Watkins Glen International is an interesting place. You have rolling hills that many people don’t realize just how steep they are (seriously, driving up the hill between turns 2 and 3 is like scaling a wall). You have high speeds and lap times that are long enough to seriously stretch out the field. That creates a challenge when it comes to broadcasting a race. NBCSN had an arduous task last weekend.
Cheez-It 355 at the Glen
Sunday saw the Sprint Cup Series race in front of a sellout crowd at Watkins Glen International. Those in attendance were treated to a different race than what we’ve seen in recent years. However, the finish was very climatic.
Countdown to Green had a heavy AJ Allmendinger focus. I suppose that makes sense since Allmendinger won the pole and was facing the closest thing to a must-win race that you can have in the month of August in Sprint Cup. Granted, outside of road courses, Allmendinger and JTG Daugherty Racing really don’t get that much press, but they shouldn’t dominate the show.
The centerpiece of pre-race coverage was a sit-down interview with Allmendinger conducted by Kyle Petty. Here, they talked about his move to NASCAR, and his overall drive to succeed.
There was also some talk about the suspension that turned his career upside-down. Watching the piece, it seems like I was watching an abridged version of what I should have been seeing. The piece was teased by mentioning last year’s victory as a comeback story, but they buried that fact. I was expecting a little more.
Given the news that came out Friday, there was also some time given to the wrongful death lawsuit that was filed Friday by the Ward family against Tony Stewart stemming from a sprint car accident in which their son Kevin Ward Jr. was killed. While no opinions of the suit were offered, the whole situation was treated with the respect that it deserved. We’ll have to see what happens with that situation because it is sure to get messy over the coming months.
As we’re getting closer to the dreaded Chase for the Sprint Cup, NBCSN debuted a couple of new features for their ticker. One was a new secondary line of information that showed the last lap that each driver pitted and the number of stops that they had made. Interesting touch. Makes me think of Formula 1 a little bit, but it works for me. The other is the color coding of drivers in the Chase (green) and in position to get in on points (yellow). While you’ll never take me as a fan of the Chase, I guess this setup is going to work out OK. It’s not too intrusive and it’s pretty much self-explanatory. The text in those chiclets (as Rick Allen called them) reading either Chase or top 16 might be hard to read on smaller TVs, though.
Denny Hamlin’s day on Sunday was outright miserable, despite having a very fast car. He ended up running into the back of David Gilliland on a restart and caused his hood to fly up and block his windshield. The coverage of Hamlin’s issue was pretty good. However, the booth seemed to think the issue was just a basic chain reaction deal. In reality, it was more than that.
Front Row Motorsports had transmission issues on Sunday that were never really touched upon on the broadcast. With that knowledge, it could have given NBCSN a new angle to approach what happened. Chris Buescher, who was back in the No. 34 Sunday, was a lap down less than three minutes into the race because his car almost instantaneously jammed in fourth gear at the start.
Gilliland also had his own issues.
“All weekend we had transmission issues,” Gilliland said after the race. “This was a fresh transmission and from lap 1 it was a problem. It’s just too bad.”
Perhaps FRM had a bad batch of transmission parts or something. The reason I bring this up is that there’s a high likelihood that something with Gilliland’s transmission caused Hamlin to run into the back of him.
There were a couple of incidents that I’m really not sure as to what happened. The most notable example was when Stewart’s car broke a rear gear to bring out the fifth and final caution, Jimmie Johnson also spun exiting the Inner Loop. I have no clue what happened there. It seems like NBCSN didn’t catch it. I’m pretty sure that Justin Allgaier wasn’t involved after Johnson had spun the BRANDT-sponsored racer earlier in the race, but I would have liked to see something indicating what caused it. Six-time champions rarely spin out completely on their own.
The last 30 laps were run under green. During that time, it seemed like the only thing that mattered was fuel mileage. I’ll give you the fact that Kevin Harvick ran out with half a mile to go, gifting Joey Logano the win. However, we’re talking a solid one-third of the race focused on only one topic. We did get a Through the Field that went through the top-21 cars, but that was almost the only break from the fuel-mileage coverage. No offense, but that gets old. There has to be something else going on as well. It’s a 2.45-mile road course. I just don’t like hyper-focus, and that’s what we got for much of NBCSN’s broadcast on Sunday.
Post-race coverage was also relatively thin. It’s almost like NBCSN threw all their marbles in with Allmendinger, and when he faltered, they didn’t have a backup plan. Viewers saw only four quick driver interviews before they moved onto NASCAR America Post-race. I still stand by my opinion from last week that NASCAR America Post-Race should be a little more like the RaceBuddy-exclusive post-race shows that used to air after TNT races a couple of years back. Those post-race shows supplemented the post-race coverage on the actual telecast. What we get instead is more or less a copy of FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR Victory Lane. The only difference is that it’s live after the race instead of at midnight.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some fans were a little disappointed on Sunday since there wasn’t quite as much action as people had been led to expect. NBCSN does play a role here. We just didn’t see much action for position, especially late in the race. It seems like there were a couple of big stories for Sunday’s race and when Allmendinger failed to deliver, they doubled down on what they had instead of searching for additional stories.
Saturday afternoon, quite simply, was the Team Penske show. Logano and Brad Keselowski were legitimately a half-second faster than anyone else on the track. You could argue that they stunk up the show. However, both drivers copped penalties during the race, so it wasn’t quite as stinky.
The race coverage was a bit of a mixed bag at times. Yes, the Penske teammates dominated. Logano, in particular, was so fast that he could pull off unorthodox moves on whoever he felt like (ex: A move for the lead on Keselowski on lap 16 on the outside of turn 11). As a result, there wasn’t all that much action at the front of the field. NBCSN would have to compensate for that. The compensation was decent. It could have been better. I would have liked to see a little more inclusivity on the broadcast.
We’ll use Jeremy Clements as an example here. He was a move with two laps to go by Paul Menard away from finishing in the top 10, quite an accomplishment for the small team. He kept himself up front for much of the race, despite getting burned by cautions at least once. Yet, his performance barely rated a mention on-air beyond the starting lineup. The booth did note Clements’s past successes on road courses at that time, but that was it. Not even a mention of him avoiding Kenny Habul after the Australian racer crashed.
A good chunk of the telecast was spent talking about how taxing Watkins Glen is on the cars. Sure enough, Saturday’s race saw a lot more non-start-and-park attrition than normal. The booth did a good job describing what caused Kyle Larson’s axle to fail. What really would have made it that much better would have been if they could have gotten their hands on the broken axle piece to show viewers just how bad the forces were.
In the first six weeks of NBC coverage, what I like best about what we see is the fact that aspects of the race that might not be picked up by FOX make air here. An example of that was David Starr’s incident on lap 43 where he slid into the SAFER Barrier in turn 11. I feel like that wouldn’t have made the telecast last year, or earlier this year on FOX. Same with JJ Yeley getting nudged off-course by Brandon Gdovic.
Post-race coverage was great. Of course, most anyone reading this is probably going to focus on the grabbing match between Ty Dillon and Regan Smith (I noted it as a “scuffle”). I don’t think the booth was expecting the confrontation, but they seemed to be squarely in Smith’s corner. During the race itself, the booth was in agreement that Dillon was driving over his head. Honestly, I’m wondering what Menard thought about the move that booted him out of a great potential finish and forced him to charge just to get back to ninth. Dillon not only took out Menard, but also nearly wrecked Brian Scott as well.
NBCSN was on the ball when it came to thoughts from the feudin’ drivers as pit reporters immediately got Smith and Dillon for somewhat heated quotes (much more from Smith than Dillon). In situations like that, getting anything out of those involved is actually quite rare. Since neither driver finished in the top-three, they were not required to stick around or talk to anyone.
Overall, I preferred watching Saturday’s Xfinity race because despite Logano and Keselowski making the race a mockery, it was just a better broadcast overall. Despite the lack of coverage given to drivers such as Clements, it was more inclusive, especially towards the end as compared to the Sprint Cup event.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series visits Michigan International Speedway, where the high drag package will make its second appearance. My guess is that the general idea of the package may work a little better at Michigan than at Indianapolis, but you never know. In addition, the Xfinity Series makes their yearly trip to Ohio for 200 miles at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, August 11
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from August 10)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 10)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 10)|
|10 a.m. - 11 a.m.||Moto3: Indianapolis||FOX Sports 1*# (from August 9)|
|11 a.m. - 12 p.m.||Moto2: Indianapolis||FOX Sports 1*# (from August 9)|
|12 p.m. - 1 p.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Indianapolis||FOX Sports 1*/# (from August 9)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Wednesday, August 12
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from August 11)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 11)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 11)|
|4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||NASCAR Scan all 43||NBC Sports Network|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|8 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Pirelli World Challenge: Mid-Ohio, GTS Class||CBS Sports Network*/ (from August 1-2)|
Thursday, August 13
|1 a.m. - 2 a.m.||Pirelli World Challenge: Mid-Ohio, GTS Class||CBS Sports Network*/# (from August 1-2)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 12)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 12)|
|4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||The States of NASCAR||NBC Sports Network#|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. - 8 p.m.||K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 125||NBC Sports Network*/ (from August 7)|
|9 p.m. - 10 p.m.||TORC: The Off-Road Championship Roundup in Texas||FOX Sports 2*/# (from April 24-25)|
|9 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Pirelli World Challenge: Mid-Ohio, GT/GTA/GT Cup Classes||CBS Sports Network*/# (from July 31-August 2)|
|10 p.m. - 11 p.m.||TORC: The Off-Road Championship Rumble on the River||FOX Sports 2*/ (from May 16-17)|
|11 p.m. - 12 a.m.||V8 Supercars Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint||CBS Sports Network*/# (from August 1-2)|
Friday, August 14
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 13)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 13)|
|10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.||The 10: NASCAR's Most Outrageous Moments||FOX Sports 1#|
|10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.||TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Road Race Showcase||FOX Sports 1*# (from August 9)|
|11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network|
|1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1||FOX Sports 1|
|1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.||XFINITY Series Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network|
|3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Happy Hour||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|5 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. - 8 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|8 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour||FOX Sports 1*|
|9:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.||1979 Daytona 500: Pop-up Style||FOX Sports 1#|
|10 p.m. - 11 p.m.||BEING: Stewart-Haas Racing||FOX Sports 1#|
Saturday, August 15
|8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2||CNBC|
|9 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.||The 10: Greatest Truck Series Moments||FOX Sports 1#|
|9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.||Camping World Truck Series Qualifying||FOX Sports 1|
|10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.||Mobil 1's The Grid||CBS Sports Network|
|10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.||MotoAmerica: Indianapolis||CBS Sports Network*/ (from August 8)|
|11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour||CNBC|
|12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.||NCWTS Setup||FOX Sports 1|
|1 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200||FOX Sports 1|
|3 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC Sports Network|
|3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Nationwide Children's Hospital 200||NBC Sports Network|
|11 p.m. - 1 a.m.||Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship: Utah||NBC Sports Network*/|
Sunday, August 16
|7:30 p.m. - 9 a.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of the Czech Republic||FOX Sports 1|
|11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay||FOX Sports 1|
|1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.||NASCAR America Sunday||NBC Sports Network|
|2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC Sports Network|
|2 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Moto3: Czech Republic||FOX Sports 2*|
|2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400||NBC Sports Network|
|3 p.m. - 4 p.m.||Moto2: Czech Republic||FOX Sports 2*|
|4 p.m. - 5 p.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of the Czech Republic||FOX Sports 2*/#|
|5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America Post-Race||NBC Sports Network|
|11 p.m. - 12 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network|
Monday, August 17
|12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1|
|3:30 a.m. - 4 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1#|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 16)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 16)|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from August 16)|
|12 p.m. - 2 p.m.||NASCAR 120: Pure Michigan 400||NBC Sports Network*/# (from August 16)|
|5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|8 p.m. - 10 p.m.||IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Road America||FOX Sports 1*/ (from August 8)|
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your programming and/or internet service provider for availability.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex on Thursday in the Newsletter is currently undecided. However, NBCSN did air the Strutmasters.com 199 from Bowman Gray Stadium last week. As you all know, heck goes down there on a regular basis. It’s definitely a candidate.
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