Thoughts and observations while watching the final Fox NASCAR broadcast of the season, another solid, informative outing handicapped by a slow start and the dreaded finish under caution, which spoiled a potentially thrilling conclusion:
By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 7, 2002
JUST ADD WATER: The Fox cameras zoomed in on Darrell Waltrip as brother Michael won the Pepsi 400, but Darrell held in the tears, even if his voice cracked.
"Way to go buddy," said Darrell, who did a nice, professional job restraining himself in a situation that clearly could have led to a grand show of emotion.
TENNIS, ANYONE?: Fox was on the spot in relaying the conversation between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief. Earnhardt Jr., running second at the time, said he was going to "help Michael win it."
Earnhardt had to be talked into making a run for the win against his teammate, which he did, falling short. Afterward, he expressed regret for doing so.
The announcers talked openly about the prospects and dangers of Earnhardt Jr. letting Waltrip win. But maybe an explanation as to why it's okay for NASCAR drivers to "nobly" discuss helping a teammate win but Venus and Serena Williams are universally criticized for the possibility they have done the same thing would have been appropriate?
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: The Fox crew took turns blaming the rough start (three cautions on in the first 18 laps) on the lack of practice time for the drivers, which was right on as the race went smoothly the next 100 laps.
Darrell Waltrip also put some blame on the HANS device hindering peripheral vision. However, he later said the HANS would go down as the greatest safety device ever invented, after Joe Nemecheck said "thank God for the HANS" when he hit the wall.
ONCE IS GOOD ENOUGH: About the race museum at Daytona taking the winning car and putting it on display, Darrell Waltrip said during the prerace show: "The good news is you won the race; the bad news is they're going to take your car away from you."
Unfortunately, he used the same line again during the race.
DON'T FORCE IT: As Tony Stewart stewed in his car waiting for repairs, Jeff Hammond told viewers "you can see the frustration in his face."
Hammond must have X-ray vision. Viewers only knew there was someone in the car because Hammond said so, and apparently the window net and Stewart's helmet wasn't enough to prevent him from "seeing" that frustration.
We'll take his word for it.
REALLY NOW: At one point, Dale Jarrett was between Ryan Newman (No. 12) and Dave Blaney (No. 77), prompting Waltrip to say, "I wouldn't want to be there ... 12's reckless, and 77 is doing a great job but has the least amount of experience."
Later in the race Jarrett was in the middle of the biggest crash in the race with 25 laps to go.
BAD TIMING: After Fox spent much time explaining Jeff Gordon's efforts to make up a lap as he ran with the leaders, a commercial break prevented viewers from seeing Gordon fall behind the leaders.
"Sometimes you wonder what they're holding," Waltrip said about Gordon after the break. "Right now, he's not holding anything."
SAFE, OR NOT?: Good stuff from the radio as his crew told Michael Waltrip that Elliot Sadler needed help getting by to get a lap back.
"It's up to you," his crew told Waltrip.
"Where's 24? ... Where's 24," said Waltrip, worrying about Gordon. Told Gordon was out of the race, Waltrip let Sadler by.