Sunday, March 23, 2008

What can be done to make Nascar coverage Better?

I'm revisiting an old topic, and one that has been debated for many years now. No matter which network broadcasts the races, or who is in the booth or in the pits, there will never be a perfect team that everyone likes. I personally think that Fox and Speed do the best coverage, but that of course is open for debate. Some people hate Darrell Waltrip's "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity", but others enjoy it. Some can't stand Larry McReynolds or Jeff Hammond, just to take a sampling, for a variety of reasons.

There is a reason that non broadcast professionals populate the TV media in this sport. These are racers, tried and true, and have all achieved high levels of success in the sport. They are obviously not broadcast professionals, and don't have the slick skills that professionals have. The racers are there because they lend a certain color and technical expertise to the broadcasts. Like them or not, they bring something to the show that a professional broadcaster can't.

The hosts on Fox and Speed tend to let the racers just run with it. They don't really try to reign people like DW or Jeff Hammond in, because it creates more of a humorous environment. Racing, big business that it is, is grounded on the principle of having fun. To the fans, the racers provide an element of knowledge and humor that we would not otherwise get.

ESPN and ABC have taken a different approach, which requires the racers to be a little more buttoned up. Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett provide color to the broadcasts, but one gets the impression that ESPN is a little more buttoned up than Fox and Speed. Professionalism is a quality to be desired, but sometimes ESPN pushes professionalism to the point that a lot of the fun of the sport is lost.

As for the actual race coverage, I see a lot of weak points. I feel that all the networks that cover Nascar are guilty of focusing on one driver or team, and pretty much ignoring the rest of the field. Drivers mysteriously leave the track, and go to the garage, but no mention of them is ever made. I think all the networks should realize that there are fans of every driver watching the race, and should at least attempt to find out why even the most obscure driver in the field has left the track. That's just not happening, and the trend seems to be getting worse every week. The folks in the booth will spend an inordinate amount of time discussing Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr., but will barely mention a Bobby Labonte, or a Kyle Petty, or a David Stremme who has been quietly working his way to a top 10 finish. Often times I am astonished to read that Bobby Labonte had a great finish, but no one talked about him all day, nor was his car every on camera, except in just a passing glance. All of the networks need to show more of the actual field, not just the leaders or the objects of the commentator's affection.

Accurately reporting on everything that happens to all 43 cars during a race is basically an impossibility. One thing that I do often notice while watching the races on TV is that even if the leader is out to a second and a half lead, the cameras will only quickly show shots going back through the field, where often some really good racing is going on. Racing is happening all over the track, not just for 1st place. Anyone who has ever been to a race in person knows that. Some of the directors at all the networks just don't seem to get that. In a 500 mile race, the winning only happens on the last lap. The racing takes place every lap. My advice to the networks would be to forget the non race for the lead and go back and show us more of the actual racing in the field, whether it be for 4th place of for 42nd place. When a lead change happens, show it to us, but don't spend a lot of time on it if it just takes 10 seconds and the new leader is driving off again.

I will also say something in Kyle Busch' defense. When you have time to let a driver cool off after a disappointing finish, let him cool off. Sometimes waiting a few minutes before pushing a microphone in his face will net the average pit reporter a much more interesting interview than the one we got yesterday with Kyle after the Nationwide race at Nashville. Heat of the moment interviews with hot drivers can sometimes lead to disastrous results. Let them cool out for a few minutes, and most of them will be glad to actually answer questions without a grunt.

Nascar is a very emotional sport. The drivers get emotional. The fans get emotional. The crew chiefs get emotional. The owners get emotional. Interviews done in the heat of emotion are probably great for stories, but not much good for the sport itself, when you get right down to it. These people are professionals. Let them do their jobs.

Overall, I'd say that TV coverage of Nascar is probably going downhill. It seems that the people in the booth pick their favorites before the races, and then talk non stop about them until the race is over. What I'd give to have people like Ned Jarrett, Neil Bonnett, and Benny Parsons back in the booth.

As always, this is my opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree with me!


  1. Less comercials

  2. In principle, I would agree, but you've got to understand that the networks pay huge sums of money to Nascar for the rights to broadcast the races. The networks are not in business to provide us with anything. They are in business, like all businesses to make money. The networks have to sell a certain amount of commercials to break even. They have to make more to make a profit.

    For that reason, don't expect to see the number of commercials decrease anytime soon. Sooner or later, a happy medium will be reached, but right now all the networks are just playing with how to balance that out, and still provide a watchable product.

    Jimmy C.

  3. Diminishing personality from the broadcast is a huge problem with ESPN. I don't know how they got to where they are in sports, but what they are doing to NASCAR is pathetic. The shows, the coverage and the people covering the sport (with few exceptions) are terrible.

    I can't put my finger on it, but Fox has found a way to get in post race interviews, a pretty good pre-race and quality coverage that doesn't leave me feeling like I missed something at commercial.


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