top of page

FOX Acquiring IndyCar's Television Rights is Roger Penske's Defining Failure as the Sport's Steward

The murmurs of FOX potentially being a player for IndyCar's expiring TV rights weren't exactly news. Still, when Adam Stern announced that the network was coming close to a deal to take over for NBC, it was met with universal dislike almost instantly—and for good reason. The network, which has carried the opening half of the NASCAR Cup Series tilt for the better part of the last quarter century, has been a spot of contention for fans for a long time and only amplified once NBC got back into the mix in 2015.

Since taking over as the owner of both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, Roger Penske has taken a ton of flak for the stagnation at best and regression at worst in the sport's domestic popularity, and this deal coming together is the icing on the cake. Without question, this is the worst thing that has happened to the sport of IndyCar under his leadership. This is even though every race is slated to be on the main FOX network, and the developmental NXT series is set for some Fox Sports 1 shine; that's how bad this is in the eyes of myself and many others.

Amateur Hour

For those unfamiliar with IndyCar reading this, you may be befuddled as to why a new TV rights deal that puts every race on National Television is a sure net negative for the sport. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles was quick to tout the "unrivaled exposure" that comes with this deal, along with the "engaging and technically innovative coverage" that FOX can provide in a press release from Wednesday, with many drivers praising the deal on socials over the last few days. So why exactly is this bad? There are many reasons, all of which lie in FOX's NASCAR coverage, which has gotten to parody levels of bad in recent years.

Where do you want to start? The badly timed and very frequent commercials, which are awful even by motorsports standards? Bad camera work leading to missing crucial moments in real-time and occasionally even on replays? Their new three-man booth of Mike Joy, Kevin Harvick, and Clint Bowyer, which is monumentally inferior to their former NBC counterparts of Rick Allen, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Steve Letarte, and Jeff Burton (and will almost certainly be worse than their new lineup of Letarte and Burton with Leigh Diffey)? The cringe-worthy 2D cartoon graphics that they've gone out of their way to over-use in recent years? How about just the jokey, amateur-esque feel to a FOX race compared to how buttoned-up and professional NBC treats things?

You can mention more, including how FOX axed NASCAR Race Hub, the only real midweek NASCAR-related show left after NBC axed their own version. The bottom line, however, is this: FOX and their executives can say all they want about how they are a committed partner in this venture. Their actions in the NASCAR realm have proven beyond all doubt that they are as uncommitted to motorsports as they've ever been. This makes NASCAR re-upping with them on a new SEVEN-YEAR DEAL all the more infuriating.

While NBC may have had some slip-ups here and there, they did a great job covering IndyCar for years. I could understand why they may not have wanted to re-up at whatever number Roger Penske wanted, but this is a sad development for the sport and another black eye for the Captain as he steers the IndyCar ship.

On the Call?

The biggest decision FOX now has on their hands is who their handmade picks will be to be the new voices of American Open Wheel Racing? Effectively replacing Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and James Hinchcliffe, who, for my money, were the best in motorsports for their tenure, is a challenging task, and no, I don't think you see any of the three make the jump, Diffey specifically, given that he's now NBC's all around lead in motorsports (NASCAR, IMSA, Supercross), and rightfully so for that matter.

Mike Joy was one person I saw mentioned on social media on Wednesday, for at least the Indy 500 gig. I say this with all due respect, given his tenure and longevity in the NASCAR broadcasting game; imagine having this level of call on the final lap of the Indy 500.

Compared to this all-time call from Leigh Diffey from not even a month ago.

Mike Joy is someone who should absolutely be able to finish his Hall of Fame-worthy career on his own terms, but I do not believe he's capable of giving calls to match the moment consistently, and that's been the case for over 10 years now in my book. FOX's Adam Alexander is another logical target, given his wealth of experience calling the NASCAR Xfinity series over the years, but for my money, if FOX wants to do this right, you make one phone call, and you force this person to tell you no: Allen Bestwick.

One of the most instantly recognizable voices in American Motorsports over the last 30 years, the Rhode Island native has bounced around, mainly lending his services to the now defunct SRX series and becoming a PA voice for IMS ever since ESPN lost its TV rights to IndyCar. There is not a single person alive and contractually available who is more qualified than Bestwick, can call a better race than Bestwick, or can match the moment better than Bestwick. Adam Alexander would be fine; Allen Bestwick would be great.

Regarding who would be options for analysts, speaking freely, anyone but Paul Tracy. Literally anyone but Paul Tracy. If I wanted to hear someone shamelessly cheerleading for Santino Ferrucci, I'd tap into his radio feed at that point.

Main Image via

10 views0 comments


bottom of page