NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Flirts With The Line at Richmond

Hello, TV watchers. As you all know, the past week stunk big time. When I wrote last week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, I had no idea that Steve Byrnes was literally on his death bed. I knew that he wasn’t in the best shape; any time “Stage 4” is mentioned in regards to cancer, it’s bad. As a result, I did believe that the Byrnes tributes in Bristol were a little over the top, especially the one at halfway, based on my overall knowledge of the situation. Clearly, the brass at FOX Sports knew a heck of a lot more than we did about Byrnes’ condition at the time.

News broke of Byrnes’s death less than 12 hours after my column went live. As a result, my column came off as incredibly insensitive to the situation. I don’t recall anyone calling me out on that, but that’s how I feel now. I’ve stated previously that Byrnes was a professional and I think that while he was flattered, he probably would have been apprehensive of celebrating him getting in the way of covering the race. That’s what I was trying to say last week.

In Richmond, we had more rain. Once that went away, FOX skirted the line on a hot-button issue.

Toyota Owners 400

Once again, rain affected the Sprint Cup race. Some of the higher-ups at FOX have to be pulling their hair out with the bad luck they’ve had recently. Admittedly, Richmond International Raceway is probably one of the toughest places to have a night race. There is a fairly strict curfew around the track that means that almost anything more than a light shower will postpone the race. Saturday night was at least the fourth time since 2002 that a race has been moved to Sunday afternoon at Richmond due to rain.

On Saturday night (and on Friday night in an edited form during NASCAR RaceDay – Xfinity Edition), there was a tribute to Steve Byrnes narrated by Ken Squier. Squier gave a sincere remembrance of Byrnes, complete with outtakes and great moments. It was quite touching. In his tribute, Squier’s description of Byrnes’s work ethic essentially nailed down what I try to do with my work, both here at Frontstretch and at Lebanon Valley Speedway.

While the piece was touching, what is also interesting here (and what might be unprecedented) is that this feature was not made by FOX Sports. It originally aired on NASCAR America on NBC Sports Network, not NASCAR RaceHub. The usage of another network’s feature might be a harbinger for things to come. We’ll have to wait and see.

During the commercial after the Byrnes memorial, NASCAR officially postponed the race to Sunday. Yowza. They didn’t even get to the scheduled start of the race before they gave up. Curfews, man. Can’t live with them at times. Then again, Saturday night was just miserable. 45 degrees and raining. Ugh.

On Sunday, FOX cut right to the chase, as is normal given a delayed race. They came on the air and essentially went straight to the pre-race ceremonies.

During the race, viewers got a decent amount of racing for position. Races that are pushed back a day are often cleaner than normal. For the most part, Sunday’s race fit that bill. That action wasn’t necessarily at the front of the field since two drivers combined to lead all but 15 laps of the race. We got decent racing early on, but as the green flag laps piled up, the focus narrowed.

Kasey Kahne finished sixth on Sunday after starting in 40th. That’s a heck of a charge if I do say so myself. Viewers never really saw much of Kahne before he got himself into the top 10. Personally, I would have liked to see what he was doing back in the pack early on. If FOX was going to give coverage to someone coming from the back, it was Kahne’s teammate Jimmie Johnson, who finished third after starting 36th.

Brad Keselowski was one of the strongest drivers in the first half of the race. However, right around halfway, there were reports of smoke from his Alliance Truck Parts No. 2. These reports were all over Twitter. FOX did their Mid-Race Report (still a dang mess) and didn’t make any reference to it at all. On the contrary, Darrell Waltrip actually picked Keselowski to win the race during the segment, acting as if nothing were wrong (Keselowski was running on seven cylinders). That is just another example of why the Mid-Race Report needs to be gutted or just killed outright. It’s taking attention away from the race and operating on its own plane of existence that seems to ignore actual information coming in so that the commentators can give their hot takes. Reality doesn’t take a break for your takes.

The big story of the day was obviously Kurt Busch winning the race and clinching his spot in the Chase. I’m still not a fan of him being eligible since he missed the first three races of the season under suspension, but having Kurt in the Chase would be a heck of a lot better than if Kyle Busch returns (as rumored) at the Coke Zero 400 in July, wins at Watkins Glen and moseys into the top 30 in points at Richmond, thus qualifying for the Chase because Brian France gave him a waiver despite missing half the season. That would really grind my gears.

Of course, potentially undeserved Chase berths are not the main issue here. The main issue is the whole idea of how to handle what Kurt Busch has gone through over the past seven months to get to where we are right now. On-air, FOX referenced it as a story of redemption from suspension. FOX had to know that they were skirting a line knowing what Kurt was previously accused of.

Mike Joy took to Twitter on Monday and said this in defense of FOX’s narrative.

Joy’s answer here is a completely fair way to look at the situation. You can’t simply not mention it because you would be ignoring the elephant in the room. However, if you go on and on about it, you risk a number of issues. One, you could seriously anger Patricia Driscoll and/or any of her supporters. Two, you could come off as incredibly cold to the reality of the situation that Kurt and Driscoll faced.

As it stands, a bunch of two-bit trolls took to Twitter after the race and sent Driscoll a series of ridiculous tweets that essentially threw Kurt’s success on Sunday in her face while denigrating her. First off, who the deuce actually thought that was a good idea? People like those guys make the whole sport look bad. Not only do they make it less likely that victims would actually come forward, but they out themselves as idiots at the same time. I just have no patience for that.

Driscoll eventually sent a retort to these morons in the form of a tweet that included a picture of the ruling that led to the protective order and noted that Kurt’s claims that Driscoll was out to ruin him were false.

https://twitter.com/Patricia_AFF/status/592431107414560768

Of course, that didn’t stop the stupidity. Some of the responses to Driscoll’s tweet are downright mean and inappropriate. Click on Driscoll’s tweet at your own peril. As great as social media has become for NASCAR over the past six years, this is a low point of NASCAR on Twitter as far as I’m concerned.

To me, Sunday was Kurt Busch kicking some serious butt on a short track. That’s indisputable. Claiming that he achieved a form of redemption Sunday is dangerous, given what he’s dealt with. Based on his form since returning to the No. 41, Sunday’s victory was darn near inevitable. Would we have had the same conversation if Kurt won Fontana last month, a race he pretty much had won before a debris caution was thrown with a lap and a half to go? Maybe. I cannot really say. Personally, I would have kept the references to Kurt’s previous plight to a minimum. Yes, it needed to be addressed, but in a fashion that could not in any way be seen as inappropriate. It shouldn’t have been addressed as a redemption story.  It should have been presented as what it was: Kurt spanking the field.

ToyotaCare 250

On Friday night, the Sprint Cup regulars dominated once again. Rats. Heck, Richmond has actually been a place that the regulars could take the fight to Cup regulars recently. Not this time.

In addition to the aforementioned piece on Byrnes, FOX Sports also aired a short feature on Harrison Rhodes, a rookie driving the No. 0 for JD Motorsports. Here, we learn about Rhodes juggling his racing career while going to college full-time for Business. He hopes to be able to use that business acumen to benefit his career. In addition, Rhodes talks about the advantages of being able to run full-time. Rhodes states that he loves the extra seat time since it allows him to improve faster. That’s true. It also keeps him at the track every week so the dudes who matter know he’s still around. That’s the problem with running part-time. You’re regarded as an interloper. Good luck improving under those circumstances if you’re in Rhodes’s position. I’ve always liked the features that FOX Sports is able to put together to profile drivers. They’re generally interesting to watch and help viewers learn about the drivers that they’re watching each week. To most fans watching the races, Rhodes is essentially an unknown, a man who randomly showed up with R3 Motorsports a couple of years ago with a part-time deal. While JDM is by no means a big team, it is a place where Rhodes can show what he can do. On a good night, the team can score top 10s, as Landon Cassill showed on Friday night. Cassill and Ross Chastain should be good gauges for where Rhodes is in his career right now.

Keselowski made his third and final visit to the broadcast booth to serve as the guest analysis Friday night and did well at times. For example, Keselowski drew attention to the new sealer strips that have been laid down at Richmond International Raceway since the last visit, and how they could affect handling in the turns. That particular aspect of the track was not referenced during the Cup race. He then followed that up with a flub (failing to realize that Dylan Lupton was driving the Athenian Motorsports No. 25 instead of John Wes Townley).

Outside of Denny Hamlin’s dominance, the biggest story of the night was the fire in Brendan Gaughan’s pit. The takeaway on-air was that it was a very scary scene (most definitely). Vince Welch gradually gathered the necessary information and did a very good job reporting on the fire. That was honestly a high point of the coverage. To viewers watching, it may have been slow and methodical, but it got the job done. The next night, Andy Petree described the cause of the incident as a faulty probe on the dump can itself. It was leaking fuel during the stop and that leaking fuel was sparked by an air wrench.

With Hamlin opening up a can on the field, FOX Sports should have taken great pains to find as much action as they could. They didn’t do the best job at doing that. Yes, there were periodic battles for position that we got to see, but once the field stretched out, nothing. It’s a three-quarters of a mile track. There’s something going on out there at almost all times. Even if it means you’re showing battles between lapped cars, give me more than just a focus on Hamlin out for a stroll.

Since the race ended relatively early, there was a decent amount of post-race coverage. Viewers saw multiple post-race interviews and some analysis interspersed with the first couple of segments of FOX Sports Live. I still don’t like the setup, but I understand why they’re doing it (FOX Sports Live needs a live sports lead-in for ratings).

That’s all for this week. Next week will see the track bar adjusters and group qualifying take a break. In its place, we have restrictor plates and the threat of heck going down at any moment. Talladega is back. In addition, TUSC returns to action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the WEC visits the Circuit Spa-Francochamps in Belgium. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, April 28

TimeTelecastNetwork
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250FOX Sports 1*# (from April 24)
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*#

Wednesday, April 29

TimeTelecastNetwork
1 a.m. - 3 a.m.Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of AlabamaNBC Sports Network*/# (from April 25)
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: TacomaFOX Sports 2*#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#

Thursday, April 30

TimeTelecastNetwork
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
10:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown?NBC Sports Network*/ (from April 23)

Friday, May 1

TimeTelecastNetwork
1:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.Denny Hamlin Short Track ShowdownNBC Sports Network*/# (from April 23)
3 a.m. - 6 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: East RutherfordFOX Sports 1*# (from April 25)
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: TacomaFOX Sports 1*#
11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.XFINITY Series PracticeFOX Sports 1
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHub No. 1FOX Sports 1
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR RaceHub No. 2FOX Sports 1
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200FOX Sports 1

Saturday, May 2

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1*# (From May 1)
4:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 1)
8:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francochamps, Part No. 1FOX Sports 1
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Dunlop British Touring Car Championship: Donington ParkCBS Sports Network*/# (from April 19)
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa, Part No. 2FOX Sports 2
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
12:55 p.m. - 3:35 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Mazda Raceway Laguna SecaIMSA.com/FansChoice.tv^
1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX
1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa, The FinishFOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Winn-Dixie 300FOX
4:15 p.m. - 5:50 p.m.TUDOR United SportsCar Championship QualifyingIMSA.com/FansChoice.tv^
10 p.m. - 1 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Las VegasFOX Sports 1

Sunday, May 3

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.XFINITY Series Winn-Dixie 300FOX Sports 1*# (from May 2)
5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.The 10: Talladega MomentsFOX Sports 1#
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of SpainFOX Sports 1
9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 1)
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: FresnoFOX Sports 1*
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.DTM: HockenheimCBS Sports Network*/ (from May 2-3)
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.FOX NASCAR SundayFOX
1 p.m. - 5 p.m.Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500FOX
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Barber Park (GT/GT-A/GT Cup Classes)CBS Sports Network*/ (from April 25-26)
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Monterey Grand Prix Powered by MazdaFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.Moto3: SpainFOX Sports 2*
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.Moto2: SpainFOX Sports 2*
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of SpainFOX Sports 2*/#
10 p.m. - 1 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Las VegasFOX Sports 2*# (From May 2)

Monday, May 4

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1*
1:30 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.DTM: HockenheimCBS Sports Network*/# (from May 2-3)
4 a.m. - 5 a.m.Lucas Oil Off-Road Series Pro-2/Pro-Lite Round No. 1CBS Sports Network*#
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Lucas Oil Off-Road Series Pro-4/Pro-Buggy Round No. 1CBS Sports Network*#
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 3)
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: FresnoFOX Sports 2*#
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 p.m. - 11 p.m.Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 3)

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

As always, all motorsports coverage on the FOX family of networks can be seen on FOX Sports GO as well. Check with your internet service and/or programming provider for availability.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and ARCA Racing series events for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Thursday in the Newsletter. It was quite a good race, possibly the best one that the Verizon IndyCar Series has ever put on at the 2.38-mile undulating road course.

For next week’s Annex, provided that there isn’t another last-minute schedule change, I will cover the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, tentatively scheduled to air Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network (Note: That’s not quite May, despite what they’ve been saying for the last week). You’ll see NASCAR veterans, young guns on their own turf and shenanigans. Should be worth the hour of your time.

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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Dennis

Don’t know why NASCAR complicates things with waivers. Stipulating top 30 in points eliminates a road course ringer or other part timer from getting into the Chase. That’s simple enough.

Carl D.

I said it elswhere but will repeat it here… I have no problem with a waiver for drivers who miss races due to illness, injury, or other issues out of the driver’s control. Win, be in the top 30, and you’re in the chase.

JohnQ

Two things. First, There was nothing at all insensitive about your coverage of Mr. Byrnes illness or his passing. Second, Media coverage of the accusation of Domestic Violence against Kurt Busch should have been reported as just that, an accusation, and dropped. Without evidence of guilt further comment is inappropriate. I’d prefer it be adjudicated in Court rather than electronic or social media.

GinaV24

Phil, I thought your column last week was fine and not insensitive at all.

I’m not a Kurt Busch fan. I also don’t know any facts about the issues that went on between him and his girlfriend, so I’m not getting involved on that issue. However there are a lot of idiots out there on many forums, including twitter.

As far as Richmond went, well, it wasn’t a bad race and I think running it on Sunday probably made for a better race since the track would at least take rubber since it was warmer. Running night races in the early spring and late fall may make for good pictures on tv but it doesn’t usually make for good racing and it certainly isn’t comfortable being in the stands. We didn’t even consider going and this track is around a 5 hour drive, one way for us.

Glen H.

Was it just me or did the Fox pre-race show on Saturday delay announcing that the race was moved to Sunday? I checked Jayski prior to the scheduled start of race coverage on Fox and saw that the race would be on Sunday. I turned on Fox and the (Mikey and others) were talking about the lights and that they could still get the race in that night – no mention that it had already been moved to Sunday.

Not very respnsible but I guess Fox wanted viewers to stay tuned in to the pre-race show.

russ

I was transporting executives for one of the manufacturers to and from the track that day. Was in Wendy’s about 5:30 when we got a call that it would be announced at 6 that the race was postponed. Drop food, get back to track pdq to get the execs out of there.

kb

I am sure there are many more that are being called “insensitive”. I felt it was a grand and sweet gesture but it got to be too much, imo. It started to look like it was becoming less about Steve and more about people making themselves feel better, these things often do become self centered. I just could not help thinking last week that the poor man had to be “on, happy and grateful” wanted to rest.

So many people on other sites were saying Kurt’s win somehow was sticking it to Patty D and NASCAR. All I can say about that is, how utterly stupid and naïve. Scary people, scary times.

Joanthan

Phil, is it possible that the piece on Steve was done by the NASCAR Media Group , that would explain why both Fox Sports and NBC Sports aired it, or maybe, NBC gave permission to Fox Sports to use it. I am not sold that it was infact a in house NBC piece , if anyone would be doing that in house, it would be Fox, I mean, he has been a contract(guessing he had a contract) employee with Fox(Sports) since 2001.

Or I could be 100% wrong and NBC did do it

JT

You might find this both troubling and amusing at the same time.

AT&T U-Verse is the #2 cable provider in Central Florida behind Brighthouse Networks. This is important as Central Florida has historically been one of NASCAR’s better TV markets. Apparently after Daytona, Fox sent AT&T a request for additional user fees for Fox Sports 1’s “special programming”, which includes the Xfinity Series races. AT&T told Fox, “No!” to the added FS1 fees and a contract stalemate has since ensued. Now, we get the same re-run of the same English darts tournament shown in the Xfinity Races’ timeslots and a crawler urging us fans to harass AT&T U-Verse directly over the issue.

I mention all this because the most recently-metered Xfinity race (Bristol) came in under at an overall rating of 1.0 for the first time since the big broadcast deals were done last decade. This rights fee squabble with AT&T U-Verse might be contributing to this overall ratings downturn. I’ve also heard rumors that unless something gets worked out this year, Cup races will also be gone from FS1 on AT&T next season.

Phil Allaway

I’m well aware of the ongoing spat between At&t U-Verse and News Corp. (parent company of FOX Sports 1). This is a very unusual tactic that they’re using. I understand why At&t U-Verse is doing this, but they should have known what was coming in 2015 when they signed on to carry FOX Sports 1 back in 2013. FOX had already re-upped their deal through 2022 to air NASCAR before FOX Sports 1 launched. They knew what News Corp’s plans were for FOX Sports 1 (to eventually take on ESPN). This should have been expected. Instead, they’ve decided to draw a line in the sand. Makes me wonder if they’re going to pull the same stupidty when the races switch to NBCSN in July. It’s truly sad. They’re not making any friends with this move amongst race fans.

GinaV24

Phil, no they are not making friends with any race fans on this issue but then again, Fox and NASCAR are also not doing the fans any favors with attempting to use the race broadcasts as hostage.

Back when Speed was the name of the channel and there was actually something worth watching on their NASCAR broadcasts, I was willing to call Comcast and complain and PAY for that extra channel. Based on the current things being broadcast on FS1 at this time, I would not be willing to do the same, not to just watch the few NASCAR programs available. It doesn’t have the same value for me that it once did.

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