NASCAR troubles refuse to let up for Fox Sports

Posted: Friday, February 16, 2001

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Fox Sports got a graphic example of how embarrassing poor preparation can be.

The network's plan to show every advertising logo during driver introductions for the Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday was waylaid because the network didn't have computerized images of all the logos.

So, Logogate was extended through the weekend, with drivers, sponsors and NASCAR wondering how things would look Sunday at the Daytona 500.

It was hardly the way Fox wanted to kick off the first week of NASCAR's six-year, $2.8 billion deal with the network, NBC and TBS to telecast Winston Cup races.

''I'm irritated,'' said Ed McClure, co-owner of the Kodak Chevrolet that was among those left logoless. ''My sponsor said they sent it to them. I'll have to find out what happened.''

During last Sunday's telecast of the Budweiser Shootout, the network surprised everyone by leaving the logos off the graphics that depicted cars whose sponsors hadn't bought advertising for the race telecast.

It was a brazen move, especially considering NASCAR's almost symbiotic relationship with sponsors, who pay up to $15 million per year to have their logos slapped on the race cars.

''To be honest, we didn't think it would be picked up on so quickly,'' Fox Chairman David Hill said earlier in the week.

It was, and after prodding from NASCAR, the network changed its stance and decided to show the logos for all the cars, beginning with the telecast of the Twin 125-mile qualifying races.

But the network couldn't show graphics it didn't have, and it tried to depict the latest problem as the fault of the sponsors, not its own people.

''In some instances, we didn't get them at all, in other instances, we didn't get the right thing,'' Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said. ''To be prepared for the season, regardless of what was going to transpire, we've been after teams to get us this stuff since June. In some instances, they weren't able to.''

So, Fox left logos off seven cars, including those sponsored by Kodak, Conseco and SoBe Beverage Co. Five more cars didn't have primary sponsors and wouldn't have had a logo anyway. The graphics for those cars carried the car number and a Fox Sports logo.

No mention of the logos were made on the telecast and, in most cases, the missing logos were barely noticeable.

Still, Fox clearly knows it has an important issue on its hands. After being surprised by the reaction to its decision last Sunday, the network took the offensive Thursday, announcing the problems with the logos before the races began.

Then, it started playing defense again, trying to convince skeptics that it really did want all logos -- not just those from commercial-buying sponsors -- in house before the season started.

''We were going to be prepared for whatever we decided to do,'' D'Ermilio said.

He said the logos for the Kodak and Conseco cars should appear on the graphics by Sunday, but didn't make promises about any others.

In reality, Fox shouldn't have many worries.

Among the cars the network depicted without logos, Robert Pressley (Jasper Engines Ford) was the only other driver with a primary sponsor to qualify for the main race.

The drivers lacking a primary sponsor who made Sunday's race were Kenny Wallace, Jeff Purvis and Kurt Busch.



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