The view from my couch

Fox Coverage of the Sirius 400 from Michigan

This was an average broadcast. There was some coverage of the top 15, but Fox just can't seem to cover significant things involving all the drivers. It also seemed like Fox broke for commercial every 10 minutes or so throughout the entire race. It's real hard to get any kind of continuity when there are so many breaks, but I guess nearby Detroit is considered one of the "top TV markets," so I guess the Fox ad people had a field day selling commercial time. The result is the viewers in Michigan and everywhere else get treated to more and more commercials. Along with increased use of the pointers.

Pre-Race Show

Darrell Waltrip mentioned that Matt Kenseth had the largest point lead at this point of the season since 1991 and had finished something like 99.9% of all the laps this year. This was very interesting.

There was a replay of Brett Bodine's horrible crash from Saturday's practice and Chris Meyers reported that he was knocked unconscious during the wreck. I was still wondering why Mike Joy didn't report on his injuries on the little taped promo for the Winston Cup Race that aired during the Busch Race the night before. I'd already heard about his injuries on the Internet and it really bothered me that, yet again, Fox was too quick to assure the viewers that someone was okay (kind of like they did with Jeff Green last week at Pocono). Later in the show, there was a live interview with Brett, who looked in pretty bad shape, but was still at the track to support his team.

Speaking of Green's wreck, there was a nice feature on the safety innovations, which featured the Green wreck from Pocono. I was a little confused by Meyers' comment that the wreck "knocked his shoes off." I don't know if this was more of Meyers' bad humor or was meant literally, though I suspect the former.

Just before the race started, Larry McReynolds updated us on all of the drivers who had to start at the back of the field because engine changes, back-up cars, etc.

The Race

When Ken Schrader and Ricky Rudd were involved in a wreck on lap two, Fox had to pull out footage of Schrader's wreck from last week. They did have a good replay with their highlight circle showing the cars involved in this accident. After a commercial, Mike Joy gave us a rundown of the seven cars that chose to pit under the caution. Later, Dick Berggren had an interview with Schrader and Rudd after they came out of the infield care center.

The pointers appeared on lap 7, and frankly they were flying around so much, I got confused as to where Tony Stewart was actually running. I knew he was the leader, but the pointers made it look like he was in third, and the shot was so far away, it was impossible to tell until they finally zoomed in on the field.

Fox showed us an unscheduled pit stop by Greg Biffle and then gave us a replay to show when he had the tire problem that caused the stop. Next we saw pointers over the 8, 99 and 24 cars. I'm not sure why.

The next caution was brought out by Dave Blaney spinning and hitting the wall. Fox never really explained what had happened to him or followed up on the damage to his car. I assumed he was out of the race, but then I saw his car listed ahead of Biffle's on the ticker, so I had to assume he was back on the track. Much later in the race, Larry mentioned that he was off the track again, but had come back out.

Mike did tell us that Mike Wallace cut a tire and lost a lap, but there was no follow-up or highlights of this unscheduled stop. Dick reported on a radio transmission where Sterling Marlin's team reminded him that there might be bad blood between Stewart and Ryan Newman, so he should stay back from them.

There was excellent coverage of Newman's engine blowing and the subsequent fire and him getting out of the car. We also got to hear his spotter directing him to the closest fire truck. Jeff Hammond illustrated where the pistons were located on the Cutaway Car and how they could pierce the oil pan if one of them went though the bottom of the engine, causing the type of fire we saw on Newman's car.

Mike reported on Terry Labonte making several pit stops during this caution to try and correct a problem with his car. Matt Yocum followed up with an interview with his crew chief, Jim Long, who said they had some debris in the carburetor.

Fox had time to have about six commercial breaks during this long caution and still missed the restart. By the time they'd gotten back, there was already a wreck on the track. But they did show a replay. Fox is getting really good at replays of the action. Then they broke for yet another commercial. When they returned, they showed us a replay with the highlight circle showing that Christian Fittapaldi had hit Steve Park to bring out the caution.

Next, Dick had an interview with Newman. All of a sudden at the end of it, Mike says something unrelated about a midget driver being inducted into the hall of fame with DW. Then they started babbling about the Gordon/Montoya switch at Indy. I don't know if there was a lack of coordination from the production truck or what, but it made me feel like I was watching taped footage of the Newman interview or an alternate soundtrack from another show. Of course, many of the discussions in the booth don't have a lot to do with the race they're suppose to be commenting on, so I don't know why I was surprised.

Fox was showing us the speeds of the cars running around 13th position, via their lovely pointers and thankfully got back to the front in time to catch the 40 passing the 20 for the lead. I know I complain about lack of coverage through the field, but Fox has shown it's possible to use a split screen, so why not show the coverage of 13th in one frame and what is leading up to the pass for the lead in another? It often seems like the actual racing and how the passes are set up is lost in the need to use the pointers and other gadgets or perhaps feature the cars whose sponsors are buying advertising on Fox.

Next we got to see a wonderful promo for Fox baseball coverage, taking up one-quarter of the screen. This was followed closely by Mike screaming because Jimmy Spencer got close to the wall. I know Spencer has become a favorite of the booth folks, but we don't usually hear them screaming when some other people actually hit the wall, let alone almost hit it.

During this time it seemed like one of the cameras was very blurry. As last week, the picture went widescreen at about the mid-point of the race. Does someone doing the digital broadcast for Fox forget to flip the switch every week now? Many times, I noticed that the pit reporters were talking about different cars than the director was featuring on the screen. Such as showing lost sheet metal on Jimmie Johnson's car, but reporting something on Rusty Wallace's car. There just seemed to be a real lack of coordination during this part of the broadcast. At least twice, the ticker showed the interval between the leader and a certain car and the announcers told us something completely different. One time it was "Gordon is reeling him in. The interval is down to 3.3 seconds," when the ticker showed the interval to Gordon as 1.7 seconds. Another time, Mike said that Kenseth was 15 seconds behind the leader and the ticker showed the interval as somewhere in the 10-second bracket. Sometimes, I just have to wonder what really relevant data the ticker is providing us.

When the caution came out because of oil from Derrick Cope's car, Dick told us that Marlin had just keyed his radio to tell his team that he though he had a flat tire. This was great information and showed how lucky he was to get a caution at this time.

At lap 79, the ticker was just getting to the back of the pack, where it would show cars which were laps down, when the information just went away. During this time, I was trying to figure out how many laps Biffle and Blaney were down and found it very annoying that they wouldn't show the information for the entire field. Of course, this happens quite often with Fox not thinking the end of the field is worth the effort.

Around lap 97, Larry reported that Ricky Craven was moving up a lot and gaining ground on the leader every lap. Next, we heard some relevant radio communications between Jeff Gordon and his crew, where they told him that Craven was gaining on him fast and Gordon asked if Craven was running at the top of the track. This was really good.

There was excellent coverage of everyone's green flag pit stops. Mike told us that Geoffrey Bodine had retired his car because of engine problems and we saw a shot of it going behind the wall. Dick followed this up with an interview with Bodine. The announcers told us that Jack Sprague had gotten a penalty for speeding on pit road. There was also a good replay of one team, showing short-cuts they did in order to get those quick pit stops.

The cameramen were on top of things and showed us a shot of the debris that brought out a caution at lap 159. There was also a good sound bite from Marlin's team, urging him not to give anyone a lap back. At this time, Mike told us that Johnson and Johnny Benson were a lap down. It sure would have been nice to see where they actually lost their laps.

During the ensuing pit stops, they were using the triple-split screen to show us the stops of the top three cars. All of a sudden, Fox switched away from the lead cars to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s stop. I guess someone in charge told them they hadn't given him enough coverage this week.

When Marlin missed a shift on the restart at lap 164, Fox showed him falling back, but didn't stay with him to show the outcome. They quickly shifted to the pointers over the leader, Gordon, and Craven who was running in fourth. They finally got around to showing a replay of Marlin's problem and interviewing his crew chief to see if he'd said anything.

Not too long after this restart, Fox was off to another commercial and we came back to another caution. But they were quick to show us one of the now-familiar replays of Stewart cutting in too close on Biffle, who slowed and got run into from the rear by Craven. Mike reported that ten of the lead lap cars pitted and Todd Bodine got his lap back at the caution. I guess a lot happened while Fox was away at commercial.

The next caution was brought out when Tony Raines hit the wall, but Fox didn't seem to feel Raines was worth a replay. I guess I'm funny. I like to see all the drivers and know what happens to them, not just those with high-paying sponsors or the perceived fan favorites. Isn't that why they run 43 cars every week? Isn't that part of the story Fox is supposed to be showing the viewers? We also didn't hear if any of the lead laps cars pitted during this caution, but Mike did list the 16 cars on the lead lap when Fox returned from commercial.

At lap 185, Fox employed the split screen to show the simultaneous battles for second and third and fourth and fifth positions. This was great! Unfortunately right after this, we got to see the usual in-car shots of nothing from the commercial cars of Stewart and Michael Waltrip.

At 12 laps to go, I kept thinking it would have been nice to know the interval between the first and second place cars. Finally, Mike told us that Bobby Labonte was gaining a tenth of a second a lap on leader, Kurt Busch. On the last few laps, we got to see more in-car shots of blank track from Stewart and Waltrip's cars. This was even before Waltrip passed Earnhardt for position.

The announcers told us there was a wreck on the last lap, but the camera stayed on Busch crossing the finish line way ahead of the second place car instead. Finally, Mike told us that the wreck involved Fittapaldi and Kyle Petty and we got to see the aftermath. This is the second week in a row that there was a wreck near the back of the pack at the end of the race and Fox couldn't get a camera shot of it.

We got the usual Victory Lane interview with the winner and most of the top five finishers. Following the Father's Day theme, someone told us about Busch's father. As Meyers was doing his usual stupid closing remarks, what he said really bothered me. Jeff Gordon had just wished a Happy Father's Day to his stepfather in his interview. Meyers has to make some tabloid remarks about his stepfather not being happy with Jeff's divorce, but they were "mending fences." How utterly tacky and disrespectful to both men. Whoever fed that bit of tabloid information to Meyers ought to be ashamed of themselves! And what a sad way to sign off from the broadcast. Of course, I guess it fits right in with all the awful "reality" shows that Fox keeps advertising during the race. Only one more week and we'll have a respite from Meyers, DW and the rest of the ridiculous Fox hype for another seven months.

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