Logo used since 2015
|Also known as||NASCAR on FOX (2001-2014; former name)|
|Genre||Auto racing telecasts|
|Theme music composer||Scott Schreer|
|Opening theme||"NFL on Fox theme music"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||15|
|Location(s)||Various NASCAR venues|
|Running time||Varies, but typically 4.5 hours (ranges from 4 to 5 hours) or until race ends|
|Production company(s)||Fox Sports|
|Original channel||Fox (2001–present)
Fox Sports 1 (2013–present)
Fox Sports 2 (2013–present)
Fox Sports Networks (2001–2002)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
(downconverted to letterboxed 4:3 on SDTV feed since 2009),
|Original run||February 11, 2001– present|
|Preceded by||NASCAR on CBS|
Fox NASCAR (formerly known as NASCAR on Fox until 2015) is the branding used for broadcasts of NASCAR races that are produced by Fox Sports, and have aired on the Fox network in the United States since 2001. Speed, a motorsports-focused cable channel owned by Fox, began broadcasting NASCAR-related events in February 2002, with its successor Fox Sports 1 taking over Fox Sports' cable event coverage rights when that network replaced Speed in August 2013. Throughout its run, the network's NASCAR coverage has won 13 Emmy Awards.
- 1 Background
- 2 Announcers
- 3 Theme music
- 4 On-screen graphics
- 5 Awards
- 6 Criticisms
- 7 References
- 8 External links
On November 11, 1999, NASCAR signed a contract that awarded the U.S. television rights to its races to four networks (two that would hold the broadcast television rights and two that would hold the cable television rights), split between Fox and sister cable channel FX, and NBC and TBS (whose rights were later assumed by TNT) starting with the 2001 season. Fox and FX would alternate coverage of all races held during the first half of the season, while NBC and TNT would air all races held during the second half.
Beginning in 2001, Fox alternated coverage of the first and most preeminent race of the season, the Daytona 500, with Fox televising the race in odd-numbered years and NBC airing it in even-numbered years through 2006. For balance, the network that did not air the 500 in a given year during the contract would air the Pepsi 400, held each July at Daytona International Speedway. Valued at $2.4 billion, Fox/FX held the rights to this particular contract for eight years (through 2008) and NBC/TNT having the rights for six years (through 2006). Further on the cable side, in October 2002, Speed Channel – which was owned by the Fox broadcast network's parent subsidiary Fox Entertainment Group – obtained the rights to televise all of the races in the Camping World Truck Series, a contract it bought out from ESPN.
During the first half of the season, FX served as the primary broadcaster of the Busch Series, airing all but the most prestigious races, which were instead shown on Fox. FX was also home to most of the Sprint Cup nighttime races, the All-Star Race, and the June race at Dover International Speedway. Should a Fox-scheduled race be rained out on their scheduled race day and rescheduled to resume the following Monday, FX would simulcast the race with some of Fox's affiliates. Fox Sports Net covered the 2001 Gatorade Twin 125's at Daytona International Speedway, the only time it ever covered a race.
On December 7, 2005, NASCAR signed a new eight-year broadcast deal effective with the 2007 season, and valued at $4.48 billion, with Fox and Speed Channel, which would also share event rights with Disney-owned ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, as well as TNT. The rights would be divided as follows:
- Fox became the exclusive broadcaster of the Daytona 500 and also hold the rights to the first thirteen points paying races. In addition, the network carried the Sprint Unlimited and two Truck Series races (the network aired the STP 500 from Martinsville Speedway, and the Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park in 2007; and the Kroger 250 from Martinsville, as well as the San Bernardino County 200 at California Speedway, in 2008 and 2009). Fox did not air any races of what is now the Camping World Truck Series in 2010, with all 25 races airing instead on Speed. Fox's coverage ended in 2011, with the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
- TNT carried six Sprint Cup races during the month of June and the first half of July, including the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. In 2013, in particular, the network aired races held at Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, Kentucky Speedway, Daytona International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
- ESPN and ABC (through the ESPN on ABC arrangement) carried the final seventeen Sprint Cup races from the Brickyard 400 through the end of the season, with the Chase for the Sprint Cup races airing on ABC (until 2010, when ESPN took over most of the coverage, leaving ABC with the last three Saturday night races in their broadcasting period). The entire Nationwide Series season was aired primarily on ESPN2 and ESPN, with selected races on ABC.
- Speed/Fox Sports 1 carried the Budweiser Duel races and the Sprint All-Star Race, as well as the entire Craftsman Truck Series season, except for the two races carried each year by Fox from 2007 to 2009. After the 2009 season, all the Truck races aired on Speed/FS1 – with the exception of the 2014 Talladega race, which aired on Fox.
In October 2012, NASCAR extended its contract with Fox Sports through 2022, which allowed Fox the online streaming rights for its event telecasts; the Fox Sports contract also retains coverage of the first 13 races of the Sprint Cup season and exclusive coverage of the Daytona 500. However, on August 1, 2013, Fox Sports extended its contract by two years (through 2024) and acquired the rights to the first 16 races of the Sprint Cup Series season, as well as the first 14 Xfinity (formerly Nationwide) Series events. As a result, Fox will broadcast the races it already covers, as well as all of the events held in June, which include the events at Pocono and Michigan Speedways – with coverage ending with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma. Fox had previously held rights to these three races under its initial 2001–06 contract.
Under the new deal, Fox will broadcast most races over-the-air, with Fox Sports 1 carrying several other events (including the Budweiser Duel races, the Sprint All-Star Race and races at Martinsville, Kansas, Dover, Pocono, Michigan, and Sonoma.
For all of its broadcasts, Fox uses a portable studio called the "Hollywood Hotel" for pre-race coverage. For the 2001 to 2007 races at Daytona International, the infield media center situated next to Gatorade Victory Lane was used instead. As of 2011, 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 with Fox).
- Andy Petree (Rules Analyst)
If the race is delayed to a Monday, the "Hollywood Hotel" studio is usually not used, with the exception of the 2012 Daytona 500, which was delayed by one day. This was because Myers also hosted a talk-show for Fox Sports Radio, resulting in him having to return to Los Angeles to begin the following week's shows. John Roberts filled in for Myers for this particular race, and had also filled in for Myers the previous week for the Budweiser Shootout as Myers was on bereavement leave.
However, if a Saturday night race is rained out to Sunday then the studio will be in use for the delayed coverage. If the Hotel is no longer available, Jeff Hammond can be shifted to substitute for a pit reporter or analyst 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 as his wife had went 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.
In 2011, Pizza Hut became the presenting sponsor of the pre-race show. In addition, the first segment of the telecast 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.
In 2012, John Roberts filled in for Chris Myers as host for the Budweiser Shootout and the Daytona 500, as Myers was on bereavement leave following his son's death in a motorcycle accident. For the 2014 Sprint Unlimited, Michael Waltrip filled in for Darrell, who was undergoing gallbladder surgery; for Daytona 500 Practice and Pole Qualifying, the position was filled by Phil Parsons. Darrell Waltrip returned for the Budweiser Duels.
- NSCS broadcast team
- NXS broadcast team
- Adam Alexander – lap-by-lap announcer
- Michael Waltrip – color analyst
- guest analyst (see notes)
- NCWTS broadcast team
For full races on Sunday, Waltrip is positioned initially in the studio for the show's pre-race segments.
- Dick Berggren – pit reporter (2001–2012, retired)
- Krista Voda – host/pit reporter (2007–2014, now hosting NASCAR on NBC pre-race coverage)
- Jeanne Zelasko – pit reporter (2001–2006, now working baseball/softball coverage on ESPN)
- Jeff Hammond – analyst/roving reporter (2001–2014, now NASCAR Race Hub analyst)
- Rick Allen - NCWTS play-by-play (2003-2014, now NSCS play-by-play for NBC)
The original theme music for NASCAR on Fox broadcasts was in the same style as other Fox Sports properties (such as for NFL and Major League Baseball coverage) and was used from 2001 to 2007. In 2008, Fox introduced a new theme for its NASCAR telecasts titled NASCAR Love, performed by country singer Toby Lightman (an instrumental version was used for the opening segment).
Since mid-October 2010, Fox has used the Fox NFL theme song across all of its sports properties, with the change becoming official on the NASCAR telecasts with the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. In addition, country superstar Dierks Bentley unveiled a new version of his hit song "Sideways", with new lyrics referencing NASCAR – which is played during the introduction of the pre-race show. "Sideways" was phased out entirely with the 2013 Sprint Unlimited telecast, with the Fox NFL theme music being used full-time. In addition, a new CGI introduction sequence, produced by Blur Studio, made its debut.
From its debut until 2014, Fox initially used a scrolling ticker to display the current order of drivers and other information (such as intervals and other statistics, shown on an occasionally displayed secondary line), instead of the boxes that were used by previous NASCAR broadcasters. Fox would eventually deploy the banner design across all of its sports properties, while its conventions would be adopted by fellow NASCAR broadcasters, including NBC, TNT, and later ESPN.
For the 2014 season, Fox replaced the ticker with a leaderboard-style sidebar occupying the right-side portion of the screen, with one section displaying the top three drivers, and a scrolling section displaying the remainder of the field of drivers. While Fox Sports president Eric Shanks justified the changes, noting that it would allow more of the field to be displayed at once and more frequently than the relatively longer ticker, the initial layout of the new graphics was criticized by viewers (particularly during the Sprint Unlimited, Daytona 500 qualifying, and the ARCA race) for obstructing too much of the screen.
In response to the criticism, Shanks stated that the layout of the leaderboard would be revised in time for the Daytona 500. During the Camping World Truck Series' NextEra Energy Resources 250, the vertical leaderboard was redesigned into a horizontal version positioned in the top-left corner of the screen, displaying the leaderboard in three columns of three drivers each, which can be resized into two longer columns of three drivers each to display intervals or other statistics. For the first few races from the Daytona 500 through Martinsville, the driver numbers were displayed as black numbers in white boxes next to the names of the drivers. Starting with the race at Texas Motor Speedway, the drivers' numbers began to be displayed in the color and typeface displayed on that driver's car. The new graphics were expanded to Fox's other properties such as Major League Baseball telecasts.
On June 6, 2014 during the WinStar World Casino 400K race, additional features were added to the scoring graphic: the gaps from the lead to the cars/trucks behind were changed to show gaps up to the thousandths (e.g.: 2.703 compared to 2.70); a rectangular checkered background that flashes for each individual driver that has come across the start/finish line when cars/trucks cross the line to end the race was also added, in which the driver's name is then shown and placed on a white background. This was carried into the 2014 ARCA Pocono 200 on June 7, 2014.
Fox NASCAR 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, 2011, 2012, 2013), 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 it invented the technology. However, it was quickly brought to light that Terry Lingner of ESPN, along with engineer James Fishman, had developed the technology 15 years earlier under the name "Tread Cam". However, it should be known that the devices are completely different.
"Digger," a CGI-animated gopher character that was voiced by Eric Bauza, began as a symbol of the corner camera and was later adopted as an unofficial mascot for Fox's NASCAR 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 (respectively named after the daughter of Fox Sports president David Hill, and former track promoter Humpy Wheeler). Digger's souvenir trailer at the tracks attracted sizeable crowds of families with young children. However, the cartoon segment drew wide opposition from regular viewers of 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 chose to conceal, stating that Digger could have been the cause of ratings declines for Fox's NASCAR coverage. 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 accused Fox of dumbing down and fluffing its coverage in order to gain revenue from Digger merchandise sales.
Despite continuous outrage from the NASCAR fan community, as well as talk from the NASCAR community that the Fan Council was not pleased with the situation, Fox did not announce any plans to drop the usage of the characters, and even had posted pictures of holiday-themed versions of the Digger die-cast in 2009 and 2010. In response to the comments, in 2010, the Digger cartoon was not shown during pre-race shows and Digger appeared less often at the bottom of the screen. Throughout the 2011 season as well as the 2012 Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500, Digger appeared very sparingly, usually only during commercial bumpers. Starting with the 2012 Subway Fresh Fit 500 all appearances and references to Digger were removed from the broadcast completely. During a 2014 race on Fox, when a track-level camera had a car drive over it, one of the commentators commented that he hoped that nothing had happened to Digger, to which another responded, "Digger's retired."
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 introduction during the December 20, 2009 broadcast, in which the Chipmunks also made an appearance (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a corporate sister to the Fox network through 21st Century Fox, then known at the time as News Corporation).
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, the Budweiser logo on the #8 car of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and The Home Depot logo on the #20 car of Tony Stewart were shown, but Miller Lite on the #2 car of Rusty Wallace 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 commercial break were phased out from main broadcast use, and were discontinued entirely in 2005 with the exception of the Daytona 500 starting grid (which featured the computer generated cars), although they returned in 2012 as part of Fox's "In The Rear View Mirror" segment during the pre-race, showing re-enactments of events during the 2012 season (most notably Juan Pablo Montoya's crash into a jet dryer at the Daytona 500); the intro sequence introduced in 2013 also incorporates CGI 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 the fifth NASCAR race ever telecast by Fox, also brought an unrelated controversy. At the end of that race, Fox concluded coverage shortly after Dale Earnhardt, who was fatally injured in a crash on the last lap of the race, 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. Eastern Time sign-off (although no information was available at that time), and continued airing regular programming (with the animated series Futurama) at the moment Earnhardt's death was confirmed at a press conference held at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. NASCAR's other broadcast network partner, NBC, delayed a commercial break during a NBA telecast 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. Fox News Channel and Fox Sports Net, however, did break into programming to announce the seven-time champion's passing, with Chris Myers providing reports on FSN programs. It is possible that Fox showed an on-screen crawl on the master control feed during 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 – as the result of an 18-car pileup on the back straightaway on lap 173 that led to the race being red-flagged for lengthy cleanup – and that continuing to cover the story would be too morbid. Producer Neil Goldberg also said Fox Sports staffers were not allowed near the crash scene.
When ESPN presented a tribute feature in remembrance of the ten-year anniversary of Earnhardt's death in 2011, 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 corporate parent The Walt Disney Company owns 80% of ESPN). How footage from Fox's NASCAR coverage got credited to the local affiliate of another network has not been made public. What can be speculated though, is that the footage is from Fox and WFTV, and later ESPN, used the footage which was credited to Fox.
- EyeOnSportsMedia - Fox Sports Announces 2010 NASCAR Broadcast Schedule
- "NASCAR Pulls Into Prime Time". Forbes. October 7, 2003.
- Boston Herald. December 7, 2005 http://sports.bostonherald.com/autoRacing/view.bg?articleid=116086&format=. Missing or empty
- "Jayski's® Camping World Truck Series Silly Season Site". Jayski.com. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
- "NASCAR rides hot rights market to increase with Fox". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
- "NASCAR, Fox EXTEND, EXPAND RIGHTS AGREEMENT". NASCAR. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
- Gluck, Jeff (January 25, 2015). "Jeff Gordon to be Fox guest analyst for NASCAR's Xfinity series". USA Today. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Danica Patrick to the booth for FS1 Xfinity Series coverage". Foxsports.com. February 21, 2015. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
- "Dierks Bentley Remakes "Sideways" for NASCAR". Country Music Television. February 4, 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
- "Fox Sports plans to alter new race graphics". NASCAR.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
- "Gopher Cam provides "hole" new TV perspective". FoxSports.com. February 14, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- Nate Ryan (May 29, 2009). "Fox Sports chief: 'Digger' not to blame for NASCAR ratings dip". USA Today. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
|Daytona 500 television broadcaster
2001 – present (at least 2024)
(shared with NBC from 2001-2007; Fox aired race in 2001, 2003, and 2005)