Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: NBC, Please Do This for Your Half of the NASCAR Season

This weekend, NBC takes over as the broadcaster for both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series. During the final five months of the 2022 season, there are plenty of things it should consider doing (and not doing) to give fans enjoyable broadcasts again.

FOX just finished up what was probably the worst of its 22 seasons broadcasting NASCAR. It seemed like every week, fans were complaining on social media about something FOX did or missed. So my first line of advice for NBC would be to think “What would FOX do?” in nearly every situation and to do the exact opposite.

OK, that was a little tough love for FOX, but that’s how bad it felt at times. Corny comedy bits during the pre-race show that are less funny than a Saturday Night Live monologue? Please leave those out entirely, NBC. Or, if you must do a comedy bit, hire an actual comedy writer with knowledge of NASCAR (I used to do standup comedy and improv, if you need a guest writer).

See also
Dropping The Hammer: Why Fox Sports' NASCAR Pre-Race Show Needs Fixing

What’s unfortunate is the NASCAR pre-race shows on FOX Sports 1 actually seemed to provide solid interviews and analysis. But as soon as the broadcast switched over to big FOX, it turned into a cheesy variety show.

And that’s not how a NASCAR race should be covered. The pre-race show should instead be about hyping up the event and making the race that’s about to happen seem like the most important thing happening on the planet in that moment. It should showcase the drivers as cool gladiators, athletes at the top of their game — not as the punchline of jokes.

FOX sort of righted the ship for their pre-race shows about midway into their run this year when they started having a stage out at the track’s midway with Chris Myers hosting. That gave vibes of the old Trackside Live! days and made those races feel more like huge events.

Can NBC do the same, building a brand around Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Even if they did something similar to the old Countdown to Green they used to have with Bill Weber (think NBC about 15-20 years ago), that would be awesome.

NBC hasn’t had a largely misguided pre-race show in the past; it’s actually been a major asset to their show. I just don’t want any of the powers that be over there to get the idea they need to follow FOX’s lead on this. The biggest thing is to actually take the sport seriously and the rest will simply fall into place.

And while a pre-race show is important, a greater emphasis should be placed on the post-race show, too. Here’s an area where NBC is just as guilty, if not more so, than FOX for selling fans short.

Sometimes, the Cup races appear to have five-hour blocks on TV. I’m roughly estimating, but it seems the first two hours will be spent with the pre-race and then that leaves little time for a post-race after a three-hour event.

Both networks often end up pushed against the end of their time slot and have to rush off the air as quickly as possible. The worst instance of this phenomenon was when Harrison Burton won at Martinsville Speedway two years ago in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. NBC had Jeff Burton interview his son while he was doing burnouts because they couldn’t even wait for him to climb out of the car before they got off the air.

An even worse example — and there were many — was when a race on big NBC switched over to the late NBCSN as the field was taking the green flag for NASCAR Overtime. That left many viewers missing the finish if they weren’t able to make the switch in time or didn’t have NBCSN. Imagine investing three hours into a race and you don’t even get to see the end of it. But hey, that pre-race show got plenty of time though.

The good news is that NBC has allotted for there to be a continued post-race show this week on Peacock after NBC’s time slot ends. If the post-race show has to switch channels, so be it. Just get the full event in and make it a smooth transition first. The races after that move to USA and that network will also carry extended post-race coverage. That’s even better.

Let’s move on to the regular race broadcast itself. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, please let it be these two words: zoom out. For the love of God, don’t zoom in so tight on the racecars. If the NASCAR broadcasts zoomed in any more on the cars, then we would see the drivers’ souls.

When a shot is so zoomed in that you can’t even see the full racecar, you miss all of the action. You miss passes and any beating and banging that takes place. It also takes away from how fast the cars are moving and how hard the drivers are working, trying different things inside of the racecar.

Maybe FOX wouldn’t have missed a wreck seemingly every single week had their shots not been so zoomed in all the time. Race broadcasts from the 1980s were better than what we’ve seen the past few years, and they had a fraction of the budget and technology to what is available today. Those broadcasts were simply better because they used plenty of wide shots where viewers could see the action.

The NBC commentary team is usually pretty good, but can we please focus less on the playoffs and more on the race playing out that day? (I’m looking at you, Rick Allen and Steve Letarte.) While brief playoff mentions are useful, nobody needs to hear about playoff implications every other lap.

There may be fans watching a specific race who don’t watch another race the rest of the season. Do they care about playoff implications? They might later down the road if they enjoy this lone event and decide to come back for more.

So play up the race you’re watching, NBC, and describe what is happening that day. There are over 36 stories playing out within every single race that have nothing to do with the playoffs. Yet most of those are completely ignored.

Also, please stop yelling so much. I love that the NBC booth gets excited and into the race. But three hours of yelling takes its toll. A tone somewhere in the middle of what FOX and NBC currently put on would be nice.

When it comes to the timing of commercial breaks during races, they need to be more strategic than what FOX did. There were times when FOX would go to a full-screen commercial break while there was green flag racing. Then, they’d have a side-by-side commercial break while the caution flag was out. The second-place guy is catching the leader? Too often, it was a signal for commercial time. But NASCAR is taking 10 minutes to get the scoring straight under caution? Let’s show all of that and more.

We were lied to when stage racing was instituted that it would lessen the amount of commercial breaks under green flag racing. The thought process then was that TV networks would get a large chunk of the commercials out of the way during stage breaks. Instead, all it has done has created more opportunities to squeeze in more advertising revenue.

I get it; the TV networks have to make back the money they invested into NASCAR and have to air more commercials now because ratings aren’t what they were when these deals were signed. But they could at least be smarter about when they do go to commercial…

And please don’t ever go to a side-by-side commercial during a burnout like FOX did once. To quote my Frontstretch colleague Jared Haas, “It’s like going to a commercial when a baseball player hits a walk-off home run and doing a side-by-side while the player rounds the bases.”

At World Wide Technology Raceway, FOX did a side-by-side commercial break just to show various kids at the track the whole time. Which is a whole other problem for the network — showing some kids having fun at the race is awesome. But doing those shots as frequently as FOX does, and with how much those shots just linger on the children, makes them borderline creepy.

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: What Was NASCAR On FOX Doing at Atlanta Showing All Those Kids?

I say all this, not because I hate FOX or NBC and want to bash them, but because I want them to do well and put on the best broadcast they can. NASCAR fans deserve that.

And it’s not like it would take a ton of hard work for FOX or NBC to put together perfect telecasts. They’ve done it before! 2001-06, during the peak of the sport’s growth, also produced some of the best NASCAR broadcasts we’ve seen.

FOX and NBC shared the broadcast rights then. Can NBC reach back into their past and remember how it’s supposed to be done?

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About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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janice

my suggestion would be to harness Rutledge Wood. he shares the top spot of the annoying scale with Michael Waltrip.

Jeremy

Rutledge himself doesn’t bother me as much as what he is assigned to do. I don’t blame him for that. I cringed when they cut Indy 500 coverage to show him pedaling around that stupid swan boat. WTH? Roger needs to put an end to the gimmicky BS and demand better – especially for The 500.

As for NASCAR, please, PLEASE, I BEG YOU! Cut the crap and just cover the race. All of it, not just 5 drivers.

Johnny Cuda

Michael,
Excellent! Well written, great points!

DoninAjax

“It’s like going to a commercial when a baseball player hits a walk-off home run and doing a side-by-side while the player rounds the bases.”

In case you haven’t noticed, they do that now from third base to home plate. I’m sure they would follow him all the way around the bases if they could.

I’m pretty sure that NBC has some new cringe-worthy “new features” in store for their telecasts of Brian’s product, none of which will improve the telecasts.

FRANK KARVAN

Don’t talk thru the entire race, we like to hear the roar of the engines, not your mouths.

Chris

My personal complaint is the long in-car camera shots that go on for laps at times. It’s like watching a football game from a camera mounted on the quarterbacks helmet. I’ve said it before, film crews should go back to the 90’s and watch how a race was covered and try to keep it that simple, don’t use every trick in your bag just because you have it. That goes for the booth as well. Watch Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett call a race without any rambling or going on with non-race related stories.

Kurt Smith - Ex-Frontstretch Staff

Fox’s pre-race show is utterly unwatchable, and I figured out why…they think it’s about them. I have no desire to see Bob Pockrass play word games with Corey LaJoie, and it boggles the mind that someone at Fox thinks that would be great television. Then there’s Michael Waltrip walking around the pits trying to get quick hits with…whomever about whatever. Who is out there clamoring for this?

There is absolutely nothing in the Fox pre-race show that gets me excited about the race I’m about to watch. Watch an NFL pre-game show, even on Fox, and see if it’s anything like that…all they talk about is the upcoming game. That’s kind of the point of a pre-game show.

Fox Sports has done more damage to NASCAR than they could ever be worth. Their current race broadcasts aren’t as abominable as they once were, but that’s partly because they’re not in a position to drive any more fans away after losing so many millions of them with their endless cartoon gopher gimmickry. It’s always one of my favorite parts of the NASCAR season when Fox is done.

There’s only one bright spot in Fox’s race broadcasts…Mike Joy. It’s a shame a consummate professional like Joy has to be surrounded by so many unprofessional people.

NBC might not be much better, but they could hardly be worse.

Christopher

I grew up listening to Mike Joy call modified races at Riverside Park Speedway and Stafford, he’s one of the greats, right there with Barney Hall. I actually feel embarrassed for him at times having to deal with his directors bizarre choices.

Christopher

After this disaster of a season on Fox, I started to wonder if the sloppy technical work, rotating guest commentators, crappy writing and general appearance of the wheels falling off is an indication that Fox has decided NOT to bid on the next TV package. Would explain a lot of things.

Fed Up

Great article! You mirror my thinking. The zoom out would allow a much better presentation. Unfortunately, the advertising executives are controlling the direction and all they want to show are the paying sponsors, which explains the lack of showing back markers.

Jim S

Excellent evaluation and suggestions! Unfortunately, I doubt if FOX is listening. They seem to just not care!

Brian

Another thing to is we want to see the finish of the race for most of the top 15-20 or there is usually races for position coming to the checkered flag.
I do not need to see a shot of the driver immediately, do not need to watch the crew guys, and definitely do not need to see whomever is on the pit box.
Let us finish watching the race and then show the various reactions.

Fox did this after one race, broke away from the racing and showed family of the winner. About 5 minutes later they showed the exact same family and it as a replay of their initial reaction. This is a waste as I want to see the end of the race. Most of us do.

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