The view from my couch
Broadcast Odds and Ends
Here are few quick observations from the March 22-23, 2003 weekend of racing. Included are comments on the Busch Grand National Race from Bristol and the ASA Race from Lakeland, Florida. Full reviews of the Winston Cup and Truck races will be coming soon. It was just a long weekend of racing and war coverage for the folks at home.
Busch Series Race from Bristol
The broadcast started off with some good patriotic themes and comments from Chris Meyers. Then they went to Jeanne Zelasko for some comments from Bobby Hamilton, Jr. who drives the Marines car in the Busch Series. Bobby started off by saying how he had been watching the war coverage all morning on CNN. Jeanne jumped in and said "You mean Fox News, right?" Does Fox ever let up on the self-promotion? How inappropriate to ask a driver about the war and then try and turn into more shameless self-promotion for Fox! I don't care if it was meant as a joke or not; it wasn't appropriate.
One positive note from the Busch broadcast was the use by Fox of another great song by Brian Setzer this week, Rock This Town. Now if they could work in his song that's actually about racing, Switchblade, I'd really be impressed.
I also want to make a comment on something that I've observed over the last three years on both Fox and NBC. Why do the networks insist on showing WC highlights and drivers during what is suppose to be the Busch Pre-Race Show? Fans have written me complaining that the networks don't appear to really care about the Busch Series and spend too much time focusing on the Winston Cup drivers running in the Busch races. I couldn't agree more. Mike Joy has adopted the Buschwhackers term from the Internet group r.a.s.n., yet he seems to have forgotten the intent of the term. The phrase was coined by race fans who were tired of seeing WC drivers "cherrypicking" the Busch events. Mike may use the term frequently, but he and Fox spend an inordinate of time covering the very drivers the term was meant to disdain. Each week, the fans see more coverage of a Kevin Harvick or a Michael Waltrip, than the Busch regulars who are running every week and contending for the championship. This week was a perfect example as during the pre-race show Chris Meyers and Jeff Hammond were joined by Winston Cup drivers, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch in the Hollywood Hotel. Yes, I enjoy seeing these drivers and highlights of their close finish last week at Darlington, but why were they on a Busch Pre-Race Show? To me, this confirms many fans' opinion that Fox doesn't really think the Busch races or their drivers are really that important, and this is sad.
The next comment I have about the Busch broadcast concerns Darrell Waltrip and his constant need to defend his brother, Michael. This week Michael wrecked a Busch rookie, Chase Montgomery, yet DW launched into blaming the rookie. When the replays clearly showed that the wreck was Michael's fault, DW finally backed down a little, but then continued to make comments about how slower and lapped cars should get out of the way. To begin with, it's bad enough Michael Waltrip feels he has to run in a lower division all the time, but to wreck a rookie is inexcusable. NASCAR obviously thought Michael was to blame as someone else on the broadcast team told us that he had been cautioned to be more patient. He appeared not to listen as he caused another wreck in the race, which took his own car out. Later, Montgomery was in the middle when two somewhat more seasoned Busch regulars, Scott Riggs and Scott Wimmer, went three-wide around him and both ended up wrecked. DW used this opportunity to again blame Montgomery, saying he should have gotten out of the way. DW seems to forget that the Bristol track is very narrow and it's hard for slower cars to get out of the way of the lead lap cars. Does DW and his brother, Michael, think the Busch rookies should just get off the track and park their cars to let the faster cars by? I just could not believe that DW's defense of his brother would go so far that he would continue to berate a rookie for the rest of the race. Is DW's memory fading that he doesn't remember once being a rookie and just trying to log in some laps on the track? Perhaps he should reminisce about his early days once and a while instead of only remembering his championship years?
ASA Race on the Speed Channel
I'll admit I have not followed the ASA Series closely in the last couple of years, mostly because they were broadcast on the "new" TNN, which seemed to only be going through the motions of completing their contract with the series. Most races were tape-delayed and shown at the same time as the Winston Cup races on Sundays. I know Buddy Baker had been the color-commentator the last couple of years, but I can't remember who else was involved in the broadcast last year. On Saturday night when the ASA race came on and the broadcast team introduced themselves, I only recognized one of the names of the broadcasters. Despite my never having heard of these gentlemen, they quickly showed they were extremely knowledgeable of the series, genuinely enthusiastic about the race, and provided some excellent coverage. The booth commentators were Greg Creamer and Jim Tretow, with pit road coverage by Rob Albright and Ken Stout.
I was really impressed with this broadcast crew, including the behind the scenes work of the cameramen, producer and director. I couldn't help comparing it to the NASCAR Truck Series broadcast team. The ASA team came out head and shoulders ahead of the the Truck Series team assembled this year by the Speed Channel. Creamer and Tretow worked together well in the booth and stayed focused on the race all of the time. They didn't attempt to be cute or provide anything other than background information on the drivers running. They did an excellent job getting viewers up to speed on past champions, veterans and rookies. Features on a few drivers were interjected appropriately during caution periods. In the introduction to the broadcast and as segue to some breaks, the producer had interviews and background on many Winston Cup and Busch drivers who made their starts in the ASA Series. Also included were crew chiefs, such as Paul Andrews, with graphics concerning his background in ASA. I knew most of this information, but still found it enjoyable and felt it would be useful and informative for new fans to the series. The sound and camera work during the race was excellent, with the producer following a lot of battles throughout the pack, something we seldom see in NASCAR broadcasts. The producer and director also chose to use a wider angle shot many times so as to catch the action among several cars at the same time, rather than just focusing on the leaders. I also noticed how quick they were to switch shots to stay with the action. When in-car cameras were used, they seemed relevant to the racing and the producer quickly switched to outside shots to keep up with the action. There were a lot of good replays of the many incidents on the track and the pit reporters did timely interviews with drivers falling out of the race or crew chiefs.
I thought this was an excellent broadcast and Speed Channel and NASCAR need to take a look at the way Creamer and Tretow handled the broadcast. They didn't have to keep telling us how excited they were; their true interest in the series and their excitement came across quite naturally and this is the kind of thing I enjoy a lot. Rick Allen and the truck broadcast team ought to watch one of these ASA broadcasts and pick up a few tips. Keep up the good work guys! The way you approach the broadcast has rekindled my interest in the ASA Series.
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