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For the first 16 Cup Series races of the season, fans have been outspoken in their criticism of Fox’s NASCAR coverage. It started at the Daytona 500 and didn’t stop until the network’s last broadcast from Sonoma. 

On Sunday, NBC picked up coverage and aired its first race of the season from Nashville Superspeedway. It wasn’t perfect. But it was objectively better than Fox’s coverage and it wasn’t even close. 

Fox’s NASCAR coverage issues throughout the season 

Fox Sports cameras at Talladega.
Fox Sports cameras capture the action from high above the track during the running of the NASCAR Xfinity series Ag-Pro 300 race on April 24, 2021 at the Talladega Superspeedway. | Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Fox didn’t get the 2023 Cup Series season off to a good start at the Daytona 500, front-loading commercials early in the broadcast, which ended with some jokingly referring to the race as the Commercial 500. And that was just the beginning.

The large volume of commercials was a fan concern that continued throughout the year, but, unfortunately, that wasn’t all. The same issues that have dogged the network for the last several years continued in 2023. More specifically, the broadcast failing to show the action on the track and what the broadcasters are talking about, and most importantly, what fans want to see. Denny Hamlin addressed the issue earlier this year on his Actions Detrimental podcast.

“One thing I saw at (Bristol) dirt last week or when I watched it back, the announcers would be talking about some side-by-side battle, and the camera wasn’t on it,” Hamlin said. “So you didn’t know — what are they talking about? Let me see this battle. 

“I did notice too, as soon as some action would start to heat up on a side-by-side battle, they’d cut to like 12th place. You see the second-place guy working over the first-place guy like right on his ass and about to make a move and they cut to like side-by-side for 12th. It’s like, s***, let’s keep it in the battle that’s about to dictate who’s going to be leading this race. Certainly I think from a production standpoint, we could make some improvements.”

NBC sends message right out of the gate

A spirited debate developed on social media over the last few weeks as the network transition approached, with some suggesting NBC was just as bad as Fox. On Sunday at Nashville, the Peacock shot down that theory right out of the gate when the network opened the broadcast, not with any pre-race interviews, grid walk, or other skits. Instead, the first thing fans watching at home saw was an overhead shot of downtown, then the racetrack — with cars on it.

Yes, you read that right. The cars were running the pace laps when the NBC telecast started at 7PM ET. And just six minutes later, the green flag dropped.  

Early hiccup with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on pit road.
NBC broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr. on pit road during the running of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 on June 24, 2023 at Nashville SuperSpeedway. | Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While NBC got in fans’ good graces with its broadcast opening, it did encounter a hiccup early on in the first stage. It happened with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton holding down broadcast positions from pit road. 

That was a bad choice because it was almost impossible to hear either announcer describing the action when the cars raced by on the front stretch. Even Earnhardt noted how the same setup wasn’t an issue the day before during the Xfinity Series broadcast because those cars have exhausts on the right side of the cars, whereas the Next Gen car has exhausts on both sides. And it was beyond loud.

Fortunately, the pair weren’t there long and migrated to the broadcast booth where they could describe the action and, more importantly, be heard by the viewing audience. 

NBC broadcast noticeably better 

Where NBC unequivocally showed it was head and shoulders above its network counterpart was in what fans, including Denny Hamlin, have endlessly complained about all year — covering the action.

For starters, whenever there were battles for position, they were shown. The first test came in Stage 1 when Tyler Reddick made the pass on race leader Ross Chastain. It actually made the broadcast and was a precursor of things to come.

Throughout the entire three-hour broadcast, there were two and sometimes three boxes on-screen that showed different battles happening around the track. In other words, fans didn’t miss any action and weren’t confused by what the announcers were saying because they could see it in one of the boxes. 

Bonus points


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Throws Subtle Shade at Fox While Talking About NBC Taking Over NASCAR’s Coverage in 2023

But NBC didn’t stop in its basic responsibility of showing the racing action. It also displayed a new graphic several times during the broadcast that included a bar next to each respective driver’s name, which indicated the amount of fuel remaining with the laps run. It was a nice touch that added some context to the race.

Another bonus for fans was the post-race coverage. NBC devoted a half-hour, which included interviews with the winner and numerous other drivers. This was something Fox failed to do on a consistent basis this season.

And finally, going back to the first complaint of the year and too many ads at Daytona, we revived our commercial tracker and compared Fox’s commercial allotment from the race at Dover last month with NBC’s coverage at Nashville. (The Dover race lasted 21 minutes longer.)

Interestingly, NBC has a pretty standard format that includes six commercials that run for 2:30. Fox’s breaks had more variation in the number of spots and times. But the most important takeaway, at least from a commercial standpoint is NBC ran fewer commercials, which obviously took up less time, and fans missed fewer green-flag laps. 

All of it combined resulted in a lot of fans taking to social media during and after the race, not to complain, but to sing the praises of the Peacock for its first race broadcast of the year. It’s a refreshing change and one that fans can look forward to for the rest of 2023.

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