The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Title-itis Hurts Telecasts in All Three Series by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday November 6, 2012

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Couch Potato Tuesday: Title-itis Hurts Telecasts in All Three Series

Couch Potato Tuesday · Phil Allaway · Tuesday November 6, 2012

 

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where TV criticism and opinion is the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series were all at Texas Motor Speedway.

Before we start, I have a clarification for you regarding the feature on Timothy Peters that ran during NCWTS Setup prior to the Martinsville race. Last week, I mentioned that SPEED had aired that before. I was right. However, I was under the opinion that it aired during a prior episode of the Setup (hence why I was feverishly going through my pages of notes). Instead, the Peters piece aired earlier this season on NASCAR RaceHub. A shortened version of it is what aired on the Martinsville Setup show.

All three NASCAR series appeared at Texas Motor Speedway this week. Check in to see how ESPN and SPEED did covering them.

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On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to action. How did SPEED do with their telecast?

NCWTS Setup was a fairly typical affair. For the first half of the show, there wasn’t really anything to write home about. That is, until they referenced Kyle Busch’s retaliation from last year, complete with clips of the wreck. I know Kyle Busch was in Friday night’s race, but I don’t think anyone really wanted to re-live that stupidity again. Neither did Kyle, since he declined SPEED’s interview request. I’d argue that he would have been willing to talk about the race at hand without referencing last year’s case of stupid.

This week’s SPEED Spotlight featured James Buescher, Turner Motorsports, and an unlikely star in a portable generator. Apparently, RCR’s No. 3 team (Ty Dillon) placed their generator in the No. 31 team’s personal space, which irritated some of Buescher’s crew members. Why reference a rather innocuous moment here? It shows just how much Buescher has matured in recent years. In the past, Buescher may have gotten as flip-out angry as his crew chief did. However, Buescher was the calmer party here and that just might be one of the reasons why he’s in position to possibly claim the title this year.

Unfortunately, SPEED has been afflicted with a case of championship fever. There was an unusually high amount of focus on the title chase during the telecast. My guess is the fact that the race ran so quickly actually played a role in what we saw.

Regardless, there was still a good amount of racing for position and SPEED did a decent job in bringing us that action, especially in and around the restarts. It just didn’t feel quite the same to me.

Since the race ended with more than 45 minutes left in their timeslot, you would expect SPEED to provide quite a bit of post-race coverage. Not so fast. Instead of providing viewers with a load of analysis, SPEED gave viewers what amounted to only slightly more than the bare minimum. There were only three interviews and not even a full check of the points before SPEED left for SPEED Center a full half-hour early. Let’s face facts. There are a fair number of people that dislike Adam Alexander on SPEED Center as it stands, but this move is ridiculous. Is it too much to ask to stick around for ten more minutes? They were playing with house money and still decided to leave early. Just doesn’t make any sense to me.

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On Saturday night, the Nationwide Series returned for the first Fall night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Luckily, the game between Ohio State and Illinois (a butt-kicking) ended quickly enough that pre-race coverage was unaffected. However, once we got there, there was only a little bit worth noting.

Johanna Long got her just due on ESPN with an in-depth feature prior to the start of Saturday’s Texas race.

That one thing was a really nice feature on Johanna Long, the part-time driver of the No. 70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet. We learned a little about Long’s introduction to motorsports and her ascendance into NASCAR. Along the way, we heard from Long’s parents, Landon Cassill (got dumped at Five Flags), and even Jeff Burton (tweeted in support of Long during one of the Richmond races). For those of you who did not see it Saturday night, you can watch it here.

Watching the piece, I realized that despite their shortcomings in covering the Nationwide Series at times, ESPN has actually done a decent job this year (and not just with the feature Saturday night) in introducing viewers to Long. A number of ESPN’s analysts (most notably Rusty Wallace) think highly of Long and believe that she has a lot going for her. As much as I’ve written about how SPEED has done an excellent job introducing viewers to the drivers in the Camping World Truck Series, Long was kinda left out of that exposure when she was there. She was just…there. I don’t really remember learning much about her other than the fact that she won the Snowball Derby in 2010.

During the race coverage itself, ESPN had a definite focus on a couple of stories. They’re quite familiar if you read my critiques on a regular basis. One was the championship battle (Stenhouse, Sadler, and to a lesser extent, Austin Dillon), while the other involved the ‘whackers in the race from Sprint Cup (Harvick, Kyle Busch, etc.). These groups completely dominated the race telecast.

Instead, ESPN should have given a little more coverage to the tire issues that occurred during the race. Tire problems caused multiple yellows Saturday night, while other drivers (most notably, Danica Patrick) had tires go down and had to make unscheduled stops. Apparently, Goodyear described the situation as a “high wear situation.” Take a look at Patrick’s right-front tire here. That’s a little more than a high wear situation. That’s looney tunes. Ultimately, there was bad wear during the Cup race as well.

Post-race coverage was very brief since the race was right up against the end of ESPN’s timeslot. There were only three interviews before the telecast ended. Elliott Sadler apparently wanted some time to cool off before talking, but that ultimately meant that he got bumped from the show. After the race, there was quite a bit of griping about Ryan Blaney not getting interviewed. I agree that it stinks, royally. Unfortunately, ESPN had to go. I think he would have made air had the stupid Denny Hamlin – Austin Dillon confrontation never happened.

Speaking of that confrontation, the whole thing was a little weird. Apparently, Austin started the bumping match after the race. I wish ESPN showed footage of the start of the sheet metal scraping. They only caught the end, when Hamlin tried to end it against the concrete wall. Also, that interview Hamlin gave was interesting. If Hamlin weren’t already ensconced in Sprint Cup, he could have committed career suicide like Billy Tanner did at Talladega in 2007.

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On Sunday afternoon, we were brought the Sprint Cup Series by ESPN.

Rick Hendrick had a heartwarming story of one of his newest employees, Gene Monahan, showcased on NASCAR Countdown.

NASCAR Countdown, when they weren’t showing footage of the… shenanigans that Eddie Gossage planned for the Nationwide garage, brought a decent pre-race show. The primary feature was a piece on Gene Monahan, former trainer for the New York Yankees who now works in a similar role for Hendrick Motorsports. I suppose that makes sense when you really think about it.

In the feature, which originally aired last week on NASCAR Now, Monahan talked about how proud he was of his 39 years spent with the New York Yankees, and his love of motorsport. Retired Catcher Jorge Posada vouched for Monahan’s love of racing, stating that unless he was performing his normal training duties, you could not pull him away from a race on TV. Ultimately, cancer forced him to retire from the New York Yankees. Once he recovered and moved to North Carolina, HMS came calling.

Since I live in Upstate New York and get Yankee games on cable (all 162 games are aired here), I had heard Monahan’s name before. Had no clue that he got involved in motorsports, though. This piece was an interesting look at one of the more obscure members of HMS’ winning organization. I generally liked it. This feature was also followed up by an in-depth look at the lineups for the two teams (Nos. 2 and 48) fighting for the title. That’s nice to look at, but something that could have been done at any time, not just here.

There was a clip shown from Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s sitdown interview with Hannah Storm late in the show. It was designed solely to plug ESPN’s SportsCenter Special, which airs tonight at 8:00 PM. Based on the clip, there is a different feel with Storm interviewing Earnhardt Jr. as opposed to most everyone else with ESPN that has interviewed him. It’s enough for me to want to see how it turns out. Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be his normal, giving self, which is always good to see.

Also, the Stick a Fork In ‘Em segment was finally excised from the show (although it was referenced on at least one occasion). It’s about time. Been waiting for that for weeks.

During the Chase, ESPN always seems to have issues with not being inclusive enough in who they choose to cover during the race. As a result, there’s always drivers that seemingly just appear up front. It’s like this scene from 1999’s Dogma, where Azrael (Jason Lee) appears out of “nothingness” and talks about returning to nothingness soon (Viewer Discretion Advised, contains a lot of Profanity and Violence).

Well, who appeared out of nothingness this week? Tony Stewart, who finished a fine fifth on Sunday. However, for much of the afternoon, Stewart was way out of the hunt, just struggling to stay in the top 20. Teammate Danica Patrick dusted Stewart at one point (that’s not meant to be an insult, since Patrick did quite well on Sunday and kept herself on the lead lap almost all day). All of a sudden, after spending a substantial amount of the race around 18th, Stewart’s suddenly in the hunt with nearly no explanation. ESPN just has to do a better job with storytelling. This Johnson-Keselowski focus is simply not the best way to go if you want to know everything that is going on.

Also of note, there were at least three cautions that flew due to debris on track (the first yellow technically also flew due to debris, but that came off of Juan Pablo Montoya’s car and eagle-eyed viewers could see stuff falling off Montoya’s car right after he came off the wall). Aside from the Montoya incident, where NASCAR waited four laps to throw a yellow after the wall contact, we never saw any of the debris. I know that I sound like a broken record at times about this topic, but it has to be said… when you don’t show the debris that brings out these cautions, viewers will get antsy.

Some will think that NASCAR simply made up the idea of debris so that they could bunch up the field. According to a brief piece that aired on Friday during qualifying, ESPN has up to 65 cameras at the track each weekend. They make use of the zoom function on a regular basis. Take advantage of the zoom to find this nasty debris (which I’m fairly sure does not look like Snidely Whiplash). If you can’t find it, tell the viewers that you can’t. Honesty goes a long way these days.

Since the race ended after the end of its prescribed timeslot, post-race coverage was relatively brief on Sunday. There were three interviews and a check of the points before ESPN immediately went to SportsCenter. I think post-race would have been a little longer had the race not started at 3:15. With the race ending slightly after 7:00 PM EST, ESPN needed to show those all-important NFL highlights.

Honestly, when I watch these races, I try to take as many notes as I can to help myself with the critiques. There wasn’t all that much I could say in those notes on Sunday. It was pretty hard to follow what was going on unless you follow Johnson, Keselowski or Bowyer. Beyond those three men, good luck. I know that it’s Chase time, and that means a narrowed focus, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, all three of NASCAR’s National Series are back in action once again, but this time in Phoenix, Arizona. Meanwhile, ESPN is airing their special one-on-one special with Hannah Storm tonight.

Tuesday, November 6

Time Telecast Network
8:00 PM – 9:00 PM SportsCenter Special: NASCAR Face-to-Face with Hannah Storm ESPN

Friday, November 9

Time Telecast Network
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM Nationwide Series Practice SPEED
1:00 – 2:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
2:30 – 3:30 PM Nationwide Series Happy Hour SPEED
3:30 – 4:30 PM Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED
5:00 – 6:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
6:30 – 7:00 PM NCWTS Setup SPEED
7:00 – 9:30 PM Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 SPEED
9:30 – 10:00 PM SPEED Center SPEED

Saturday, November 10
Time Telecast Network
10:30 AM – 11:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED
1:30 – 2:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
3:30 – 4:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN
4:00 – 6:30 PM Nationwide Series Great Clips 200 ESPN
6:00 – 8:00 PM K&N Pro Series West Casino Arizona 50 SPEED
8:00 – 8:30 PM SPEED Center Saturday SPEED

Sunday, November 11
Time Telecast Network
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN2
10:30 – 11:00 AM SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
2:00 – 3:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN
3:00 – 5:00 PM V8 Supercar Championship Series Yas V8 400 SPEED*
3:00 – 6:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500k ESPN
5:00 – 5:30 PM Building the Circuit of the Americas SPEED
~6:00 – 7:00 PM NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00 – 8:00 PM Beyond 200: The Hendrick Motorsports Story SPEED
8:00 – 9:00 PM Wind Tunnel SPEED
9:00 – 10:00 PM SPEED Center SPEED
10:00 – 11:00 PM NASCAR Now, Post-Race ESPN2

*- Tape-Delayed
~- Approximate start time

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races from Phoenix in next week’s critique here at Frontstretch. For this week’s Annex in the Newsletter, I’ll cover the Peak World Finals from the Dirt Track at Lowe’s. For the November 15th Annex, there are a number of specials that can be covered there. Provisionally, I’ll pencil in a look at Beyond 200: The Hendrick Motorsports Story.

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:

SPEED
ESPN

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.

Contact Phil Allaway

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dmann
11/06/2012 07:43 AM
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My concern is the lack of any judgement of the cup drivers regarding the drivers in the lead for the championship? The San Francisco team does not play in the Little World Series.

SB
11/06/2012 03:08 PM
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Since Hamlin is the ‘interloper’ in this series, I think it’s Denny that should stay out of the way. The ESPN focus on only the top 3 or 4 ‘chasers’ has made trying to watch the races totally incomperhensible. No wonder people are turning to anything else on TV. This is NOT how you grow your viewers.