The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: ESPN Decent Work Sunday, FS1 Screws Up by Phil Allaway -- Monday September 2, 2013

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Couch Potato Tuesday: ESPN Decent Work Sunday, FS1 Screws Up

Phil Allaway · Monday September 2, 2013


Hello, race fans. Welcome back to another edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. This weekend was quite the doozy. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were both in action at Atlanta Motor Speedway for their one visit. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series made their first-ever visit to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly Mosport) in Bowmanville, Ontario.

Chevrolet Silverado 250

On Sunday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series held their very first race outside of the United States at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. How did FOX Sports 1 do in their first-ever road course telecast for the series?

There wasn’t all that much on the Setup as far as features went. Max Papis (pre-face slap) took viewers for a tour of the 2.459 mile circuit in a Chevrolet Corvette emblazoned with Sport Clips logos. Since there was absolutely no coverage from Bowmanville except for the race, I think that this was necessary. As much as I don’t like to admit it, there might not be as much crossover between fans of different types of racing as I think there is. So, a fair number of the fans watching Sunday’s race from the United States might not be all that familiar with the circuit.

During the race itself, I was missing a lot of stuff. Races for position, incidents, everything. Of all the spins we had Sunday, I think maybe three or four even got replays at all. I’m not even talking about the side-by-side replays that we’ve become accustomed to, but anything at all. Seems like FOX Sports 1 really skimped on their production crew for this week. Honestly, it made me think that FOX Sports didn’t use their own production team, but a Canadian crew. Problem is, this race would have aired on SPEED in Canada (it still exists there), so that explanation is out. In addition, the production crew didn’t seem to be the best at planning their commercials to be as inextrusive as possible. We missed a number of cautions coming out and the final stops for a number of the top finishers due to breaks.
Post-race coverage was pretty poor.

Now I know that due to contracts, FOX Sports 1 had to take their commercial break after the checkers. However, we missed so much during that break. Couldn’t they have cut out of the break to show us all the shenanigans that were going on? We did get three post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before they left the air to get to other programming. We did get to see the slap live because it was literally right after Papis finished up his interview with Hermie Sadler. Rick Allen seemed to find the slap troubling. I ended up seeing footage on SportsCenter that was new to me hours after the race. SportsCenter almost never shows highlights of the Camping World Truck Series, so that should tell you something.

Even though Sunday’s race was very exciting and I love the idea of trucks on road courses, FOX Sports 1’s telecast really hurt the race as a whole. I don’t like missing things in race telecasts, and we missed way too much on Sunday. I’m sorry. You screwed yourself, FOX Sports 1.

ESPN aimed its cameras on the Sprint and NNS cars at Atlanta. Did they keep the action in focus?

Great Clips/Grit Chips 300

On Saturday night, the Nationwide Series returned to Atlanta for 300 miles of racing. Once again, Cup drivers dominated the race.

The start of NASCAR Countdown was delayed by 12 minutes, not because of a game running long, but because of ESPN desiring to give more time to College Football Scoreboard. The country was under a split schedule, where some markets got Syracuse-Penn State in the 3:30pm slot on ESPN 2, while others got Mississippi State-Oklahoma State. One of those games ran a little long, hence delaying the scoreboard show. However, unlike the games that preceded it, and the programming afterwards, College Football Scoreboard is a studio show. A highlight show. As far as I’m concerned, it should never take precedence over NASCAR Countdown.

With only 18 minutes (including commercials) to work with, there was only so much that ESPN could do. Here, they did two things. One was to give viewers a good number of pre-race interviews (five). The other portion of the show was dedicated to discussing the announcement of Kyle Larson as the new driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya. For the amount of time that they had, I thought that ESPN did a good job making up for their own network shafting them.

During the race, there wasn’t all that much action for position. First Kyle Busch, then Kevin Harvick, ran away from the field and hid. ESPN had a couple of stories that they were ready to talk about. One was Larson’s move up to Cup. This was discussed at one point not too long before the halfway point.

Another story was the tire issue that Joey Logano had that put him in the wall on Lap 84. I think that ESPN played up the pitting out of sequence a lot more than it needed to be. Compared to what happened on Sunday night, this was nothing. Logano pitted almost immediately after smacking the barrier, then everyone else stopped about eight laps later. Logano hit the wall in an almost flush manner, minimizing the damage on his Discount Tire Ford.

I will state that ESPN did a good job to get viewers a look at the tire that Logano blew shortly after the aforementioned round of green flag stops. That tire is a curious case. They never did state exactly what caused the failure. Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett thought that it was some type of “ply separation” since there didn’t seem to be any evidence of a cut.

Since the race ended relatively quickly Saturday night, there was a good amount of time available for post-race coverage. Unfortunately, ESPN did not take advantage of all the available time. In the time they did use, there were eight post-race interviews, plus a check of the point standings. Only the top-10 finishers were shown in a graphic outside of the scroll, while the rest were confined to the scroll. There was also some post-race analysis from the broadcast booth before ESPN left to get to “College Football Final,” yet another college football highlights show, with 15 minutes left in their timeslot.

Ok, I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t give a hoot about college football, or really, football in general. We’re talking about a sport where injuries just play way too much of a role for me to get into it. However, football highlight shows should never cut into live broadcasts of other sports. I can begrudgingly understand that the dudes that create the schedule slots for college football games have no clue how long the games last, which results in times where the game has a full period left when it should be over. I’m sure that’s going to happen at some point this fall. I just don’t know when.

However, studio shows are not live sporting events. They should not take any precedence over a live sporting event, or even pre-race coverage.

AdvoCare 500

On Sunday night, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Atlanta Motor Speedway for 500 miles of action. ESPN provided live, prime-time coverage.

Due to potential bad weather encroaching on the end of the race, NASCAR decided to move up the start of the race by about 15 minutes. Because of that move, ESPN made the decision to move up the start of NASCAR Countdown by five minutes to 6:55pm EDT. This move was made with only a few minutes of notice.

With a shortened amount of pre-race coverage, NASCAR Countdown ended up being very much Quicken Loans ESPN Pit Studio-center. There was quite a bit of discussion about the upcoming Chase and how Atlanta would play a big role as to who would get in (ultimately, that was true). In a taped piece, Petree talked about the new dual zone tires that debuted in the Sprint Cup Series Sunday night. Petree showed that most of the tire was in one zone, while the inside shoulder was in another. This was a little different from what I had been led to believe. I thought Petree’s explanation was pretty good, but that it left one thing out. Yes, the dual zone design is based off of passenger tire technology. However, passenger tires like the one Petree used in his description usually have three zones instead of two.

During the race itself, there was a fair amount of tire discussion during the race. However, the tires held up perfectly during the race. Joey Logano was forced off-sequence because his rear tire changer screwed up and left a couple of lug nuts loose, and Matt Kenseth misdiagnosed a tire issue. Those were the only times in which someone pitted for what they thought were tire issues. I think that we’ll see a lot more of these dual zone tires used in Sprint Cup, maybe as early as Chicagoland.

Sunday’s race also saw an increased focus on the upcoming Chase, more than what we saw in Bristol. However, it didn’t necessarily manifest itself in near constant point updates like we’re likely to see next weekend in Richmond.

I thought that ESPN showed a decent amount of racing for position around the cautions. However, at times, they tended to focus on individual cars during the long green flag runs.

I did note two individual things that I liked. ESPN was about to go to a commercial when Clint Bowyer’s engine decided to go up in smoke. They were already playing the music that was going to send them off to commercial when Andy Petree noticed smoke coming from Bowyer’s Camry. This apparently convinced the production staff to hold off on the commercial. Sure enough, Bowyer’s engine let out it’s magic smoke and coated the track with liquid once again. It bites for Clint Bowyer, who later said on live television that he was going to go have a beer, but good for us. We didn’t have to be left in the dark.

Later in the race during one of the long green flag runs, ESPN decided to do updates on the drivers currently on the lead lap (at that time, there were 17 of them). During this fallback, there were a couple of battles for position between cars on the lead lap and ESPN took breaks from their fallback in order to cover them. I thought this was a great idea. Perhaps they should do it a little more often.

Finally, I must note that I had some audio issues that cropped up in the last 35 laps of the race. The audio would cut out for a few seconds, then return like nothing happened. This occurred multiple times late in the race, during post-race coverage, and during SportsCenter after the race.

With ESPN pretty close to the end of their timeslot on Sunday night, there wasn’t all that much post-race coverage. ESPN provided viewers with only three post-race interviews and a check of the points before leaving for the 11:30pm edition of SportsCenter.

Overall, I found the Cup telecast to be the most enjoyable (read: least objectionable) broadcast of the weekend. There was a much wider scope of coverage Sunday night as compared to either the Nationwide or Truck races, plus they actually made a point to try to show us as many people as they could. While the Truck race probably had the best racing, the broadcast was just a mess because of the substandard production values. Maybe they couldn’t get all their equipment up to Canada.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the “Race to the Chase” comes to a head at Richmond International Raceway. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will be there. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series will make their second visit of the year to Iowa Speedway. Finally, we have Formula One at Monza in Italy and Grand-Am at Laguna Seca.

Tuesday, September 3
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
4:30pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, September 4
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
2:30pm-3:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

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

Friday, September 6
Time Telecast Network
8:00am-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Italy Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
9:00-11:30am Nationwide Series Practice FOX Sports 1
12:00pm-2:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 ESPN 2
2:00-2:30pm NASCAR Now No. 1 ESPN 2
2:30-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour ESPN 2
3:30-4:00pm NASCAR Now No. 2 ESPN 2
4:00-5:00pm Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN 2
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR Now No. 3 ESPN 2
5:30-7:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying ESPN 2
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
7:30-10:00pm Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250 ESPN

Saturday, September 7
Time Telecast Network
8:00am-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Italy Qualifying NBC Sports Network
12:00pm-2:30pm Camping World Truck Series Practice FOX Sports 2
4:30-6:30pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco FOX Sports 1
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ABC
7:30-11:00pm Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 ABC
9:00-11:00pm ARCA Racing Series Prairie Meadows 150 FOX Sports 2

Sunday, September 8
Time Telecast Network
7:30am-8:00am F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Italy NBC Sports Network
10:00-10:30am F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
10:00am-12:30pm Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Laguna Seca$
11:30am-12:30pm K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Toyota FOX Sports 1*/
12:30-1:30pm Camping World Truck Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1*
1:30-2:00pm NCWTS Setup FOX Sports 1
2:00-4:30pm Camping World Truck Series Fan Appreciation 200 presented by New Holland FOX Sports 1
3:30-5:00pm Pirelli World Challenge: Sonoma NBC Sports Network*
5:00-8:00pm Rolex Sports Car Series Continental Tire Sports Car Festival FOX Sports 1*

*- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
$- Available via password-protected streaming. Check with your programming and/or internet service provider for availability.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover Sunday’s wreckfest in Baltimore. Never seen a street racing weekend that had as many incidents as Baltimore.

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

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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


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09/03/2013 12:22 AM

I’m worried about FS1’s Trucks coverage. Last week they didn’t break from commercial to show the final restart at Bristol—this week they’re in commercial during all the postrace chaos and don’t cover it adequately. They seem overly eager to get to all their other shiny new shows even when the Trucks have put on nothing but great races since Speed switched to FS1.

More generally, I feel like the networks are trying to fit the races into smaller timeslots. The Cup race had the start moved up by 15 minutes, it had 9 cautions (about the norm for Atlanta these days) and it still finished over 15 minutes outside its time slot.

09/03/2013 12:42 PM

FoxSports1 is just another Stick and ball channel like ESPN. Nascar is not on their radar it seems. Race Hub is knocked back to 1/2 hr. and Victory Lane is completely gone.I did send a very polite email to FS1 inquiring about Victory Lane and I got the canned reply, thanking me for my interest and too many emails for them to reply, etc. etc. I think Nascar has really screwed the fans real good this time by extending FS1 contract. No weekly TV content sucks. Many fans don’t have the internet to keep up with the news.

09/03/2013 01:30 PM

NASCAR is going to get short shrift from all the networks – FS1, even though they have the NASCAR contract for Cup and trucks, wants to up the level of attention paid to other sports.

I watched the end of the truck race and part of the Nationwide race on ESPN (mainly because the weather here was so miserable that going outside wasn’t an option). As usual, there were too many Cup drivers in this race, which is the main reason I no longer bother much with the series. I did watch the Atl Cup race and it was fairly good. I also use twitter & raceview to keep up with what I want to know since most of the time TV doesn’t provide the info.

I’m sure that we’ll be beaten over the head with points as they run all night at Richmond.

09/04/2013 09:41 PM

I’ve noticed a couple of times watching race shows on FS1 that they will go back to the show in the middle of the comml break. Oops, seconds later they’re back at commls. I saw Danielle Trotta talking to Larry Mac, but it was a conversation they were having during the comml break. The other time it was during Race Day. I can’t remember who was talking to who, but obviously they too were talking during the break. Very amateurish, imo.

I agree with Sue. FS1 is emulating BSPN with their version of Sportscenter running for hours. I guess no more reruns of the races. :( We’re doomed race fans.

09/04/2013 10:17 PM

I’be been telling all of you that FOX sucked for 4 years. They have lowered the bar BUT people like Phil just keep drinking the kool aid. Idiots.

09/05/2013 07:33 AM

but i did turn on fs1 and saw the mad max face slap!

09/06/2013 10:59 AM

I think its time for Nascar fans to accept the fact that College Football, even scoreboard shows, draw more eyeballs than a NW race.

Football is one of ESPN’s bread and butter sports, so it will come first every time. Get used to it. Its only going to get worse once games start going over their time slot.

Not sure why everyone is so upset about missing prerace shows anyway. Their usually garbage anyway. And not having Kenny Wallace tell us what we should like is not necessarily a bad thing.