Couch Potato Tuesday · Phil Allaway · Tuesday June 5, 2012
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, that one article here at Frontstretch where we take a look at the broadcasts that we are provided on a weekly basis. This past weekend, all three of NASCAR’s top series were at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. It also marked the last race weekend of the 2012 season for NASCAR on FOX and the final race on pit road for Dick Berggren.
Also of note, Jamie Little announced on her Twitter page on Sunday night that she will be working at the track for four more race weekends before taking maternity leave. Since ESPN is off this weekend, that means that she will be at the track through the Subway Jalapeno 250 (which I plan to be at) on July 6. Also note that one of those weekends is the IZOD IndyCar Series event at The Milwaukee Mile, which is the same afternoon as the Nationwide Series race at Michigan (in fact, they’re currently scheduled to air back-to-back on ABC).
Lucas Oil 200
Under threatening skies, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Dover for their one visit of the season. However, this year, SPEED introduced a new wrinkle to their Dover coverage. Live truck racing. Previously, this was the one and only Camping World Truck Series race that was tape-delayed due to the fact that it was (and still is) a Friday afternoon event. This policy was changed due to “public demand.” Quite frankly, I thought it was silly that they could televise the ARCA race live from Talladega on a Friday and not this race, but now we don’t have to worry about that anymore.
Even though it looked like it did, the dark skies and impending rain did not shorten NCWTS Setup. It was designed to be only 15 minutes (or so) in length since the green was scheduled to fly just after 5:00 PM. There were no pre-race interviews, which was a little frustrating.
The main feature of the Setup was a piece on Eddie Sharp Racing driver Cale Gale. Basically, for lack of better words, SPEED sent a crew to Gale’s hometown of Mobile, Alabama and let him take them to important sites in his past. This included Gale’s high school, where he talked to his old Algebra teacher. We also saw his old race shop. It was an interesting look at where Gale came from. Despite the fact that he’s a “rook” in the series, most fans really don’t know much about Gale, so this segment was a decent look at his past.
The race coverage was good, for the most part. There was plenty of action for position on the track and SPEED did their best to show us as much as they can. I had no problems with the commentary. The trio of Allen, Parsons and Michael Waltrip were on their game on Friday.
Having said that, I do have a couple of complaints. There was no replay shown of John Wes Townley’s spin on Lap 23. Yes, I know that some of you might say something along the lines of “It is John Wes Townley. He wrecks weekly,” and, “Aw heck, he didn’t hit anything, drop it.” Thankfully, this isn’t 2009 in the Nationwide Series, when that was almost the case. He’s improved a little since then and even if it doesn’t look like it, the youngster is still developing. On the radio, Townley’s crew chief mentioned that he got chopped something vicious, but we couldn’t make out who chopped Townley. The replay really would have helped here. Also, if you somehow did not have a replay of Townley’s spin, then that information would have to be relayed to the viewers via Allen.
Secondly, after the first red flag ended, there was a round of stops under the caution. I’m not sure, but it appears that the stops occurred during a commercial break and then had to be aired via tape delay. TV has to anticipate these kinds of things to a certain degree. If you know that the field is restarting from a red flag, don’t immediately go to a break.
Since there were two red flags during the race, SPEED provided viewers with interviews in both. The first red flag saw three driver interviews and some discussion in the booth, while the second one was simply just a waiting game until the race was called. There was an assumption that the second delay would be the end, and sure enough, it was.
Post-race coverage was decent. There were six post-race interviews, conducted in what amounted to a driving rainstorm. There were also checks of the unofficial results and point standings before SPEED left the air a few minutes early.
Overall, SPEED’s broadcast was pretty good on Friday. However, the network needs to watch themselves when it comes to these cautions. If someone has an incident, we need to know why that driver spun out. It doesn’t matter whether that driver has a “propensity to crash” or not.
5-Hour Energy 200
Saturday brought us the Nationwide Series back into action at Dover. It was yet another split weekend for ESPN, with the Izod IndyCar Series at Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River. As a result, Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake were put into the equation in place of Little and Vince Welch.
The main feature of NASCAR Countdown was a one-on-two, sitdown interview where Marty Smith interviewed both of the Busch brothers. Knowing just what’s gone down since that was done (Kurt Busch’s suspension) makes this piece just that little bit more interesting. Prior to the segment that we saw on Saturday, Kyle had mentioned to Smith that he has had to spend a significant amount of his career outrunning Kurt’s mistakes. Kyle talked about getting booed the first time he started a race in the then-Busch Series in 2003 (remember, that was right in the middle of the Kurt Busch-Jimmy Spencer rivalry). He believes that a lot of fans never gave him a chance to make a first impression. I guess I could understand that; however, fans had a brief glimpse of Kyle in the Trucks back in 2001 (you know, before CART threw him out of California Speedway).
They both talked about being held to a higher standard based on past performance, essentially win or bust. There was no mention of behavior in that. However, the recent issues involving both brothers would argue that (if they’re not already) people would also hold the two of them to a higher behavioral standard than most since they’re habitual offenders.
I thought that the interview was interesting to watch, although some fans on Twitter referred to it as a “fluff piece.” I wouldn’t go that far, but I wonder whether PR minions representing either brother came to Smith prior to the interview and mentioned that Smith couldn’t ask about behavior in the piece, with the threat of one or both Busches walking out and possibly flipping a chair around. If that’s so, it bites, but that’s life. Perhaps Smith did ask about the more recent stuff off the record and it got cut. We’ll never know.
Aside from the “Busch chat,” there were five pre-race interviews, which is more than average and good to see. In addition, Brad Daugherty kinda screwed up a promo for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, resulting in a write-up at Deadspin. Let’s just say that the snarktastic Deadspin rarely covers anything having to do with NASCAR. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve tagged NASCAR in 40 posts on the site, 13 of which revolved around Speedweeks and one that discussed Maryeve Dufault entering NASCAR (only six months late). They put up that many posts in less than two days.
The race telecast itself was really more of what we’re used to from ESPN. The coverage was largely centered on those at the front of the field. However, with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. wrecking early in the event, there was a little more coverage than normal from behind the wall.
Kudos should be given to Rusty Wallace for taking a strong opinion after Joey Logano (for lack of better words) dumped Tim Bainey, Jr. into the wall on the backstretch. Patience is very important behind the wheel and Logano showed that he had none for the Nationwide debutante. I doubt SR2 Motorsports has 12 Chevrolet Impalas in their shop, raring to go, so that’s going to hurt them a little. Of course, having no patience basically gave Logano the victory after Ryan Truex chose not to drive through Brad Teague and Jamie Dick late in the race.
Post-race coverage was actually fairly substantial. ESPN provided viewers with eight post-race driver interviews (one of which was taped right at the checkered flag with Danica Patrick), plus an interview with winning crew chief Adam Stevens. There was also a check of the point standings.
ESPN also showed a replay of Kurt Busch and Justin Allgaier coming together early in the race and their post-race discussion prior to Busch’s interview. You probably remember that as the “Pick Your Nose” incident. As for Busch and Pockrass (which didn’t make air on ESPN, but was caught by one of SPEED’s cameras and withheld for an exclusive on SPEED Center), Busch has had some issues with Pockrass in the past.
Last year, Busch became angry at Pockrass in Daytona during a press conference after Pockrass asked Busch about Patricia Driscoll, his girlfriend who he had kissed in Victory Lane the previous weekend in Sonoma. He talked about how “people were trying to take him down,” then read a statement in which he thanked the rest of the media for keeping his private matters private in regards to his ongoing divorce from his now ex-wife, Eva. That statement didn’t name Pockrass, but since he was still upset with him at the time, it could be assumed that he was calling Pockrass out.
With the sheer number of cars that dropped out of the race due to wrecks or other issues, ESPN would have done well to cover a lot more of the field than they did. Jeremy Clements got only a brief mention late in the race despite playing his pit strategy perfectly in order to obtain the second tenth-place finish of his career, quite the accomplishment for a team running on a shoestring and using a transporter that is roughly the size of what some of the Modified teams at Lebanon Valley Speedway have (not an exaggeration, by the way). Instead, we got the same top-10 heavy coverage that we get every week, and which is more than likely hurting the series. If the action’s in the top 10, then sure, ESPN will give you everything you could ask for. If not, well, you’re going to be left wanting a lot of the time.
FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks
Finally, we have the Sprint Cup Series with their 13th and final race of the season on FOX. The Berggren tributes were everywhere on this day. Tommy Baldwin Racing donated the hood of David Reutimann’s No. 10 to bid Berggren farewell. Other teams put farewell stickers on their headrests or B-Pillars. The FOX broadcast booth did much of Sunday’s race wearing Berggren’s signature hat. There was also a heartfelt farewell from Mike Joy, who had worked with Berggren since the early 1970s on TV and Radio and a shot of the standing ovation Berggren received at the driver’s meeting.
Over the past few years, the Spring race at Dover has become one with Autism Speaks (heck, the race was run to benefit Autism Speaks). As you may remember, Autism Speaks used to be NASCAR on FOX’s official charity (now, it’s the American Heart Association). During the lead-up to the race, NASCAR on FOX Director Artie Kempner hosts a charity golf tournament. Denny Hamlin served as a feature host and talked to a number of invited guests, including a much happier Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Elliott Sadler. Fun appeared to be had by all.
Darrell Waltrip also narrated an “Insider Tips” piece on whose stock was rising or falling. Effectively, this segment was put together just so that FOX could make use of their finishing position graphs.
During the race, there was a substantial amount of attrition, much more than in any other race this season (17 drivers failed to finish, plus an additional five were more than 50 laps down at the finish). The Red Flag coming out with just ten laps completed resulted in FOX scrambling to fill time. It was early enough in the race that, other than the big wreck nothing had really happened yet, other than Jimmie Johnson, ‘fro wig and all, assuming control from the outside line.
Because of that, there simply wasn’t all that much that could be discussed. FOX did do driver interviews with Landon Cassill, Regan Smith and Tony Stewart (the principals that sparked the crash). In addition, they did a rare in-car radio interview with David Ragan in which Ragan described how he was able to wind his way through the incident.
I noticed something with the side-by-side commercial breaks late in Sunday’s race that’s worth noting here. FOX is not necessarily showing viewers the regular action on track during those breaks. Instead, they are trying to sync up the commercials with cars carrying those logos on the track. For example, a Lowe’s commercial came on and FOX switched the shot in the small box to the roof-cam on Jimmie Johnson’s car. Johnson was quite a ways out front and there was nothing in his way. When the Lowe’s commercial ended, on came the FedEx commercial and FOX switched the shot to the view facing Denny Hamlin in his Toyota.
FOX would likely consider such a setup to be synergistic. You know, giving the sponsors the maximum for their big bucks. However, this philosophy is a double-edged sword since they’re effectively providing fans with a “Double Commercial.” If you’re going to do that and not show the racing (which, by the way, was the whole point of doing side-by-side commercials in the first place) you might as well just show full-screen commercials. There is real “Double Trouble” here, as opposed to the pre-race feature.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief since FOX was already quite a bit over the end of their timeslot. There were four post-race interviews, plus checks of the unofficial results and point standings. In addition, there was discussion about what could be on tap for the rest of the season, and one more good-bye to Berggren, who will now focus his attention on the new racing museum currently being built on the grounds of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
FOX Season Recap
Since FOX’s season is over, we need to review what we saw. The move of Michael Waltrip into the “Hollywood Hotel,” displacing Jeff Hammond was not a good one. Michael was a downgrade over Hammond in there. Hammond seemed to have fun with the roving role, but it wore out its welcome after a few weeks.
Chris Myers has had a tough year. The host missed Speedweeks after his son died in a car accident (John Roberts did a decent job filling in there.) Once Myers came back, he (for the most part) ditched the whole “I’m a moron” act that he had been perpetrating for the past few years, which is good (it was really getting on my nerves). For our pit reporters, I have to say the same thing I said last year. They’re underused — even more so this season. The silent rounds of stops were terrible and I hope FOX never does that again (they didn’t on Sunday).
Finally, we get to the booth. Joy, McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip spent their 12th year together, and I think that their act may be beginning to wear thin on fans. I have no problem with Joy, but a number of people cannot stand McReynolds because of his constant butchering of the English language. I think McReynolds’ technical knowledge trumps that, though. Waltrip has been interesting this year. Some weeks, he’s driven me nuts, while in others, he’s been great. If he can keep himself in check, then he can be quite the asset to FOX’s broadcast.
That’s all for this week. This weekend marks the beginning of TNT’s Summer Series. However, Pocono brings two new caveats this year. Firstly, the race is now 100 miles shorter, which means that mechanical breakdowns are just a little bit less likely. Secondly, new pavement for the first time since 1996 is likely to bring record speeds. Sprint Cup will be joined in Pocono by the ARCA Racing Series. Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series will be back in action at Texas Motor Speedway, with the Camping World Truck Series as primary support.
Wednesday, June 6
Time Telecast Network
8:00 PM – 11:00 PM Prelude to the Dream HBO PPV$
Friday, June 8
Time Telecast Network
10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Free Practice No. 1 SPEEDtv.com^
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
2:00 – 3:30 PM Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Free Practice No. 2 SPEED
3:30 – 5:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
7:30 – 8:30 PM Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network
8:00 – 8:30 PM SPEED Center SPEED
8:30 – 9:00 PM IndyCar 36: Helio Castroneves NBC Sports Network
8:30 – 9:00 PM NCWTS Setup SPEED
9:00 – 11:30 PM Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400k SPEED
Saturday, June 9
Time Telecast Network
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Free Practice No. 3 SPEEDtv.com^
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
11:00 – 1:30 PM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Mid-Ohio SPEED2.com%
1:00 – 2:30 PM Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Qualifying SPEED
2:30 – 4:30 PM ARCA Racing Series Pocono ARCA 200 SPEED
4:30 – 7:30 PM Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic SPEED
7:30 – 8:00 PM SPEED Center SPEED
8:00 – 11:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Firestone 550k NBC Sports Network
Sunday, June 10
Time Telecast Network
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN2
9:30 – 10:00 AM SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
12:00 – 1:00 PM Countdown to Green TNT
1:00 – 4:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 TNT
1:30 – 2:00 PM Formula One Pre-Race Show SPEED
2:00 – 4:00 PM Formula One Grand Prix of Canada FOX
4:00 – 4:30 PM Formula One Post-Race Show SPEED
~4:30 – 5:30 PM NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00 – 8:00 PM SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
9:00 – 10:00 PM Wind Tunnel SPEED
^- Available via free online streaming
$- Available via pay-per-view. Cost is $24.95. Check for availability with your local cable, telco or satellite provider.
%- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your cable and/or internet provider for availability.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck and Izod IndyCar Series races for next week’s critique here at Frontstretch. The ARCA race will be covered in a future edition of the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
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