The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Alexander Simply Does Not Have The Power by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday July 16, 2013

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Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism is the name of the game. If you’re wondering, there was no critique last week because I was in Daytona covering the Coke Zero 400 weekend. However, just because I was in the Media Center doesn’t mean I didn’t have some thoughts about what TNT provided. I wrote about that particular race last Thursday in the Frontstretch Newsletter.

This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were both in action at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series was at Iowa Speedway.

Before we start, yesterday, ESPN officially launched their “Race to the Chase” brand campaign, which will do exactly what you think it will. At first, it will consist of a new 30-second commercial entitled Burnout, devised by Wieden + Kennedy, creators of the This Is SportsCenter ad campaign back in the mid-1990’s. There will be more promotional opportunities on ESPN networks in the lead up to ESPN’s return to Sprint Cup at Indianapolis.

Also of note, during Saturday’s telecast from Toronto, NBC Sports Network’s Leigh Diffey mentioned on air that ESPN’s Nicole Briscoe is expecting her first child. We at Frontstretch send our congrats to the Briscoe’s.


The Truck Series returned to Iowa Speedway this week. Todd Bodine helped out in the booth. Read on and see how he did.

American Ethanol 200

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned from another break to race in a standalone event at Iowa. Speaking of children, Krista Voda is pregnant with her first child. She spent the weekend in New Hampshire, where she was thrown a surprise baby shower. As a result, Danielle Trotta was brought in to substitute.

The primary piece that aired on the Setup revolved around how different the trucks will look at the Mudsummer Classic. To help us out, Ray Dunlap took a trip to Kyle Busch Motorsports, where the truck that Scott Bloomquist will drive was on display. Dunlap showed viewers the various aerodynamic changes that will be made to the trucks, in addition to the tires that will be run. The only thing that Dunlap did not mention is the fact that the teams will be running bias-ply tires instead of radials, which I think is a first for the series.

There was also a montage where a good chunk of the regulars talked about their thoughts about racing at Eldora. The 15 drivers questioned seemed to be looking forward to it, but some, like Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Ross Chastain, seemed to be a little apprehensive.

Todd Bodine was brought in to take the place of Michael Waltrip for the weekend. The result of that change was a completely different dynamic in the broadcast booth. Bodine is a lot like Ricky Craven in that he can bring a lot of information to viewers and get that information across in a reasonable matter. Having said that, Bodine is very inexperienced in an analyst’s role and it showed at times. It did take a little getting used to (Waltrip’s been in the booth for Truck races for quite a long time now), but I would not be opposed to having Bodine back for another go-around. Bodine, while he did have fun, would much rather be back in the No. 13 (or any other competitive truck).

During the race, there was a fair amount of time given to the race for the 20th spot in owners points since that is the cutoff in order to be locked in for the CarCash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime’s The Profit. Ultimately, that came down to a race between Wauters Motorsports’ No. 5 of Tim George, Jr. and the No. 81 for SS-Green Light Racing, which was being driven by Jimmy Weller in his Camping World Truck Series debut. Neither George or Weller had a good run on Saturday night, but the No. 81 will be locked into next Wednesday’s race in Eldora via a tiebreaker (David Starr has two 13th-place finishes in the No. 81, while George’s best finish this season is a 14th).

Since the race ended pretty quick (there was still 32 minutes left in the timeslot when the checkers flew), there was a fair amount of post-race coverage. SPEED provided viewers with seven post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief. There were checks of the driver points and owners’ points as well. After the final interview, SPEED left the air early and went to a bonus episode of The 10 to fill 15 minutes of time.

Overall, SPEED did a pretty good job on Saturday night in balancing the major stories on tap and still bring viewers as much content as they can. Having said that, there were a few drivers that didn’t really get all that much coverage. Outside of the incident with Ty Dillon in the final couple of laps, Erik Jones didn’t really get much of a mention, even though he finished second. Ron Hornaday, who finished fourth, is another example.

Bodine in the broadcast booth may only be a one-time thing, but in a pinch, he would work just fine. He’s still a little raw, but with more experience, he’ll only continue to improve.

CNBC Prime’s The Profit 200

On Saturday, the Nationwide Series returned to action in New Hampshire. Did ESPN provide a proper broadcast, or leave people pulling out their hair?

At the beginning of NASCAR Countdown, ESPN took the time to introduce race fans to Ryan Preece, a Whelen Modified Tour racer who made his Nationwide debut Saturday for the combination Tommy Baldwin-Scott Lagasse, Jr. team. It was a nice little interview, although it seemed that Preece anticipated the questions and answered them before they could be asked.

In one feature, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Trevor Bayne and Travis Pastrana traveled to Fenway Park in Boston to have a hitting competition. That particular section reminded me of the Ricky vs. Trevor competition that aired in segments on NASCAR Countdown last season. Later on, the duo took a Duck Boat tour through Boston Harbor. The two Roush drivers had some fun that afternoon.

Finally, we had another entry in the series known as The Real Juan. This time, Montoya is celebrating his son Sebastian’s eighth birthday at a place called Game Time in Miami. Seems like an independent Chuck E. Cheese/Discovery Zone kind of place. Fun was had all around. This piece was more about the Montoya’s four kids and how different they are from each other.

New Hampshire was the last major race weekend prior to ESPN taking over the Sprint Cup Series. So, even though he was fairly close to home, Bestwick took the week off. In his place was Marty Reid, fresh off of his final IZOD IndyCar Series telecast of the year. Reid was his normal self in the booth, but I just don’t think he works quite as well with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree as well as Bestwick does.

This week’s special guest in the broadcast booth was Martin Truex, Jr., a past winner at Loudon in the Nationwide and Busch North (now K&N Pro Series East) Series. Truex didn’t really stay all that long, about 40 laps. However, while he was there, Truex did give some analysis. Reid didn’t necessarily have to prompt Truex’s participation, which is always good to see. It seems that Truex came to the broadcast booth with a plan for the half hour or so that he was going to have up there, and stuck to it. I think he did a pretty good job, but I wish there was more of it.

During the race, ESPN seemed to focus on two specific topics. One was the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash and the drivers eligible for that competition: Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Sam Hornish, Jr.. The other topic was the domination of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. ESPN must expand their focus. Next week is a standalone race. Only a couple of Sprint Cup drivers—Joey Logano and JJ Yeley—are entered in Sunday’s STP 300. While there are a few Nationwide regulars that ESPN likes to focus on from time to time, like the four drivers eligible for the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash, the remainder of the field may as well be comprised of a bunch of invisible Halo characters.

Due to the three GWC’s, there was very little post-race coverage. There were only two post-race interviews (winner Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon, who won the Dash 4 Cash). The results were shown in the scroll, while the point standings weren’t shown at all before ESPN left to get to the 6 o’clock news. I understand the circumstances, but that’s a little weak.

I thought that ESPN’s telecast was ok to watch, but definitely not groundbreaking. It was simply a lot more of what I’ve been talking about for much of this season. Not enough action for position and too much focus on a couple of stories. Fall outside those stories that were decided on Tuesday during the conference call and good luck getting your name out there. Reid was ok in his role. I would have preferred to have Bestwick calling the race, but understand the need for rest.

Camping World RV Sales 301

Sunday marked the final Sprint Cup race of the season for TNT. It’s been a trying five weeks so far. Did they redeem themselves on Sunday?

The primary feature of Countdown to Green was an interesting piece on Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series Champion, and a very down to earth fella. The fact that Kenseth’s even in Cup is the result of a spot of luck and the cultivation of respect amongst his fiercest competitors on the Wisconsin short tracks. In reality, Kenseth’s still a down home kind of guy. The piece did focus a good amount on his departure from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of last year. However, we don’t get the whole story here. That’s not TNT’s fault, but it’s because Kenseth didn’t want to divulge the whole story for fear of disrespecting Jack Roush. While that bites for those of us who “gots to know,” we ultimately can’t do anything about it. We also saw that Kenseth’s quite the family man, one who is not afraid to get down and dirty when it comes to things like playing dolls with his daughter, something that not all fathers do on a regular basis. I liked the piece. Although, we didn’t get all the information that we would have liked to get from Kenseth, it is totally up to him whether or not we can get that information. I would have liked to see Roush interviewed here, to be honest. He wasn’t.

TNT’s final All-Access of the year followed around Martin Truex, Jr. In addition to the regular race recap from Daytona and a very quick clip of the Monday team meeting (“I ran well and got wrecked,” Truex said), we go out to the apparently traffic-choked Lake Norman, where Truex relaxed with some fishing from his boat. In addition, Truex spent some time with pediatric cancer patients at the Levine Children’s Hospital. There was lots of fun to go around there.

During the race telecast, I found that TNT seemed to be a little off the pace. Kyle Petty would point out some trouble on the track, and there would either be silence from the booth, or they’d wait until they finished their previous sentence before Adam Alexander would talk about the incident. It appears that Alexander wants the production crew to catch up to them before saying anything. I’m not really a fan of that approach because the viewers can miss things as a result. A good play-by-play commentator is not necessarily just a wrangler of analysts in the broadcast booth, but someone who can guide the production staff as well. It appears that Alexander is just not there yet. Yes, he’s had two years, but that’s only equated to 12 races and some practice sessions. That’s not really all that much experience. It’s absolutely nothing compared to what Mike Joy and Allen Bestwick have under their belts. Alexander simply needs more seat time, and I don’t think he’s ever going to get it. The switchover from SPEED to FOX Sports 1 next month will likely hurt him even more.

Post-race coverage was OK, but cut back just a little due to TNT going over their timeslot. There were five post-race driver interviews and an interview with winning crew chief Rodney Childers. There was also a check of the point standings, but no outside of the scroll check of the unofficial results.

We’ve now reached the end of the Summer Series. How do feel that TNT did this year? Not so great. The excising of Wide Open Coverage at Daytona led to a telecast where fans missed a lot. Didn’t help that their move to have the final 30 laps commercial-free was 1) Basically a lie and 2) Hurt the rest of the telecast with near constant commercial interruption. It says something that the often jaded NASCAR Media regulars felt the need to comment about it in the middle of the race, as did some of the drivers (most notably David Stremme) afterwards. Overuse of commercials has been a constant issue with TNT since 2001, but this year was the worst year for it in quite a while.

As mentioned above, Alexander is just not getting enough time to really work himself into the role of a play-by-play man. Six weeks a year doesn’t cut it. After August 17, he won’t even have SPEED Center anymore (it’s cancelled). I just don’t believe that Alexander will ever get the experience so that he be the best he can be. There simply isn’t enough room anymore.

That’s all for this week. Next week is the second and final off-week of the season for the Sprint Cup Series. While it will bite that there won’t be Cup race on tap, there is still some racing to be found. The Nationwide Series travels to Chicagoland Speedway for a standalone weekend, with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards for support. Meanwhile, the American Le Mans Series travels to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

Tuesday, July 16
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Wednesday, July 17
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED
11:30pm-12:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2

Thursday, July 18
Time Telecast Network
3:00pm-4:00pm K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200k SPEED*/
6:00-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Friday, July 19
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2

Saturday, July 20
Time Telecast Network
~3:20-4:45pm American Le Mans Series Qualifying ESPN3.com
4:00-6:00pm Pirelli World Challenge: Toronto NBC Sports Network*/
4:30-6:00pm Global RallyCross Championship: Bristol ESPN

Sunday, July 21
Time Telecast Network
11:00am-~12:00pm Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN 2
~11:45am-3:15pm American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix ESPN3.com$
1:00-3:00pm American Le Mans Series Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix (TV Broadcast) ESPN 2/*
2:30-3:00pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN 2
3:00-5:30pm Nationwide Series STP 300 ESPN 2
6:00-8:00pm ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Ansell ActivArmr 150 SPEED
8:00-9:00pm SPEED Center SPEED
11:00-11:30pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

Monday, July 22
Time Telecast Network
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED *- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
~- Approximate time
$- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet service provider (ISP) or Pay-TV provider for availability.

I will provide critiques of the Nationwide and ARCA Racing Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex for this week will cover either the Town Fair Tire 100 for the Whelen Modified Tour or the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy 2 in T.O.

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:

TNT
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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GinaV24
07/16/2013 11:38 AM
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Adam Alexander is a terrible PXP guy. His flat monotone doesn’t work and silence when something is happening on the track is just bad broadcasting. Let’s face it the production cameras are never going to keep up. That ship sailed when all the TV entities decided to show the leader or single car shots. TNT actually does the best of showing the entire field and racing somewhere other than the front, but their commercial load and poor PXP choices don’t work well. I like Kyle and Wally. I had enough of Larry Mac from Fox so I mute the tv whenever they show him. Plus he lost my respect when NASCAR emasculated him for his comments. Now he’s just another paid shill singing the NASCAR is wonderful song.

Not looking forward to ESPN – all chase all the time broadcasts. Bestwick is one of the best current PXP people IMO. Unfortunately having Rusty Wallace (he’s got a fast hot rod) and Brad (stick a fork in him) Daugherty, along with the constant points, points, points, chase, chase, chase commetary leaves me uninterested in watching. BTW, I’ve tweeted my opinion directly to AB, ESPN-NASCAR and Rusty, but they don’t care because the suits say this is how its going to be. It doesn’t mean I have to watch though so I will vote with my remote. I can keep up with whatever is going on via twitter & my computer far better than being annoyed at the poor TV coverage.

Zetona
07/16/2013 12:09 PM
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Good riddance to TNT. This year was a big step back for them, and it was more noticeable because FOX stepped up their game in the first 13 races. Adam Alexander is not and will never be as good as Mike Joy or Allen Bestwick, and while Wally and Kyle are better, they can’t carry the telecast on their own. Many people praise TNT for showing more of the action than the other networks, but this year was a parade of missed incidents, even when not in commercial, with few on-track incidents being shown live and the booth being completely unaware of lead changes at times.

Even if they hype the Chase to no end, ESPN should still provide good broadcasts. Allen Bestwick is as good as anyone when it comes to PxP, and lest we forget, there will be side-by-side commercials in the second half of all Chase races.

Ben
07/16/2013 12:34 PM
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It’s been really shocking how bad TNT was this year. I don’t know where THAT came from. Even though TNT has been stuck with the usually boring summer races, they always did a decent show in the past.

I’m really hoping that NBC (or somebody else) steps up and gets the rights to show Nascar. At this point I’m willing to give ANY network a chance.

totally bored with nascar
07/16/2013 02:18 PM
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Zetona, I just can’t stand all the chase hype that ESPN does. It takes away from the racing they are supposed to be covering, IMO. Lucky us, we’ll get to see the 2nd half of the last 10 races in the small screen while the commercials show in the large box and while they update us on the points as they run! Sorry, but that’s not enough for me. I’ll stick to radio, my computer and twitter for the races so I can actually get coverage.

Steve
07/16/2013 02:42 PM
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Side by side doesn’t add much when they show the in car camera the entire commercial of the car that they are showing the commercial for.

Not looking forward to ESPN at all. Saw their first commercial for Indy and the first sentence was about the Chase. It should be a long 17 weeks.

I never knew that they had their production meetings so early in the week. How do you expect to cover a race correctly when you choose your storylines 5 days before the race? What happened to letting the story tell itself on race day?

DoninAjax
07/16/2013 04:19 PM
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Why don’t they just wait until the Richmond race is over to tell who is in the chase? As if we care! They can tell us who the 12 drivers are and then we can watch as 31 cars and drivers and SPONSORS turn invisible.

George
07/16/2013 06:04 PM
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What exactly did Stemme say? I’m really intrigued by this.

Phil Allaway
07/16/2013 11:11 PM
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Steve, it is true that they have Tuesday conference calls to generate ideas as to what to focus on. That is just the initial discussion, but the foundation is often set there. However, there are additional production meetings during the race weekend itself. This is when information from each of the pit reporters is shared and more storylines can be constructed (and existing ones are fleshed out).

George, I think Stremme was reacting to what a number of fans tweeted him about the race telecast in Daytona after he wrecked out. Apparently, TNT’s broadcast killed the evening for them and he was understanding about it. He also suggested that fans e-mail NASCAR if they didn’t like what they were seeing. Later, Stremme promised to pass on his fans’ thoughts to NASCAR on the issue. To that end, I’ll also include a contact e-mail to NASCAR and other series here in future columns.

SB
07/17/2013 04:20 AM
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AA should be in the pits and Sheheen back in the booth. Whoever decided to switch them a few years ago is a moron.

Infiniteduff
07/17/2013 04:23 PM
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TNT, please do us NASCAR fans a favor and get out of the NASCAR business. Kyle Petty is awful! You have three guys in the booth talking for four hours and saying very little about the car race going on.