NASCAR on Fox

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"Digger (character)" redirects here. For other uses, see Digger (disambiguation).
NASCAR on Fox
NASCAR on Fox 2013 logo.png
Logo used since 2013
Starring Mike Joy
Darrell Waltrip
Larry McReynolds
Steve Byrnes
Krista Voda
Matt Yocum
Chris Myers
Jeff Hammond
Michael Waltrip
Opening theme "NFL on FOX theme music"
Country of origin USA
Production
Running time varies, but typically 4.5 hours (ranges from 4 to 5 hours) or until race ends
Broadcast
Original channel Fox (2001–)
Fox Sports 1 (2013–)
Fox Sports 2 (2013–)
FSN (2001–2002)
FX (2001–2006)
Speed (2002–2013)
Original run February 11, 2001 (2001-02-11) – present
External links
Website

NASCAR on Fox is the branding used for Fox Sports's Emmy-winning[1] broadcasts of NASCAR races on the Fox network in the United States since 2001. Speed, a channel owned by Fox, has broadcast NASCAR related events since February 2002, with Fox Sports 1 taking over for Speed coverage starting in August 2013. The production has been in high-definition since 2005.

Background[edit]

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 the Pepsi 400, Daytona's July race. 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.[2] In addition to coverage on the Fox Broadcasting Company, the Fox-owned Speed Channel carried the entire Camping World 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 races, airing all but the most prestigious races which then were shown on Fox instead. FX was also home to most Sprint Cup night races, the All-Star Race, and the June 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.

Contract extensions[edit]

On December 7, 2005, NASCAR signed a new eight-year, $4.48 billion deal[3] 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 first thirteen points paying races. In addition, they carried the Sprint Unlimited and two 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 2009, 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.[4] In 2011, Fox's coverage ended with the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
  • TNT will carry six Sprint Cup races through the month of June and the first half of July, including the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. In 2013, these were Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Kentucky, Daytona, and ended with Loudon.
  • 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 3 Saturday night races in their broadcasting period). The entire Nationwide Series season will be aired primarily on ESPN2 and ESPN, with selected races on ABC.
  • Speed/Fox Sports 1 will carry the Budweiser Duel races and the Sprint All-Star Race, 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/FS1 except for the 2014 Talladega race, which will air on FOX.

In October 2012, NASCAR and Fox Sports extended its contract through 2022. The new contract adds online streaming rights for Fox's events, and still maintains coverage of the first 13 races of the Sprint Cup season and exclusive coverage of the Daytona 500.[5] However, on August 1, 2013, Fox Sports further extended its contract through 2024 and acquired the rights for the first 16 races of the Sprint Cup Series season, as well as the first 14 Xfinity (formerly Nationwide) Series events.[6] As a result, Fox will also broadcast the June races at Pocono and Michigan and end its coverage with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma, all of which were races Fox had covered under the 2001–2006 broadcasting deal.

Announcers[edit]

Studio[edit]

Myers (left) and Hammond (center) appear on the studio set alongside Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney during the 2006 Pepsi 400.

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, with the exception of the 2012 Daytona 500, which was delayed by one day. 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. John Roberts filled in for Myers for this one race. Roberts 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 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.

The vertical NASCAR on Fox logo. Primary Logo from 2001-2006 and used on all team shirts. A horizontal version of this logo was also used from 2001-2006
NASCAR on Fox logo from 2007-2012

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. 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.

In 2012, John Roberts covered as host for Chris Myers for the Budweiser Shootout and the Daytona 500, as Myers was on bereavement leave after his son was killed in a motorcycle accident. For the 2014 Sprint Unlimited, Michael Waltrip filled in for Darrell while Darrell 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.

Broadcast booth[edit]

For full races on Sunday, Waltrip is positioned initially in the studio for the show's pre-race segments.

Pit road[edit]

Former[edit]

  • Jeanne Zelasko (originally transferred to MLB on FOX as pre-game host, now working for ESPN in a non-NASCAR role)
  • Dick Berggren (retired from pit row after the June 3, 2012 FedEx 400 Cup race)
  • Krista Voda (moving to NASCAR on NBC in 2015)

Theme music[edit]

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 played at the very beginning of the pre-race show.[8]

Starting with the 2013 Sprint Unlimited, "Sideways" was phased out entirely, and the NFL on Fox theme music took over full-time. In addition, a new CGI introduction sequence from Blur Studio debuted.

On-screen graphics[edit]

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, displayed 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 of the screen, with one section displaying the top 3 drivers, and a scrolling section displaying the remainder of the field. 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 were 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 they would revise the layout of the leaderboard in time for the Daytona 500.[9] During the Camping World Truck Series' NextEra Energy Resources 250, the vertical leaderboard was re-factored 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 resize 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 driver names. Starting at Texas, the drivers' numbers begun to be displayed in the color and font used on that driver's car.

The new graphics were expanded to Fox's other properties such as Major League Baseball.

On June 6, 2014 during the WinStar World Casino 400K race, the scoring graphic added some extra features. First, 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). Second, when cars/trucks cross the line to end the race, a rectangular checkered background flashes for each individual driver that has come across the start/finish line and then the driver's name is placed on a white background. This was carried into the 2014 ARCA Pocono 200 on June 7, 2014.

Awards[edit]

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, 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).[1]

Criticisms[edit]

Turn cam and "Digger"[edit]

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.[10] 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.

"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, [11] 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. 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 have been 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 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, now 21st Century Fox) as Fox Broadcasting. Digger was voiced by Eric Bauza.

Commercial bias[edit]

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 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and The Home Depot on the #20 of Tony Stewart were shown, but Miller Lite on the #2 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 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, though 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 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.[citation needed]

End of the 2001 Daytona 500 and Dale Earnhardt's death[edit]

The 2001 Daytona 500, which was Fox's fifth-ever 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 - 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. Neil Goldberg, producer, also said their staffers were not allowed near the crash scene.[citation needed]

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. 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b EyeOnSportsMedia - Fox Sports Announces 2010 NASCAR Broadcast Schedule
  2. ^ "NASCAR Pulls Into Prime Time". Forbes. October 7, 2003. 
  3. ^ http://sports.bostonherald.com/autoRacing/view.bg?articleid=116086&format=
  4. ^ "Jayski's® Camping World Truck Series Silly Season Site". Jayski.com. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  5. ^ "NASCAR rides hot rights market to increase with Fox". Sports Business Journal. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ "NASCAR, FOX EXTEND, EXPAND RIGHTS AGREEMENT". NASCAR. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "NASCAR on FOX announces 2012 Sprint Cup coverage crew - NASCAR News | FOX Sports on MSN". Msn.foxsports.com. September 29, 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-10. 
  8. ^ "Dierks Bentley Remakes "Sideways" for NASCAR". Country Music Television. February 4, 2011. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  9. ^ "Fox Sports plans to alter new race graphics". NASCAR.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Gopher Cam provides "hole" new TV perspective". FoxSports.com. February 14, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2009. 
  11. ^ Ryan, Nate (May 29, 2009). "Fox Sports chief: 'Digger' not to blame for NASCAR ratings dip". USA Today. Retrieved June 12, 2009. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
CBS
Daytona 500 television broadcaster
2001 – present (at least 2024)
(shared with NBC from 2001–2007; Fox aired race in 2001, 2003, and 2005)
Succeeded by
Incumbent