NASCAR TV Talk Heats Up

As the Sprint Cup Series heads toward the beautiful Richmond International Raceway, the talk about the TV coverage of the sport is heating up. Things got very interesting this week on Twitter.

It started innocently enough late Sunday night with these Darrell Waltrip posts:

"If you watched our telecast today I hope you enjoyed the coverage, thought we did a really good job of finding the action all over the track."

"The Digger shots were amazing, I bet he has a headache after today's race, this was another record setting day, fastest race at Kansas."

"Our entire team, director, producer, pit reporters, worked hard today to be sure we didn't leave anything on the table, emptied the bucket!"

After some fans and media members blasted the FOX coverage, Waltrip continued his Twitter posts on Monday:

"If someone says we covered the race yesterday like we do all the time, they didn't watch the race, from top to bottom we did it differently!"

"We focused on battles thru out the field all day until the end when Truex and Hamlin were battling for the win, pit reports were awesome."

Waltrip is certainly entitled to his opinion and has put in a decade of working on TV in the sport after his long Hall of Fame career as a driver.

Last March, after some TV stumbles early in the season, we offered a post that reviewed some of the fundamental issues fans have been discussing about the TV coverage for the past five years. This is a repost of (click here for the 2011 post with fan comments) a portion of the original column.

After all the changes that Waltrip mentioned, it should open an interesting discussion as to whether FOX has moved toward or away from some of these topics.

This from March 8, 2011:

Active owners of Sprint Cup Series teams should not be on the air as network TV announcers. Despite the best intentions of those involved, the opinions expressed by those with a significant financial and professional commitment to the sport simply draw too much skepticism.

The pre-race show is to inform viewers of the ongoing stories involving the teams about to race. It is not for features designed to sell a product, promote a cause or advance a TV network's own agenda. "Face time" on national television should be for athletes, not announcers.

The driver starting on the pole of every Sprint Cup Series race should be interviewed during the pre-race show. This right comes with sitting on the pole and makes an impression on the national TV audience that this is an accomplishment for the driver, the team and the sponsor.

Speaking to a driver and/or crew chief via the team radio during the pace laps makes no sense. Asking the driver a random viewer question is ridiculous. Once again in 2010, this practice provided no new information, resulted in awkward moments and was openly despised by some drivers.

There is not one "new fan" watching the telecast. The entire NASCAR TV audience has a favorite driver and knows who is who. Showing a prerecorded "bumper" of a driver posing and grinning or trying to look tough or playing the drums while going to commercial under green flag racing is a travesty.

Updates on the basics of NASCAR should be reserved for specialty TV shows. Inside the live telecast of a Sprint Cup Series race there is no need to review the basics of tires, fuel cells, shock absorbers or any other car part that will be used in every event.

A driver who starts a Sprint Cup Series race and suddenly pulls off the track and heads to the garage should be identified on TV immediately. It is not the role of the TV networks to edit "start and park" cars from the telecasts. The responsibility is to report what is happening to those who are watching on TV and are not at the track.

No NASCAR TV network covering a live race should go to commercial under green flag racing in the first ten laps or the final ten laps of the event. Any driver transported to the infield medical center should be interviewed. Each one has fans and it is not the role of the TV network to use popularity or points standings to determine whether an athlete is worthy of TV time.

The scoring ticker is on the screen to help with information, not to be the primary source of scoring information for TV viewers once the race is underway. A key role of the play-by-play announcer is to update positions on the racetrack. What TV seems to be unable to do, the NASCAR radio broadcasters do on a regular basis.

Prior to every restart in a Sprint Cup Series race TV viewers should be told what cars got a wave-around, who is the Lucky Dog and if there were any pit road penalties. Coming to the green flag, viewers should know at least the top ten cars (first five rows) and whether the leader chose the inside or outside.

Full field recaps within a race should be done through the complete field at regular intervals and not just include the top ten or twenty cars. Television often misses the real stories of the race by continually focusing on the front of the race and the current leaders. All the drivers on the track have fans.

After a multi-hour race, TV viewers deserve to see all the cars on the lead lap finish the race live. The race winner, pit crew and crew chief will have TV time in Victory Lane. Watching the rest of the lead lap cars racing to the finish is often much more exciting than seeing the winner cross the line.

The issues added by fans after the original post included showing debris for every caution flag, not using an in-car camera for a pass for the lead and having side-by-side TV commercial breaks.

This post was a composite of the coverage of all three TV networks involved in the Sprint Cup Series. As we have said many times since 2007, the NASCAR TV networks paid the money to show the races and have the total right to present them however they please. The Daly Planet

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