NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday February 24, 2009
After the pomp and circumstance that is typical of the Daytona 500, NASCAR teams moved on to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for a tripleheader weekend.
Before we begin, as you may remember I was quite critical of FOX’s broadcast of the Daytona 500 — most notably the lack of any mention of rain up until seemingly lap 85 or so. Well, I’ve had an email exchange with Mike Joy since then, and Joy’s take on the issue was that they didn’t want to jump to conclusions too quickly. In Joy’s own words, he said that the announcing booth “…weren’t trying to jinx ourselves with ‘what if’s.’ [as to what might happen if the rain would shorten the race].” While not all fans might agree with that take, it’s definitely a plausible explanation that makes sense. Also, Joy reassured me there was no gag order on the weather information imposed by anybody — a fact always notable for those NASCAR fans insistent on conspiracy theories to understand.
Now, on to this week’s programming…
On Saturday, FOX televised the Camping World Truck Series race from Auto Club Speedway: the San Bernardino County 200. Many Truck Series fans online had expressed concern in the week leading up to the race that a bunch of the issues from the Daytona 500 telecast would permeate into the Truck show, putting a damper on the sport’s one series which appears to be rapidly increasing in popularity.
For the most part, their fears were never recognized this weekend. The broadcast itself was highly professional in feel, just like FOX’s typical Cup broadcasts, and they did a solid job covering the race overall. The most notable change from a typical Truck Race broadcast was the fact that the SPEED broadcast crew was not used. Instead, the normal FOX broadcast crew of Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds commentated on the race for FOX. Phil Parsons, who is normally in the booth for Truck races on SPEED, shared the Hollywood Hotel with Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond. I’m not sure who decided to do that, to be honest. I’m guessing that it was a stipulation of the deal that allowed FOX to televise the Truck race… but Parsons in a hosting role didn’t seem to make much sense.
FOX’s biggest problem with coverage is simply that Digger came along for the ride on this one, even though he’s supposed to be simply a Cup Series gimmick. One of the most criticized parts of the broadcast this season, Digger no longer comes in only an animated form for television viewers. This weekend, FOX debuted a still graphic of Digger that they will likely use most of the time during green flag racing when they cut to the Digger Cam(s). A new, slightly less annoying animation of this thing debuted on Saturday. It was used just four times… but in my opinion, that was still four times too many.
At least the commentators didn’t seem to pay anywhere near as much attention to Digger this weekend as opposed to at Daytona — which is obviously a good thing. I’d argue that this is because we’re getting into the meat of the 2009 regular season, and the Daytona 500 attracts many viewers that wouldn’t ordinarily watch a Sprint Cup race on television — giving life to an extended push to put the gopher front and center throughout the broadcast. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this issue… but that’s my take.
A couple of other things from the Truck race that I noticed were that, despite Waltrip being in the booth, there was no “Boogity Boogity Boogity!” from Darrell. After hearing that quote hundreds of times since early 2001 (I forget how many, but it’s definitely around 200 and change), it’s a change not to hear it this time of year on FOX… but a welcomed one. Just don’t get used to it. The only way you’re not going to hear it during a Sprint Cup race on FOX is if Darrell misses a race for some reason, or if he comes down with a case of laryngitis.
I also noticed a lot more commercial breaks. The breaks didn’t seem any longer than normal for Cup races on FOX, but it just seemed like there were a lot more of them. It’s similar to watching “In Living Color,” a sketch comedy that aired on FOX starting in 1990. My dad has the first season on DVD; I tried watching it, and noticed that each episode seemed to be something like 17-18 minutes long for what was supposed to be a half-hour show. Now, some of the episodes were slightly edited on that DVD set, but the rest were full length… showing you how much of the telecast was eaten up by commercial breaks each week.
This was the feeling I got while watching the Saturday’s race on FOX — commercials were battling for as much airtime as the trucks themselves. I guess that’s the price fans have to pay to get the series on network television, though…
On the technical side of things, there was just one real quick glitch to report on lap 54. Mike Joy threw it over to Krista Voda for a pit report, and the screen went to the split screen as if they were going to show a replay. Of course, since there was no replay cued up, it went to black. Voda’s sound bite was heard over this awkward video exchange. However, this mistake was fixed in about a second, so in the overall swing of things, it was a “blink and you missed it” moment.
Saturday night brought on ESPN2’s coverage of the Nationwide Series’ Stater Brothers 300. ESPN2’s coverage of the Nationwide Series is generally OK this season… but I do have some issues that I’d like to point out.
One issue I had was that they never gave the audience much of a clue as to how many cars were on the lead lap. This is something fans could always rely on ESPN to do back in the Jenkins-Parsons-Jarrett era. Typically, Ned would inform the viewers that “__________ just put _________ a lap down. _________ is running in the x position, so there’s (x-1) cars on the lead lap.” I liked that. Coming from a former education student, I implore ESPN2 to remember this attention to detail. Remember, not everyone is a visual learner — people like to hear someone say something as well as notice it on the ticker on top of the screen.
On Saturday night, this issue was particularly noticeable, as the number of cars left on the lead lap were not mentioned until the first caution came out on Lap 51 for Michael McDowell’s fiery crash. By this point, there were only 14 cars left on the lead lap because Kyle Busch just ran away from the field — but I would have liked to have known this information a little bit earlier in the race.
Another thing I really don’t like is “Going Full Throttle” on restarts. This appears to be ESPN’s equivalent of FOX’s “Crank It Up.” However, unlike Crank it Up, Full Throttle is a mess of sound. Viewers are treated to what seems like ten different people talking over each other during restarts on the radio — with no indication of who they are — for over a full two laps. Compared to FOX’s straight up sound of the engines around the race track, I just don’t like ESPN’s segment that much. Since everyone’s talking over each other, I can barely make out what anybody’s saying, giving the segment no rhythm, flow, or direction.
A third thing that I took issue with was the length of the pre-race show. The coverage started at 7:00 PM on ESPN Classic, due to the Utah State-St. Mary’s Men’s College Basketball game going a little long. But considering what followed was about 75 minutes of pre-race coverage, they could have waited until the game was over on ESPN2. The green flag didn’t fall for this race until around 8:30 EST. 8:30! That amount of time for a pre-race show is just too long — especially for a Nationwide Series race.
And once again, in a consistent theme for the networks a 75-minute pre-race show was followed by a post-race segment that wound up getting cut short. It could be argued that if the race started earlier, then there could have been more post-race coverage before going off to the Bassmasters. However, there is a scale of importance in ESPN’s properties, and I would have imagined that the Nationwide Series would be ahead of tape-delayed coverage of the Bassmasters in the pecking order. Perhaps not; but whatever the case, the interviews with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, then a peek at the schedule before switching to fishing is substandard at best — unacceptable at worst. I think the Nationwide Series deserves better than that.
And now, on to the Sprint Cup Telecast.
Sunday brought the discovery that Digger now has a voice. Well, there goes the comparison to Jerry… this thing is definitely more like Screwy Screwball. But, voice or no, it doesn’t take away the fact this gopher is still kinda annoying. I don’t know what they’re spending developing this Digger character — but the money could probably be used somewhere else.
FOX went the extra mile with the Digger on screen graphics during this race, introducing another new animated graphic with Digger and his buddies that was put on the screen a couple of times during the 500-miler. Whenever FOX cut to the Digger Cam, there’s now a slew of different animations and still shots with the gopher for the network to choose from, It’s giving a whole new meaning to what was once only a still camera shot underneath the track.
This whole thing is getting to be a bit much. Last week, Digger had approximately 19 appearances on the telecast. On Sunday, it was 44. 29 of these appearances were in the aforementioned still shots, 13 of them were animated ones (only a couple included his buddies), the pre-race cartoon, and a shot of a guy in a Digger costume in Souvenir Alley. This is insane… and has to stop. Where’s the network’s integrity? FOX Sports Chairman David Hill even admits that Digger is “…a tawdry attempt to develop another revenue stream [for us].” Apparently, this is seen as a positive — despite the tawdriness. At least the commentators weren’t constantly referencing Digger this week, as I mentioned in the Truck Series review above — although they had their chance early on when the cameras caught a small mound of dirt in the infield while going to a commercial.
Another thing I didn’t really understand was why FOX felt the need to show Angie Harmon raising her arms up in the air in the flagstand like a complete moron when the field came by for the first four laps of the race. I thought it was kinda stupid. Makes me wonder if Angie saw this on TV when she got home and what she thought of herself up there in the flagstand… as for explaining the rush Angie was feeling, let’s just say Darrell covered that base very well the first time by. Well enough that they didn’t need to show it three more times…
On the flip side of things, a new FOX idea that I actually really like is the Fed Ex trends feature that Larry McReynolds does during the pace laps. Being a historical nut, precedence is important to me, to a point. Larry presents this race information — like the average number of cautions, longest green flag run, etc. — in a concise fashion that’s easy for the viewer to stomach. This will definitely be something to look forward to in future races.
Another new feature was the top 10 being displayed on the top of the screen on the final lap. Last year, FOX either ran the scroll featuring the top 10 only at certain points of the race, or displayed the top 10 in the area above the scroll where the lap counter usually is. At first glance, this new “ticker” looked a little similar to graphics from NBC/TNT prior to 2004, to be honest. It’s probably designed to be a modern version of ESPN/ABC’s top 10 pylon, used from late 1995 to the inaugural Las Vegas 400 in 1998. Definitely a nice graphic — but I don’t think it’ll catch on with the general public.
Lastly, there was an audio issue right before the Victory Lane interview aired on FOX. This made it very clear to viewers that the interview was not live; in fact, it appeared to be delayed by about 15 seconds. This means that viewers (at least on the HD feed, I’m not sure about the standard definition feed) could hear the end of Kenseth’s interview with Dick Berggren before they could see the beginning of it on the screen. Yet after that technical issue, the interview was still aired as it was supposed to… very weird. No explanation was given for this by the commentary crew, but I’m sure the production staff will make sure that this won’t happen again at Las Vegas.
Next week is the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. FOX, ESPN2, and SPEED will be out there taping shows and doing races, and I will be here in North Greenbush, NY, taking notes on their programming. I plan on covering the Shelby 427 and Sam’s Town 300 races, and also will give my opinions of News Corporation’s NASCAR pre-race shows (the pre-race show on FOX and NASCAR RaceDay on the SPEED Channel).
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. And if you would like to contact FOX, ESPN, or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please click on the following links:
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions in a courteous manner than emails full of rants and vitriol.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
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Someone on The Daly Planet website said the reason for FOX doing the Truck broadcast and not SPEED was to save money, since FOX was already there for the Cup broadcast. Phil Parsons was at the track anyway as an owner, so they invited him into the Hollywood Hotel. And then promptly forgot he was there and under-used him.
My thoughts on using the FOX crew is this. Basically everyone on the Speed on-air crew was already at the track. Voda’s part of the pit reporting corps, Michael Waltrip’s obviously racing and Rick Allen’s typically around. Adam Alexander hosts NASCAR in a Hurry and does other work in the garage. You already mentioned Parsons’ role with both Prism Motorsports and MSRP. They might as well have used the normal guys.
First , i wouldn’t put much confidence in anything Mike Joy tells you . There is no one on Earth that is any more in the tank for NASCAR ( except maybe Michael Waltrip ) and FOX than Mike Joy is . He is more than willing to put aside integrity for some good old fashioned butt kissing anytime .
Even my 13-year-old kid was saying “shoot the rodent” by late in the telecast on Sunday, so they’re even overreaching the kids at this point. Where do I sign up for a “Shoot Digger” T-shirt? We need an exterminator.
One thing I noticed during the cup broadcast that really got on my nerves by the end of the race: The tickertape at the top of the screen hardly ever showed the time (or laps) behind the leader. I got to be very frustrated trying to see where my favorite drivers were in relation to the leader. Were they on the lead lap? How far back? One lap down? Two? Then, a couple times, they JUST started displaying it right before a commercial, and it only got through the first eight or so before the commercial came on. Sure enough, after the commercial, it was back to the old way, with no times/laps. I realize this is minor, but it really began to bug me by the end of the race. At California, there’s never much to watch, so little things like this should at least be available to keep us from falling asleep!
As a devout Truck Series fan, I was reasonably satisfied with FOX’s job, though I definitely would’ve preferred the SPEED crew covering it—just feels more “at home”, y’know? Digger was really starting to piss me off too, it’s the number one reason I can’t wait for the Trucks to be back on SPEED.
I unfortunately can’t remember the context, but twice in the broadcast, the commentators screwed up who was in what truck. That wouldn’t have happened with the regular crew—and a few times, they took it “down to Krista on pit road” to ask the most basic of questions about a team or driver, because they didn’t know. Bush league stuff.
I guess Digger haters have found a home. It’s like folk who think country music is more popular than rap!
You haters need to come out in the world and see how many LOVE Digger. If you go to NASCAR.com superstore, you’ll see how many Digger items they sell.
Mark Dyer, President of Motorsports Authentics (not related to anything Fox), stated Digger to be one of the big sellers. He said they would reduce some of the merchandize of drivers whose stuff does not sell well and would be increasing the Digger merchandize for 2009. It’s proably a surprise to some, but Digger sells beter than some driver!! MA only exists to make money.
My grand kids love Digger. They already have the Ts. Now that Keith Urban has written and recorded a Digger song, they can hardly wait to get the CD/DVD.
Digger’s gotta to die song to the music of Earl’s gotta die would be better than that Keith Urban song.
Keith why would you sing such crap? You are so much better than that.
Even Better yet – A movie of some comedian blowing up the Fontana track trying to kill the rodent. 2 birds with one stone. Wish dreams do come true.
The biggest problem with the Fox broadcast team is they all have a conflict of interest. I am sick of all the Toyota lovers covering the races!! We know DW and Hammonds are both Toyota “employees”. Now to Elena I will say this with “all due respect” just because rap music is more popular than country music does not mean rap is good. It stinks!!!! A lot of people just have no taste. I personally prefer rock music. (All rock, from the Beatles to Motley Crue to my personal favoraite “new rock” band Seether.) But the point is still valid, Digger has GOT TO GO! When I turn on the race that is what I want to see and I really don’t care who sings the National anthem or gives the command to start the engines. As long as they do there best then more power to them. Well there is my two cents worth.
Mike in NH, knowing the dudes at websites like CafePress.com, they’ll have something along the lines of an Anti-Digger shirt in a matter of weeks.
I basically like the “talking heads” in the booth during the races, but they do talk way too much. The “mute” button, on the remote, is a wonderful thing. I use it alot.
I think we should cut Angie Harmon some slack. If she enjoyed herself that much, good for her! I’d much rather see someone who really liked being the flagger than someone who just did it for publicity’s sake.
In fact, anyone who finds something wrong with her harmless exuberance during a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity aught to examine why they find someone else’s fun such a downer.
And as far as Fox airing it too many times, how many times has a Frontstretch writer complained that there isn’t enough excitement at these races? 1000? 10000? More? And here is someone who found excitement, Fox wanted to show everyone how much fun she was having, and she and Fox still get ripped for it. The lesson I’ve learned is that a serial complainer will find something wrong even where it isn’t to be found.
I forgot about Digger…. I personally dislike Digger a lot. And my six year old son couldn’t care less about NASCAR.
BUT, when he walked by and saw a Digger animation, he giggled and sat down. In fact he sat there for the next twenty minutes which is as long as he has ever spent watching a race.
We adults like our drivers because of their perceived personalities. Kids don’t understand any of that. But kids do get cartoon characters. So if NASCAR is trying to capture a younger audience early on, it seems to be working in my household.
My take on coverage is that no matter who is going to broadcast any NASCAR racing there will always be critics on the actual coverage. I have been watching NASCAR since the early days of ESPN and even back then there was criticism on how well the coverage was. Too many commercials cutting away to other programming before all the post race interviews were done and other little things. No one fan out there is ever going to be totally satisfied with any one networks coverage. As for me Boogity,Boogity,Boogity was cute for about let’s say five minutes. After all that’s what the mute button is for. As far as Digger is concerned it does get a little annoying at times but if gets the kids interested in NASCAR then so be it. After all I have been putting up with that idiot like robot Fox uses during it’s NFL football broadcasts.