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NASCAR on Fox
NASCAR ON FOX logo.PNG
Format Auto Racing
Starring Mike Joy
Darrell Waltrip
Larry McReynolds
Dick Berggren
Steve Byrnes
Krista Voda
Matt Yocum
Chris Myers
Jeff Hammond
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
Official website

NASCAR on Fox is the branding used for Fox Sports's broadcasts NASCAR races airing on the Fox network since 2001.

Contents

Background

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 [1]. 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.

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Contract extension

On December 7, 2005, NASCAR signed a new eight-year, $4.48 billion deal[2] 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:

Announcers

Studio

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 then the "Hollywood Hotel" will be sent to the next race. 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 other NASCAR on Fox logo

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.

Broadcast booth

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

Pit Road

Former

On-screen graphics

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.

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 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.

Criticisms

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.[3] 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."[4]

"Digger" is the gopher which began as a symbol of the corner camera and which has now been adopted as the unofficial mascot for its entire coverage. Beginning with the 2009 Daytona 500, Digger has been extended into a series of short cartoons that air during the pre-race show. Country music superstar Keith Urban recorded the theme song for these shorts. The storylines revolve around Digger and his life underneath a fictional racetrack. Other characters include a girlfriend named Annie and a villain named Lumpy Wheels. They are named after, respectively, David Hill's wife Annie (Hill is the president of Fox Sports) and former track promoter Humpy Wheeler. However, the creation of this 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, [5] 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, which leads some NASCAR fans to accuse Fox of dumbing down and fluffing their coverage so they can fill up on money from Digger merchandise sales. [6] [7]

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.

Digger made a cameo appearance in the 2009 film Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, leading many to believe that there is a connection between Digger and the title characters of the film. He also made an appearance in the FOX NFL Sunday intro for 12/20/09. The Chipmunks also made an appearance in the intro as well.

Commercial bias

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. 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. Also, Fox News Channel and Fox Sports Net broke into their programming to announce the seven-time champion's passing. 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) 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.

References

External links

Preceded by
CBS
Daytona 500 television broadcaster
2001 - Present (shared with NBC from 2001-2006; Fox aired race in 2001, 2003, and 2005)
Succeeded by
Incumbent

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