NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: TNT Lost the Bleeps, Sweeps and Creeps

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism is the name of the game. Oh boy, do we have a doozy this week.

NBC Sports brought us the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on Saturday–even after all the rain.

*Iowa Corn Indy 250*

Saturday night saw the Izod IndyCar Series return to action at Iowa Speedway. Unfortunately, like last weekend in Milwaukee, rain played a role in the telecast, delaying the start by 40 minutes. While the rain game was played, NBC Sports aired more interviews than typical. There were 17 driver interviews, plus interviews with Randy Bernard, Rusty Wallace (track designer, fresh from Road America) and John Barnes (J.R. Hildebrand’s Engineer).

In addition, there were a couple of interesting features. One of them showed Josef Newgarden and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team doing a team building exercise at the lake. Translation: they were hanging out at the lake and having a grand time. The team definitely seems like one big happy family, regardless of the fact that Newgarden kinda stinks on a wakeboard (then again, so do I).

Beekhuis took viewers on a tour of the new factory/fan experience that Dallara built in Indianapolis. It is still under construction, but what’s there now is an interactive look at the history of Dallara. Eventually, there will be simulators for visitors to try out. On the other side of the building is the actual production area for the DW12. Beekhuis walked viewers through the production process from sheets of carbon fiber and composite materials to the finished product. It was a pretty interesting piece and the property seems likely to become a very prominent tourist attraction for Indianapolis.

There was also a brief explanation of what happened to cause the inappropriate black flag to be given to Scott Dixon at Milwaukee. Beaux Barfield explained the technical difficulties with one of the computers that led to the incorrect call and what has been done to rectify it.

Race coverage was quite interesting. There was quite a bit of racing for position out there and the NBC Sports Network did a great job in covering that action. There were plenty of interviews that helped explain what was going on and I didn’t feel like I missed anywhere near as much as I did in last week’s NASCAR races.

After his rather embarrassing engine failure before the start of the race, Dario Franchitti joined Jenkins, Kendall and Beekhuis in the broadcast booth for about 70 laps. While there, Franchitti gave his perspective on what he saw and he’s a rather interesting fellow to have. He referenced some of the other driver’s track records for getting into trouble quite a bit (especially EJ Viso). I guess he was OK, but he may have detracted a bit from the coverage.

Post-race coverage, despite the late hour, was decent. NBC Sports Network gave viewers six post-race driver interviews and an interview with the winning car owner (Michael Andretti). There were also checks of the unofficial results and point standings before they ended the telecast (Officially, it wasn’t all the way over since the rains delayed the Firestone Indy Lights race until after the Iowa Corn Indy 250, but that was done with a different crew).

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the race. It was jam-packed full of action and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t get lost in a production mess and could easily follow what was going on. I guess that’s all I need sometimes.

*Sargento 200*

On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned to Central Wisconsin for their third assault on the 4.048 mile Road America circuit. Now, once again, the Pit Studio was on vacation, looking at a retooling before travel begins again. Bestwick was going to host Countdown outdoors, but a rain shower showed up right before the race and moved him back indoors.

Now, Saturday was the 40th anniversary of the signing of Title IX by President Richard Nixon. As we already know (heck, they post it outside of public schools these days), Title IX guarantees equal opportunity for boys and girls in athletic and other endeavors in places that receive federal aid. It was more or less an offshoot of the Equal Rights Amendment that was being deliberated around that time period.

In regards to the special anniversary, ESPN aired a special feature on the impact of women on NASCAR. Admittedly, I was thinking that it was going to focus on the various women that drive in NASCAR’s series. Yes, Danica Patrick was interviewed, but she was the only current driver on-camera and talking in the piece. Instead, we got a piece that was more inclusive of the many different roles that women play in NASCAR. A number of NASCAR officials were interviewed, including Camping World Truck Series flagger Kim Lopez. Jenna Fryer represented the media, while Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Lesa France-Kennedy represented the business side of the sport. Shawna Robinson also talked about her time racing in NASCAR. A clip of her on the pole for the 1994 Busch Light 300 at Atlanta was shown.

What wasn’t shown was the “Busch League” (pun intended) scenario that occurred on the first lap of the race. That can be seen “here.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCpSm_ajfTQ#t=13m04s Long story short, Mike Wallace proclaimed that he was going to manipulate Robinson on the first lap of the race, and that is what he did. Both Robinson and Joe Nemechek, who got taken out as a result of the incident, were very angry afterwards.

Having said all that, this was a pretty good look at the roles that women play in NASCAR. However, I would have liked to see more of the present crop of female racers in the piece (and more than just a quick look at Angela Cope’s car in Charlotte). I think Rusty Wallace would agree with that as well since he went into a discussion about Johanna Long as soon as it ended.

In another short piece, Austin Dillon, who had about as much road racing experience as I do entering Saturday’s race, took a drive around the circuit in the pace car with Max Papis. Papis showed him some of the points of interest around the track while Dillon drove the car. Still trying to figure out why Austin wasn’t wearing his safety belt, though. Don’t be an idiot.

Race coverage was interesting, but it was most definitely missing something. For example, two separate incidents were cautions were thrown were not replayed at all. The incident that brought out the third caution was probably the biggest offender of them all. That was when Kenny Habul apparently went straight at Turn 5 and nosed into the tires. ESPN took their sweet time getting to the wreck, as if they couldn’t find where the deuce it was. I don’t understand that. A number of ESPN on-air personalities have access to the NASCAR officials’ radio channel, so they can easily figure out what’s going on. They did play some audio from Habul’s radio, and that’s the only reason I can claim that he had some kind of brake issue. Other than that, the coverage would have left me clueless.

Another mystery instances were when Victor Gonzalez, Jr. dropped to 28th from fifth with ten laps to go. Gonzalez ended up finishing 17th. I thought Gonzalez had made a poorly planned pit stop. In reality, he got dumped and dropped to the rear of the field. Found that out in a “post-race press release”:http://teamrab.com/?p=1627 from RAB Racing with Brack Maggard. I know that ESPN probably doesn’t know much about Gonzalez other than the fact that he’s from Puerto Rico, but that’s just ridiculous. He was right up there in the hunt, then disappears, and you give bupkis. That is terrible.

Since the race ended quicker than expected (no GWC’s), there was a lot of post-race coverage. There were 13 driver interviews, along with three crew chief interviews (Trent Owens, Luke Lambert and Tony Eury, Jr.). In addition, there was a check of the point standings before ESPN left. I cannot remember that much post-race coverage at the end of a Nationwide race, to be honest.

Yes, the post-race coverage was pretty nice. However, I cannot have a network ignoring drivers in the top-5 getting wrecked. It is one thing to not have it on camera. Road America might be the one place where something like that is most likely to happen since it is so huge. However, you absolutely have to notify your audience. We’re not at the race. I wish I was, but I was not. And you wonder why people are ditching TV for a combination of MRN Radio and Twitter. Fans shouldn’t have to go to those lengths. Yes, it is nice to have that option, but it shouldn’t have to be mandatory.

*Toyota Save Mart 350k*

Sunday brought Sprint Cup to one of my favorite tracks, Sonoma Raceway (why not put it back to Sears Point Raceway at this point?) Despite the fact that some road racing fans consider the track to be “ghetto,” the complex has always put on decent racing. However, Sunday’s telecast left a lot to be desired.

Countdown to Green featured the prerequisite amount of pre-race analysis with Alexander, McReynolds and Petty. However, it seemed to be quite a bit more than normal. I guess they really wanted to build up that drama that TNT loves.

The NASCAR Generations piece was based around driver apologies, something that was believed to be required after Sunday’s race. Of course, by now, you probably know that it is not really so. No one intentionally ran over someone on Sunday (at least, I don’t think so). Having said that, I liked the discussion. I always think that Ned Jarrett brings the most to these discussions, despite having never raced against any of the others.

Much like the Nationwide race on ESPN, TNT missed a lot of stuff on Sunday. However, with a 1.99 mile circuit, they have much less in the way of excuses. As far as I’m concerned, they lost “the bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXKOsajNZY4 Unfortunately, not even a hilarious cameo appearance from Michael Winslow could possibly have saved this mess.

The issues started right at the beginning of the race. Somehow, Travis Kvapil had his left front wheel lock up less than three turns into the race. I have no clue how the deuce that happened, or why. All I know is that he spent nearly 20 laps behind the wheel fixing whatever it was (Note: Kvapil claims that something got caught in the brake and blew the tire before the race started). Beyond the look at the flat left front on the first lap, there was essentially no discussion of anything having to do with it for the rest of the race. No follow-up, no nothing. Weak.

When Carl Edwards pitted on Lap 30, a fire was sparked when he left his pit stall. We could see the flames for a split-second before TNT split away to another shot. No mention was made of any potential injuries, or even an update to say if everyone was OK.

Also, there were a number of important passes for position that were missed. For example, seemingly every time that Kurt Busch made a pass in the second half of the race, TNT was either in commercial, or going on about something else. Every time they went to break, you noticed that Kurt had moved up another spot, with no explanation how he got there

The commercials were another story. Clearly, TNT was hoping that there would have been more than the two cautions we got. Under green, the breaks came roughly 2-3 laps. We could barely get an idea of what’s going on in between the breaks. Now, we have to understand that commercials are inevitable. Turner Sports has to be able to pay for their telecasts somehow. However, what can be changed is the placement of them. Their placement was in such a way that we could barely follow the race.

Because of this, and storylines that the network was trying to follow, we didn’t hear about notable facts that were pretty important, like Kevin Harvick running out of gas prior to his second pit stop. We didn’t learn about that until he was lapped on Lap 81, right before the yellow flew.

The camera shots were OK, but there were some puzzling choices. For example, someone thought the aerial shot was the way to go on the final restart. However, the chopper was too low, resulting in the grandstands blocking the view of the cars all the way from the exit of Turn 11 to Turn 1a. That’s just not going to work. That’s just bad direction right there. We can’t have a repeat of that.

Now, I should state that there more objectionable aspects of Sunday’s broadcast than what I’ve talked about here. However, I drive our editors here at Frontstretch nuts on a weekly basis by making the critiques too long. If I were to list everything, we’d be here until next week. This was possibly TNT’s worst broadcast since Bill Weber was still around.

Since the race ended ahead of schedule (once again, we had a race run at record pace), there was plenty of post-race coverage. TNT provided viewers with six post-race driver interviews and an interview with the winning crew chief (Brian Pattie). In addition, they also checked the unofficial results and point standings. However, since they have the RaceBuddy-exclusive content as well, this was where TNT left Sonoma, 15 minutes early.

On RaceBuddy, Alexander joined up with McReynolds (via split-screen) to host. I think they’re really missing Lindsay Czarniak (who’s doing well on SportsCenter) right about now. Online viewers saw the typical race recap, two more exclusive interviews (Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon), a second check of the unofficial results and point standings, and finally, Inside Trax.

Petty mentioned during the telecast that Sonoma is the perfect place for Inside Trax. That may be so, but it cannot get in the way of the basic tenets of covering a darn race. Show me the battles on-track. If you can’t show me that, tell me what the deuce is going on. Quite honestly, I could care less about what Chad Johnston’s cooking up in his pit stall, strategy-wise. TNT has to improve after this telecast. They just have to. There is nowhere really to go but up.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, we have a tripleheader in the cards. The Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will all be racing at Kentucky Speedway.

*TV LISTINGS*

*Thursday, June 28*

*Time Telecast Network*
*5:00pm-6:30pm* Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED
*7:30-8:00pm* NCWTS Setup SPEED
*8:00-10:30pm* Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 SPEED

*Friday, June 29*

*Time Telecast Network*
*11:30am-12:30pm* Sprint Cup Series Practice SPEED
*1:30-3:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
*3:30-5:00pm* Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED
*5:00-6:30pm* Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
*7:00-7:30pm* SPEED Center SPEED
*7:00-7:30pm* NASCAR Countdown SPEED
*7:30-10:30pm* Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 ESPN 2

*Saturday, June 30*

*Time Telecast Network*
*12:00pm-1:00pm* NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
*12:00-2:00pm* V8 Supercar Championship Series Skycity Triple Crown SPEED*
*3:00-5:30pm* Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Continental Tire 150 SPEED2.com$
*4:00-4:30pm* SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
*4:30-6:30pm* NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
*6:30-7:30pm* Countdown to Green TNT
*7:30-11:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 TNT
*~11:00pm-12:00am* NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED

*Sunday, July 1*

*Time Telecast Network*
*11:00am-5:30pm* Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen SPEED
*7:00-8:00pm* SPEED Center SPEED
*9:00-10:30pm* Wind Tunnel SPEED, SPEEDtv.com^

*- Tape Delayed
$- Available via password-protected streaming. Check with your cable/satellite/telco provider to see if you get access.
^- Available via free online streaming. In this case, it refers to the final half-hour of the show, known as Wind Tunnel Xtra.

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. Instead of the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, I’m going to cover the Continental Tire 150 for next week’s edition of The Critic’s Annex. Telecasts on SPEED2.com for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge are similar to satellite feed telecasts. If any of you had one of those giant dishes back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, you probably know what I’m getting at here.

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:

“TNT”:http://support.tntdrama.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=5477
“SPEED”:http://www.speedtv.com/feedback
“ESPN”:http://espn.go.com/espn/contact
“NBC Sports Network”:[email protected]

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”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18439/

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About Phil Allaway

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Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.