The view from my couch

NBC Coverage of the Daytona 500
by Cheryl Lauer
February 23, 2006

Overall, I felt NBC did a good job with this broadcast. Of course, the viewers had to deal with the usual high commercial count and too much focus on certain drivers, but I did feel the announcers and the pit reporters worked very hard to keep the viewers updated on most on-track incidents and happenings in the pits throughout the race. I was particularly impressed with Wally Dallenbach's frankness concerning the incidents involving Tony Stewart. While Benny Parsons seemed to try and excuse things, Wally pointed out how obvious Stewart's aggressive driving was 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. As is typical of NBC, they started out with a general "Sports Update," however, they did show Busch Highlights from Saturday first, which was good. Then there was some lame report about baseball spring training beginning soon. To me, this just didn't seem necessary in what was suppose to be a NASCAR pre-race show. But at least the viewers weren't forced to watch highlights from every sport out there, so that was an improvement over past years.

The lead-in montage had some great historical footage about Daytona and ended with a nice statement, "the finish line is only the beginning of a whole new race" referring to the start of a new race season. Unfortunately, after this great start, the focus of the pre-race show seemed to wander immediately towards cliches and wreck footage. A feature on restrictor plate racing had way too many silly visual aids and analogies, such as "best crystal," and showing feathers and tops to illustrate how sensitive the cars are to the air.

As usual on NBC, each of the pit reporters had interviews with several of the top drivers. There was also feature about Tony Stewart's concerns about bump drafting and some highlights from Mike Helton addressing aggressive driving in that morning's drivers' meeting. The fans really enjoy hearing some of what is discussed at the drivers' meeting.

NBC went to Wally and Benny Parsons in the booth, who discussed the extra support the teams put into the front bumpers of the cars to aid in bump drafting. Wally also gave an excellent explanation about "the right and wrong way to bump draft."

NBC provided an excellent graphic of all the drivers and car changes for the new season and I really appreciated that. There were more highlights of past Daytona 500s and some highlights from Denny Hamlin's win in the Bud Shootout the week before.

NBC showed the concert with Bon Jovi, which didn't have anything to do with racing, and was simply something brought to us by the series sponsor. Finally NBC got back to more live interviews with drivers. I enjoyed the use of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer song, (Karn Evil 9...), proclaiming "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends," during a video montage introducing the actual race coverage. Great choice of music, guys!

Thankfully, NBC got the obligatory drafting graphic model out of the way before the actual racing started. Wally's World had a tie-in to NBC's coverage of the Olympics, but provided some humorous moments from the two girls riding along with him.

I was happy to see that NBC continues to show a graphic and rundown of the entire starting grid for the race. This is especially important for viewers when so many drivers have changed teams in the off season. They also showed a graphic of all the drivers that didn't make the race and three cars that had to drop to the back of the field.

The announcers explained the green flag was being waved off because of some debris on the roofcam on the 29 car and showed the pit stop to remove it. Interesting that the needs of TV delayed the start of the race though. Speaking of that, this year the race didn't start until 2:45 (Eastern). I still don't like that NASCAR has allowed TV to dictate the starting time of races, making them later every year it seems. Especially Daytona which traditionally started around noon.

I was very happy that the commentators were silent at the start of the race (as NBC always is) and for much of the first lap. It's always enjoyable for the viewers at home to simply enjoy the sight and sounds of the 43 cars roaring around the track, rather than dealing with gimmicks from the broadcast team.

The Race

Within the first couple of laps, Jeff Green slowed and we got a shot of the carcass coming off his tire. Benny's over the top remarks started early when he was "amazed" he got to pit road. I don't mean to bash Benny, as he has been a longtime commentator and is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the sport. But Sunday, his amazement and over-reacting at times really got on my nerves. He seemed to rachet up his enthusiasm every time he talked about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I understand that the driver has many fans, but Benny's drawing attention to everything he did was a little extreme.

There were also many times Benny and Bill Weber seemed to really be "dumbing down" the broadcast to explain things to new viewers. I understand that this was probably a direction from the producers, but this type of thing always appears as condescending to long-time fans. This began with Benny explaining "this is what we call bottom and top of the track..." I mean, how obvious is that even to a first-time viewer of racing?

Weber explained early in the broadcast that the overcast conditions and low-ceiling were interfering with the helicopters supporting the in-car cameras. I didn't find this to be a bad thing at all as I always feel both networks switch to in-car shots way too frequently. This is especially annoying on high-speed tracks, like Daytona, where they miss much of the actual action with too many in-car shots. Unfortunately, NBC made up for not having the cameras early by using their pointers as soon as the race started. Do we really need a pointer showing us the name and number of a driver that is obvious by looking at the screen?

At lap 4, Wally commented that Elliott Sadler "properly" bump drafted Jeff Burton and pointed out the resulting "boost" Burton got from the move. Not too long after this, Benny started screaming "Junior has been shuffled to the middle!" Then he said "that's him in the red number 8," apparently, just in case the viewers didn't realize that. Again, this seemed like dumbing down the broadcast to me. Wally brought us back to reality by pointing out that the cars were not sliding around the track nearly as much as the day before since temperatures were much cooler than Saturday.

We got to see 8 laps of the race before NBC broke for their first commercial. But Bill was quick to assure us "if trouble breaks out, we'll break in..." Although this statement got a bit annoying as the day went on, NBC was true to their word and broke out of commercials several times when incidents occurred on the track.

Unfortunately, NBC went to commercial again on lap 15. This seemed to be the pattern for much of the day; 7-8 laps or racing, then more breaks. When they returned at lap 18, we were told the field was under caution because Martin Truex, Jr. had brushed the wall. After covering pit stops, NBC had a graphic of the race off pit road, but the announcers seemed certain it was in error. In fact, we heard three times from them that they'd have to "check the videotape" before they went back to commercial. I think we got the idea guys!

When NBC returned from commercial, they showed a replay and Wally pointed out it looked like the 25 got loose and squeezed Truex into the wall. Bill told us that Dale Jarrett had to start at the tailend of the longest line because he sped on pit road. Also, that Kirk Shermerdine received the same penalty for his crew going over the wall too early. It wasn't until the lap 21 restart that Benny told us that the video showed Sadler was the first off pit road.

Allen Bestwick was reporting that Jeff Gordon's team was worried he'd made some contact on pit road, when someone else had to interrupt him to alert us that the 8 car had gone "way up the track." All day long, the announcers seemed to spend way too much time worrying about Earnhardt, Gordon, and Stewart. As has become the habit of both networks, TV barely showed the rest of the field or talked about many of the other drivers. This continues to be a disservice to the fans of the all the other drivers. After the alert about the 8 car, the camera stayed on him for a while and NBC actually missed Gordon passing Sadler for the lead. Thankfully, they did get back in time to show Matt Kenseth getting the lead and there were some good replays of Stewart getting sideways when trying to go under the Kenseth. I can't remember who Benny was talking about when he said "he's a bottom feeder" to describe someone who was staying in the lower groove, but that was funny.

The viewers only got to see 7 laps of racing before NBC was away to commercial on lap 28, returning on lap 31. It wasn't until then that Weber told us that Green had received the "Lucky Dog" at the last restart and then NBC gave us the "dumbed down" version of tight/loose for the new viewers. NBC began a Through the Field (TTF), but had to stop when Jeremy Mayfield spun and went to the pits. Bill said he "clearly had contact" with someone, but initial replays seemed to show he had bounced off the wall. Matt Yocum reported that Greg Biffle thought he had a tire going down. Wally said it looked like maybe Mike Wallace had contact with Mayfield and caused him to hit Biffle. Marty Snider confirmed that he'd heard Mayfield say on this radio that Wallace hit him. NBC showed the the damage to Biffle's car, but Marty said the team had decided the tire was fine based on what they saw on their TV monitors. About this time, Bill told the viewers that all teams have satellite receivers. Hmmm...haven't they had those for about 11 years now? Could it be that Bill just wanted to promote DirecTV since they were now an "official sponsor of NASCAR (and the broadcasts)?"

This year, it seems like SPEED, TNT and NBC are using some sort of silly "camera shutter noises" when their tickers come on or change what they are showing. As usual, I found these noises annoying and distracting. Why does every network think these things are necessary?

After making multiple pit stops to make repairs, we were told that Mayfield was five laps down. At lap 45, NBC resumed the TTF, but only talked about two cars before going back to commercial at lap 46. That really helped us see more of the field. But NBC did break out of commercial to tell us the race was under caution because Stewart and Gordon were both in the wall. NBC first showed that Jamie McMurray had passed for the lead and then replayed what happened to the 24 and 20. Wally did an excellent analysis of what happened and suggested that Gordon wasn't quite clear, but that Stewart could've backed off and let him in since it was so early in the race. Benny also explained that the turn 2 had been problem spot all weekend because the wind made it hard to turn the car onto the backstretch. We also heard a scanner bite from Gordon's radio.

When NBC covered pit stops, they first had a triple split of the top cars and told us Ryan Newman was the first off pit road. Then they switched to a full screen of first the 20 and then the 24 making repairs to their cars. After commercials as the field was restarting, Benny told us that McMurray's team had a problem in the pits and so he would be restarting 39th. Benny also reminded us that the 24 car was experimenting with all painted sponsors, rather than decals to try and increase it's aerodynamics. NBC played some more radio communications from Gordon where he said he felt he and Stewart were both at fault because it got so tight coming off of turn two. Allen reported that Gordon's crew chief said his car was now towed out.

Wally and Matt said Earnhardt was reporting a mist on the track and that Bobby Labonte had mentioned the breeze off turn two. At lap 58, the announcers told us Kenseth was loose and Wally pointed out he had to be careful that another car didn't get too close behind him or that would make him even more loose. This was an excellent point!

After this, NBC went to commercial again. When they returned, we saw Mark Martin getting into Kyle Busch. Then a pointer showing us that Stewart was now in 15th position. Benny said, "when I say aggressive, that's an understatement," to describe Stewart trying to get back to the front. Around lap 66, the pointer was showing information on Stewart again, but the operator seemed to not be able to keep it pointed at the right car. As always, why insist on using these things if they aren't showing the right information?

At lap 68, Allen told us that Kevin Harvick's team put a patch on the grill to get the oil temperature up and help boost the horsepower, and that it appeared to have helped as he was now up to fourth. Back to commercial, but Bill promised they'd do another TTF when they returned. When they came back at lap 72, the TTF did show us drivers through 14th position and told us that Gordon was back in 28th. Then NBC returned to commercial at lap 77. As has been the case in the last year or so, it seems like the producer relies on TTF to replace real coverage in between commercials. Again, NBC did break out of commercial to show us a multi-car accident involving Green and others. They also caught the aftermath which collected Kyle Petty and Carl Edwards. After several replays, NBC showed us a good graphic of all cars involved. Next, we were told that since they "broke out" of commercial, they had to go back and finish "some business." Oh boy...

When they returned, NBC covered pit stops and Benny pointed out the 24 car was on and off pit road with some tire problems. Later, Allen told us that he'd had a flat right tire. After the next commercial, NBC showed more replays of the accident, gave us a pit summary, and showed the team trying to make repairs to Edwards' car. After the lap 84 restart, NBC showed Marty in an inset with Edwards, who admitted he didn't do the best job avoiding the wreck.

Next, Bill told us that Harvick had "grabbed the lead," and the next thing we hear is Benny again shouting "HERE'S GOES JUNIOR!" Then he said, "You can imagine how the fans feel with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leading at Daytona." Gee, Benny, you'd think you were rooting for your brother or something.

Matt relayed a scanner bite he heard from Steve Hmiel of DEI, who said the fog on the track reminded him of Pocono. That was funny and I couldn't agree more!

Eventually, we got an interview with Jeff Green, who told us it was Jarrett who got into him and started the wreck. As usual, the high profile drivers are interviewed first and TV takes its time to get to the drivers that are not the media darlings.

At lap 91, we were told the caution was out for debris on the backstretch. When NBC showed the debris, Wally said it looked like a spring rubber. Bill told us that Joe Nemechek would get the "Lucky Dog" on the next restart. The caution gave NBC an opportunity to show some more detailed replays of the incident involving Green, but Benny pointed out their angle didn't really show whether Jarrett got into him or not. Benny kept maintaining there was no visible damage to left fender of Jarrett's car, yet Wally pointed out you could, in fact, see some damage. Has Benny not only become the designated cheerleader for certain drivers, but also the defender of others?

During pit stops, the announcers pointed out many of the teams only took two tires, but Allen thought Stewart took four. Bill pointed out that one car stalled on pit road and Kenseth had to go through the grass to avoid it (but we never saw a replay). Instead, we got Dave doing a commercial for some new electronic device offered by the series sponsor.

Right before the lap 96 restart, Bill told us that Stewart had actually only taken two tires. At lap 97, Allen reported that Gordon had lost third gear. At lap 100, NBC talked about Terry Labonte in the new 96 team. It was good to hear (and actually see) the past champion; however, it soon became clear that this was really just a sponsor plug since the next break included a commercial for the team's sponsor.

At lap 102, NBC showed a replay of Stewart swerving towards Jimmie Johnson twice. Matt reminded us that something had happened in last year's race, but I didn't really follow what he was talking about. Bill explained it was something between the 20 and 48, but I never was clear on what they meant.

At lap 104, NBC caught Martin going for the lead on the outside and someone pointed out the 26 had bump drafted him to give him the push he needed. After this we got the "dumbed down" explanation of the yellow line rule from Bill. Marty reported that Martin told his crew he had to lift or he'd be pushed below the yellow line.

NBC broke out of their next commercial and the first thing we heard was Bill (I believe) yelling "LOOK OUT!" as Kenseth slid up the track backwards in front of traffic. I enjoyed hearing the candid comments by one of the announcers. The producer immediately played Kenseth's radio where we heard him say "Tony wrecked me plain as day!" Then his crew chief, Robbie Reiser, asking if any of his tires were down. Bill explained they were trying to avoid pitting until the pits were open, so they wouldn't have to start at the back of the pack. NBC showed us several replays of the incident where it appeared Stewart turned directly down into Kenseth sending him wrecking into the grass. I was extremely proud of Wally for not taking the politically correct route and telling it like it is when he said "It doesn't get more blatant than that." He went on to say "For a guy who was talking about over-aggressive driving this week, I don't know what his thinking was there." Unfortunately, Benny seemed to be making excuses for the champ by saying "Unless he thought he had cleared Kenseth..." Wally countered with logic, stating," That's a long way to drive if you thought you had cleared somebody." Bravo, Wally!

Dave Burns reported that Kyle Busch (who'd been the subject of much criticism lately) had asked his crew twice if he'd caused that wreck, and they'd assured him he hadn't been. That was funny! NBC covered pit stops and Allen reported Stewart had not said a word about the incident on his radio. Bill told us that NASCAR had sent Stewart to the end of the longest line for aggressive driving. Wally still appeared astounded by Stewart's actions and said "You don't drive across the track like that unless you are after someone" and again pointed out the irony of this after Stewart's remarks against aggressive driving after the Shootout.

Marty reported that Kenseth felt the penalty assessed against Stewart was not strong enough. Next NBC replayed a great shot of Stewart turning his in-car camera away from his face. They explained he must've seen the shots from his camera on the jumbotrons around the track and apparently didn't like it. In the continuing saga, we next saw Kenseth swerve towards Stewart as they were both exiting the pits. Bill reported that NASCAR had told them both to settle down, and later that NASCAR had blackflagged Kenseth. They directed him to come in and serve a stop and go penalty for his actions, which would cause him to lose a lap since the field was getting ready to go to green. The announcers did a good job trying to analyze exactly what Kenseth did that warranted the penalty. I believe they ended up thinking it was because he passed Stewart before the "blend line" exiting pit road. NBC showed his crew chief in an inset on the restart and played the radio conversation between he and Kenseth, where the driver said he didn't understand what he did wrong. During this time, Benny erupted with "JUNIOR GOES FOR THE LEAD!!!" Thanks for that newflash, Benny. Back to the drama on pit road where NBC showed in the inset that Kenseth had come onto pit road and the announcers pointed out he didn't have to actually stop, but slowing down to pit road speed of 55 would cost him a lot of time. This was good information. Bill also told us that since Kenseth didn't heed the black flag within three laps, NASCAR had stopped scoring him, so he lost a lap even before he served his penalty. Marty got some comments from Kenseth's crew chief and Allen got comments from Stewart's crew chief about the situation. Later, we heard more from Kenseth's radio as he vented his frustration that he was now a lap down and that Stewart got such a minor penalty.

Bill told us that Petty was back out on the track, but was 29 laps down and Kyle Busch was the 15th leader of the race, which tied past records in the 500. That bit of trivia was something I found interesting.

At lap 124, Bill told us the caution was back out and they were waiting to find out why, when Wally pointed out Robby Gordon had a tire down. The cameras caught the carcass of the tire rolling away and someone said Robby may have hit the wall a few laps earlier. During a replay, Wally said he may have been losing the tire when he got into the wall.

During pit stops, Allen alerted us to the fact Stewart dragged his jack away when he pulled out. Someone else pointed out the crew was able to retrieve the jack and we saw a replay. NBC told us Stewart was still being penalized for running over equipment in his pit stall.

At lap 134, Allen told us that Harvick's team had to change their carburetor back on lap 102. At lap 143, NBC did another TTF field and this time actually mentioned more than just the few select drivers they'd been covering all day long. The viewers finally got to see and hear about Dave Blaney, Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader, David Stremme and other drivers as far back as 21st position. Yeah! Bill told us there were 36 cars on the lead lap and that Edwards was the only car officially out of the race. Unfortunately, after this bit of depth in their coverage, guess what? Yep, another commercial at lap 150.

When they returned, we heard one of many references to the fact Johnson's team was operating without their usual crew chief, Chad Knaus, and the same lame football analogy NBC had used all day.

At lap 153, Wally pointed out that Kurt Busch had backed off and gave the spot he gained back to Johnson, so there would be no penalty for going below the yellow line. At lap 154, there was another caution which Bill quickly told us was for debris on the frontstretch.

During pit stop coverage, Marty said McMurray had reported his car had no water pressure a while ago, but that Jimmie Fenning told Marty they'd managed to get the temperature down and so the water pressure would climb back up. NBC also took this opportunity to show underdog, Kirk Shermerdine, and told us he was in 20th place and still on the lead lap. Bill related a story about how he'd received some sponsorship money from the son of a lady who had just passed away and some fans of the late Dale Earnhardt.

After the restart, we were treated to Benny questioning "WHAT IN THE WORLD???" describing Newman using a push from Brian Vickers to get to the front. I'm not sure why he sounded so astounded by this. Could it be that Benny has started to believe the hype that TV tries to feed us that drivers only draft with their teammates?

NBC zoomed in on the front of Johnson's car and Wally explained that the 48 crew had added some tape during the last pit stop to try and get more front downforce and hopefully get more grip with the tires.

With 35 laps to go, NBC told us that Jeff Gordon was back up to 13th position. Wally predicted that as it got closer to the end of the race, he expected things to get more intense, tighter, and we'd see more three-wide racing. Bill said the top 35 were separated by only 6 seconds at this point. At 31 laps to go, the announcers started speculating on what strategy teams might employ on their final pit stops: two tires, gas and go only? At 30 to go, NBC showed Hermie Sadler slowing down in an inset, but they never followed up to tell us what happened to him. The announcers told us Martin was now back in 18th position and Marty explained he'd had to pit twice last time because they didn't all the fuel in his car. Someone thought Stremme was smoking and Bill speculated it might be tire rub. They reported that Stewart was back in 20th and Gordon was passing for 10th or 11th position.

At 26 laps to go, Allen said most teams were six or seven laps short of going the distance on fuel, but some might try to go for it anyway. Although we had a lot of commercials in the early part of the race, it was good that NBC stayed with the race from the lap 181 restart until the checkered flag, despite more cautions.

At 25 laps to go, Wally noted that Travis Kvapil may have gotten into the wall as he saw some smoke from his car. The director finally showed the 32 as he hit the wall and the caution came out. At this time, Wally wondered how many laps teams might have to run under caution to make it to the end without pitting. The announcers also told us that Kenseth had gotten the "Lucky Dog" and would get back on the lead lap. I did wonder how he lost a lap because he didn't obey the black flag, then made the required pit stop and was now the first car only one lap down?

As NBC covered pit stops, they told us which teams appeared to be taking two or four tires and Matt alerted us to Schrader nearly getting hit by Newman on pit road. The director immediately played Newman's radio where he assured his team he "didn't hit him" and then we saw a replay of the incident.

Dave interviewed Brian Vickers' crew chief, Lance McGrew, about the fact they took fuel only and the crew chief said they did it to stay out front and avoid any wrecks. The announcers told us that McMurray had come out of the pits in 14th position because he overshot his pit and had to back up. Bill told us that Wallace took fuel only and had moved up to sixth position. He also mentioned that Marlin took two tires only, but never told us where he was running.

With 19 laps to go, Benny really seemed worried about Earnhardt's chances to win. Right after this, the announcers said that Earnhardt had "dipped" below the yellow line and they wondered if he would be penalized. After some replays of the incident, they said they felt the "no call" by NASCAR was appropriate.

After the announcers got over their concern for the 8 car, the cameras finally moved back to the leader of the race who was Vickers. They told us that he was only 22 years old and reminded us he had not won a race yet. Then they moved on to talk about Johnson's substitute crew chief, Darien Grubb, who was from Floyd, Virginia.

The announcers told us Kurt Busch had been running in sixth position before he got wrecked and replays showed McMurray got into him, and Marlin and Gordon "got a piece" of the wreck as well. The director played some scanner bites from Busch's radio and the announcers explained he was asking his team why McMurray had not been penalized for aggressive driving.

NBC showed Burton and Gordon pitting during the caution. Benny pointed out there would only be 10 laps left when the field went back to green. Wally said it was smart for Gordon's team to put four tires on his car and make repairs in order to try and gain some positions at the end. NBC played McMurry's radio where he said he didn't mean to hit Busch.

As the field went back to green, Bill told us that the top 14 drivers did not pit. Next we saw a replay of Stewart and Kyle Busch getting together. The announcers also pointed out that Vickers had dropped back; probably because of his worn tires. Bill told us that Kyle Busch had been black-flagged for aggressive driving and would lose his ninth position while serving a stop and go penalty. Wally pointed out this would be more serious than what happened to Stewart earlier since the penalty would probably be served under green. The director played Busch's radio where his spotter told him he was being penalized.

NBC showed Dave interviewing Kurt Busch in an inset just as the driver saw McMurray wrecking on the jumbotron. His sarcastic remark of "that's too bad" was pretty funny. The director keyed up a replay quickly where the announcers thought Burton apparently tried to block McMurray and caused them both to wreck, and collected Bobby Labonte in the process. Later, they told us that Hamlin may have run into the back of Burton and triggered the wreck. NBC showed Labonte and Burton on pit road, making repairs to their cars. Bill gave us a rundown of the top 10 and Benny pointed out that this gave Kyle Busch the opportunity to serve his penalty without losing a lap. Around this time it seemed like the announcers were awfully concerned about the 8 and 20 cars to the exclusion of everyone else running in the top 10. Thankfully, Matt reported he'd heard that Casey Mears and Newman were trying to work together.

During this caution, Bill used his preachy tone to tell the viewers that "NASCAR will attempt one Green/White/Checker finish" and all about NASCAR's scoring loops. Benny said those three extra laps would cause teams to use one and a half extra gallon of fuel. Wally also pointed out the teams probably tried to put in only as much fuel as they thought they needed on the last pit stop, so they could get out of the pits quickly.

After the restart, NBC used their silly pointers on the 8 car. Why do the networks insist on cluttering up the screen at a critical point in the race? They told us that Stewart had moved up to fifth position, just as Bill told us there was a crash behind him and the caution was out on the last lap. The director played Johnson's radio as he crossed the line and the announcers told us that it appeared Biffle had wrecked behind the leader.

After the checkers, we heard [yet again] that the 48 team was without their "coach." Hadn't we already heard this analogy enough? The director showed the in-car camera of Johnson reacting to winning the race.

Weber was trying to explain that NASCAR would have to review the scoring loops and video in order to determine the final finishing order, but the director cut into his explanation to play more the radio from the 48. Someone needs to remember to tell the guys in the booth when they are going to do this type of thing.

Allen had an interview with Johnson's car owner, Rick Hendrick and then we saw Johnson spinning through the grass, getting the checkered flag, and starting a Polish Victory Lap to celebrate his win. NBC finally showed a replay of what happened to Biffle on the last lap. Bill also told us McMurray was treated and released from the infield care center and Bill again made sure we knew he'd apologized for hitting Busch.

The pit reporters interviewed Newman and Mears but were unsure which of them had finished second at this point, as well as interviewing Earnhardt who finished in either fifth or sixth. Dave spoke with Kenseth and asked him if he felt the penalties had been applied consistently. Kenseth said he felt what Stewart had done to him was intentional. Dave also tried to get Kenseth's teammate, Martin, to comment, but he told him he had nothing to add. Marty had the unenviable job of interviewing Stewart to get his side of the story.

NBC showed Johnson in Victory Lane, with Allen interviewing him and removing confetti from the winner's face. Bill told us that this gave Hendrick back-to-back Daytona 500 wins.

After a commercial, Marty interviewed Vickers who led late, but ended up finishing ninth. Dave interviewed Petty who finished 26th and asked him if he thought NASCAR made consistent calls during the day. (I guess Dave is the one nominated to ask the tough questions.) There were also interviews with others finishing in the top 10 and Gordon who fell back to 28th and was officially the co-owner of Johnson's team.

Bill told us that they had a graphic of the top five finishers, but reminded us NASCAR would be using electronic scoring and video to determine the final order. Then that they now had the top 15 finishers and that Earnhardt had led the most laps, with 32. After this, Bill said something about "that was DJ and Jeff Green," but the camera appeared to show a crew member. I'm not sure what that was about.

The announcers did highlight the good finishes by rookie, Clint Bowyer, as well as Schrader, and Robbie Gordon. As the broadcast team signed off the air, Bill made a real faux paux, starting to tell us that "Dale" won the race and then realized it was actually Jimmie Johnson. Not sure if he was reading from a previously prepared script or what, but obviously things didn't go the way Benny and NBC had expected. As NBC signed off, they showed a highlight montage from the race, but unfortunately it involved a lot of wreck footage. Why can't the networks focus more on racing, rather than wrecks?

As I said earlier, I think NBC did a good job with this broadcast. Not a great job, as there were still too many commercials and way too much coverage of Earnhardt, Gordon, and Stewart (though I'll admit Stewart was the center of much controversy during the race). Benny really needs to moderate his tone at times and try not to appear so partisan towards certain drivers. I've never been as disappointed by his lack of professionalism as I was during this broadcast. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Wally continues to impress me with his clear-sightedness, great insights, and focus. But overall, a pretty good day for the NBC team. Too bad they won't be back until July!

As in 2005, I don't plan to review every single race this year. It's just too demanding for me to do a thorough job every week. But I will try to do reviews from time to time 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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