NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Waltrip Finds His Voice, But the Camera Falters at the Finish at Martinsville

While most of Martinsville was a misty mess of rain, clouds, and fog, my TV signal was coming through crystal clear. During a week filled with near misses, here’s a look at some things during the past week of TV coverage that were spot on – as well as some criticisms of what missed the mark.

The Good…

I liked the placement of the Gopher Cam this week for FOX. The camera gave us something of a unique view, as the cars seemed to come around the corner at it.

Darrell Waltrip finally found it within himself to criticize Kyle Busch during the last-lap incident during the truck race. The way he’s been singing his praises, I didn’t think it was possible that could happen.

“NASCAR Performance” continues to be a bright spot on the SPEED lineup. “Bootie” Barker and Chad Knaus offer different perspectives on the subjects, since they’re really at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as teams go. I was particularly interested in Chad’s insight about how the dynamics of a pit stop have changed with the new car, and Bootie’s take on the fuel pickup question with the Gibbs cars was neat. I was wondering if it was something specific to the JGR cars, or if Denny Hamlin was just lower on fuel than everybody else at Bristol; turned out, it was probably the latter.

Another bright spot for DW this week came when he commented on Mike Wallace doing the spotting for his daughter, Chrissy: “I’ve never had a spotter call me ‘Honey.'”

In Sunday’s prerace show, Ray Dunlap did a nice job explaining NASCAR’s reason for making the door plate a single piece. Amazing how much trouble those teams will take to save an ounce or two.

A comment on FOX’s directing work. Dual screens when two battles for position were going on wasn’t a bad idea – but multiple screens for pit stops didn’t work quite as well this time…

At least the wrecks were covered. Even on a short track, it’s hard to have a “battle” camera on everything at the instant it happens, but FOX did a reasonable job of at least having footage of nearly every incident for the replay.

Oh, and smelling rear-end grease burning all the way out in the production truck? Neat touch.

The Bad…

On Sunday, Mike Joy tried to paint a better picture of a sparse crowd by saying a lot of people probably had tickets, but didn’t show up because of the weather. Undoubtedly, there were some no shows, but it’s hard to believe there were as many as there were empty seats; especially when Clay Campbell had admitted in a print media interview that ticket sales had been “softer” than usual for this race.

I also have to wonder if mentioning that it was really “only a 100-lap race” had the effect of making viewers switch channels for a couple of hours. Apparently not; FOX’s overnight ratings were a 4.9, equal to their coverage of the race a year ago. But it’s still never a good idea to tell your viewers only the last hour is important…

I’m wondering about something else, too – do drivers get frustrated when somebody from the booth calls just as they’re preparing themselves for a start?

The Ugly…

Chris Myers. This guy is a tremendous talent, with a lot of knowledge about a lot of sports. Unfortunately, racing isn’t one of them. I couldn’t believe he had to ask Jeff Hammond what an air gun is used for.

Too much Gopher Cam during the truck race.

In general, FOX’s coverage of the truck race was tough to swallow. Switching coverage to a broadcast channel from SPEED is noteworthy, and maybe good for the series, but they should at least use SPEED’s complete crew, with people who have more insight and closeup knowledge of the series.

And, once again, the production truck – with apparently someone’s head still full of the rear end grease smell – forgot about everyone but the winner as the checkered flag came down. Shots of the winner celebrating in his car are good, but what happened behind him? There were some pretty good battles going on for the next few positions (as we were told earlier), but nobody got to see how they turned out until the finishing order was posted. As soon as it became obvious that Jeff Gordon wasn’t going to catch Hamlin, that spot was decided; the coverage shouldn’t focus on the winner in that case at the expense of everything else.

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