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Missing DW’s Voice… Seriously, A Missed Question to Kevin Harvick & Missing a Mystery Caution

I suppose some folks considered the FOX telecast of the Food City 500 at Bristol to be the best so far this season, since Darrell Waltrip couldn’t talk much. Personally, I sort of like listening to DW (but could do without him bursting into song now and then).

In fact, the best part of the show, to me, was the presentation of his 1981-82 Buick to him during the pre-race portion of the broadcast. Waltrip was obviously taken aback by it (speechless doesn’t seem to fit in this situation, considering the circumstances).

I’m pretty new at this TV critic business, so bear with me, folks. Perhaps in a few months, Waltrip will render me speechless when the FOX season is all said and done…

Bristol Sprint Cup Racing Broadcasts
TV Networks: FOX and SPEED

The Good

From SPEED’s pre-race show, I appreciated the explanation of bump stops on the shock absorbers, as well as the various shims that could be used. Also, the debate between Kyle Petty and Bootie Barker about bumpstops on “Trading Paint” was pretty interesting; giving technical expertise in terms the general public can understand is never a bad thing.

The funniest moment in the TV coverage at Bristol came in Friday evening’s “Trackside” program on Speed. DW asked Juan Pablo Montoya how you say “boogity” in Spanish, and Montoya replied, “I don’t even know how to say it in English.”

Another comment from one of the open wheelers got my attention, one of those great answers you can snag only by being “caught up in the moment” on TV. Dario Franchitti said the short tracks were particularly challenging because you could be “half a corner back” from an incident and couldn’t avoid it. That’s the type of analysis people are looking for.

But the greatest directing brilliance on the weekend came when FOX put a camera on Kim Burton, capturing the moment she jumped out of her seat on top of the pit box when her husband made the winning pass. Burton’s raw emotion was showcased perfectly; and seeing the kids actually participate in a post-race interview afterwards wasn’t bad, either.

By my count, we had more than 120 commercials during the race program – 127, to be exact – which took up nearly an hour of airtime. But at least more and more of the commercials are getting to be entertaining. The best new one involved the talking bird on the NAPA spot with Michael Waltrip; it was just in time. Seeing the guy dump that model of Michael’s 1990 wreck at Bristol is hilarious, but it was starting to get old.

The Bad

Why did FOX keep pounding on the fact that there were 160,000 people at Bristol, and that it was a sellout? I never understand that. We all know Bristol is always sold out for the Cup race, don’t we? At least, the millions of NASCAR fans who have tried to get tickets know about it…

During the race, I was a bit curious as to why TV didn’t question NASCAR’s judgment on the caution flag brought out by Jimmie Johnson‘s non-spin. Earlier, no caution was shown when Dale Jarrett got almost out of control; and in this case, Johnson never even pulled a full 180.

But the biggest disappointment for me this weekend came near the end of the telecast, when the pit reporters talked to first Kevin Harvick, then Tony Stewart about the late-race contact that ended with Stewart hitting the turn 2 wall. That led to some frustrated words over the radio, anger which transitioned to Stewart’s spotter above the track as he tried to spread the word over to Harvick’s crew. But when a confrontation on the roof was revealed, why didn’t FOX ask Harvick the details of what happened between the spotters during the aftermath? The man obviously didn’t have any problem describing it to a reporter, because it showed up in the print coverage the next morning.

Secondly, why wasn’t Steve Byrnes (who obviously drew the short straw in having to interview Tony) informed that Harvick had admitted the wreck was his fault, and would thus have been able to mention that to Stewart? It might have softened Tony’s response a bit – but maybe FOX doesn’t really want that.

Editor’s Note: Sources on the FOX broadcast crew confirmed to us Wednesday that Stewart’s interview was taped beforehand, making it impossible for him to respond to Harvick’s comments. Sometimes, taping such an interview is necessary due to timing issues: drivers can be swarmed by other broadcast outlets, or may be looking to leave the track immediately after a difficult race. However, it was duly noted that the network never mentioned the taped interview to the viewers, creating the impression they had “dropped the ball” on this interview.

The Ugly?

My congratulations go out to Harvick, who merely glared at a spectator who had obviously mouthed some kind of non-complimentary offering during a later interview in the garage. A couple of years ago, he was jumping over cars to get at people who ticked him off.

Perhaps that’s a sign of progress? Until next week…

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