The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Chase Hype Equals Terrible TV by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday September 10, 2013

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Couch Potato Tuesday: Chase Hype Equals Terrible TV

Phil Allaway · Tuesday September 10, 2013

 

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are our objective. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were in action at Richmond International Raceway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series made their second trip to Iowa Speedway. Personally, Richmond is one of my least favorite Cup races to watch each year because of the Chase focus. What happened Saturday night should be more than enough fuel for NASCAR to kill the Chase.

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On Sunday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Iowa Speedway for their second visit of the year. The race was relatively calm until the end, but not half bad.

For the Setup, Danielle Trotta was back on pit road to host the show like normal, which I believe lends some credence that the production from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park might not have been a 100% FOX Sports 1 production. Naturally, the show began with a look back at the Canadian shenanigans, in montage form. We saw the wreck, the confrontations, the slap across the face, and some interviews. What stood out to me here was footage of an interview done off-air with Mike Skeen. I wish that had made the telecast from Ontario. Unfortunately, FOX Sports 1 needed to leave quickly that day, so we never got to see it.

The primary feature of the Setup saw cameras follow Miguel Paludo to the FOE Diabetes Research Center. We got a tour of the facilities and how the FOE (which serves as the funding organization for the center) is thrilled to be able to help. What probably should have been mentioned for disclosure purposes in the piece is that the FOE (Fraternal Order of Eagles) is a longtime sponsor of Turner Scott Motorsports, dating back to the Braun Racing days.

I’m not in the least bit surprised that Paludo would be supportive of causes designed to help treat and research diabetes. After all, Paludo himself is diabetic, as is his son, Oliver. While Paludo doesn’t promote that fact as much as, say, Charlie Kimball, it is still a big part of his life.

During these standalone weekends for the Camping World Truck Series, there is a noticeable difference in production values as compared to races where the series is supporting Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or the IZOD IndyCar Series. Corners sometimes get cut. Some instances don’t get replayed at all, like Paludo’s near wreck on Lap 195. There is no side-by-side stuff. We haven’t seen any of that since Bristol. Maybe it’ll return at Chicagoland. Stuff gets missed.

I would have also liked FOX Sports 1 to put the tire that came off of Brendan Gaughan’s No. 62 on camera in order to see what caused the failure. I know that it might not have been very easy to decipher since Gaughan blew the tire completely out sliding to a stop in his pit stall, but I believe that it would have been worth it just to help out the viewers. The stringy-ness of the tire after it failed was a little unnerving to me. Yes, the tire had been quite worn, but worn tires don’t necessarily fail in that fashion. I’m fairly confident that this was some type of separation.

Also, the fact that the small pile of rubber strings on the backstretch drew a caution after sitting there for 20 laps was a point of contention. When I watched the race live, I was confident that NASCAR would throw the yellow for it. When they didn’t throw it immediately, I knew they were going to wait until after Ross Chastain and the rest of the leaders made their stops. The goal was not to screw anyone over. Sure enough, it came during a commercial after everyone had made their stops. The booth announced that it was debris on the backstretch and showed crews picking up the coil of rubber. Chastain wasn’t all that pleased about what happened and took to Twitter to rant about it.

Post-race coverage was actually pretty substantial. FOX Sports 1 provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before leaving the air.

Overall, coverage for the Camping World Truck Series has slipped in quality since the changeover from SPEED to FOX Sports 1. The polish just isn’t there, even with most of the same people in the same places. That’s what happens when you go from being (possibly) the marquee series exclusive to the network to a few rungs down the ladder. There are still some good things on the telecast. There are good explanations of what happens on track. People weren’t left in the dark when Ryan Blaney was sent back to eighth for “failing to maintain a cautious pace.” We got a perfectly decent explanation, complete with replays. There’s definitely some goodness here, but I feel that it’s been lost in the shuffle.

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Friday night, the Nationwide Series returned to action at Richmond International Raceway. While there was no Chase in play, points were still paramount.

NASCAR Countdown was focused quite a bit on the championship battle, and the battle for the race win. ESPN’s analysts seem to be convinced that Kyle Busch is invincible. He’s a threat to win whenever he shows up. Granted, he doesn’t sulk as much as he once did when he doesn’t win, but I have to say that the Kyle Busch love is a little annoying.

There was a real nice feature on Countdown based around Kyle Larson and his desire to race that was instilled early on in his childhood by his parents. We see clips of Larson identifying star sprint car racers in what appeared to be the mid-1990’s (for instance, Larson’s mom asks him to say “Jac Haudenschild,” a name that has to be tricky for the garden variety four-year old to pronounce). That family influence has definitely played a role in his love of sprint car racing. That sprint car racing got him recognized by everyone that matters in racing and put him where he is now.

The primary gripe I had with ESPN’s telecast was when they cut to a commercial break at Lap 172 when the yellow came out for an incident involving Jamie Dick and Jeff Green. The yellow flew before the commercial and Marty Reid acknowledged it. Yet, ESPN failed to stop themselves from going to break. Yes, this break was approximately 90 seconds instead of 150, but they never should have gone to commercial in the first place. To think that just last time out in Atlanta, they were able to stop themselves from this fate, but not here. C’mon dudes. You’re better than that. Also of note, the local vs. national commercial argument holds no water here since the break should have never happened to begin with.

Post-race coverage was about average. ESPN provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before leaving the air to get to SportsCenter.

Overall, ESPN’s Friday effort was okay. Other than the commercial issue that I described in detail above, there was nothing else that really stood out, positive or negative. Having Marty Reid call the Nationwide races while Allen Bestwick focuses on Sprint Cup gives the telecast a different feel. It’s not necessarily a better or worse feel, just a different one. I will say that Reid seems to work better with just Ricky Craven than with Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett.


Ya’ll tuned into ESPN to watch Chase Bubble Coverage, right? No? Oh. Guess they didn’t get the memo.

Federated Auto Parts 400

Finally, we come to the last “Race to the Chase.” The points were all important. Ok, let’s not mince words here. I don’t like writing this. Having the Chase has artificially upped the importance of Richmond. Prior to the Chase’s creation, it was a pretty good race, but it kind of existed in and of itself. It was just as important as any other race around it. Now, it’s gigunta. It doesn’t translate to attendance, since there were plenty of empty seats Saturday night, even with $100+ tickets going for $40 online (Note: This is what my friend Brien told me. He was at the race, and did just that to get his ticket). Regardless, we need to look to how ESPN handled the final race before the Chase.

Naturally, the Chase conquered all in pre-race coverage. Not even those already locked in on points were given much coverage. Instead, it was all about drivers trying to get into one of the remaining open spots. The drivers interviewed were in and around the cutoff, or trying for the Wild Card. Heck, the simple notion of who was going to win Saturday night’s race was barely referenced at all, other than when the Quicken Loans ESPN Pit Studio analysts made their picks, which Nicole Briscoe accurately predicted would fail to actually pick the winner.

Once we got into the race, the Chase bubble was essentially all that mattered. The vast majority of the coverage went to a group of six drivers, regardless of where they were in the order. Those drivers were Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. If you weren’t in that group of six, you best be leading the race, or you might as well be a ghost.

Also on that note, if you were in that aforementioned group, you got great coverage. If anything of note happened to you on-track, it was reported.

That sentiment even included the point leader entering Saturday night, Jimmie Johnson. This is probably the only scenario where the points leader could go behind the wall due to alternator issues, and ESPN fails to reference it until after the fact. Normally, they would freak out. Not on this evening. Just plain deplorable. Of course, having said that, I don’t think Jimmie Johnson has ever had as bad a night as Saturday night the whole time he’s been full-time in Sprint Cup. And that includes races like Texas in November 2009, when he got wrecked a couple of laps into the race.

I found Dale Jarrett’s reference about Phoenix Racing and James Finch quite interesting. Yes, it was literally the only time that the No. 51 and Ryan Truex were mentioned all night, but it was supposed to be James Finch’s final race as owner of Phoenix Racing. That is, if he bothered to show up. Jarrett apparently went to the team’s garage (or transporter) to talk to Finch and congratulate him on his retirement. Once there, Jarrett learned that Finch wasn’t even there and apparently hadn’t been all weekend. Gee, that’s a swell way to bid farewell to your 18 employees by no-showing.

Since ESPN needed to properly setup the Chase, post-race coverage was very substantial (actually to the point of ticking off my local ABC affiliate since they delayed the news by 25 minutes). There were 14 driver interviews, and multiple checks of the points (too many, honestly).

In addition, there was the definite in-car camera views from Clint Bowyer’s car of the intentional spin that got him docked 50 points and teammate Martin Truex, Jr. booted clean out of the Chase. Jamie Little didn’t beat around the bush here. She outright asked him if he spun out intentionally. Bowyer then proceeded to lie right to her face. Classy, Clint. Technically ESPN’s a lame duck since they’re out of the NASCAR at the end of 2014. However, they covered this situation with the proper professionalism that it deserved. The tough questions needed to be asked here, and stands needed to be taken. That was done. I’m happy to see it, although I’d prefer that these events never happen.

Andy Petree did take a strong stand against NASCAR’s ruling that Carl Edwards’ final restart was clean, and I tend to agree with him. The rule says that the leader (in this case, Paul Menard) has to get to the line first. Everything after that is fair game. NASCAR’s reasoning apparently was that since Menard got going, then bumped Edwards, the restart was ok. I don’t know about that. Since that got overshadowed by Ty Norris pulling a Flavio Briatore, I don’t think anything’s going to get changed there.

I have all the respect in the world for Menard, but I’m confident that he wasn’t winning Saturday night under any circumstances on two tires. He probably would have finished where he did (fifth) even if Edwards restarted legally. I still would have wanted to hear his take on the issue since it obviously affected him and the race. However, the race itself was not ESPN’s focus on this night.

Let’s just be honest here. The constant points updates really took away from the whole of the race. I’d argue that it probably would’ve been a whole lot better live without the point updates than it was on ESPN. For what it’s worth, my friend thought it was boring. There was some decent racing out there, and ESPN didn’t really show a lot of it. If it was for the lead, or involved one of the aforementioned six drivers listed above, then it got covered. Otherwise, nope. This is why the Federated Auto Parts 400 is my least favorite race of the year to watch.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, all three of NASCAR’s National Series are in action at Chicagoland Speedway for week No. 1 of the dreaded Chase. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, September 10
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
4:30pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, September 11
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
4:30pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Thursday, September 12
Time Telecast Network
3:30am-4:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
12:00pm-2:30pm NASCAR Now at Chase Media Day ESPNEWS
4:30-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
7:00-8:00pm NASCAR Now Chase Preview ESPN 2

Friday, September 13
Time Telecast Network
10:00am-11:30am Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
12:00pm-1:00pm Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
1:00-2:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
2:30-4:00pm Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
4:00-5:00pm Camping World Truck Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
5:00-6:30pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying ESPN 2
6:30-8:00pm Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2
8:00-8:30pm NCWTS Setup FOX Sports 1
8:30-11:00pm Camping World Truck Series EnjoyIllinois.com 225 FOX Sports 1

Saturday, September 14
Time Telecast Network
11:00am-12:00pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 FOX Sports 2
12:00-1:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2
2:00-3:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2
3:30-6:30pm Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 ESPN 2

Sunday, September 15
Time Telecast Network
9:00am-11:00am NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco FOX Sports 1
1:00pm-2:00pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
2:00-5:30pm Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 ESPN
4:00-6:00pm Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca FOX Sports 1
11:30pm-12:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2

Note that there is no scheduled NASCAR Countdown prior to Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. A three hour slot for college football, plus a “College Football Scoreboard” show immediately precedes the game. As we all know by now, that game will be closer to 3.5 hours than just three hours. Perhaps this is for the best. Regardless, it still bites. I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.

For the Critic’s Annex this week, I will be looking at FOX Sports 2’s telecast of the ARCA Racing Series’ Prairie Meadows 150 from Iowa Speedway. Next week, we’ll be taking a break from race telecast critiques in the Annex to look at the new show on Velocity, Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans.

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
ESPN

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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jerseygirl
09/10/2013 10:54 AM
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You are right about the chase stuff making for bad tv. One of the reasons I don’t like the chase is because it has sucked all the fun out of individual races. I used to go or watch just for the pleasure of enjoying the track and the race, now it’s a constant being beaten over the head about points.

It’s time for Brainless Big Idea to go away. This gimmick no longer works – as evidenced by the amount of gaming the system that the 48 team has used to years and now MWR raised (or perhaps lowered the bar) even more with making the cheating a team event.

My guy isn’t in the chase. I’ll be skipping the next 10 races. The weather is nice this time of year – better things to do than be bored for the next 10 wks.

grumpiestoldman
09/10/2013 11:53 AM
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I just wish Marty Reid would learn who is which car so he wouldn’t have to call out just the car number every time, then he pauses as he looks up the name of the driver. It’s always, “the 54 car of…..Kyle Busch” or whatever car.
And I do believe that teams can pull over for each other, like Kahne did for Gordon. But the incessant drum beat for the points race was queasifying.

Ken
09/10/2013 12:18 PM
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Did anyone else notice Rusty’s big gaff on Saturday night? “Roger Keselowski should be OK tonight! RCR builds good cars!” Roger Keselowski? He must be Brad’s look-alike cousin. And when did RCR hire him? Was Jeff Burton released early?

kb
09/10/2013 01:28 PM
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I am old school, and this Chase nonsense every year puts knots in my stomach and not in a good way. I couldn’t wouldn’t even watch Richmond because of it. I loath to watch the next ten races. The Chase is the biggest nail in the coffin of Nascar. Brian France thinks this gimmicky nonsense thrills fans, it doesn’t it makes them mad. What happened Saturday night was a bigger more overt showing as business as usual so their drivers can get into The Chase. The Chase has economic impacts for teams, if RingDing Donuts during the last 10 races isn’t seen or heard on TV because your car just missed The Chase, you will not have RingDing Donuts as your sponsor next year. Oh we could go on…