NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 42: Daytona 500: The American Dream

by Phil Allaway

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I take an additional look into motorsports-related programming. Last weekend, most everybody took the weekend off. For motorsport-addicted people like myself, that honestly bites.

However, FOX decided to throw viewers a bone during the off-week. Under normal circumstances, off-weeks would simply have FOX giving the time back to their affiliates so that they could air whatever they want. That could be paid programming (infomercials), movies, syndicated programming, programming designed to meet e/i standards, whatever. Instead, FOX chose to air a one hour special, Daytona 500: The American Dream, presented by Ford. They also originally scheduled an episode of SPEED’s new series, Car Warriors. At the last minute, that was changed to two episodes of The 10 without explanation.

FOX premiered the special as part of a live show on Sunday from Los Angeles, California. Chris Myers and Darrell Waltrip served as hosts for the show. Before they started the actual feature show, Myers and Waltrip (sporting a pair of glasses for the first time) discussed the biggest stories coming out of the first three races of the season.

Myers and Waltrip also returned for what amounted to a “Halftime Show.” At that point, they discussed the big wreck and the communication between drivers up to that point.

Finally, we get to the actual special, which starts out with some reaction footage from FOX’s on-air personalities about Daytona. Personally, Voda’s comments about the feelings when you entered DIS resonates the most to me, since I get the shakes whenever I drive through the tunnel under Turn 1 into the Infield.

The special was advertised as having exclusive interviews. In addition to the quotes from FOX personalities, there was a sit-down interview with Bayne. Snippets from the interview aired throughout the special. Of course, Bayne was not the only driver interviewed for the show. Gordon and Edwards were also interviewed, along with probably a half dozen others. I don’t think they all made the haul out to Los Angeles to do their on-camera work, though. Their footage was likely recorded on a sound stage in the Charlotte-area, perhaps at SPEED’s complex.

The race footage was presented with audio from the actual FOX broadcast added in. Some of it was what was actually shown on FOX during the race. Other footage was captured by the NASCAR Media Group. There was a lot of radio chatter on the show. Nearly all the clips from the Daytona 500 itself were accompanied by radio chatter.

One of the quotes that I really found interesting in the special came from Mike Joy after the big wreck. He admitted that the crash took the edge off of the race for him, Waltrip and McReynolds. Of course, they buckled down and got back to task, but it just goes to show that the TV commentators are human, just like everyone else.

Also of note, the race footage has been significantly “sweetened” for the broadcast. What does that mean? It means that the footage has been reworked to draw additional emphasis to certain things. The best example of such is when Juan Pablo Montoya spun out due to a bad bump from teammate Jamie McMurray. Viewers could see the tires deflate on Montoya’s car, and the smoke that emitted from them when they blew. However, the sound was sweetened enough so that viewers could hear the blowouts.

Post-race coverage of the race consisted of…well, everything that you remembered from the actual race broadcast. Radio chatter of Bayne saying things like “Are you kidding me!” dominated the show. New footage included reactions (via radio) of some of the other drivers like Kurt Busch and Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. Also, FOX replayed the interview Voda did with Bayne’s mother, Stephanie. Perhaps, this was the more appropriate place to air that interview instead of stuffing it into the race broadcast and snubbing David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte from their well-deserved face time. Voda defended the interview as basically saying that racing is a family sacrifice to a degree. I don’t argue with that opinion because its true. There are plenty of examples of that in the garage today. However, I still don’t think interviewing the winner’s mother should take precedent over drivers who finished third and fourth in the race.

Now comes the most important part of the piece. Was this show enjoyable to watch? Yes, it was. Going in, I thought it was going to be similar to what NASCAR Victory Lane was like back in 2001. That show was literally the entire race condensed into an hour back then, and done out of a studio. There were a couple of analysts in the studio (including Chad Little, of all people) who would offer their thoughts on the action during breaks from watching the race itself.

What we ended up getting was relatively similar to the old Beyond the Wheel show that aired on SPEED about five years ago, or the Quest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup show that airs on Versus during the Chase. Of course, neither of those shows had anywhere near as much input from race commentators as FOX’s special did. They really drove the show, for better or worse.

Waltrip thrives on a show like this. As an added bonus ,we don’t see a lot of the same issues that we normally see with him on a race broadcast (with the exception of some of the clips that have audio from FOX’s broadcast). Waltrip is a very intelligent man who seems to put a lot of thought into what he says on-air. However, his excitability gets the best of him at times. I found most of the other FOX personalities (Joy, Voda, Berggren) to be a little dry.

I liked all the radio chatter usage mainly because, besides Bayne winning the race, it was the main story. The communication back and forth was mind-boggling at times. And that’s just watching the race at home. I couldn’t imagine how crazy it would have been for the pit reporters, who have five drivers’ frequencies in one ear of their headset at all times.

If you missed FOX’s presentation and would like to watch, the show is re-airing on SPEED Saturday night at 10pm EDT. The full hour of The 10 that followed the special will not, though.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Critic’s Annex. Check back next Thursday for another in-depth look at motorsports programming. Until then, enjoy the action at Bristol Motor Speedway and have a great weekend.

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