The Frontstretch: ESPN Touts The Three-Headed Behemoth And That Isn't Good by Phil Allaway -- Monday October 29, 2012

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ESPN Touts The Three-Headed Behemoth And That Isn't Good

Couch Potato Tuesday · Phil Allaway · Monday October 29, 2012


Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, the small corner of Frontstretch where race telecasts take center stage. This week, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series appeared at the small Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia.

SPEED covered the Camping World Truck Series this week in Martinsville.

Kroger 200

On Saturday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned from another couple of weeks off to go racing. Krista Voda, who missed the last Setup due to working an NFL game for FOX, hosted the show this week.

The primary feature aired here was a piece on Timothy Peters’ journey from the son of a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employee in Danville, Virginia to racing in the Truck Series, to nearly out on the street, then back to the trucks. It was quite touching. However, we’ve seen it before. I went back through my 1,300+ pages of racing notes (No joke, I really have that much) and couldn’t find which edition of NCWTS Setup that it aired on. Just know that it did. It just shows that SPEED is basically out of feature content. However, it must be noted that the network has made many more features than ESPN did despite covering less races.

The SPEED Spotlight this week was on Ryan Blaney, who was making his first Camping World Truck Series appearance at Martinsville. The piece was somewhat typical compared to the other spotlights. Blaney talked a little about racing at Martinsville, then some footage from practice on Friday was shown along with radio chatter.

SPEED’s race coverage on Saturday was pretty decent. Compared to ESPN’s coverage of the Cup race the following day, there was definitely a more inclusive feel. Drivers who may have been ignored on ESPN were given their due, or at least were given their due by the commentators. I’ll give you an example. Scott Riggs finished fifth in the RBR Motorsports No. 92. Not the team’s best-ever result (that was Daytona last year with Clay Rogers). Granted, time constraints did not allow for a post-race interview with Riggs, but he got a decent amount of coverage on Saturday, mentions by the booth and on-camera time on the track.

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin certainly got their due on the telecast as well. I’m a little surprised that SPEED didn’t report about Hamlin having to start in the rear, because he missed the drivers’ meeting, until the fantasy pick segment. Knowing how strong he actually was on Saturday, that should have been a bigger story prior to the race starting.

Since the race had quite a few cautions, there wasn’t all that much time for post-race coverage. SPEED provided viewers with only three post-race interviews (Denny Hamlin, James Buescher and Nelson Piquet, Jr.) along with a check of the point standings. There were also replays of the confrontation entering pit road between Piquet and Brian Scott, plus a clip of Matt Crafton confronting Hamlin in Victory Lane before Hamlin emerged from the truck. Crafton was none too pleased with Hamlin’s methods used to earn the win. After the Hamlin interview, that was all she wrote.

SPEED provided a decent telecast Saturday. There was plenty of action for position shown throughout the field and I didn’t feel lost in any way. I know that the previous statement sounds incredibly simplistic, but sometimes, telecasts can’t even keep me properly informed because of agendas. That, of course, is a shame.

TUMS Fast Relief 500

On Sunday afternoon, the Sprint Cup Series returned to action at Martinsville Speedway for their 33rd race of the season. How well did ESPN did do with their telecast?

Chad Knaus was a primary focus of NASCAR Countdown Sunday after a series of repairs to keep Jimmie Johnson on the lead lap at Kansas a week prior.

This edition of NASCAR Countdown was already scheduled to be the shortest one of the Chase at just 45 minutes in length. However, the threat of Hurricane Sandy resulted in NASCAR moving up the start of the race by 15 minutes on race morning. Therefore, Countdown was cut down to a half-hour, and thankfully, the race was not affected by the storm.

There were no major features on this week’s show, but ESPN did take the time to look back on the repairs that Jimmie Johnson’s crew did on the Lowe’s Chevrolet after his crash in Kansas. As you remember, those repairs allowed Johnson to finish in ninth and minimize his losses to points leader Brad Keselowski.

Aside from this piece, there were four pre-race interviews, and another edition of “Stick a Fork in ‘Em!” My opinion is still unchanged from last week about the Fork feature. I know that it seems like the analysts are having fun with it, but it is incredibly stale and has to go. Perhaps ESPN could use the time that was being spent with the feature interviewing more drivers, maybe some that are not in the Chase, but could still spoil things for the Chasers. Brian Vickers would have been a good example of someone that ESPN could have talked to. Or, they could have done a preview of the race that didn’t just apply to the Chasers. Anything less is a waste of time.

ESPN’s race telecast was still heavily focused on the Chasers. The only time that they chose to do an “Up to Speed” segment was after the halfway point of the race, and they only covered Chasers. Non-Chasers basically had to get up front and challenge for a spot in the top 5 to even get noticed. Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers were the best non-Chasers in Sunday’s race (well… most of the time) so they got the vast majority of the rest of the limited coverage.

For most of the event, Aric Almirola was running somewhere in the 15-20 range before popping up in the top 10 out of nowhere late in the going, something that surprised the living heck out of me. It appears that Almirola took a wave around at some point to get back on the lead lap (my best guess is that it occurred during the caution for Denny Hamlin’s issues). It’s definitely not a bad thing that Almirola was up there, but viewers should be better notified of who was taking wave arounds and other aspects of the race like that.

Even some of the Chasers that weren’t having that great of a day were all but ignored. Outside of the first couple of segments of the race, Tony Stewart was invisible except when he was being lapped.

Another gripe I had was surrounding Travis Kvapil’s spin on Lap 128 to bring out the third caution. The broadcast booth made reference to a tire mark on Kvapil’s No. 93 and the fact that he was facing the incorrect direction on the track. However, I have no clue how he got that way since ESPN never showed a replay of the incident. Not a fan of that, regardless of the time of year and who was involved. If you don’t have a replay to show, that’s one thing, but not to show anything and not comment that they don’t have the footage is just unprofessional. If you don’t have the video, you must notify the viewers that you don’t have it. Don’t leave us hanging.

I will give ESPN some props from cutting away from their planned commercial on Lap 97 when David Gilliland cut a tire and hit the wall in Turn 3 (the incident brought out the second caution of the race). You could tell that it was a split-second decision because the music had already been dropped out and they were all but in commercial when the camera cut to Gilliland’s slow car on track. The mics were brought back to life and ESPN covered the Gilliland incident, plus the subsequent pit stops.

Due to the fact that the race started 15 minutes earlier than originally planned and the event having less yellows than expected, ESPN had too much time for post-race coverage. Yes, there is such a thing. They officially had 45 minutes remaining in their timeslot when the race ended. It was subsequently shortened to 15 minutes. In the new, shortened post-race show, ESPN brought viewers eight interviews and a check of the point standings that seem to matter more than anything these days. There was also some post-race analysis before ESPN split for SportsCenter.

I was a bit turned off by the overall feel during the coverage that it was a three-horse race. The sentiment was even being espoused during NASCAR Countdown. Yes, Jimmie Johnson won the event, but it was by no means a three-man race. ESPN shouldn’t do that in the future as they risk alienating viewers. They’re basically telling them that everyone else doesn’t matter. Last I checked, 43 drivers started Sunday’s race, not three overlords and 40 Jean-Denis Deletraz’s.

Finally, because of the championship battle taking precedence, the Return of Earnhardt, Jr. story got only some play on Sunday. After everything that’s been written and said over the past couple of weeks, perhaps that’s for the better.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the third-to-last race weekend of the season. They will be joined by the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

Friday, November 2

Time Telecast Network
5:00 AM – 6:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Free Practice No. 1^
9:00 – 10:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Free Practice No. 2 SPEED
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
2:00 – 3:00 PM Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
3:00 – 4:30 PM Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED
4:00 – 4:30 PM NASCAR Now ESPN2
4:30 – 6:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying ESPN2
6:00 – 7:30 PM Nationwide Series Happy Hour SPEED
7:30 – 8:00 PM NCWTS Setup SPEED
8:00 – 10:30 PM Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350k SPEED
10:30 – 11:00 PM SPEED Center SPEED

Saturday, November 3
Time Telecast Network
6:00 AM – 7:00 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Free Practice No. 3^
9:00 – 10:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Qualifying SPEED
3:00 – 4:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
4:00 – 5:30 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED
5:30 – 7:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
7:00 – 7:30 PM SPEED Center Saturday SPEED
7:00 – 7:30 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN
7:30 – 10:00 PM Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 ESPN
8:00 PM – 12:00 AM World of Outlaws Lowes Foods World Finals SPEED*/

Sunday, November 4
Time Telecast Network
7:30 AM – 10:00 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi SPEED
8:00 – 9:00 AM NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN2
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
12:00 – 2:00 PM NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
2:00 – 3:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN
3:00 – 7:00 PM Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 ESPN
~7:00 – 8:00 PM NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
8:00 – 9:00 PM SPEED Center, Post-Race ESPN
9:00 – 10:00 PM Wind Tunnel SPEED
10:00 – 11:00 PM NASCAR Now, Post-Race SPEED

*- Tape-delayed
/- Highlighted
^- Available via free online streaming

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series telecasts in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. I will once again cover the Lowes Foods World Finals in the Annex on November 8. This week’s Annex will cover the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 from Syracuse, NY which aired on SPEED Saturday night.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you want to “Like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:


As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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10/30/2012 11:41 AM

TV coverage of the Cup races continue their downward slope. The production quality of Sundays’ race was the worst I’ve seen yet. Anybody got any ideas what’s going on with why these races are broadcast so poorly?

10/30/2012 01:19 PM

When ESPN did their race wrapup after Kansas and skipped over Gordon’s 10th place finish to talk about Hamlin’s 13th place, I tweeted Allen Bestwick and aske why. His answer was “because the only ones that are important now are the 2, 11 and 48”. That attitude makes me angry, not only as a fan of the 24, but as a NASCAR fan in general. Sorry but the broadcasts shouldn’t cherry pick who they cover, they should cover the race. I tweeted back asking why I should bother watching any more races then, but got no answer.

Your article is spot on about what a mistake all the broadcast teams are making with the “focus”. I didn’t watch the race at Martinsville even though Gordon always runs well there. I will probably not bother to watch the last 3 races either.

If ESPN isn’t interested in covering the races in a way to interest all the fans, I’m not interested in tuning in.

Funky D
10/30/2012 03:00 PM

You said about ESPN that “they risk alienating viewers”. Heck, they’ve been alienating those of us who aren’t 24, 48, or 88 fans for years. Why should they do any different now? Fortunately, the Steelers put on a MUCH better show Sunday!

10/30/2012 03:10 PM

I too was very disappointed with the coverage of the race. It seems like the only one worth covering is the 48. The announcers all think he is the best out there. They don’t seem to care who is leading the race or where the other drivers are. Many times we follow JJ whether he is leading or running in the 30th position. I am not a big fan of him, but I feel there are many more drivers in the field that deserve coverage. Kasey Kahne and Clint Boywer were racing for the lead, but they insisted on showing jj trying to take the 20th position. Even Gordon trying to take the lead resulted in following jj. I am disappointed in the coverage of the races. Tony Stewart is my driver, but also like to follow Kahne, Bowyer, Hamlin, and Keslowski. Unless they around jj they receive very little coverage. Now that Jimmy has the points lead I am sure that we will follow him from the drop of the green flag to the finish. It is no fun trying to follow the races when other drivers aren’t even shown. I haven’t decided whether I will watch the rest of the chase or not. It is too hard to have to follow Jimmy when I know there are others who are trying just as hard!!

10/30/2012 04:31 PM

You fans are griping that ESPN is only covering a few drivers during their telecasts. You act like this is something new! Try watching the mothership for a while during the week. If it doesn’t happen on the I95 corridor it doesn’t matter. As far as ESPN is concerned the country outside of New York and Boston does not even exist.

10/30/2012 06:04 PM

This last week was plain ol lousy coverage ! To us who have to watch this miserable excuse for broadcasts are really being screwed! Don ‘t know so much of the time what is going on. There is a commercial,we come back and there is a caution and we are never told or better yet shown what happened. Seems as if it is getting worse every week .

Moe Foe
10/30/2012 06:05 PM

The trouble with this ‘focus’ on chase leaders to the detriment of any other car is that they’ve taken away the “setting the field’ on re-starts to the point of not even showing the ticker so we can recount it ourselves. Sometimes the ticker isn’t shown for up to 5 laps after the re-start. Some of us fans have interests besides the chase standings. There are races all over the track, why don’t you show them to us?

AND, when they go to their ‘nonstop coverage’, the producer takes a beer break and sets a camera on one car, usually the leader. One car going in circles is not a race! Pan back and show the field, you might catch the action without resorting to replay.

Where did these guys learn to videocast? Baseball?

10/30/2012 08:57 PM

For the first time in a long time I watched the race while not on Twitter too. I WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! I was so lost.

The sad thing is, I like AB, DJ & AP in the booth. I just wonder (and we’ll never know) how they feel about being dictated to as to what to say. As I have said in the past, BSPN’s race coverage is scripted. If you are not in the script, you don’t exist. The only way the other 31 cars/drivers get TV time is if they spin, wreck or are getting lapped. Big shot BSPN could learn a lot from the little shot SPEED’s truck racing coverage.

@Ginav24, I agree with you again, girlfriend.