Reachin' Up There and Pullin' Those Belts Tight One More Time!
Saturday night, I got a little teary-eyed at the end of the Pepsi 400. Not because both of my favorite drivers were eliminated in the same lap, but because this was FOX’s last race of the year.
Let’s face it. FOX’s coverage is just better. The pre-race show is more entertaining and it provides much more information. The race commentary is also entertaining and informational without being annoying. And the entire presentation, complete with solid openings and bumpers is fresh and fun (as evidenced by Saturday’s “Entourage” parody).
Now, I know there are people out there who can’t stand Darrell Waltrip, but I am definitely not one of them. I think he and Larry McReynolds are a great team and do an excellent job of breaking down the technical information so people can understand it. And Mike Joy is the Joe Buck of NASCAR—smooth, genial, and knowledgeable, without being arrogant about it.
But beginning next week, NBC (and TNT) will take over the broadcasts. And while FOX’s crew oozes chemistry, the NBC/TNT crew has none. NBC improved that problem by putting Bill Weber in the booth (replacing Alan Bestwick), but it wasn’t enough. Wally Dallenbach tries the down-to-Earth approach, but Benny Parsons always belittles him with his “I know everything” attitude and Weber ends up playing referee (Bestwick tried to one-up Parsons, which just made things awkward.).
The good news is that this is NBC’s last year broadcasting NASCAR. Next year, ABC/ESPN (and TNT) will do the second half of the season. If you watched the Indy 500, you got a taste of what the ABC/ESPN coverage may be like and it’s not too bad. Rusty Wallace will do a great job once he’s in his element (Indy cars are not really his thing.). So, I’m REALLY hoping that they don’t feel the need to recruit Benny Parsons to join him; though Parson’s arrogance may work okay in a pre-race show. ABC would be better served to repeat the successful driver-crew chief combination of FOX (Why didn’t anyone else think of that before?).
The other good news is that there’s a good chance the FOX crew will do the handful of TNT races; and most importantly, FOX will no longer have to rotate coverage of the Daytona 500, kicking off the season for the next eight years.
Now in the interest of fairness, I will say FOX’s coverage is not perfect. The directors are often too slow to switch to accidents or passes for the lead (not cutting into the commercial break to show the Johnson-Labonte crash is a good example of that) and the pit stop coverage has been lackluster as of late. But even with the mistakes, FOX has set the standard for NASCAR coverage and we’ll just have to wait and see how ABC/ESPN measures up.
So even though this season is only half over, I’m already looking forward to February, when we can “reach up there and pull those belts tight” once again.