Backseat Drivers Fan Council

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Grading FOX and Dover; Cutting the NASCAR schedule

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<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on cutting the Sprint Cup schedule as well as grading the race at Dover and FOX's coverage of NASCAR.</p>

Television, the Cup schedule and the quality of racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Those topics will get NASCAR fans talking. Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had much to ponder as they were asked about those topics this week.

They judged FOX’s broadcasts of Sprint Cup races with the network’s season ending at Dover. They were asked what four races they would cut from the Cup schedule in light of Rusty Wallace’s recent suggestion that such a move would be beneficial. And Fan Council members graded the Dover race.

There was much for Fan Council members to say this week and, as always, they did.


RATE FOX’S BROADCAST OF CUP RACES
Last Sunday’s race at Dover marked the final Cup race of the season for FOX (TNT takes over beginning this weekend at Pocono for the next six races). Fan Council members were asked to grade Fox on its coverage of Cup races this season.

34.1 percent called it Good
28.0 percent called it Fair
19.0 percent called it Great
19.0 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• One of these days they will realize there is a race going in the background of everything they think is important.

• Not crazy over the Michael Waltrip addition and will miss Dick Berggren. DW and Mike Joy are the best in the business.

• Bringing in Michael Waltrip was a step back. The ticker on the side of the screen during green flag pit stops is brilliant, especially with the trend right now of long green runs.

• Too many back-stories read from scripts. Too many isolation shots to promote a sponsor. Side-by-Side commercials are worthless as they don't show racing — who wants to watch the vacant straightaway from the leader’s roof cam? Too many times the producer switched camera views from what Mike Joy was talking about, or (was) too slow to switch to the trouble that Mike Joy was talking about.

• I came to know NASCAR through the FOX broadcast. All of the people who work those broadcasts know racing better than anyone else and they make it easy to learn about the sport. I sure do miss them when they leave, but I still turn to Speed Channel to keep informed.

• I thought the coverage over the last couple years has been OK. Not as good as it once was. Messed up camera shots. Missing some action. I liked the commentators’ reviews during the race of how they are seeing the race so far and their guesses for who might win the race, although the background music during that feature was lame. It was cool seeing the numbers of the cars on the right of the screen of those that were on pit road during the race, but even with that, I think the other networks have better technology they show during the races.

• Mike Joy is simply the best play-by-play man in auto racing today and a future Hall-of-Famer. He is professional, informative and entertaining. I also like DW’s commentary work. I do have a problem with Michael Waltrip being part of the broadcast as a current owner — I think it gives him undue opportunity to add value to his sponsorships with plugs that other owners do not get.

• They have the best and the worst on-air talent. I won't say which is which, but FOX definitely gets the bonehead move of the season by hiring the brother of the worst announcer that they have. I can't wait for the next coverage team.

• FOX had some good moments but never great. By and large their coverage missed the mark. Their commentators, especially DW, leave a lot to be desired. They need more professionalism and polish. I don't agree with having a team owner as an analyst, either. Too much conflict of interest.

• I think each season we fuss about the current broadcast partner and anticipate the next broadcast partner. They all must "pay the bills" by showing commercials. There is no way around it!

• Some good camera shots when not obsessed with the in-car camera. Far too many commercials. The broadcasters act like the fans know nothing and have to constantly explain the simplest concepts. Do football analysts constantly explain that you have four chances to go 10 yards? No, they never mention it.

• I expect a lot of the FOX broadcasts. In the past, the FOX broadcasts were my favorite of the season. I enjoy the quality at the desk and on the track. Typically, I am depressed when their stint is over. That is not the case this season. The production values were good, though not great. The camera crew seemed to miss a lot this season. The broadcast booth always suffers from Larry Mac and continued to do so this year. The racing has been boring and the booth has been tasked with livening up a comatose product. While that is a terribly difficult task, Mike Joy and DW should be up to the task — they weren't. And then there's the Hollywood Hotel. What a travesty!!!! Michael Waltrip and Chris Meyers are a nightmare. The constant race breaks in which Meyers and Waltrip blithely babble are distracting and aggravating. Michael Waltrip does not add to the broadcast.

• While I think Darrell Waltrip can be corny at times, I really like Michael Waltrip and Chris Meyers.

• I prefer the FOX crew. More knowledge & less arrogant.

• Atrocious camera work, ill-timed commercials, endless booth blather. I will miss Mike Joy for the rest of the year, but that's about it. Well, FOX did finally get rid of Digger, so that's another positive.

• I think FOX always does a great job. At times, some of the commentators can be annoying, but Mike Joy and Larry Mac are the best in the business. Their knowledge brings much to the race.


WHAT FOUR RACES WOULD YOU DUMP FROM THE CUP SCHEDULE?
Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace recently said that it would be good to cut the Cup schedule from 36 to 32 races, noting there’s “too much supply and not enough demand.” Fan Council members were asked what four races they would cut from the current Cup schedule:

The top four chosen (including ties):

47.8 percent selected the August Pocono race
38.6 percent selected Auto Club Speedway’s race
29.7 percent selected the June Pocono race
29.7 percent selected the August Michigan race
29.7 percent selected the April Kansas race


The rest of the order:

25.3 percent Kansas Chase race
17.3 percent
July New Hampshire race
16.1 percent
Chicagoland Speedway Chase race
15.7 percent
Kentucky race
14.5 percent
Sonoma race
14.5 percent
Dover Chase race
14.1 percent
June Michigan race
12.4 percent
New Hampshire Chase race
11.2 percent
March Phoenix race
10.8 percent
April Texas race
10.4 percent
Watkins Glen race
8.0 percent
June Dover race
7.6 percent
Phoenix Chase race
7.6 percent
Texas Chase race
6.4 percent
Indianapolis race
6.4 percent
Homestead race
6.0 percent
Talladega Chase race
5.6 percent
May Talladega race
4.8 percent
July Daytona race
4.0 percent
Charlotte Chase race
3.6 percent
Las Vegas race
3.6 percent
March Bristol race
2.8 percent
Atlanta race
2.4 percent —
April Richmond race
2.0 percent
Daytona 500
2.0 percent
April Martinsville race
2.0 percent —
September Richmond race
1.6 percent
Coca-Cola 600
1.2 percent
Martinsville Chase race
0.4 percent
Southern 500
0.4 percent — August Bristol race

What Fan Council members said:
• Pocono, New Hampshire, Kansas and Texas don't need two races per season. Removing New Hampshire, Kansas and Texas in the Chase moves Richmond, Atlanta and Bristol into the Chase. Sounds fantastic even though I think 36 races is good enough.

• Tough choice, no matter how pissed off I get over some of the racing, more is still better than less.

• I would not cut (the schedule) down. The problem isn’t a lack of demand, but most likely the cost of attendance. While the seat prices may not be that awful, the cost of staying in the area overnight is absurd! Hotel prices should not be affected by a race in town. While I never miss watching a race on TV, I personally just can't afford the cost to attend. If this were not a factor, I would attend several races a year. Honestly, I can't say that any of these should be removed from the schedule.

• I get Rusty's point but I can't find four races I would like to cut. Perhaps one of the Pocono and Michigan races, but that's about it.

• I disagree with Rusty. I would still eliminate California (Auto Club Speedway), a Pocono race, a Michigan race and a Kansas race. But I would replace them with a race at Road America, a race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, go to Darlington a second time and have a race at Iowa (after expanding the seating). December, January and February are the longest months of the year with no NASCAR! The more racing, the better!

• Unless a track is in the Southeast, it shouldn't get two dates. Especially Pocono and Michigan, which have awful races — they shouldn't get a second race within six weeks of the first race. That is perhaps the biggest problem with NASCAR's scheduling. Rusty is right about this. Did you notice that there were more empty seats at Dover than filled seats? Couldn't blame it on the weather, either...

• I had a hard time picking a fourth race. Easily, Pocono, Loudon and Kansas should lose a date. I finally picked Dover as my fourth because attendance there has been pretty bad the last few races.

• Not a fair question. Everyone is going to pick Pocono and California. And maybe Kansas or another mile-and-a-half track. Fans think they're boring, but reality is they just don't make for good TV. Besides, Rusty has always had opinions about everything and they're simply his opinion. His induction doesn't suddenly mean that he has become a wise sage. This is the same person who, a couple of days ago, said, “If he can keep those other cats behind him he can win.” There are too many factors that have led to lower attendance: gas prices, ticket prices, hotel prices, children's activities, vacation time... Cutting races also means cutting a large portion of the revenue for the tracks, local establishments and income for the workers (both track employees and temp workers) — this would cause more tracks to close. How is that good for the sport? Let's not forget that it’s also no longer acceptable to take children out of school to attend a race. Some people have less vacation time and days off, as well.

• I think any discussion of cutting races from the schedule is a waste of time because I think it's very, very unlikely to happen. Tracks, teams, sponsors, the sport and broadcast partners have contracts and commitments that revolve around a 36-race schedule with deals in place for years into the future.

• Cutting Auto Club Speedway's race is a no-brainer. Chicagoland won't be missed, either. Kansas and Pocono need to be cut back to one race only.

• I LOVE the length of the season, and actually (would) like to see it extended.

GRADE SUNDAY’S CUP RACE AT DOVER

59.3 percent called it Good
21.8 percent called it Fair
15.3 percent called it Great
3.6 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• I love Dover. It's like Bristol on steroids. I love that it always has action (even when one driver kinda stinks it up, thanks JJ:)). When there are long green-flag runs, there is still action everywhere.

• Finally a wreck! I don’t watch for the wrecks, but what causes most wrecks? Good hard racing, and that’s what caused the big one. If the 48 weren’t so good it would have been a great race. But overall it was pretty good for Dover standards.

• Is it me or are the races so darn boring this season? Yes, sadly, the 13-car crash was exciting but it took out so many drivers (including my fav) that I was ready to turn the TV off.

• Oddly enough, the cautions did make it more interesting. Wish I didn't think that, but it's true.

• This was probably one of the best races this season. It had a little bit of everything. Wasn't happy to see the big one at the beginning of the race that took out too many cars. I loved seeing some passing and lead changes.

• This race had a little bit of everything in it. Even though my driver was taken out early I still enjoyed the strategy calls and the side-by-side racing.

• As a 48 fan I was pleased by the outcome of the race, but found the racing boring. There were occasional challenges for the lead, but the 48 car was just too strong. While there were cautions, it felt as though there were long green-flag runs. The race was boring, but Dover races have often been boring to me. This race will not affect my desire to watch a race at Dover, because I don't expect much from the racing at this track.

• The race had a little bit of everything — wrecks, side-by-side racing, cautions and long green runs. The cautions at the end made it interesting. It wasn't edge-of-your-seat racing but it was good.


The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at dustinlong002@gmail.com.

Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.


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