The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: SPEED's Last-Gasp Sprint Cup Hurrah by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday May 21, 2013

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Couch Potato Tuesday: SPEED's Last-Gasp Sprint Cup Hurrah

Phil Allaway · Tuesday May 21, 2013


Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are the name of the game here. Last weekend was Sprint All-Star time in Charlotte. That meant we had the Sprint Showdown and Sprint All-Star Race for Sprint Cup, combined with a Friday night support race for the Camping World Truck Series. Meanwhile, ARCA was in action out at Toledo Speedway.

Menards 200 Presented By Federated Car Care

Sunday afternoon brought the ARCA Racing Series back to the track at Toledo for a 200-lap race. SPEED was on the premises of the half-mile short track to provide coverage. No, Justin Allgaier was not in the booth this week (he did make a brief appearance on the telecast, but only because he was serving as the de facto crew chief on his family’s No. 16, driven by Kelly Kovski to a ninth-place finish).

SPEED brought viewers a tape-delayed version of pre-race coverage that saw interviews with pole sitter Kyle Benjamin and Ken Schrader prior to the command. Once the race got underway, there was quite a bit of battling for position, and I felt that the network did a great job in showing that action. Personally, I was surprised that the second groove came in, allowing for side-by-side racing (and in some cases, passing on the outside). I don’t recall seeing that before at Toledo.

For such a small production, SPEED did not miss all that much on track. However, they did (more or less) whiff on what caused the sixth caution on Lap 109. This incident was a wreck involving Brian Finney and Bobby Gerhart that may or may not have been triggered because Taylor Ferns’ car died on track. SPEED did not have footage of the spins, but did have camera angles of Ferns’ car slowing dramatically and Frank Kimmel running into the back of her.

I would have liked SPEED to air some interviews with drivers who had misfortune on track (Benjamin, Spencer Gallagher, etc.). That’s what pit road reporters are there for. However, those wheelmen do have the right to decline comment and perhaps, they took advantage of that right.

SPEED allocated a two-hour time slot for the race, and despite eight yellows, it ended nearly a half-hour early. As a result, SPEED brought viewers nine post-race interviews, in addition to checks of the unofficial results and point standings. This post-race approach was probably the most comprehensive of any ARCA race that I’ve ever seen on SPEED.

All eyes were on Charlotte this past weekend. Did SPEED keep the cameras pointed in the right direction?

Overall, I enjoyed the telecast at Toledo quite a bit. There was a lot of action for position and SPEED did a great job bringing it to us. I was surprised that Grant Enfinger was able to run as well as he did with an engine going south (according to his post-race interview, he damaged it when he crashed at Salem, yet still pressured Schrader, on seven cylinders and smoking until blowing a tire with ten to go). Crazy, isn’t it.

North Carolina Education Lottery 200

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned from another near month-long hibernation to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch won again. Whoop-dee-do.

Because of the long hiatus between races, the Setup started out with a quick recap of the first four races of the season. I don’t like that, but it’s not SPEED’s fault. NASCAR’s to blame for creating such a stupid setup for the year’s first three months.

There was a special feature called “Grassroots Beat” where Kristen Beat went to the Mooresville Motorplex to talk to a number of drivers (Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Matt Crafton) who went to hone their skills in go karts. If you check Twitter, the place appears to be quite popular with racers who like to have at it with each other.

Michael Waltrip took a field trip over to Kyle Busch Motorsports to talk with Kyle about his venture and how it’s going after the first couple of years. We didn’t really learn anything here, although Kyle believes that sometime down the line (2020-something??) the team could eventually be a Cup operation.

During the race, there was a substantial amount of discussion about how Kyle Busch hadn’t won a truck race in seven starts. Granted, that’s over a year and a half in actual time, but who cares? I doubt Kyle Busch cries himself to sleep about not winning everything he enters. I’m pretty sure if he did, he’d be a truly miserable person.

Besides that stupidity, SPEED did a pretty good job in actually covering the racing on-track. There were battles up and down the field during Friday night’s race and we saw quite a few of them. Post-race coverage was fairly decent, too. SPEED provided viewers with five post-race interviews, plus a check of the points before leaving the air.

Overall, the network did a good job with their coverage on Friday. However, they have to remember that Kyle Busch is Kyle Busch. He technically does little to help grow the series (even though he is a truck owner). Don’t shower him with accolades at the expense of everyone else.

Sprint Showdown / Sprint All-Star Race

For SPEED, All-Star Weekend is one of their crown jewels. Because of that fact, there was a special three-hour edition of NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco to hype the race. Let’s just say that it wasn’t necessary.

After the introductions, the analysts talked a bit about Dick Trickle, who committed suicide on Thursday. Kenny Wallace talked about how the 71-year-old Trickle was a hero of his and a mentor. We’ve heard a lot of that in the past week or so.

The SPEED crew had plenty of pre-race coverage on their hands for their first and only Sprint Cup live event of the year.

There were a number of features aired during the show. One was a look back at The Winston in 1989. You probably remember what happened there. Here, we have the principals (Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip) reminiscing about the day, along with Barry Dodson, who was Wallace’s crew chief at the time. I’m kind of surprised that Hammond (Waltrip’s crew chief at the time) didn’t get in on that. Much like some of the other pieces we’ve seen about more recent incidents (the Phoenix brawl comes to mind) there was some additional footage and alternate angles that are somewhat rare. For example, there were cameras right down there with the crews as they argued and cussed each other out. Also, we heard the PA announcer doing his best Percy Pringle impression as Waltrip chased Wallace down pit road. This segment was quite enjoyable to watch. Hard to believe that there’s such rare footage sitting around from 24 years ago.

Another piece showed all the work that JHE Production Group puts into the driver introductions at the Sprint All-Star Race. For this group of production guys, the All-Star Race is the toughest night of the year. They get about 10-15 minutes to set up the massive stage you saw for intros, then about the same amount of time to tear it down. Quite amazing when you think about it.

There was another piece on Denny Hamlin’s full-time return at Darlington, which included quotes from Hamlin (at a press conference) along with radio chatter. It was about what I expected, to be honest. Another feature was similar, but followed Matt Kenseth and contained interview footage with him and interim crew chief Wally Brown.

Some of the pieces that ran were clearly stretching things a bit. The one on stargazing didn’t need to be there. Also, SPEED advertised in advance that Clint Bowyer would be working on the broadcast as a guest reporter. His role turned out to be quite limited. Perhaps, it was due to the rain. All Bowyer did was do a regular interview, then run off with Rutledge Wood into the camping areas, where they found a homemade camper and met the owners.

Due to the rains that were mentioned repeatedly during NASCAR RaceDay, there was an additional pre-race element. However, that consisted of Carl Edwards joining Michael Waltrip and Chris Myers in the Hollywood Hotel, discussing the upcoming Showdown.

There was also an interesting little piece that asks the question a lot of people would like to know: “Why do people like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. so dang much?” The answer seems to be that he inherited a lot of his dad’s fans. However, Earnhardt Jr. is his own man (he better be, since he turns 39 this year) and is a legitimately popular driver on his own.

During the races on Saturday, there were no commercial interruptions during green flag racing. However, both of the races were not exactly the most inclusive affairs. The Showdown tended to focus on drivers that were in the top-5 runners or so. The All-Star Race had a slightly expanded focus, but I believe that we still missed some things.

During the red flag, SPEED showed about ten interviews and a taped piece where they talked about how The Winston came to be, complete with interviews involving Humpy Wheeler and Junior Johnson. The piece originally aired on RaceHub, but it was an interesting look at how the race came to be.

Some people are not all that pleased with the final segment of the event (mainly because Johnson won in anticlimactic fashion), believing that NASCAR needs to make changes. At this point, I don’t know what the deuce NASCAR can do. The format is not the problem. The Gen-6 car is still a work in progress. It needs time.

Post-race coverage was decent, knowing that the checkered flag fell at just about midnight. SPEED provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the unofficial results.

That’s all for this week. Next week is the sweetest race weekend of the year. Monaco, Indianapolis and Charlotte in the same day. I plan on hitting up Price Chopper after Lebanon Valley finishes up on Saturday and grabbing some tortilla chips and zesty taco dip. Don’t plan on leaving the house on Sunday to do anything. Probably won’t leave my living room except to use the facilities.

Tuesday, May 21

Time Telecast Network
1:30 AM – 2:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Wednesday, May 22

Time Telecast Network
1:30 AM – 2:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Thursday, May 23

Time Telecast Network
1:30 AM – 2:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
8:00 – 9:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
3:30 – 5:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
5:00 – 6:30 PM Nationwide Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
6:30 – 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub SPEED
7:00 – 8:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
11:30 PM – 12:00 AM IndyCar 36: Simona de Silvestro NBC Sports Network

Friday, May 24

Time Telecast Network
2:00 AM – 2:30 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM Indianapolis 500 Carb Day# NBC Sports Network

Saturday, May 25

Time Telecast Network
8:00 AM – 9:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco Qualifying NBC Sports Network
10:00 – 11:00 AM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
11:00 AM – ~12:00 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN2
12:00 – 1:00 PM World Endurance Championship: Spa SPEED*/
12:30 – 2:00 PM Stadium Super Trucks: San Diego NBC Sports Network*
1:00 – 2:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
2:30 – 2:45 PM NASCAR Countdown ABC
2:45 – 5:30 PM Nationwide Series History 300 ABC
5:00 – 6:00 PM Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade NBC Sports Network
6:00 – 7:00 PM Trackside NBC Sports Network
7:00 – 7:30 PM SPEED Center SPEED

Sunday, May 26

Time Telecast Network
7:00 AM – 7:30 PM Formula One Pre-Race NBC Sports Network
7:30 – 10:00 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco NBC
~10:00 – 10:30 AM Formula One Post-Race NBC Sports Network
10:00 – 11:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM IndyCar Pre-Race ABC
12:00 – 3:30 PM Izod IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 ABC
1:00 – 1:30 PM F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
1:30 – 3:00 PM GP2 Series: Monaco NBC Sports Network*
3:30 – 5:30 PM NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
5:30 – 6:00 PM FOX Pre-Race FOX
5:30 – 6:30 PM SPEED Center SPEED
6:00 – 10:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 FOX
10:30 – 11:00 PM NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED

Monday, May 27

Time Telecast Network
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

*- Tape Delayed
~- Approximate Start Time
/- Highlighted Coverage

A couple of notes before we continue. Wednesday is Voting Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR RaceHub will be live from the facility, including Brian France announcing the five members of the 2014 Hall of Fame class live. Also, yes, it is true that both the Nationwide and Formula One races will be on network television. I have no idea if the West Coast NBC affiliates are really cool with showing live races at 4:30 AM local time, but oh well.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races from Charlotte, along with the Indianapolis 500 for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. In the Critic’s Annex, we’ll have a double feature this week. A Racer’s Life: Richard Childress (held over from last week due to technical issues) and the V8 Supercars’ Austin 400 wil. be on tap.

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 ones full of rants and vitriol.

Contact Phil Allaway

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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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05/21/2013 11:35 AM

Dale Jr. 39?! Time flies!!

Old farmer
05/21/2013 12:19 PM

I feel sorry for the likes of Jr., Kyle Petty, Jason Jarrett, Steven Wallace, etc., all pretty good drivers who cannot quite live up to their fathers’ reputations.

05/21/2013 01:48 PM

TV did a horrible job attempting to explain the average finish; they put up a graph that wasn’t even close to being right. They didn’t correct their mistake. It wasn’t until well after the race I understood what the average finish was. I didn’t realize I was supposed to keep track of all of the math. Why couldn’t the TV get the right info from nascar?