NASCAR BROADCASTS CAN LEARN FROM FORMULA ONE


Have you ever wanted to do something that you thought was pretty neat? Then after years of saying, “I want to do that someday,” the opportunity finally presented itself?

Well, someday arrived and I did something pretty neat.

I woke to an early alarm last Sunday morning and made the half-hour drive south to the SPEED TV studio in Charlotte, NC. I was allowed to sit in on the broadcast of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

I heard and read how World Championship race productions took place. Being there in person was an eye and ear opening experience. Having been emerged in the NASCAR community for a healthy chunk of my life, comparing the two platforms was a natural reaction.


Announcers Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and the F1 telecast crew work from the SPEED studios and are not at the race track. The play-by-play and analysis heard of the race is accomplished from watching feeds from the event. Will Buxton gives on-site reports from the circuit through a video hook-up.  

As I sat in the sound stage just a few feet from the trio calling the action I counted nine different screens they were gathering information from to tell the viewer about their one television picture at home.

The commentary I heard seemed sharper from the F1 group not at the track than from what I often hear from a NASCAR group at the track. I wondered if that factor was ironic or the actual cause of the focus I heard.

This Grand Prix broadcast consisted of a 30-minute pre race show and a two-hour window for the race. There was no time to mince words. Analysis had to be on what was actually happening in the race. There was more actual analytical content and less fluff and storytelling. These announcers were strictly nuts and bolts.

During the NASCAR Cup races I listen to multiple personal tales. I feel some, not all, but some announcers feel the need to be part of the story. To me, this comes across as a negative from a broadcast, not a positive.

Their job is to tell the story, not be one.

The season-long championship was updated at the end of the race, not hypothetically during the event. I also tally that into the plus column for Formula One.

Listening in to this production in person reminded me of the outstanding commentary delivered by Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber in the ESPN formative years. They were a classic duo that told you the story of what was happening in the race you were watching. In other words, what you wanted to hear and what you tuned on for.

I have never sat in the booth for a NASCAR Cup telecast, but have viewed them regularly for over 30 years. Tape-delayed one-hour highlight shows have grown into hours and hours of coverage that total far longer than the race itself. What fills the television is some worthy news stories but also a whole lot of filler pieces that produce no real content.

The Formula One team displayed a strong example of how quality and not quantity make for a good auto racing broadcast. The folks looking to boost NASCAR’s ratings would be wise to take note of that.

Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)

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