One of the difficulties of watching auto racing on television is appreciating just how fast the cars are going. A stock car traveling 170 mph passing another stock car doing 160 doesn't look much different from a guy in a Lexus zipping by a geezer in a Yugo on the freeway. Enter Go-Cam, a movable camera that gives the viewer the impression of being that geezer on the highway as Dale Earnhardt goes speeding by.
NBC broke out Go-Cam during Sunday's NASCAR Pennzoil 400 to do something of a dry run for next year, when the network, which this year had only this one Winston Cup race, will broadcast 13. (Fox will show 15, TBS seven, FX three and Fox Sports Net one.) Producer Sam Flood was in charge of NBC's track and field coverage at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, when a similar camera was used in the 200 meters. But that camera and the one NBC used at the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 4 topped out at 30 mph. Go-Cam, which for the Pennzoil 400 operated on a cable suspended along the back-stretch at Homestead-Miami Speedway, travels between 50 and 80 mph, or about what most people do on the interstate.
Go-Cam was underused in its debut, but NBC still deserves credit for trying to push the envelope. Putting a camera under Casey At-wood's car to show how the inside of the front right tire suffers more wear than the outside was a nice touch, too. This innovative bent, plus the addition of cagey analyst Benny Parsons (late of ABC and ESPN), indicates that NBC's coverage is on the right track.