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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC’s Early NASCAR Coverage Excels

Welcome back, chaps. I had a pretty good time in Florida. Got a couple of good interviews and covered a couple of interesting races. Also, here’s an insider fact about NBC broadcasts: when they go to commercial, the feed that we saw in the Media Center constantly played the NBC chimes through the whole break. It’s the kind of thing that can drive you insane. Given that Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 broadcast ran over eight hours, that’s a lot of chimes.

Before we get started, there’s some TV news today. Sports Business Daily is reporting that the NHRA will be leaving ESPN at the end of this season, with FOX Sports 1 the likely destination. Reasoning? Lack of promotion and the scheduling, mainly. It bites. It says something that on Memorial Day weekend, I went to a bar in Albany with a buddy of mine and stayed out late since I didn’t have to work the next day. While there, I noticed the broadcast of the Kansas Nationals on ESPN2 at something like 1:10 a.m., hours after it was supposed to air. That kind of stuff drives people crazy. If I critiqued NHRA broadcasts regularly, I’d rant about that because it makes it very hard for people to watch. Appointment television, dudes! It’s the same issue NASCAR Now had for the last couple of years it was on before it was cancelled.

That said, I’m not sure how much better placement the NHRA will get on FS1 as compared to ESPN, especially early in the season. It probably won’t be a problem once the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series go to NBC, but the schedule’s a little full early on.

Quaker State 400

In between KFC commercials with the third-string Colonel Sanders that is probably making the real Colonel Sanders spin in his grave, NBC Sports Network made their Sprint Cup race debut Saturday night. And hooray! It didn’t rain. Instead of rain fill, we got an interesting race.

During Countdown to Green, there were two primary topics. If you’ve been reading Frontstretch over the past week, I’m pretty sure you can figure out what they were. In regards to the rule package, we got a nice look at how the package differs from the regular rules and what it was likely to do to the cars.

Naturally, Austin Dillon’s huge crash at the finish made huge headlines over the past week. NASCAR’s official video of the crash is the second most-viewed clip on their YouTube page with nearly five million views as of Monday evening. The only post with more views is the rather embarrassing moment from Daytona 500 pre-race coverage in 2013 when 50 Cent (who just declared bankruptcy) tried to kiss Erin Andrews on-air.

NBCSN chose to take a serious look at the crash. To that end, Marty Snider sat down with Dillon, his father Mike, and grandfather/car owner Richard Childress. Lots of steely resolve was on display here. Except from Childress. He was clearly freaking out when the wreck happened and he still looked affected by the crash when Snider interviewed him. Interestingly enough, Mike Dillon looked rather calm. Granted, Mike’s been in a NASCAR race much more recently than Childress (2000 vs. 1981), but Mike is reacting to a crash involving his own son. It’s rather bizarre to watch at times.

After thinking about it further, I remembered the third episode of The Critic (aired on ABC) from 1994 when Jay Sherman goes to the U.N. School to talk to his son’s class about his job. There’s a scene that encapsulated my thoughts here. Childress is the artist who freaks out (legitimately) when Sherman erases his work. Austin’s the gardener. Mike might as well be the guy working on the sidewalk. Of course, I’m not saying that Mike didn’t care about Austin’s condition when the crash happened. It’s obvious that he did. Footage was shown of Mike dashing to the infield care center. However, with the wreck a few days in the mirror by the time he sat down with Snider, he had already come to terms with it and moved on like it was nothing. Even Snider was surprised at Mike’s tone.

During the race, viewers got a healthy amount of racing for position as the new package allowed drivers to race more closely than normal. I just wish more people were there to see it. The more I look at Kentucky, the more I feel that they screwed themselves the first time out with Sprint Cup with the parking and traffic woes. It’s a shame.

The rule package obviously played a big role in what we saw on Saturday night. The test days getting rained out clearly affected the action as well. Had the Wednesday sessions happened, more teams would have known about the need for better brakes. Steve Letarte did a great job showing viewers the heat issues not just with brakes, but with the headers as well, thanks to the cameras in Cole Whitt’s car.

While there was only so much side-by-side racing in the event, there was a lot more passing. People were able to pull up and pass. Cutting off one’s line, like what Denny Hamlin did to win the Sprint All-Star Race in May, did not guarantee victory. It merely gave Joey Logano a temporary reprieve from Kyle Busch’s onslaught.

Post-race coverage was decent despite the fact that the race ran a little long. Prior to the main broadcast ending, NBCSN provided viewers with over half a dozen interviews, in addition to results and points checks. Not much about the rules package in those questions, but we got a good amount of post-race coverage. I’m not sure what to do about the post-race show that follows. Compared to FOX’s coverage, considering that as part of the race telecast would skew opinions since they’re putting so much extra coverage out there. Then again, NBCSN has the time to do that. They don’t have a SportsCenter competitor to wedge in like FS1 does.

Overall, I did like most of what I saw Saturday night on NBCSN. Good racing on track, a decent amount of stories that were picked up upon, and a general no-nonsense mentality in the broadcast booth that continues to be refreshing after four-plus months of FOX broadcasts.

However, I did have a couple of gripes. From what I could tell, NBCSN missed the debris that caused all three of the debris cautions (in their defense, they did mention where it was, but the pieces never made air). Since that is an ongoing issue in NASCAR, that’s something that I will keep my eye on going forward. Another issue was with the telemetry. It seemed to be way off for most of the weekend. That kind of thing makes the race disorienting to watch. Luckily, that issue was fixed by halfway.

Kentucky 300

On Friday night, the Xfinity Series stormed onto the bumpy 1.5-mile tri-oval for their own 300-mile chase. While Cup drivers were once again the story of the night, NBCSN pulled a mixed bag on the rest of the coverage.

Pre-race coverage was not half bad. Compared to FOX broadcasts, there was a little less focus on the hosts and more interviews. There were no features, but I’m always in favor of more interviews on pre-race shows since they’re the only place to get pre-race interviews these days. This isn’t 1993, where ESPN could stick a microphone in the driver’s car two minutes before the engines are cranked.

Coverage in the race itself was centered upon a lot of the Cup regulars that were in the field, which I’ll admit is a little frustrating to see. Unfortunately, NXS races at intermediate tracks are not necessarily the most competitive races on earth. There’s the Cup drivers with Cup-affiliated teams, then there’s everyone else.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a rare NXS start Friday night and proceeded to spend much of the night trying to figure out what he wanted. It happens. Letarte gave an excellent explanation as to why this is so. Turns out that Earnhardt Jr. is just not good at making that transition. He’s best when he focuses on just one vehicle. Otherwise, he spends a couple of days figuring out what he wants.

Post-race coverage was a little rushed since the race ended right at the end of the time slot. Regardless, NBCSN still gave viewers interviews and checks of the results and standings. Also of note, viewers saw Brad Keselowski’s full burnout. FOX de-emphasized those earlier this year in order to pimp FOX Sports Live, something that I feel likely alienated some viewers. Not a good move these days.

Overall, the action just wasn’t as exciting as it was Saturday night, but I felt that NBCSN did a decent job with the NXS race. There was no drop-off in expertise and the race was covered with the seriousness that it deserves. They’re still giving Erik Jones a good amount of coverage, but it’s not enveloping and biased coverage like what we got earlier this year on FOX. So far, so good.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series travel up to New Hampshire for 501 laps of action. They’ll be joined by a couple of other support series as well, but that coverage won’t air until next week at the earliest. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series makes the haul to Iowa for a short-track race with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards as primary support. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, July 14

2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR's The List: Greatest RacesNBC Sports Network#
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 13)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 13)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m. NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 13)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
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 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.Indy Lights Grand Prix of MilwaukeeNBC Sports Network* (from July 11)

Wednesday, July 15

3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 14)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 14)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 14)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
9 p.m. - 11 p.m.DTM: ZandvoortCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 12)

Thursday, July 16

12 a.m. - 1 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network* (from June 27)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 15)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network*# (from June 27)
3 a.m. - 5 a.m.DTM: ZandvoortCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 12)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network*# (from June 27)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Dale Earnhardt, Sr. MomentsNBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150NBC Sports Network*/ (from July 11)
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 11)

Friday, July 17

2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 16)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 16)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 16)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Moto3: GermanyFOX Sports 1*# (from July 12)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.Moto2: GermanyFOX Sports 1*# (from July 12)
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of GermanyFOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.XFINITY Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 11)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix presented by Hawk PerformanceFOX Sports 1*# (from July 12)
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
9 p.m. - 11 p.m.ARCA Racing Series This Is My Speedway 150FOX Sports 1

Saturday, July 18

3 a.m. - 4:55 a.m.ARCA Racing Series This Is My Speedway 150FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 17)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network*# (from June 27)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network*# (from June 27)
11 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Orlando, Part No. 1CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 5)
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.Trans-Am Series Next Dimension 100CBS Sports Network*/# (from May 23)
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.Trans-Am Series Muscle Car Challenge: Lime RockCBS Sports Network*/# (from May 23)
1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.K&N Pro Series West NAPA Auto Parts/Toyota 150NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 11)
3:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
4 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Lakes Region 200NBC Sports Network
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network*
8 p.m. - 11 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn Indy 250NBC Sports Network
11 p.m. - 1 a.m.Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Spring CreekNBC Sports Network*

Sunday, July 19

10 a.m. - 12 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
11 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Formula DRIFT: Orlando, Part No. 2CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6)
11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: CTMPFOX Sports 1*/ (from July 11)
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Watkins GlenCBS Sports Network*# (from June 27)
1:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301NBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Post-RaceNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR Special: Chasing 43NBC Sports Network#
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Greatest FinishesNBC Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network

Monday, July 20

12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1
3:30 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1#
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network# (from July 19)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network# (from July 19)
12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.NASCAR Scan all 43NBC Sports Network#
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR 120: New Hampshire 301NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 19)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m. NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn Indy 250NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 18)
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.Indy Lights Series Grand Prix of MilwaukeeNBC Sports Network*# (from July 12)

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

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and NXS race broadcasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, likely on a new cable box since I had to watch Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 on my phone because my cable box threw a fit and wouldn’t let me watch NBCSN. We’ll also have two editions of the Critic’s Annex for you this week. Wednesday’s Newsletter will have my opinion of FS1’s broadcast of the UNOH 225 from Thursday night that I could not fit in here today due to time constraints. In the regular Thursday Annex spot, I will be covering Chasing 43, a new special on the Pettys that premiered on NBC prior to the Coke Zero 400.

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. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

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As always, if you choose to contact a 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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Robert B.

I have to disagree with your comments about ESPN/ESPN2 coverage of the NHRA. Almost all of the races are on at 6 or 8 (Central) the evening of the event. Yes, some are later. The past two events had coverage on Sunday afternoons from like 1 to 4.
NHRA moving to Fox/FS1/ and I assume FS2? Please tell me there will be no Waltrips involved in any way.


In the interest of humanity, I presume that 501 laps at New Hampshire is a typo.


LOL, let’s sincerely hope so!


definitely a race that needs to be shortened!


I stand corrected. In my haste at a jab toward the Magic Mile, I didn’t read the whole sentence. The 501 laps encompasses the Xfinity and Cup races.


I have never watched a Nascar race where I gave a flip about the broadcast team one way or the other. Its the race I tune in for nothing else.


We definitely differ in opinion on that, Russ. The broadcast team AND the way the race is shown on TV can make or break how much I enjoy the race. For instance, Fox’s incessant babbling about nothing and one car, close in shots makes it not worth turning on IMO. I have muted those broadcasts for the past 5 years in the interest of my sanity and pay for raceview so I can hear the driver scanners and radio broadcast. Unless there is a reason, I could easily watch something else on tv and switch back if there was commentary on the radio that made me want to see — then it was usually in commercial so we saw it in replay.

Maybe it is just because the booth for NBC is new but right now, I don’t find them annoying. That may change later, but I’m at least willing to have the sound on for the race AND the director seems to be willing to show wide shots which allows a view of the field.

Each to their own, of course, but that is my personal feeling.


Agreed Gina, it is personal preference for each of us . Yet its not like football season, where you hava a choice of games, and broadcast crews each Sat/Sun. Here you have one choice, take it or leave it. So maybe I accept that fact and pay no attention to the background noise. But that’s just me.


Watching the Waltrip brothers will do that to you!


I seldom watch ESPN’s coverage of anything – sometimes football. I enjoy the NHRA stuff and I wish them luck with their move to FS. Another channel that I don’t watch much.


I find the bias in the booth the same, different players and different sales pitch. But it is still the same. Sell, Sell, Sell!. Krista V. is a calming presence and displays nice restraint, far more classy than the very annoying, hyper poodle fake everything Danielle Trotta. Krista is much more professional in all aspects. Steve L. wanna tell you we know you know Junior, we know, we know, we know. WHO CARES! We know you worked scrubbing toilets when you were a little tot for HMS we know! Not every race fan is enamored with HMS, shocking I know. Just saying…


I really enjoyed the last two Cup broadcasts! No complaints whatsoever. My wife is not a NASCAR fan but she is usually in the other room when I am watching the race on DVR. This past race, SHE mentioned that the new broadcast team sounded so much more professional and intelligent “than whomever those other fools were”. LOL! I loved it!


NBC Coverage= Big Step up..Kentucky Race W/New downforce package=Big Step Up…NBC’s web site for fan comments=big waste of time & constantly trying to get me to send web force cash or your out of the loop(just to add a comment) ..I won’t be bothering to address their over glorified web site again..The issue started with brian france comments that the people & him want to see more pack racing (I have not talked to anyone who does tho) which is amazing being that for the first time in years on the days after a race at a 1.5 dull D the comments are almost all POSITIVE due to being able to pass (esp the leader) ..Only brian could screw this up. It was the best race I ever saw at Kentucky(track is not very old) & at Indy brian says they will add “drag” (downforce) to the cars ooohh won’t that be a fun circle to watch for hours…Only brian could turn this positive into a negative ..Maybe just admit you & your corporate experts were wrong all along & then Move Along(forward?)..Tweak this package & racing might be back…Lets get the Kentucky package to Charlotte This Year!…Let The Drivers Drive!


So far I have found the NBC coverage refreshing. Both Steve and Jeff seem to be able to keep any bias they have in check, and with LeTart being so newly off the pit box, I find his insights are pretty interesting. Much different than the cheerleading babble I mostly mute from Fox. I also like their ‘ticker’ much better…it cycles quickly enough that you can actually keep track of any car making progress or not.


Reading that the NHRA is leaving that crap network is no surprise, and I bet it has a lot more do to with a article this week stating that ESPN needs to cut 250 million dollars from its budget by 2017 has more to do with it, and the fact that ESPN cares nothing about anything on four wheels anymore. Maybe they care a little bit about the Indy Car Series , I dont know. But the NHRA will be much better off with out ESPN, although , not sure if Fox Sports is going to be any better at this point.

As for this weekends coverage , I recall at one point, and I dont remember if it was the Cup or Cup light, they showed a large piece of debris going into turn #3 , I remember it because it was during the None Stop break.

Overall, I am happy with NBC after four races, everything is very low key vs how FOX is.

Don in Connecticut

Night and day difference. I actually leave the sound on now when I watch, though that in of itself is becoming more and more infrequent.