Good Look Back

Let’s get right to the point. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you have to get the “NASCAR Winston Cup 2002” DVD produced by NASCAR Images. For less than you’d pay Bill France Jr. for six cold hot dogs at Talladega, you’ll have a complete video record of the entire NASCAR season.

It’s much more than just some edited broadcast clips from the NBC/TNT and Fox teams. Instead, longtime race announcer Ken Squier has first shot at becoming the John Facenda of NASCAR Images. He narrates footage from each weekend of the Winston Cup season on the first disc of the two-DVD set. The narrative was written by “Totally NASCAR” producer Ryan McGee, and it looks like all of those years hanging out with Bill Weber and his pen and paper have paid off.

But don’t fret if you want to have DW’s dulcet tones proclaiming “Boogity, boogity, boogity” forever digitally etched into your personal DVD collection; that’s in there too. Overall, the 36 races are summarized in one hour and 13 minutes.

The NASCAR-produced effort doesn’t gloss over the more controversial moments of the season either. Kevin Harvick’s troubles and Tony Stewart’s personal struggles are adequately addressed, which is probably somewhat of a surprise to many readers.

As you might expect, there are plenty of “bonus” features, although none of them will knock your socks off. If you’re expecting the extra nuggets from “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars,” fuggedaboudit.

The “champion’s interview” is three minutes of a studio interview with a very subdued Tony Stewart. The Winston all-star race also gets a few minutes of special treatment. Then, the last offering on disc one is a statistics summary for each of the top ten drivers.

Disc two solely consists of five music videos from Def Leppard and four bands I’ve never heard of. Saliva, Flaw, and Greenwheel is not the name of the law firm defending NASCAR’s antitrust case. Instead, those are three of the bands on the DVD, along with an outfit called Audiovent, which must be translated into a foreign language as “five really scraggly guys badly in need of a shower.”

Amazingly, megastar Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen” is nowhere to be seen in NASCAR’s music video section. The only explanation is that there must have been some problem with legal clearance. We can only hope that NASCAR 2003 will also choose to steer clear of Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, two divas already on the NASCAR docket for the coming season.

The video footage on the disc is actually pretty impressive. If you’re used to Gary Lang’s work at Fox during the first half of the season or the NBC/TNT music videos going out of commercial, disc two can be summed up as those efforts on steroids. Def Leppard’s “Scar” has a lot of video of race fans included and was my personal favorite. The musical efforts from Flaw and Green Wheel are enough for anyone old enough to know who shot J.R. to make a headfirst dive for the mute button.

For an inaugural effort from NASCAR Images, the DVD is a worthy recap of the 2002 season. However, future versions should be expected to take things to the next level. There was nothing really new for the devoted NASCAR fandom, which is the most disappointing part. As someone who grew up watching the efforts of Ed and Steve Sabol of NFL Films and still watches the weekly output from that talented group, I was expecting more of the special treats that NFL fans get on a regular basis.

A good start would be putting microphones on some crew members, drivers, and owners to give a behind the scenes look at racing each week. Also, there was no meaningful fresh video footage. NASCAR and Fox (joint owners of NASCAR Images) could make a big improvement by assigning a few more camera operators and technicians to each event to capture more of those meaningful moments in racing that seem to occur just about every week. NFL Films does this to perfection. Both Fox and NASCAR would build up the film vault and probably the bank vault if they made that commitment, not to mention have plenty of material for one heckuva DVD each year.

Nevertheless, NASCAR fans should drop the 25 bucks on the 2002 DVD. It’s money well spent.

THIS WEEK’S NOTES: Katie Couric and NASCAR TV partner NBC got an exclusive with Teresa Earnhardt for a “Dateline” interview that coincides with the Daytona 500 week and February sweeps. Couric unfortunately knows Teresa’s pain of losing a husband. Jay Monahan died in 1998 at the age of 42 . . . Former drag race Mike Dunn has signed a deal with ESPN for three more years on their NHRA telecasts, coinciding with the length of ESPN’s current contract to cover the series . . . Just thinking out loud on this one: The later start times for some of the NFL playoff games paid off in a major way for the NFL’s TV partners with solid ratings. You’ve got to believe that NASCAR and its partners noticed that too . . . Jayski reports that NASCAR PR stalwart Danielle Frye is heading to MRN as a pit reporter . . . Eli Gold, Dave Burns, and Marty Snider are working on NBC’s coverage of the Arena Football League . . . Speed Channel has announced it will show live or same-day coverage of each Busch Grand National qualifying session in 2003 . . . SPEED’s new show, “Inside BGN,” will debut on February 17. Allen Bestwick, Randy Lajoie, and Hank Parker Jr. will appear each week, with a third driver stepping in on a rotating basis . . . The only bad news from the 2003 season so far is that Carrot Top will likely be more visible to race fans, with the announcement that AT&T is on board with the #49 BAM team. That might be enough for me to get TiVo.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2003

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