The view from my couch

Fox Coverage of the Auto Club 500
by Desmond Hobson
May 3, 2004

Although Fox could have done a better job with the Auto Club 500 broadcast Sunday, it was a good effort overall. For a network that puts so much entertainment into its telecasts that it's hard to see the sports, the network actually showed much restraint. Fox stuck mainly to the issues both on and off the track and tried its best not to stray away from its focus. This is especially hard to do at a track like California Speedway, which has relatively little action and where the outcome is decided relatively early on in the race.

Being a reasonably new fan to the sport, I feel I am more open-minded about the Fox coverage than most of others at the Speedcouch forum. Still, I knew that I had my work cut out for me reviewing the Auto Club 500. After all, this is the network that apparently pioneered covering sports as entertainment. You have to get through a lot of stuff to see what you come to see. Here are some specific likes and dislikes I had about the telecast:

The Good

At least the "10 laps" questions to Kyle Petty were tasteful.

DW did not sing during the race when presented the opportunity to launch into the Bobby Fuller Four/Clash hit, "I Fought the Law."

Almost all radio from the teams could be heard clearly.

The major stories of the race were covered well, whether it was the heat, track position, or fuel mileage.

Less reliance on Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett and Michael Waltrip during the telecast.

Split screens were used so that viewers could see multiple position battles and pit stops simultaneously.

DW was allowed to give his views on how to fix race finishes (don't count caution laps late in the race, allow racing back to the caution late, no green-white-checkers) as Fox addressed Talladega controversy.

Morgan Shepherd's good run as an independent was actually covered.

The Bad

Obligatory celebrity shot: actress Rhea Perlman.

When Fox returned from a break, there was a caution; it gave no word as to what lap it was on.

Cingular-sponsored poll question: "Who is the most likely NASCAR driver to be a movie star?" (55% said Dale Jr., 25% Jeff Gordon, 20% Tony Stewart)

Another reminder of how Bang Racing (Larry McReynolds, co-owner) and Darrell Waltrip Motorsports are doing in the truck series. At least Bang's Travis Kvapil and Mike Skinner, and DWM's David Reutimann, are in the top five in points

Steve Byrnes doused by fun-loving fans in the pre-race show, then by the #31 pit crew during the race.

They had to replay some pit stops due to a commercial when they occurred.

The ticker situation for the starting grid is getting worse. This week, only the first set of information (drivers' last name and picture) was shown on the screen. No display of car, or word on names of crew chiefs.

Dale Jarrett and Michael Waltrip got into accidents during times Fox showed the views from their in-car cameras.

Fox joined the restart on Lap 62 in progress.

DW told a story of how Bobby Allison handled the heat during green flag racing.

Race update box: "Biffle busts tranny." What? Did "tranny" become slang for transmission when no one was looking?

Dick Berggren told us that there was debris on the track, causing a caution. Where was it?

Late-race commercials (with 28 and 17 laps to go). At least we don't miss much, since it's Fontana.

The last green-flag segment began with Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond. Why can't they trust Mike Joy, Larry Mac and DW to take us the rest of the way, from the moment that break ended?

I hope all of you enjoyed the race, and I trust that Cheryl and Lou made it back safely from the USAR race at Lonesome Pine.

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