NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Martinsville Serves as Showcase for FOX Sports 1

Last weekend saw the Sprint Cup Series compete in the first of what will be seven point races (plus the Sprint Showdown and Sprint All-Star Race) on FOX Sports 1. It’s a pretty big deal. Last week, I noted that I would cover the Verizon IndyCar Series opener here in Couch Potato Tuesday as well. However, the critique of the debris-strewn opener in St. Petersburg will be covered in the Critic’s Annex. There, we’ll talk about the Team Penske domination, Jon Beekhuis’s return to the ESPN umbrella, the Eddie Cheever factor, and more.

STP 500

For FS1, Martinsville weekend was a pretty big deal. The Sprint Cup Series saw its first points race to be aired on the network. Compared to past years, the ratings for the race were not great. However, they are better than almost anything that’s ever aired on FS1, even dating back to the days when it was still SPEED. It’s something to build on. However, what are they starting with?

Naturally, the big stories from before the race were Kyle Larson being forced to miss the race after fainting Saturday at an autograph session and the rumors of illegal tire modification. FOX NASCAR Sunday (aired as part of NASCAR RaceDay) started off by updating the situation on both fronts in a decent matter. Andy Petree described the tire situation as teams potentially drilling microscopic holes to bleed air. Arguably, there is some precedent when Front Row Motorsports got caught bleeding air out of a right-rear tire during a rain delay at Pocono, but that was a different scenario. The penalty (150 points under the old points system) would equate to somewhere between a P4 and P5 penalty. However, based on comments last weekend, it appears likely that if anyone ever gets caught with these holes in their tires, they will be looking at a nasty P6 penalty.

Then, it got ridiculous. Since airing Martinsville was such a big deal for FS1, they had to get Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole from FOX Sports Live in on the deal. Normally, I like the Canadian duo, who serve as the primary hosts for FOX Sports Live. However, this Wienergate setup was annoying. The whole hot dog story was quite played out by Sunday. Also, they played it like something really serious happened when it was just that racket. Heck to the no. FOX, don’t do that again, please.

Last week, the primary issue in Fontana was debris, or the race being put under caution for debris that we could not see. Thankfully, that was not a problem on Sunday. FOX took pains to show viewers the debris that brought out yellows during the race, which was great to see. Keep that up. There were three yellows for debris Sunday, and I think there might have been some controversy over the second one. That yellow saw actual debris on the track. FOX showed that debris. I believe it was one of those grille inserts off of Trevor Bayne’s No. 6 Ford. Those things are prone to popping up to say hello at Martinsville. Why Bayne’s car? Just prior to the yellow coming out, FOX had one of their Crank it Up segments. They had a shot from the roof cam on Bayne’s car and the grille was coming loose.

There were a couple of instances that FOX should work on for the future, though. One was Justin Allgaier’s crash that effectively ended his day (getting the penalty that cost him a lap already ruined it, but the crash was the cherry on top). The wreck occurred during the commercial immediately after the Mid-Race Report, which still remains the mess that it was in Fontana (Note: Please at least give viewers the FOX Box during that report. Viewers can’t really see what’s going on during the discussion). The caution gets stretched out to 15 laps due to the cleanup. We never got a replay of what happened to Allgaier. In my mind, that’s inexcusable. You had the time. Why not show a replay? Anything at all is beneficial.

A second issue that was substandard was the handling of Austin Dillon’s electrical issues that forced him to retire from the race. FOX briefly showed Dillon’s Cheerios Chevrolet smoking on the frontstretch, which the broadcast booth made note of. That was it. There was no mention made of Dillon coming into the pits and the car burst into flames. There was no mention made of the fire. We only saw the smoke from said fire, but no one ever referenced where the smoke was coming from. Here’s a picture from Mark Ponton, a fan who was in the stands on Sunday of the team dealing with the mess.

Now, I know that Dillon was done for the day at that point, but I’d figure that at least some kind of replay or reference to what was going on would be necessary. Anything at all. Same thing with the other driver that DNF’d, AJ Allmendinger. Yes, we saw him smoking like crazy, but they never really explained to the viewers what was really wrong with Allmendinger’s car that put him out (By the time he finally pulled off, he was smoking in a fashion that made me think it was a wheel bearing, but it turned out to be an oil leak).

Honestly, I’m shocked that NASCAR didn’t throw a caution because of it despite the fact that Dillon was on pit road, if only so that they could close pit road. Obviously, we’re not talking about anything along the lines of the no-call NASCAR made at North Wilkesboro back in 1986 when Trevor Boys crashed, but there was some pit-road cleanup that was required after the solution was used on Dillon’s car.

Overall, viewers saw a great amount of action for position on Sunday, much more than in most of the other races to this point in the season. The racing was not-so-fast (average speed was just under 69 mph), but it was quite furious. There wasn’t all that much in terms of paybacks. That was more of a Saturday thing. However, what we did see was pretty good.

Since the race ran long, post-race coverage fed right into FOX Sports Live, which I continue to not be a fan of. Having said that, we got a good amount of post-race coverage. I would not be surprised if FOX Sports Live eventually brought in an in-studio NASCAR analyst much like ESPN has done with Ricky Craven for SportsCenter. It’s just tougher for FOX Sports since FOX Sports Live is Los Angeles-based.

Kroger 250

Saturday afternoon brought the Camping World Truck Series back from their break for 258 laps of action… before going back into the cave to hibernate for another month and change. Having said that, the action was pretty good on the track.

The highlight of NCWTS Setup was a sit-down interview that Ray Dunlap conducted with Dale Earnhardt Jr., the series’ newest team owner. Here, the Sprint Cup regular (who has never started a truck race) talked about sharing a shop as an up-and-coming late model racer with his father’s truck team, his thoughts about driver Cole Custer, potential plans to race his No. 00 at some point, and what his goals were. He set very high goals and came within a whisker of accomplishing it the first time out.

The Setup was essentially hosted back in Charlotte by John Roberts and Todd Bodine. That boggled me. Martinsville is not that far from Charlotte. It’s only 126 miles. While Roberts would probably need to stay in Charlotte to anchor the weekend RaceHubs, which are consistent rating winners for FS1, there’s no reason why Bodine couldn’t have been in Martinsville on Saturday.

As compared to Sunday’s 500-lap affair, Saturday’s race was rougher. People were a little more willing to root and gouge. On the telecast, you saw a tendency to skip things at times. It’s arguable that the skipping is partially due to the fact that things happen faster at Martinsville than at say, Atlanta. However, it leaves holes in the presentation. It’s one thing to skip showing the viewers who has in-truck cameras before the race starts. It’s another to not show a replay for an incident until 10 laps after the restart, then use green-flag racing time to show replays of the aforementioned incident. That was the situation that we had early on Saturday after Tyler Reddick spun following contact from Daniel Suarez.

Much like on Sunday, FS1 was not the best at bringing viewers the reasoning for certain events taking place. For example, the second caution was thrown for a relatively simple spin involving Mason Mingus. However, the yellow ended up lasting for 15 laps. No caution for something that simple should last that long. What happened? Travis Kvapil dropped some Texas Tea on the track. The oil leaking was all over Twitter. FS1 took the time to talk about Earl Baltes’s death and aired an interview with Tony Stewart where Stewart waxed nostalgic on the former track owner and bandleader. I have no doubt that Stewart’s words were straight from the heart, but it was out of place here. There was somewhere else that that footage could have aired. Only after the Stewart interview did Adam Alexander mention that there was oil on track. Alexander should have mentioned that to the viewers earlier.

Racing-wise, FS1’s Saturday coverage was a little more exclusive than what we got for the big Sprint Cup premiere. Admittedly, much of the action that we had on Sunday was at the front of the field (14 lead changes, but all but eight laps were led by either Joey Logano or Matt Crafton), but there was more action than that. The long green-flag run showed that only a few drivers could even run with Logano and Crafton. They just ran away from everyone and nearly lapped up to the top 10.

The last 50 laps of the race was the most enjoyable to watch. You had big-time battles on-track and an enthusiastic booth to bring viewers those battles. That’s really all you can ask for.

The race ended right up against the end of the time slot. As a result, post-race coverage was somewhat limited, to FS1’s detriment. Apparently, Crafton’s team was quite upset with Custer’s actions towards the end of the race. Posts on Twitter from people on-site seemed to indicate hostility on the part of ThorSport Racing towards Custer and JR Motorsports. No punches were thrown, but some terse words were likely exchanged. None of that made air on FS1 and no reference was made to it. I’m pretty sure I’m not making up what I saw on Twitter Saturday. If said confrontation occurred, I’m surprised that we didn’t get footage. Usually, NASCAR’s TV partners are great at picking those things up.

Despite the failure to air argument footage, there was still a decent amount of post-race interview footage, as well as some post-race analysis. Just wish that there weren’t 40 days between races.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is Easter. Essentially every major series is taking the weekend off. Locally here in New York, there are a couple of tracks hosting their first races of the season (notably, Fonda Speedway is scheduled to hold their annual Icebreaker on Saturday), but most of them are still prepping for the upcoming season. Quite simply, there isn’t much on. However, Formula E will be in action in California on a shortened version of the Long Beach Street Circuit. Meanwhile, NBC Sports Network will air delayed coverage of the season opener for the K&N Pro Series West from Kern County Raceway. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, March 31

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network*# (from March 29)
12:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of MalaysiaNBC Sports Network*# (from March 29)
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network*# (from March 29)
3:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250FOX Sports 1*# (from March 28)
5 p.m. - 5:30 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*#

Wednesday, April 1

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of QatarFOX Sports 1*# (from March 29)
4 a.m. - 5 a.m.Moto2: QatarFOX Sports 1*# (from March 29)
5 a.m. - 6 a.m.Moto3: QatarFOX Sports 1*# (from March 29)
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series STP 500FOX Sports 2*/# (from March 29)
5 p.m. - 5:30 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, April 2

TimeTelecastNetwork
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR's The List: NBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 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*#
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: New OrleansFOX Sports 2*#

Friday, April 3

TimeTelecastNetwork
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR's The List: NBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts 150NBC Sports Network*/ (from March 28)
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
7:30 p.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR's The List MarathonNBC Sports Network#
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.1979 Daytona 500: Pop-up StyleFOX Sports 2#

Saturday, April 4

TimeTelecastNetwork
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: Long BeachFOX Sports 1

Sunday, April 5

TimeTelecastNetwork
9 a.m. - 11 a.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Microsoft Visual Studio 150FOX Sports 1*/ (from March 20)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: Long BeachFOX Sports 1*/# (from April 4)
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: AustinFOX Sports 1*
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Firestone Indy Lights St. Petersburg 100NBC Sports Network* (from March 28)
5 p.m. - 7 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: St. Petersburg, GT/GT Cup/GTSCBS Sports Network*/ (from March 28-29)
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: Long BeachFOX Sports 2*/# (from April 4)
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.V8 Supercars Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprintCBS Sports Network*/ (from March 28-29)
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Microsoft Visual Studio 150FOX Sports 2*/# (from March 20)
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: AustinFOX Sports 2*#

Monday, April 6

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 p.m. - 4 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: AustinFOX 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*#
8:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.Blancpain Sprint Series: NogaroCBS Sports Network/

Key:
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage

For next week, we’ll have a shortened column here on Frontstretch. The topic will be about all the changes that FOX Sports has made to their NASCAR coverage for the 2015 season, and how they’re working out so far. For the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering the Verizon IndyCar Series opener from St. Petersburg from Sunday. Next week’s Annex will cover the NAPA Auto Parts 150 from Kern County near Bakersfield.

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 email 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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12 Comments
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rg72

I’ve noticed that Andy Petree is getting a little more air time each week. I still wonder if he is being transitioned to a more prominent role next year.

Bill B

I noticed that smoke (from Dillon’s car) during the race but until reading this article had no idea what it was. That in a nutshell is exactly what is wrong with FOX’s coverage (well, one of the things).

chip

How about at the end of the cup race the grand father clock falling over as they were setting up victory lane?

janice

i live in a literal world at times. when the bozos said “breaking news” i thought something major had happened in the world, not weinergate. sigh. just another bit of crap.

i don’t know if the clock fell over, i think maybe they laid it down while they got v/lane into position. hopefully the one the the drivers get is not the one that is abused in victory lane.

Phil Allaway

Janice, I’m right there with you. I thought something similar was going down. They’ve never broken into pre-race coverage with breaking news like that before. Yes, I know hot dogs are important at Martinsville and a lot of people were upset that Martinsville dumped Jesse Jones Hot Dogs. But, they hurt their credibility with that.

JohnQ

That Fox decided to air the race on a secondary channel strikes me as at least a tacit admission that interest in NASCAR continues to wane. While ratings are poor, without the VCR and the mute button they would be catastrophic. As to the truck race, if there was not so much air time to fill it would not be televised at all as no one is watching. I find it interesting that the money from a telecast no one watches is probably the only reason the series has not folded by now.

paltex

As I promised last week, I found something better to do on a Sunday afternoon. However, I spoke with some friends that watched the race (?) and they said that fox was as bad as they have ever seen. O well,
everything is just rosy in nascar and fox eyes.

Bill W.

Once again Mikey has figured away to get shots of the 5hr energy on the tv screen by showing the feet of Bowyer. This might work for a road course race, but not at Martinsville . How many times each week do they show the in car camera of the #15?

How many times do we have to watch a recap summery of the race each week?

How many of them hotdog would you have to stick in the Waldrips mouth to keep them quiet?

GinaV24

I have FS1 on my cable tier, but it seems dumb to put a race that you are trying to get people to watch on a channel that many fans don’t get – unless as JohnQ says, it is tacit admission that Fox already knows people aren’t watching the race. The regular Fox station in my area showed re-runs of Bones all day so does that mean that more people are interested in re-runs of a show than of an actual live event? Sad if that is the case.

IMO Fox’s coverage overall continues to be subpar. They only cover what they think is important or is paid for, not the actual race. I had no idea what Dillon’s problem was either. Mikey is a total tool and a waste of space and full of hot air but not actual real information. Having an active owner in the booth talking about his own teams is so annoying. I mute the tv any time he starts to ramble on.

I didn’t watch the truck race – I gave that up because of too many Cup drivers plus Mikey in the booth make it a non-starter for me. I’m simply not going to watch.

Joanthan

My comment is aimed at the few that are complaining about the Cup race being on FS1, have you already forget back in 2001 when Cup races were aired on the cable network FX, here are some numbers for you to consider before you complain about the May Kansas race being on FS1, now, I can not get numbers for 2001-2007, but as of 2008, FX was up to 90 million viewers, I am sure in 2001 when the first Cup was on FX, there was not 90 million people watching. Now, another fun fact, right now, FS1 is in 84 million homes, 72% of those with Tv’s

NBC Sports Network is in 81 million households, are you going to complain and say that NBC is dumping the races to NBCSN because they know that no one is watching too ?

FOX is doing what they did in 2001, some races on FOX, some races on FX, fast forward to 2015, some races on FOX, some races FS1,

NASCAR races have always been on cable networks, I think some of you are just complaining to complain or you just dont like FOX, which, I cant blame you to be honest

GinaV24

Yes I remember the races being on FX and since I’ve always had that channel, it didn’t bother me that Fox used it for races (other than having to remember what channel the race would be shown on). The original TV contract in 2001 with Fox, TNT and NBC touted the ‘you’ll always know what channel the race will be on”. Well that plan is long gone.

And FS1 is far less available than FX was AND based on ratings for the “normal” places fans would watch a race, there are far less interested people watching. Moving a race that people would have watched on Fox to try and boost viewership for FS1 probably makes sense for Fox but doesn’t necessarily make sense for the fans.

As far as NBC Sports, well, I’ll have to look for that channel. I think I have it but since I seldom watch it, it isn’t one that I think about very often.

Joanthan, I think YOU may also be guilty of just wanting to complain, too. You are right about Fox though, I don’t like their broadcasts. They were great at the beginning, but mostly it is simply old & stale. If they were a sitcom, they’d have been cancelled several years ago.

Fed Up

Take a look at the TV ratings just released for Martinsville. A pathetic 2.5 seems to tell the whole story of Fox’s coverage, however the FOX RP bragged about having 170% viewership over Nickelodean. That’s some tremendous bragging rights. The truck races have become unbearable listening to Mikey’s exuberancy. Andy Petrea would make a great replacement and not show favoritism.

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