The view from my couch
Fox Coverage of the Advance Auto Parts 500
by Vivian Simons
April 20, 2004
I think this was a very good broadcast by Fox. I don't know if it was because it was a short track race and the crew kept busy due to the action on the track or what was the reason for the improvement, but I felt it was better than usual.
The lead in music of Mayberry RFD was appropriate for Martinsville as it relates to the location of the track. A short history of the track being built next to a railroad track was given by Chris & Jeff with the mention that the train track would be moved over the mountain and more stands would be built before the next race there in the fall. Next they switched to DW by the racetrack with track owner who gave Darrell a surprise award. Darrell was truly surprised and this was good to see. After this, Fox had a short interview with Jeff Gordon on his dominance at Martinsville was next and then a points update. Next was the "10 Laps With" segment which I could do without as I feel the questions are rather irrelevant and a waste of time. Kasey Kahne was the feature driver for this and he didn't seem to be too excited over the whole thing. At least we did not have the usual As The Wheels Turn segment, thank goodness. They talked briefly about Jeff Burton and his future and went trackside for opening ceremonies. The Executive VP for Advance welcomed us and then Chris mentioned the oldest and younger drivers in this race. Next, the most astonishing thing happened. No one ever said Gentlemen, start your engines!” A Nashville star winner and someone else just asked, “Fans, are you ready? Drivers, are you ready?” Then everyone seemed to be at a loss until Mike said “Well. the engines are started.” Then they cut to the track and Darrell to talk about the track being both concrete and asphalt and results if someone should hit the curb. He also mentioned the possibility of this being a good track for retaliations which could result in a trip to the oval office. I prefer Big White Truck as I feel there is truly only one Oval Office. A quick update from pit road and then Mike and Larry talked about how brakes plus front and rear end could effect the cars which led into a quick explanation from Jeff at the cutaway car on the cooling system and brake adjustment valve. All in all I felt the pre race show was a good informative one.
I am not a fan of the Boogity, boogity, boogity that DW insists on using every race start but I do realize there are some people who do like it and am thankful it only lasts a second. The first caution was on lap 6 when Hillenberg hit the wall and we got a good replay and Mike also informed us at this time that Ruttman had retired to the pits. He then tried to explain what he felt was the difference between field fillers and independents. I felt this was a good point as we have heard so much lately about field fillers and am glad they finally recognized the difference. He indicated that Morgan Shepherd is an independent and later in the race he brought this up again and mentioned how Morgan races and makes sure he is never in the way of the drivers who are racing for points or for the win.
Something I noticed in this broadcast as they cut away to commercial was that although there was an average of 6 commercials/infomercials each break they were normally equally divided into what I decided to call FNR or Fox Promotions, Nascar Promotions and Regular Commercials. I think they were spaced fairly well and only twice did we miss green flag restarts due to these breaks. I also noticed as they came back from these breaks they usually had a summary of sponsors who were bringing the race to us. I guess we could also call these commercials and that would bring the total number up to 9 or 10 for each break and alter the percentage.
Throughout the race I think they effectively used the split screen. Even when Mike wanted 9 splits they accommodated him. I am glad that was the only time we got the 9. During the split screen portions, they usually showed us the leader(s) and other competition further back in the pack. Sometimes it was for 3rd to 5th and even for 9th or 10th or for 14th. I think they showed us more in pack racing in this race than they have all season. It appears they have taken notice of what some fans really want and maybe have started to listen or else they are trying harder. Whatever the reason, I think it is a positive change for them. Now if they will just keep it up.
When cautions came out, they usually took commercial breaks and sometimes showed us the replay before the break. If not before, then definitely after the break. I think they did a good job on most of the replays. It seemed that they kept us updated more on the cars that were having problems and what the problems were. They were slow in updating us on Todd Bodine's problem and after he went to the garage the first time, it took a very long time before they mentioned him again and the fact that he had made many trips to the garage. They were on top of Biffle's problem and advised us of the problem. When Mark Martin had problems, DW kind of speculated on what the problem could be but they were quick to let us know as soon as they knew that is was the same fuel line problem that Biffle had. During the race they tried to keep us updated on who got the free pass after each caution. At the restart on lap 225 we got our one and only crank it up feature. I would like to see more of this feature.
Throughout the race they gave explanations on issues and possible problems due to track temperature and the change from asphalt to concrete. When a chunk of concrete came up and hit Jeff Gordon's car, Nascar threw the red flag for an hour and 17 minute track repair. During this time I think Mike, Larry and DW plus the pit reporters did a good job keeping us updated and they had some good interviews and perspectives from a lot of the drivers. I think they managed to fill in the time well and did not seem to be saying stuff just to be saying stuff. And never once did DW sing which was good. I especially enjoyed the short clip about Hendrick and his first win there and they did show the #5 car that Geoff Bodine took to Victory Lane and they also pointed out that Geoff was the one to introduce power steering at Martinsville. This brought back many memories.
After the red flag restart they discussed how being stopped so long may have effected the brake fluids and rotors which in turn might create problems on the track when they went back to racing. They continued to use the split screen effectively and also kept using the pointers. However, I noticed they did not keep the pointers up as long as they once did. Around lap 328 they updated us on most of the cars on the lead lap which was 22 at that time. We were updated as to how #24 was making his way back through the field. They did not seem to zero in on just one driver all race long as they normally do although they did talk of some more than others. At least they showed us action back in the pack and talked about more than the first 5 or 10. And that could be because some of the better drivers were back in the pack. They were very good at updating us on Hermie Sadler's leg burns later when they showed an in car of him. At times they did give us some in car audio from several different drivers.
During the last 30 or so laps, they used the split screen a lot to show the frontrunners and the next 4, all of which had a chance to win. After it was obvious that the first 2 were out of reach, they stayed with the action of the 3rd through 6th place drivers. We did not see an over abundance of the leader just running on the track by himself as has become the norm on a lot of the tracks. I also noticed and appreciated the fact that we were not overly bombarded with in car shots.
Although the race and post race show ran over by 2 hours, the Fox Crew stayed on and did the interviews and I was pleased that they interviewed Rusty first. While they interviewed the rest of the top 5, they had a scroll of the Fox credits right underneath the finishing positions scroll at top of screen and I found this to be very acceptable as it possibly gave them more time for interviews and post race comments. They showed us the finishing order and also the top 30 in points before leaving the air. The view of fans walking away down the railroad tracks for the last time after the race will stay with me for a long time. Sometimes change is very sad.
All in all, I think this was a very good broadcast. I don't know if it was because it was a short track race and the crew kept busy due to the action on the track or what the reason for the improvement was, but I do know it was better than usual. I would like to see more of this kind of broadcasting by Fox. I would like to hear from all you readers as to how you feel about the broadcasts and whether you agree or disagree with this review. At www.speedcouch.com we now have a Fan Forum so be sure to check it out at www.SpeedCouch.com/forum. We would love to have you join us there to discuss the races and broadcasts.
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