The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: SPEED's Monster Coverage And FOX's Final Show by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday June 4, 2013

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism is our primary topic of discussion. Last weekend, NASCAR’s top-3 series were all in action at Dover International Speedway. For FOX, it was their final race weekend of the season.


SPEED kept their cameras zoomed in on the field at Dover this past weekend.

Lucas Oil 200

On Friday evening we had the Camping World Truck Series on track.

Once again, the Setup began with a look at some of the past winners thus far in 2013. That’s nice and all, but they did that at Charlotte two weeks ago. The only thing that changed was the fact that Kyle Busch won. They need to find another way to start the show, to be honest.

The main feature was a look at Darrell Wallace, Jr., who just so happened to be on the pole for the race. Here, SPEED talks to Wallace and his parents about his demeanor and rise up through the ranks. We learned that he’s quite a laid back man, but nothing really all that personal. His parents did explain how racing has played into his travails at the track. Darrell doesn’t really think about it, but his mother especially sees some of the fans that don’t take kindly to him racing. My takeaway is that Wallace has a quiet confidence to him that is rarely compromised. The Daytona ARCA race from February was one of the rare examples of a time in which he got frazzled.

Aside from the Wallace feature, the show was light on content, which was a shame. Only Wallace and Chase Elliott got interviewed, while much of the rest of the show was spent analyzing, which is a little unusual for a SPEED race telecast.

Compared to the offerings put up by FOX and ESPN, SPEED’s telecast seemed to be a little more inclusive. There were more battles shown for position and the overall flow of the telecast just seemed to be a little better.

Chase Elliott was a pretty big story during the race and SPEED did a decent job covering his endeavors. That guy got lucky to snag a top-5 after his speeding penalties. I think the broadcast booth did want Elliott to keep himself up front, and this manifested itself in legitimate woe when he got busted speeding for the second time. Gotta be careful with that. People might take it to mean something else.

Post-race coverage was quite decent. SPEED provided viewers with seven post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief, Rudy Puegle (Note: SPEED didn’t display Puegle’s name on the screen, so I’m actually guessing at it’s spelling). There was a check of the point standings, along with some analysis before SPEED left the air.

Overall, I liked the coverage on Friday evening. There was a fair amount of coverage to teams throughout the field. However, there was nowhere near the same focus on interlopers here because there was really only one of them (Kyle Busch) in the field. That allows SPEED to provide viewers with a more inclusive broadcast. With a fully standalone weekend in Iowa, we’ll see what ESPN can do without Busch, Matt Kenseth and other Cup drivers stealing the spotlight.

5-Hour Energy 200

On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series went at it. Let’s see how it went on the high banks.

The primary feature during Countdown was a nice piece with Sam Hornish, Jr. Nicole Briscoe traveled to his home for the one-on-one interview, which covered Hornish’s move away from IndyCar to NASCAR, the struggles that he’s had, and how that affected him as a driver. It was an interesting piece. The interesting notion is that Hornish didn’t really feel pressure to perform at first. However, after a rookie year that saw him have to qualify on speed for nearly the entire season, it started to get to him. Like some other drivers, Hornish is a private person. The conflict with Jimmie Johnson, referenced here, is just one example of that.

Briscoe stated that Hornish says he doesn’t have to prove anything anymore. He’s racing for himself. That’s an interesting notion there.

Unfortunately, aside from the Hornish feature, much of the discussion was based around the exploits of Kyle Busch and how he can seemingly do no wrong. It’s getting quite ridiculous by now. It says a lot that Briscoe and Brad Daugherty gave the solid Ricky Craven “the field” when they did their picks for the race.

Even in the race, Busch can seemingly do no wrong on track. There was a lot of focus given to Busch during the race. Once he took the lead, everyone simply resigned to the fact that Busch was going to win again. Granted, that didn’t happen, but it shows that something is seriously wrong here. Especially since Busch isn’t full-time in the series.

ESPN’s special guest this week was Brad Keselowski, someone that I personally think would make a great booth analyst. During the 70 or so laps that he was there, Keselowski actually fit naturally into the flow of commentary. That is a rarity for a special guest. Keselowski did not cut off any of the ESPN regulars in the booth, but was able to add in his commentary quite easily. I thought that he actually fit in better than Carl Edwards. Obviously, I don’t think that Keselowski would like to do it regularly until after he retires, but he brings a different feel to a race telecast. I think I like it.

Post-race coverage was a little longer than normal since the race ended early. As a result, ESPN brought viewers nine post-race interviews. However, once again, they refrained from showing viewers the point standings. Yes, they did state (during his interview) that Regan Smith was still in the points lead, but they had all the time in the world to slap a graphic up there and just chose not to do it.

ESPN is still too zeroed in on a few specific teams in their coverage. Such extremely limited focus hurts the series as a whole because potential sponsors don’t see any potential value in getting involved with the sport. On Saturday, I think maybe eight cars got a decent amount of coverage. Points leader Regan Smith wasn’t really among those eight. There are a couple of drivers (Alex Bowman, Parker Kligerman, Austin Dillon) that ESPN believes are the young guns, there’s the Cup guys, the championship contenders, and then everyone else.

FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returned to action in FOX’s final race of the season.

The telecast started out with what felt like a heartfelt apology for the issue with the nylon rope in Charlotte from Chris Myers. In addition, ESPN.com’s David Newton reported Sunday that NASCAR on FOX Executive Producer Artie Kempner attended the driver’s meeting prior to the race and formally apologized for the nylon rope issue. According to the Charlotte Observer, CAMCAT claimed on Thursday that mechanical parts on the CAMCAT itself did not cause the failure. In addition, they’ll likely conclude their investigation by the end of this week. We’ll report on their findings when the results become available.

The primary feature during pre-race was a look at Matt Kenseth, through the lens of his colleagues on track. As many of you know, Kenseth has the reputation of being a very quiet, boring kind of guy. It was his quiet, methodical domination of the 2003 season that was partially responsible for the creation of the much-derided Chase for the Sprint Cup. However, much like Jimmie Johnson, who is often accused of being vanilla, Kenseth has a dry sense of humor as well. Viewers were treated to drivers such as Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin and more giving their opinions of Kenseth as a man.

The takeaway here is that Kenseth is definitely the quiet type until he wins. Then, the animal comes out to play. I thought this was interesting. Unlike drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, the Busch brothers, or even Clint Bowyer, we really don’t know much about Kenseth. He just goes about his business for the most part.

In addition, since we were in Dover, FOX showed a piece about the Drive for Autism Golf Tournament, the yearly charity golf outing hosted by Kempner to raise money for Autism Awareness. Kempner, a variety of drivers (including Jamie McMurray) and other notables who attended raised a total of $4 million for charity.

I still believe that FOX doesn’t involve their pit reporters enough with pre-race coverage. The only interviews conducted were Carl Edwards’ with Myers and the Waltrips in the “Hotel,” and Michael Waltrip’s Grid Walk. I feel like we’re missing out on some information that way. Speaking of the Grid Walk, FOX gave Michael a head-cam on Sunday. Yes, they’re fulfilling their promise to take advantage of their available technology, but was that really necessary?

I have to note here that there was quite a bit of nasty weather here in the Albany, NY area on Sunday. Because of that, there were three separate times when the coverage was cut into by live weather reports due to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. That bites, but it’s life. I can’t do anything about it and there’s a good chance that you guys didn’t deal with that. The Ryan Newman-David Gilliland crash occurred during the third of these cut-ins. There were also segments with the race sound muted due to EAS (Emergency Alert System) notifications. As a result, I felt lost for part of the race, just because of circumstances.

FOX didn’t show us anywhere near as much racing or position as there probably was. That never fails to bite. In the first half of the race, there was a substantial amount of coverage given to Joe Gibbs Racing’s three Toyotas. I know they’re quite strong, but there are other people out there.

Kenseth’s blown engine was undoubtedly a big story on Sunday. He was leading the race and all of a sudden, his car turns traitor on him. FOX provided him a substantial amount of coverage, aided by the fact that the caution came out. Jeff Hammond interviewed him and he was dejected as heck. When Travis Kvapil blew his engine shortly after the restart, we couldn’t get a picture of that. Mike Joy described what happened to Kvapil, and that’s all we got. I wasn’t necessarily expecting NASCAR to throw another yellow, At least give viewers a visual, FOX. This is not radio. Of course, having said that, a couple of laps after Kvapil’s engine blew, the second weather cut-in occurred. Perhaps we got a little more coverage during those three minutes that Albany’s FOX affiliate left the telecast.

Apparently, Timmy Hill also hit the wall around the time that Martin Truex, Jr.‘s engine blew. However, we never saw any video of that. Also, note that FOX was giving Truex dap when the engine died. Talk about some bad luck. Reminds me a little of when Carl Edwards had his engine problems in the 2009 Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix. Granted, it wasn’t anywhere near that bad because FOX was able to at least catch themselves before taking a commercial break. Gotta listen to your headset.

For your information, pit reporters have radio chatter in one of their ears during the race (they hear instructions from the Production trucks in the other), and I think they would have been able to pick up on it.

Post-race coverage was about average. There were four post-race driver interviews and checks of the unofficial results and point standings. In addition, there was some post-race analysis from both the “Hotel” and the broadcast booth while everyone on the production team down to the Maintenance people were credited in the scroll.

With a couple of exceptions, Dover’s races have become a lot more predictable ever since the track was concreted for the 1995 season. The events often turn into runaways. When that happens, the network televising the race must do a good job to give updates on teams throughout the field and show as many battles as they can. FOX did ok with updating the field. There were a couple of drop backs throughout the entire lead lap. The battle coverage was just ok. However, I would also suggest making a point of talking about everyone in the field and how they’re doing at some point in the race. This is something that TNN used to do in the late 1990’s when Eli Gold was doing play-by-play there.

It should be noted that potential issues with the TRD Engines was a big storyline entering the race, and sure enough, it bit some contenders. Some dap must be given for an important storyline that was fleshed out before the race began.

Since Dover is the final race of FOX’s portion of the season, it is now time to review what FOX has provided us. I’ll be taking up that task in this week’s Critic’s Annex.

That’s it for this week. Next week is the first real split weekend of the season. The Sprint Cup Series will be at Pocono Raceway for their first visit of the season with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards as support. The Camping World Truck Series will be racing Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway as support to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Finally, the Nationwide Series will make their first visit of the season to Iowa Speedway. Also, Formula One travels to Montreal for the Grand Prix of Canada. It’s a stacked weekend.

Tuesday, June 4

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

Wednesday, June 5

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

Thursday, June 6

Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
3:00pm-4:00pm K&N Pro Series East NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 SPEED*/
6:00-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Friday, June 7

Time Telecast Network
1:30am-2:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
1:30pm-3:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
2:00-3:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
3:30-5:30pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
5:30-6:00pm SPEED Center SPEED
8:30-9:00pm NCWTS Setup SPEED
9:00-11:30pm Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400k SPEED

Saturday, June 8

Time Telecast Network
10:00am-11:00am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
11:30am-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
1:00-2:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Canada Qualifying NBC Sports Network
1:00-3:00pm ARCA Racing Series Pocono ARCA 200 SPEED
3:00-4:00pm Trackside SPEED
7:00-7:30pm SPEED Center SPEED
8:30pm-11:00pm Izod IndyCar Series Firestone 550k ABC

Sunday, June 9

Time Telecast Network
9:00am-10:00am NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
9:30-10:00am SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
10:00am-12:00pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
12:00-1:00pm Countdown to Green TNT
1:00-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart TNT
1:30-2:00pm F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
2:00-3:00pm Stadium Super Trucks: St. Louis NBC Sports Network*/
2:00-4:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Canada NBC
~4:30-5:00pm NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00-8:00pm SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
8:00-8:30pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

Monday, June 10

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

*- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage

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.

In a press release, TNT has promised that they will follow one driver around each week in the lead up to the race for a feature. For Pocono this weekend, it will be Denny Hamlin. Admittedly, such a feature might be new to TNT, but it is something that ESPN did a lot of in the fall of 2010, starting with the five-episode run of Racing Shotgun: Kyle Busch. I think you guys remember that show. We’ll definitely take a look at it and give some thoughts next week.

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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Sal
06/04/2013 08:26 AM
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Here’s hoping the TNT crew can find, and show, the debris when the caution comes out to bunch up the field or keep the top drivers from going a lap down.

T-Bone
06/04/2013 11:38 AM
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Sal, I don’t think anyone can see that debris except NASCAR. I also think TNT does the best job of coverage between the 3 networks.

The Mad Man
06/04/2013 06:16 PM
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Now that the Faux infomercials are over, maybe just maybe we can see some actual racing. Providing TNT jettisons the script from Daytona Beach on what will and won’t be shown.

DoninAjax
06/04/2013 06:31 PM
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FOX didn’t show us anywhere near as much racing or position as there probably was.”

That comment has been posted for years, probably since Fox started telecasting the “race”.

Overra88ted
06/04/2013 09:11 PM
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The Waltrip’s on FOX, see ya, not going to miss ya! Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, good riddance boys!