Who do you trust more: NASCAR on FOX or NBC?

Who do you trust more: NASCAR on FOX or NBC?

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Monday, 27 March 2017
Mike Harper - SOZ

In the life span of NASCAR, broadcast partners have come and gone.  Some have even come back and left again. If you’ve watched NASCAR over the past 10 years you’ve seen ESPN, FOX, FS1, NBC, NBCSN, SPEED Channel/TV and TNT, all have taken their shot at covering the sport and entertaining the fans.

For me, FOX Sports has a special place in my heart because of my days of contributing on the SPEED TV web site. You might remember SPEED TV, it was a trusted source for all things racing and even when I look back at those years, I still believe the reporters and personalities went above and beyond to provide fans with the best racing coverage possible.

When SPEED TV died – and yes, it was killed…I remember thinking how different the NASCAR coverage would be moving forward. And while I was wrong on the level of change (I was thinking FS1 would greatly reduce their NASCAR coverage), I believe the death day of SPEED TV marked a moment in time when NASCAR truly started their downward slide, especially with fan retention.

I’m not blaming NASCAR’s woes on the cancellation of SPEED TV – I just find the timing interesting. Maybe the executives at FOX Sports saw the writing on the wall (of NASCAR’s decline) and adjusted their format wisely. For them it worked out. For the rest of us, time will tell.

A common practice that happens in sports broadcasting is the moving around of on-air talent. You may remember a lot of those SPEED TV personalities stayed with FS1, at least until NBC was once again a NASCAR partner during the 2015 season. Today, I would submit we have within the two current NASCAR broadcast partners the best crop of on-air talent we’ve seen in history.  Granted back in the day we had several great announcers, but today it’s truly a healthy group of talent.

The question we’re challenged with is…which group (network) is more trustworthy?

Let me be clear – I’m not asking which network delivers the best entertainment or technology.  They both do a fine job. I’m not asking for the better pit road reporters or I’m not comparing Mike Joy to Rick Allen and vice versa. I’m a huge fan of all of these professionals.  I want to know which network is worthy of our trust – when absorbing information from those opinion makers hired by FOX and NBC.

In my opinion, to be trustworthy is to be honest and balanced. I tend to trust those opinion makers who have a history of telling us the truth and will share both their positive and critical thinking. If someone is honest but will never spout a critical thought about the sport they cover, I tend to not trust that person. Same is true if the person is always critical with no positive opinions.

Using this as my measurement, I believe 99.9% of NASCAR opinion makers on FOX and NBC are honest people with integrity. Where they fall short of not having my trust is their inability to balance opinions. From my cheap seat I find too many with an agenda or they simply don’t want to challenge NASCAR or teams for whatever reason.

I can identify one reason and it’s an issue that’s been hurting the NASCAR industry for years. In corporate America it’s called conflict of interest.  The definition of conflict of interest is “a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.”

Do I believe a NASCAR on-air opinion maker is deriving a personal benefit from their position? I believe it’s happened, but with today’s broadcast partners I certainly hope not – especially not a financial benefit. But I do believe several of them form opinions based on a job position they had or currently hold within the sport? Yes, yes I do.

I remember back in February 2014, former NASCAR team owner and former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Ray Evernham, left his on-air position with ESPN to rejoin Hendrick Motorsports as a consultant. At the time Evernham said, “Not doing ESPN will allow me to be involved in some of the management and some of the things they’re doing at Hendrick Motorsports.  The best way to avoid a conflict of interest is to choose one or the other.” This is the model of how to handle the situation and Evernham gained my respect and trust for making that decision.

Using Evernham’s example, Jeff Gordon is a current owner in Cup and has a major on-air position with FOX. This is an easy question – will he truthfully provide an opinion about Hendrick Motorsports? I would hope so but the conflict must give us pause about his opinions. This isn’t a judgement on the quality of his on-air work because I think he is doing a fantastic job. He just can’t be fully trusted with information or non-information about Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet or any sponsor tied to Hendrick. This hurts FOX.

To be fair, NBC’s Steve Letarte is also a Hendrick alumni but the difference is he isn’t a current owner/employee of a team. Is he too loyal to Hendrick or Dale Earnhardt Jr., to be fully honest with the fans or can he truly separate himself from them to be balanced? These are fair questions and you’ll have to decide the level of trust you give him…but for me I’ve been impressed with how he’s distanced himself from his former employer.

Letarte gives us a good feel for his mindset with a recent opinion on driver rivalries. NBC’s Nate Ryan wrote a column called ‘Steve Letarte on Pro Athlete Socializing in Pregame’ – which I recommend reading. Letarte calls out a practice that hurts rivalries and to his credit the drivers of his former employer are guilty of this practice. This balanced opinion benefits NBC.

In my opinion, two of the most trusted on-air personalities are FOX’s Larry McReynolds and NBC’s Dale Jarrett. Both are honest brokers and are normally very positive towards NASCAR. But when an issue arises where dissent is needed, Jarrett and McReynolds will speak up and provide balanced opinions. When these two speak – we listen. They are highly respected and trustworthy.

RaceTalkRadio.com’s Dennis Michelsen spotlights a recent Jarrett opinion in his column ‘Dale Jarrett Didn’t Get NASCAR’s Memo’ and it’s an example of how Jarrett will go against NASCAR when needed.

For Larry Mac, I may not agree with him at times (I say Gig’em Aggies) but his opinions are genuine and sincere. I believe he is one of the hardest working on-air personalities in the business. FOX made a huge mistake removing him from the booth, but they saved themselves by keeping him on-air.

This is strictly my opinion – my beloved FOX has done a good job hiring popular personalities. But sadly, I see too many conflicts and McReynolds isn’t enough to make them fully balanced. When you examine all of the opinion makers from each network, NBC has brought more balance to the table.

Your turn – who do you trust more, FOX or NBC? (Move down and leave your response)

 

Follow SOZ (nascarSOZ), get NO FOO FOO Opinions and WIN NASCAR STUFF at the new @TheThunderCrew

Want more SOZ? Check out his last column–> IS IT REALLY WHAT NASCAR FANS WANT?

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author (SOZ) and does not necessarily reflect RaceTalkRadio.com or our advertisers.   

 

16 Comments

  1. Ken says:

    I don’t know aboout others but I odn’t trust anything that comes out of either of the Waltrip brothers. I don’t feel it will be objective and they play favorites. I don’t know if they are paid up front, under the table or not at all. I think the loss of popularity of NASCAR is impacted substantially by the expanded and more prominate roles of the Waltrip brothers.

    • Chris Lanko says:

      I totaly agree wih your comment on the Waltrips. Both of them are ruining watching racing on Fox. D.W. with his stupid BOOGITY and Mikey with just being on air. Some friends of ours were on the last NASCAR Cruise this past month ago. They said that the worst person on the cruise was M.Waltrip. Not at all friendly like all the other racers who went out of their way to accommodate the fans who paid good money. Waltrip was supposed to take a large group on a walking pub crawl for which they paid extra. It only lasted 2 0r 3 stops because Mr. Social didn’t want to finish,leaving a group of ticked off people. They are both a pair of con artist who should not be on t.v. rather both should just run off to somewhere far away!

      • Mike Harper says:

        Amazing story Chris especially since those cruisers payed higher cruise prices to offset Michael’s ticket. Really a shame and disappointing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Bill B says:

    I can’t say I trust either group. They all toe NASCAR’s line and they rarely challenge the decisions made and won’t ask the hard questions that need to be asked.

    I have to admit that you make a good argument by weighing the conflicts of interest angle. Still, I don’t trust either of the networks to be objective. They are cheerleaders for the sport.

  3. SALB says:

    To me, the only obvious bias on either network comes from both the Waltrips. It may have nothing to do with the fact that Mikey owned a Toyota team, or that DW was his biggest cheerleader. Neither of them has the ability to be objective about many things. It’s time for both of them to retire from commentating.

  4. Bill H. says:

    “Cheerleaders for the sport,” indeed. I watch NASCAR, Indycar, and F1, and only in NASCAR do I have an announcing crew who barrages me endlessly with how wonderful and exciting the racing is. Announcers in the other two series let the racing speak for itself, only this one “methinks doth protest too much.”

  5. Brian says:

    Personally I have preferred the NBC coverage over FOx’s. Unfortunately the Fox team, ahem Waltrips, have done or do so much damage to the viewership many do not come back to watch the NBC coverage unless maybe they find out favorite driver is winning via social media. I am not really sure what the attendance issues are caused by at the tracks but can point to one reason why the viewership itself is still down even with the slightly better racing in 2017 and that would be the overall way Fox does the broadcast and more specifically the over exposed Waltrip’s which so far I have not seen many positive reviews for. It’s been 16 years let Boogity die Darrell.

  6. Chuck Ellison says:

    Fox WOULD have my trust if not for the Waltrips. They are biased towards Toyota, Dale Jr. , and always seem to find a way to find agreement with NASCAR, even when they disagree at first. They seem to not stand for fair and balanced coverage but a fair and balanced checkbook.

  7. TheNASCARJeff says:

    I look forward to the NBC broadcast because it is Waltrip free…
    DW is way out of touch with what is going on with the cars, mainly because he has been out of the car for seventeen years. Meaning he should not try and correct Jeff Gordon who has been out just under a year. (subbed for Earnhardt Jr) Boogity, Boogity, Boogity has got to go. Year after year people on these blogs say so and ask for FOX to make it stop, they don’t. Oh and one more thing on Darrell, Danica Patrick is NOT getting better.

    Michael Waltrip likes the sound of his own voice and rambles on during the truck races and in the pre-race. This grid walk is just plain stupid and self serving. I am sure his sponsors love the free plugs during the broadcast but I am over it. If you wanna be a pitchman go sell used cars in downtown Charlotte.

    If FOX replaced both of them I am sure myself and apparently other would enjoy NASCAR on FOX as much as we enjoy NASCAR on NBC.

  8. Dan Rogers says:

    NBC needs to Dump Rick Allen, and stick to covering racing not 10 laps and commercial. For my Vote Fox gives the best Race Day Coverage, Just wish they would replace the Waltrip boys and Hendrick Cheerleader Jeff Gordon.

  9. TheNASCARJeff says:

    Does anyone think the bosses at FOX will read this and think; “HMM, maybe Darrell and Michael Waltrip aren’t the best fit and maybe Jeff Gordon does have a conflict of interest and oh just maybe Larry McReynolds should be part of the play by play..

    NAH! we know what is best for the viewers..

    Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are waiting in the wings

  10. Bill k says:

    I agree with the above comments walthips have to go.when race first starts I mute it so damm sick of boogity boogity.I thought Gordon would be good but I think he is in bed with Johnson and Earnhardt would not even be racing if. It not for his name,walthrips have got to go.can,t wait foe NBC!!

  11. Mike Harper says:

    Well…based on the comments above it sounds like DW and Michael have fan issues. Thanks for reading and for the comments!

  12. KAREN says:

    I agree 100% that both Waltrips should go. Darrell is so rah-rah it makes me sick.
    Also, he will never say anything negative about NASCAR. Sorry but the fans need to hear both sides-good and bad. As a long time NASCAR fan, I am turned off more and more and watch much less. Nobody cares anyway.

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