The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: ESPN's NASCAR Problem Of How by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday August 20, 2013

Go to site navigation Go to article

Couch Potato Tuesday: ESPN's NASCAR Problem Of How

Phil Allaway · Tuesday August 20, 2013


Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are standard operating procedure. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were in action at Michigan International Speedway while the Nationwide Series made their first trip to Mid-Ohio.

Saturday was the much-ballyoohed launch of FOXSports1, the channel that replaces SPEED. While I’m sad to see SPEED go, I won’t exactly miss a lot of their weekday programming. Now, deals that were agreed to last week allowed the channel to launch in approximately 91 million homes. Will that cause your Pay TV bill to increase? No.

I can’t describe this much better than to come right out and say it. According to Sports Business Daily, FOX caved. It almost never happens in negotiations these days, but they caved. The per-subscriber fee for FOXSports1 is a mere 23 cents per subscriber. This is the same that you were paying for SPEED. If you remember, FOX wanted 80 cents per subscriber. It is a stunning defeat for FOX, who will not be making anywhere near as much money as they or almost any analyst thought they would. This pricing will continue until the expiration of the previously-agreed to deal to carry SPEED.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200

ESPN welcomed Nationwide viewers to Mid-Ohio using their secondary crew.

On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series raced for the very first time on the 2.25 mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield, Ohio.

NASCAR Countdown ended up overlapping with the end of the Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan. As a result, many of you couldn’t watch pre-race action live. What you missed was a pre-race show that was stripped down to the basics. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

With no Pit Studio or no Pit Studio analysts, Marty Reid and Ricky Craven more or less hosted Countdown themselves (although Rick DeBruhl did introduce the show) from their broadcast perch across the pit straight from the pits. They introduced the 2.25 mile layout to those fans who were unfamiliar with it. Then, they got into the interviews, nine of them in fact. That is a usually high number.

For the race telecast itself, I don’t really know how it would be considered a surprise that Michael McDowell qualified on pole. Is it just because he wasn’t in a Penske Ford? This is the same guy that dragged the third Front Row Motorsports Ford into the top-10 at Watkins Glen and was looking good to put up a great finish before the track bar mount broke. He’s got plenty of road course experience from lower categories and his time in Grand-Am. Did they simply put the blinders down or something?

ESPN just plain seemed to be lost when it came to the Lap 27 incident involving Regan Smith in Turn 5. They originally showed replays from Marcos Ambrose’s car, and from two different exterior views, all of which failed to show what happen definitively. Reid thought that Sadler could have been involved from the start. They had a roof-cam on Sadler’s car, yet failed to make use of it. Since it didn’t appear that ESPN had their Dual Path technology available, I thought that it was looking out the back of the car at that moment. Then, the booth got thrown for a loop when Smith thought that Ron Fellows took him out.

By the next caution, they showed the perfect shot that showed Sadler spinning out Smith. I don’t get why it took them so long. They’ve got a room in their compound with people in there that look at screens and point out incidents like they’re contestants on Face the Music. Seriously, it should not have taken that long.

Post-race coverage was fairly decent. ESPN provided viewers with six driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief (Jeremy Bullins). In addition, there was a check of the point standings before ESPN left the air.

Overall, ESPN did an ok job keeping tabs of races for position on track. However, their spatial awareness leaves something to be desired. Granted, ESPN maybe isn’t the biggest offender out there when it comes to artificially building up drama, but they have an incredible amount of resources at their fingertips. The response to the Sadler-Smith incident was deficient. Reid is generally in his element with road racing, and even though Craven never raced at Mid-Ohio, he was great as well.

Michigan National Guard 200

Saturday brought FOXSports1 to the airwaves. While I greatly enjoyed falling asleep to Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole on FOX Sports Live late at night, they were not the first live sporting event on the network. That was the Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan. How did they do, and were there any changes from what we’re used to? Let’s take a look.

The Setup is now hosted from the FOX Sports stage outside of the track. Danielle Trotta was there, along with Michael Waltrip while cheering fans were in the background. Admittedly, this gave a vibe somewhat similar to the NBC Sports Network’s IndyCar pre-race shows.

There were a couple of prepared pieces that ran on the Setup. One followed Joey Coulter as he did some Basic Training with the Michigan National Guard (race sponsor). We saw Coulter getting the business from the drill sergeants, and also doing some tasks like using a human ladder to cross a “raging river.” It seemed like Coulter had fun with the training, but the drill sergeants definitely didn’t make it easy for him.

Another piece focused on the evolution of the Camping World Truck Series from its somewhat humble beginnings to what we have today. Drivers like Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague and Rick Crawford described how the early trucks were essentially bricks that were very tough to handle on the short tracks that populated the vast majority of the schedule early on. It was a nice look back and see what the racing was like back then. Granted, that wasn’t all that long ago, but a number of the venues are no longer hosting races. Flemington Speedway, Mesa Marin Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Saugus Speedway, Portland Speedway and Louisville Motor Speedway are all closed and/or bulldozed. The trucks leaving those venues didn’t help their cases, but they might have been on their way out regardless. Ffor instance, Louisville, which was directly in the flight path of Louisville International Airport, closed after the owners built Kentucky Speedway.

Overall, the broadcast of the actual race was not all that different from what we would have gotten had it still been SPEED instead of FOXSports1. However, I did notice some scroll issues the first two times that they went to side-by-side replays. They forgot to take the scroll off the live action screen and just have it at the top of the screen. Instead, we got a regular scroll and a mini-scroll. That’s a little jarring, to be honest.

The racing for position was actually quite good. FOXSports1 showed viewers a good amount of that action. However, I think they should have referenced the fact that the field size was down quite a bit. Even with Todd Peck driving a post-entry second truck for Norm Benning and a third entry for RSS Racing, they were still four trucks short of a full field, and a number of those 32 trucks S&P’ed. The series is not exactly looking all that healthy right now.

Ray Dunlap wrote an article last week that argued that the Truck race at Daytona should be moved to July in order to eliminate the six week break between Daytona and Martinsville at the beginning of the year and create Nationwide-Camping World Truck doubleheaders at a number of tracks. Perhaps that might be a good idea. However, we’re still quite a ways from having an official 2014 schedule to actually look at it.

The race ended up running a little long. As a result, post-race coverage was pinched a little bit. FOXSports1 provided viewers with only two post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief (Michael Shelton). There was also a check of the point standings before FOXSports1 left to get to a 1 on 1 (their spelling, not mine) interview with Tom Brady. The unofficial results were only displayed in the scroll. This angered a number of people on Twitter. Am I surprised that FOXSports1 took this route? No. Am I happy about it? No, I like having the unofficial results in full-screen. However, I understand why they did it. It’s not like they didn’t warn viewers that the changeover to FOXSports1 would change the way that post-race coverage would be governed. The schedule is no longer as fluid as it used to be. That is something that we’re just going to have to get used. It also might mean that we’ll have studio programming during rain delays in the future instead of a bunch of interviews.

Pure Michigan 400

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Michigan International Speedway for 400 miles of action.

Similar to what we saw in Watkins Glen, the Tony Stewart injury once again took center stage. We got a weekly Stewart update, plus an interview with sub of the week: Austin Dillon.

There was a feature that followed Hendrick Motorsports as they held pit crew tryouts. For lack of better words, the organization trolls colleges for athletes that won’t be going pro in their sports, but still want to do something athletic in their careers. A group of 20 travel to North Carolina for a mini-camp. This is basically like the NFL, only with tools instead of tackling dummies. ESPN chose to forgo music here, allowing the natural sounds of work to permeate the piece. That was interesting in that it drew more attention to the athletes.

Another feature saw Brad Keselowski describe his 2013 season, in his own words. The highlights and/or lowlights of the year were displayed in montage-form. The overall tone was positive, despite the issues that Keselowski has had this year. The piece was good in that it played to Keselowski’s strengths. Keselowski likes to talk and speak his mind. ESPN just let him do it to it here. That’s perfectly fine. What ended up getting cut, though, that might have been just as cool or better?

During the race, ESPN was using some really close camera shots. Now, traditionally, I don’t gripe about that quite as much as John Daly has in the past, but it got ridiculous pretty fast. By that, I mean the first lap. Clint Bowyer spun out and all of a sudden, we got right in Bowyer’s grille. Too close. Can’t put anything in reference when you’re that close.

In and around the restarts, there was plenty of action for position on the track and ESPN did a decent job in covering that action. When you got away from the restarts and the field spread out a little, ESPN would dive back into their stories for the day. I’m surprised that Dillon didn’t get more coverage than he did. Jimmie Johnson going out with a blown engine took one major story away from ESPN.

I liked the fact that when one of Bobby Labonte’s crewmembers got hit on pit road during a stop, ESPN didn’t just accept that they didn’t catch it and move on. They showed the footage from JTG-Daugherty’s own pit camera (on the big screen in their pit box) of the collision between Tyler Mitchell and Jeff Burton’s left front corner. That’s a good move and I hope that they employ it in the future if their own cameras don’t catch it. It would have helped quite a bit a while back at Martinsville.

Post-race coverage was actually quite decent. ESPN provided viewers with eight post-race interviews, plus an interview with the winning car owner (Roger Penske). There was also an update about the then-potential move for Mark Martin to take over the No. 14, which was just a rumor at that time. Not half bad. Honestly, I was surprised that the race ended before the timeslot ended with nine cautions.

That’s all for this week’s critique. The upcoming week is very busy for race fans with all three of NASCAR’s main series in action at Bristol Motor Speedway. In addition, the annual UNOH Perfect Storm 150 for Modifieds will precede the truck race on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Formula One and the IZOD IndyCar Series return from their three week breaks.

Tuesday, August 20
Time Telecast Network
12:00pm-12:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, August 21
Time Telecast Network
10:00am-11:00am Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
12:00pm-1:30pm Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
1:30-2:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
4:30-6:00pm Camping World Truck Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2
6:00-7:30pm Whelen Modifieds UNOH Perfect Storm 150 FOX Sports 2
7:30-8:00pm NCWTS Setup FOX Sports 1
8:00-10:30pm Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 FOX Sports 1

Thursday, August 22
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-1:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
4:30pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Friday, August 23
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
8:00-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
9:00am-12:00pm Nationwide Series Practice FOX Sports 1
12:00-2:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
2:30-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
3:30-5:00pm Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
5:30-7:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying ESPN 2
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
7:30-9:30pm Nationwide Series Food City 250 ESPN
11:00pm-1:00am ARCA Racing Series Allen Crowe 100 NBC Sports Network*

Saturday, August 24
Time Telecast Network
12:00pm-1:00pm NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
12:30-2:00pm Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium Qualifying NBC Sports Network
6:00-7:00pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco FOX Sports 1
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ABC
7:30-11:00pm Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race ABC@
9:00-10:00pm Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network*/

Sunday, August 25
Time Telecast Network
7:30am-8:00am F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium NBC Sports Network
10:00-10:30am F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
1:00pm-2:00pm K&N Pro Series Pork Be Inspired 150 FOX Sports 1*/
3:00-5:00pm Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Kansas FOX Sports 2*/
4:00-7:00pm Izod IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma NBC Sports Network

Monday, August 26
Time Telecast Network
4:30pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1 *- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage

@- Note that Saturday night’s Cup race will be on ABC. Since we’re in the middle of the NFL Preseason, those games can affect where you can see the Irwin Tools Night Race on television. To this degree, ESPN put out a nice press release to notify viewers on where you can see the race. I’ll list the affected markets and plans below:

The Buffalo, NY (WKBW) and Charlotte, NC markets (WSOC) will both be airing the Buffalo-Washington preseason game, which starts at 4:30pm. They currently plan to join either NASCAR Countdown or the race itself in progress once the game ends. My expectation is that both markets will not get any pre-race coverage. The Rochester, NY (WHAM) market is also airing the game. However, they plan to air NASCAR Countdown on their 13.2 subchannel, which serves as the market’s CW affiliate.

Phoenix’s ABC affiliate (KNXV, ABC 15) will be airing the Arizona-San Diego preseason game. As a result, all Bristol coverage on Saturday will air on a combination of ESPN and their 15.2 subchannel, which is normally an affiliate of the Live Well Network.

In Columbus, OH, ABC affiliate, WSYX, is airing Cleveland-Indianapolis, which starts at 7pm. Both NASCAR Countdown and the race will air on WWHO, Columbus’ CW affiliate.

Dayton, OH’s ABC affiliate, WKEF (ABC 22) will be airing Cincinnati-Dallas, which starts at 8pm. As a result, NASCAR Countdown and the race will air on a combination of ESPN and a digital subchannel of WKEF. That is, if they have a subchannel. It appears to have been dark since last year.

In Nashville, TN, ABC affiliate WKRN is airing Tennessee-Atlanta starting at 8pm. As a result, NASCAR Countdown and the race will be aired solely on ESPN.

In Philadelphia, PA, ABC affiliate WPVI will be airing Philadelphia-Jacksonville starting at 8pm. NASCAR Countdown and the race will air on a combination of ESPN and 6.2, normally an affiliate of the Live Well Network.

In St. Joseph, MO, ABC affiliate KQTV is airing Chiefs-Steelers starting at 7:30pm. As a result, NASCAR Countdown and the race will air solely on ESPN.

Finally, KRGV, which is the ABC affiliate for the Brownsville/Harlingen/McAllen/Weslaco, TX market, is also airing Cincinnati-Dallas. Viewers in that market can watch the race on either ESPN, or Channel 5.3, which is normally the region’s MeTV affiliate. This is a little different from the press release. Also note that it will jump to a show entitled “Svengoolie” after the race, so post-race coverage may be cut off.

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. This week’s Critic’s Annex will cover the ARCA Racing Series Primera Plastics 200 from Berlin Raceway.

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 Sports 1 and 2

Note: If you’d like to contact the NBC Sports Network about their coverage of Formula One and/or the Izod IndyCar Series, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. The contact page on their website legitimately cannot be found. Hopefully, they get that fixed right and proper soon.

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

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

08/20/2013 11:36 AM

It looks like Fox Sports 1 is going to mirror ESPN as far as Nascar is concerned. Already they have removed all Nascar programs except Race Day(cut to 1 hr) and Race Hub, which they are moving all over the time table to make room for other sports. And already I am sick and tired of the TV Commentators saying how great Fox Sports 1 is.

Old Fan Bill
08/20/2013 01:40 PM

The coverage of the Truck race wasn’t to bad except for MW running his mouth the whole time. Rick and Phil do a good job in the booth,but they need to get rid of MW.

I guess E.Sadler meant it when he told R.Smith that he would not win the NW Championship. By the way, did Piquet hit everybody in the race but the pace car?

08/20/2013 02:31 PM

I love a road course race, but ESPN was just lost Saturday. Marty Reid has no clue what driver is in which car. He calls out the car number, then we wait while he looks up the name of the driver. And I really like Ricky Craven, but he sounded lost much of the time too.

08/20/2013 02:49 PM

SPEED is still alive in Canada. While there is still the garbage like Pimp My Ride, Unique Whips, and some of the other crap that FOX brought in in an effort to kill SPEED (what was wrong with My Classic Car and Gearz?), they are replaying the races already run this year. Race Hub, while reduced to 30-minutes, is still on at 6:00 P.M. here, and is replayed at 11:00, then again multiple times between 6:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. the next morning. If I miss it the night before, I can watch it during breakfast! Also being shown are repeats of “The 10”. They are advertising Truck practice, qualifying and the Truck race for tomorrow (Wednesday), as well as the Whelan modified race between truck qualifying and the truck race. The initial showing of Race Hub moves to 4:00 for tomorrow only, with the repeats later as I listed above. For the rest of the week, and into next week, the NASCAR broadcasts are the same as they were before. As far as the compressed Race Hub goes, there is a noticeable difference in the show. It feels like they are trying to compress as much into the 30-minutes as they can. So far though, it still looks like the Race Hub of before, only shorter.