The view from my couch
FX Coverage of the Hardee's 250 Busch Race
I keep hearing how the TV networks are pressuring NASCAR to increase the number of night races. I simply don't understand why they are pushing for this change since the over the air networks of Fox and NBC refuse to show the current races run on Friday and Saturday nights. Every time there is a night race, they push them off on their cable outlets of FX or TNT. Richmond is a perfect example of this situation. In addition, with the cable networks, the commercial time is less expensive; therefore, Fox and NBC must sell more commercials to pay for the broadcast. The result is the viewers at home are forced to endure endless commercials during the race broadcasts. This weekend at Richmond was a pitiful example, beginning with the Busch Race on Friday night.
Apparently, someone at Fox didn't seem to think three people all trying to talk at once during a race broadcast was enough, so they added Rusty Wallace to the booth for this race. However, I have to say I thought Rusty added a lot more useful commentary than Darrell Waltrip does. Perhaps Rusty and Darrell could switch off on some of the races in the future? The most positive difference I noticed was that Rusty didn't seem to focus on his own career or be overly concerned with what his brother was doing in the race he was covering. While Rusty has been known to make quite a few outrageous or not politically correct comments in the past, he conducted himself in a very professional manner during the broadcast. Maybe his so-called "old buddy" DW could learn a thing or two from Rusty yet.
During the rundown of the starting grid, Mike Joy barely acknowledged the front row before the usual circus in the booth began blathering on about something else. Excuse me? Aren't they here to tell us about the Busch Race? Thankfully, Rusty spoke up and asked "Who else is running in this race," in an obvious attempt to get them focused back on the race. Mike could also take a cue from Rusty on keeping his cohorts more focused. At the beginning of the race, the rest of the crew were also trying to get Rusty to say that annoying Boogity times three. He distainfully said "Agh, that thing is getting old!" I had to applaud his frankness for having the nerve to point out that even the other drivers see that the continued use of this phrase is just plain silly. Unfortunately, DW and the rest of the crew had to continue until they shamed him into saying it any way. How sad that the start of the race must always be overshadowed by the antics from the broadcast team
From the beginning, it was quite obvious that the viewers at home were going to be treated to the Busch version of the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Show. Even though he was not running in this race, his driver, Martin Truex, Jr. was given a great deal of coverage. Yes, Truex did an impressive job and was running in the top ten throughout much of the race. I couldn't help but think it sure would be nice if the rest of the new Busch drivers were given as much exposure as this young man. I guess they don't have famous benefactors. During the race, the viewers were even treated to two interviews with Earnhardt from atop his pit box. Meanwhile, a race was going on and, as usual, the folks at home rarely got to see Busch regulars, such as David Green and Todd Bodine. This is becoming business as usual on the Fox networks - don't cover all the Busch regulars, just those the Winston Cup "stars" that Fox seems to favor.
Earlier on Friday, Fox told us about Jerry Nadeau's accident with quite a bit of respect and without their usual sensationalism. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to consider that the viewers were still reeling from his accident when Mike Joy screamed "He hit the wall HARD" every time there was an accident all weekend long. Frankly, I was very disappointed in Joy and each time, he yelled "HARD," my stomach lurched, thinking we'd end up with another driver in intensive care. Can't Fox tone things down just once in a while??? My husband remarked that Joy seemed gleeful each time another caution or wreck occurred. I honestly don't believe Mike feels this way, but he needs to look at how it comes across to those outside the Fox booth.
I'm not sure if FX was using the regular director this weekend or not, but there were many obvious technical glitches during this broadcast. Most notably, camera shots showing the haulers in the in-field or the Musco lighting, rather than staying with the action on the track. Also, there was some pixelization of certain shots or loss of picture entirely near the end of this race. I don't know if this was caused by the weather in the Richmond area or what. Also, there were numerous missed restarts because of the endless commercials on FX. One time, there had already been a wreck by the time FX returned to the race. All I know is that I felt completely shortchanged concerning the entire race. It seemed promoting FX shows was much more important than showing the race that was scheduled for Friday night.
On the positive side, there was some excellent use of the split screen during the latter parts of the Busch race, showing various battles going on within the top ten. Also, as has become the custom in recent weeks, this seems to be the only time Fox chooses to focus on some of the Busch regulars.
I'm sorry I can't come up with more positive things to say about the broadcast. There just weren't very many of them during this broadcast. The Richmond races are usually some of the best ones on the NASCAR circuits; however, it was really hard to tell what was going on during this race. The lack of continuity because of the constant commercials detracted a lot from what was probably a good race.
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