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NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Coverage – FOX versus TNT
Jeff Gordon’s victory at the Pocono 500 on Sunday, June 10, 2007 had several stories during the race that made the rain-shortened race very interesting, to say the least. But one story that won’t be talked about too much is the story inside the TNT broadcast of the NASCAR Nextel Cup race.
Pocono was the first of six Nextel Cup races TNT will broadcast after FOX aired the first 13 races of the year. Larry McReynolds joined TNT for their broadcast after working for FOX since 2001. The mid-race pit strategy would create some interesting mental battles, both on the track and in the broadcast booth.
With a warning on lap 65, Jeff Gordon and a handful of riders stayed out rather than stopping. They had just stopped eight laps early and rain clouds were heading towards Pocono Raceway. It clearly felt like a 101 lap race instead of 200.
The pit window was around 26-28 laps for petrol, so everyone had to pit again to reach the halfway point of the race. With the difficulty of overtaking, track position was very important.
We know how the race goes, but it’s the call from the broadcast station that makes me funny. As Gordon nears pit time for petrol and tires on lap 82, TNT broadcaster Bill Weber said “they might rethink staying out under that final caveat”. No TNT broadcaster seemed able to see what was really happening in front of them except McReynolds.
McReynolds presented Gordon’s strategy as getting everyone through the pit stops and the rain coming after lap 101 to take the win. The guys in the cabin laughed at him. In fact, Kyle Petty said if that happened he would retire because he couldn’t compete with it.
It just makes me wonder what those guys were even thinking in the cabin.
We knew everyone had to go through the pits to get to the halfway point of the race. If the rain fell before lap 101, it wouldn’t be an official race anyway. So the big question was whether the rain will come before Gordon needs gas around lap 114, or will Ryan Newman run him over before then.
If they had restarted after the red flag on lap 106, almost all the riders would have stopped for gas and tires. Gordon might not have won if that had happened, but with the current Chase for the Cup format, it was a risk worth taking.
McReynolds seemed to be the only broadcaster to understand the strategy as it unfolded. The FOX Network must have been happy their man was on his game before the rain fell.
For those who enjoy debating which broadcast teams best cover the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, this had to give the FOX Network an edge.
For more information on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, click here.
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