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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: John Wes Townley Got Served

Hello, race fans. Welcome to the first regular critique of the 2013 season. Before we get started, I want to start with my hope for the year, a lesson to learn through quoting the late Larry Nuber. On the second lap of the 1987 Winston 500, Nuber said, “I must tell all of you, racing on TV is the best because you can get right up in the cockpit, you can see all the way around [the track]. You don’t miss any of the action.”

In this case, Nuber was comparing racing on TV to being in-person, live in the broadcast booth at Talladega. Say what you want about Nuber’s ability as a booth analyst, but he had a point in what he was saying about telecasts. Racing is an excellent sport to watch on TV. However, not all of the action has been shown, for various reasons in recent years. NASCAR’s partners, be it SPEED, FOX, TNT, or ABC/ESPN should strive to get back to that “ideal” Nuber describes, becoming as inclusive as possible for their viewership.

The first weekend of the NASCAR portion of Speedweeks featured two major events. These races were the season opener for the ARCA Racing Series, presented by Menards and the non-points Sprint Unlimited for the Sprint Cup Series. Let’s check out how they were covered by SPEED and FOX, respectively.

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John Wes Townley actually won the ARCA race, but TV viewers never saw his victory celebration. Bad news for SPEED!

*Lucas Oil 200 At Daytona*

Saturday afternoon brought the first ARCA race of the season. Venturini Motorsports swept the front row with possibly the most maligned duo of drivers that you could imagine, John Wes Townley and Milka Duno. Nothing against those two, but they have track records that are less than desirable, although Townley has shown significant improvement over the past couple of years. Could he back up his recent strength in restrictor plate races, and could broadcast partner SPEED carry over momentum from a strong 2012 covering all forms of stock car competition?

Let’s find out.

Pre-race ARCA coverage was seamlessly inserted into _NASCAR Live,_ SPEED’s update desk show between the second Sprint Cup practice session and the ARCA telecast itself. As a result, if you were expecting much in the way of pre-race if you tuned in at 4:30, you were probably disappointed.

In the “pre-pre-race” time, SPEED conducted interviews with Townley and Darrell Wallace, Jr., who happened to be one of Townley’s three teammates for the day. There was also a little preview of the event. In contrast, once the actual live broadcast started, there was a brief overview before going directly to the national anthem.

In the race, SPEED felt a little behind at times, as if it took them a little longer than it should have to notice incidents on-track. For example, at the end of the first lap, Tom Hessert III had the entire tread of his left rear tire come off in the tri-oval. I saw it happen live and pointed it out from my couch. I specifically said, “Whoa! What’s that?” Honestly, I thought there was going to be a big ol’ wreck because of it, but thankfully, the “inner liner” of that Hoosier held up. SPEED eventually noticed Hessert’s issues, but it took something like 30 seconds. Also of note, I found it surprising that ARCA didn’t throw a yellow for the rubber in the grass. I feel like NASCAR would have dropped the yellow hanky there even though the debris there was well outside the racing groove.

On the positive side of things, I did note Phil Parsons pointing out Julian Jousse’s temperature problems early and accurately. He knew right away that Jousse was in a world of hurt, with his car overheating so expressively just a few laps into the race it needed crew intervention. More likely than not, Jousse’s team was responsible for the engine failure due to the overabundance of tape on the front end, plus the failure of the team to realize that their car was toast. Finally, Jousse has next to no stock car experience (he’s primarily a sports car racer who raced at Sebring last year for Henri Pescarolo’s Le Mans, France-based team). They should have known to call him in, but apparently never did.

Kyle Busch joined Rick Allen and Parsons in the broadcast booth and spent roughly half the event there. Unlike Justin Allgaier, who legitimately served as an analyst during his guest appearances last year to mixed reviews, Busch’s input seemed to be limited to answering questions based upon his own experience. It was dry at best. He didn’t add much to the telecast, but he didn’t take anything away, either.

Post-race coverage royally stunk. Simple as that. According to my on-screen guide and the schedule on SPEED’s website, the ARCA race had a two-hour timeslot that ran up to 6:30 PM ET. Apparently, someone forgot to tell that to the production staff. As soon as the checkered flag fell, SPEED basically tried to leave to get to _NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco_ early.

What was the point of doing that? They still had 15 minutes of ARCA time left. That would be plenty to give Townley his proper due, as well as Kyle Larson and Ricky Ehrgott. Readers, I don’t think you ever expected me to say this, but JWT got screwed over. And for what? Expanded Sprint Cup pre-race coverage for an event that was just barely longer than the pre-race show?

Yes, SPEED showed Townley’s Victory Lane interview, eventually but it was tape-delayed by nearly 30 minutes. Townley probably didn’t even know it aired unless the network did so during his post-race press conference (which, at this point might not be out of the realm of possibility). SPEED Production, you must realize that everyone from Townley to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has fans. Personally, I don’t know anyone that is a fan of the “Chicken Man,” but I’m sure someone that follows his career closely was on Cloud 9 Saturday. Had Kyle Larson managed to win the ARCA event, I don’t think this situation would have unfolded in quite the same way. That’s not fair, impartial judgment on covering a race if true.

Sadly, SPEED may have put together one of their worst ARCA telecasts in years on Saturday. Good work (for the most part) in the booth couldn’t overcome one of the most idiotic post-race decisions that I can remember. Also, for a good chunk of the race many viewers may have felt a little lost due to the focus on the few cars in the breakaway (Bobby Gerhart, Townley, Chris Buescher (multiple laps down, but running blocker as if he were the Bandit), etc.). Few other cars in the field were shown as a blind allegiance to the leaders led to a fairly narrow focus.

SPEED’s next ARCA telecast is at Talladega in May. Hopefully, we won’t see the same issues there.

*Sprint Unlimited*

Once the sun set and the lights came on in Daytona, a select group of Sprint Cup drivers took to the high banks in the first race for the new Gen-6 race car. How did FOX do in their first race back since June?

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Brad Keselowski, TV analyst post-retirement? He certainly gave a promising audition on FOX Saturday night.

Let’s dissect it. While FOX did have a short pre-race show, _NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco_ on SPEED served as the de facto pre-race version, as far as I’m concerned. On there, the majority of the starting grid was interviewed, some multiple times. Brad Keselowski, who did not win a pole in 2012 and thus, failed to qualify for the race, served as a special guest analyst in FOX’s Hollywood Hotel. He seemed to be quite amped, from start to finish and brought the right energy to the telecast. Keselowski is an interesting case to me, someone who came prepared with detailed analysis and something to say virtually every time he was called upon. The reigning champ would make for an excellent TV guy, but he won’t be quitting driving anytime soon.

During the race, FOX showed off their new gyroscopic in-car cameras that actually debuted on Friday during practice coverage on SPEED. If that is going to be the norm this year, it might take a little getting used to. At first, it reminded me of the time that CBS affixed a camera to Richard Petty’s helmet in the 1991 Daytona 500. A little later, a moment from late in the 1993 Daytona 500 sprung to mind. CBS took the in-car camera in Geoff Bodine’s Motorcraft Ford and “screwed around with the picture”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qN1qobVq-MY#t=3m35s to create a similar sensation to what we’re getting now. It’s no less weird now than it was 20 years ago. On the other hand, its angle, which replicates the banking on the speedway does bring back the view to the right of the driver that has been used sparingly over the past decade or so.

Secondly, FOX debuted a new aerial cam suspended on cables above the tri-oval. It’s pretty sweet and quite reminiscent of the network’s Sky Cam from their NFL broadcasts; however, Daytona is not the first time they’ve had it. A few years ago, FOX had DLP (via Texas Instruments) sponsor a similar aerial cam. This one appears to be a little bigger, though. Should be excellent when we get to Bristol next month.

Luckily, for a race with as small a field as the Sprint Unlimited, it’s pretty easy to cover everyone. FOX did a decent overview, during all 75 laps of focusing on all competitors. Of course, when you have only 19 starters and that number was quickly whittled down to 12, it’s pretty hard _not_ to do a good job in that department.

Post-race coverage was relatively short. There were only a couple of post-race interviews (winner Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart) along with some brief analysis before FOX left the air to get to the local news.

FOX’s first night out didn’t really stand out for anything good or bad. The broadcast booth is working together well. Mike Joy was his usual self, while Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds were back into their in-season groove, with fewer annoying quirks. Jeff Hammond briefly was in the grandstands before the race started but spent the night as a pit reporter, interviewing a couple of the drivers who fell out due to the big wreck. If that is what his roving role for 2013 will look like, I’ll be fine with it. The Hollywood Hotel was also much improved, but it remains to be seen what next week will be like with Michael Waltrip more than likely competing in the race.

That’s all for this week. Today is the final day of the Inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach. Modified and K&N Pro Series cars will be on the temporary oval on Daytona’s backstretch all day. Then, the Budweiser Duels will determine who does, and who does not race in the Daytona 500. Finally, all three of NASCAR’s National series will be holding their season openers next weekend.

*Tuesday, February 19*

*Time Telecast Network*
*12:30 AM – 1:00 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*12:15 PM – 3:45 PM* UNOH Battle at the Beach Modified and K&N Pro Series Practice Sessions _YouTube^_
*5:00 – 6:20 PM* UNOH Battle at the Beach Modified and K&N Pro Series Heat Races _YouTube^_
*6:00 – 7:00 PM* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_
*7:00 – 8:30 PM* UNOH Battle at the Beach Whelen Modified Race _SPEED_
*8:30 – 10:00 PM* UNOH Battle at the Beach K&N Pro Series Race _SPEED_

*Wednesday, February 20*

*Time Telecast Network*
*12:30 AM – 1:00 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*12:00 PM – 1:30 PM* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 3 _SPEED_
*2:30 – 4:00 PM* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 4 _SPEED_
*6:00 – 7:00 PM* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_

*Thursday, February 21*

*Time Telecast Network*
*2:00 AM – 2:30 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*10:00 AM – 12:00 PM* Nationwide Series Happy Hour _ESPN2_
*12:00 PM – 1:00 PM* Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1 _SPEED_
*1:00 – 2:00 PM* NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco _SPEED_
*2:00 – 5:30 PM* Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duels _SPEED_
*~5:30 – 6:00 PM* NASCAR Victory Lane _SPEED_
*6:00 – 7:30 PM* Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour _SPEED_

*Friday, February 22*

*Time Telecast Network*
*1:30 AM – 2:00 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*11:00 AM – 12:00 PM* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 5 _SPEED_
*12:30 – 1:30 PM* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 6 _SPEED_
*1:30 – 3:30 PM* Camping World Truck Series Qualifying _SPEED_
*3:30 – 5:30 PM* Nationwide Series Qualifying _ESPN2_
*7:00 – 7:30 PM* NCWTS Setup _SPEED_
*7:30 – 10:00 PM* Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 _SPEED_
*10:30 – 11:00 PM* SPEED Center _SPEED_

*Saturday, February 23*

*Time Telecast Network*
*1:30 AM – 2:00 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*10:30 AM – 12:00 PM* Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour _SPEED_
*12:00 – 1:15 PM* NASCAR Countdown _ESPN_
*1:15 – 4:00 PM* Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 _ESPN_
*3:00 – 4:00 PM* Ferrari Challenge: Daytona _SPEED*_
*5:30 – 6:30 PM* Trackside _SPEED_
*6:30 – 7:30 PM* SPEED Center _SPEED_

*Sunday, February 24*

*Time Telecast Network*
*8:30 AM – 9:00 AM* SPEED Center, Pre-Race _SPEED_
*9:00 – 10:00 AM* NASCAR Now, Pre-Race _ESPN2_
*9:00 AM – 12:00 PM* NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco _SPEED_
*12:00 – 2:00 PM* FOX Pre-Race _FOX_
*2:00 – 5:30 PM* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 _FOX_
*~5:30 – 6:00 PM* NASCAR Victory Lane _SPEED_
*7:00 – 8:00 PM* SPEED Center, Post-Race _SPEED_
*8:00 – 8:30 PM* Wind Tunnel _SPEED_

*- Tape Delayed
^- Available via free online streaming

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series season openers next week here at Frontstretch.

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”:http://msn.foxsports.com/feedback
“SPEED”:http://www.speedtv.com/feedback
“ESPN”:http://espn.go.com/espn/contact

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 ones full of rants and vitriol.

“Contact Phil Allaway”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18439/

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