NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Kansas Concerns While Cheever Confounds

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday. This week, we’ve got Cup and Truck action from Kansas Speedway, along with the Verizon IndyCar Series from Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course. Seems like quite the doozy. Let’s get started.

Grand Prix of Indianapolis

On Saturday afternoon, the Verizon IndyCar Series made history. The first 200 mile IndyCar race on the infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC (viaESPN), which has aired every IndyCar race at IMS since 1963, was on hand to televise the festivities. How well did they do? Let’s check it out.

The IndyCar Series slithered through the road course at Indianapolis for the first time in history. But was ABC on top of their game to cover such a sizzling debut?
The IndyCar Series slithered through the road course at Indianapolis for the first time in history. But was ABC on top of their game to cover such a sizzling debut?

Pre-race coverage was relatively brief. The approximately one million viewers on Saturday were treated to four brief driver interviews and a recap of the first four races of the season prior to the start. That content was presented in about 15 minutes (with a commercial mixed in). Ultimately, it wasn’t all that bad. Then, the race started.

As we all know by now, the start was a travesty. Even the Mayor of Indianapolis got hurt and needed medical attention. The commentary didn’t make it any better. Yes, we know that the worst time to stall is on a standing start. I don’t need the booth to tell me that. Everyone watching would know that.

Then Eddie Cheever screwed up and claimed that all Formula One races take place on street courses. Really, dude? I’ve watched a lot of F1 in my life and I know for a fact that most Grand Prix are held on natural terrain road courses, with some street courses mixed in. For the sake of this argument, I looked up Cheever’s F1 stats. He has 132 career starts in F1. While he never won a race, much of Cheever’s success did come on temporary courses. One of his two career second-place finishes came in Detroit in 1982 on a street course. The other came at the now-Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1983, which is a permanent course that acts a lot like a street course. Cheever also had a podium in the 1982 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix (Las Vegas) and in Phoenix in 1989. Both of those courses were temporary circuits of varying quality. Perhaps he wished that there were more of those courses in F1 so that his career could have looked better.

I’ve talked about Cheever’s tendencies in the booth on two occasions already this season. The point of the matter is that he speaks in absolutes most of the time and rarely drives the commentary. If anything, his statements often bring the commentary to a halt because he doesn’t really give his boothmates anything to work with. Sometimes, it makes me wonder just what the heck Cheever does to prepare for the broadcasts, if anything. Contrast that with Allen Bestwick, who says that he devours volumes of notes in order to prepare for a broadcast. It means that Bestwick (and to a lesser extent, Scott Goodyear) have to carry Cheever at times. While Cheever’s performance doesn’t negatively affect Bestwick’s work all that much, it is something that he has to contend with and I doubt he’s pleased.

Having said all that, Cheever did come up with a good anecdote to describe the start crash. He compared it to the crash at the start of the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix (a race in which he ran out of fuel and was classified tenth). The circumstances were very similar, but with a much worse result. Didier Pironi won the pole, then stalled his Ferrari at the original start and was plowed into from behind by the Osella of Riccardo Paletti at a speed of nearly 110 mph. Paletti suffered chest injuries and was unconscious in the car when it burst into flames. Paletti died from the injuries suffered in the crash. I’m not going to give you a link to that crash. It’s shocking. If you want to see it, it’s on YouTube, but be warned. It’s ugly. Thankfully, Saturday’s situation wasn’t anywhere near as bad.

ESPN also seemed to cheap out on the broadcast. While they brought in Dr. Jerry Punch to work as a fourth pit reporter, some other aspects of the coverage were clearly lacking. It was Lap 14 before we had a proper scroll. Even then, we didn’t have constantly updating intervals. We also missed a lot of action outside of the restarts because of a limited focus on the telecast. Those issues really made the race unenjoyable to watch.

Since the race went over its prescribed timeslot, there was not a whole lot of post-race coverage. Viewers only got an interview with the winning driver (Simon Pagenaud), strategist (Rob Edwards) and car owner (Sam Schmidt) before ABC left for the evening news.

The quick sign-off meant that the James Hinchcliffe story could not be fully paid off. There was a definitive camera angle that showed the debris hitting Hinchcliffe in the face. It never aired on the broadcast. However, I did see it on SportsCenter at 1:30 in the morning (dead serious). They did have some other angles that really didn’t show what happened, and a shot of Hinchcliffe on a stretcher being wheeled towards an ambulance for his trip to the hospital. Bestwick was forced to tell viewers to keep their eyes peeled to various ESPN properties in order to get updates. Honestly, that bites. In my case, I got an e-mail from IndyCar’s PR dudes about Hinchcliffe being diagnosed with a concussion around 8pm, two hours after the race ended. I’m not sure when regular fans would have gotten the information. Maybe, if they were lucky, ESPNEWS would have put a Breaking News chiclet over their news lineup during SportsCenter No. 53,894 (an absolute guess). There was a distinct lack of information here that just wasn’t good. Then again, perhaps ESPN/ABC’s hands were tied.

On a quasi-related note, IndyCar is mandating carbon fiber strips on the helmet visors in an attempt to prevent (or cut down on) injuries from flying debris. Hinchcliffe wasn’t the only driver to get hit on Sunday. While ESPN did show a near miss for Takuma Sato, Sato’s teammate Martin Plowman did get hit by a piece of debris on that carbon fiber piece during the start crash. “This link”:http://www.theindychannel.com/sports/indycar/new-indycar-helmet-feature-already-saving-lives has a clip from WRTV in Indianapolis where they show how Plowman was hit. In addition, Tony Kanaan shows off his new helmet and talks about how Hinchcliffe would have been seriously injured without the strip. Note that there was no mention of Plowman getting hit with debris on the race telecast. It’s definitely worth it for ESPN to cover this new change, either during their qualifying coverage next weekend, or prior to the Indianapolis 500.

SFP 250

Friday night saw the Camping World Truck Series return from a 40-day break to engage in a wreckfest (Hooray). FOX Sports 1 was back to bring us the coverage. How did they do? Let’s take a look.

German Quiroga, we hardly knew ye… based on the Truck Series schedule alone, your antics at Martinsville were so easily forgotten.
German Quiroga, we hardly knew ye… based on the Truck Series schedule alone, your antics at Martinsville were so easily forgotten.

Since it’s been so long between races, FOXSports 1 had to spend much of the Setup re-acquainting viewers with everything that’s going on. It says a lot that most of the viewers had long since forgotten about the penalties after Martinsville, or even the Timothy Peters-German Quiroga spat.

The primary feature on the Setup saw Kaitlyn Vincie travel to Ickler Manufacturing, Ickler’s own machine shop. There, Ickler and his employees (unclear how many, since this wasn’t stated in the piece) make metal parts for various uses, not just in the motorsports industry. It appears that Ickler believed that he was done in NASCAR and took steps in order to support himself by starting the business. In addition to showing off the business (including his CNC machine), Ickler talked about his move back into NASCAR, Red Horse Racing and his sponsorship. Honestly, I was wondering what the heck Ickler had been up to over the past couple of years. He was a ghost prior to snagging the No. 7.

Probably the best example of why I like watching Camping World Truck Series races on FOX Sports 1 is the fact that even Michael Waltrip can actually be of proper use here. Recently, I’ve been accused by some commenters here at Frontstretch of being biased against Michael. That is not true. On Cup telecasts, I believe that he’s hopelessly biased towards his own team and basically (for lack of better words), believe that he drives me insane. Here, Michael can point out things that the average viewer might not notice.

For example, it was Michael that was able to decipher what happened to launch Tyler Young and Johnny Sauter into Ryan Blaney in Turn 2 (Darrell Wallace, Jr. got into Young, then Young got into Sauter and it was on). It took a few replays, but they were able to nail it down. You don’t always see that on other broadcasts. Michael also pointed out that NTS Motorsports did a really poor job repairing Brennan Newberry’s truck after his first wall contact. That poor work resulted in his third wall contact (and second caution) a few laps after the restart.

During the race, I noticed a technical issue, but I’m not really sure if anyone else saw this. After the last restart, the telecast (picture, audio and everything) slowed to a snail’s pace for about five laps. I have no clue why. Once those five laps were up, everything was back to normal. My question to you, my readers is this. Did any of you notice this, or was it just me?

Unfortunately, post-race coverage was minimal. Due to the constant wrecking, the event ended roughly fifteen minutes after the prescribed end of the slot. FOX Sports 1 seemed to really want to get to FOX Sports Live. There was only a quick interview with Kyle Busch and a check of the points before fully folding into FOX Sports Live.

5-Hour ENERGY 400

Saturday night brought the Sprint Cup Series back to Saturday night racing. However, rain once again reared its ugly head. How did FOX handle the night? Let’s check it out.

Young Ryan Truex has always been in the shadow of older brother Martin. But Saturday night, FOX spent some time acquainting viewers with the young rookie, now driving for BK Racing.
Young Ryan Truex has always been in the shadow of older brother Martin. But Saturday night, FOX spent some time acquainting viewers with the young rookie, now driving for BK Racing.

During pre-race coverage, there was a nice little piece (on the FOX Sports 2 portion) where Ryan Truex talked about his relationship with brother Martin, along with his aims to gain respect from his peers during his rookie year. Ryan has been almost invisible thus far in 2014, so it was good to see something out there on him.

Since Cup was in Kansas, a piece entitled Clint Bowyer: Going Home was aired. I believe this was the first of the series, which premiered over a year ago on NASCARRaceHub. I recognized a lot of the video and the fact that Bowyer referred to his first race car (an old Chevrolet Chevette) as a “turd.” The gist of the piece is that Bowyer has always been a “quirkapotamus,” but that we’ve only started to see his personality. It’s a good piece, but I’m surprised that FOXwould pull it out of the file cabinet now.

Also, in celebration of Mother’s Day, FOXfollowed Krissie Newman (Ryan’s wife) around to get an idea of what her day is like. This was interesting as we got to see her interactions with Ryan and Ryan’s interactions with his kids. I don’t recall seeing that before. Then, the piece was steered towards the Rescue Ranch, which is probably the most recognizable thing that anyone that follows NASCAR would know about Krissie. It appears to be coming along quite nicely.

A thunderstorm just skirted the track after the opening ceremonies, resulting in 30 minutes of time killing. This was basically worse-case scenario here. With all the drivers in their cars, FOX couldn’t talk to anyone. As a result, Michael Waltrip and Chris Myers had to kill time by rehashing what they’d been saying for the last 90 minutes, while Darrell Waltrip failed to contact Kevin Harvick via radio. There was no way that it couldn’t be a mess, and it was one.

Kansas also saw the debut of new NASCAR-approved roof cams that will allow BSI(Broadcast Sports, Inc.) to take advantage of the shots they provide at every track.FOX didn’t really talk about them much, though. We’re back to a design similar to the Generation 2 roof cam (late 1990’s), as seen in “this Athlon Sports article”:http://athlonsports.com/nascar/nascar-goes-under-lights-kansas-speedway. It’s flusher with the roof. I suppose it looks nicer, but it creates a fisheye lens effect that’s a little weird to look at. Also, no panning. However, some more R&D with the new units will hopefully allow panning roof cam units to return soon.

One gripe that returned once again Saturday was the fact that the last 50-ish laps of the race saw an extreme focus. While early on, there might have been 10-15 cars that got coverage, that number dropped to around four to eight. When that happens, we miss out on a lot of racing going on around the track. We also get side-by-side segments that feature almost nothing but an in-car shot facing Kevin Harvick. No offense, but I want to see some racing on the track, not just Harvick when the race is in the small box.

Post-race coverage was about average. FOX provided viewers with five post-race interviews, plus a check of the “Chase Grid” prior to leaving for the news.

I didn’t like Jeff Hammond’s blushing over Patrick’s run, though. It sounded ridiculous, and I know Patrick would probably agree with that. Then again, Danica did spend seven years as the face of the now-Verizon IndyCar Series and (excepting her final year) the only driver that they really promoted for most of that time. She’s used to TV dudes breaking out the purple prose to describe her on-track exploits (Todd Harris, anyone?). I found it annoying in the IRL and its annoying in NASCAR, too. The sad part of it all is that the booth more or less kept themselves under control. Yes, they reported on Patrick’s success, but they didn’t go overboard (although Darrell definitely could have).

That’s it for this week. Next weekend sees the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series return to the Charlotte-area for a home game. It’s All-Star Weekend, only with a new twist. Only the Sprint All-Star Race will be held on Friday night. The Sprint Showdown will be a Friday night race before the truck race. I cannot imagine that working, but that’s what they’re doing. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series has their first standalone race of the year at Iowa Speedway. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, May 13
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
3:00-5:00am Camping World Truck Series SFP 250 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 9)
5:00-6:00am NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1*# (from May 12)
5:00pm-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#

Wednesday, May 14
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
7:00-10:00am Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 FOX Sports 2*/# (from May 10)
10:00am-12:00pm Camping World Truck Series SFP 250 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 9)
12:00-1:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1*# (from May 13)
1:00-2:00pm K&N Pro Series West Stockton 150 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 3)
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#

Thursday, May 15
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
10:00am-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 FOX Sports 2*/# (from May 10)
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Friday, May 16
Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
11:00am-1:45pm Camping World Truck Series Practice FOX Sports 1
1:45-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice FOX Sports 1
3:30-4:00pm NASCAR Live FOX Sports 1
4:00-5:30pm Sprint Showdown Qualifying FOX Sports 1
5:30-7:00pm Camping World Truck Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
6:30-8:30pm NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals 1st Round Qualifying ESPN3.com$
7:00-8:00pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown FOX Sports 1
8:00-8:30pm NCWTS Setup FOX Sports 1
8:30-11:00pm Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 FOXSports 1

Saturday, May 17
Time Telecast Network
3:00am-4:00am Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown Qualifying FOX Sports 1*# (from May 16)
4:00-6:00am Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 FOXSports 1*/# (from May 16)
8:30-9:30am Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown FOX Sports 2*# (from May 16)
11:00am-4:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Pole Qualifying, Part 1 ESPN3.com$
11:30am-1:30pm Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 16)
1:30-2:30pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown FOX Sports 1*# (from May 16)
2:30-3:30pm NASCAR RaceDay FOX Sports 1
4:00-6:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Pole Qualifying, Part 2 ABC
6:00-8:00pm NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals Final QualifyingESPN 2*
7:00-8:30pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race Qualifying FOX Sports 1
8:30-11:00pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race FOX Sports 1

Sunday, May 18
Time Telecast Network
12:00am-1:30am GP2 Series: Spain NBC Sports Network*/ (from May 10-11)
3:30-6:00am Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race FOX Sports 1*# (from May 17)
7:00-9:00am motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of France FOX Sports 1
10:00am-1:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 2nd Day Qualifying, Part 1 ESPN3.com$
11:00am-5:00pm NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN3.com$
1:00-3:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 2nd Day Qualifying, Part 2 ABC
1:30-2:00pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
2:00-4:00pm ARCA Racing Series Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care FOXSports 1
2:00-4:30pm Nationwide Series Get To Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams ESPN
8:00-9:00pm Moto3: France FOX Sports 2*
9:00-10:00pm Moto2: France FOX Sports 2*
9:00pm-12:00am NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN 2*/

Monday, May 19
Time Telecast Network
12:00am-2:30am Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200FOX Sports 2*# (from May 16)
1:00-3:00am Nationwide Series Get To Know Newton 250 presented by Sherwin-Williams ESPN 2*/# (from May 18)
3:00-4:00am FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Spa-FrancochampsFOX Sports 1*/ (from May 3)
4:00-6:00am ARCA Racing Series Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care FOXSports 1*# (from May 18)
10:30am-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race FOX Sports 1*# (from May 17)
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
7:30-10:00pm Sprint Cup Series Sprint All-Star Race FOX Sports 1*# (from May 17) *- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage #- Repeat Coverage
$- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet service provider and/or programming provider for availability.

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 Thursday in the Newsletter, I will be covering the K&N Pro Series West’s Stockton 150 from Stockton 99 Speedway (the quarter-mile paved oval, not the dirt track). Next week’s Critic’s Annex will cover the Menards 200 from Toledo Speedway.

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
ESPN

At this point, there is still no public contact e-mail for NBC Sports. When they finally get around to creating a new link, I will post it for you.

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.

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