ATLANTA - There will be two television networks covering Sunday's Kmart 400. Two sets of announcers will watch the same race and, most likely, tell the story from two points of view.
Racing fans only will see what Fox has to offer once the green flag waves, but the work being done behind the scenes by NBC may be more intriguing.
The television audience already knows what Fox has to offer on race day, and as the season speeds closer to the handoff between networks - the Pepsi 400 on July 7 - NBC knows it has a tough act to follow.
Sunday's dry rehearsal for the broadcast team that will work the second half of the racing season will allow NBC and its partner, TNT, to work out the kinks under real race conditions. The crew, which includes Allen Bestwick and Benny Parsons, only have a month to refine their on-air personality before Fox's team of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds trade in their microphones for remote controls.
Bestwick and Parsons have watched their counterparts at Fox for the past five months. They agree with critics and fans that Fox has revolutionized the way the world watches stock car racing.
Much like the network changed the National Football League, Fox has made NASCAR more fan-friendly, especially to those who don't know the difference between a roll bar and a Clark bar.
Fox has enjoyed record ratings at every event this year. The network promised to show the sport from the inside-out, and it's delivered. New camera angles and an insight that only Waltrip and McReynolds could offer put a new spin on an old story.
Now NBC faces a haunting question: What's left?
"We've got our own version of bells and whistles, too," Bestwick said. "We've been working day and night banging and banging and banging on this stuff.
"I think in general, Fox has raised the bar. What they've done has been impressive. But it doesn't change the way we've been planning to do our job. From Day 1, our goal has been to knock everybody's socks off, and we still plan to do that."
Waltrip, a former three-time driving champion, and McReynolds, one of the most-respected crew chiefs in the garage, continually talk about what a driver and crew chief face during a race.
Their banter is often long-winded, and that might be an area NBC can make its own niche.
"People ask me if I'm going to change or what am I going to do differently when we get on the air, and my answer is simple: I'm not going to change," Parsons said. "You can't fake something you're not. The fans would pick up on that in a split-second. I am who I am, what I am."
"Those guys have done a very good job (at Fox), no doubt," Parsons continued. "But we need to do the same job we've been doing. We need to be genuine. We can't change our routine because of anything they're doing over at Fox."
NBC is expected to hire a third commentator in the next couple weeks. Most likely, it will be driver Wally Dallenbach, who's already auditioned for the job and will be in the booth this Sunday for NBC's dry run.
Before Fox, NBC and Turner paid $2.6 million for the television rights to NASCAR for the next six years, ESPN, CBS, ABC and TNN were responsible for broadcasting races.
All four networks, especially ESPN and CBS, were hailed as being most responsible for elevating the sport's presence from its backwoods image to national sport. Fox, NBC and Turner were to take it to another level because most of their work would be shown on network television.
The deal gave Fox and its partners at FX and Fox Sports Net the rights to all Winston Cup and Busch series races in the first half of the season. When the second half starts at the Daytona International Speedway on July 7, the deal moves over to NBC and Turner, which will use its partner at TNT.
"The basic premise of any coverage is to document the event," Bestwick said. "Above everything else, that's the most important aspect of any event, regardless of who's doing it.
"What we're going to concentrate on is doing a very, very, very good job at documenting the event. We're going to have all the basics: strong graphics, clever camera angles and providing all the information necessary to tell the story."
"After that, we can ask ourselves, 'How do we dress it up?' That's where you're going to find the differences," Bestwick said. "We aren't working any harder because of Fox. We're all competitive in this business. What we planned to do, the way we want to knock everyone's socks off, hasn't changed since the day we won the contract with NASCAR."
Fox had the advantage of going first in the new six-year television deal that is second only to the NFL.
Now NBC has the advantage of knowing what it takes to maintain, or beat, the standard already established by Fox.
And just to make sure, NBC will spend the next month practicing to make perfect.
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us