California on TV: From Daytona, a step upward

Reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday's broadcast of the Auto Club 500 ...

During the early portions of Fox's telecast of the Auto Club 500 Sunday, the crew in the booth was faced with a situation that doesn't present itself very often: Dave Blaney was in the lead.

Blaney qualified fifth, but dropped to the back before the start of the race to stay out of the rest of the field's way. As usual, the plan was for Blaney to start and park. (Blaney finished last eight times last year.)

So when rest of the field pitted, crew chief Bill Henderson had Blaney stay out for some television time. After all, who cares about time lost to the cars that have pitted if you're going to park the car anyway?

Inexplicably, Darrell Waltrip said that we would see the PRISM Motorsports car up front more often if they had sponsorship. (Note: PRISM gets their cars from Michael Waltrip Racing.) If you're wondering, the NASCAR drug policy does not cover the media.

Earlier in the race, Joe Nemechek had pulled off and parked, and Mike Joy freely admitted that Nemechek was starting and parking because he didn't have a sponsor. Instead of admitting that Blaney was going to do the same, Joy, like Waltrip, acted like Blaney was legitimately racing for the win, and seemed a little surprised that Blaney pulled the car in the garage.

Networks have struggled to figure out how to treat start and parks, and so far, ESPN's Marty Reid is the only one who's figured it out. Reid tells us whenever a car has pulled off the track, and leaves it at that. That's the easiest way to do it. Tell the viewers that a car's pulled off the track, let them know if this was the plan all along and leave it at that. Pretty simple.

The Good: Fox did a good job of tracking down the crew member from Jamie McMurray's car who did the nice hurdle onto Kevin Harvick's hood to avoid being run over by Harvick. And the guy even got in a "Bass Pro Shops" mention. The reports from the pits from each pit reporter about a different driver as Fox came back from commercial were a great idea, as was the top 15 rundown with about 70 laps to go. It wasn't as thorough as another network's "Through the Field" but sometimes in those cases, a bigger rundown isn't actually better.

The Bad: What the heck was up with the graphics at the end of the race? If Fox wants to have that big of graphics, then the camera angles need to compensate. It was a bit awkward having the cameras trying to figure out what to do because there was a giant bar on the top quarter of the screen. No one focused in on Clint Bowyer's grille even though they mentioned that Bowyer thought he had trash on it, which is why he came to pit road. Chris Myers continued his less-than-impressive start to 2010 by saying that Martin Truex Jr. was in the garage because of an engine problem that made him hit the wall. (Those were actually two separate incidents.)

Overall Grade: C. There's still a lot of things to desire from Fox's coverage as DW has already gone on way too many tangents in the first two races. However, this was much better than Daytona, and thankfully the rain didn't cause a delay to have to kill more race broadcast time.

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