Sunday, February 11, 2001

Sports on TV-Radio

Fox faces big test at Daytona

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds hope things come together fast. They debuted together this weekend on Fox's NASCAR coverage. A week from today, they'll call the biggest stock car race of them all: the Daytona 500.

        The Fox trio was smooth Saturday calling the pole qualifying. Waltrip gave viewers an insider's account without getting too technical. And Fox had every angle covered.

        But the big test comes with calling races. That will come today with the Bud Shootout (2 p.m., Channels 19, 45).

        “We'll have a good idea after that,” McReynolds said.

        “I think the learning curve will be short,” Joy said.

        Joy has covered 24 Daytona 500s for CBS. Waltrip drove in last year's race, and McReynolds worked as as a crew chief.

        “I think by the third race, we will be a cohesive unit,” Joy said. “We have a pretty good idea of each other's styles.”

        Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds have been meeting regularly to get used to each other.

        “This is just like getting a car ready for Daytona,” said Waltrip, a winner of 84 Winston Cup races. “We've been working on this for three months.”

        Fox, which is airing its first Daytona 500, will broadcast Winston Cup events through June. NBC and TBS will show the rest of the schedule.

        This is all part of the $2.4 billion, six-year deal NASCAR signed with Fox, NBC and TBS. The contract will give the sport more week-to-week major-network coverage than ever.

        “This is a brave, new frontier,” Waltrip said. “This partnership has everyone on the same page. A lot of people will be watching. It's a great opportunity.”

        In addition to Fox, NASCAR is getting major play on Fox's cable partners. Fox Sports Net will air Totally NASCAR, a half-hour show at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and NASCAR Today, a 90-minute show at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. FX also is involved with “Happy Hour” (practice) coverage and Busch series races.

        But the big spotlight is on Fox and its new crew.

        “We're going to have continuity from the start of Bud Shootout through Daytona,” Joy said.

        Joy says fans might not notice the network's bells and whistles as much as the differences in perspective from the analysts.

        “We've got fellows in the booth who competed in the last Winston Cup,” Joy said. “The knowledge they have is up-to-date.”

        BACK TO THE BOOTH? It's a long shot now, but Matt Millen's departure from Fox's NFL team could put Cris Collinsworth back in the booth as an analyst.

        Collinsworth has worked on the network's studio show, Fox NFL Sunday, since 1998.

        “I went to them and said I'm a team player and I'd be happy to do it,” Collinsworth said. “(Fox Sports chairman) David Hill said, "I'm not breaking up that show.'”

        Fox NFL Sunday is the No. 1-rated and most critically acclaimed NFL pregame show. But if a top-notch replacement can't be found for Millen, Collinsworth could be called.

        “I'm under contract. I'll do whatever they need me to,” he said.

        MOVING: Fox Sports Net is moving its Regional Sports Report from 11 to 10 p.m. beginning April 2.

        It will be renamed Ohio Sports Report. The idea is take advantage of lead-ins from live games.

        FSN will air 85 Reds games this year. Most will end at about 10 p.m.

        Fox Sports Net also announced it will air Real Reds, the half-hour preview show, before every Reds broadcast. Real Reds, hosted by Dan Hoard and Jeff Piecoro, aired only before home broadcasts last year.

        John Fay covers radio/TV sports for The Enquirer. He can be reached at (513) 768-8445.


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