A Voice for the Fans ~ Great Racing But Poor Coverage
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course, the usual warm welcome to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR related. We hope you enjoy your day with us and deliver all of our comments to the proper parties. We are the fans that care, though sad to say, our numbers are shrinking fast. Today, let’s start off with the first thing that caught my attention, and honestly, I’d hoped for much better news, despite the obvious empty seats at the track. (We gave you Chamber of Commerce weather too)
“Atlanta Overnight TV Ratings
Continuing a rough start to the season, NASCAR's second race of the season scored its lowest overnight since FOX acquired rights. NASCAR Sprint Cup racing from Atlanta earned a 3.7 overnight rating on FOX Sunday afternoon, down 27% from last year (5.1) and the lowest overnight for the second race of the season since FOX began airing races in 2001. The previous low was a 4.8 for the 2014 Phoenix race.
The second race of the season is usually the highest rated outside of Daytona, topping a 6.0 overnight in all-but-one year from 2001 to 2008 and a 5.0 in all-but-two years since. Overnights reached as high as 7.1 for the Auto Club 500 in 2005. For the weekend, NASCAR placed second among sporting events behind Saturday's Warriors/Thunder NBA game on ABC (3.9). Because NBA ratings tend to decline from the overnight to the final, while NASCAR ratings remain stable or increase, the race will likely come out ahead in the final tally.”
Now let’s get right to the racing, race fans. Did everyone enjoy the race in Atlanta as much as I did? Hmm… did anyone watch the race at Atlanta on Sunday? If not, and I know many of you did not, you really missed some fine racing done in the old school style. When the tires can’t last the length of a full gas run, and the cars can seemingly pass at will, provided one is faster than the other, then the racing becomes more than just a parade until all gas tanks are running dry.
It was such fun to watch some of our younger ones discover that all they really knew how to do was steer. On Sunday, they got what amounted to their first real driving lesson, because without the comfort of all the downforce to which they were accustomed, steering was a whole different thing. Unless they’d raced on dirt, they never knew that sometimes you actually turn right to go left. (If you don’t, your back end will likely turn before your front end, and your destination will become the SAFER barrier.) The only thing missing was bias-ply tires instead of radials because they slide better through the corners don’t you know.
Friends, race fans and whoever else might be reading here today, this kind of racing is worth at least turning on your TV to watch. I’ll leave the volume controls to your discretion. The next track up on the schedule is Las Vegas, and though in a few minutes I’ll be picking a very serious bone with those running the show there, the racing should be somewhat close to what we saw at Atlanta… at least we’re hoping it will be.
And what, exactly, did we see at Atlanta? Not nearly as much as any fan would have liked. FOX Networks, you need some lessons in race broadcasting, and might I suggest that you take those lessons from the guys at NBC and NBCSN that do the other half of NASCAR’s racing season? They get it right. NBC does not concentrate only on the first three cars whose numbers appear at the top of the pylon. They get radical and show the entire field… not just once, but often throughout the race. That is so simple to do. Pull back your cameras; take off the “zoom” and let the fans watch as though they are actually sitting in the grandstand. It produces an awesome view of most of the cars on track, and allows the viewer to choose which part of the race he wants to watch at that point in time.
Lose the in-car cameras, at least for the most part. We like the one from the right-side window that shows us a driver is OK after a crash. We can do without watching the race through the windshield of any car, but especially the leader. There’s little to see but “clean air” (and empty grandstands) from that viewpoint. Call us regressive, but we are not thrilled by watching one car turn endless laps around any race track. After the race, we hear about all the passing and great moves made by this, that or the other driver, though we don’t hear it from FOX. We’d like to see some of that please! That’s why we’re race fans. We enjoy watching the race… ALL of it… get it?
Also, your timing stinks, and I can think of no more accurate way to put that. Sunday’s race was the “Folds of Honor-QuikTrip 500.” It was well publicized that Folds of Honor planned a special display involving fan participation on lap 13 of the race. From nascar.com:
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1
p.m. Sunday, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM Radio) will feature a special salute to fallen
military service members on Lap 13, chosen because of the 13 folds in the
American flag given to families of fallen service men and women.
Fans attending Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be asked to raise and hold replicas of folded American flags on Lap 13 in a show of honor. The event is also a fundraiser for Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that helps to pay for the education of children and adults whose parents or spouses are killed or injured in military service.
A salute to fallen service members… something that any NASCAR fan would want to watch… yet what did FOX air on lap 13 of the race? Commercials! Really FOX? That’s the best you could do? In retrospect, that goes hand in hand with your first broadcast ever… when you blithely signed off the air and left fans all over several countries wondering about the condition of our own fallen warrior, Dale Earnhardt. You gave lousy coverage then and it continues to this day. You have broadcast rights to the races only because you were willing to spend more than better networks, and quite frankly, NASCAR can be bought.
At the very end of the race, there was what must have been a nasty wreck around mid-field, resulting in the #43 car of Aric Almirola going out in a blaze of glory, and I do mean “blaze” in the strictest sense of the word. Aric was out of the car and away from harm before the flames eventually engulfed the entire car. “Oil cooler” was the opinion voiced from the booth. We fans at home were told there were 4 cars involved in the wreck, and that one of them was rookie Ryan Blaney, driving the #21 for the Wood Brothers. That was all we were told, and all we ever saw was the fire in the #43. Did FOX pay so much for rights to broadcast NASCAR that they can’t afford enough cameras to cover a wreck on the last lap? They held a camera right on that fire for a very long time though. Brought to mind that old newspaper saying, which has now carried over to TV, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Brian, can you not see that at least some of your lost fans have been driven away by the coverage of this network? The racing on Sunday was top-notch. Drivers and the fans that saw the race, all loved it. I know the drivers were too busy to have seen the TV coverage, but take it from this fan, and all those that have written or commented to me about it, the coverage was horrid! Just horrid! Call me crazy, but I don’t want to see NASCAR die; I want to see the racing be fun, as it once was; I want to see our young fans experience the same thrill that my generation did whenever that green flag waved, and this setup is definitely on the right track. Is there any way you could broker a deal to have NBC take over the FOX portion of this season and beyond? The NBC coverage stands so far above that of the FOX Networks that the two resemble Heaven and Hell… and come to think of it, that is quite an apt parallel.
Once more, before leaving Atlanta for this year, we’d like to say “Thanks” to Ed Clark and everyone that contributed to the massive extension of the SAFER barriers around the track. There were a couple of nasty wrecks in the Truck Series race, and everyone involved sang the praises of the SAFER barriers, and opined on what the wrecks might have been like without them.
Now, we move on to a track that continues to show us what can and does happen when SAFER barriers are not in place… Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Gentle readers, both Atlanta and Las Vegas are SMI tracks, yet their response to the need for the SAFER system could not be more different. Folks at AMS got right to work and brought that old girl into almost total compliance with the idea of “SAFER barriers everywhere.” Las Vegas, since the accident at Daytona in the Xfinity race of 2015 that left Kyle Busch on the sidelines for the first 11 races of the season, has done what amounts to not much of anything. Last March, we reported that “modifications were made to the cut-out area in Turn 3 and to the pit road opening”, whatever that means. In October of last year, we found out what it didn’t mean when young Austin Theriault took a wicked ride into the one tiny spot that for some reason was left unprotected.
The track claimed at that time that plans were already in place to install SAFER barriers… to that tiny piece indicated by white arrows on the map. Nothing more was promised, and a wide search of both their website and the World Wide Web revealed nothing more beyond that promise. An article from Sports Illustrated detailed the same thing these pages had reported about LVMS in March and again in October.
The author of that piece, Mike Hutton, coldly closes his assessment of the somewhat insignificant promise made by LVMS by saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Yep! Me too! Gentle readers, I know that at least a few of you are from those parts. If anyone knows of any improvements done by the Las Vegas track regarding SAFER barriers, would you be kind enough to either comment below or email me with factual updates, preferably with pictures?
This might be a slightly unfair way to close this piece, but I just want to remind everyone that this is the track that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon on October 16, 2011. Yes, the race was an IndyCar race, not a NASCAR race, and by virtue of design, those lightweight cars travel at a much greater speed than do our big old 3000-plus-pound stock cars. Dan is still dead. Rest in peace Lionheart!
Las Vegas Motor Speedway… it’s way past time to clean up your act. If you don’t believe me, ask Austin Theriault about his compressed spinal fracture. I’m quite positive he will agree with me.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and Mama is in a wonderful mood just now, so I’m going to play a small collection of songs that mean the world to me. I hope you will all enjoy them as much as I do. First up today is one called, “From a Jack to a King”, by Ned Miller. Yes, there are other versions, but this is the one from my teenage years and the one I love still today.
Next is a song that has played a very significant part in my life several times, and continues today to do so. This is Bobby Helms with his wonderful version of, “My Special Angel.”
Next we’ll hear one from Gentleman Jim Reeves. This is one of his prettiest “crooner” songs, “Missing You.”
This one is perhaps one of the most beautiful and sincere love songs ever written, and it was written by John Denver for his wife. Here is John singing “Annie’s Song.”
Last one for today is from Eddy Arnold, and I don’t think the man ever sang a song I didn’t love, but this one I’ve danced to with someone very special. This is Eddy singing, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!