We’ve made it through part No. 1 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. There are undoubtedly some disappointed drivers and disappointed fans. Our own Jerry Jordan is convinced that NASCAR’s happy that Jimmie Johnson failed to advance (but would never actually admit it). In all due respect, I doubt that. Even if Johnson is “vanilla,” he’s still one of the five most popular drivers in Sprint Cup. It’s not exactly going to help NASCAR to have a six-time champion watching 12 other guys having at it for the remaining seven weeks.
Before we get started, FOX Sports announced over the weekend that defending Sprint Cup champion (and all-conquering winner from Sunday) Kevin Harvick will return to the broadcast booth for FOX’s annual broadcast of the Camping World Truck Series Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. When that race is run on Oct. 25, check your local listings for the air time in your market. Last year, we ran into some issues with stations bumping the race in favor of college football. We’ll have to see what happens there.
Sunday afternoon saw a quartet of drivers have their Chases come to an end. For others, employment probably ended as well.
During pre-race coverage, the primary feature was a sit-down interview that Jeff Burton conducted with Tony Stewart. I won’t rehash Stewart’s announcement from last week because we all know what it was, but Burton had the chance to ask Stewart why he chose to make the decision. While Stewart hasn’t been running well the last couple of years, he painted his decision as a calculated, long-term decision that had as much to do with Clint Bowyer’s availability as it did burnout. While that sounds interesting, I’m not sure if that’s the entire truth (despite the fact that Stewart would swear up and down that it was). A subsequent interview with Bowyer was done as well. The full interview will run later this week on NASCAR America.
During the race itself, it was ridiculous. I would have included a clip of what I was thinking while watching the race, but I can’t find one for you on YouTube. As a result, I’m going to have to explain it to you. In the 1999 film Wild Wild West, James West (Will Smith) and Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline) are arguing about the best way to handle interrogation. Gordon describes West’s interrogation tactics as something along the lines “Shoot, shoot. Shoot some more, shoot shoot shoot, then once everybody’s dead, try to ask a question or two.” That’s how I interpreted the race coverage from Dover on Sunday.
It was all Chase, all the time. Listen, I know it was an elimination race. However, there is more to Sprint Cup right now than the Chase. Having this stupendously dumb Chase and the ultra-focus that results from it directly hurts everyone else in the sport. Unlike any other sport with playoffs, everyone else is still out there in Sprint Cup. They operate (outside of Talladega) in the shadows, but they’re there, giving it their all.
Sunday saw constant points updates for the entire race. Point updates below the ticker, constant updates of where everyone was at the cut-off, what if scenarios. If that’s your thing, you probably had a good Sunday. I spent the race exasperated. Even wrecks, the rare time in which lower-echelon drivers could get even a smidgen of airtime, were curtailed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there weren’t wrecks (a couple of them). However, we didn’t get replays of a couple of them. For example, Brett Moffitt stuffed it in the wall with 47 laps to go to draw a yellow that stopped the potential fuel-mileage run to the finish (and likely saved Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s day). How did that happen? If you only watched the broadcast, you could guess, but that’s about it. Even Front Row Motorsports’ Twitter page didn’t list a reason why Moffitt smacked the wall:
Moffitt: "Killed, killed."
— Front Row Motorsports (@Team_FRM) October 4, 2015
I have no idea how the race would have been covered without the Chase in play. You take that away, and you might have had the most boring race of the year. Harvick led all but 45 laps. A grand total of three people led the race, and had there been qualifying, Harvick probably would have led something like 380 laps because he wouldn’t have been starting 15th. I think the end of the race might have been broadcast similarly to what we got because that was where the action was, but other aspects would have been done differently.
Dover is in its 21st year with the concrete surface, a surface laid down in order to save money due to the old asphalt surface constantly coming up. That led to constant track sealing and a series of races that could only be described as wreck-fests (four hours and 59 minutes for 500 miles in 1993, anyone?). However, if you take away the wrecks, Dover races were more exciting before the track was concreted. The cool weather last weekend didn’t help. It wasn’t quite the “it’s too cool for the rubber to adhere” weather that Martinsville always seems to have these days, but it wasn’t that far off.
Post-race coverage continued the Chase bias. All the Chasers in the discussion on Sunday got post-race interviews. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, who already clinched spots, weren’t in that bunch. They effectively got a free pass. Also not included were drivers such as Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who put up great finishes on Sunday and got absolutely bupkis in coverage. Why? They weren’t in the Chase, and therefore didn’t matter to the group at large. It’s just so frustrating.
Bowyer and Paul Menard, who were in the Chase, got absolutely no post-race coverage despite being eliminated. A discussion between myself and our own Mike Neff on Twitter as to what they received looked like this:
— Phil Allaway (@Critic84) October 5, 2015
Now, my love of motorsports and game shows are tied into my personality and I love to combine them as much as possible. But, in all honesty, that’s about as much as they got out of being in the Chase. A crockpot and some grit mix. Bowyer might not have even gotten the crockpot.
Three weeks in, NBCSN’s coverage of the Chase for the Sprint Cup has looked very similar to how ESPN has covered it over the past eight years. Frustrating and anger-inducing at times, just with a different on-air cast of characters. I don’t understand why NASCAR believes that this kind of super-focus actually benefits the sport at all. I don’t believe it does. It’s a crutch, nothing more. It was a move that Brian France made once he had full control of the sport (after apparently being denied the opportunity in the past by his father) in an attempt to capitalize on the new chaps that were watching the sport. Once the newbies lost interest, heck went down. The clinging to the Chase through at least 2024 will continue to hurt the sport for the foreseeable future.
Saturday afternoon saw the Xfinity Series take to the track with absolutely no practice at all. Unlike a stupendously dumb storyline, this was the legitimate NASCAR equivalent to a soap opera (sight reading, since they shoot 200-plus episodes a year). Threatening skies (and an eventual rain delay) only reinforced the “winging it” ideal of the day.
The championship was an important story on Saturday, but it wasn’t the only story in play. Yes, we had whackers. Kyle Busch was back, desperate to claim another victory. I swear that man turns into Gollum in the racecar, but I can’t prove that. Hamlin was there as well.
Ty Dillon’s crash was big news for the championship, and it was covered properly. His tire failure seemed to come out of nowhere. The crash that brought the caution had nothing to do with it since it was behind Dillon. Brian Scott’s tire failure on the surface was pretty weird, but some good investigating by NBCSN discovered a serious error that led to the blowout. The valve stem was sheared away, either from contact on track, or by an errant air gun clipping on his first pit stop. Since the tire failed just three laps after the restart, the latter seems more likely.
Slower traffic was another big story on Saturday. I believe that it would have been a problem anyway, but the lack of practice made the slower cars even slower than normal. Josh Reaume had the rare dishonor of being parked by NASCAR for being too slow. By the time he was parked, he was something like 13 laps down.
I found the Saturday race from Dover to be more inclusive that what we got Sunday, but I still wish that NBCSN was better at updating viewers on all the stories going on. We got plenty of Joe Gibbs Racing being themselves, Regan Smith later in the race, the championship battle and so on. The tale of Jimmy Means Racing’s issues was mentioned during a Through the Field segment. It was something that probably should have been covered more substantially during Countdown to Green, but Countdown to Green was only 15 minutes on Saturday
However, we didn’t get much in the way of information on smaller stories in the field. For example, Ryan Ellis won his way into the race via a fan vote put on by Vroom Brands. He ended up behind the wall with a broken sway bar early, but was pretty quick. NBCSN never really updated why he went behind the wall (he returned at the same time that Derrike Cope went to the garage after smacking the wall, which occurred during a NASCAR NonStop commercial and was not replayed).
Since the race was delayed by a half-hour due to the rain, NBCSN decided to dispense with the 5:30 rerun of Mobsteel and keep the post-race coverage on until 6:30. As a result, viewers got more than a dozen post-race interviews in addition to point discussions and race discussions. Generally a good way to finish off a tough day at the track.
Rhino Linings 350k
I have no idea how this standalone truck weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway makes any money. Seriously. There is no support to the truck race there and hasn’t been since 2011 (and we all remember what happened that weekend). Granted, the trucks were the first major series to race on the 1.5-mile tri-oval there, but there really much keeping them there.
Also of note, a race starting at 10:19 p.m. on a Saturday night is a tough draw in general. West coast night races, while nice weather-wise, generally aren’t good for TV. Then again, it could be worse. How about after the Truck race at 10 p.m. local time, which is what Champ Car did back in 2005 (the race aired on SPEED the next day via tape delay). Regardless, we had 350 kilometers of action with the Chicken Man hitting pay dirt. How was it covered?
The Setup was back to a more normal setup for Camping World Truck Series race No. 501. Ray Dunlap returned with a great sit-down interview with Christopher Bell, who made his return to the series Saturday night for the first time since winning the 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic back in July. Here, we learn a little bit about the up-and-coming racer who appears to be just as comfortable racing in the trucks as he is pulling slide jobs on regular joes in iRacing at Bristol. He seems like an interesting guy and Kyle Busch Motorsports is lucky to have him. Speaking of Eldora, Bell’s primary foe from Eldora, Bobby Pierce, will be back at Martinsville as well.
That was ugly. Theriault suffered a compression fracture in the crash, but he’s in good spirits right now back home. I found that FOX Sports did a decent job in covering the crash. They held off on replays until they knew that Theriault was out of the truck, which was important given the circumstances. There was genuine concern for Theriault’s well-being as well.
There was no reference on the broadcast to how Theriault was handled by the on-site rescue crew, though. That was not their best effort Saturday night. Seriously, it was kind of terrabad. I guess the booth chose to err on the side of caution here, but that was kinda ugly to watch. I’m just happy they didn’t exacerbate anything. Unfortunately, no substantial updates on Theriault’s condition were released (other than him being awake and alert at the hospital) until after the telecast ended. FOX Sports did not speculate on his condition and handled the situation in a very professional manner.
Also, there was no immediate on-air statement about how Theriault hit an unprotected concrete wall. FOX Sports is known for making statements like this, the best example being Larry McReynolds’s rant back at Daytona after Kyle Busch’s crash in the Alert Today Florida 300. Most people watching the race know that Saturday night wasn’t even the first time this year that someone’s crashed in that spot like that. Erik Jones went head-on into the wall right there during the NXS race back in March.
Apparently, no one did anything about that in the last seven months. Expect to see the track’s management torn a new one.
Outside of the big crash, FOX Sports’s coverage Saturday night was decent. There was a good amount of battling for position and good overall coverage. Attention was given to Matt Crafton apparently trying to draw a caution late in the race (we’ll have to see what NASCAR says about those shenanigans later this week) and the various issues that Akinori Ogata had with his No. 63 (NASCAR probably should have parked Ogata before Reaume on Saturday).
Post-race coverage was tied into FOX Sports Live, so it was quite a bit shorter than it could have been (the race’s time slot was through 12:30 a.m. ET, but they cut out approximately 20 minutes early). Despite cutting out early, FOX Sports provided viewers with a decent amount of post-race coverage including proper due being given to Townley. It was a stark contrast to the treatment Townley got when he won his ARCA race at Daytona.
Overall, Saturday night was actually a pretty decent race at Las Vegas. Not having the Cup guys around led to a more natural conclusion. Townley winning is not as much of a surprise as you’d think. He legitimately had at least the third-best truck on track all night. He was fast and he didn’t make mistakes. He did what he had to do and laughed all the way home with a well-deserved trophy. FOX Sports did just fine covering the event. The second half of the race wasn’t exactly the most exciting, but they cannot control fuel mileage/green-flag feel races. They did well with what they were given.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for their second visit of the season. Meanwhile, Formula 1 is in Sochi, while the World Endurance Championship returns to Fuji Speedway in Japan, where it is forecasted to rain on race day. Ah heck. The last time that happened at Fuji Speedway, the cars technically never took the green flag before the checkered flag was thrown. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, October 6
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 5)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 5)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 5)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Wednesday, October 7
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 6)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 6)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 6)|
|4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||Global RallyCross Lites: Barbados||NBC Sports Network* (from October 4)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|7 p.m. - 8 p.m.||AMA EnduroCross: Sacramento||CBS Sports Network* (from September 26)|
|8 p.m. - 9 p.m.||British Touring Car Championship: Silverstone||CBS Sports Network*/ (from September 27)|
|9 p.m. - 10 p.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Circuit of the Americas||CBS Sports Network*/ (from September 18)|
|10 p.m. - 12 a.m.||Blancpain Sprint Series: Misano||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 3-4)|
Thursday, October 8
|12 a.m. - 1 a.m.||AMA EnduroCross: Sacramento||CBS Sports Network*# (from September 26)|
|1 a.m. - 2 a.m.||Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion||FOX Sports 2*/#|
|1 a.m. - 2 a.m.||British Touring Car Championship: Silverstone||CBS Sports Network*/# (from September 27)|
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 7)|
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Circuit of the Americas||CBS Sports Network*/# (from September 18)|
|3 a.m. - 4 a.m.||AMA EnduroCross: Sacramento||CBS Sports Network*# (from September 26)|
|4 a.m. - 5 a.m.||British Touring Car Championship: Silverstone||CBS Sports Network*/# (from September 27)|
|5 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Circuit of the Americas||CBS Sports Network*/# (from September 18)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 7)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 7)|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 7)|
|1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network|
|3 p.m. - 4 p.m.||XFINITY Series Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network|
|4 p.m. - 5 p.m.||K&N Pro Series East Drive Sober 125||NBC Sports Network*/ (from October 3)|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.||XFINITY Series Happy Hour||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|8:45 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.||Better Half Dash||FansChoice.tv^?|
Friday, October 9
|3 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|7 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network|
|2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Fall Final 150||NBC Sports Network*/ (from October 4)|
|3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network|
|4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.||XFINITY Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour||NBC Sports Network|
|7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC Sports Network|
|8 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Drive for the Cure 300||NBC Sports Network|
Saturday, October 10
|1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Red Bull Global RallyCross: Barbados||NBC Sports Network*/# (from October 3-4)|
|5 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 3||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 9)|
|8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 8)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America Saturday||NBC Sports Network|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay||FOX Sports 2|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC|
|7:15 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500||NBC|
|10 p.m. - 4 a.m.||FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji||FOX Sports 2|
|11 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||NASCAR America Post-Race||NBC Sports Network|
|11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network|
Sunday, October 11
|12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1|
|1 a.m. - 2 a.m.||motoGP World Championship Motul Grand Prix of Japan||FOX Sports 1|
|1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Qualifying||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
|4 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.||FIA World Endurance Championship Post-Race||FOX Sports GO$|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||Moto2: Japan||FOX Sports 2*|
|6:30 a.m. - 7 a.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||Moto3: Japan||FOX Sports 2*|
|7 a.m. - 9 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia||NBC Sports Network|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||motoGP World Championship Motul Grand Prix of Japan||FOX Sports 2*#|
|9 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network|
|12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*#|
|12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia||NBC Sports Network*#|
|1 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort||CBS Sports Network*/ (from October 10-11)|
|2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network*#|
|3 p.m. - 4 p.m.||Blancpain Endurance Series Year in Review||CBS Sports Network|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Mobil 1's The Grid||CBS Sports Network|
|10:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||GP2 Series: Russia||NBC Sports Network*/|
|11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
Monday, October 12
|12 a.m. - 2 a.m.||Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 10-11)|
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Blancpain Endurance Series Year in Review||CBS Sports Network#|
|4 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 10-11)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
|2 p.m. - 5 p.m.||NASCAR 120: Bank of America 500||NBC Sports Network*/# (from October 10)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR Scan all 43||NBC Sports Network|
|10:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.||NASCAR Scan all 43||NBC Sports Network#|
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
^ – Available via free online streaming
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet/programming provider for availability.
? – Unknown programming
The question mark has been placed by coverage of the Better Half Dash simply due to the fact that FansChoice.tv is notoriously slow in putting out their schedules. As of Monday night, they had not released their full schedule for the week. That’s a rant for another day. However, I’ve listed what I think is the start time for said race and FansChoice.tv should air it.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Xfinity series races from Charlotte in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For the Annex this week, we’ll have additional coverage.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments and I’m happy with the increased number of comments so far this year. 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.
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.