Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: The Best NASCAR Race We Never Saw

Ah, man! This was going to be the best restart of the season. Look! Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch rolled around turn 11 as the pace car drove off into Gilligan’s Island. The overhead shot illustrated the snaking form of the entire field and the flag man readied the checkers. Wait for it… wait.

And then the helicopter bearing the camera flew behind the grandstands and all of America watching TNT became blind. Did Kurt put his fender to Clint? Was Tony crawling up the No. 51’s bumper? Was Jeff Gordon able to snare yet another spot in his day long scramble from disappointment?

Who the hell knows.

TNT’s broadcast of the Toyota Save Mart 350 was possibly the worst Cup race of the year. Not the racing – no, that was stellar. I really was holding on to my seat during the final 20 laps of the afternoon. No, I’m talking about the abysmal effort of whoever it is in the production truck that decides which camera to select at any given moment and when to feed cues to the boys in the booth.

Like when Jeff Gordon took the lead for the first time in an eternity, but the booth continued to mumble on about – what was it? It wasn’t important. Because there was a lead change! Which I didn’t see – and apparently neither did the booth – until the truck cued up the replay oh, maybe two minutes later. Mr. Producer, please pay no attention to the head of the field. Lead changes aren’t important. Physical presentations of the appearance of a broken tach are far more key to the outcome of the race.

Or did you know Ryan Newman spun early in the race? No? Color me shocked. Thank goodness for Twitter. Tell me again why I should even turn on the television if #NASCAR does a better job of doing play-by-play than the guys who are paid the big bucks.

There were minute long shots of a single car rolling over the Sonoma hills and another focused on somebody’s brake pedal. Kyle Petty and Adam Alexander spent a nice 30 seconds literally arguing over whether Jimmie Johnson had been in second the previous lap. In short, just about any amateurish snafu that’s been exercised in the past on a NASCAR broadcast, this crew brought out of the closet to prove that they are worthy of sharing the racing podium with FOX.

Yes, road courses are the most difficult of the tracks to cover with a camera, as there is no convenient oval in which to trap all the competitors in a single shot. But the beauty of the road course is the ability to set up basically static cameras to cover sweeping segments of the turns in order to present the most competition possible. You can include 10 cars in a scramble around turn 4.

And yet, this did not happen on Sunday. Instead of letting the wide angles tell the story, once again NASCAR Nation was subjected to a minimal selection of tight shots that held no visual value in themselves.

What makes the disappointment in Sunday’s broadcast even more keen is that in years past TNT has been widely regarded by the fanbase as the superior coverage team on the Sprint Cup calendar. I looked forward to the end of the DW and Larry Mac good ole boys duet and the return of the less creative voices of Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. But truly, when the entire production group decides to ignore actual physical occurrences on the track in favor of repeating the same bit of patently obvious information – were you aware the only passing zones are in turns 7 and 11? Yeah, thought you did. It’s clear they’ve just given up.

The Summer Series calendar is full of classic races. Sonoma, with its improbable leaders and late-race tension, should have been one of them. Unfortunately, the 2012 Toyota Save Mart 350 will forever be remembered as the race nobody got to see. Somebody should take some TNT to TNT and start all over.

Here’s hoping the plunge is taken before the traffic jam starts at Kentucky.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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