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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Harvick Shines Once Again In Booth

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the scene of a couple of butt-kickings last weekend, in addition to some tempers flaring inside of racecars (but not outside). We also had the return of Kevin Harvick to the booth.

However, before we get started, a couple of minor news items. Recently, we noted the proposed trade between ESPN and FOX Sports that would have brought Katie Nolan to ESPN so that she could write for Grantland. At the time, The Big Lead reported that the introduction of Marty Smith into the deal ultimately killed the trade. Well, SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported in the write-up of a recent interview he conducted with Nolan that before the deal was killed, it had evolved into a straight-up Nolan for Smith deal. Interesting. It’s difficult to gauge the importance of both personalities to their respective networks as they generally operate in different fields. However, since FOX Sports considers Nolan to be a star in the making (hence her new TV show that premieres Sunday night), they made the price for ESPN to get Nolan quite steep. That just shows the regard in which Smith is held in media circles.

Also, a quick note for the listings at the bottom of the article. Last month, CBS Sports Network quietly announced their Torque.TV lineup, which will be on the digital cable network for the next three years. We’ve already touched upon Pirelli World Challenge and the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) being part of it. Sunday will mark the premiere of the V8 Supercars on CBS Sports Network. Fans of Marcos Ambrose will now have a place to watch the former Sprint Cup regular’s exploits back home in Australia. Right now, it appears that races will be televised in one hour highlight packages. The Clipsal 500 telecast premieres Sunday at Noon.

Boyd Gaming 300

Saturday brought the XFINITY Series back to action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What we got was a race that was all but over on Friday afternoon. Austin Dillon gave everyone a whooping. Of course, just because someone executes a whooping doesn’t mean that it’s a relatively light day for FOX Sports.

The XFINITY Edition of NASCAR RaceDay continues to try to find its legs through three weeks. Generally, I enjoy watching it, but I do believe that Kenny Wallace can be over the top at times. Then again, it appears that being over the top is Wallace being normal.

For the race, FOX Sports 1 welcomed Harvick back to the booth for his second go-round of the season. Viewers got a great performance in the booth once again from the defending Sprint Cup Series champion in what continues to be an incredible contrast of personalities in the booth. Harvick is a methodical analyst who is more than willing to walk viewers through his viewpoints. His commentary is meant to inform. It’s similar to having Ricky Craven in the booth, but with a different tone of voice.

Harvick, who is apparently donating his time to FOX Sports 1 for the telecasts (meaning that they’re not paying him), takes the time to study up prior to the telecasts in and around all the other responsibilities he has. In addition, Harvick has all his knowledge from the driver’s seat. Coming off of a dominant victory and going to the booth allowed Harvick to bring that knowledge from Atlanta. For example, viewers heard a fairly in-depth explanation of the “spoiler ears” and how they affect the handling of an XFINITY Series car during the race.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick is a force on the track and in the TV booth this year. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Even the hot-button issue of hitting concrete walls was handled in a reasonable manner by Harvick. He explained why the point where Erik Jones hit the wall didn’t have a SAFER barrier and how it wasn’t something that Las Vegas Motor Speedway overlooked, but a concession to the drivers who wanted the extra space on corner exit. While we know Larry McReynolds’ opinion on the issue from Daytona (and to a lesser extent, Atlanta), keeping yourself calm when giving your views does help in the situation. Harvick came off as very rational and understanding.

Meanwhile, Harvick (and Adam Alexander) continue to share the booth with Michael Waltrip, who is anything but methodical in…anything. Michael clearly is on the good side of FOX Sports management. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to do 60 races a year on TV. However, I’m unsure what he really brings to the booth other than star power and past experience. Yes, Michael is a past winner in the XFINITY Series (from back in the 1980’s and 1990’s), but just doesn’t bring all that much other than being irritating. Yes, it’s great that Michael’s having fun in the booth and I don’t begrudge anyone on a telecast from having fun. However, if being the fun-loving third of the booth is all Michael brings to the table, he could end up being more distracting to the viewer than beneficial.

Saturday’s race was ultimately not all that exciting to watch for most of the day. Dillon just stomped ‘em. During the long green flag runs, we only got a fair amount of battling for position. There was some focus on Cup regulars, but not as much as there would have been if drivers like Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano or Kyle Busch had been in the field. As a result, the race did feel a little like a standalone race at times. The booth gave dap to drivers like Blake Koch (before he binned it in turn 4), Jones and others.

Post-race coverage (once again interrupted by FOX Sports Live) was only average. The coverage was truncated because the race had gone over its scheduled slot. As a result, viewers got what could be considered the bare minimum before FOX Sports 1 left to go to FOX Sports Live.

Harvick is simply a natural in the broadcast booth. It seems to come about as easy for him as racing at intermediates since he moved to Stewart-Haas Racing. Having to bounce his thoughts off a court jester doesn’t necessarily help his case. Harvick likely only has one more race left this year on FOX Sports 1, which is a shame. As for the rest of the schedule of guest analysts, I will try to get an official schedule for you.

Kobalt 400

Sunday brought Sprint Cup back to Las Vegas for 400 miles of action. The race also saw the return of Brian Vickers to the No. 55 after open heart surgery. We’ll just start there for good measure.

Naturally, Vickers’ situation back in December was quite serious. Anytime you hear the words “open heart surgery” together in a row, it’s not going to be a simple thing like getting your bottom wisdom teeth extracted. That’s something you can have done with minimal anesthesia in ten or so minutes while listening to Journey.

Everything that was released about Vickers in the off-season made his situation sound unfortunate, but something that he was going to bounce back from without too much of a problem. After all, he’d bounced back previously. FOX’s piece with Vickers Sunday painted a different picture. Rather than do the piece as a one-on-one interview, FOX simply had Vickers describe what happened. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation here. Vickers started experiencing chest pains due to the rejection issues and had he not gotten to the hospital as quick as he did, he likely would have had a heart attack. Having a heart attack at 31 is far more likely to be deadly than a heart attack at 75. The reasons for that are rather numerous and getting into it here would be getting way off-topic. Regardless, the idea of Vickers openly questioning whether he’d even race again was quite sobering.

Outside of Jeff Gordon’s mini-incident with Danica Patrick in Happy Hour that forced him to start at the rear in a backup car, one of the bigger stories that came out of Sunday morning was the decision for NASCAR to throw a competition caution on lap 25. I have no clue why they did it. In Atlanta, it was obvious why NASCAR made that call. Las Vegas, not so much. FOX tried to explain the situation by using the new rules as NASCAR’s reasoning. I really don’t get it. If that were so, that would mean that NASCAR’s going to throw a competition caution every dang week. I just don’t think FOX did a good enough job explaining why it had to be done.

On the plus side, FOX came up with a graphical depiction of the new driver-adjustable track bar. Admittedly, it’s something that FOX probably should have had ready to go at Atlanta, but they didn’t. I just wish they had shown it during FOX NASCAR Sunday and not on lap 121 of the race.

Overall, the racing for position shown on FOX was OK. Viewers saw a decent amount of action around the restarts. Beyond the restarts, the action was little and far between. Viewers would see a battle here or there, but the focus would go onto storylines. After lap 91, Jimmie Johnson’s charge up through the field was one of those storylines. However, we never really saw him pass anyone. We would get an update on his position while looking at Johnson via one of the in-car cameras. You saw his progress through the field, but never anything around him until he stuffed it in the wall.

To FOX’s credit, they did get viewers interviews with drivers involved in the few incidents on Sunday. Johnson told viewers in his interview about how he apparently melted a bead to cause his first tire failure. It’s an explanation (given to him from his crew via Goodyear engineers) that would make a whole lot more sense this weekend in Phoenix. I’d like to see how that’s possible given the limited usage of brakes at Las Vegas.

Carl Edwards actually apologized to Kasey Kahne for his role in creating the wreck that saw him spin out and nose into the inside wall. It’s interesting, but Edwards’ track record here left me skeptical. We all remember what he did in 2010 at Atlanta.

Unlike Saturday, the Cup race ended relatively early, leaving viewers with a good amount of post-race coverage. However, despite some good stories in the race, FOX’s post-race coverage more or less stuck to the general storylines of the day. FOX took time to talk to Gordon post-race despite the fact that he finished a lap down in 18th after getting wrecked for the third week in a row. Yes, I know it’s his last start at Las Vegas, but there are other stories that should be covered. Gordon got plenty of airtime Sunday despite his problems.

On the other hand, I would have liked to see AJ Allmendinger get some airtime after the race. He’s currently fifth in points and just claimed his third-best ever intermediate finish (tied with Atlanta in 2010). Drivers like Allmendinger deserve to be able to thank their sponsors just as much as people like Denny Hamlin, who finished barely half a second ahead of Allmendinger. One false move and the ‘Dinger would have gotten him in the last couple of laps. The JTG-Daugherty Racing team is showing incredible form early on, but it’s been under the radar because nobody is showing Allmendinger.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a very busy weekend for race fans. The Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series continue the western swing with a trip to Phoenix. Meanwhile, Formula One starts their season in Australia and Formula E returns in Miami after a two month break. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, March 10

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#
5 a.m. - 6 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1*# (from March 9)
10 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.XFINITY Series Boyd Gaming 300FOX Sports 1*# (from March 7)
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network

Wednesday, March 11

TimeTelecastNetwork
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR America's The List: Iconic CarsNBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network

Thursday, March 12

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.NASCAR America's Celebrate the States, Part No. 1NBC Sports Network#
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR America's Celebrate the States, Part No. 2NBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Friday, March 13

TimeTelecastNetwork
12:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network*/
1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 2NBC Sports Network
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Happy HourFOX Sports 2
7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 2
10 p.m. - 12 a.m.NASCAR Mexico Series Toyota 120NBC Universo

Saturday, March 14

TimeTelecastNetwork
12:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 3NBC Sports Network*
1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.Countdown to F1NBC Sports Network
2 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Australia QualifyingNBC Sports Network
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from March 13)
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Austin, GT/GTS/GT Cup RacesCBS Sports Network*/ (from March 7-8)
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 1
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX 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
3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: MiamiFOX Sports 2
4 p.m. - 6 p.m.XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200FOX
5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: MiamiFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: IndianapolisFOX Sports 2
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.Mercedes F1: Race to RepeatNBC Sports Network#
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: TampaFOX Sports 2#

Sunday, March 15

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.Countdown to F1NBC Sports Network#
12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network
1 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of AustraliaNBC Sports Network
1:30 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals QualifyingESPN 2*/ (from March 14)
3 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network
3:30 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: IndianapolisFOX Sports 1*# (from March 14)
6 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network*#
6:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of AustraliaNBC Sports Network*#
7 a.m. - 9 a.m.NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals QualifyingESPN 2*/# (from March 14)
8 a.m. - 10 a.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Austin, GT/GT Cup/GTS RacesCBS Sports Network*/# (from March 7-8)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas CityFOX Sports 1*
11 a.m. - 5 p.m.NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Final EliminationsESPN 3$
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.V8 Supercars Clipsal 500CBS Sports Network*/ (from February 28-March 1)
12 p.m. - 1:30 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 CampingWorld.com 500kFOX
4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network*#
4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.Formula One Grand Prix of AustraliaNBC Sports Network*#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.V8 Supercars Clipsal 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from February 28-March 1)
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network*#
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Final EliminationsESPN 2*/
11 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1*

Monday, March 16

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 3 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: IndianapolisFOX Sports 2*# (from March 14)
5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1*#
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500kFOX Sports 1*/# (from March 15)
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas CityFOX Sports 2*#
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500kFOX Sports 2*/# (from March 15)
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas CityFOX Sports 2*#
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: MiamiFOX Sports 2*/# (from March 14)

Key:
* – Tape delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
^ – Available via free internet streaming.
$ – Available via password-protected internet streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.

Note that all motorsports coverage on FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 is available on the FOX Sports GO app. Availability is dependent on your provider.

I will critique the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races from Phoenix for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. As of this writing, a topic for the Critic’s Annex is undecided for this week.  Next week’s edition may see me try to critique NBC Universo’s coverage of the Mexico Series’ Toyota 120 on Friday night (Note: NBC Universo is what used to be Mun2 until last month).

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 links:

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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8 thoughts on “Couch Potato Tuesday: Harvick Shines Once Again In Booth”

  1. I know the pundits of Nascar have told us how “great” Harvick was in the booth. Well, what is a “racing fan” to do, when they haven’t been able
    to stomach Harvick since day one? Mute the Tv of course, but he felt he had to speak all the time like the others, so it was a losing battle. Mute,
    mute and more mute.

  2. DW and Lary Mac fatigue has already set in at my household. We watched the Daytona 500 live, flag-to-flag. DVR’d the Atlanta race and watched it flag-to-flag, skipping commercial breaks. For Vegas, I decided to watch the race live and listen to MRN. Made it as far as the 48 taking the lead. Turned on the DVR and went and did other things. Came back and FF’d through the race, stopping to see what the cautions were about. Saw the 4 was dominating and FF’d to the checkers. Stop, delete.

  3. Great column! I agree with your comments on Kenny and Mikey. Their theatrics make me change the channel
    immediately. The truck races are unbearable because of Waltrip’s over hyped babble.
    I don’t understand Fox’s desire to constantly present him. Harvick is doing a great job. He would do excellent
    as an immediate replacement for DW who has also grown very stale. It’s also time to get a director who understands racing and will get rid of the grammy searching aesthetics.

  4. As much as I hate to admit it, having never been a Harvick fan, he has done a really good job in the booth. He knows what he’s talking about and isn’t a NASCAR or Toyota shill like Mikey “The Mouth” is. He is almost as well informed as Buddy Baker was. What a shame that none of the networks have seen fit to hire Buddy, the best analyst ever.

    • Agreed. Harvick is a jerk but he makes a great analyst. Waltrip is to analyzing like a train engine is to pulling an RV.

  5. All this praise for Harvick in the booth. Too bad he’s such a bonehead on the track when things don’t go his way. Such as parking his car in another’s pit stalls, driving a flaming racecar into a crowded area, publicly throwing his pit crew under the bus, etc.,etc.,etc. Yep there’s a real role model for a “Champion”. Actually the best place for him is in the booth.

    • I didn’t see anything that the other “hosts” didn’t provide that the few praises are saying “he did”. His bad behavior continues to be rewarded, personality means a lot to me an fans I know..he isn’t on any of our lists as “the guy” we want to promote or listen too. And yes I can say this with 100% conviction in my Nascar world (coast to coast).
      I did mute, but then had to look at the TV to know when he was done speaking, so I saw his little body and big bobble head. Ugh.

  6. I’m still trying to figure what target demographic Fox is trying to reach with the increased role of Michael Waltrip.

Comments are closed.