NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Atlanta Provides Challenges, FOX Meets Some of Them

Before we get started on the critique, there are a couple of  television news pieces that need to be covered. First off, for most of you, being able to watch Saturday’s Hisense 250 on FOX Sports 1 was probably not that much of a problem (if you subscribe to the channel). However, for those of you with At&t U-Verse, you were thrown in the middle of a spat between your carrier and News Corporation, FOX Sports 1’s parent company. As a result, the live race telecast was blacked out in favor of darts. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much that you can do if you’re affected by the conflict until they settle. Until then, you won’t be able to watch XFINITY Series races live. There have been no updates to the spat since Saturday. My guess is that it will be settled before the end of the month.

The spat actually rolls right into the other news item of the day, which concerns a channel swap for the Sprint Cup race at Martinsville at the end of the month. The STP 500 was originally scheduled to air on FOX, but last week, FOX switched out that race for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond. Why? The official release referenced a conflict with another sporting event. As you may remember from recent years, many viewers have missed the start of the spring race at Richmond due to baseball running long. That’s the same issue here. Since the Saturday Game of the Week now airs on FOX Sports 1, it’s a bit of a problem to have one of those games go long. The Martinsville race is before the baseball regular season starts, so it was an obvious choice for the switch. Let’s just hope that the spat’s over by then.

Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Sunday brought chilly weather by Georgia standards to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the season’s lone Sprint Cup race at the 1.54 mile quad-oval. It also brought the debut of a series of rule changes meant to shake up the action. Judging by the results of the race, I’m not sure all that much changed.

Early morning rains ultimately delayed the beginning of the race by nearly an hour as NASCAR’s jet dryers and Air Titan 2’s finished the track drying process. As a result, we got an expanded pre-race show with the usual increased number of interviews.

Darrell Waltrip did a sit-down interview with Carl Edwards that focused on his move to Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s arguable that such subject matter would be par for the course. What stood out to me is that Edwards admitted that he had been waffling back and forth for years as to when to pull the trigger on leaving Roush Fenway Racing. I can recall reading rumors about Edwards going to JGR as far back as 2012. However, Edwards made it sound like he was considering leaving as far back as 2008. Mind you, that was right after Edwards won nine races and finished second in points. For all that success, it seems that Edwards didn’t have all that much confidence in his team.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Sunday’s race kicked off under grey skies following a brief delay for track drying. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Another feature that was introduced during the delay was NASCAR Screenpass, where Chris Myers can use the touchscreen in the Hollywood Hotel to highlight any particular driver and pitch a discussion to the Waltrips. In theory, it’s a great idea. In execution, not so much. It seems like the feature, which will apparently be a part-time thing on FOX NASCAR Sunday, will likely focus on the top runners. It’s an excuse for sound bites. If FOX is going to make use of a feature like NASCAR Screenpass on a regular basis, it should be used to expand on the analysis, not compliment what you already have. Cover drivers and teams that might not have otherwise received coverage in pre-race.

Despite the rather miserable conditions in Atlanta, FOX put together a decent broadcast. Viewers got to see a good amount of racing for position. That battling was not limited to just those at the very front of the field. NASCAR giving FOX access to the pit cameras helps as well since they can explain all the possible penalties on pit road and why they happen. Granted, there really weren’t that many penalties on Sunday compared to Daytona.

Andy Petree only showed up to talk about the new track bar adjuster just before the two-thirds’ mark of the race. The opinion in the garage right now is a mixed bag. Knowing that Sunday was the first race for the adjuster, FOX probably should have taken a little time during the expanded pre-race coverage to show off the adjuster, how it works, and get input from drivers and crew chiefs. As it stands, they talked with Chad Knaus on Monday’s edition of NASCAR RaceHub. However, not everyone watches NASCAR RaceHub. There’s a pretty big difference between an audience of 200,000 and two million.  Especially with the delay, it was a missed opportunity. To make matters worse, FOX all but missed a battle for the lead while Petree and the gang were going on about the adjuster.

Despite the race finishing about 75 minutes late due to the rain, there was still a decent amount of post-race coverage. I still would have liked to see Brett Moffitt get some airtime. Here’s a guy that’s a bit of an unknown to Sprint Cup, driving in place of Brian Vickers in what might be his only race of 2015 outside of friendly go-kart duels at GoPro Motorplex against Ross Chastain and other NASCAR drivers known to frequent the Justin Marks-owned venue. He goes out and surprises everyone to finish eighth. He probably ran every bit as good as Vickers would have performed if he were cleared to race on Sunday. While yes, the booth did give him some love during the race, he did deserve some airtime afterward.

Hisense 250

Saturday brought a doubleheader to Atlanta Motor Speedway. The last time that NASCAR tried the XFINITY-Camping World Truck Series doubleheader back in 2009 at Auto Club Speedway, the results were middling. However, Atlanta is a different track than Auto Club Speedway.

The main feature of pre-race coverage (NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY Edition) was a sit down interview that Danielle Trotta conducted with Daytona winner Ryan Reed. Admittedly, the subject matter was fairly predictable and if you watched the pieces that ESPN aired on Reed last year, you probably didn’t learn anything new. There really wasn’t that much talk about the win. I found that surprising. However, my contention is that there’s more to Ryan Reed than the fact that he has Type 1 Diabetes.  There has to be.  Just like there’s more to Chastain than watermelons. None of NASCAR’s TV partners have really shown it yet.

Saturday’s special guest in the broadcast booth was Brad Keselowski, who worked as an analyst in the booth while wearing his fire suit. Yes, he took the top down so that he could put a button-down shirt and a suit jacket on, but he was wearing his Cooper Standard pants the whole race. Keselowski in general is a well-thought individual. His first performance in the booth was decent. As he’ll tell you himself, there is room for improvement. For example, Keselowski referred to the XFINITY Series as the Nationwide Series something like five times during the race. That would have worked last year. Not this year. I’m sure the chaps with Comcast’s XFINITY division loved hearing that.

Also, there were some incomplete thoughts. On lap 25, Keselowski made reference to the pull tabs on Joey Logano’s grille that could be used to remove tape in order to cure an overheating problem. While that is true, here’s my issue. What overheating problem? It’s as if the issue was created out of nothing. There was no reference to Logano overheating on the broadcast prior to Keselowski mentioning it. Watching the race live, I found Keselowski’s anecdote to be confusing at best. However, Saturday was just his first go in the booth (for the whole race). He’ll still have a couple of more whacks at it. I believe that he’ll be a little better the next time around, assuming that he’s not thinking about driving in his own race.

Since the race ended much earlier than NASCAR expected (the race could have still run to the old 300 mile distance and still started the truck race at the originally scheduled time without a problem), there was plenty of post-race coverage to go around (essentially XFINITY Series post-race coverage bled right into NCWTS Setup).  The extra post-race coverage allowed FOX Sports 1 to talk to people that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten on-air.

Hyundai Construction Equipment 200

Saturday evening brought the Camping World Truck Series back out to play under the lights in Atlanta. Of course, Matt Crafton decided to open a can on the field, so it wasn’t the most competitive race on earth.

The Setup had a nice sit-down conversation that Ray Dunlap did with Daytona winner Tyler Reddick. Unlike the interview with Reed mentioned above, we actually learned some things about the young former dirt late model racer. Part of the interview was centered upon the incidents between Reddick and German Quiroga last year at Pocono. The reaction I saw from Reddick there indicates that he’s still none too pleased with Quiroga, who is not currently racing in NASCAR. It should be noted that Reddick stated that he was only sorry for wrapping innocent fellow drivers (Tyler Young and Bryan Silas) in his spat.

Camping World Truck Series telecasts in 2015 will be marked by near-constant change. Daytona saw Mike Joy in the booth with Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip. Only Parsons was back for Atlanta. In the play-by-play seat was Brian Till, a former driver in  the former CART series. Till is best known these days for sports car coverage. Saturday night just so happened to be his NASCAR debut. He was joined by Parsons and Todd Bodine.

Overall, I’m not the biggest fan of Till from what I’ve seen previously in IMSA and ALMS races on FOX Sports 1 and ESPN, but he did pretty well for someone who’s a NASCAR outsider. He’ll get a few more cracks on Camping World Truck Series telecasts later this season.

I accept that the play-by-play position is going to be a revolving door until Steve Byrnes is healthy enough to return to work, but there really needs to be some continuity as far as on-air personalities are concerned. While it isn’t necessarily what keeps viewers watching, having continuity helps with race telecasts.

(Photo: Mike Neff)
Truck Series coverage featured a revolving door-of commentators. (Photo: Mike Neff)

With that said, I like having Bodine in the booth. He’s a very informative driver who is very good at describing the aspects of racing without moving into wackiness, even though I’m sure he’d rather be driving. To me, he fits better as a booth analyst than co-hosting NCWTS Setup with Trotta (also absent from the Setup since she was in the Hollywood Hotel for the XFINITY Series race).

Speaking of the lack of wackiness, there was no Michael Waltrip in the booth, despite the fact that he had just done the XFINITY Series race. Interesting. Not having Michael Waltrip in the booth automatically creates a much different feel for the telecast. While he isn’t completely taking over broadcasts like he once did, Michael’s continued presence in the booth does create issues from time to time.

As Ty Dillon described prior to the race, the truck race ended up being a sprint race. There really wasn’t all that much action up front, especially once Crafton got past Erik Jones and drove off into the sunset. Daniel Suarez tried to stick it to Crafton on the final restart and managed to actually lead a lap. However, Crafton re-asserted himself and it was over after that. It’s a real shame. I was expecting more action than we got.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series travel out to Nevada for their annual visit to the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In addition, Pirelli World Challenge will hold their season opening races at Circuit of the Americas, where over 100 cars will compete in seven classes. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, March 3

TimeTelecastNetwork
10:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.XFINITY Series Hisense 250FOX Sports 1*# (from February 28_
2:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.XFINITY Series Hisense 250FOX Sports 1*# (from February 28)
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1#
4 a.m. - 6 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200FOX Sports 1*# (from February 28)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: NashvilleFOX Sports 1#
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#

Thursday, March 5

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 6 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: AtlantaFOX Sports 1*# (from February 28)
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: AtlantaFOX Sports 1*# (from February 28)
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR America: Celebrate the StatesNBC Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.Road to MercedesNBC Sports Network#
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.Mercedes F1: Race to RepeatNBC Sports Network
9 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.1NBC Sports Network#
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.Mercedes F1: Race to RepeatNBC Sports Network#

Friday, March 6, 2015

TimeTelecastNetwork
5 a.m. - 6 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: NashvilleFOX Sports 1#
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.A Perfect Storm: The 1979 Daytona 500FOX Sports 1#
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
4 p.m. - 5 p.m.Road to FerrariNBC Sports Network#
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1
7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1

Saturday, March 7, 2015

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.NASCAR America: Celebrate the States, Part No. 1NBC Sports Network#
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR America: Celebrate the States, Part No. 2NBC Sports Network#
3 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1*# (from March 6)
4:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from March 6)
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from March 6)
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 2
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: COTA, TC/TCA/TCB Race No. 1World-Challengetv.com^
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingFOX Sports 2
1:20 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: COTA, GTS Race No. 1World-Challengetv.com^
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.The 10:FOX Sports 1#
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1
3:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY EditionFOX Sports 1
3:45 p.m. - 5 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: COTA, GT/GTA/GT Cup Race No. 1World-Challengetv.com^
4 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Boyd Gaming 300FOX Sports 1
5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: COTA, TC/TCA/TCB Race No. 2World-Challengetv.com^
7:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: DaytonaFOX Sports 1
TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.1979 Daytona 500: Pop-up StyleFOX Sports 1#
3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.XFINITY Series Boyd Gaming 300FOX Sports 1*# (from March 7)
6 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: DaytonaFOX Sports 2*# (from March 7)
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: TampaFOX Sports 1*
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
3 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.FOX NASCAR SundayFOX
3:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400FOX

Monday, March 9

TimeTelecastNetwork
12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1*
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: NashvilleFOX Sports 2*#
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: TampaFOX Sports 2*#
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400FOX Sports 1*/# (from March 8)
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Key:
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
^ – Available via free online streaming.

Remember that all programming on FOX networks is available via the FOX Sports GO app. Provided that your internet and/or programming provider has signed on, you can access it with your password.

I will cover the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series broadcasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter, I will take a look at I Am Dale Earnhardt, a new 90-minute special that premiered last night on SPIKE. Should be interesting.

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 FOX Sports personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage, please click on the following link:

FOX Sports

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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BRUCE

I may have missed it but I have seen little comment on the Dillon lucky dog on Sunday. NASCAR’s ruling that it wasn’t Dillon who caused the yellow flag but the debris (which he caused) field. It’s calls like that that make racing look more like wrestling than a sport. If that is the way the call is going to be consistently short of a driver getting out of his car on the frontstretch and throwing parts on the track there is no way the yellow can be caused by the driver.

Mathan

The wrestling comparison is meaningless and getting dull; bad calls happen in sports all of the time without the usual rush of a handful of angry fans to compare it to wrestling. The call, however, was bad. So bad that even Larry took them to task…Larry of all people!

BRUCE

Nathan I agree with you bad calls happen all the time but usually they are recognised and the officials promise to do better you don’t see that from NASCAR. I wish I could agree with you on the wrestling comparison. Many years ago wrestling dropped the illusion of calling itself a sport and started calling itself “sports entertainment”. I would love to think of stock car racing still being a sport. The majority of the changes made are for the entertainment value not the competition. If you listen you even hear the France family refer to NASCAR as sports entertainment. I wish the comparison was meaningless but every race you get a reminder thats it’s the entertainment not the competition that counts and I am still around every week because sometimes the two things coincide.

Mathan

Stock car racing is still a sport irrespective of ther antics of a few. The fact that these competitors race to the best of their ability and push the line means that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still a sport. The day it is proven that Gorden wins a race by a general agreement amongst drivers and owners, that the Talledega big one is choreographed, or that Juniro wins a championship because it’s his turn as when the ridiculous wrestling comparison becomes appropriate.

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