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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Xfinity Must Be Incensed

Welcome back! Last week saw the Sprint Cup Series take the weekend off. In the past, these weekends used to be the most boring time of the summer. Nothing would be going on. Not so much these days. The Xfinity Series was the primary show for the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series was at Iowa Speedway, where Erik Jones finally won a race. Maybe now, he can stop whining.

Owens Corning AttiCat 300

Last weekend’s scheduling for the Xfinity Series was bizarre before weather was even introduced into the equation. The original grandmaster plan was to start the race around 9:50 p.m. ET. Yeah, that’s kind of late, NASCAR. Joliet is not Las Vegas, you know. I guess they just had to have the race start at night instead of running the race as a twilight event.

As you all know by now, the Saturday night plan never came to pass. 40 minutes before the race was due to start, it poured like heck. With lightning in the area, everyone rightfully retreated under cover.

As Richmond proved earlier this year, moving a race from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon does not necessarily hurt ratings. In fact, it can help them significantly. That won’t be happening this time. FOX having the rights to both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the U.S. Open meant that the race was pushed to FOX Sports 2. You know, the network formerly known as FUEL that’s available in 45 million homes as opposed to FOX Sports 1’s nearly 85 million.

Comcast, whose Xfinity cable service serves as the title sponsor of the Xfinity Series, does not carry FS2 anywhere that they provide service. Oh man, those chaps have to be steaming right about now. They’re definitely wondering what they’re paying for if they can’t watch the races on their own service. Unfortunately, that’s their own fault for not negotiating correctly to get it in there knowing that they were potentially getting involved with NASCAR.

Moving a race from FS1 to FS2 today is similar to ESPN starting a race scheduled for ESPN2 on ESPN Classic about five years ago. It’s a massive drop in potential viewership. Granted, FS1 may not necessarily be a basic cable channel like ESPN2 is (for me, it’s a basic digital cable channel), but FS2 requires a bigger financial outlay, if it’s available at all.

DirecTV customers need at least the Xtra package (level 4 of 6) to get it. Dish Network is even worse. You need the America’s Top 200 package (second biggest) just to get FS1. For FS2, you either need to get the top-of-the-line America’s Top 250 package, or get the America’s Top 200 and the Multi-Sport Pack, which is an additional $13 a month and gives viewers access to the channel, NHL Network, NBA TV, NFL RedZone (non-DirecTV version), and a bunch of RSNs (Regional Sports Networks) outside of wherever the deuce you live that you may not want.

Needless to say, the move to FS2 angered a lot of people. Take Tanner Berryhill for example.

Many observers, including NASCAR themselves, pointed out how the race (and everything else NASCAR-related that FOX Sports airs) was available on FOX Sports GO. Gee, that’s swell. I tried that recently during the long stretches of time in which the 24 Hours of Le Mans was only available on FOX Sports GO. I could never get it to work. It seems like people who went that route had better luck Sunday than I did with Le Mans, but it’s still not ideal, especially since they don’t have a regular website you can watch on like ESPN does with WatchESPN. People would have to download the FOX Sports GO app for my laptop. That’s fine and all, but it requires Windows 8.1 and not everyone uses that operating system  It’s cell phone-only for many.

As is the norm in these situations, when the coverage started on FS2, they went to the opening ceremonies after briefly introducing the broadcast. They failed to make note of the competition caution that was scheduled for lap 25 in the process. Yes, I know that it was inevitable, but NASCAR doesn’t always do it after rainouts. As a result, it should have been noted before lap 18.

Ultimately, we likely got a better race on Sunday than if the race actually ran on schedule Saturday night. There was a good amount of racing for position, even at the front of the field. FS2 did an OK job at bringing us that action, but I felt that they may have been a little too focused on the front of the field.

Likely the biggest takeaway from Sunday’s race was the ludicrous screw-up by NASCAR that resulted in more than 20 drivers being penalized for pitting too early. That whole situation was bizarre. Makes me wish there was something better. That Whelen-made cluster thing can be quite far back from the asphalt and difficult to see at times. And to think that the cluster was designed to eventually replace the flagman.

FOX Sports did a great job breaking down where everything went awry. The light turned off way too late, probably 15 seconds later than it should have, or more. Am I surprised that it happened? No. I’m surprised this didn’t happen earlier. My main issue is that knowing NASCAR screwed up royally, they shouldn’t be penalizing people for violations that occurred because of their screw-up. They seriously needed to consider throwing the red flag and sorting out that mess. Luckily, it didn’t affect the outcome of the race, but it was a massive mistake on NASCAR’s part. Steve O’Donnell spent part of Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Morning Drive explaining the rationale behind the penalties, but I just don’t think that the explanation holds water. This was an extraordinary circumstance with multiple screw-ups. My solution here would have been to treat it like one of those mid-1990s competition cautions at Hickory or South Boston where everyone could pit and keep their position. While drivers like Ryan Blaney probably wouldn’t have been pleased, it would have kept half the field from being penalized. It would be a rarely-used rule, precisely for scenarios in which the rules as normally constituted break down.

Had the pit stupidity not happened, the big story of the day would have been the debut of Ross Kenseth. Naturally, the 22-year old rookie got plenty of coverage. That coverage was not necessarily overwhelming (in other words, it’s nothing compared to what Jones has been getting recently), but Kenseth did get a good amount of coverage.

Sunday’s broadcast was FOX Sports’ final Xfinity Series telecast of the season, so we must take a look back. I’m generally in favor of giving each series its own identity on broadcasts. Having Adam Alexander as the play-by-play man is fine by me. My main issue with Alexander over the past couple of years that he did play-by-play for Turner Sports was the fact that he was always green because of a lack of reps. Think Tim Tebow right now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Doing the Xfinity races this year (and truck races as well) gives him that much more play-by-play experience. I think Alexander is improving in the booth.

I’m generally not a fan of Michael Waltrip in the booth, or on any FOX Sports broadcast. The reasons are many (Ex: He acts like a moron, makes the sport look bad, is a blatant shill, isn’t above publicity stunts for his own teams’ sponsors while working on the broadcast, blatant favoritism, etc.). If I wanted to go into detail, we’d be here a while. There’s just too much Waltrip on broadcasts. Why does he need to be there? Yes, he has over 750 Cup starts, but what does he seriously bring to the table? Does he actually take something off the table? Those are questions I ask myself on a regular basis.

The guest analyst move by FOX was interesting. Yes, it meant that there was no real chemistry in the booth since the dynamics were constantly changing, but we got to have a number of different analysts in that third chair, seven in all. Five were driver analysts (Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick), plus Phil Parsons at Iowa and Larry McReynolds this past weekend.

For me, the driver analysts were one of the main aspects of the broadcasts that had me looking forward to the races. Each of the analysts had a different approach. Harvick took a selfless route to analysis that worked fairly well. Just wished that he could adopt even part of that mentality to the time after Cup races. Bowyer tried to be Bowyer. You can only get away with that so much. Patrick admitted that she took a backseat. I always thought that she never really had much to say, but she did on that broadcast and felt that she couldn’t contribute much.

Gordon showed the most improvement in his three races in the booth. As we now know, it was a dry run for 2016. I’d like to see Gordon do more races in the booth before next year. Maybe a truck race or two.

Overall, I did enjoy watching a number of the NXS races this year on FOX Sports. The NBC portion of the season is still a bit up in the air. We’ll probably have the regular booth crew (Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte) for many of the races. Leigh Diffey mentioned last weekend on Twitter that he’ll be doing some NXS races as well.

American Ethanol 200

Friday night saw the Camping World Truck Series return to Iowa Speedway for another assault on the ultra-bumpy .875-mile speed palace. Jones was naturally the center of attention, thanks to his recent form and that temper tantrum on the radio at Gateway that reminded me of a cartoon character.

Without a Ray Dunlap interview this past weekend, the main feature of the Setup had cameras following Matt Crafton as he ran the rookie meeting at Dover last month. While I honestly hadn’t thought much about that, it’s interesting to see just what goes into these meetings. As defending champion, it is Crafton’s job to emcee the meetings. Here, Crafton describes certain scenarios that the gathered rooks needed to look out for at Dover, while FOX Sports interspersed the piece with clips where the rooks failed to heed Crafton’s warnings in the race (Ex: Jesse Little’s crash exiting turn 2).

We also got some comments from the rookies about racing at Dover. For those who came up through K&N East, it wasn’t the first time that they’ve raced there, but it’s still a daunting track, nonetheless. It was interesting to see what the rookies are taught prior to their first race at a certain track. Unlike drivers’ meetings, rookie meetings are generally closed to the media.

Keeping up with the rotating broadcast booth of doom theme, Friday night saw Brian Till return to the booth for his second Camping World Truck Series race of the year. It was a rather rough one for him. Till’s bread and butter is sports car racing, with some IndyCar thrown in as well. Here, he’s a little out of depth. We’re talking constantly referring to the trucks as cars, mixing up drivers and seeming lost at times. It was like he just couldn’t get his head in the game. Having Todd Bodine in the booth along with Parsons made up for Till’s errors. Personally, I’d rather have Bodine in the booth full-time for the Truck Series and even the Xfinity Series in place of Waltrip.

Overall, the coverage of actual racing was pretty good. Yes, Jones led the most laps for the fifth race in a row, but he wasn’t pre-ordained to win. He had to earn that pay dirt with some hard racing. Outside of the leaders, viewers still got a decent amount of racing for position. I can tell you that I did enjoy the race. Till was a letdown, as was the FOX Box, which glitched a couple of times. However, the production crew was able to get that fixed.

A couple of smaller teams got more coverage than normal Friday night. Caleb Holman had a great weekend for Henderson Motorsports, qualifying sixth and racing as high as third early on. That got FOX Sports’ attention, resulting in more coverage for Holman and Henderson Motorsports than I can recall seeing in quite a while. The team has over 30 years’ seniority in NASCAR. They haven’t sniffed Victory Lane in a NASCAR-sanctioned series since Rick Wilson won a couple of Busch Grand National races for them in 1989, but they have generally always been competitive (they did win the Scotts EZ Seed Saturday Night Showdown at Bristol with Wilson in 2010).

Unlike at Gateway, we didn’t have a situation in which the pit reporters (Hermie Sadler and Kaitlyn Vincie) would be forced to choose stories. Viewers saw a decent amount of post-race coverage, including interviews with the top-five finishers before FOX Sports left Iowa.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Sonoma Raceway. 110 laps of rough and tumble action on the 1.99-mile road course. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series makes their yearly trip to Auto Club Speedway for the MavTV 500 and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship returns to Watkins Glen. In addition, the Formula E Champion will be crowned Sunday in London. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, June 23

TimeTelecastNetwork
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 22)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 22)
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Owens Corning AttiCat 300FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 21)
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 24

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from June 23)
7 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 23)
7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 23)
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 23)
8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 23)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Orlando, Part No. 1CBS Sports Network*/ (from June 5)
8:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Mazda Raceway Laguna SecaCBS Sports Network*/ (from May 2-3)
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.MotoAmerica: Barber ParkCBS Sports Network*/# (from June 14)
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.Blancpain Endurance Series Blancpain Endurance Series 1000 (Paul Ricard)CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 20)

Thursday, June 25

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 1 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Mazda Raceway Laguna SecaCBS Sports Network*/# (from May 2-3)
7 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 24)
7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 24)
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 24)
8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.K&N Pro Series East Visit Hampton 175NBC Sports Network*/ (from June 20)
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.IndyCar Chronicles: Josef NewgardenNBC Sports Network
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.IndyCar Chronicles: Josef NewgardenNBC Sports Network#
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
8:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.K&N Pro Series East Visit Hampton 175NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 20)

Friday, June 26

TimeTelecastNetwork
12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
1 a.m. - 3 a.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: DaytonaNBC Sports Network*/# (from June 21)
7 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 25)
7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 25)
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 25)
8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from June 25)
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross Lites: DaytonaNBC Sports Network*/ (from June 21)
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 2
3:40 p.m. - 5:10 p.m.IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship QualifyingIMSA.com^
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 2

Saturday, June 27

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.Verizon IndyCar Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network* (from June 26)
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of HollandFOX Sports 1
10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: LondonFOX Sports 1
11 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Formula DRIFT: Road Atlanta, Part No. 1CBS Sports Network*/# (from May 8)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road: DetroitNBC Sports Network*/ (from May 29-30)
11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Road Atlanta, Part No. 2CBS Sports Network*/# (from May 9)
2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
4 p.m. - 5 p.m.Moto3: HollandFOX Sports 2*
4 p.m. - 8 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series MavTV 500NBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.Moto2: HollandFOX Sports 2*
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of HollandFOX Sports 2*/#

Sunday, June 28

TimeTelecastNetwork
6 a.m. - 8 a.m.Blancpain Sprint Series: ZolderCBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
8 a.m. - 10 a.m.ARCA Racing Series Federated Car Care 200CBS Sports Network*/# (from May 17)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Blancpain Endurance Series 1000 (Paul Ricard)CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 20)
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, Part No. 1FOX Sports 1
10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: London, Race No. 2FOX Sports 2
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Mazda Raceway Laguna SecaCBS Sports Network*/# (from May 2-3)
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.DTM: NorisringCBS Sports Network*
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.ARCA Racing Series Herr's Chase the Taste 200CBS Sports Network
2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, Part No. 2FOX Sports 2
3 p.m. - 6 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350kFOX Sports 1
4 p.m. - 5 p.m.V8 Supercars Skycity Triple Crown DarwinCBS Sports Network*/ (from June 20-21)
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.V8 Supercars Skycity Triple Crown DarwinCBS Sports Network*/# (from June 20-21)

Monday, June 29

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 2 a.m.DTM: NorisringCBS Sports Network*/# (from June 28)
12 a.m. - 3 a.m.Verizon IndyCar Series MavTV 500NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 27)
2 a.m. - 4 a.m.ARCA Racing Series Herr's Chase the Taste 200CBS Sports Network*# (from June 28)
4 a.m. - 5 a.m.V8 Supercars Skycity Triple Crown DarwinCBS Sports Network*/# (from June 20-21)
7 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350kFOX Sports 1*# (from June 28)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.NASCAR Classics: 2004 Ford 400NBC Sports Network*/
9 p.m. - 11 p.m.NASCAR Classics: 2003 Ford 400NBC Sports Network*/
11 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
11:30 p.m. - 12 a.m.NASCAR America: The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Key:

* – Tape Delayed

/ – Highlighted Coverage

# – Repeat Coverage

^ – Available via free online streaming

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Verizon IndyCar Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For the Annex, I will cover Saturday’s Scott 150 from Chicagoland Speedway, the preliminary race won by Ryan Reed for Lira Motorsports.

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. Finally, we have a link to send comments to NBC Sports. It can be found below, along with a contact page for FOX Sports.

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NBC Sports

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6 thoughts on “Couch Potato Tuesday: Xfinity Must Be Incensed”

  1. Interesting summary. Since I’m not a Mikey fan that has pretty much meant I don’t bother with the truck races these days. Chicagoland has never been of much interest for me and with the original starting time at almost 10 p.m. EDT, well, unless I had been having trouble sleeping, I wouldn’t have bothered turning it on that late. As it was, I had gone to the movies with friends and got in late, pretty much w/o giving it another thought. It didn’t occur to me to check for the race on Sunday but it wouldn’t have mattered, I don’t get FS2 and am certainly not even slightly interested in paying $$ to any of the cable companies for it not to just get what passes for racing these days.

    Never tried the “go” thing. for me, I expect NASCAR and the TV partners to make it easy for ME the viewer to access the races, not for me to have to chase the product around on various channels or formats.
    Gee NASCAR had trouble with some of its scoring/timing/whatever equipment at the track? What a surprise that is – ha, right, no it’s not. Admit they made a mistake and reset the field? How silly to think they would do that? O’Donnell on radio trying to make excuses again — well that’s becoming a weekly event.

    • Hello, NASCAR, hello. Is anybody there? Your “broadcast partner” thinks a women’s soccer game between two foreign countries is likely to draw more viewers than the XfiniCup practice pretend race. Foreign Women’s Soccer! Nothing wrong though. Empty stands, essentially not even televised, sure signs of a healthy series.

      • I like your word! XfiniCup is an awesome descriptor. I don’t tune into FS1 unless it is race day. Not even for Race Hub now that Steve is gone.

  2. You talk about Erik Jones whining, after reading some of this article, you got the kid beat by a mile. Keep up the good work…not.

Comments are closed.