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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Knows How To Explain NASCAR

Welcome back, race fans. This past weekend saw the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series travel to Indianapolis to race on the infamous 2.5-mile oval. Rule changes and heat were the name of the game.

Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 22nd running of the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 (or simply, the Brickyard 400). The new rules dominated the discussion leading up to the race, but they did make the action any better? That ultimately depends on who you ask.

Countdown to Green, as would be expected, covered the changes extensively. The only aspect I’m a little confused about is why everyone is constantly talking about the wicker bill on the rear spoiler as if that had never been on a Cup car before. The package run in five restrictor-plate races (Talladega in the fall of 2000 and all four plate races in 2001) had one as well. This would have been the first time on an unrestricted track that they ran them, though.

A great deal of attention was given to Jeff Gordon making his final appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is a track that has meant a lot to him from an early age. A feature Sunday covered what Indiana (and by extension, the Speedway) in general means to Gordon. While I already knew that Gordon moved to Indiana in order to race (California required perspective racers to have an actual driver’s license for the road in order to race back in the 1980s when Gordon was getting involved), I never really knew how tight Gordon’s ties to Pittsboro really were. You always hear about Gordon being from Vallejo, northeast of Oakland, and that he ended up in Indiana as a sort of exile due to the aforementioned license-enforced age minimum. Also, there was significant discussion of the inaugural Brickyard 400, with input from Bob Jenkins. Unfortunately, Gordon’s early crash in the race eliminated that storyline for NBCSN pretty quick.

My takeaway is that Gordon cherished his time in Indiana and that the state (and especially Pittsboro) cherishes Gordon. While in Pittsboro for a parade in his honor last week, he was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash award. This is the equivalent (if he were from there) of becoming a Kentucky Colonel. Few chaps receive that particular honor. He should be proud.

During the NASCAR America pre-race portion of the broadcast, Rutledge Wood went to the Indy Archives (as part of the Hall of Fame in the infield) with Tony Stewart. Anyone who reads my work knows that I’m a history nut. If I ever get the chance to go, I would be all over that. In between finding a bunch of pictures to purchase from the on-site photo shop, Stewart talked about his feelings about racing at Indianapolis, his idolization of AJ Foyt, and why he left the then-IRL to come to NASCAR. Admittedly, I wasn’t surprised at his answers, even the fact that he was angry as a younger man when NASCAR first came to the Brickyard.

For everything he does these days, Stewart is more or less a traditionalist, and always has been. He didn’t want NASCAR at Indy because it’s hallowed ground to him, and he believed at the time that it was for open-wheeled racecars only. He made it to Indianapolis the traditional way and would have had a good chance to win on debut in 1996 had a pop-up valve not turned traitor on him. He’s not a fan of focusing on one form of racing. He wants to excel at everything. He couldn’t stand the idea of racing only a dozen times a year, like he did in the IRL, so he jumped to NASCAR to get more seat time.

Despite all that, the biggest thing I saw here was Stewart actually being happy to an extent. We haven’t seen that out of him in a long time, even before the events that occurred last year at Canandaigua. It’s good to see a smile out of him these days.

During the race itself, the rules and the heat were two of the major stories that got airtime. From what I saw, NBCSN did a decent job covering the heat story. They seemed to pull an audible based on what they saw on Saturday (Ex: Elliott Sadler looking like a drowned rat after the race) and emphasized it a little more. Good move. I liked the idea of putting the digital thermometer in Casey Mears‘s car, but they didn’t really follow up there. Instead, they got information from other teams.

In regards to the rule package, they explained what NASCAR was hoping to see with it and pointed out aspects of the action where the package created what NASCAR wanted. However, there was no real comparison between the new package and the old one, which is what I really wanted to see. Just how was the package better than the old one. How was it worse? I guess the increased heat was a downside, but what about other issues?

The thought originally was that the package would allow for side-by-side racing. Let’s face some facts. The only series that races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and can race side-by-side in the corners is Indy Lights. The only way you’re seeing side-by-side racing in the corners in Cup is if you see a complete change in philosophy by the speedway in how the track is maintained. They would need to widen out the repaving window to at least 12-15 years. Another thing that would probably need to be done is to bring back the apron in the turns, which the track had prior to 1993. That is apparently planned, but has been delayed. The tire would likely need to change as well.

What we ultimately saw Sunday was relatively similar to what we’ve had for the past few years. Maybe a little bit better, especially around the restarts. I’m convinced that the package came about after NASCAR officials watched the Indianapolis 500 back in May, got jealous, and decided to try to replicate that racing. If they can pull that off, there are going to be some happy race fans. However, they’ve got a long way to go.

Indianapolis, much like the Pocono races, is highly dependent on pit strategy. NBCSN made that the focus of much of the broadcast. It was quite educational, to be honest. Listening to Steve Letarte here shows me why he was such a good voice in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s helmet. He is not a wishy-washy man. When he makes a decision, it’s final. I don’t want to say that some of the strategies he saw Sunday outright annoyed him, but he definitely didn’t agree with some of the moves made.

NBCSN tried to do Through the Field segments to keep viewers updated on various drivers, but they ran into another problem that the varying pit strategies causes. You’re never far enough from stops to really do it. They encountered the issue Saturday as well when Ryan Sieg pitted just as they were going to cover him out on the track (they covered his stop instead). As a result, we were left with a race broadcast that just wasn’t as inclusive as it should have been.

I have no idea why the deuce everyone feels the need to zoom in on the flagstand at the end of races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is something that ABC started back in the 1980’s and it still persists to this day. NBC Sports did it at the end of both races last weekend. It completely takes the audience out of the race. Its bush league and it’s got to stop.

Post-race coverage was really light on interviews this week. Viewers only got to hear from the top-two finishers (Kyle Busch and Joey Logano), in addition to Kyle Busch’s crew chief and car owner. That’s not just with the short post-race coverage as part of the race telecast, but also with the post-race edition of NASCAR America that followed the race. Weak. There were definitely more stories out there to cover than that.

The NASCAR America Post-race show gave fans live coverage of Busch’s post-race celebration, including the all-important kissing of the bricks (immediately followed by the spitting of grit and grime out of his mouth). While I’m sure that there were a lot of fans who wanted to see that, I would have liked a more inclusive suite of post-race programming. There’s more to talk about than just Busch. Yes, he’s kicking butt right now. That’s indisputable. There are still more stories that should be covered.

Lilly Diabetes 250

Last weekend was just a quirk of TV contracts and scheduling. The Sprint Cup race aired on NBCSN to what is apparently the largest audience in that network’s history. Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series race aired on network television. Go figure.

During Countdown to Green, NBC profiled defending race winner Ty Dillon. Of course, if you’ve been watching NASCAR races over the past four years or so, what aired was likely a review for a lot of you. However, I do think the piece stood out. Viewers were treated to home videos of Ty learning the absolute basics of driving and discussion about the brothers’ personalities (Ty is the more aggressive Dillon, as shown by clips of some of his run-ins on track, including an incident at Toledo Speedway in 2011 that resulted in a near-brawl in the pits.

I would describe the piece best as NBC Sports trying to help fans distinguish between the Dillon brothers at a certain level. Yes, there is a physical difference between the two of them, but, as mentioned in the piece, they’re always together. It’s like the relationship between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (the two star guards on the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, often referred to as “The Splash Brothers”).

The Xfinity Series had a new rule package of their own on Saturday, but NBC really didn’t spend anywhere near as much time discussing it as they did the Sprint Cup package. However, there was a rather ominous quote in the commentary on lap 4 of the race. The quote was, “Everything has to go right in order to make the pass at the end of the straight.” Somewhat prescient for what Sunday’s race ultimately looked like.  For the sake of this conversation, I actually enjoyed the NXS race a little bit more than the Cup race, even with Busch winning.

The wait for help to get to Blake Koch after his wreck was quite depressing. It just seemed like he sat there for an eternity while the crews dealt with teammate David Starr, who had slid into the tires. The crews can’t make the move until NASCAR gives them the okay. The fact that the pace car comes out just about where Starr stopped didn’t help. The crews showed up to Koch’s car right as NBC was going to commercial after already showing multiple angles of the crash. The response time for some wrecks on public roads was better than that. The booth didn’t really say anything about the response, but it bites, simple as that. Improved response time was one of the reasons that NASCAR did away with racing back to the yellow (along with a desire to not be ambiguous and to increase safety). Clearly, that didn’t work out well.

Other than Busch, the stories of the race were Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez. Both drivers had great runs and got their due towards the front of the field. Sieg got his proper dap as well. The Dash 4 Cash was up for grabs as well, but it basically didn’t rate as a story since seemingly everyone eligible struggled. Regan Smith snagged it, but it was anti-climatic.

Post-race coverage was pretty decent. Viewers saw more than half a dozen interviews, in addition to point and result checks and analysis. The analysis seemed to be grounded in what to expect in the Cup race, which is a little unusual. Usually, such discussion is based more with the individual series that is competing.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, we have a split schedule. The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series will travel up to Pocono Raceway for some more action at the scalene triangle. The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will serve as tertiary support. Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series makes their second trip of the year to Iowa Speedway with the second K&N Pro Series combination race as primary support. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, July 28

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 27)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 27)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 27)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.SCORE Tecate Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR Scan All 43NBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Wednesday, July 29

TimeTelecastNetwork
12:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: Detroit, Part No. 2NBC Sports Network*# (from July 26)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 28)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 28)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 28)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 28)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Global RallyCross Lites: DetroitNBC Sports Network*/ (from July 25-26)
5 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.SCORE Inaugural Bud Light Baja Sur 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from April 18-19)
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.Blancpain Endurance Series Total 24 Hours of SpaCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 25-26)
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.SCORE Inaugural Bud Light Baja Sur 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from April 18-19)

Thursday, July 30

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 1 a.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
1 a.m. - 2 a.m.Blancpain Endurance Series Total 24 Hours of SpaCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 25-26)
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.SCORE Inaugural Bud Light Baja Sur 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from April 18-19)
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 29)
4 a.m. - 5 a.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
5 a.m. - 6 a.m.Blancpain Endurance Series Total 24 Hours of SpaCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 25-26)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 29)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 29)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 29)
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. - 7 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.Whelen Modified Tour O'Reilly Auto Parts 200NBC Sports Network*/ (from July 25)
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.TORC: Roundup in TexasFOX Sports 2*/ (from April 25-26)
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: DetroitNBC Sports Network*/# (from July 26)

Friday, July 31

TimeTelecastNetwork
1 a.m. - 2 a.m.Whelen Modified Tour O'Reilly Auto Parts 200NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 25)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from July 30)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 30)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 30)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from July 30)
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series PracticeFOX Sports 1
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.XFINITY Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Live Extra$
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network

Saturday, August 1

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.Whelen Modified Tour O'Reilly Auto Parts 200NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 25)
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2NBC Sports Network
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Wall Township, Part No. 2CBS Sports Network*/ (from June 27)
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.NCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150FOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.IndyCar Chronicles: Josef NewgardenNBC Sports Network#
3 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Wall Township, Part No. 2CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 27)
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.ARCA Racing Series ModSpace 125FOX Sports 2
3:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 10 p.m.NHRA Sonoma Nationals QualifyingESPN 2*/
8 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250NBC Sports Network

Sunday, August 2

TimeTelecastNetwork
6 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.SCORE Bud Light San Felipe 250CBS Sports Network*/# (from January 24-25)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.SCORE Inaugural Bud Light Baja Sur 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from April 18-19)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network*# (from July 31)
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 2
12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR America SundayNBC Sports Network
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Lime RockFOX Sports 1*/ (from July 25)
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Wall Township InsiderCBS Sports Network
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.mVerizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-OhioCNBC
1:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400NBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 4 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Lime RockFOX Sports 2*/# (from July 25)
2 p.m. - 7 p.m.NHRA Sonoma Nationals Final EliminationsESPN3$
3 p.m. - 5 p.m.DTM: Red Bull RingCBS Sports Network*/
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.ARCA Racing Series ModSpace 125FOX Sports 1*# (from August 1)
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR America Post-RaceNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 at Mid-OhioNBC Sports Network*
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)
9 p.m. - 12 a.m.NHRA Sonoma Nationals Final EliminationsESPN 2*/
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network
11 p.m. - 12 a.m.SCORE Bud Light Baja 500CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 6-7)

Monday, August 3

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 12:30 am.The States of NASCARNBC Sports Network#
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 August 2)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network# (from August 2)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network# (from August 2)
2:30 p.m. - 5 pm.NASCAR 120: Windows 10 400NBC Sports Network*/# (from August 2)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.BEING: Stewart-Haas RacingFOX Sports 1#
Key:
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.

Make note that race fans will have to make a choice on Sunday. The Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway will be on at the same time as the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio for the Verizon IndyCar Series. As the Sprint Cup Series takes precedence over the Verizon IndyCar Series, the INDYCAR race will air live on CNBC, then repeat on NBCSN after the Cup race.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races from Pocono Raceway, along with the NXS race from Iowa Speedway for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering Friday night’s ARCA race from Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Even though that’s a standalone event, it always seems to be interesting.

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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JohnQ

The quality of the coverage is naturally limited by the quality of the event. Overall NBC does as well as possible given that what they are covering is often a race without, well, racing. The lack of post race interviews can be viewed as a positive since what one gets is a succession of bland young men with Sponsor Tourette’s. As the XfiniCup series becomes increasingly irrelevant so does the coverage. It is like trying to get fans excited for the routine batting practice before a professional baseball game.

Richie

I get a lot less agitated hearing the NBC crew during the “show”. The amount of expletive deleted’s coming out of my mouth while watching on NBC vice FOX is greatly diminished. I am not a fan of Rutledge Wood though. I don’t think I am in the age demographic he is aimed at.
I read that lightning was spotted close to the track immediately after the checkers flew and that fans were strongly encouraged to leave and take cover. Perhaps the drivers and teams were also shooed along and that cut down on NBC’s access to post-race interviewees?

Phil Allaway

Plausible, but if that were the case, why would NBCSN leave Voda and the rest of them outside in the elements? The same scenario happened in New Hampshire and post-race got moved to the booth.

Richie

Good points Phil, certainly IF weather were a concern, alternative measures could have been used. Weather probably wasn’t an excuse, just something I read in passing that might could have explained but, yeah Voda and the gang wouldn’t have been out there either.

Chris

I’ll add that while lightning may have been a reason to take cover at the end of the race the stands still looked pretty vacant throughout the race.

Kevin W

I guess you weren’t as impressed by Jeff Burton as my friends and me. He is a fantastic expert analyst giving us insights I have not heard in over a decade of religiously watching NASCAR on TV.

Kevin W

Interesting that NBC Network was broadcasting the Red Bull Global Rallycross while their cable sports channel NBCSN was given NASCAR at Indy, arguably the second jewel in Cup. NASCAR was second fiddle?

Joanthan

Keep in mind, NBC is trying to grow NBC/SN, just like FOX has been with Fox Sports1/2, more so that is probably why NBC put a bigger race on NBCSN than on NBC. That is also why you more than half of the races for NBC are on NBC/SN.

But it was a bit odd that the Cup light series was on NBC.

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