The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Unwittingly Becomes The Story In Charlotte by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday May 28, 2013

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns and critiques are the primary main objectives. This past weekend was one of the sweetest weekends of the year. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series had a “home game” at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Editor’s Note: Due to the extensive coverage of Charlotte, with FOX’s camera malfunction the Indy 500 critique will be found in the Critic’s Annex this week in our Frontstretch Newsletter. Don’t get our FREE daily look at racing news across the country? Sign up by clicking on the link.

History 300

On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned from another weekend off to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With Rusty Wallace apparently convincing TriStar Motorsports to withdraw their No. 10 for Jeff Green after they qualified 28th (likely with the use of Big Bucks with no chance at a Whammy), there were no S&P’s for the first time in quite a while. Let’s see how ESPN did with their telecast.

Saturday was the first of three races that will air on ABC. Likely because of the ABC assignment, NASCAR Countdown was cut down to a mere 15 minutes. As a result, no Pit Studio or Pit Studio analysts were on the broadcast this week. Also, due to Indianapolis, the pit reporting corps were kind of thin. Pre-race coverage consisted of some analysis from the booth, plus four interviews.

The actual coverage brought a lot of the same issues with focus that I noted with the Indianapolis 500 telecast. There was once again, a high focus on the front of the field. As a result, viewers always end up asking themselves where the deuce certain drivers came from. This week, it was Kyle Larson. I think he was running outside of the top-15 for much of the race. Then, Larson started to use the cushion (to borrow a dirt track racing term) to his advantage. All of a sudden, we finally see his Visio/Hulu Plus Chevrolet up front after being ignored all day. It puts everyone in a bad position. Basically, they all look like goons because they all but don’t have any information on Larson from the rest of the broadcast.

Now, you have a couple of options here. They can rely on the pit reporters, who probably do have a fair amount of information on Larson’s day to share with the booth. Or, they can wing it.

Also on Saturday, Clint Bowyer came up to the booth to serve as a special guest analyst for the day. This turned out to be interesting. Bowyer, by nature is a quirky, talkative guy. While Bowyer’s normal personality that we’ve gotten used to over the past couple of years didn’t really come out, he did stick around for the rest of the race from when he arrived around Lap 50, and he had a lot of fun with it. Much like Carl Edwards, he came away from the experience having learned quite a bit.

“Enjoyed commentating the race today,” Bowyer tweeted after the race. “I have a new respect for all the people that make that side of these races go down.”

Based on that statement, Bowyer seemed a little bit overwhelmed during some of his time up there.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the race had already gone over the end of their specified time slot on ABC. There were five post-race interviews aired before ESPN left the air. There was no check of the point standings at all. I can’t speak for all markets here in the United States, but after the race ended, we went to “ESPN Sports Saturday” in Albany, which was scheduled for a half-hour. I think that’s a studio show. Not really all that important. ESPN could have taken the 40 seconds or so to give viewers the point standings. Heck, we’re not at that time of the year where we get constant point updates every six minutes yet, so a check of it at the end of the race is helpful.

Coca-Cola 600

Finally, we come to the marathon 600 mile classic. FOX was on the air for over six hours on Sunday night from Charlotte. Unfortunately, their own equipment negatively affected the race. Let’s take a look at the whole telecast.

I could sense way back during pre-race that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary race. There were absolutely no driver interviews on the whole pre-race show. Michael Waltrip was going to do his stupid Grid Walk (which I maintain should not take the place of actual driver interviews), but technical issues with Michael’s microphone meant that the segment got cut.

The primary feature was a one-on-one conversation between Darrell Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson talked about how happy he currently is with his life and how hard he has worked to achieve it all. Admittedly, I don’t think I learned much about Johnson in the piece, but I found his quotes about responding to “haters” to be interesting. Johnson’s not afraid to stir things up on Twitter. He’s not blind to some fans’ beliefs that NASCAR rigs races and such. He just calls them on it. Perhaps that’s why he showed up to his media availability with a brewski. He just wanted to ruffle some feathers.

Since it was Memorial Day weekend, FOX had a couple of special features on the pre-race show. The tweets that are often displayed at the bottom of the screen were replaced by soldiers who had died in the line of duty over the past year, which is what they did last year. In addition, FOX aired a special piece where troops either wrote in or sent video messages to their favorite drivers. Those drivers then responded to their fans. I thought this was a nice touch.

Finally, before the issues that I mentioned above with Michael’s aborted Grid Walk, FOX showed a brief montage that showed off some of their equipment, including the Unlimited Cam that likely won’t show up anymore.

Knowing what happened during Sunday night’s race, I cannot talk about the race telecast without mentioning the rope incident. I definitely could not tell that anything was really wrong at first when they threw the yellow. With the shot that FOX chose to use a couple of laps after the restart, I could not see the wire/nylon rope hit Kyle Busch’s car. However, on second watch, I did see the bottle of Coca-Cola hit Jamie McMurray‘s car. To whoever thought that was a good idea, that’s real classy, you moron. Let’s face facts. What we saw Sunday night is similar to what could happen if someone pulled a Dick Dastardly-style dirty trick on the field and put a trip wire across the track. Had this occurred in say, 1986, we would have had a number of drivers injured in addition to the ten fans in the stands because we would have broken windshields, blown tires. It would have been much uglier.

Now, the idea of a sky cam having issues during a sporting event is not unprecedented. In 2011, “ESPN’s Sky Cam came crashing to the ground”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8mfRIJCViA late in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Granted, that was a completely different issue as compared to Sunday, but still very dangerous.

The first thought that came to my mind was that some cretin threw something and hit the rope somehow. However, that’s fairly unlikely. It would likely take someone along the lines of Henry Rowengartner to make such a throw. Unfortunately, the clip I really wanted to put here isn’t on YouTube, so “this one”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nd693I5X1E will have to suffice. Ignore the hilarious quote from the doctor and pay attention to the force in Henry’s throwing motion. It could have been enough to reach the rope.

Chris Myers did note that they were checking to see if any fans in the grandstands were injured prior to the 15 minute work period. Have to state that. Unfortunately, there was no further word from FOX about potential injuries until Lap 167, more than 35 laps after the restart. By that time, writers had already noted that stretchers and EMT’s had been dispatched to the grandstands to treat injured people. As far as I’m concerned, FOX should have notified viewers about that before they did. FOX also did do well to get Jeff Hammond down in Marcos Ambrose’s pit and show viewers just what it was that caused this stupidity.

The reactions of FOX’s analysts to NASCAR’s decision to allow repairs under the red flag were interesting. Larry McReynolds took the time to commend NASCAR for their response to the situation. I guess that’s ok, but it’s dangerously close to, if not outright pandering to the sanctioning body.

Darrell Waltrip actually claimed that this situation would make the race better. Uh. No. It didn’t. At best, NASCAR’s decision allowed the race to continue as if the drive rope never snapped. In other words, it was neutral. Had they not allowed repairs under the red, then it would have negatively affected the race.

Now, FOX has put out a press release that talks about what happened. We’ve already re-printed that press release “here.”:http://www.frontstretch.com/breakingnews/43161/ However, “FOX Sports did tell USA Today’s Jeff Gluck”:http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/2013/05/27/fox-rope-camera-cable-coca-cola-600-fans-injured-hurt/2364255/ on Monday that the rope had the approximate strength of a steel wire and a similar diameter. In addition, the rope was designed to withstand far more force than it did before it snapped. The investigation continues into what happened, and FOX Sports does plan on sharing the final results of their investigation with NASCAR. Whether the general public gets to see those final results is anyone’s guess.

In addition to the rope failure, I noted that FOX was a little more inclusive than ESPN was on Saturday. I wasn’t quite as lost as I was during the Nationwide race.

Since the race ended a full hour beyond the end of the race’s original time slot, post-race coverage was fairly minimal. There were four post-race interviews, in addition to checks of the unofficial results and point standings.

Now, Myers apologized profusely for what happened with the cable wire and they were hopeful that everyone would be ok. Luckily, that will be the case. I cannot place unilateral blame on FOX Sports for what happened as of right now. We’ll have to wait until the investigation is over.

FOX is paying an incredible amount of money to NASCAR in order to cover the Sprint Cup Series. They ultimately just want to cover the races. Mike Joy even said that they want to cover the races, and do it in the most comprehensive way possible. At the time, Joy noted that FOX wants to take advantage of all of the technological gizmos that they have to do it. Sunday’s incident put the spotlight squarely on FOX instead of the race itself. They must feel horrible right now. The only thing I know for sure right now is that the CAMCAT, or “Unlimited Cam,” won’t be showing up at any races, anytime soon.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR’s three National series will all be in action at Dover International Speedway. Meanwhile, the IZOD IndyCar Series will have the first of their three scheduled doubleheaders. However, they will be racing on a new configuration at Belle Isle. We’ll have to see how that works. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, May 28

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

Wednesday, May 29

Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Thursday, May 30

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

Friday, May 31

Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
10:00-11:00am Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED
11:00am-12:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
12:30-3:00pm Nationwide Series Practice SPEED
3:00-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
4:30-5:00pm NCWTS Setup SPEED
5:00-7:30pm Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200 SPEED
7:30-8:00pm SPEED Center SPEED

Saturday, June 1

Time Telecast Network
10:00am-11:00am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
11:00am-~12:00pm Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN 2
12:00-1:00pm Trackside SPEED
1:00-2:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
2:00-2:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
2:30-5:00pm Nationwide Series 5-Hour Energy 200 ESPN
3:30-6:00pm Izod IndyCar Series Chevrolet Dual in Detroit No. 1 presented by Quicken Loans ABC
5:00-7:30pm Rolex Sports Car Series Chevrolet Grand-Am 200 SPEED*
7:30-8:00pm SPEED Center SPEED

Sunday, June 2

Time Telecast Network
10:00am-10:30am SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
10:30am-12:30pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
12:30-1:00pm FOX Pre-Race FOX
1:00-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks FOX
3:30-6:00pm Izod IndyCar Series Chevrolet Dual in Detroit No. 2 presented by Quicken Loans ABC
~4:30-5:00pm NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00-8:00pm SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
8:00-8:30pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

*- Tape Delayed
~- Approximate start time

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. Also, since Dover is the final race of FOX’s portion of the season, I will provide a review of FOX’s portion of the season. I will admit right here that I have already written part of it. The rest will be written after Sunday’s race.

In the Critic’s Annex, I currently plan on covering the Indy 500 along with the Grand Prix of Monaco, coverage of which aired on a combination of NBC and the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, this Thursday. Next Thursday, we’ll cover the Chevrolet Duals in Detroit for the Izod IndyCar Series.

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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Andy
05/28/2013 07:59 AM
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I never thought I’d see so many empty seats at Charlotte on Memorial weekend for the Coke 600.

jerseygirl
05/28/2013 11:26 AM
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Andy, the races at Charlotte have really been poor since the levigation. Long & boring, guess people have decided not to buy tickets. No wonder Bruton wants to move the race in October. IMO, they need to make the October race a daytime start – maybe around 5:30. It gets COLD at night! Since it is a chase race, they take forever with the intros and honestly, the race finishes up too late. People start leaving because they are cold (or bored).

For this weekend, I was out to dinner with friends, came home around 10:30 and figured I’d just see the end of the race. I was surprised to see it was still going on. Didn’t bother to watch the end since I came home just in time to see my favorite driver get wrecked. Made me VERY glad I hadn’t bought a ticket to the race.

Alex
05/28/2013 01:18 PM
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Funky Butt Lovin.. Best movie quote