What F1 can learn (and forget) about NASCAR


Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, Suzuka, 2005 | Daimler ChryslerI watched the first round of the 2008 NASCAR season yesterday – the Daytona 500.

I’m not a big fan of the style of racing but I’ve got a list as long as my arm of the things F1 can learn from NASCAR’s presentation.

What F1 can learn from NASCAR…

Loads more cameras – F1 uses a few distant, wide-angle cameras to cover the races, and a couple of high-mounted on-board cameras.

NASCAR has stacks of on-board cameras (admittedly it’s easier to fit them to big stock cars), static wall cameras that shake as the cameras pass, helicopter and blimp cameras, and cameras in the floor to show the cars zipping past. It gets the most out of the spectacle.

Team radio – Constant chatter from the teams and drivers was fed throughout the NASCAR broadcast – even a discussion between two team mates at one point.

F1 teams are allowed to withhold their conversations from the airwaves – which Ferrari and McLaren make heavy use of. The radios should be open and free for TV stations to use and fans at the track to listen to.

Talk about the history – before the race they had the drivers pick their favourite moments from past Daytona 500s and why they liked them. F1 should do this more – and Ecclestone shouldn’t be so stingy about letting TV companies use the footage to illustrate it.

High definition – NASCAR has it, F1 doesn’t. F1 needs to get this sorted now.

…and what it should ignore

Constant interruptions – If you think F1 gets a lot of interruptions (up to 15 minutes of adverts per race) NASCAR has much more.

Happily the UK broadcast on Sky didn’t cut away to adverts on every occasion the American feed inserted them, but on top of the breaks the commentators even take time out from talking about the action to plug various products. No thanks.

Boogity – Many UK F1 fans think ITV commentator James Allen is annoying. They probably wouldn’t if they had to put up with Darrell Waltrip shouting “boogity boogity boogity” every weekend.

Four hour races – Everyone told me not to judge NASCAR on the Daytona 500 alone and I can see why. Nothing happens for 180 laps, then there’s a couple of crashes and it finishes. Hmm.

Photo copyright: Daimler

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37 comments on What F1 can learn (and forget) about NASCAR

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  1. Scootin159 said on 18th February 2008, 17:51

    I 2nd the radio comment… not only is it much more available on TV.. but if you actually attend a race they hand out flyers with the frequencies of all in-car radio’s listed. Just bring your own scanner & tune in :)

    This whole notion goes much further than just the radio though. It’s not uncommon to see reporters interviewing team bosses while the race is going on. Could you just imagine an actual interview with Ron Dennis after a particular pit stop last year? Not only would it happen in NASCAR, it would be considered rude if he didn’t .

    Of course… as you said… they get a many more things very wrong. The prevalence of full-course cautions (i.e. safety car periods) is preposterous. Sometimes I think they just throw the yellow because it’s been 30 laps since the last one. There’s also a seeming requirement that they all last a MINIMUM of at least 5 laps (@ 30-60mph)… in order to ensure adequate time for commercial breaks.

  2. Chris Johnson said on 18th February 2008, 18:22

    I agree with everything you said. The visual coverage is good enough to make a boring sport entertaining. Accessibility is big, too. I love the idea of getting comments from the teams as the race is going on. You can get the races in Hi-Def, and subscribe to/buy channels on pay per view to “ride along” with top drivers. I believe this is similar to what was available on the “premier” channel in Germany several years ago. Formula One could learn a lot about quality coverage from most other sports, not just NASCAR.

    If Bernie is forcing night races for higher tv audiences, surely they can improve the coverage for those viewers?

  3. NASCAR has mastered the show for American Racing. At Daytona you can buy a pit pass and get within about 30 feet of the pits to watch. Sure the sport is boring but its cool to hear drivers sound off. I love F1 but they have to spice it up for the crowd.

    Don’t get me wrong. I loved seeing KIMI blast to 1st and never look back in Australia of 2007, but more driver battles would be great.

    If you are ever being chased by a Nascar just turn right and you will get away.

    • They do run a a couple of road races. Just thought I would throw that in. And there are quite a few drivers who have turned right in there racing career.

  4. the radio is indeed fun. Definatly at the end when you could here teammates speak to eachother, it’s great.

    In F1 it was fun to hear the radio from Renault, too bad Ferrari and McLaren don’t like it. They should make it all open.

  5. Robert McKay said on 18th February 2008, 18:59

    “This whole notion goes much further than just the radio though. It’s not uncommon to see reporters interviewing team bosses while the race is going on. Could you just imagine an actual interview with Ron Dennis after a particular pit stop last year?”

    ITV did have a good phase a couple of years ago where it would pick a high-up team member (e.g. Dennis, Williams, Gascoyne, Brawn etc.) and interview them from the pit wall at certain points during the race to get updates on how their drivers were doing, and how the race overall was unfolding. Unfortunately that died a death, for reasons I don’t know.

    Indy used one or two of those static wall cameras that shake as the cars go by, in the USGP’s – those are great, a real sensation of speed from them. I can’t think of anywhere else except maybe Canada that uses them in F1, though I suppose there’s not many F1 tracks with walls nearby high speed sections.

    I agree about the TV coverage – that is what NASCAR gets right. Endless caution periods that effectively render the race meaningless till the last few laps – that’s what they get wrong. Even a spin, avoiding the wall, avoiding damage, brings out a caution that lasts a good few laps.

  6. I’, fully agree with you! Team’s radio would be open!!

  7. If I could, I would like to add a few things that NASCAR does right that F1 could learn from…

    1: Web presentation: NASCAR in terms of their internet and new media presentation is miles ahead of F1. Just look at what nascar.com offers compared to formula1.com. No wonder there are so many NASCAR fans in America, the people at the top make it so accessible that anyone can follow it. Compare that with F1 where you have to go to several blogs to figure what the heck is going on. It is absolutely insane.

    2: Slipstreaming: The one thing I do enjoy about NASCAR is that slipstreaming is a major part of overtaking. I know with the aerodynamics of the current F1 cars and the FIA paranoia of straight roads that there is no way this is coming back, but it is nice to have some variety in overtaking.

    3: More flexibility with teams and cars: One thing nice about NASCAR is that they do have more cars in the field. Some of the smaller teams have one car out there and some teams have four cars. I personally wouldn’t mind if F1 open it up a bit with some of the “poorer” putting there resources into one car instead of splitting an already meager budget on two. Also, if Ferrari and McLaren want to put up to four cars in the field so be it, better competition. That way, we can have a proper grid of about (or more than) 24 cars.

    4: More advertising opportunities: I know, I know, I know: we all hate advertisement and yes… the amount at the Daytona 500 was extremely annoying. It not that bit I am getting at, I am talking about the different relationship between the teams, the sport, and advertisers. By allowing advertisers to sponsor cars instead of teams, there is more opportunity to bring more potential advertisers in the fold. Not only that, but it would really break up the blandness of the colors of the cars on the grid.

    5: Management: I will take the France family and the lot who run NASCAR over BernieMax any day and twice on Sundays. The fact that they can turn a sport of rednecks driving in circles into one of the leading sports in America is an amazing achievement. They are sharp, they produce a great product, they are not afraid of what new, aren’t afraid to innovate, and they have set the sport up for long term sustainability and success. Imagine with the same resources that F1 has what these guys could do to the sport on a global scale.

  8. The overt product placement is enough to keep me entertained :)

    Here come the field behind the Chevrolet pace car.. [pause]
    Chevrolet, who have been controlling the pace of Nascar for 50 years… [pause]
    Chevrolet… an American Revolution.

  9. I’ve really enjoyed reading the couple of posts on NASCAR, it’s interesting to read comments on NASCAR from non-Americans that amounts to more than “you guys suck” =).

    I had been wondering if you guys would get the American TV commentators (Darrell Waltrip, et al) or your own commentators, thnks for clearing that up. All of the broadcasters for all of the networks are annoying in their own way, but the FOX guys (who covered Daytona) are actually the most knowledgeable. I tire of the good ol’ boy schtick, but they are better than the BNC guys and much, much, much better than the ABC guys (who had been led by Rusty Wallace(*) last year, who ended up being so bad that they’ve already announced he’s getting kicked out of the booth when Dale Jarrett retires from racing and becomes available).

    If you guys are still watching when ABC gets the races, there’s one thing worth watching for. They have this thing where, when the cars come to take the green, they open multiple radio channels to the broadcast at once. It sounds cheesy, but it gives me goosebumps. Listening to the drivers, crew chiefs, and spotters for 43 teams try to get up to speed without killing each other is a very visceral reminder of the work that goes into every second of a race.

    (*) in 2006, after Rusty Wallace had retired but before ABC had any NASCAR broadcasts, they put him in the Indy Racing League booth with Scott Goodyear. I have a friend who started watching IRL only for the Schadenfruede of how awful those two were together. It was the worst commentating pair I’ve ever heard in any sport…

    • mike s. said on 19th February 2009, 3:22

      It’s not so much of the “you guys suck!” mantra, it’s the generational high-brow, elitist ways that is indicative of much of Europe (as it relates to F1), that makes F1 appear stagnant and aloof in many ways.

      When F1 doesn’t have the intimacy and interaction with most of its fans–while NASCAR does–then the solution is obvious. However, given the European attitude and those in charge of F1, I wouldn’t count on much change. (By the way, I’m of European descent, so I’m not looking to disparage Europe, but rather point out the microcosm that is FI vs. NASCAR/Europe vs. America.

  10. Although I’m not a NASCAR fan, I was kinda tempted to watch it this weekend. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone with Sky, but if I’m honest, I didn’t try that hard.

    As far as I can tell, the number one complaint in this house is the stickers in place of headlights. Something odd about pretending to have lights when you don’t.

  11. Note that we keep blaming Bernie – and so we should. But the little geezer is too busy these days arranging for new and more sensational GPs to worry about how the races are presented. There are too many jobs involved in this for any man, no matter how tiny and over-imbued with energy, to cope with adequately. Let Bernie do what he likes (if we have to keep him) which is hobnobbing with sheikhs and pashas and let the broadcasting professionals work out how they want to present the races.

    Yes, I know everything in sight is owned by CVC and Bernie is their representative but, if they want to stop making a loss, they need to attend to things like the presentation of the sport.

  12. i miss the stockcarzone dearly.

    last season was pretty damn amazing and if it was on free-to-air tv again this year, i might try to follow.

    what nascar has now, f1 will have in several year’s time. just look at kangaroo tv.

    f1 is, was, and always will be years behind in this area.

  13. Scootin159 – “The prevalence of full-course cautions (i.e. safety car periods) is preposterous.”

    Unless you chose to qualify that statement (i.e. note only 2 of 36 events are held on road courses) I would suggest even you wouldn’t much care to be part of a safety crew or a driver of a disabled car would be in favor of 180mph cars conducting a “race” in three corners and have to slow for an “area caution” for one single corner. And that corner being in many cases less than a mile and 10-25 seconds away.

    The safety ramifications of that are well, “preposterous.”

  14. well i do recieve the original broadcast voices of waltrip etc… can’t say it’s that bad…

  15. lol … this discussion is fascinating to me, as I love both F1 and NASCAR equally — just for very different reasons.

    I wish some of you wouldn’t tune out of NASCAR entirely, however, especially as a result of yesterday’s Daytona 500.

    The “COT” is an abomination, and the true culprit for the race being “180 laps, a couple of crashes, and then the finish.” I’ve never seen a more boring restrictor plate race in my life — so, please trust me … it’s not the way it’s supposed to be, and won’t be until they either fix that horrible creation, or scrap it and get back to “stock cars” — or at least a reasonable fascimile thereof.

    I’m highly critical of NASCAR as a sanctioning body, and the COT is merely its latest blunder … but, in truth, while I love F1 passionately, there used to be absolutely nothing like watching 43 … then 39 … then 25 (lol) cars doin’ 190mph in about the space you could throw a tent over — when fenders were more “navigation tools” than body parts, grin …

    Talledega is another superspeedway race that will no doubt be as compromised by the COT as Daytona’s race was yesterday, at least until they figure out how to make these new flyin’-brick-squished-blowfish lookin’ things actually RACE … and it’s a true pity. I’m not a fan of restrictor plates, though they’re there for safety — otherwise, they’d be running the same way at well over 200mph, and the real danger is to the crowd when they wreck … and, unfortunately, they will wreck.

    Regardless of what many open-wheel purists believe, it does take great skill and endurance to drive at the Cup level — it simply requires a different type of hand/eye coordination, instinct and all-out fearlessness. I wish that those who are and/or who remain skeptical about NASCAR’s status as a motorsport would look past the “moonshine runner origins”, grin … stay a bit patient with it until you watch it more often (just as I had to with open-wheel, before I came to appreciate its own unique attributes). And, holy crap — at least try to live through this COT debacle with the rest of us, lol, as it’s simply NOT stock car racing as it’s meant to be.

    As far as the headlight comment? lol – hilarious! They used to be real, ya’ know, but, really — when you’re using your front-end that much to either bump-draft or simply bump-wreck, grin, doesn’t really seem to be much of a point to having all that glass on the track by lap 2, does there?

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