The view from my couch
NBC Coverage of the Banquet 400
by Sally Baker
When NBC came on the air, Bill Weber told viewers they were on a 'hurry up' schedule since there was rain predicted for the area. Most of the pre-race show was spent rehashing the Earnhardt expletive incident, apologizing to viewers, then informing us they would now use a 5 second delay for live interviews to protect their audience from offensive material. They then said that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. declined to be interviewed on the subject. Bob Dilner also interviewed John Darby about an incident between Tony Stewart and Mike Bliss after the Busch race on Saturday in the garage. John Darby seemed to be downplaying the incident. They had time to interview several of the “chase” drivers, but I don't remember then talking to Joe Nemechek for winning the pole.
As soon as the green flag dropped, Sterling Marlin had a transmission let go. NBC had a great in-car camera shot, showing the hood belly up when it grenaded. NBC went to commercial shortly after the race restarted, but broke out of commercial to show Carl Edwards spin. Again, they had great replays. Several cars made pit stops which they covered, but they kept jumping from car to car before stops were completed. Several times Wally or Benny would comment that someone had a great stop, but viewers often didn't get to see a stop to completion. Or, jumping around, the stop watch didn't always appear. When the race restarted, Wally mentioned that there had been several close calls on pit road, but they never showed any of them to the fans, even in replay.
After the 2 early cautions, the race settled into a long green flag run with the field rapidly spreading out around the track, and cars starting to go laps down. The guys in the booth spent a lot of time discussing about how much better the track has gotten, now having two grooves for racing. We would see evidence of this later in the race.
There was another caution when Kyle Busch hit the wall, and Mark Martin hit debris, flattening both of his right side tires. Again, NBC had great replays, showing the debris clearly. Things got more interesting when there was more trouble on the track. Unfortunately, it often took several second for the cameras to find the incident. Again during pit stops, the coverage jumped around so often from car to car that it was difficult to keep up with what was happening. Excellent replays when Casey Mears and Ryan Newman hit the wall and Robby Gordon spun helped catch the viewers up to the action.
The #01 Army car got to the front and was running away from the pack. Unfortunately, the camera concentrated on that car with a 4 second lead, running alone on the track, instead of finding the cars further back from 6 – 16 places, racing each other for position. We got an occasional glimpse of the action in the distance behind the 01. This is the type of thing that makes a race seem extremely dull, and short changes fans at home from seeing some exciting (I assume) action.
Two late race cautions kept the racing exciting, and NBC did a good job covering Nemecheck and Ricky Rudd racing hard for the win.
NBC left plenty of time for post race interviews, for a change. The first benefit I noticed from having the 5 second delay was that we got to 'see'Joe Nemechek drive his car to victory lane, get out of the car right away, and celebrate with his crew. He didn't have to sit in the car, waiting to 'spontaneously' get out for interviews. NBC carefully interviewed all of the top 10 finishers that weren't in the 'chase' first, obviously showing they were going to give 'equal time' covering the 'other' drivers on the track. The delay was not noticeable to me, since several of the interviews are routinely taped to be shown at more convenient times during post race coverage.
I felt this was an unusually uneven broadcast for NBC. Excellent pit road reporting and replays from several angles of many on0track incidents were well done. The jumpiness of the pit stops and delays in finding problems on the track made it often difficult for me to keep up with what was happening
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