The view from my couch

NASCAR This Morning
by Cheryl Lauer

This is one of my favorite racing news and highlight shows and Iíve been meaning to do a review of it for a long time. This show runs on all the Fox Sports Net stations on Sunday morning prior to the race. I particularly like catching the show on satellite when Iím at the track for the weekend. It helps me catch up on any late-breaking news just prior to the race.

John Roberts hosts the show, with a panel including former Championship crew chief, Barry Dodson; writer Steve Waid of the Winston Cup Scene, and either driver, Derrick Cope or Chad Little. Motor Racing Network veteran reporter, Winston Kelly, provides live reports and interviews each Sunday, as well as up-to-the-minute weather conditions at the track. Together, this group provide a great mix of news and conversation, and always appear to be having lots of fun doing the show. I may complain about the commentators or pit reporters goofing around too much during the actual race broadcasts, but I tune into to those shows to watch racing, not gags. On the other hand, this kind of show is just the right place for a lot of kidding and fun. One of the best parts of this show is each week when the group starts making their picks for race winner in the "Who to Watch" segment. The camaraderie between the group seems natural and the kidding comes across as good natured; thereís no faked animosity like NBC tries to create between Wally Dallenbach and Allen Bestwick.

Each week producer, Patrick Berger, provides the viewers with a good mix of taped features, live interviews from drivers at the track, race highlights, and technical illustrations in the "Under the Hood" segment.

This week, Derrick Cope was entered in the Winston Cup race at Phoenix, so he joined Winston in some of the live interview segments from the track.

John led off the show with headlines of the weekís new, which included CART driver, Christian Fittapaldi, making his first WC start, Mark Martinís points penalty from Rockingham and the release of Jimmy Spencer from Ganassi Racing at the end of the season.

John started an excellent discussion concerning the harshness of Martinís penalty. Dodson pointed out that the team should have checked the shock before putting it on the car and Little joined in the discussing, saying that NASCAR needs to be consistent on such penalties. Wait concluded with comparing the situation to Martinís 1990 fine, which may have cost him the championship that year.

John mentioned some interesting facts about last yearís race at Phoenix, such as the fact Casey Atwood sat on the pole and the great run Mike Wallace had in the 12 car, driving for Penske. There were even some highlights from last yearís race. Winston and Derrick commented on track conditions at Phoenix and tire and brake tire wear. Winston also brought up Silly Season among drivers and how Bobby Hamilton did not practice his car the entire time during Happy Hour on Saturday. Greg Biffle, who ran the car while Hamilton was injured earlier this year, practiced it most of the time. I found this kind of tidbit very interesting.

There were several taped interviews, such as one with Chip Ganassi concerning his decision to drop Spencer next year, Mark Martin concerning his philosophy on his championship run this year, and John Andretti, who had the outside pole. There was also an interesting interview with his new crew chief, Brandon Thomas, who told us about his engineering background and told us that the car that John was driving this weekend was the same one that Bobby Hamilton won his first race at Phoenix while driving for Petty Enterprises in 1996. I thought this was a really interesting fact.

During the show we got to see highlights from the Busch Grand National race on Saturday and the previous weekís race at Rockingham. There was a rundown of the starting grid for the WC race, points standings, and a graphic of where the top five in points were starting at Phoenix.

John and Barry gave an illustration of the consequences from loose lug nuts (as happened to Jimmie Johnson at Rockingham) in the "Under the Hood" segment.

Live interviews at the track included Christian Fittapaldi where Derrick asked him the differences between open wheel cars and stock cars. What I really liked about this interview was that each of the members of the panel asked questions of Christian. Steve asked what differences Christian saw in the garage area as opposed to CART and Barry asked him how he felt about doing his first pit stop during the upcoming race. To me, this shows how well the producer orchestrates each interview and how well the members of the staff work together. There were similar interviews with teammates, Kenny Wallace and Scott Wimmer, live at the track, as well as Winston West Champion, Eric Norris. There was also a feature on Ryan Newman and a graphic comparing his Rookie of the Year standings against Jimmie Johnson.

This is just an example of the comprehensive coverage NASCAR This Morning provides the viewers each week. About the only negative thing I can say about the show is that at ninety minutes, it is a little long. I stick around for the entire show, but many fans donít have this kind of time to devote to it on a Sunday morning.

Keep up the good work!

You can send me email at cheryl@speedcouch.com.

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