The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Waltrip Shafts Trotta by Phil Allaway -- Tuesday September 17, 2013

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Couch Potato Tuesday: Waltrip Shafts Trotta

Phil Allaway · Tuesday September 17, 2013


Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are the primary objective. This week, we have three race telecasts from Chicagoland Speedway. Also, a quick warning. There will be rehashing of the Richmond stupidity. All three telecasts touched on it.

All three series showed up at Chicagoland. Was Kyle Busch’s almost-sweep highlighted appropriately on the broadcasts? 225

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Chicagoland Speedway for their fifth visit. It was a pretty interesting race.

The Setup started off with an update on the Friday ruling that put Jeff Gordon in the Chase. We’re talking a basic explanation here, complete with footage from the Brian France-Mike Helton press conference. Gordon’s press conference footage was also played, as were interviews with Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr.

Then, Danielle Trotta put Michael Waltrip on the spot for a reaction to Friday’s announcement. Waltrip gave a one-sentence response and didn’t explain why, effectively sidestepping the question. Instead, he used the time to explain his race team’s actions at Richmond on live television. This is even though Waltrip technically already explained his actions via press release last week. He stands by what they did, even though it was callous. He hoped that “clarity” came out of the mandatory meeting on Saturday. I suppose it did, but it’s still a little too early to tell.

That wasn’t supposed to be a place for Waltrip to spout his piece about the collusion. He made it about himself. That was Trotta asking Waltrip, as a Sprint Cup car owner, his honest opinion about the changes. I’d argue that as disgraced as Waltrip is right now (or should be), he’s still someone who has his foot in the garage as an owner. Also, he works for them. In retrospect, they probably should have found someone else to talk about the issue. However, if they did, it would have been the elephant in the room for the whole telecast.

I can definitely understand why some fans were none too pleased about Waltrip being able to stay in the broadcast booth with no punishment after the stupidity. However, Waltrip didn’t help his case with anybody. He essentially said, “We’d do it again.” He didn’t realize the bad PR he was going to get and wishes that it could do away, but he’s fine with what he did.

I’d argue that the primary reason that Waltrip wasn’t suspended from his current role at FOX Sports 1 is the fact that this didn’t occur in the Camping World Truck Series. Had it occurred there, he likely wouldn’t have been allowed on the broadcast. I will say outright that Waltrip did make himself look bad on-air. I wouldn’t have had a problem if FOX Sports decided to park Waltrip for a little while and replace him with someone like Todd Bodine for a couple of races.

The primary feature of the Setup was a sit-down interview that Kaitlyn Vincie (normally a correspondent on NASCAR RaceHub) conducted recently with German Quiroga. Here, Quiroga talked about growing up in Mexico, how he got into racing, and what he thinks about representing Mexico in the Camping World Truck Series, amongst other topics. Essentially, this was a nice introduction to Quiroga for viewers. I liked the piece, but I feel that SPEED/FOX Sports 1 should have done it earlier in the season. We’re almost seven months in now.

During the race, there was a lot of excellent racing throughout the field. FOX Sports 1 did a good job in bringing some of it to us, but there were a number of stories that weren’t really covered well.

If you wanted to see Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch duking it out, with a little Ryan Blaney mixed in as well, you definitely got that. If you wanted to see something beyond about sixth, good luck. Honestly, I wanted to know how the heck John Wes Townley got himself up to sixth (best finish of the season for the Chicken Man). However he did it, he did it very well and very quietly. I’m sure other fans wanted to know how other drivers were doing as well.

I also felt left in the dark in regards to a couple of incidents. Justin Jennings dropped out of the race with 50 laps completed after hitting the wall. Judging by the time when it occurred, it was possible that Jennings got in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s fluids and smacked the SAFER Barrier. Based on the telecast, I don’t know where he hit the wall, or why. All I can tell you is that he did. No replays at all. Just a quick look at Jennings’ flat-sided No. 63 Chevrolet after the fact.

Thanks to MRN Radio’s Twitter feed, I now know that Jennings smacked the wall exiting Turn 4 after getting in the fluid. However, FOX Sports 1 did a shoddy job at covering this incident.

The wreck that took out Scott Riggs wasn’t covered all that much better. At least we got something resembling a replay. It was a little hard to tell, but it looked to me that Riggs had contact with Jimmy Weller exiting Turn 4, which turned him into the wall. However, from the one view we got at full speed, it was really hard to tell.

I found the update at halfway with exactly the same information about NASCAR’s decision to allow Gordon into the Chase to be somewhat unnecessary. I don’t watch a Camping World Truck Series race to see that. I know it’s a big story, but the whole thing’s going to be rehashed again and again and again. It could wait for FOX Sports Live.

The side-by-side commercial break made a rare appearance with 25 laps to go in the race. The reasoning given by Rick Allen was that “we didn’t want you to miss a potential pass for the lead.” Well, Allen was right, since the pass for the win occurred during the side-by-side sequence. This generally looks like what we got on FOX during their Sprint Cup portion of the season. However, I’d still like to have a scroll on-screen during these segments. Just makes things easier for fans, plus the competition does it too (ESPN, NBC Sports Network).

Post-race coverage was brief, and I’m not really sure why it was brief. The race had a 150 minute timeslot that was due to end at 11pm. Yet, for all of their post-race coverage, they were trying like heck to get to FOX Sports Live. Unnecessary. Ultimately, we did get five post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before FOX Sports 1 left, but that was only because it took so long for Kyle Busch’s truck to get pushed to Victory Lane (Note: The team waived off the tow truck, likely thinking that they could get a penalty if they accepted that push). Yes, a lot of stuff happened on Friday, but please allow the truck broadcast team to actually fill their timeslot. That’s weak.

Dollar General 300

On Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of football out there. Whoop-dee-do. I really don’t care all that much about it. Because of all that football, NASCAR Countdown got sacrificed. I suppose that’s better than trying to put it on at 3:00pm when we all know dang well that the game preceding it won’t be done by then. Unfortunately, that means that we basically didn’t get any pre-race analysis.

What we did get was a breakdown of all the rule changes that were announced during the closed-to-all-media mandatory meeting that occurred a couple of hours earlier. Technically, none of this even concerned the Nationwide race, something that was noted on-air.

During the race, we had yet another Kyle Busch buttkicking. When they weren’t talking about the continued stomping of all comers by Busch, there was a substantial focus on the championship battle, which ESPN seems to believe is down to a race between Sam Hornish, Jr. and Austin Dillon. Since the two drivers effectively checked each other for 300 miles, little changed between those two.

I did like the opinionated analysis of the crash that dropped Elliott Sadler down the order. Sadler didn’t do anything wrong there, and managed to get run over from behind by a driver (Brett Butler) who was legitimately 11 laps down, and essentially the slowest driver on track. If we had some more post-race coverage, I would have liked to see ESPN interview Butler about the incident. You know, so he could have a chance to explain himself. Unfortunately, all we have is the fact that he put himself out of the race and cost SR2 Motorsports a buttload of money.

Post-race coverage was kind of brief. There were four post-race interviews, but that was it. There was no graphic for the point standings, despite it being constantly referenced throughout the race. The drivers interviewed were winner Kyle Busch (no surprise there) and three of the contenders in Nationwide points (Hornish, Dillon and Elliott Sadler, who got interviewed because he was run down by Brett Butler).

I didn’t really find much about the race telecast that stood out. I was happy that we got to see the debris that caused one of the yellows, but not pleased that we couldn’t see the other one. ESPN was pretty convinced that Kyle Larson had a track bar issue that eventually blew his left rear tire and put him in the wall. However, it was later dismissed as a regular rub caused by contact.

Geico 400

On Sunday afternoon, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Chicagoland Speedway for another 400 mile tour. Let’s just say it took a while. It was over eight hours between the green flag and the checkers. ESPN wasn’t actually on the air that whole time from Joliet, but they did a yeoman’s job to cover the events. Let’s take a look.

During NASCAR Countdown, much of the focus was on the Richmond issues, and the fallout from that. Roughly the first 40 minutes of pre-race coverage consisted of playing video from various press conferences, discussion of the new rules, and more Richmond discussion.

It should be noted that ESPN’s analysts didn’t just state the facts here. Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty laid their opinions right out there in the open. It was obvious that they didn’t really agree with all of the moves that NASCAR has made in response to the collusion. The penalty, but not really a penalty given to Clint Bowyer was emphasized.

Mike Helton joined Allen Bestwick, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth. Let’s just say that Helton looked like he had slept about ten hours in the previous week. He’s completely whipped out. Unfortunately, he couldn’t really add much to help the discussion. If this weren’t the Chase, I’d tell him to go take a week off and get his bearings back. Unfortunately, he needs to be there every week.

ESPN also went out and talked to a couple of drivers about the Richmond stupidity and how it reflected on the sport. Here, I thought that Jeff Burton’s comments were the most poignant on the issue. Then again, Burton just might be the best person in the garage to ask any important question about the sport to.

During the race itself, there was a fairly substantial focus on the Chasers, but not totally. You still generally got a good idea where non-Chasers were. It didn’t seem too much different than, say Atlanta was. I don’t think that will last throughout the whole Chase, but here’s hoping.

ESPN did a decent job in bringing us the various issues with tire punctures after the rain delay. I have no idea why they didn’t just send out the sweepers because that was ridiculous. Not cool. The various engines woes were a bit of a mixed bag. Naturally, they did a good job covering the issues that befell Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano and Cole Whitt. These failures all caused cautions. Brian Vickers’ issues were also covered well. I’m pretty sure Denny Hamlin didn’t feel much like talking after his failure (Note: Sunday night’s failure dropped him to 27th in points, behind the No. 10 of Danica Patrick). However, there was no coverage at all of the engine failures for David Reutimann or Timmy Hill. I don’t recall a mention of either driver going behind the wall on the telecast. Hill’s engine turned traitor during the caution for Earnhardt Jr.’s blown engine. One camera shot caught smoking coming out of the exhaust pipes of Hill’s car. Reutimann’s went about 30 laps earlier.

ESPN only stayed on air once the red flag started for roughly an hour before leaving to go to SportsCenter. In that time, there were 12 driver interviews, plus an interview with Chad Knaus. In addition, there was plenty of analysis from the Quicken Loans ESPN Pit Studio. My guess is that they would have stayed with the telecast the whole time had the line of storms north of the track not reached Chicagoland Speedway before the track was dried. Once that occurred, they realized that they were in for a long wait. With no one to interview (drivers were all hanging out in their motorcoaches, watching TV, making runs to Sonic Drive-In (This actually happened), or outright sleeping), ESPN chose to leave Joliet at 6pm EDT in order to go to SportsCenter. They promised updates from the track, which we got via live look-ins. Mudskippers were referenced.

Since the race ended a little after Midnight, post-race coverage was relatively brief. ESPN provided viewers with four post-race driver interviews, and an interview with the winning car owner (Joe Gibbs). There was also a check of the points, both below the scroll and in a full-screen graphic before ESPN left the air to get to NASCAR Now.

Overall, ESPN did a pretty good job, given the circumstances of a very long day in Joliet. The NASCAR NonStop breaks are a welcomed addition to the telecast, but I honestly don’t think about them until they show up. They work better than FOX’s version. Also, having NASCAR Now come on immediately after the race essentially gives you a nice post-post-race show with two of the best guys ESPN has in Mike Massaro (aka Giant Carton of Ice Cream Man) and Ricky Craven

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Chase continues in New Hampshire, where our own S.D. Grady has already claimed her spot. The Sprint Cup Series will be there, with the Whelen Modified Tour as the primary support. Meanwhile, the Nationwide and ARCA Racing Series will be at Kentucky Speedway. Frank Kimmel will be crowned champion there, since there’s no way in heck that Mason Mingus will make up enough points to take the championship to Kansas. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, September 17
Time Telecast Network
12:00pm-12:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, September 18
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
12:00pm-12:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
10:00-11:00pm Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans Episode 4 Velocity

Thursday, September 19
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
12:00pm-12:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Friday, September 20
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
9:30-11:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
12:00pm-1:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
1:30-2:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
2:40-4:20pm American Le Mans Series Qualifying$
3:30-5:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
8:00-10:00pm ARCA Racing Series Zloop 150 FOX Sports 1

Saturday, September 21
Time Telecast Network
9:00am-10:30am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 FOX Sports 2
11:00am-12:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2
12:00-1:30pm Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 FOX Sports 2
4:30-7:45pm American Le Mans Series International Sports Car Weekend$
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPNEWS
7:30-10:00pm Nationwide Series Kentucky 300 ESPNEWS

Sunday, September 22
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-2:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore Qualifying NBC Sports Network*
7:30-8:00am F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore NBC Sports Network
10:00am-10:30am F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
10:00am-12:00pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco FOX Sports 1
11:00am-5:00pm World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Austin FOX Sports 1
1:00-2:00pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
1:00-3:00pm American Le Mans Series International Sports Car Weekend ESPN 2*/
2:00-5:30pm Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 ESPN NASCAR Victory Lane FOX Sports 1
11:30pm-12:00am NASCAR Now, Post-Race ESPN 2 *- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
$- Available via password protected coverage. Check with your programming and/or internet service provider for availability.

Note that the Nationwide race from Kentucky is on ESPNEWS Saturday night. That was in the TV schedule from the start of the season. The football is everywhere, what can I say. ESPN will be showing Auburn vs. LSU, while ESPN 2 will be airing Colorado State vs. Alabama (here’s a guess of the final score: Alabama 62, Colorado State 7).

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide race telecasts at bare minimum in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The third race is currently up in the air. It’ll either be the Zloop 150 or the F.W. Webb 100 from New Hampshire. Whatever is not covered there will be in the September 26th edition of the Critic’s Annex in the Newsletter.

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:
Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
Open Wheel Wednesday: Controversial Moves, Long Beach Crowds, and Being a Fuddy Duddy
The Frontstretch Five: Pleasant Surprises of 2014 So Far
IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
Beyond the Cockpit: Tommy Baldwin on Owning His Team, Hall of Fame and the Number Seven


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09/17/2013 01:02 PM

Why Nascar or for that matter, the other owners allow a biased multi-team car owner in the Sprint series Fox broadcast booth for any reason is beyond comprehension. All it is is a 3 – 4 hour Michael Waltrip and MRW sponsors infomercial. Can only hope Nascar Nation keeps venting their displease to FOX and they get him out of the Cup broadcast booth and he takes his position as car owner on the pit box like the rest of them. FOX, FIX THIS PLEASE!!!!!On the entire planet there must be 1 non bias good person available. Even Erin Andrews would be better than the current clown with no integrity.

Old Fan Bill
09/17/2013 02:30 PM

reaper your exactly right. I wrote a letter to the CEO of Fox with a copy to the head of FOX Sport stating that Waltrip needed to be removed from the booth. I stated that by not removing Waltrip,that they condoned his actions.

Its interesting that JAWS hasn’t come out from under a rock with his take on the matter. He has never been a lost for words any other time.

09/17/2013 03:10 PM

Reaper, well said. I won’t watch any NASCAR TV that Waltrip, any Waltrip for that matter, is participating in.

As soon as Mikey started his diatribe, they should have gone to commercial & he should have been replaced in the booth.

Fox has chosen to make the Waltrip’s their “face” on the network. That is a major turnoff for me as a fan. I pay for raceview and I use that to follow the races in preference of watching them on TV – in good part because of the Waltrip Brothers show. I am simply NOT interested in the biased, unprofessional and now unsportsmanlike opinions offered by them.

More and more I think about “cutting the cord” and doing without cable TV.

09/17/2013 04:21 PM

Conflict of interest is Nascar’s middle name.

09/18/2013 12:39 AM

Gina, you said it all.