- NASCAR on Fox
NASCAR on Fox Format Auto Racing Starring Mike Joy
Opening theme Sideways by Dierks Bentley Country of origin USA Production Running time varies, but typically 4.5 hours (ranges from 4 to 5 hours) Broadcast Original channel Fox Original run 2001 – present External links Website
- 1 Background
- 2 Announcers
- 3 Theme Music
- 4 On-screen graphics
- 5 Awards
- 6 Criticisms
- 7 References
- 8 External links
On November 11, 1999, a new contract was signed for American television broadcast rights for NASCAR, split between Fox/FX and NBC/TBS (later TNT) beginning in 2001. Fox/FX would cover the first half of the season while NBC/TNT would air the second half of the season.
From 2001–2006, Fox alternated coverage of the first and most famous race of the season, the Daytona 500, with Fox getting the odd years and NBC the even ones. For balance, the opposite network would air Daytona's July race, the Pepsi 400. This particular television contract was signed for eight years for Fox/FX and six years for NBC/TNT and was valued at $2.4 billion. In addition to coverage on the Fox Broadcasting Company, the Fox-owned Speed Channel carried the entire Craftsman Truck Series schedule, a contract they bought out from ESPN in October 2002.
During the first half of the season FX was the primary home to the Busch Series, airing all but the most prestigious races which then were shown on Fox instead. FX was also home to most NASCAR Sprint Cup night races, The All-Star Race, and the spring race at Dover. Should a Fox-scheduled race be rained out to Monday, FX would simulcast the race with some Fox affiliates. Fox Sports Net covered the 2001 Gatorade Twin 125's at Daytona International Speedway, the only time it covered a race.
On December 7, 2005, NASCAR signed a new eight-year, $4.48 billion deal with the Fox Broadcasting Company and Speed Channel. Also included in the new contract are Disney-owned ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, along with TNT. The contract came into effect in 2007. The rights were split up as such:
- Fox would become the exclusive home to the Daytona 500 and own the rights to the twelve points races after that. In addition, they will carry the Budweiser Shootout and two Craftsman Truck Series races. (In 2007, they were the Martinsville spring race, and the race in Mansfield, Ohio the Saturday before Memorial Day. In 2008 and '09, Fox aired the Kroger 250 from Martinsville, as well as the San Bernardino County 200 at California Speedway, instead of Mansfield. In 2010, Fox didn't air any races of what is now the Camping World Truck Series; all 25 races aired on Speed. In 2011, Fox's coverage ended with the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
- TNT will carry the next six Sprint Cup races including the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
- ESPN and ABC (through the ESPN on ABC arrangement) carried the final seventeen Sprint Cup races, with the ten races comprising the Chase for the Sprint Cup airing on ABC (in 2010, ESPN took over most of the coverage, leaving ABC with the last 3 Saturday night races in their broadcasting period). ESPN will begin the coverage with the Brickyard 400. The entire Nationwide Series season will be aired primarily on ESPN2 and ESPN, with selected races on ABC.
- Speed will carry the Gatorade Duel races and the Sprint All-Star Challenge, as well as the entire Craftsman Truck Series season, except for the two races each year carried by Fox from 2007–09. After the 2009 season, all the Truck races aired on Speed.
For all of their broadcasts, Fox uses a portable studio called the "Hollywood Hotel" for the pre-race coverage. The exception was from 2001 to 2007 at Daytona, where they would use the infield media center situated next to Gatorade Victory Lane. As of last year, the Hollywood Hotel and the "Ford Cut-Away Car" areas are also incorporated into Speed Channel's Happy Hour coverage with Steve Byrnes joining Jeff Hammond (Myers' contract is exclusively to Fox).
If the race is delayed to a Monday, the "Hollywood Hotel" has not been used. This was because Myers was also a talk-show host for Fox Sports Radio and he had to return to Los Angeles to begin the following week's shows. However, if a Saturday night race is rained out to Sunday then the studio will stay. If the Hotel is no longer available, Jeff Hammond can be shifted to fill in a pit reporter's position or analyst's role if necessary. Hammond also did this in 2002 for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway for Steve Byrnes when Byrnes was unable to make it due to his wife going into labor.
During the 2004 Dodge/Save Mart 350 the studio was not used and Myers and Hammond were located on the hillside on outdoor chairs. No explanation was given for this.
Future use of the Hotel on Monday is now conceivably possible, as Myers left Fox Sports Radio in 2010.
In 2011, Pizza Hut became the presenting sponsor of the pre-race show. Also, the first segment was moved from the hotel to a tented facility either trackside or in the infield, depending on the venue. The idea was to build a crowd around the production of the segment; this has similarities to Fox's own NFL pregame show in 2006, as well as the College GameDay football and basketball shows on ESPN.
For full races on Sunday, Waltrip is positioned initially in the studio for the show's pre-race segments.
The original theme music for NASCAR on Fox broadcasts was in the same style as its other properties (NFL, MLB, etc.) and was used from 2001 to 2007. In 2008, Fox unrolled a new theme for its NASCAR telecasts called NASCAR Love, sung by country singer Toby Lightman. An instrumental version was used for the opening segment.
Since mid-October 2010, Fox has used the NFL on Fox theme song across all its sports properties, and the change became official on the NASCAR telecasts with the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. In addition, country superstar Dierks Bentley has unveiled a new version of his hit song "Sideways", with new lyrics referencing NASCAR. It now plays at the very beginning of the pre-race show.
For the show's debut in 2001, Fox first introduced the scoring banner to its national broadcasts. The first banner was simpler than the following two versions. From left to right, an advertisement with "FOX" underneath, then "RUNNING ORDER" in a Handel Gothic font, and finally the current placements of the drivers. The placements would be in yellow boxes while to the right of the boxes, the driver's name and car number.
For the 2004 season, a new ticker was introduced, with a style similar to that of Fox's NFL score banner at the time. Instead of retracting from the top of the screen, this version flashed on and flashed off. This time, the "NASCAR on Fox" logo was on the left, and the car numbers would be shown in the car's colors and number font. In 2006, the ticker went from black to a chrome finish, in line with the other Fox Sports properties (MLB, NFL).
Some viewers pointed out that the running order on Fox's on-screen ticker quickly became out-of-date due to on-track changes in position. In response, Fox introduced "top 10 only," "top 20 only," and "lead lap and free pass car" tickers starting at the 2006 Coca-Cola 600.
For the 2007 season, another new ticker was introduced, with a style similar to that of Fox's then current NFL score bar, but divided into 2 strips, one strip containing lap count and other information such as updates of positions, and a new unobstructed ticker that stretches the entire width of the screen. However, until May 2008, the standings still did not update in real time. The option finally became available at the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond, but only because Fox diverted from NASCAR's official scoring. Instead it uses global positioning systems located inside the cars, so the ticker can now be updated live if the position of a car changes.
For the 2011 season, broadcasts on both Fox and Speed took on a design based on the new Fox Sports graphics package that had recently debuted on the network's NFL coverage. The new ticker is now contained within a bar (rather than a full-width banner), with race status located on a tab in the top-middle of the bar, and advertiser/network logos placed at the ends of the bar. Beginning at California, the colored "pods" that driver names are displayed in also began to show up in grey for drivers who are listed as being out of the race. As with all other Fox Sports broadcasts, coverage also began to be produced and shown in the 16:9 aspect ratio for all viewers.
NASCAR on FOX has won 13 Emmy Awards for its coverage, including three for Outstanding Sports Series (2001, 2005, 2007), three for Outstanding Live Event Audio Sound (2002, 2005, 2006), one for Outstanding Graphic Design (2001), five for Outstanding Technical Team Remote (2001, 2003–05, 2007) and one for Promotional Announcement Episodic (2008).
Turn cam and "Digger"
After limited usage in 2007, the network introduced the "Gopher Cam" full-time in 2008, a camera angle from the bottom banking of a track's turn. Fox implied that they invented the technology. However, it was quickly brought to light that Terry Lingner of ESPN, along with engineer James Fishman, had developed the technology fifteen years earlier under the name "Tread Cam." However, it should be known the devices are completely different. The Lingner "Tread Cam," used at O'Reilly Raceway Park, is a pop-up camera that was in 480p standard definition, while the "Gopher Cam" is flatter and smoother camera (not a pop-up) that is in high definition.
"Digger" the gopher began as a symbol of the corner camera and was later adopted as unofficial mascot for FOX's entire coverage. Beginning with the 2009 Daytona 500, Digger was extended into a series of short cartoons that aired during the pre-race show. Country music superstar Keith Urban recorded the theme song for these shorts. Storylines revolved around Digger and his life beneath the infield of a fictional racetrack. Other characters include his girlfriend Annie and the track's security chief, Lumpy Wheels. They are named after David Hill's daughter (Hill is the president of Fox Sports) and former track promoter Humpy Wheeler. Digger's souvenir trailer at the tracks attracts sizeable crowds of families with young children. However, the cartoon segment drew wide opposition from people who regularly watch the broadcasts.
After a NASCAR town hall-style meeting at the end of May 2009, Fox Sports chair David Hill reported receiving an email from a high-ranking NASCAR official whose identity he has concealed,  stating that Digger could have been a cause of the Fox ratings decline. Hill said "It was because of Digger that people were turning off in droves because they couldn't stand it, I said, I'm so sorry. If I'd known, I never would have created him. I didn't realize how insidious he was. It's the biggest crock of (stuff) I've ever heard."
Among the reasons of criticism is the purpose of the character's usage. Though it was at one time commonplace for networks to create mascots for sports coverage to incorporate an educational and entertaining element into their coverage, which was the case with Peter Puck, Digger was created purely to add entertainment to the broadcast and reach out to a younger audience. Some NASCAR fans accuse Fox of dumbing down and fluffing their coverage so they can fill up on money from Digger merchandise sales.
Despite continuous outrage from the NASCAR fan community, as well as talk from the NASCAR community that the Fan Council is not pleased with this situation, Fox has not announced any plans to drop the usage of the characters, and even has posted pictures of Holiday 2009 and 2010-themed versions of the Digger die-cast. In 2010, the Digger cartoon was not shown during pre-race shows and less appearances of Digger at the bottom of the screen in response to the comments.
Digger made a cameo appearance in the 2009 film Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. He also made an appearance in the FOX NFL Sunday intro on December 20, 2009; the Chipmunks also made an appearance in the intro as well. The movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which has the same parent company (News Corporation) as Fox Broadcasting.
It should be noted that “Digger” was not the first stock car themed cartoon character to be developed for race fans. The “Race Bug” was a popular racing cartoon character used in coloring books and merchandise in the 1990’s in Mooresville, NC.
In 1995, Art Almond, a Mooresville, NC Racing Cartoonist created one of the more controversial Stock Car Racing Characters to date. His creation,“Pit Road Toad” was more of an adult oriented character that consumed beer, and freeloaded around various race tracks and garages. The character soon became popular when used as a humorous learning medium for both fans, and industry insiders.
Showing a strangely celebrated series of the "10 Biggest Crashes" on the NASCAR on Fox telecast during the Sunday rainout of the 2010 Samsung Mobile 500, Fox showed incidents from the 2002 and 2003 Aaron's 499's amongst their top 10. The same clip of Mike Wallace's #33 Chevy crashing from Tony Stewart's in car camera from 2002 can be seen in both the 2002 and 2003 highlight compilations.
In the starting grid for the 2001 Twin 125 races at Daytona International Speedway (which used 3D representations of the cars), Fox showed only the logos on the hoods of cars that had paid the network to advertise during the race. For instance, Budweiser was shown on the #8 and The Home Depot on the #20 were shown, but Miller Lite on the #2 was not. After outcry from some of the excluded companies, full logo graphics were restored to all cars three days later for the Daytona 500 telecast. After some controversy, the computer-generated cars used initially on the starting grid and top-five standings when going to break were phased out from main broadcast use, entirely discontinued in 2005 with exception to the Daytona 500 starting grid which featured the computer generated cars. While some writers continue to imply that Fox altered or removed some sponsor names on camera shots of cars during competition, this never happened.
End of the 2001 Daytona 500 and Dale Earnhardt's death
The 2001 Daytona 500, which was Fox's very first NASCAR telecast, also brought an unrelated controversy. At the end of that race, Fox left the air shortly after Dale Earnhardt, fatally injured in a crash on the last lap, was admitted to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida. The network provided no updates on his condition at the time of the 5:15 p.m. EST sign-off (although no information was available at that time), and continued regular programming (with the animated series Futurama) at the moment Earnhardt's death was confirmed at the 7:00 p.m. EST press conference. NASCAR's other broadcast network partner, NBC, delayed a commercial break at a National Basketball Association game and ESPN (which aired the Craftsman Truck Series at that time) had earlier, and much more extensive coverage, of Earnhardt's death and its aftermath. However, Fox News Channel and Fox Sports Net did break into their programming to announce the seven-time champion's passing, with Myers providing reports on FSN programs. It is possible that Fox showed a crawl on the screen on the master control feed that showed Futurama. In addition, local affiliates may have chosen to pre-empt the episode, with anchors delivering the news live. However, none of this has ever been verified.
Shortly after the race, Hill explained to the Associated Press that the network had gone over its allotted time (in part due to a long red-flag delay on Lap 175 caused by the infamous "Big One") and that continuing to cover the story would be too morbid. Neil Goldberg, producer, also said their staffers were not allowed near the crash scene.
When ESPN presented a tribute feature 10 years after Earnhardt died, it showed footage of the crash and aftermath, that looked like part of the live telecast. However, it was stamped with "WFTV," the call sign of the ABC affiliate in Orlando, Florida. (Orlando and Daytona Beach share the same media market, and ABC's parent company owns 80 percent of ESPN.) How footage from NASCAR on Fox got credited to another network's local station has not been made public.
- ^ a b EyeOnSportsMedia - Fox Sports Announces 2010 NASCAR Broadcast Schedule
- ^ "NASCAR Pulls Into Prime Time". Forbes. October 7, 2003. http://www.forbes.com/2003/10/07/cx_pp_1007nascar.html.
- ^ http://sports.bostonherald.com/autoRacing/view.bg?articleid=116086&format=
- ^ http://www.jayski.com/cts/2010cts-sched.htm
- ^ "Gopher Cam provides "hole" new TV perspective". FoxSports.com. February 14, 2008. http://msn.foxsports.com/other/story/7794380/Gopher-Cam-provides-. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- ^ "Meet The Original "Gopher Cam"". The Daly Planet. February 19, 2008. http://dalyplanet.blogspot.com/2008/02/meet-original-gopher-cam.html. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- ^ Ryan, Nate (May 29, 2009). "Fox Sports chief: 'Digger' not to blame for NASCAR ratings dip". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/nascar/2009-05-28-fox-tv-ratings_N.htm. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
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Daytona 500 television broadcaster
2001 – present
(shared with NBC from 2001–2006; Fox aired race in 2001, 2003, and 2005)
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