The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Danicamania Has FOX Dancing Around Too Much by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday March 5, 2013

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are the topic of discussion. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were in Avondale, Arizona for their first visit of the year. For the Cup Series, it was the first unrestricted race weekend with the new Gen6 cars.

Before we start, today is the annual upfront sales presentation for FOX Sports. It is expected that they’ll take this time to formally recognize the new FOX Sports 1 channel. As many of you have undoubtedly heard by now, SPEED will become FOX Sports 1 at some point later this year, likely in August. The effect on NASCAR programming for the rest of 2013 will probably be noticeable, but it shouldn’t effect Truck races, or even the practice and qualifying telecasts (that stuff is under contract through the end of next year). However, there are already signs of changes. Trackside on Saturday morning instead of Friday night is just one example.


Cameras remained zoomed in on Kyle Busch, instead of covering the entire field. ESPN can do better.

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Even though we’re deep in the heart of basketball season, it doesn’t mean that live sporting events cannot encroach on pre-race programming. On Saturday, ESPN 2 was airing a live Missouri Valley Conference game between Wichita State and Creighton from Omaha, Nebraska (Congrats to Creighton for winning the regular season MVC title). Unfortunately, that game went long by nearly ten minutes. Despite the fact that it was a foregone conclusion, the last three minutes of that game took forever. ESPN chose to standby here instead of pushing NASCAR Countdown to ESPNEWS, for better or worse. I wonder what actually got cut because of it.

Once Countdown started, the focus was mainly on the news of the past week. First was the horrible crash at the end of the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona and the fallout from it. It was captured using race footage, interviews during the broadcast and out, and footage from SportsCenter. In addition, there was an update about the two remaining fans still at Halifax Health Medical Center (as of Saturday). It was a comprehensive wrap-up.

Secondly, there was the big news about Jeremy Clements’ suspension. Nicole Briscoe put the topic to a discussion amongst the analysts (Ray Evernham, Ricky Craven, Brad Daugherty). They appeared to be unanimous in stating that the open-ended penalty that Clements received was appropriate for the crime. I described the situation to one of my friends who formerly worked for a couple of local news stations and asked for his thoughts. He stated that it should have been considered an off-the-record conversation. The only reason that he was suspended was that the NASCAR PR rep was there and he/she was likely in a position where he/she would have had to report it to their superiors (ultimately setting Clements’ suspension in motion), or be fired. In other words, Clements is watching TV at home again this week because he got ratted out by a NASCAR representative.

The question that begs to be asked here is, “Is Jeremy Clements racist?”

Jeremy Clements is about as racist as Mr. Petto from The Boondocks. That is to say, not at all, but he definitely didn’t choose his words correctly. I’d link you guys to something from that particular episode, but there are so many N-words in there (“friendly” and unfriendly) that there’s no way I could post that here. The description of that episode is that Riley’s teacher, Mr. Petto, claims that he called Riley the “friendly” version of the N-word in what could be best described as an ill-fated to try to relate to Riley, who apparently uses it every other sentence. The episode, entitled “The S-Word,” is worth a watch, if you’ve got an open mind.

ESPN’s race telecast seemed to be focused on just how great Kyle Busch was. Yes, he stomped the field. However, almost anyone in Phoenix knew that was as likely as the Kardashian-Humphries marriage falling apart. You gotta give the viewers some more. Later in the race, there was a fair amount of coverage of battles. But again, this coverage was focused on a few drivers. Sam Hornish, Jr. in particular with his Frankenmustang after getting in a wreck barely two laps into the race. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson spent almost the entire race fighting each other. Other than those particular drivers, we just didn’t see all that much action. I’d like to see more inclusive coverage. It’s like every week about seven to nine teams get coverage, and everyone else is a bit player unless they wreck, or do something that affects those seven to nine aforementioned teams. That is not the way to cover a race.

Since the race ended right up against the end of ESPN’s timeslot, there really wasn’t much post-race coverage to be had. ESPN interviewed the all-conquering Kyle Busch, showed his post-race celebrations and the top-10 finishers, then left the air. They only showed the unofficial results in the scroll during the cool down lap. Once Kyle got back around, that was it for that. Weak. They could have done better.

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Sunday brought the Sprint Cup Series back to action at Phoenix International Speedway for the Gen6 car’s first unrestricted race.

Since Sunday’s was the first race back in Phoenix for Sprint Cup since the Gordon-Bowyer craziness went down, there was a full scale look back at the shenanigans, including some angles that, until last week, hadn’t been seen by the public at large. Those shots from right down in the trenches were excellent, by the way. They didn’t make the broadcast from ESPN back in November because of all the obscenities that were caught by the cameras. Granted, you can just censor that stuff with bleeps now, but it’s not so easy when you’re live.

Another piece saw pole sitter Mark Martin take team owner (and FOX analyst) Michael Waltrip for a ride around the track in the pace car. Here, Martin and Waltrip talked about things like taking the shortcut on the backstretch and what they call “Hip Hop Wednesday” at the shop. I guess that’s Martin’s day with heavy weights. At best, this was filler. They could have made better use of the time by interviewing more people.

Due to last week’s insanity, I couldn’t properly cover Danica Patrick and the focus given to her. Sunday’s broadcast allows me the time to properly cover it here. Sunday’s pre-race coverage started with a montage of Speedweeks for Patrick, then an interview with Patrick (one of only two in the show). There was also a good amount of coverage given to her during the race, despite her never getting beyond 25th (which was where she was running before the blown tire took her out).

This “Danicamania” is driving me nuts. If you go back to my critiques from 2010 and 2011, I chastised ESPN for a lot of the same reasons that FOX must be chastised now. Brad Keselowski is right when he told USA Today’s Nate Ryan that Patrick should be given less of a chance than she gets now. It’s obvious that FOX has given Patrick far more coverage than she deserves. Now, it’s time for Patrick to make herself worth the coverage she gets. Put up or shut up. I don’t know if she can do it this year, but she better next year.

Also of note, NASCAR issued a technical bulletin this week that bans roof cams at non-short tracks and plate tracks due to the discovery that they give the leader of the race an unfair aerodynamic advantage. Am I surprised at this move? Not really. It happened before back in the 1990’s. The dome that houses the roof cams was nearly as tall as the old stalk that used to be used. I figured that it was a matter of time before they dropped the banhammer once again. In response, FOX is forced to use more of their gyro cams for in-car coverage. That stuff gave me a bit of a headache during the Daytona 500, but it’s not quite as bad at Phoenix. This site gives you a little idea of what we’re dealing with.

Also of note, FOX’s side-by-side strategy (as far as placement is concerned) is ok for now. However, their decisions regarding what to show in the small box reserved for the race during the breaks needs improvement. If you’re going to give me side-by-side coverage, give me more than just a shot of the leader (whoever that might be at the time). If there’s racing for position going on, show me that. Yes, it’s not as bad as last year’s “sync the in-car cameras to the ads so that we have sponsor synergy” move that drove me nuts, but it still needs improvement. Also, they need to find a way to keep the scroll during the side-by-side segments.

The race itself ended over 20 minutes past the end of it’s timeslot on FOX. Despite running quite late, FOX gave viewers a decent amount of post-race coverage. There were five post-race interviews, along with checks of the unofficial results and point standings. Finally, there was post-race analysis before FOX left the air.

Overall, FOX’s race coverage was ok. They probably did use the gyro cams a little too much. They seem to be further back in the car than even the older style cameras from the 1990’s, so I feel removed from the action. The shots were a little tight at times, which didn’t allow FOX to show off as much of the tandem battles for position that they talked extensively about during the second half of the race. Finally, there were a number of drivers that had great days, yet barely made the telecast at all, like AJ Allmendinger (finished 11th). Also, what happened to David Stremme? He was on the lead lap in his Swan Racing No. 30 until he apparently made an unscheduled green flag pit stop and ultimately finished three laps down. I have no clue why he would have made the stop (assuming he stopped when the rest of the leaders did). Swan Racing’s website and Twitter are no help, while Stremme himself only tweeted out an apology for spinning out Dave Blaney (he claimed that he was having brake issues). I always stress inclusiveness over exclusiveness in these critiques, and it’s no different here.

Also of note, they didn’t spend enough time dealing with the various tire failures on Sunday. Darrell Waltrip simply attributed them to bad setups, much like analysts would do at Martinsville. However, is that the only reason why someone would blow a tire at Phoenix? Probably not. Maybe that’s what happened to Stremme.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series stay out west and travel the 300-ish miles from Avondale to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tuesday, March 5

Time Telecast Network
12:30am-1:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Wednesday, March 6

Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Thursday, March 7

Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED
9:00-9:30pm Countdown to F1 NBC Sports Network

Friday, March 8

Time Telecast Network
1:30am-2:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
1:00pm-3:00pm Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 SPEED&
3:00-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
4:30-6:30pm Nationwide Series Happy Hour SPEED
6:30-8:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
8:00-8:30pm SPEED Center SPEED

Saturday, March 9

Time Telecast Network
12:00pm-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
1:00-2:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED
2:30-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
4:00-4:15pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN 2
4:00-6:00pm Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Austin SPEED*/
4:15-7:00pm Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300 ESPN 2
7:00-7:30pm SPEED Center SPEED

Sunday, March 10

Time Telecast Network
11:00am-12:00pm NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
12:00-12:30pm SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
12:30-2:30pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
2:30-3:00pm FOX Pre-Race Show FOX
3:00-6:00pm Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 FOX
~6:00-6:30pm NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00-8:00pm SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
8:00-8:30pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

Monday, March 11

Time Telecast Network
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

*- Tape-Delayed
/- Highlighted
&- Joined in progress

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races from Las Vegas in next week’s critique here at Frontstretch. For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, we’ll take a look at Richard Petty: A Racer’s Life. For the March 14th Annex, we’ll take a look at the DVR Theater known as NASCAR Now. Does the move to late nights allow the show to be a little more comprehensive with their news, or does it just mean the show’s on while you’re snoozing?

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:

FOX
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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A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
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Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
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Steve K
03/05/2013 03:33 AM
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I have to disagree on the cameras. I prefer the in car cameras over the on the roof camera. It is nice to see the drivers perspective and there is a bit of nostalgia to them since it is what they used to use in days gone by. The Gyro cam is fascinating. Headache? I just wish I could wrap my head around how it actually works. I am a tad slow there.

FOX’s coverage? Show racing, not a single file procession. If the best on track racing is Kvapil and Gilliland, show me Kvapil and Gilliland.

grumpiestoldman
03/05/2013 12:20 PM
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I love the gyro-cam! I wish they’d do more bumper cam and in car cameras so we can really get a feel of the the racing.
The only grump I have with Fox is that after the race starts, they forget that they have reporters on pit road. They have very talented pit reporters and should use them more.

Bill B
03/05/2013 12:29 PM
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LOL… Why would FOX show us passes happening during the side-by-side commercial when they don’t show us passes happening during the actual coverage. Let’s start there and then worry about commercial coverage.

I can’t help but feel the gyro-camera actually exagerates the banking as the driver feels/sees it while racing. That may not be an accurate assessment but it seems to me a stationary camera would convey exactly what the driver sees as they go through a corner.

Mazakk
03/05/2013 12:55 PM
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I liked the gyro camera the first time I saw it. After that, not so much. Can’t stand Waltrip, like many others.

GinaV24
03/05/2013 01:14 PM
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IMO the poor TV coverage by both ESPN & Fox continues to be a turn off factor for many of the fans – certainly it is for me. I forgot the N’wide race was on until my brother called me somewhere around 4 p.m. EST. I thought the coverage was lacksadasical at best. Yeah, yeah, KyBu is a monster in a JGR car and tromps all over the less well-funded (except for the other Cup efforts) in the field. Personally I thought Larson dogging Johnson was pretty funny. Obviously Johnson didn’t like it though.

Wait, you can’t criticize Danica? Didn’t you get the memo? If you don’t think she’s absolutely perfect, well, then you’re a hater. So really tired of all that. I’d be happier if they would just let her race and cover her like a normal competitor, but that doesn’t seem to be possible.
DW and his brother Motormouth continue to drool over whatever driver is the “chosen one” for this season. It gets old, makes the coverage intolerable and has made me watch less racing as each year passes.

Speaking of passing, NASCAR once again overpromised and underdelivered with the Gen6 car. Why don’t they learn that it would be better to say – hey, it’s a work in progress rather than trying to convince everyone that it is “the answer” only to disappoint the fans again?

Maybe it will get better, I don’t know. By the time that happens, the weather will be nice and I plan to spend more time doing things other than being less than spellbound by the TV

Nanner
03/05/2013 01:51 PM
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Agree with Gina. I was so excited for the season to start and 2 races in I am tired of it already. Can’t they cover the whole field? They have about a dozen they cover and the rest may as well not be there. The telecasts are what is ruining Nascar.

Tommy
03/05/2013 03:22 PM
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Have noticed that all the hype during Speedweek and the 500 has calmed down substantially as it became more and more apparent that NASCAR had only served up another aero-sensitive turd.

Give Danica some credit. The broadcasters obsession with her has taken some heat off of Dale,Jr. But it is pretty clear that any driver that is taking as long as she has to adjust to stockcars probably never will very good. You kind of have it…or you don’t.

Joe
03/05/2013 04:08 PM
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I too agree with Gina and Nanner. The TV coverage is ruining NASCAR. Hey Phil, how about getting us BZF’s email so we can tell HIM how we feel about the TV coverage?

GinaV24
03/06/2013 12:56 PM
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Tommy, I’m willing to give Danica credit for the smart race she ran at Daytona. I have no issue with that. My problem is really with the media – all of them – and the constant barrage of “news”, real or just talking about nothing” that is being done.

I agree that it has taken some heat off of Jr. That’s probably fine by him – he’d like to just be able to race. Danica would probably like that, too.