Just like many students received their report cards after the completions of their terms recently — and just like FOX graded all of NASCAR’s big teams during Sunday’s race — the network needs a grade for their 2008 coverage. Since they were consistent in covering the broadcasts (which one would expect with their veteran team), and since the TV ratings have taken a turn for the better compared to the last couple of years, I give them a solid “B” grade. But rising ratings should not cause everybody to get fat and happy; there is room for improvement with FOX, as much of it became monotonous very quickly.
After a less-than-stellar outing at Talladega, the FOX Sports broadcasting team again turned in a performance deserving of the Emmy Award they received just a few short weeks ago. In fact, the last two races at Richmond and Darlington — both on Saturday nights — have come off nice and smooth, with few mistakes and less of the fluff that turns off and jades so many avid fans. But just like the right side of Kyle Busch’s race-winning car, the TV coverage wasn’t without its fair share of Darlington stripes. Here is a breakdown of how FOX fared during this Mother’s Day Weekend event
If you’re a television executive on FOX or ESPN, the last two weeks of NASCAR racing have bound to have left you drooling. At Talladega, the pack of cars did not get strung out or single file, like it did in the fall race there; that caused the close racing and crazy wrecks fans expect at that facility. In fact, there were two “Big Ones” in the Cup race to go along with one “really Big One” in the Nationwide Series race. Plus, the ratings golden boy, Dale Earnhardt Jr., stayed in contention until the end of the Cup event, coming close to the win at his best track.
NASCAR’s top two series each put on a whale of a show at Talladega Superspeedway this past weekend, producing a pair of thrillers that left the TV cameras on high alert from start to finish. Of course, that’s not a new thing when it comes to Daytona and Talladega; and because of the nature of restrictor-plate racing, action at these tracks becomes very tricky to cover. In a matter of seconds, a driver can go from leading the race, to being shuffled back to 28th place, to spinning through the tri-oval and wrecking half the field.
As much as ESPN’s NASCAR Now lacked in consistency and substance last year, it has been made up for — and then some — in 2008. Last year’s hosts of the show, with the exception of Ryan Burr, really struggled to even pretend to have a clue about anything in the sport; but things have changed over the course of the past few months. Nicole Manske, Allen Bestwick, and Burr have become the triumvirate of hosts that cycle at the helm of the broadcast, and the talent works to perfection in this case. Bestwick’s experience combined with Manske and Burr’s individual, natural comfort in front of the camera really helps fill the void that the script of the show sometimes lacks.
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.
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.
Probably the best thing about racing television coverage over the Easter weekend, in my humble opinion, was the introduction of “NASCAR Confidential” by SPEED on Sunday evening. This was a fresh look at the 2008 Daytona 500, with some insights from some interesting people, including legendary photographer Warren T. Taylor. Taylor hasn’t missed a Great American Race, and he’s one of the truly unique characters in the sport that’s come up through the years. For my part, I also enjoyed Jay Howard’s explanation of the pre-race show presentation. Anybody who has ever helped try to choreograph a pre-event show from anywhere, including the local track level, has to have wondered what it must be like in a situation like that.
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.”
However, since there’s more coverage now than we can wrap our hands around these days, I do have some thoughts to start what will become a roundup around the NASCAR TV circuit each Tuesday. My main displeasure with FOX as of late isn’t with the talent, or even the barrage of sponsors; instead, it’s their personnel’s contention they brought us the new invention of “Gopher Cam” (with the cartoon mascot now being called “Digger.”)