The view from my couch
NBC Coverage of the Pepsi 400
Overall, this was a very solid effort for the return of NBC. It's so good to have a broadcast team that seems interested in telling us about the race rather than the hype and nonsense we hear from DW on Fox. That being said, I am very disappointed in the amount and frequency of commercials that plagued this broadcast. It was nowhere nearly as bad as the farce of a broadcast that TNT did for the Busch race on Friday night, but the commercials were still excessive.
I was very happy to see the return to Bill Weber and true class that he brings to a pre-race show. He's got a lot of great race experience, knowledge, and true love of the sport and it comes through in his show. There were interviews with a lot of the drivers and some good features on topics directly related to this race. These included Benny Parsons beginning a feature on the so-called gentlemen's agreement, including some footage of Mike Helton talking about it in the drivers' meeting. Also included was Wally Dallenbach discussing the yellow-line "rule," including taped commets from several drivers on the subject. There was a taped feature where Weber interviewed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I felt the crew and Wally, in particular, played up the supposed "fued" between Kevin Harvick and his teammate, Robby Gordon. As they were going to commercial right before the car got on the track, NBC showed some "star" getting into a car and Allen Bestwick told us "That's Angie Everhardt..." This meant nothing to me, but I guess she's someone from an NBC show or something.
During the pace laps, NBC unveiled this year's version of the floating bubble heads. Well, the best thing I can say about them is they aren't as large as last year, but are still ridiculous in my opinion, so this probably won't be the last you hear about them from me.
Marty Snider told us that Stacey Compton in the 4 car was being held on pit road because NASCAR had found an illegal fuel cell in pre-race inspection. Allen told us that Ricky Craven had a problem with his windshield and Dave Burnes explained they were changing his helmet visor to one that was not tinted.
It was SO nice to have a race started without any silly nonsense from the broadcast booth! The NBC crew simply told us the flag was coming out and then were silent for a few moments so the viewers could enjoy the start of the race.
After several laps, Allen pointed out that Kurt Busch had moved up from his starting position in the 30s to 17th position. I was disappointed to not have the announcers comment when Craven went high and dropped back drammatically, but I guess it was nothing but losing the draft.
After 10 laps of racing, NBC broke for their first commercial. This wouldn't have been so bad, but the NBC producer is continuing his silly practice of showing us a highlight video of the pre-race show as a seque when the viewers could've been watching live racing instead. When NBC returned from commercial, after just a couple of minutes, they showed us an illustration of drafting from the Virtual Garage. Again, this took the place of green flag racing and could've been saved for a better time in my opinion.
At lap 26, Allen told us that besides Busch, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton had both gained a lot of positions quickly as well. Unfortunately, not too much sooner, NBC broke for another commercial telling us this was to get it out of the way before the first round of pit stops came up. Yet when they returned, some teams had already pitted. I guess NBC considered them too minor to show us. This leads me to one theme that bothered me a bit all night. NBC seemed to focus way too much on the DEI cars of Earnhardt, Jr. and Michael Waltrip. Yes, they were the teams "to beat," but they weren't the only strong cars in this race.
During the coverage of pit stops, there were a few miscues for the NBC production crew. Matt Yocum was describing Sterling Marlin's pit stop, yet the camera was showing us Tony Stewart's stop. Quickly Matt changed over and started telling us what was going on with Stewart and how he had run out of gas coming onto pit road. Bill told us that Ward Burton had an overheating problem and also ran out of gas coming into the pits.
I see NBC has also picked up the silly Cingular poll questions, and for them, this commercial covered up half the TV screen. Thankfully, though, it wasn't on nearly as long as it was on Fox. I noted that NBC showed us that it was lap X of 160 throughout the first half of the race and this was great! They only showed X laps to go after the halfway point. This is a great improvement over Fox.
NBC made good use of radio conversations between drivers and their teams all night long. Examples were Richard Childress talking Robby Gordon early in the race, Michael Waltrip talking to his crew, and several conversations between Matt Kenseth and his crew chief.
The commercials seemed to increase in frequency during the period between 9:00 and 9:30 and this was really insulting to the viewer. We barely saw any of the race during this time. Again, I felt like I was watching a highlight show as we got to see Waltrip passing Harvick for th lead in replay only.
NBC started their first Through the Field of the night, but were interrupted when Jack Sprague spun Dave Blaney. I was very happy to see this feature return, if only NBC didn't insist on using those silly bubble heads during it. Also, why do they need the graphic of the track with the car number and interval from the leader and showing the interval next to the bubblehead? Especially since you couldn't read it anyway.
NBC did an excellent job queuing up replays of all the incidents of the night and we got to see a lot of varied angles and analysis of what happened by the commentators, many times based on the in-car camera views.
Matt reported that the 40 car had pitted twice to repair some sheet metal damage, but I don't think we ever heard what caused that damage. When the restart was called off, NBC went to commercial and then missed the restart. It really annoys me to hear the condenscending "we just went back to green" when you can clearly see the cars are already on the backstretch. Also, Allen got a bit carried away when Kurt Busch wrecked and collected several other cars, yelling "IS THIS THE BIG ONE?"
Allen told us which teams came in and topped off with fuel just before the next restart and this turned out to be a very important factor in the outcome of the race.
NBC showed us when Ken Schrader slowed down and they speculated that it might be a tire down or a blown engine, but didn't tell us what happened to him for quite sometime. Much later in the race, Allen told us he was out with a blown engine.
NBC continued another great feature that they started last season, the color-coding on the ticker showing which cars had made green flag pitstops.
NBC was away at commercial, yet again, when Bobby Labonte took the lead of the race. They were going to commercial again with 38 laps to go, but stayed around to show us the 8 car taking the lead. They explained they were going to the next commercial because the 8 car was getting ready to make it's final pitstop. When they came back, it was getting pretty dicey in front of the field, but NBC showed us the 8 car making it's pitstop instead. Do you see a theme here?
In the waning laps of the race, the pit reporters did a great job following up on which cars could make it on fuel. Marty reported that Kenseth would have to come in with 3 laps to go and confirmed this with his crew chief. Bill reported that Ward Burton would be 1/2 a lap short on fuel. When Bobby Labonte ran out of fuel on the last lap, NBC told us right away.
At the end of the race, I really liked that NBC used a "pilon" to show us the finishing order of the cars as they crossed the line. I know a lot of fans write me that they like this feature. Since the race finished early, NBC had a lot of time to fill and interviewed a lot of the drivers besides the winner. They did seem to get a little carried away, having the pit reporters show the video from Busch's wreck and asking them to describe how they got through it, but I guess they were trying to fill a little time.
Overall, this was a good first effort for the return of NBC. Now if the advertising people at the network would just cut back some on selling advertising so we could actually see more of the race, I'd be very happy.
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