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This last long drawn out race weekend was the first weekend I have personally used DirecTV’s HOT PASS (It’s free this season- check channel 795, 796, 797 and 798 to find out the drivers for the week). Why did it take me 13 races into the season to check it out (well really only 12 because they didn’t bother to even carry the All-Star Race)? Well because it was the first race TONY was one of the drivers.  I was excited to use the new HOT PASS mostly because I haven’t really had a chance to actually hear with my own little ears what the group sounded like on the radio. Similarities and differences between this spotter/crew chief/driver combo and what Tony had before with Zippy and Mark was what I was really most curious about.

Well I can only say that I was disappointed in this new incarnation of HotPass.  Unfortunately I was disappointed in what I saw. The first thing that disappointed me was my inability to control the audio.  I could hear the team radio but it was laid over the audio of the national broadcast. So most of the time when Team Office Depot was conferring on the radio it was extremely hard to hear because of the national broadcast announcers.  Previous incarnations of HotPass gave users the ability to cycle through three different audio packages…those being: National Broadcast, Team Radio, and HOT PASS broadcast (which were broadcasters assigned to each Hot Pass Driver).

Another thing I was disappointed with was the camera views seemed to be having some major issues and would often actually go completely black sometimes.  I have a feeling that this might have been due to weather and moisture in the car’s on board equipment than anything else though. So I probably can’t fault DirecTV with that one.

I can fault them with one of my biggest complaints all along and that has been the censorship of the team radio feed. If I was offended by the possibility of cursing on the radio it is something I wouldn’t listen to.  My issue is that they are a bit…bleep happy at DirecTV.  So instead of cutting out just the “bad” word…they cut out the whole freaking conversation.

For instance.  This was a bit of Tony’s radio transmission on Monday (taken from an article on NASCAR.COM because I couldn’t hear it) in regards to some on-track issues with David Reutimann:

“Go tell that ignorant [expletive] that this isn’t the Nationwide Series and if he holds me up like that again, he’ll beat the traffic on the way home,” Stewart told his spotter over the radio. “I love him to death, but I’m not going to [expletive] with him like that again.”

This is what I heard on the Hot Pass Audio:

“Go tell that….(dead air)”

Yeah that is ALL I heard. I don’t know if the spotter replied or not because I didn’t hear that either.  I honestly couldn’t tell much from what I actually heard- except I could tell by the tone of his voice that Tony was …agitated. Now I can’t say that I am paying for the HOT PASS so I want to hear all the audio- not what DirecTV wants me to hear…because HOT PASS is free. But I will say this I WOULD NOT PAY for this current incarnation of HOTPASS.  There are only 4 drivers (the first year I used HOT PASS there were five). The selection this season almost never has Tony as a featured driver. There is no way to control which audio feed I am hearing. AND THEY ARE STILL CENSORING THE RADIO feed.

By censoring the driver radio feeds I think that it is censoring what is going on in the car.  When Tony gets “wound up” about something, if I can hear the feed- I know what’s going on. In this case, he obviously felt like the driver in question above was holding him up- racing him too hard too early. He was frustrated. I can get that from the full feed. From the HOT PASS feed all I get is that he is upset about something but what I don’t know. Is he upset with a driver? Did something go wrong on a pit stop? Did his wheel just fly off? Is he having visibility problems? What is going on??

I am a big girl. Let me decide what I want to hear. If it offends me, I will turn it off.  If they are worried about children happening into the feed- maybe make the team feed lockable or something so that a parent has to unlock the feature for it to work. Whatever- just give me my driver’s radio feeds warts and all.

***Updated***

I will say, however, one of the best things with being able to hear Tony and his crew on DirecTV is when he went four wide at one point in an effort to pass I could hear his spotter go “Um- 4 wide, 4 wide you have the bottom” then after that resolved itself I got to hear Tony giggle and say “That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”