they miss it when all hell breaks loose behind an easy stroll to the checkered for Carl Edwards. To their credit, they did show a replay; but by then, it was long after the excitement had faded.

The Ugly

The race broadcast started off on a poor note, with Chris Myers, DW, and Hammond all trying to talk at the same time for the first minute or so.

“Here’s what Michael saw…” was the call while attempting to set up a replay after the No. 55 spun. Well, here’s the problem; we’d already seen that angle. They didn’t show an outside shot of the spin until later in the race.

Kyle Busch saying, “Obviously, I’m not important enough to have my own cameraman, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.” Not the brightest moment when the drivers themselves choose to undercut the TV coverage.

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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…
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Max
04/08/2008 09:55 AM
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Competition morphs into entertainment; this is the evolution of all pro sports in this country. Nascar, through it’s contracts with Fox and NBC, submitted to this transition, and I’m fairly certain they didn’t put up too much of a fuss about it. Afterall, it has worked for the NFL. And we all know how Brian feels about the NFL. When the “show” surrounding the show garners more attention and ultimately attempts to influence the perception of the reality, then you have manufactured excitement for the sole purpose of generating self-perpetuating high ratings. Thus this becomes the holy grail of TV coverage, and the real reason they are there becomes secondary, and in many cases is subjected to suspicious manipulation to keep the “status quo”. The event should be the focus, not the “Hollywood Hotels”, “Diggers” and all the other garbage that is cooked up for the sake of ratings. These announcers for Fox, for whatever good knowledge and insight into racing they possess, have become sqawk boxes for Fox’s perception of racing reality – and it continues to baffle me that we all put up with it. It is time for change in the broadcasting mentality of Fox and and any other network that chooses to televise Nascar racing.

Margo L
04/08/2008 12:16 PM
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Remember when it was about the racing and not the talking heads ? Not an original thought , but one that certainly rings true when talking about Fox. ESPN always had a “ lockdown “ of the camera several times during each race , staying with one continuous shot to let the entire field go by . What happened to that idea ? Same thing with the finish . The camera was “ locked down “ from up high , pointed down the frontstretch as the leader took the checkered flag and all of the battles behind him were shown taking the checkers as well . Is that idea beyond the competence of Kempner and the boys in the broadcast truck ? Apparently !
The mistakes by Joy were rampant , i heard many more than you allude to . But announcers like Joy have burrowed in so deeply that they are considered mainstays , and why not , there have been very few truly good announcers to compare them to .
Great quote by Kyle Busch on having his own cameraman . Many race fans feel that a handfull of drivers , car owners , and crew chiefs ( all from one team ) do have there own private tv network .

SallyB
04/08/2008 12:39 PM
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I guess I can understand Kyle Busch feeling slighted, the way that Dale Jr. chases after all the cameras and publicity. After all, this is the guy who had to give himself his own nickname (Rowdy)! I guess that all the attention he’s been getting for doing so well in all 3 series hasn’t been enough for him? The kid can wheel a car, but still has some growing up to do so he doesn’t sound like a petulant 6 year old.

Oldsmo-Bill
04/08/2008 01:48 PM
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Sorry, SallyB, but I just had to throw my two cents in here. It really grinds me that an arrogant, snot-nosed punk like Kyle Busch gets all the talking heads to follow lock-step behind him, repeating his “preferred nickname”. To me, he will always be “PeeWee”, as in PeeWee Herman, whom he more than just slightly resembles, don’t you think?

Master Braytak
04/08/2008 05:43 PM
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Funny how the COT Pom Poms were quikly pulled on by the Fox crew after Mc Dowells roll, when in lockstep they all started extolling the safety virtues of the COT and made it seem like he would have basically died if he were in the old car. Lets see, Rusty ’93 at Dega, The King ’88 Daytona, Elliot Sadler twice a couple years ago Dega, M. Waltrip ’90 Bristol, The King way back in the day “late ’60s” at one of the shorties where his arm was hanging out the window net while rolling, and all the other wild rides before ’07. Guess what, they all walked away.

The ones that have been bad are the head on or sideways into the wall crashes. JD McDuffie, Swervin Ervin, Neil Bonnett, Adam Petty, Dale Earnhardt etc. The next time we see one of these and the driver walks away I will have no problem with crediting the COT as long as the Hans and safer barriers are also brought up. As it is they just saw a way to promote the company line last week, hoping everyone would see the brilliance of Brian France pushing the new spec car down our throats.

racerman
04/08/2008 06:18 PM
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the thing that “Master Braytak” has missed that back in the day when the King did the roll he was talking about,window nets weren’t in place yet and it was this wreck that the present net came into being…and all those other wrecks,except for the King’s wreck which was at Darlington,not exactly a shortie… weren’t preceded by the run into the wall,which does the most damage..actually this wreck was into the wall which started all the flips..with the SAFER barriers,hopefully we won’t have any more bad crashes with the wrong ending…

KsanhMarine68
04/08/2008 06:56 PM
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With all the hype pre-pre-race, pre-race, ready race, let’s race. Nascar has become boring like the NFL. Too much hype. Who wants four hours of pre-race. Getting to be too many Prima donna’s. Just Race the cars.