The view from my couch
TNT Coverage of the Chevy Rock and Roll 400
by Vivian Simons
September 12, 2004
Discover Countdown to Green Pre-Race Show
Countdown to Green opened with a short hype in reference to gladiators, chariots and horses. This comparison to the past was a bit too much in my opinion. That, plus the remark "Tonight there can be only ten. Tonight there is no tomorrow" was supposed to lend drama to the situation, but only made me think of the TV series "The Highlander". Bill Weber then gave a pilon view of the top 15 drivers and then we heard the possibilities of their chances to be in the top ten. After that there were interviews with the drivers in reference to their feelings about their chances in the Chase. They told us who was locked in and the fact that Elliot Sadler only had to start the race and he would be locked in. It was also mentioned that Kurt Busch had to finish 42nd to be locked in.
Another feature included in the pre race show was Jim Campbell, Director of Chevrolet Car Marketing, welcomed everyone and announced the winner of their new Cobalt from a contest that had been run in August. This was a good touch.
Dave Burns then used die cast cars of the top 15 drivers to show those who had already clinched and the possibilities of the other drivers who had not yet clinched. Wally's World was next and he expressed the possible driving styles of all the drivers who were involved in the Race to the Chase.
The best part of the pre race show was when Kevin Harvick warned the producers there might be a fight and to get ready with the bleep button as there might be some people mad.
There was a Tribute to America due to the date being September 11th and 3 years since the attack on America by terrorists. Emotions were high and "God Bless America" was very beautifully performed by Ronan Tynan. When Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was introduced to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, a chant of "USA" by the fans was heard loud and clear. Afterwards, everyone participated in the pledge. This was extremely touching. Fans could still be heard chanting "USA" after the pledge. Colors were presented and the invocation was given. The only thing I can say about the National Anthem is that the track promoters must think entertainers are the best choice even if they can't offer a good rendition of the Anthem. I liked the feelings that were put into "Start Your Engines" by John Middlebrook from General Motors.
TNT did not introduce the whole field, but did have pictures of all of the drivers and I think the pictures are beneficial to the younger fans. A quick report from the pit reporters on several drivers was also a good feature. Allen let us know the race was being shown in high definition after intros. We were quickly shown a replay of an incident on pit road when the drivers were coming out to go onto the track. It was also pointed out that points for leading a lap and other bonus points were extremely important in this race. Allen also let us know the ticker would be showing driver names in different colors for the race. Green would be used for drivers who were in the top ten in points, yellow for the ones who could make it in the Chase and the ones who had no chance to be in the top ten would be in white. Good feature.
There were no commercial breaks until the first caution on lap 8 due to a single car spin. TNT came back on lap 12 and said the race had just restarted. During the race, I noticed that most commercial breaks lasted an average of 8 laps. A lot of the commercials took place when there were cautions on the track and those were well-placed commercials. However, I also noticed that the closer we got to the end of the race, the commercials came more often. The second caution came at lap 14 for another spin. We were then updated on who pitted on the first yellow flag. TNT went to commercial break again after that, but they were back for the restart this time. We saw a replay of the spin and got an update from the pits on one of the drivers in reference to brakes with an explanation by Wally as to how important the brakes and adjustments were.
Shortly after that we were told that a car had retired from the race and Kurt Busch had clinched a spot in the Chase. At this time TNT also started inserting on the screen the two segment pilons which showed where everyone was at the time in reference to the Chase. I found that as the race continued, they used this feature more and more and it took up much of the viewing area on the TV screen. It eventually became a very big annoyance.
Around lap 30, Allen pointed out Ricky Rudd's Air Force recruiting paint scheme and the fact that it commemorated the words "Let's Roll" which Todd Beemer had said just before one of the hijacked planes went down in September 11th 2001 in Pennsylvania. This information was good.
Each time there was a lead change, we were advised and if it was not shown live, TNT would show us a replay afterwards. They also started talking about the pit strategy for the drivers who had a possibility of being able to get into the top 10 for the Chase. All during the race they continued updating the viewers on who was in and who was out or who was close. I feel they did this much too often as things changed constantly and some drivers were in and out all race long. In my opinion, only the final results mattered so offering this information so often was redundant.
Throughout the race, they gave us reports from the pits and occasional audio from some drivers. I feel they wanted to relate to us how the pressure was effecting some of the drivers and the implications of the pressure throughout the field of eligible drivers.
At lap 85, TNT gave us the first Through the Field segment and covered the first 22 positions, plus any drivers outside those 22 who still had the possibility to get into the Chase. Actually, all throughout the race they continued to give us updates on the drivers who could make it in. I think at times they overdid it, as I stated before, because it changed so often.
For several laps, TNT showed some competition between several drivers who seemed to be having a lot of contact with each other. When there was a large crash due to some contact, they were quick to show replays and let us know that NASCAR was reviewing the incident. Eventually, Mike Helton came to the TV booth and explained the incident as NASCAR saw it and why they ruled on it the way they did. I felt they were watching things more closely since the points leader was involved in the incident. I really like it when NASCAR explains their reasoning as sometimes not only the media but also the fans see it differently and there is no closure to the situation. This particular incident was ruled on fairly in my opinion.
After this incident, the broadcasters were quick to inform us that now there were more than 10 in the Chase since the points leader was in the garage and that put several drivers within 400 points of leader. Of course, this information was ultimately useless as it changed often. We were still getting an overabundance of the pilons with the status at the time. I don't know about other viewers, but I feel we were updated uselessly much too often. However, I feel due to the circumstances, we were able to see more in pack racing and more of the racing than we normally do.
Green flag pit stops were covered well and replays were shown if they were pertinent to either the Chase or the finish of the race. I always like the replays as I know we miss a lot due to limited coverage on the in pack racing and competition. We also had another Through the Field segment from which they broke away from a couple of times to show us lead changes. Most fans appreciate that. They also came back early from commercial to show us an accident on the track. The NBC/TNT producers are always good about doing that so fans can see what is going on.
At one point, TNT gave us audio from Busch and I got a real kick out of it. He would need to stop for fuel one more time before end of race and he asked if he should maybe do the same as the 8 car at Bristol in the spring in order to have a caution. Of course, everyone knew he was referring to creating a caution in order to help him not lose spots on the track. At this time, TNT put up a ticker with information as to when each car had last pitted. This was useful information.
It was a special post race show as TNT interviewed all ten drivers who made it to the Chase. Not only did the pit reporters talk to them, but also the broadcast crew in the booth talked to most of them. They also told us that NASCAR would be impounding all top 10 points' cars for inspection to ensure everything was okay. They also interviewed the five other drivers who could have made it but didn't.
This was a good broadcast for the most part. Aside from the fact that we had to deal with the pilons so often and the constant updates of the top ten, I felt we got good information and much more coverage of the drivers who were not running in the top 5 as is the usual case. I know this review is rather long, but there were many things I wanted to include.
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