The view from my couch

Fox Coverage of the Daytona 500
by Cheryl Lauer
February 22, 2005

I thought Fox did a very good job on this broadcast. I was very impressed that Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip all stayed focused on the race itself and this was quite refreshing. It seemed clear that the Fox production team has made a lot of positive improvements for the 2005 season. All day long, both the announcers and the pit reporters worked hard to keep the viewers updated on what was happening on the track and in the pits throughout the race.

Pre-Race Show

I didn't watch the pre-race show live, but recorded it on Tivo and went back and watched it on Monday. I kind of wish now I hadn't wasted any time on it. For an hour and half, the viewers were bombarded with the typical hype and fluff we usually get from Fox. It began with a silly lead-in with Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. dressed up like medieval knights, including them swinging a weapon which I believe is a flail or a mace. The voiceover and graphics called them "road warriors." This was just really silly in my opinion. Next, Chris Meyers started off saying "Daytona is more than a race, it's a happening." I knew at that point, the hype was just beginning. We were having our annual Daytona 500 party and the guests seemed to not be impressed by the "happening" factor, but were getting very anxious for some racing to begin. One guest was just astounded that TV managed to delay the start of the race from its traditional 1:00 p.m. start. This year the green flag did not fall until almost 2:30 p.m. I understand that NASCAR makes these decisions, but I've read plenty of reports that the networks want the races later and later in the day, when they feel they can get better ratings. After waiting all winter for the Daytona 500, fans shouldn't be forced to sit through 90 minutes of fluff for the first race of the year. Things like a poor Pardon the Interruption take-off between Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip and "features" on how Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne spent their winter vacations surfing are just a waste of everyone's time. Also, we had a silly bit with last year's champion, Kurt Busch, playing baseball and an interview with the grand marshall, actor Matthew McConaughey, who appeared to only be chosen for that honor since his new movie was sponsoring the broadcast. We heard over and over how DW won the 1989 Daytona 500 and were again reminded that Larry McReynolds was a two-time winning crew chief. These constant reminders always make me wonder if Fox feels they must always justify their credibility by recounting their announcers' accomplishments.

When Fox finally got around to getting to the booth and Mike Joy, I was very pleasantly surprised that they showed graphics of the entire starting grid. This featured a picture of each driver and his car and Mike also went through the entire starting grid, telling the viewers a little bit about each driver. Thanks, Mike! This is especially important at the beginning of the season when so many drivers are in new rides and have new sponsors. Both new and long-time fans like to see this kind of information so they can know who is in each car. I sincerely hope that this season will return to showing the entire grid before each race.

During the pace laps, DW made his usual "call" to talk to one of the drivers. This time he spoke to Mark Martin and ended his chat with "go hard, Mark..." That cracked me up. I'm pretty sure DW didn't realize how it sounded saying this to the driver of the Viagra car. I'm sure he received some grief about the irony of that from his colleagues.

The pit reporters each gave us some final comments about several drivers just before the field took the green flag. Unfortunately, DW returned to his silly saying to start the race. Thankfully, I have XM radio now, so I can flip the audio to MRN for the start of the race now, thereby avoiding DW's silly phrase. When I returned to the Fox audio, I was pleasantly surprised that the commentators were silent for much of rest of the first lap. It was great for the viewers at home to just be able to enjoy the sight and sounds of the 43 cars roaring around the Daytona Speedway.

The Race

At lap 3, Mike quickly told us "Jarrett's in trouble" and DW pointed out that he was down on the apron and speculated the turbulence of the air might have upset his car. The producer queued up a replay and we saw that Earnhardt, Jr. had actually gotten into Jarrett. It was disappointing that DW seemed to feel the need to minimize the contact, saying "Dale, Jr. just got him bad loose" when you could clearly see he hit Jarrett. Steve Byrnes reported that he'd heard on Jarrett's radio that he was having to lift getting into the turns, so this probably better explained the contact. Larry followed up by saying that Jarrett was probably having to feather the throttle because his car was not handling well. Larry also told us that he'd fallen from 3rd to 30th position as a result of the incident.

At lap 7, we got the obligatory "my brother" nepotism from DW. Matt Yocum also reported that Earnhardt was having communication problems with his spotter. Next we were told that Kyle Busch had just brushed the wall and a replay was quickly shown. Unfortunately, at lap 8, Fox broke for their first of many commercials throughout the day.

Each time Fox returned from commercial, they went to Meyers and Jeff Hammond for some sort of recap. I guess they are now considered the "hosts" of the broadcasts or something. They finally returned to showing live racing at lap 12.

As I said earlier, it was evident that the announcers were committed to providing the viewers with a lot of insightful information and I really appreciated that. This is the most focused on the race that I've seen DW in a long time. He pointed out that the good handling cars could pull away in the turns, whereas the ones that weren't handling well had to lift in the turns and lost ground.

At lap 14, DW alerted us that there was smoke coming out of Bobby Labonte's car. Larry followed up saying that it looked terminal since it was coming out of the side pipes. This is the kind of teamwork that we saw from the Fox crew all day long. It really seemed like they saw how well the NBC team works together and have decided to try and do more of that this season. After the pre-race show, we rarely heard DW reminiscing about his driving days as we have over the last 4 seasons. I found this new start refreshing and much more professional and hope that Fox keeps up the good work.

As the caution came out for Labonte, Larry told us there were 42 cars still on the lead lap and they were about halfway through their fuel runs. He speculated that many of the cars would take this opportunity to come in to make handling adjustments. It was annoying that Fox chose to use a silly looking 5-way split graphics package to show many of the pit stops. This type of thing is just too busy with flashing lights in between the 5 camera shots. You also lose perspective as to where the cars are in relationship to others on pit road. I also noticed that Fox did not always focus on the race off pit road or come back and show us a replay of it like NBC often does. This is an improvement Fox should consider instead of relying on the fancy graphics gimmick. We did get a replay of Martin Truex, Jr. and Jason Leffler getting together on pit road.

After Fox returned from commercial, Chris told us that Kyle Petty had stayed out to lead a lap and Jeff pointed out that it was more important that Petty got some "TV time." I guess even the announcers realize how critical this is to car sponsors since the networks don't show all the cars anymore. Although Fox did a better than usual job in covering more of the cars in this race, rather than their typical coverage of only the leaders or a select few "favorites", I did particularly note that we never even heard that Mike Bliss was in this race and the one car they neglected to ever mention dropped out of the race was Ken Schrader. I never did hear what knocked him out of the race early, but saw "out" on the ticker.

Throughout the day, a big story for Fox seemed to be that it was the last Daytona 500 for Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin. This was nice touch, but seemed just a bit overdone in my opinion. I'd just like them to cover these two great drivers who had good runs without having to have a "story" behind the coverage.

The announcers again made a concerted effort to keep us informed of everything they could. Mike told us that Scott Wimmer had only taken two tires and gotten out of the pits first. DW told us that Joe Nemechek had gotten a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box. After the restart, the pit reporters had good follow-ups on several top runners and what adjustments they made to their cars.

Beginning around this time, I noticed the overuse of the dreaded Fox pointers. As I always say, these pointers can be useful at times, but their overuse is just plain annoying and distracting to the viewer. Many times, they are still not pointing at the right car and three of them converging on the track is just too much input for this viewer. Also at times, they would "cycle" between cars and that was just plain confusing.

Fox went to commercial again at lap 24, but did break out of it to show us the incident when Ricky Rudd lost the casing off his tire and collected Mike Wallace and Boris Said. Mike's use of the phrase,"calamity corner," was a little over the top for me though. But he was quick to tell us that Wallace had already taken his car to the garage.

I found the flashing caution light on the Fox ticker to be a vast improvement over the "blup-blup-blup" sound they've used in the past.

We got the usual excellent and numerous replays of this incident and in-car communications between the spotter and Kenny Wallace, helping him through the accident scene. The announcers seemed to be doing a much better job of not talking over the radio communications for the most part. I did like that the producer recorded some driver communications and replayed them at a later time so the announcers knew they were coming and could be quiet.

Fox had a new graphic showing why pit selection is so critical. This was good for new viewers and thankfully was not shown except during caution periods.

DW suggested low air pressure right after pit stops might have caused the problem with Rudd's tire. Larry told us that Nemechek would be the recipient of the first free pass of the day. Fox did a good job of telling who got this benefit throughout most of the day. Just at the end of the race, they seemed to lose track of it. Mike updated us on who stayed out and led laps during the caution.

At the next restart, Fox did a long Crank It Up segment. My only complaint is that Fox placed a virtual poll graphic on the screen at the beginning with an accompanying sound. I really didn't need them to "crank" that up, but I'm sure the sponsor loved it. Right after this, one of the announcers told us that Martin was up to 6th position, but the ticker said he was in 7th position. I found that the ticker seemed to be off like this many times during the broadcast.

Also throughout the day, Fox would place huge graphics on the side of the screen, such as one advertising next week's coverage, which took up about a quarter of my screen. Maybe I'm just picky but anything that interferes with viewing the racing I find really annoying, especially when it's animated and has cute little sounds along with it.

DW did digress at least once in making up his own silly works like "coopatition" and "jukey." I guess it's a real challenge for him not to want to draw attention to himself rather than the race.

At lap 35, we heard the radio from Matt Kenseth's car where he thought he had a tire going down. Fox followed his pit stop in an inset and someone pointed out the smoke coming out the exhaust probably meant the engine was going (which proved to be true). Later, Jeanne Zelasko had an interview with Kenseth after his car went to the garage. Fox went to commercial after this and came back to give us the first of many "race recaps." They broke out of it at lap 41 to cover Kenny Wallace coming in for an unscheduled pit stop.

Meyers pointed out there were 20 Chevys, 14 Dodges and 9 Fords in this race. This is the kind of information I wish Fox would put in their pre-race shows. Also, they did not mention the new computerized pit road speed monitoring until the first pit stops. Again, these things would make the pre-race show a lot more informative, rather than just silly games with the drivers or announcers. I also don't remember the mandatory gear rules being mentioned at all during the broadcast.

Around lap 43, Mike gave us another excellent update on several cars, such as Kyle Busch's car being in the garage. DW didn't miss an opportunity to mention his brother's sponsor on Kenny Wallace's car when he dropped out of the race. Jeanne also interviewed Wallace.

DW told us about how harmonics could affect the engines at Daytona and Larry pointed out how the restrictor plates cut half the horsepower from the engines. Mike pointed out that Scott Riggs was running up front and did so all day long.

Fox had at least three ads for Cingular that masqueraded as "poll questions" and their answers. I also noticed that Jeff Burton is now getting an awful lot more coverage since he has that sponsor. I guess we'll be hearing less about Robby Gordon since he's in a different car.

Fox went to commercial at lap 51 and again at lap 55. They returned to show us some pit stops. They also brought back their silly "fuel gauge" graphic from last year.

Fox told us that Earnhardt "tipped" into his pit, but the stop was legal since the right rear tire was the only one actually out of the box. We saw several replays of his contact with Burton that caused this incident. Dick Berggren assured us that no crew members were injured and I always appreciate this type of information. Larry pointed out that the miscue caused the 8 team to lose a lot of time on the stop and that Earnhardt was now almost half a lap down.

Mike reported that Marlin, Busch, Martin, Sadler, Blaney and Johnson had been caught speeding and showed when they came in to serve their "drive-thru" penalties. Larry told us that everyone, but Wimmer, had pitted and that he just came in on the last lap.

Fox went back to commercial at lap 65. It was good that they showed us a graphic of the top five or 10 each time they broke for commercial and many times, Mike made a point of highlighting the top five drivers as well.

The pit reporters followed up on the strategies different teams used on this pit stop and Dick pointed out how fast Rusty Wallace's pit stop was. We got to see an animated picture of Wallace which took up the bottom third of the screen.

The announcers had a good discussion about the affect of the speeding penalties on so many cars. We saw how far back that pack had fallen from the leaders and the pointers highlighted their speeds and the distance from the leader. Now this was an appropriate use of the pointers and not overuse.

Fox went to commercial at lap 76 and came back to give us another "race recap." I liked how Meyers segued into "just moments ago" and we were then shown a replay of Ryan Newman brushing the wall. This was good, but I'd still rather not rely on replays for so much of the action because the presenting network has so many commercials to fit in. They finally got back to live action around lap 84.

Mike told us that the lead pack now had a 6-second break away and there were 10 cars in the 2nd pack and 12 in the third pack. DW pointed out the damage to Newman's car.

When the first debris caution came out, Larry pointed out how this was a big break for the cars in those second and third packs and that Jeremy Mayfield was just about to be lapped before the caution came out. I really appreciated that Mike explained where the debris was located and the cameras got a shot of it during the first two debris cautions. Unfortunately, this didn't happen during the third debris caution of the race.

DW seemed to slip and say "lucky dog" when telling us that Sadler would get his lap back. Someone else in the booth quickly corrected him by saying "free pass." I always find it ridiculous that each network has to have their own name for this rule.

Fox had coverage of the pit stops during this caution, although I continued to find the five-way split very hard to follow. We got a replay of Burton getting too close to the pit wall and the difficulties his team had servicing the car because of this. Larry told us that he fell from 5th to 25th position because of the miscue.

Fox showed us a graphic of the Roush Ford drivers. Unfortunately, the person making the graphic didn't realize that Dave Blaney drove for Richard Childress in a Chevy and included him on this list.

The announcers told us there were now 32 drivers on the lead lap. Dick reported on some pit crew members being hit by debris on Boris Said's team and also Burton's team, and that they were being examined by the EMTs.

As they got ready to restart the race, Mike told us which lapped cars were lined up on the inside. I really like this kind of information! Fox had some good camera shots and the 720p HD cameras were a vast improvement over standard definition. Unfortunately, too often Fox relied on a lot of shots that were too far away, so it was difficult to always identify the cars. I understand how large the Daytona track is and the challenge that presents. It just seemed like we got too many shots from the "cable cam" or the blimp that really were too far away to be meaningful. Many times later in the race, it seemed like Fox zoomed way out just so they could use their pointers. It seems like it would make more sense to zoom in so the viewers could see the cars for themselves.

Mike also told us that Kyle Busch was out of the garage and back on the track and that there were only three cars actually out of the race at that point. Fox had another Crank It Up at lap 90.

Larry drew our attention to the fact Jarrett was back up to 8th spot and Steve reported that his crew had not had to make any changes to his car other than changing four tires of each pit stop.

Around this time, the announcers were talking about John Andretti, but instead of showing him, they were first showing Johnson and then we got a silly graphic called Beyond Racing of Johnson. Eventually the director got around to showing Andretti; however, we never got a good close-up of his car. I guess since he has a cigarette sponsor, that it will never be shown. Wonder what will happen if he ever wins a race?

Next, Fox did sort of a Through the Field, but they always seem to just jump around and cover selected drivers. Just once it would be nice if Fox would cover at least the cars on the lead lap. Maybe they could think up their own cute little name for it that doesn't sound anything like NBC's Through the Field. This is one thing a lot of fans write me about. They really love that feature on NBC.

I really didn't need Meyers telling me about Jamie McMurray wearing the same lucky underwear for so long. But I did appreciate him reading the statistic that the halfway leader in this race had failed to win the last 12 times. That was interesting.

At lap 104, another debris caution came out and the announcers told us about it and we saw a shot of the debris with the group speculating that it might have come from the temporary repair to the grill of Kevin Harvick's car. They also pointed out that a lot of teams didn't need an entire load of fuel so they might only take two tires this time. This was a great observation.

During pit stop coverage, Matt reported that he'd heard Waltrip complaining on his radio that Gordon was about running over him in the corners and making him loose. Larry reported that Wimmer's team took two tires again and was first off pit road. DW followed up by reminding us that Wimmer's team did this last year and ended up finishing third in the 500.

I thought that Fox did a little better than usual in not hyping "the Big One" this year. The only mention of it during this race was Meyers assuring us "we could have the big one yet" at the end of another race recap. Mike pointed out that Stewart, Waltrip, and Gordon had led 85 of the 108 laps so far, with Stewart leading the most. He again reminded us of the top five at the restart. Someone told us that Martin and Burton had bad stops and were restarting way back. Mike said they were 30th and 31st, but the pointers showed 27th and 28th. What bothers me even more than the overuse of the pointers and tickers is that the information they display is not even right half the time.

Around lap 112, Matt reported that he'd heard on the radio that Stewart and Waltrip were working together and that Gordon was laying back to try and get a run on Waltrip off of turn 2. When Martin had some problems with the fan on the rear of his car, Jeff used the Cutaway Car to show where they were located and also showed us how windshield tear-offs help the drivers' visibility.

Fox went to commercial at lap 116 and came back to show a Gillette Young Guns graphic at lap 120 that covered up the racing action. Then Fox made sure to show a graphic that they were using their Cable Cam before they went back to racing.

DW said "we see a lot of racing in the back, but those guys up front seem content right now." Note to director: maybe the viewers might like to see some of the actual racing as well.

Fox was back to commercial at lap 125, ending with a Nextel commercial and then Jeanne with the "Nextel Fan of the Week" which was just another commercial. Also, it was kind of silly since one family member said she was rooting for Bobby Labonte (who was already out of the race). This made it quite clear the bit was taped before the race started. Next, we got another billboard for Nextel. I guess the sponsor doesn't think 3 commercials in a row is a bit of overkill. Finally at lap 130, they returned to the actual race. We then got to see a replay of someone getting into Casey Mears.

At lap 133, DW told us that it looked like Mike Skinner had brushed the wall on the backstretch. The replays first showed McMurray had brushed the wall, but eventually we got the replay which showed Carl Edwards had clipped Skinner. DW pointed out that it was close to the end of a run and this was when the cars were handling at their worst. Excellent point!

At lap 134, Mike told us pit stops were coming up, so they'd take a break now. When Fox got back at lap 138, they caught the stops of Nemechek and Mears and Mike told us "when things cycle back around, Stewart will be back leading. That's when I realized they'd missed the leader's pit stops because they were at commercial. So much for that plan.

At lap 139, Mike told us that Kevin Lepage had to be pushed off pit road and Larry speculated that they'd run out of gas. We were also told Jarrett had to do a pass-thru because of speeding on pit road.

Matt was relaying what Gordon said about his teammate, Johnson, on his radio, and quickly switched to telling us another debris caution had come out. This is the one where we didn't hear or see the debris since Fox took the opportunity to get in another commercial.

When they returned, Meyers pointed out that Earnhardt had failed to lead a lap so far. They showed some repairs to Burton's car and Jeff said maybe they were adjusting a spring rubber or else the trailing arm. Dick told us that Earnhardt was complaining that the nose of his car had no grip.

Throughout the race, Fox seemed to rely on in-car cameras way too much for my taste. They would constantly switch among the several cars carrying them. To me, this always breaks up the continuity of the racing. I like to see them at times, but not so often. After the next restart, Matt was talking about Gordon and Johnson talking to their car owner, Rick Hendrick, on the radio. Then you see Gordon go high and all of a sudden the director switches to an in-car camera and you assume that is from Gordon's car. The camera showed someone three-wide. When they finally showed the overview of these cars, you could see it was actually Blaney's in-car and the car on the high side of him was actually Travis Kvapil. Then they quickly went back to showing Gordon back right behind Stewart in second. I just found this very hard to follow.

With 50 laps to go in the race, the pit reporters again did an update on selected drivers. Next we saw an aerial view that was so far away you couldn't really see anything. It was great that Mike jumped in and tried to tell us who was going three-wide.

With 48 to go, Fox went to commercial and came back to one of those wonderful five-way splits for pit stops. Again, the viewers never saw who got out of the pits first before Fox went to another commercial. The number of commercials during this time really made the broadcast very fragmented.

When they finally returned and we sat through another Race Break, we heard Kurt Busch's radio from earlier when he said that the 48 was his "best friend" and asked how many tires Martin took. It was very interesting to hear how drafting partnerships were being made. Mike told us that Burton, Edwards, and Wimmer were now ahead of Stewart and Larry pointed out that Burton had not pitted.

At lap 162, Fox happened to be following Waltrip when his car went high abruptly and started smoking. The director quickly went to his radio where the crew asked if he had a tire down and then we heard someone else say the car had blown up. We got to see several replays of the incident with Mike pointing out how the motor was silent on the in-car view.

During this caution, Larry speculated that a lot of cars would pit since they could make from here on fuel. Mike told us that the 8, 29, 20, 14 stayed out. DW told us that Kahne had spun Leffler on pit road and Newman was blocked in because of it. Larry pointed out that all of the pit miscues today were because of the drivers not the pit crews. DW explained that the drivers have very little peripheral vision because of all of today's head restraints. We got to see a replay of the incident between the 9 and 11.

At lap 167, Matt interviewed Waltrip and at lap 168, Mike told us there was problem in the tri-oval and the cameras caught the end of the incident involving Andretti and Leffler. Mike pointed out that the cars had gotten four-wide in front of them. During replays, DW pointed out that Kvapil came down and Leffler had nowhere to go. Fox covered pit stops before going to commercial.

When they returned, Fox played a scanner bite from Gordon that happened earlier where he told Johnson he thought the only way to pass Stewart was to go to the outside. He wanted to wait as long as possible to make the move, but understood that Johnson had do what he had to do. I really enjoying hearing these kind of communications from the drivers to help understand their strategies.

About this time, DW just couldn't restrain himself and told us that he thought someone was going to give Stewart "a nudge." On the restart with 28 laps to go, we got a good shot from the bumper cam on Stewart's car showing Gordon pushing him. Next, DW said "you don't know who in the pack has been holding back." I figured many of them had been since there wasn't much racing until near the end. Larry highlighted Mears and Riggs and their good runs, but reminded us Mears had gotten a free pass earlier.

With 24 to go, Fox showed us the speeds of the top 20 on a "pilon." I always enjoying seeing this information in the late stages of a race. DW pointed out that these were the fastest laps they'd run all day and Larry followed this up by pointing out that the track had cooled down a lot and the motors were making more horsepower since the sun was going down and things had cooled off.

As the action was heating up and Gordon pulled high to try and pass, DW was getting himself all worked up by declaring how everyone was probably asking themselves "have I the chosen the wrong line. Have I chosen the wrong partner?" Mike jumps in and finishes it with "have I chosen the wrong profession?" That was hilarious!

Dick told us that Earnhardt had pitted with the second group under the last caution because they couldn't make it on fuel. A lot of action was heating up and Fox went to commercial with 19 laps to go in the race. They did break out of a Nextel commercial at lap 184 to show us the incident involving Greg Biffle, Scott Wimmer and others. We first heard Meyers say "Wreck! Rusty got through!" and then DW saying "here we go!" Then something about "Calamity Corner" again. I understand the announcers being emotional about an accident, but sometimes it comes across like they just can't wait for a wreck to happen. Mike told us that Burton had lost an engine just prior to this incident and then Larry said "we could just see this coming and smell it coming for 3-4 laps." I agree, but can't help but understand why the producer went to commercial then. Okay, I do understand he has so many commercials to fit it, but it's still hard for a viewer to accept, especially when the announcers say things like that afterwards.

Fox showed us a lot of good replays of the incident and the announcers pointed out how they thought it occurred. Mike told us that Stewart and Gordon and most of the top five stayed out and didn't pit this time. Jeanne had an interview with Andretti who was knocked out of the race because of this incident. Mike told us the best news was that Wimmer walked away after getting airborne, and Fox showed him walking to the ambulance as they went back to commercial.

When they returned at lap 186, Jeff pointed out that this would be the most critical restart of the race. DW said he thought it would be Stewart and Busch against Gordon and Johnson and Larry agreed. Mike reset the top 10 for us and Larry updated us that everyone back to Kvapil didn't pit.

Unfortunately, the field stacked up on the restart and Larry was quick to alert us. Mike told us that it looked like Andretti piled into Skinner. We heard Skinner's radio and Larry said that they didn't pit and maybe they had a problem with hot tires spinning or something. From the in-car view of Andretti's car, DW pointed out how he hit so hard it bent his steering wheel. Another good observation. The producer queued up several replies and we saw how the accident transpired. After several views, DW concluded he thought the 8 had lagged behind on the restart and that caused everyone behind him to stack up.

Later we heard some replays of team communications where Earnhardt said to "tell Tony I gotta be on the bottom" and Steve reported that Stewart said "I'm not happy the way 24 was laying back on the restart." This was all very interesting and then DW followed this up by saying Gordon wanted to get Stewart on the restart. Mike pointed out the rule about how you can't pass on the inside before the green flag on restarts. Matt reported that Gordon's crew chief, Robbie Loomis, told NASCAR to watch the 8 because he was lagging behind too much on the restarts. Obviously, everyone had their own view of things.

With 10 laps to go, Fox went to commercial again. When they returned Larry pointed out how well Lepage and Petty were running and Mike ran through the names of other drivers from 9th to 12th that we don't usually hear mentioned. DW pointed out that Jarrett and Sadler were teammates as were Petty and Jeff Green and how they would probably work together. We got to hear Jarrett's radio where he said "tell NASCAR I have a carburetor problem and have to be careful on restarts." This was great information! Larry pointed out that Wallace had four fresh tires, but DW said he didn't know if that would offset track position. Great point. Mike told us there were 23 cars left on the lead lap.

The announcers told us the caution lights had come back on because they believed NASCAR needed to clean up some oil that was still on the track from Burton's blown engine. You could clearly hear the crowd booing this and I felt Fox turned the sound up to make it sound more dramatic. We were told that Burton's teammate, Harvick, had just taken his car to the garage. I do feel that in the latter portions of the race, Fox slacked off on updating us on why some cars dropped out. I understand the intensity level was up for the end of the race, but it seems like they could spare a little time in all their excitement for these things. Fans of those drivers would sure like to know exactly what happened to them. Although Jeanne did interview John Andretti and Mike Skinner during this caution. Steve relayed that he'd heard on the scanner where Martin said to tell Wallace that "with this big ole motor and him pushing me, there's no way they can stop us." Again, great to hear these kinds of quotes.

After the restart with six laps to go, when Earnhardt went outside for the lead, DW just went wild. To me, that just about blew all his credibility from the rest of the day. Announcers need to be objective, not cheering for their favorites or their brother's teammates. Then when Kahne brushed the wall, all three announcers seemed so riveted on that they actually missed that Gordon had taken the lead. When they realized it, they seemed truly surprised. Then finally DW said "Jeff Gordon has made a pass..." It seemed like he was almost disappointed compared to his reaction with Earnhardt got the lead. Mike jumped in and told us the caution was out for debris from Kahne's car and explained that NASCAR scoring freezes the field based on the last scoring loop before the yellow came out. DW said "I believe the 24 had made the pass before that happened." They showed the damage to Kahne's car that brought out the caution. This was good. Larry reminded us of the green/white/checker finish which NASCAR now has in all division.

During the caution, Fox showed a replay of Earnhardt's pass for the lead, but we never saw a replay of Gordon's which turned out to the be pass for the win. Dick interviewed Earnhardt's crew chief, Rondeau. Mike told us that the 11 cautions in this race tied the record for a Daytona 500 which was set in 1968. Dick told us that Earnhardt was asking for a fast restart to avoid a crash (I didn't quite understand this). Matt reported that Gordon was worried Earnhardt would lay back and others would get a run on him on the restart. DW pointed out whoever was leading was "a sitting duck." Mike again told us the top 10 drivers and pointed out that Stewart had fallen back to 6th.

After the restart, the announcers pointed out the contact between Johnson and Stewart on the last lap and DW said they were going for the Daytona 500 victory, which was a good point. We heard Gordon's car owner, Rick Hendrick, on the radio to him after he took the checkered flag. Mike explained that he was asking that Gordon dedicate the win to the people he lost in the plane crash last fall. Fox showed a replay of the contact between Stewart and Johnson then the retaliation by Stewart afterwards. While they were showing Gordon's victory doughnuts, Dick interviewed Earnhardt and Jeanne interviewed Johnson. She asked Johnson what happened with Stewart and then they switched to the 24 car being pushed into Victory Lane. Mike pointed out that this was Gordon's 70th victory. DW had to get his two cents in by saying he told Rick Hendrick that Gordon would never make it as a driver. Mike mentioned there had been four lead changes in the last nine laps of the race.

Matt did the Victory Lane interview with Gordon and said he'd heard his surprise on the radio, saying "Earnhardt passing without help?" Matt ended the interview by telling us this was Rick Hendrick's fifth Daytona 500 win.

Mike reminded us of the great stories at the end of the day, such as Sterling Marlin finishing 8th and Lepage getting 9th before they broke for commercial. Fox came back to a replay of Gordon's radio as he crossed the finish line. Meyers said something about somebody (Gordon I think) being voted prom king. I can understand the concept of human interest stories, but sometimes the stuff Fox comes up with is just weird to me. Steve interviewed Stewart and Dick interviewed Martin. They seemed to talk to a lot of the drivers at the end and they seem to allow plenty of time to do it, which was great. They also got a shot of Gordon's teammate, Johnson, congratulating him in Victory Lane.

Stewart said something about "I'm always accessible" in his interview and Chris made some remark questioning that as they broke for commercial. I did find that pretty funny.

Before they went off the air, Fox showed the complete finishing order. Larry said his heart went out to Stewart who had led 107 laps and didn't get the win in the end.

As I said earlier, I was very impressed with what, to me, seemed like a newfound commitment by Fox to stay focused on the race and to provide lots of relevant information to the folks at home. I know that this required a lot of coordination by the production team and cooperation between the announcers and pit reporters. It came across very seamless and I think the viewers don't always appreciate how much work must've gone into it. I appreciate it and think the results were excellent. As always, I realize the number of commercials is something the production team has no control over, but that doesn't stop the fans from being frustrated. I still think Fox could tone down and make more judicious use of graphics at times. Less can be better. But overall, a very good start to the 2005 season for Fox. I also understand the later scheduling of races is coming from the higher ups at the networks. It's just that ending the biggest race as late as 6:30 at night has got to be exhausting for the drivers, families, production crew, fans at the track, as well as those of us at home. But I understand this is the trend network executives want, but I'm certainly not looking forward to it.

This season, I don't plan to review every single race. It's just too demanding for me to do a thorough job every week. But I will try to do a review at least once a month because I still feel it is important for the fans to give feedback to the networks. In the meantime, I encourage other fans to visit the Speedcouch Forum to review the races themselves and exchange their thoughts with other race fans. The information on how to get to forum is provided below.

If you are interested in rating this race or just discussing the coverage of it by Fox, please check out the new Speedcouch Fan Forum at www.SpeedCouch.com/forum! Read the RULES, sign up now, and jump into the discussion to let the networks know your thoughts about the race coverage.

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