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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Jeff Hammond
Mike Joy
Larry McReynolds
January 18, 2003


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

Q. What can we expect when we see you guys roll out with the first show from Daytona?

MIKE JOY: The mission is the same as it's been the last two years; grow the audience. Our biggest competition is not what's on the other networks. It's that remote. It's people clicking the clicker to find out what else is on. I think we have proven, if you have seen the ratings increases for both us and NBC - that if we can keep somebody's attention for 30 seconds we can make a fan out of them and get them to enjoy this sport. That's been the mission from day one.. I think the biggest enhancement that you will see to our coverage is qualifying. It is about as exciting for us as it is for you folks, to sit there and watch one car on the track, I'm not sure how folks do that sitting at home. We got a few tricks up our sleeve. We have some graphics and telemetry enhancements that will make qualifying a lot more fun for us to broadcast and hopefully more interesting for the folks to watch. From the meetings that we have had and discussions we have had and what we have seen coming out of Los Angeles where FOX Sports has a whole floor with nothing but graphic designers and work stations and for the past couple of months have been turning out enhancements for us. But qualifying will be the biggest difference.

Q. What about the Hollywood Hotel.

JEFF HAMMOND: Open for business. We are bringing back the hotel this year with myself and Chris Meyers on board. We are looking to interact more with Mike, Larry and Darrell up in the booth. We've got, I think -- I believe when we get our cut-away car back on the show next year that we've got a few little things we will be rolling out that will impress you folks. The one thing we did learn this year, this past year, the fans really enjoy when we explain something. Whenever something comes up in the booth or on the racetrack and we say, let's go to the car and show them what the problem is, why this has occurred, we can take them to the car and take the time to explain it. When it is all said and done, grandma that was sitting there with the grandkids will understand it like her son and husband and everybody else. That's the important thing to us, to make sure that we keep it simple and keep it exciting.

Q. Larry, when you've gone down and talked to the crew chiefs prior to the race, you go back to the booth and you try to relay that to your audience on Sunday. How open are those crew chiefs with you? Do you really have a feel for what everybody is doing out there as far as with the cars and the changes they are going to make? Do you think they level with you?

LARRY McREYNOLDS: I did feel in 2001 that they were very open with Jeff and I both, with all of us. Mike is in that garage area. Darrell is every once in a while. They were very open. The one thing that I was very nervous about is at the end of the 2001 season, when I took the consultant job with the Pettys, when I walked back to Daytona in February of 2002 were they going to look at me as Larry the broadcaster or Larry the consultant for the Pettys. But I think everybody in that garage knew that I don't wear both caps at one time. I wear one or the other. But it will not work wearing them both and that is the reason I ended up not doing anything in 2002 with everything we were doing for Speed Channel. But I did feel like, in probably more than a small select group of guys that I have been friends with, guys that worked under me when I was a crew chief that they knew what I was going to use that knowledge for. I was not going to go up in the booth and say Jimmy Fennig in the '97 car can go 10 laps further. I used it to my advantage without giving away trade secrets, but I do feel like they were pretty open with us last year as well as in year one. You know, just to back up what Mike and Jeff said, another thing we have been working on, when we go on the air three weeks from yesterday for our first show, the Budweiser Shootout. If it moves in Daytona we are going to be converging it. Whether it's on FOX Sports, F X or Speed Channel. We all know about the growth of the Speed Channel with the truck series this year and just like in the second half of 2002 you will see the three of us a lot the second half. They are doing qualifying shows and happy hour shows and for sure, the trackside show every Friday night. I think our coverage at Daytona is around 84 hours of coverage. So if the wreckers are driving the racetrack, we will cover it in some form or fashion.

MIKE JOY: We will be doing Busch Series qualifying at every race during the first half of the FOX season. That is an increase over last year's coverage:

Q. There were significant chunks of races last year when the competition on the track was something less than spectacular. How do you guys address that in production meetings, talking about what you might need to do during a race when the racing isn't always great?

MIKE JOY: Well, we get to run commercials. We have to run them. That's the black art of racing on television, this is the only sport -- soccer is close, where there are no scheduled time-outs. The action goes on whether we are in commercial or not. It really falls to Neil Goldberg and his folks when to get those breaks in. We are fortunate to have a lot of different resources and variance not of just opinion, but viewpoints, and I think if the race settles down into a procession, what we want to do try to do is turn our coverage from what's happening to what's next. I talk to Larry and Jeff about what do you do in the next pit stop. How do you free the car up, what adjustment what you might make. Darrell, if you are running 5th in that line, what are you thinking and what are you trying to do? Try to put the viewer into the race even though you say the race may not be as exciting looking on the screen. We know it's exciting to folks that are planning their next stop, to the folks that are driving those cars and that's what we want to try to bring out.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the difficulties Steve Grissom and Hut Sticklin are having getting a full-time ride in the sport.

LARRY MCREYNOLDS: Obviously, both of those guys have shown an awful lot of talent throughout their career. But I think probably the biggest thing that they have going against them - and this is just my opinion - is the same thing that Kevin LePage has run up against. The same thing Kenny Schrader, Bobby Hamilton has run up against. We all know where this sport is doing, every sponsor, every owner, they are looking for a Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, they are looking for that 19 to 24-year-old that cannot only get the job in the racecar but get the job done out of the racecar. With the group of guys that I named, they did an awful good job. I'm not saying that Hut and Steve are old but when you look at this sport and where it is moving and what's went on the last couple of years, that's probably the biggest thing that those two guys have going against them. I want to follow up something Mike said in response to a question about competition. The Busch race at Talladega popped up in my mind. We were on lap 21 and we had six cars left on the race track, we looked at each other and went, holy (NOTE LAUNGUAGE) shit, what are we going to do now? Mike Joy said, boys, we are fixin' to earn our money today. But you know, like Mike said, our resources, our stories, we know we have to go on the air and we have to talk about the race. That's the reason that more than likely 13 or 14 million people will tune in here in about four weeks but we are also trying to do a really good job of telling people who these people are, what we are about. We did two and a half hours of broadcast with six cars on the race trace at Talladega. Three of them nose to tail, the rest of them were just roaming around. When we went off the air I think we felt pretty good about that broadcast, but I think it's because of the resources we have and the stories that we told about these people. Trust me, we have little books up there. We went from page 1 to the last page of stories on these people. We felt good when we went off the air about that broadcast.

JEFF HAMMOND: If you think about the rain delay at Texas, we had one of the highest ratest shows of the season in a rain delay. That's because of the group that we have and I think that's the benefit of Darrell being a driver and two of us being crew chiefs and the stories that we are able to reach down inside and think about what is going through these guys' heads and what is going on that the average individual may not realize is occurring? Even when it's a boring race, everybody hasn't loaded up on pit road and gone home. There are things going on. I think that is something that we have had a couple of occasions to prove that this team collectively could do for you.

MIKE JOY: That's the day that I think people at the other networks and other sports realize we are on to something. When our rain delay coverage beats sports that are being played on other networks, folks really took notice.

Q. Do you have plans to have a team at some point before this year is over?

LARRY McREYNOLDS: It took nine minutes to get that question out. I'm pretty impressed. I won't say no. I have always, I think, as all of you all know have had a desire ot own a race team. Yes, myself, and Wally Dallenbach and his people have had conversations. That's the extent of it. People say now wait a minute Wally is NBC and Larry is FOX. That was ironic that yes, he works for NBC and I work for FOX. I want to stress, and I did this in Daytona when I walked into the media room and everybody had read that my commitment is to FOX Sports. It's for two more years; I hope it's for two years after that and two years after that. I enjoy what I'm doing. But if I can be a part of a race team I think that's going to let me do a better job come raceday on the broadcast, and you know, all of us know nothing is forever. I love this sport and I don't want to walk away from this sport. I want to go six feet under when I walk away from this sport. If I can have something to fall on for myself and my family it's a win/win situation, but the thing I stressed Larry is not out here searching to do race teams, not to be a crew chief, my commitment is to be one of the best broadcast analysts out there for FOX.

Q. How much were you guys and NBC and TBS stretching your creative limit on rain delays?

MIKE JOY: It is a stretch. It's kind of like when you have writer's block and you have a column deadline except we don't know we have that deadline in advance until the delay occurs. We have all been in this sport 20 years or more, or 30 -- gosh.

JEFF HAMMOND: Stop counting. A long time.

MIKE JOY: When the racing is good you don't have time to bring out the personalities of the people in the sport and when you have these kind of delays, I think that's the kind of thing we can do and do better. The problem is when the needle starts to go toward silliness, the show becomes: Can you top this? The antics get a little out of hand. But we are having fun and we hope the viewers are too. We hope they can learn something about the participants that will make them enjoy the sport more.

Q. Mike, when you first started doing broadcasting, started radio, but when you first started doing television, there was a lot less information on the screen for the fans that you had to provide. Now as an anchor your job is different, with television, can you talk about all of the tools that you have, information that you don't have to give but that's there for them?

MIKE JOY: The absolutely best thing is the ticker, what I call the ticker, that's the crawl across the top or bottom of the screen depending on what network you are watching that provides the standings. If you look at Speed Channel and look at the old telecasts the anchor is constantly resetting the running order and we don't have to do that as often. We probably don't have to do it at all because it's on the screen like a stock ticker. I know when we started with that I had an e-mail from one guy who put duck tape because the standings went this way and the cars going this way. But now everyone is used to it. Now we can concentrate on the story of the race.



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