NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: How TV Tries To Keep Richmond Relevant

Before we start, I should explain something really quick. I’m not a fan of the Chase. I don’t like the way the champion is determined. I don’t like the idea that Kyle Busch is even eligible for this Chase. I know ISC (and by extension, NASCAR) felt responsible for Busch’s injury, hence the waiver. In the context of Couch Potato Tuesday, the presence of the Chase results in a complete shift in how races are covered. I find that shift repugnant.

Federated Auto Parts 400

For the past few years, the September race at Richmond has been one of my least favorite races of the year. Everything is predicated on the Chase. Doesn’t help that it tends to be one of the most boring races of the year. It’s a shame. Richmond used to be really exciting. Now, it stinks. The race broadcast, sadly, wasn’t much better.

I’m fine with the colored bars underneath the drivers’ names to denote who’s in the Chase and who’s not. NBC’s been doing that since Watkins Glen. It’s not intrusive. Richmond saw constant points updates and updates on those trying to race in. It’s OK to do that stuff within the flow of the race. As far as I’m concerned, most of what I saw Saturday night didn’t fit in the flow of the race.

Matt Kenseth’s domination was actually less than what Brad Keselowski did last year. However, we really didn’t see all that much action away from him. Most of the action that we did see seemed to be Chase-related in some way, shape or form. All I ask for with races like Richmond is to cover the event like it’s any other race. Seems like NBCSN, like ESPN before them, is incapable of doing that. Maybe the 2016 rule package with less downforce will help a little bit with the racing at Richmond, which has more or less stunk for the past few years. Can’t blame the pavement. The current surface has been around since 2004.

To many viewers, one of the most spectacular moments of Saturday night’s race was when Michael McDowell hit the safety truck on the backstretch during the fifth caution. NBCSN clearly didn’t think so. We only saw one brief replay of the incident going to a commercial break after a round of pit stops (pictured above, via NASCAR’s YouTube channel). Afterwards, Rick Allen explained that NASCAR had called McDowell, his crew chief and spotter to the truck so that they could get the what for, and that was it. No further discussion of the incident, no radio chatter to figure out what happened, no nothing.

No offense, but given what’s happened in motorsports in the past couple of years involving safety equipment and racecars (not just in NASCAR), that was a much bigger story that NBCSN chose to bury because of the Chase. I’m sure Rutledge Wood was having a grand time stretching his legs out on the stationary bike and enjoying some ice cream like he’s Harry Hogge, but there was a story out there that should have been covered more closely. NBCSN swung and missed here. There wasn’t even anything on whether the safety crew was OK (sure, they looked fine on TV, but every little bit helps).

Post-race coverage was more or less delineated into two parts. The regular post-race coverage concerned the race winner (Kenseth) and those didn’t make the Chase. The NASCAR America post-race show covered those that did make the Chase. NASCAR made that into a bit of a party for those who decided to stick around. Let’s be honest, I don’t need a party for this Chase.

Overall, Richmond might have been the most boring race that NBCSN has covered all year. That’s not just in Sprint Cup. That includes Formula 1, the Verizon IndyCar Series and the various regional NASCAR series that the network airs. Their solution to that problem was to double down on the Chase for much of the broadcast. Doing that masks what’s really going on in the race. If a regular joe watched this race and wasn’t a NASCAR fan, he or she would know who won the race and that people like Aric Almirola missed out on the Chase. Besides that, I’m not sure what else they’d take away from the night.

To be fair, NBCSN did try to cover some other stories during the race. For instance, there was a fair amount of coverage given to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and the somewhat decent run he was having. The 16th-place finish Stenhouse had was placed into the larger context of Roush Fenway Racing’s overall struggles in 2015 and showed that the team is taking baby steps. I actually liked that portion of the broadcast. Sadly, there wasn’t much else that I liked.

All I ask for with this race at Richmond each year is for the event to be properly covered like a normal race. Richmond has regular storylines in addition to everything having to do with the arbitrary cut-off and the points. No one ever seems to want to play it straight. It makes the race miserable to watch every year. At least next weekend won’t be quite as irritating.

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On Friday night, the Xfinity Series returned to Richmond for their second visit of the year. For NBCSN, the big story of the night was their jumbled booth. Carl Edwards made his return to the broadcast booth. It created a bit of a mess of times.

During the races Edwards worked for ESPN, he more or less worked in place of Dale Jarrett. When he first started out, he legitimately had no clue what to do, and admitted as such on-air. It sounds like he watched the races on his DVR and thought that commentary could be fun. As a result, Edwards had someone pitch him participating in a broadcast to ESPN a couple of years ago.

Over time, Edwards’s cadence and commentary improved under the tutelage of experts like Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree. By the end of last season, he was decent. However, what was not mentioned on those broadcasts is that Bestwick exhibits a fair bit of control over the proceedings. Yes, he’s quite friendly, but there are some things that he would generally not tolerate in his broadcast booth.

I’m pretty sure that Edwards would not have gotten away with outright dissing Bestwick on-air like he did to Leigh Diffey Friday night. Edwards appears to not be familiar with Diffey in general. So, he took the opportunity to bust Diffey’s chops repeatedly about his pronunciations of words like “drama.” Then, he kept doing it. It became an annoying, running joke through much of the broadcast. I’m sure Edwards did all that with a smile on his face so Diffey could see that he wasn’t being malicious, but viewers can’t see that during on-track action. It just seemed mean, or mean-spirited at least. That is not the way to cover a race, or endear your booth mates to you, Carl.

Outside of the blatant dissing, Edwards actually did provide some decent analysis based on his experience with drivers like Erik Jones. When he wasn’t busting Diffey’s chops, he could provide some good commentary.

Even though Chase Elliott won, Friday night will probably be best remembered as the coming-out party for Josh Berry, JR Motorsports’ development driver. Berry, who was only making his third career start (first of 2015) was excellent. He showed great skill in tire conservation and was very fast when it counted. Unfortunately, his crew let him down. It happens. NBCSN gave Berry a decent amount of coverage that was quite complimentary. We also found out that he went to school with Josef Newgarden (Newgarden apparently texted Diffey during the broadcast and told him that). Small world.

Post-race coverage was quite decent, despite running up against the end of their time slot. Viewers got a half-dozen driver interviews, results, points and some analysis. Not half bad.

Overall, I enjoyed the NXS race quite a bit more than I thought I would. Without a Chase in play, there was more focus on the race itself. Busch didn’t stomp the field like everyone thought he would. Once you get away from Edwards being inconsiderate toward Diffey, it was actually an enjoyable broadcast.

I particularly liked the piece that aired on Countdown to Green where we got to know a little bit about Daniel Suarez. We know he’s from Monterrey, Mexico. In this piece, Suarez showed viewers a little of his hometown (open-wheel fans might remember the CART/Champ Car races held there at Fundidora Park). In addition, Suarez talked about his love of his old-school Volkswagen Beetle.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, all three of NASCAR’s National Series will be in action at Chicagoland Speedway for the first week of the Chase. Meanwhile, F1 returns to Singapore, where haze will be an issue. Finally, ARCA makes their second trip of the year to Salem Speedway. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, September 15

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from September 14)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 14)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 14)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Wednesday, September 16

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from September 15)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 15)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 15)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Global RallyCross Lites: Los AngelesNBC Sports Network*/ (from September 12-13)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR Scan all 43NBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.British Touring Car Championship: RockinghamCBS Sports Network*/ (from September 5-6)
9 p.m. - 11 p.m.DTM: OscherslebenCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 12-13)

Thursday, September 17

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 1 a.m.British Touring Car Championship: RockinghamCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 5-6)
1 a.m. - 3 a.m.DTM: OscherslebenCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 12-13)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from September 16)
4 a.m. - 6 a.m.DTM: OscherslebenCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 12-13)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 16)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 16)
4:30 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.K&N Pro Series East UNOH 100NBC Sports Network*/# (from September 10)
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.TORC Series: The Chicagoland Slam, Part No. 1FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 18)
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.TORC Series: The Chicagoland Slam, Part No. 2FOX Sports 2*/ (from June 19)

Friday, September 18

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 2 a.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: Los AngelesNBC Sports Network*/# (from September 12-13)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from September 17)
6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 17)
6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore Free Practice No. 1NBC Sports Live Extra$
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from September 17)
9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore Free Practice No. 2NBC Sports Network
10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series PracticeFOX Sports 1
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. XFINITY Series PracticeNBC Sports Network
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Camping World Truck Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.NCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
8:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225FOX Sports 1

Saturday, September 19

TimeTelecastNetwork
3:30 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225FOX Sports 1*# (from September 18)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore Free Practice No. 3NBC Sports Live Extra$
9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore QualifyingCNBC
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Trans-Am Series: Road AmericaCBS Sports Network*# (from August 29)
12:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Lone Star Le MansFOX Sports 2
1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2CNBC
2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Furious 7 300NBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 12 a.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Circuit of the AmericasFOX Sports 2
6:45 p.m. - 9 p.m.ARCA Racing Series Federated Car Care Fall ClassicARCARacing.com$$

Sunday, September 20

TimeTelecastNetwork
1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore QualifyingNBC Sports Network*# (from September 19)
6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore QualifyingNBC Sports Network*# (from September 19)
7 a.m. - 9 a.m.NHRA Carolina Nationals QualifyingESPN 2*/# (from September 19)
7:30 a.m. - 8 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network
8 a.m. - 10 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of SingaporeNBC Sports Network
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
12 p.m. - 5 p.m.NHRA Carolina Nationals Final EliminationsESPN3$
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Monroe InsiderCBS Sports Network#
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.NASCAR America SundayNBC Sports Network
1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Lone Star Le MansFOX Sports 1*# (from September 19)
2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC Sports Network
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.MotoAmerica: New Jersey Motorsports ParkCBS Sports Network* (from September 13)
3 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series MyAFibRisk.com 400NBC Sports Network
3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Laguna Seca, GT/GTA/GT Cup ClassesCBS Sports Network* (from September 13)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.Blancpain Endurance Series: NürburgringCBS Sports Network*/
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR America Post-RaceNBC Sports Network
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network
8:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.NHRA Carolina Nationals Final EliminationsESPN 2*/
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network#

Monday, September 21

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1
12 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Laguna Seca, GT/GTA/GT Cup ClassesCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 13)
1:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.Blancpain Endurance Series: NürburgringCBS Sports Network*/# (from September 20)
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1#
5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.Formula DRIFT: Monroe InsiderCBS Sports Network#
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from September 20)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from September 20)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from September 20)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR 120: MyAfibRisk.com 400NBC Sports Network*/# (from September 20)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
Key:
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
^ – Available via free online streaming
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.
$$ – Available via online Pay-Per-View

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races from Chicagoland for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. In addition, I plan on purchasing the ARCA broadcast from Salem and critiquing it for a future edition of the Critic’s Annex. It is available for the relatively low price of $9.98. The price is actually in honor of Saturday night being the 98th ARCA Racing Series event at Salem.

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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15 Comments
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kb

I agree Phil. I would have liked to hear more about the incident with the safety truck. All we heard was they were going to be called to the punish trailer and that was the end of it. Kenseth, part of the darling crew of Toyo’s got the gushing he deserved, but then like you mentioned BK did it last year and better and the hype was not there. They do have a script they stick too, and it is maddening. I have been watching some recent races and the hype is funny, and then a driver who was always in the mix steals the narrative and gets the win, and it is like they are at a funeral..they just don’t know what to say..after all it is off script. This damn stuff of letting us know non factors the whole season whether they were in or not (to be removed very shortly) was extremely annoying and about as exciting as paint drying. WHO CARES…they beat it to death!

Bill B

It will only get worse Phil. Now we’ll have to put up with all that “insert your drivers name here…nation” crap which annoys me to no end. And unless a non-chaser happens to win a race, or wreck a chaser, they will be invisible to the broadcast.
Not looking forward to it… sigh.

janice

the only thing that will get more attention on the broadcasts will be mother nature if she throws rain into race day events!

JohnQ

My sister, a big girl, only dated giants because she said she looked petite next to one. We probably don’t realize just how bad the NBC coverage is because they are standing next to the Waltrips, giants of horrendous broadcasting.
As to the Nation BS, I invite you all to join me and the legions of ex fans that make up the Tarp Nation. We proudly don’t care!

GinaV24

funny isn’t it, JohnQ that because the coverage by Fox is so annoying, the contrast with NBC is magnified and we think it is better. I was really tired of the word “playoff” repeated over and over again.

GinaV24

10 races and counting until I don’t have to feel like I “should” watch NASCAR simply because Jeff Gordon is on the track. Would I like to see him get another win? You bet. As far as the chase is concerned and the tv coverage, well, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and the racing in 2015 has been terrible so yammering on about how great and exciting it all is (and who is in or out) doesn’t make it any better.

Bill B, yeah, the wretched bracket and *** Nation BS begins. That is so ridiculous that I can’t even find words that are socially acceptable to describe how I feel about it.

kb

I said it once I will say it again..most if not all of the drivers look mortified at the “Nation” bull. This week they have then filitting around the country to promote the “Nation” concept. If these guys don’t have enough to do already. It is pathetic. I am not a “Nation”.

janice

kb – when i got up 11:20 something on saturday night and put tv on to race and saw the chase placing that was going on and how the drivers looked like they’d rather be anywhere else watching paint dry i laughed. what a joke.

i think all this nation stuff came from jr’s fans, as they’ve always been called “jr nation”. sure hope they trademarked that!

by the way, isn’t this sprint’s last year sponsoring the series? i wonder who will replace them?

kb

Good point, and good idea on the Junior Nation thought. I agree! They had the guys out and about across America today….utterly painful to see.

GinaV24

Janice and kb, yeah the whole nation thing IMO was always related to Jr. I guess NASCAR’s braintrust thought it was such a great idea they would apply it to all the drivers. Like kb, I’m not a nation, I’m a fan.

I missed all of the PR stuff – I’m not interested in any of it, so I don’t bother following along.

JWS

Sprint has one more year left of title sponsorship.

60sKid

Chase? What is this chase you speak of? The only time I glanced at the “race,” they kept saying “playoff” – so, NBC, which dumb name do we use?

russ

Gotta call B.S. on your statement “I know ISC (and by extension, NASCAR) felt responsible for Busch’s injury, hence the waiver.” No, they saw that excluding him would greatly diminish interest in their playoff/chase/whatever. Therefore their $$$$ could be impacted, something which could not be allowed to happen, thus the waiver.

kb

The Mars family and Joe Gibbs groveling had no doubt for his “waiver”. Personally me and mine enjoyed things hugely when he was home having his “Pay Attention to Me Wife” actually do something (ie help him) rather than post pics of herself 24/7. We were sad when he came back. That is truth whether the Kyle lovers like it or not.

Steve

This is setting up to be the worst Chase since its inception. Boring races, the Top 4 pretty much already set barring anything strange happening, and empty grandstands. There is a reason why NBC puts the races on the secondary network. I suppose if you enjoy fights, there should be plenty of those post race, though. I will only be a casual fan of this farce. My tv will be on football and golf. Pretty sad that once I planned my weekend around the races, now golf has surpassed Nascar in my interest meter on weekends. Nascar has finally returned to niche status.

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