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Broadcast Odds & Ends - Atlanta Weekend

I have a few observations about some of the racing broadcasts this week. Included are comments on Atlanta qualifying and the Atlanta ARCA broadcast.

The Qualifying Shell Game

As one of my regular readers, Sara Baker, commented this week, trying to find qualifying on TV lately is like the old confidence man's method of confusing people, "the shell game." This week was even worse than usual. During last week's race broadcasts, they kept showing a graphic that Atlanta qualifying would be shown at 8 p.m. on Friday. I couldn't figure what was up with that, so I checked the Atlanta Speedway schedule and found that qualifying there was being held at the normal time of 3 p.m. on Friday. Then Monday night on Inside Winston Cup on the SPEED Channel, they showed a graphic that listed qualifying at 3 p.m. Okay, I thought, obviously the Fox graphic of 8 p.m. was wrong. Imagine my surprise when I started checking the DirecTV program guide on Thursday night to see which channel was broadcasting Atlanta quals. Not on SPEED Channel. Not on Fox Sports Net. Not on FX either. And I knew better than to even check the main Fox channel as racing would always take a back seat to whatever afternoon shows they had scheduled.

So, here begins the shell game. Even though the new broadcast partner's claim that "fans will always know where to find racing," I had no idea which channel might show qualifying from Atlanta. I took a guess that it might be on FSN and set to record that channel. The next morning, I checked several reliable sources on the Internet and discovered that, in fact, the "Fox family" had chosen to tape-delay Atlanta qualifying until 8 p.m. Friday night. No explanation given. All I knew was I wasn't waiting till 8 p.m. to find out the results of a qualifying session which was held five hours earlier. I decided to spend my Friday evening going to a real "happy hour" at a sports' bar. Once, we saw what could've been the new qualifying graphics on a TV screen across the bar, but it only turned out to be the Keno lottery game. Eventually the qualifying results were shown on the 6 p.m. Fox show Totally NASCAR. I guess I fail to understand why Fox would tape-delay qualifying and then show the results two hours earlier on one of their other shows. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining as I wasn't about to watch a show delayed five hours. I can only hope this delaying of qualifying to get prime time ratings is not the future trend, as this will just drive me to checking the results on the Internet or some other more timely method. Yeah, we sure are progressing with the new broadcast partners and their Qualifying Shell Game.

ARCA Race on the SPEED Channel

Overall this was a great broadcast! Mike Joy was joined by Jeff Hammond in calling the race from the booth, with Dick Berggren and Matt Yocum doing a great job of covering the pit road action. All did a great job, with Jeff being quick to spot some incidents on the track, without having the yell "TROUBLE" to draw the camera and viewers attention to them. It was also a wonderful relief to have race broadcast without the excessive graphics and superfluous information used during recent Winston Cup broadcasts. Mike and Jeff also did an excellent job of mentioning the sponsors of the ARCA teams and explaining a lot of background about drivers, teams, etc. The race still benefited from the high-quality cameras used during other Fox broadcasts and the viewers were treated to the same thorough and numerous replays of all incidents on the track. The only negative thing I found in this broadcast was Mike Joy's little tangent about Shelby Howard's car colors resembling those used by country singer, Marty Robbins. For some reason, Mike has the habit lately of getting on a topic not related to the actual race and belaboring it. I don't know if this is because of some sort of marching orders from the powers that be at Fox to add something that will "perk" up the broadcast or what. Unfortunately the only comments I heard from my friends concerning the ARCA race involved Mike's diatribe concerning Marty Robbins. Some went so far as asking if this was his attempt to remember racing's country roots. Another disturbing trend I find is that the folks at Fox (and NBC) tend to always bring up Winston Cup during broadcasts of Busch and, this time, an ARCA, event. Again, it seems like the broadcasters seem to think that no one is really interested in Busch or ARCA races unless there is some WC tie-in. This is simply not true and the TV networks need to understand this fact, give the other divisions the respect they deserve, and allow them to stand on their own merits. Again, I found this the be a very good broadcast, with the exception on the comments by Mike.

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