The view from my couch

Fox vs. NBC: 2003 Season Comparison

As I did last year, I took some time to go back an re-read many of my reviews from both networks to refresh my memory a bit. In this case, it took a really long time because of the holidays and my being just plain burned out after the 2003 race season. I again found that each network has its strengths and weaknesses, but the differences between the way the two networks cover racing seemed more obvious to me during this third year of the TV contract than ever before. I apologize in advance for the length of this article, but it really was long race season and I thought it was important to touch on a lot of areas of the race broadcasts.

Philosophy 101
First off, I want to say that I feel certain every person associated with race broadcasts on both networks is trying to do the best job they can, within the constraints under which they work. Unfortunately, I believe that the network executives at the top of both the Fox and NBC networks place a lot of constraints on the announcers and production teams. This "corporate philosophy" ultimately affects a lot of what the viewers see on TV. In my opinion, Fox and NBC appear to have very different corporate philosophies.

During the season, it quickly became clear to me that NBC really listened to the viewers after 2002 and made some positive improvements for the 2003 season, while Fox seems more resistant to changing from the format they've used since 2001. This is not to say that Fox did not make some improvements, it's just that Fox doesn't appear to acknowledge that doing things in a more low-key way might actually go over better with a lot of the race fans. Again, I think this is the corporate philosophy of Fox, wanting to be cutting edge and show a lot of "attitude." whereas, NBC does things in a more conservative way. It seems like because Fox receives a lot of positive feedback about their flashy style, they tend to ignore that there are still a lot of fans that are really put off by the Fox way of presenting the races. While reading a lot of race fans comments over the year, I notice that the things that fans complain about with NBC tend to focus more on commercials than the actual content of the broadcasts.

A Message From Our Sponsor
Since I've touched on the dreaded "C-word", I might as well cover that first. I honestly don't know if NBC shows more commercials than Fox does or not, but the perception by a lot of race fans is that they do. From my notes regarding the Fox portion of the season, I noted a lot of commercials during that time as well. Frankly, I think it has more to do with the placement of commercials within the broadcast. Perhaps this stems from the fact that the Fox producer, Neil Goldberg, has more years overseeing race broadcasts, since he came from the old ESPN broadcast team. NBC producer, Sam Flood, is still learning a bit about the nature of racing and perhaps this explains why the spacing of NBC's commercials makes it appear there are more commercials. But what it boils down to is that both networks have a lot of commercials, in the form of actual breaks from the race itself, on-screen promos, pop-up ads, or in-car camera shots of nothing but sponsor logos. Yes, NBC appeared to have more breaks away from the race itself, but what I noted during the Fox portion of the season was that Fox tended to show in-car camera shots of nothing but empty track with a sponsors logo in the shot. At the time, this drove me just as crazy as the actual breaks did during the NBC portion of the season. I don't know how many times I noted during Fox broadcasts of in-car shots of logos of Budweiser, Lowes, NAPA, Cingular, or other cars whose sponsors coincidentally paid for advertising on the TV broadcast. Many times we saw camera shots when these cars were not running up front or battling for position with another car. Then there was the Pepsi Fan Cam which was also just another commercial. Fox appeared to have less commercials, however, I noted that Fox missed more restarts or passes for the lead than NBC did during their portion of the season. So while the timing of the NBC commercials made it seem like they had more of them, at least they got back in time to catch important things like restarts.

The frequency and number of commercials on both networks is high and my personal opinion is they are higher than we saw on ESPN broadcasts in the past. Both Fox and NBC are trying to recoup the money they paid NASCAR for the TV rights and the way they do this is through selling commercials. Again this comes down to corporate decisions and I don't believe either network production team should be blamed for the number of commercials they must include in each broadcast. Fox may space their commercials better than NBC, but the fans are bombarded with just as many on-screen promotions or advertisements that detract from the race. NBC's breaks are just more obvious and not always timed as well, so fans notice them more. Also both networks show even more commercials when they shift the races to their cable partners of FX and TNT. I have to give credit to the NBC producer for "breaking out" of commercials numerous times during the 2003 season to show us an accident or some other significant happening in the race. Although Fox was the first to do this in 2001, I don't recall them doing it nearly as often as NBC did in 2003.

Graphics, Bubbles, and Quacks
One of NBC's improvements was the fact they got rid of the Golden Benny Award for which they received so much viewer criticism in 2002. While Fox continued their use of excessive graphics, such as the pointers, and even added a "gas mileage" estimate graphic, NBC dropped their bubbles after their first 2003 race. Fox used the pointers during every race, with them being even more prevalent during the races in the big TV markets like California, Texas, and Las Vegas. This season, many times three pointers would actually converge on the cars and obstruct the view of the racing. Also, the people controlling the pointers didn't always seem to actually be in control of them, as they would often point into the grandstands, instead of at the cars, thereby adding to the useless clutter on the screen. Most fans I talk to say that this excessive use of graphics distracts them from the racing and seems to give the broadcast the appearance of some sort of video game. NBC used their "bubbleheads" for the Pepsi 400, but then dropped them the next week, using instead a simple number to pinpoint a car at specific times such as on restarts or pit stops. This type of more selective use of the GPS technology is truly helpful to the viewer and doesn't detract from the racing action. When NBC wanted to show speeds or other information on a driver, they put it in a simple box in the corner of the screen. Fox also continued their silly "Boogity" phrase by Darrell Waltrip to start the races, while NBC simply let the fans sit back and enjoy the beginning of the race in silence. To me, this shows that the NBC team respects the fans and knows that they are there to watching racing as opposed to Fox that always seems to be into self-promotion over the sport they are suppose to be covering. Fox also insisted on continuing their artsy shots of the green flag waving at the start of races and during restarts, rather than focusing on the cars on the track. Many readers complained to me about how annoying it was to see a flag waving when there was a heated battle for the lead, particularly on restarts. Fox also continued their annoying little noises to accompany the start of each run of the ticker and when a new "sponsor" of the ticker appeared. This constant need for cute little noises seems to be a Fox trademark as I've seen it on football this year as well. What the point of the noises is other than to draw attention away from the racing is beyond me. NBC didn't use sounds on their scoring ticker; however, they had the annoying Aflak duck walk across the screen and chimes when they inserted various commercials or promos on-screen.

Can You Hear Me Now?
The Fox team made some significant improvements in not talking over the radio communications between drivers and crews during 2003. I believe the producer started recording these communications frequently so that he could give the announcers a heads-up that they were being played. NBC started this last season and continued this practice this season as well. NBC also continued and expanded their popular Through the Field segments in 2003, where the pit reporters gave the viewers updates on large blocks of cars several times a race. Occasionally, Mike Joy of Fox attempted to do something similar and this was great, but Fox needs to try and pull the pit reporters into this type of rundown as NBC has done. It's a fantastic example of teamwork between the NBC pit reporters, producer, and announcers. Fox continues to feature the announcers in the booth too much and ought to involve the pit reporters in things more often. There was a a downside of Through the Field on NBC in the latter portion of the season. Many times, this rundown seemed to take the place of actual coverage of the race, as it would be sandwiched into between commercials breaks. As much as I like this feature, I don't want it to replace real coverage of the race.

Talent? We've Got Talent.
Next I want to compare the on-screen "talent" that the viewers see every week on Fox and NBC. Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond continue to bring an excellent perspective to the Fox broadcasts. Their technical knowledge of the race cars and savvy in the garage area as former crew chiefs provides a valuable and unique insight for the viewers. When it comes to former drivers in the booth, I continue to be impressed by Wally Dallenbach with every new season. Many people feel that to provide "color" commentary, it requires a past champion such as Darrell Waltrip or Benny Parsons. I think Benny is a great guy, but frankly he appears to be losing his edge just a bit in the last few years. Darrell Waltrip tends to think he is the star of the show all the time and forgets that the race is suppose to be the focal point of the broadcast. Many race fans claim that Dallenbach is a "never been" and can't compare to Waltrip in the booth, but I don't agree. Isn't it more important to have current knowledge about the cars and track conditions, even if you aren't always running up front, rather than announcers who base their comments on their glory days of 15-30 years ago? I think a good announcer in any sport can be found in those athletes who are not the mega-stars, but from good, steady participants with current experience from which to draw. Dallenbach fits this bill precisely. I know nothing about him personally, but he really doesn't come across as having a huge ego and seems willing to laugh at himself quite often. Because he does not have his "big star" status to preserve, he's not afraid to voice his opinion, even if he doesn't agree with NASCAR or his fellow announcers. Both Benny and Darrell seem to walk the fine line too often in their fear of offending NASCAR or the big teams, and many times come across as vacillating in their opinions (something I fear may increase with DW and Larry McReynolds owning truck teams in 2004). To me, this flip-flopping in opinions does not lend to their credibility at all. Dallenbach does not seem to promote himself all the time, even when he races in the occasional Busch Series race. Granted the network promotes these runs quite a bit, but Wally really seems to use them to bring something timely and relevant to the broadcast, rather than relying on past glory alone to carry the broadcast. Also, am I the only one who is getting real tired of the playacting between McReynolds and Waltrip over "what I'd do..." in a certain situation? You're a commentator, not a participant!

Between the two anchors in the Fox and NBC booths, I give Allen Bestwick a slight edge over Mike Joy. Both have many years of experience, and are very knowledgeable about and clearly love the sport. While Bestwick can come across a bit pompous at at times, he continues to control the NBC booth by providing leadership and keeping everyone focused. I believe Joy would be just as effective as Bestwick if he would at least try to shut DW down once and a while and return his focus to the race. Larry McReynolds continued to fill this role in 2003, but this really should be Mike's job as the anchor in the booth. Perhaps Fox wants everyone to appear as equals, but I'm old school and think that someone has to be in charge. No, it's no fun being the "daddy," but someone has to do it, and I think it Mike ought to follow Larry's lead and step up a little more often. When listening to both production teams on the scanner when I was actually at the races in 2003, I was impressed that the NBC team seemed to be having a ball behind the scenes of the broadcast. I don't remember noting the same thing about the Fox team. I may be old-fashioned, but I think it's better to confine the jokes and all to off-air time and come across as professional to the viewers through your emphasis on the race itself.

It's The Pits
As to the pit reporters, Matt Yocum and Steve Byrnes stand out among the Fox crew by doing an excellent job every week. They each know how to balance having fun with their jobs with providing timely and interesting information to the viewers. I know Dick Berggren has a real love for the sport and a lot of good technical knowledge; however, his questions to drivers and crews many times come across as silly or deemed to elicit a radical response. I know Fox feels it is important to have a woman pit reporter, but Jeanne Zelasko doesn't add anything special to the broadcast. If they feel they must have a woman reporter, why not find someone with a background in racing? I'm sure Jeanne is excellent at baseball, but it just seems like Fox dumped her into their NASCAR broadcasts and they refuse to acknowledge that it's not working for her. This is another example where Fox seems adverse to change just because they don't want to admit that something may not be working. I know Jeanne is sincerely trying to do a good job, but after three years, NASCAR still doesn't come across as her true interest, and she doesn't seem to have a real chemistry with the drivers. On the NBC side, Weber and Yocum are the leaders among the pit reporters, but Marty Snider and Dave Burns do an excellent job every week as well. NBC seems to recognize each reporter's strengths and uses them where they work the best, rather than forcing anything. I enjoyed that Dave's pre-race antics were toned down a bit in 2003, while still retaining some humor. My favorite was his demonstration of the so-called "Lucky Dog Pass," complete with German Shepherd.

I felt that NBC did the best job overall with keeping the viewers at home updated on pit strategies during the race. It was clear the production team and Allen Bestwick worked very hard to try to keep up with the varying pit strategies during a race. After the numerous pit stops during yellow, Bestwick made a concerted effort to tell the viewers which cars took two or four tires or fuel only. He frequently kept us informed on positions of cars after pitting, number of cars on lead lap, and who dropped out of race. In the waning laps of the race, he reported on which teams topped off on fuel before the last restart. I don't remember Fox being this thorough and this is a major weakness in their coverage in my opinion. Such information not only appeals to the veteran fan, but is instrumental in helping the new fan follow what is going on in a race.

NBC continued another great feature that they started last season, the color-coding on the ticker showing which cars had made green flag pitstops. Again, Fox didn't provide this type of information to the viewers. No, it's not flashy, but this is an excellent use of today's technology in a meaningful way.

Tech Talk
As to the technical aspects of the broadcasts, I give Fox a decided edge in this area. They seemed to use high quality cameras much of the time and this resulted in better replays and some truly awesome slow motion replays. Fox also did an excellent job of strategically placing the cameras around tracks like Darlington and Sears Point. We got to see some really exciting up close and personal shots of how close drivers were running against the infamous Darlington wall throughout the spring race there. Fox also showed most of their races in widescreen format and this was great for those of us with 16 X 9 screens. Fox seemed to have the ability to capture on-track incidents a little faster than NBC did. NBC always seemed to be focused on only the perceived "top" drivers and only caught the tailend of a lot of accidents involving other drivers. Both networks seemed to experience a lot of technical problems during the 2003 season, with Fox having the most problems with their sound in the latter portion of their half of the season. Fox also seemed to have a lot of problems with the information provided on their scrolling ticker. Part of this was actual technical gremlins that it was not always providing up-to-date or accurate information. Another part seemed to be the fact that someone decided the viewers didn't really need to know the status of the back of the field. Many times, the Fox ticker would not show if a driver was "off", "out" or how many laps they were down for a quite a long time. Both networks are generally guilty of not showing cars outside the top ten on camera, so if the ticker only sporadically shows the status of these cars, how are the fans suppose to know what is going on with the entire field?

One of the good things both networks did was to quickly provide a graphic showing which cars were involved in multi-car accidents. Also both networks had interesting rain-delay shows, but Fox was quick to fall back on contrived gags by their staff rather than impromptu and interesting interviews with drivers than NBC did. NBC was more likely to fall back on showing replays of recent races if there was a long delay. Both networks seemed to do an excellent job in covering safety innovations and rules changes midseason. Both also had excellent explanations of many controversial calls made by NASCAR in 2003. Both used more split screen this year to show battle besides leaders, although Fox seemed to apologize by saying things like "I know this is a battle outside the top 10..."

Pre-Race Festivities
I also like the approach that the NBC team takes during pre-race shows. It's so good to have a network that seems interested in focusing on the the race rather than inserting silly comedy routines, pop-culture tie-ins such as those made by Chris Meyers, or a lot of superfluous hype we also see too frequently at Fox. I continue to believe the Hollywood Hotel is a ridiculous device intended to mirror something in a football broadcast, rather than provide anything of real value to race viewers. Jeff Hammond's knowledge and skill continues to be wasted in playing straight man to Chris Meyers. Jeff would be better utilized on pit road or in the broadcast booth, however, his illustrations with the Fox Cutaway Car are one of the best features on the Fox broadcasts. With NBC, I quickly learned to expect an informative and relevant pre-race show every week under Bill Weber's leadership. I can only contrast Weber's class and true racing knowledge against the useless fluff that Fox provides in their pre-race segments with Meyers. Weber has a lot of great race experience, knowledge, and true love of the sport and it comes through in his show. The NBC pre-race shows also consist of interviews with a lot of the drivers and good features on topics directly related to the current race. On the other hand, much of what Fox provides in their pre-shows is redundant highlights, not related to the race at all, or simply a way to flaunt more Fox "attitude."

While Fox seemed to not want to tell us when rain was in the area at the beginning of their pre-race show, NBC always furnished this information to viewers immediately. I also noticed that NBC was much less likely than last year to show their glee when the race went past halfway if there was rain in the area. This was a major improvement in my book. Fox rarely showed the viewers debris on the track when it brought out a caution, while the NBC producer made an effort to locate the debris and show it to the viewers. I really appreciated this as it made debris cautions less suspect than they were last season.

Good Times & Bad Times
There were some really bad races that stood out on both networks. For Fox, it was the Winston and Winston Open and for NBC the worst had to be the fall Charlotte race, where the network executives pulled the plug before the winner even got to Victory Lane. Yes, the race was over the alotted timeslot; however, the network lobbied for a night race and then when they got one, they didn't allow enough time for it. This particular race also had a relatively low number of cautions, yet NBC broke away to go to the 11:00 news. The Bristol Night Race, was relegated to TNT and, therefore, became innundated with commercials and suffered because of lack of continuity. As with prior years, it seems the advertising folks at TNT sold way too many commercials for this race. So much so, that the flow of the race and pit strategy got lost in the need to fill every caution period with as many commercials as possible. I think NBC's best race was the August Michigan race. Sam Flood did an excellent job of commercial placement throughout the broadcast and the viewers got to see the last 30 laps of the race and post-race coverage commercial-free. For Fox, the two best races were the June Pocono race and Sears Point. During the Pocono race, there seemed to be a concerted effort to at least show all of the cars on the track (even if it was just during pit stops). The use of the pointers was down a lot, and the boys in the booth seemed a lot more focused on the race than usual. At Sears Point, Fox seemed to put a lot of effort into showing or at least telling us about all the incidents during the day (and there were a lot of them to cover). Although there were a lot of commercials in the middle of the race, we did get to see the last 12 laps of the race commercial-free.

My biggest complaint with race coverage today is that both networks continued to have too much emphasis on popular drivers or only those in top ten near the end of race. They seem to want to only cover those perceived "popular" drivers or those whose sponsors buy a lot of commercial time for the broadcast. I can't emphasize enough that this is truly an injustice to the other 20+ drivers running in the race, their sponsors, and particularly to their fans. Why would someone tune into the race if they were a fan of, say, Ken Schrader, when he is never shown unless he is involved in a frightening wreck or as he is being lapped by the leader? Part of what makes racing different from other sports is that there are several races going on within every race, yet both the new TV partners are guilty of focusing only on certain drivers race after race. When many drivers were the first ones to drop out of the race, Fox barely mentioned them, and NBC only infrequently did so. In addition, even if a driver has won a lot of races, but his sponsor doesn't pay for commercial time, the races where he is not up front, he becomes "old news" and is not covered at all. The example from the 2003 season is Ryan Newman. The man won the most races all year, was in contention most every week, yet in a few of the late races when he was involved in a wreck or had a mechanical problem that put him behind the wall, NBC didn't even bother interviewing him or telling us when/if he returned to the race. Yet take a driver with a sponsor who buys a lot of commercial time during the broadcast and Fox or NBC are both guilty of showing that driver, even if he is having a bad run or is in the garage for many laps. Is this really race coverage of just selective coverage as directed by the network executives? I had a reader write me and pose the question that maybe the networks in their desire for the coveted "new" fan, feel that the casual fan can't possibly remember all the drivers, so they will just focus on the few big names or popular drivers so there will be less for them to remember. If this is the case, it's a real shame.

Along the same line, many times after wrecks both networks do not give the viewers information on the fate of wrecked cars for quite a long time. This is frustrating to the fans of those drivers and viewers, like myself, who want to know what's going on with every car on the track. I believe Fox has actually used the term "backmarker" during the season to describe some of the less successful teams and that really bothered me. If those teams actually have a sponsor, how do you think a term like backmarker goes over with their sponsor? For those teams without sponsors, do the networks even care that comments like this could stop them from attracting a sponsor and thereby improving their chances in future races? Based on information on the tickers, there were obviously more folks passing for position back in the pack, but the viewers rarely saw them. I spent much of the latter portion of the season, watching the ticker instead of what NBC was showing me on the screen as I got tired of coverage of only the points contenders or the leaders in the race. Sometimes, Fox made an effort to do a rundown of some of the cars in the top 15, but then seem to pick and choose who they talk about, rather giving the viewers an update on all of the cars. Many times the leader would have a large lead in the middle portions of the race and I would have like to have known how far back the second place car was running from him and we rarely got that interval. NBC was better at this, but sometimes they just got too concerned with certain drivers to show us this information. Also in the last few laps of a race, as has become the tradition with the new TV partners, many times they switch from a battle for position to show the leader running alone on the track. What if there is a battle for 2nd and 3rd or heaven forbid a heated battle just to get into the top 15 or 20? The people at home will never know about it because the camera is showing the leader running alone on the track.

Fox started it and NBC tagged along with adding an extra line of data to the ticker in 2003, with a "status bar". The information provided by Fox actually appeared in annoying cliches of a tabloid nature, with NBC just giving us written highlights of the race. Fox even inserted some sort of baseball news on the ticker at times. I found both took more screen space away from the race. Wasn't it bad enough we got the ticker and then another line for other information? Now we have 3-4 lines of information taking away from the viewable portion of the race! To me, these status lines are catering to the short-attention span crowd who flip between the race and something else and show a disregard for the fans who actually stay tuned to the network throughout the entire event.

In a truly lackluster season, both networks were obviously given the "show extreme excitement no matter what" marching orders from the network executives. Again,this shows little respect for the intelligence level of the viewing audience. I find it highly insulting to have the commentators constantly telling me how exciting something is when I can clearly see that the race is a runaway or the person winning is only doing so because of a drafting partner or gas mileage.

NBC always seemed to search for a "storyline" in the race, which I found annoying, such as the extreme hype surrounding the Brickyard 400 or the championship chase in the last few races. I understand they were trying to bring some life to some boring races (particularly Indy), but this type of thing just seems contrived to me.

Two of a Kind
This brings me to the issues I have with both networks. Both networks continue to bombard the viewers with on-screen ads which detract from the racing. Fox had a Pizza Hut sponsored spinning car superimposed during racing action and NBC had the Aflak duck. Both have on-screen polls with annoying jingles and graphics covering up the screen, and are really nothing but commercials for Cingular or some other company. The Virtual Crew Chief questions on the screen are also just a poorly disguised commercial.

One thing that really bothers me is that both networks are guilty of showing mostly wreck footage in their promos and highlights. To me this says that the network executives making the decisions on promotional ads really think racing is nothing but wrecks or that they are trying to appeal only to those new fans who want the X-Games or wrestling. Both networks also place way too much emphasis on replaying controversial incidents between drivers outside the race car.

Both networks were guilty of dumbing down the broadcast in the major TV markets, such as Las Vegas and California, Texas and Michigan as well as showing a lot more commercials during these races. We got the new Fox graphic of "Biggest Movers" and "Dropping Back." I guess this is also suppose to take the place of coverage of the rest of the field. NBC continued with this type of thing as well.

We hear that the networks want more night races, yet many of the current races that are run on nights are moved from Fox to FX and from NBC to TNT, such as Richmond, Bristol, the Winston, etc. Many times the networks do not allow enough time for the races (this happens many times with day races as well).

Both Fox and NBC dropped the ball when they didn't include special tributes at the track in their pre-race shows. During the Fox broadcast of the Bristol spring race, I was really disappointed that the pre-race show wasted so much time on replays from the week before that they could not find time to show the tribute to Alan Kulwicki and the three other men who died in an airplane crash near Bristol ten years ago that weekend. With NBC, they really did a poor job of covering the Winston Past Champions Tributes during the latter part of the season. It seemed like they showed only certain drivers and mostly those featuring network personalities.

Each network is guilty of showing the starting grid quickly and the announcers don't run down the names of all the drivers. I have a hard time concentrating on the grid when the guys in the booth are jabbering about something else. Many of my readers have written me with the same complaint.

Fox and NBC practically drool over "The Big One" at the restrictor plate tracks, yet when "The Big One" occurs, neither network assures the viewers at home that all of the drivers are okay. I understand they don't always know right away, but simply telling us they don't know would be better than nothing. After so many horrible accidents in the last few years, I've begun to expect the worst especially when the networks don't mention how a driver is at all.

Both networks seemed to want to create nicknames for things this past season. Fox had "Mongo" and NBC had "the Lucky Dog Pass." Both were annoying and seemed obvious attempts for the networks to get credit for things that become part of the sport. But I will give Fox credit for using the term coined by the internet group r.a.s.n. of Buschwhackers for those Winston Cup drivers entering Busch races, as opposed to NBC insisting on coming up with their own term, "Ambuschers", which was just plain silly.

Each network appeared to shy away from telling the viewers some negative things that happened during a race. With Fox, it was them not mentioning the Army skydivers injured during the spring Rockingham race. With NBC, it was them not reporting about the hood flying off Robby Gordon's car and injuring a fan during the Pepsi 400.

The End
After really weighing all the pros and cons of each network during the 2003 season, I feel NBC wins hands down for their broadcasts. Personally I'd trade all the high quality cameras and better commercial spacing on Fox for a broadcast team who does everything within their power to keep the viewers informed about what is happening in the pits and on the track. A team whose announcers have no personal agendas, such as promoting their brothers or reminiscing about their own careers - a team who makes it clear they are there to comment on the race only and leave the gags for the sitcoms later in the week. I'm not saying that either team provides me with exactly what I want to see from a race broadcast, but NBC comes the closest of the two. Fox has assembled a talented group of people for their broadcast team - in the booth, the production truck, cameramen, and on pit road. They have the potential to do a much better job with the race broadcasts than they do. If they could just take a step back once and a while and focus more on the race at hand, that would be a plus. Try to admit when something is not working for all the viewers, not just the vocal few. Spend more of their time telling the viewers about the race itself, not spending so much time trying to be funny and entertaining. I also think the viewers would be better served if Fox would just tone down the graphics a bit. Sometimes more information is not always a good thing. The Fox broadcasts have some good points; however, for me, the bad seems to overshadow the positive things. In conclusion, I can only echo my friend Ken Solheim's observation that NBC's approach to race coverage treats the viewer with respect.

I can only hope that with the 2004 NASCAR season both networks make positive improvements to their coverage by covering more of the field and Fox will tone down the graphics as NBC did in 2003. I felt that they had a good mix of technology for those who crave it without detracting from the reason viewers are tuning in - to see the racing on the track. Let's also hope the 2004 race season provides some good racing for fans to enjoy on TV and at the track! Only 41 days until Daytona!

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