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OPINION: NASCAR on FOX is Far From the Coverage I Grew Up to Love


As a NASCAR fan since I watched Cars when I was three years-old, and an avid weekly member of the Cup Series audience since 2011, “NASCAR on FOX” has always held a special place in my heart. From the catchy “Sideways” intro of the early 2010’s, to Darrell Waltrip’s iconic “boogity boogity boogity,” to the ever timeless voice of Mike Joy, the nostalgia has been unwavering for me, even as the sport, and their telecasts, looks drastically different now.

For these reasons and more, I’ve always been frustrated and disappointed when people knitpick and berate every element of FOX’s auto racing coverage. However, Sunday’s broadcast of the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega made it abundantly clear to me that there are indeed problems.

I’ll preface my critique with the following: I’m far from an expert. I understand how immensely difficult it is to juggle dozens of camera angles, sponsorship obligations, and other essential built-in content while simultaneously attempting to cover a multi-hour unpredictable live event spanning lengthy race tracks, this one in particular being NASCAR’s largest oval. That being said, I have three years of live sports television production experience, and was the director for Somerset Patriots baseball for the entire 2023 MiLB season. Therefore, I believe I know what it takes to put together a successful sports broadcast, and it’s extremely noticeable that there are certain things FOX’s current coverage blatantly lacks compared to the competition.

Shot choices have been iffy to say the least throughout the 2024 season to date. Action cameras are way too zoomed in, typically hyper-fixating on the left front of cars for no apparent reason. The onboard angles are a great way to complement the third person spectatorial perspective, but the new angle FOX features this season from the rear spoiler of various cars is used way too much, and really doesn’t paint much of a picture at all. There are also far too many fan and crew chief shots, which are often utilized at inopportune times and distract from coverage of essential moments within the race itself. I honestly believe the directorial choices weren’t abysmal during the Talladega race, but all of these issues were once again present, as has been the case all season long.

The commentary booth is building chemistry, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Mike Joy is slowing down as he approaches nearly half a century as a leading voice of NASCAR, but still carries his weight. Kevin Harvick is very raw in his first season after stepping out of the car, but is learning his role. Clint Bowyer’s energy is unmatched, and is steadily improving each season, but still needs to take a few more steps forward. Larry McReynolds provides a unique analytical perspective, but is relegated to a Charlotte studio, making his interjections often disjointed within the flow of the broadcast. 

The product of all of this is a booth without synergy, which creates awkward moments in major situations (the call of the final lap at Atlanta earlier this season is a prime example). Simultaneously, Clint Bowyer’s overt attempts to be an entertainer at odd times, such as focusing on Kevin Harvick’s mispronunciation of the word “hullabaloo” two laps into Sunday’s race, creates a broadcast that simply lacks direction. And this doesn’t even mention the booth issues FOX has seen in its broadcasts of lower series races, namely trucks and ARCA, which have been prevalent ever since the network expanded its NASCAR package in 2015.

Before I get to the primary issue, there are two complaints that fans have that are simply uncontrollable from those who put the broadcast over the air: commercials and cartoons. It’s no secret that NASCAR as a sport isn’t as financially viable as it once was, so having several commercial breaks isn’t a surprise, as it also happens during NBC's portion of the season. The one real problem is timing (more on that later). As for the dreaded cartoons, the NASCAR producers are simply utilizing what is given to them by FOX executives. If you watch MLB or NFL coverage on the network, you’ll see a similar graphics package. That has more to do with company brand identity than making a mockery of the sport, which is how many purists baselessly view it.

The overarching, controllable issue with “NASCAR on FOX” is two-fold: timing and communication. Commercials need to air, but take a longer break earlier in the race, rather than a full screen, three minute break with less than 10 laps left in a stage, which is precisely what happened on Sunday. Promote Kevin Harvick’s podcast, but not while Erik Jones is injured and having trouble exiting his car, which Mike Joy only mentioned in passing long after the wreck occurred. As a director myself, it’s a necessity to communicate with on-air talent. There are clear moments constantly that indicate the absence of said communication, particularly when they cut to built-in content, such as team radio audio, and there are several seconds of dead air in between. There was another moment last week where Jamie Little could be heard off-mic doing a pit report that was never used. These mistakes are inexcusable.

All of this culminates in disastrous coverage of the final lap of the GEICO 500. There were multiple moments where the announcers stepped on each other’s toes, a couple of camera angles were overly zoomed in, making it difficult to see what runs were being generated within the pack, and worst of all, as Tyler Reddick took the checkered flag, everyone failed to account for Corey LaJoie riding along the wall and flipping across the start-finish line.

While it is understandable that FOX waited to show a replay of the accident until all of the drivers had climbed from their damaged vehicles, five minutes went by before there was any mention that LaJoie had gone upside down. Three different replays were shown until finally, a clear angle directly on LaJoie’s car documented what had happened. The problem was that this angle was the action camera at the entrance of turn 1, which was one of the most actively used cameras of the race. How was this view so hard to find?

NASCAR on FOX still has a special place in my heart. But Sunday’s race was one of countless examples of the network’s coverage quality free-falling from its glory days of the 2000s. With FOX set to own the rights to early season through 2031, the hope is that changes for the better are on the way. These changes are crucial, as a sport with a declining fanbase is dependent on solid television coverage to bring new, younger fans into the fold.

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