The view from my couch
Fox Coverage of the CaliforniaSpeedway.com 300 Busch Race
I wasn't really planning on doing a review of the Busch Race this weekend, but there ended up being a few things about the Fox broadcast that I just had to mention. First off, it was really great to have this race on the main Fox network, that way those of us with high definition TVs got to see it in widescreen. It's always great to have the enhanced picture quality. Unfortunately, beyond the great quality picture, there's not a whole lot of positive things I have to say about the broadcast. The title to this article may seem excessively long, but I thought it was only right that the actual sponsor of the race got mentioned, since Fox spent all of their time calling it "Busch racing presented by Yamaha".
It seemed quite obvious that Fox is already getting ready for the end of their half of the NASCAR season and switching their focus to baseball. This was evident by the extended interview that Jeanne Zelasko had with some baseball players in the garage area during the first caution. It's wonderful that Jeanne is looking forward to switching to baseball in a couple of weeks, but this is supposed to be a race broadcast, not an advertisement for the Fox baseball shows.
Secondly, it has become sadly apparent that the powers that be at Fox (and perhaps NASCAR itself) don't feel the Busch Series can stand on it's own without the emphasis on the Winston Cup drivers running in the races at companion events. The announcers in the booth spent the majority of their time telling us about WC regulars, Michael Waltrip, Kenseth, and Harvick. Granted they were running at the front of the field all day long, but isn't the race for the Busch championship between the Busch regulars? Maybe, I'm just strange that I'd like to know more about what's going on with people like David Green, Jason Keller, and Todd Bodine, who are contending for the championship. I appreciate that Bodine did get quite a few mentions from Mike Joy, especially when he emphasized how the Herzog-Jackson team was leading the points and is still sponsorless this far into the season. But David Green, who won the last race, was not even shown until the waning laps of the race. The same with Jason Keller. I can only believe that the people in charge of Fox and Fox Sports don't think the Busch Series is important at all, and only use the Saturday races as a means to promote their other sports and the Winston Cup races coming up on Sunday.
A caution occurred on lap 2 of this race and there was an extended yellow, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was so Fox could have their little promo for baseball or something. What really bothered me was when the race finally went back to green, neither the announcers nor the tickers told us what lap it was. Many laps occurred before the ticker finally showed us it was "138 to go". I'm still stumped as to why Fox didn't tell us how many caution laps occurred before that restart. It's omissions like this that make some fans wonder if the network asked NASCAR to extend the caution so they could get there baseball promos out of the way early.
My next complaint was around "136 to go" when DW said "Joe Nemechek is not with us anymore". Great phrasing Darrell...Mike Joy quickly jumped in and said "He took his car to the garage". Yeah, I'll admit I guess I want it both ways. I complain when the announcers talk about the Winston Cup drivers too much in Busch, but this time it would have been nice to know that Nemechek was the first car out of the race. I guess even though he's a two-time winner in Busch this season, Fox doesn't think he's a big enough "name" to get mentioned. It's bad enough when this happens to one of the so-called field-fillers, but Nemechek is a former champion of the BGN Series. Oh wait, that's right, that was well before the powers that be at Fox ever heard of NASCAR... The same thing happened when two-time champion, Randy LaJoie, came into the pits smoking. We never heard what happened to him until the mid-point of the race. I think it was Mike Joy that mentioned that he had returned to the track, but was 17 laps down. It would just be nice if, among all their rambling, the Fox commentators could find the time to update the viewers about the status of all the drivers.
As usual, we had Darrell talking non-stop about his brother much of the day. And they called TNN 'The Nepotism Network'! Throughout the day, we also got plenty of lovely in-car views from Michael Waltrip's car - those meaningful shots of a blank track in front or behind him, but which were sure to include his sponsor's logo in the shot.
Now we come to Bobby Labonte working in the production truck on this broadcast. As some might guess, I have a lot of interest in the production process. But as usual, Fox didn't think it was worthwhile to show the actual people working behind the scenes without featuring a Winston Cup star in their midst. Do you see a theme here? Fox = stars or personalities. I like Bobby Labonte just fine, but I'd really have rather seen Neil Goldberg and Artie Kempler at work. Not to mention all the unnamed technical people who really make the broadcasts happen, but never get the credit they so richly deserve. All weekend long, Fox had been slapping themselves on the back for winning a Sports Emmy for their audio during NASCAR races. Finally, one of the people responsible for audio was mentioned during this time. He was the audio mixer and I believe his name was Fred, but unfortunately I didn't catch his last name.
Okay, on to a couple of good things I saw in this broadcast. Jeanne Zelasko had a very good report when NASCAR called Kenseth back into the pits to replace a missing lugnut. Jeanne reported that it was not simply one lugnut, but missing lugnuts were discovered on two of his tires. This was great information and heads up reporting by Jeanne. There were also some great replays of Kerry Earnhardt's spin and the secondary contact that happened between Hermie Sadler and Chad Blount while diving onto pit road to avoid the wreck. Matt Yocum also reminded the viewers that Mike Bliss had won at the California track in the inaugural truck series race here a few years ago.
I guess the guys in the broadcast booth just couldn't control themselves after having a weekend off because they talked through most of the scanner bites during this race. Also, at one point, I was totally lost in their usual irrelevant chatter. Someone was talking about Kasey Kahne and how he looked to be headed towards his career best finish. DW chimes in and says something about how fun he was to work with at Martinsville. I'm thinking "Huh??? Kasey Kahne worked on a truck team at Martinsville?" Finally, I realized that DW as still back on a previous conversation concerning his brother Michael's crew chief. I should have known he was going to milk his much-touted truck series run from two weeks ago. How many weeks until NBC takes over??
In the latter part of the race, I will give Fox credit that they were showing the battle among some Busch regulars in picture-in-picture, while showing leader, Kenseth, running alone in the other picture. But at one point, we saw Ron Hornaday tap Shane Hmiel to get by. Next thing, there is a view out the back of Hornaday's car of an empty track. I guess it was just a good chance to get the A/C Delco logo on screen, rather than showing the action on the track. But Fox did stay with some exciting action between Bodine, Hmiel, and McMurray at the end of the race. We even got to see David Green a few times during the last few laps.
In Victory Lane, Matt Yocum told winner, Kenseth, "Your 13 wins ties DW." Give me a break! Is this the DW Show now? Thankfully, Kenseth looked appropriately non-impressed by the statement. There were also interviews with several of the top finishers, including Kahne, who did end up with a career-best finish.
Before this race, I already wasn't really looking forward to the weekend at California and the return of the Fox broadcast team. I can only hope that the Winston Cup race will focus more on the on-track activity, rather than self-promotion by Darrell Waltrip and Fox. But then I've always been an optimist...
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