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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Magic of McDowell, “Forgetting” a Blowout & Watching TV Blow the Finish in Texas… Again

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 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.

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 1,000 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 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 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 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 “10 10ths,” 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-five spots; and they miss it when all hell breaks loose behind an easy stroll to the checkered for 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.

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.