With the checkered flag flying at Sonoma Raceway, the NASCAR on FOX season came to an end. It was an up-and-down season to say the least. Many fans took to social media to complain about FOX’s coverage this season.
Some of the criticism was legitimate, some of it was not. However, regardless of what FOX did right or wrong, there are definitely ways to improve NASCAR broadcasts on FOX.
Move Jamie McMurray to the Booth Full-Time
The booth on FOX has generally been in flux ever since the departure of Jeff Gordon in 2021. Mike Joy is obviously a Hall-of-Fame caliber play-by-play broadcaster. While Clint Bowyer definitely makes his mistakes, the energy he adds is much-appreciated on FOX broadcasts, and, as time goes on, he will definitely clean up some of those mistakes.
When FOX brought in guest commentators for races, Jamie McMurray impressed every time. He is insightful, well-versed, understands his role, and he is just generally good to listen to. Even Denny Hamlin has advocated for McMurray to be full-time in the booth.
Of course, we already know that Kevin Harvick will move to the booth next season to partner with Joy and Bowyer, but, if NBC can handle a four-man booth with the big personalities of Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Rick Allen, why not FOX? Yes, this does put Larry McReynolds in a tough spot, but, if he was put in a more Mike Pereira or Tim Brewer type-role, he could still be very useful on broadcasts.
Get Rid of the Cartoon Graphics
This is also prevalent on NFL on FOX broadcasts as well, and they just feel so out of place. I guess maybe they are trying to make these broadcasts more appealing to kids, but, I did not ask for cartoon graphics even when I was a kid.
The cartoon graphics just look corny, and they don’t even accurately represent the drivers. No driver has a visible six-pack on their fire suit. Just go back to traditional headshots, and go from there.
Less Full-Screen Commercials
This is not only a FOX problem for certain, but it still is worth discussing when generally talking about NASCAR broadcasting. Commercials are always going to be a point of contention when it comes to motorsports broadcasts. Years ago, it seems they were far more accepted by fans as a necessary evil, but times have changed.
Nowadays, F1 broadcasts all 22 of its’ races in the US commercial free. Once fans see this, it becomes more frustrating to watch NASCAR races with commercials cutting into 20-25% of the race. With that in mind, how do NASCAR broadcasters go about paying their bills to advertisers while also giving the booth talent their much-needed breaks during a three or four hour broadcast.
There are some creative ways to work advertising into NASCAR broadcasts without full-screen commercials. Maybe start sponsoring the studio segments to provide commentary during breaks with a sponsor being featured prominently on screen. Maybe find a way to incorporate more side-by-side commercials, or sell more Toyota All-Out type segments so that sponsors still get screen time.
Full-screen commercials are a necessary evil with the current business model on television. However, they need to be limited in a sport like NASCAR where there are no “Media timeouts” aside from maybe stage breaks.
Put RaceDay Back on Site
One of the responsibilities of NASCAR’s Pre-Race show, NASCAR RaceDay, is to hype up each race and make it feel like a “Big Event.” When RaceDay is in a studio and segments during the race are in a studio, it’s hard to sell each race as an “Event.” The old RaceDay used to be on site, and NASCAR on FOX’s pre-race show used to be exclusively on-site with the Hollywood Hotel.
That “Big Event” feel is missing from FOX broadcasts. When you watch an F1 race on SkySports, an IndyCar race on NBC, or even a NASCAR race on NBC, each race feels like a “Big Event” even if it is an average race at an average venue in the middle of the season. Part of the reason that is the case is because everything is on site, not just some of it, and it gives fans a sense of the atmosphere making the race track the place to be.
RaceDay was on site at the LA Coliseum, and it elevated the “Big Event” feel of the broadcast. Why not do this every week?
FOX was not all-bad this year. However, there are definitely places to improve, and, with FOX being likely to renew beyond 2024, improvement is definitely a must.