Talladega is a place that fosters a lot of emotions from race fans under normal circumstances. Some people dread the place, wish they tore it down and turned it into something else. Others reserve gleeful opinions not that far off the opinions of some people when news broke last week that Gilmore Girls is being revived as a series of 90-minute movies on Netflix. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle of that.
Regardless, the 2.66-mile tri-oval hosted the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series. The main discussion leading into the weekend was obviously the Chase. Say whatever you want about the race’s placement (I’m not a fan; it should be where Charlotte is), but Talladega is an elimination race, designed to be as looney as possible.
Before we get into the abyss that was the officiating Sunday, let’s talk about FOX Sports 1’s short film, “White Knight,” which debuted last week on NASCAR RaceHub. Yes, discussing how Dick Trickle died is a tough subject. However, I found that FOX Sports did an excellent job capturing just what kind of a racer and a man that Trickle was. He seems like the kind of guy that everyone would want to meet. I’ll admit that I didn’t learn all that much about him, except at the very end.
Kenny Wallace mentioned on Twitter the day of Trickle’s funeral that his widow gave him and a few others a series of documents after the ceremony. My understanding at the time was that they weren’t to be discussed publicly. While no one went into specifics, they were discussed to a certain degree. I won’t spoil it since the video is above, but it’s a pretty sad situation.
With that covered, onto the critique.
Oh boy. When NASCAR announced the one green-white-checkered rule on Wednesday, the fear was that the rule was going to come into play and screw someone over. That’s effectively what happened. I understand why NASCAR made the move. They didn’t want a repeat of Austin Dillon’s crash into the catchfence at the end of the Coke Zero 400, which just so happened to occur during a GWC. As good as NASCAR’s intentions were there, there’s one problem. Given the current restrictor-plate package, I don’t know if you can prevent someone from going into the catchfence. Dillon’s wreck was just the most recent insane way that someone could get into the fencing. It’s like watching a crash compilation on YouTube from the old PC game NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. If NASCAR was that nervous about repeating that, then they should have decreed no GWC’s whatsoever. Regardless, you’re going to see discussion on that topic for months to come.
Given the importance of what happened at the end of the race, we’re going to have to “Tarantino” the Cup critique. We’ll start during the second caution.
Here, it seemed like the booth believed that it was going to be a relatively short yellow. As a result, Greg Biffle was still going to have a chance to win. However, given the fallout from Charlotte, NASCAR was extra careful to clean the track. That ruined Biffle’s day. Before the restart, NBCSN reported on engine issues for Kevin Harvick that ultimately affected the race. What I don’t understand here is that a lot of people were monitoring Harvick’s radio. NBCSN, MRN Radio, the NASCAR officials. Why did they let him stay there when he knew that he was nothing more than a roadblock?
Then, we had the “false start,” I guess. My preference in this situation would have been for NASCAR to not throw the yellow at all and just let them race. It would have prevented all the stupidity. On NBCSN, confusion reigned. The general opinion seemed to be that the race was over at that point. Then, NASCAR stated that since the yellow was out before anyone reached the start-finish line, they would re-rack and try again.
Here, NASCAR made the booth look stupid. Believe me, I’ve seen more than my share of races. This was the first time outside of an exhibition race (Sprint Unlimited, Sprint All-Star Race, Sprint Showdown, etc.) that I’d ever seen NASCAR wave a restart off in that fashion. They undoubtedly did it because they didn’t want the race to end like that.
We know what happened on the second restart. There appears to some controversy based around when NBCSN indicated that the yellow was out in real time. Live, it was not indicated until the cars were in turn 1. By that point, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had poked his nose in front of Joey Logano and more than likely would have won. However, replays with the caution lights synced up showed the yellow actually came out about four seconds before NBCSN originally indicated. That’s what gave Logano the win. That’s a technical issue that should be fixed going forward.
The way the race ended ultimately drove the post-race coverage. All the interviews were centered upon what happened at the end of the race. Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth threw Harvick under the bus during on-camera interviews, while Trevor Bayne accused Harvick of intentionally wrecking him in an interview that was transcribed and distributed by Ford Performance PR. Of the roughly one hour of post-race coverage before NBCSN cut to NASCAR Victory Lap in Connecticut, almost all of it was centered upon the end of the race and the Chase implications. They had to do that since it was the big story. They covered the story from every angle. The coverage of the situation post-race was pretty good. I just wish it never came down to what happened.
In regards to Harvick’s move, they didn’t give their opinion. Instead, they synced up an external replay of the crash with an in-car camera facing Harvick. That shot showed that Harvick appeared to turn the wheel to the right, which put him into Bayne’s left rear fender. Depending on who you ask, that might just be the definitive setup.
While the broadcast did make note of how angry the assembled crowd was at the situation, there was no mention of the track littering that occurred after the race. Watching on Sunday, I just knew that was coming. Sure enough, the beer cans started flying. It was nowhere near as bad as the couple of times I can recall Jeff Gordon’s car being pelted after wins at Talladega, but still classless as heck.
Normally, Mike Helton comes across as a fairly composed official. I often compare him to a man named James Ferris, who was the principal of my elementary school (Bell Top Elementary, North Greenbush, N.Y.) back when I was a student there in the early 1990s (he has since passed away). Helton is built similar to him and normally displays a stoic demeanor just like Mr. Ferris did.
The media scrum outside the Sprint Cup Series trailer that NBCSN aired live showed a different Helton. We saw a man that pretty much knew that this race didn’t go down right, but that [NASCAR] couldn’t do anything about it. Given the circumstances (and the fact that Harvick exited stage left quickly), they couldn’t prove that Harvick did anything intentionally. It’s not like when Kurt Busch intentionally tried to cut Jimmy Spencer’s tire at Michigan in 2003. That was blatant and Busch actually admitted it on the radio.
All the stupidity took away from what was actually a decent broadcast to watch. NBCSN covered it fairly, albeit with a large degree of Chase focus since someone thought it’d be an excellent idea to make Talladega an elimination race. I swear this is going to give someone a heart attack in the next couple of years.
Prior to the race, Steve Letarte sat down in the coach lot with Earnhardt Jr. to talk about his thoughts entering Talladega. The piece revealed a very confident 41-year old man. Unlike almost everyone else in town, Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t fear Talladega. He embraces it. Later on during the race, a clip that didn’t make the interview that aired on Countdown to Green was shown indicating Earnhardt Jr.’s plan. At that point (lap 159), it was going exactly to plan. He wanted to control the race from the front. Then again, if you’ve watched plate races anytime since the roof spoilers were ditched, that’s his modus operandi. Get out front and dominate.
NBCSN also introduced a new drop-down graphic that shows the points as they run for the Chasers that is separate from the rest of the ticker. I understand why they chose to debut it at Talladega since positions can change so often. However, that will definitely come in handy during the upcoming Eliminator Round. My only concern is that it’s quite small and difficult to read if you’re not right up next to the TV. I watch the races on a 32” TV. While it’s bigger than what I was using the first year and change I was critiquing, it’s not huge. The decision to “ghost” the numbers in the drop down didn’t help, either.
Overall, the broadcast that we got on Sunday was pretty good. Ratings were more than triple what Formula 1 got on NBC (I watched that race after the Cup race ended and was quite pleased with the action). The circumstances at the end were trying for everyone. I felt like a number of on-air personalities were frustrated with the outcome, not because Earnhardt Jr. didn’t win, but because of how the race ended. Kyle Petty was the closest to audible frustration. He simply stated at the beginning of the NASCAR America Post-race show that no one told him there was a rule that stated that NASCAR could wave off a restart in that fashion.
Despite my overall opinion of the broadcast being halfway favorable, I did have gripes. For example, AJ Allmendinger stalled on pit road during the first caution. The broadcast made mention of it, then went to commercial. Nothing more was mentioned about it. A check of Twitter indicates that Allmendinger broke a shifter really low down, so the infamous Vice Grip strategy used by Ken Schrader at Sonoma in 1995 could not be used. In fact, the team spent the rest of the race from that point on in fourth gear. You’re not getting anywhere quick at Talladega when you have to leave pit road in high gear. I don’t recall that ever being mentioned on the broadcast. Ryan Blaney’s engine woes were also slow in being referenced on the broadcast. He was in the garage for something like six laps after the car expired in the middle of the pack before anything was said.
With some luck, Martinsville will be a much better race for NASCAR officiating. All indications are that we’ll have a good race. Let’s hope that those fans that are angry at NASCAR over Sunday’s finish are willing to give Sprint Cup another chance.
Saturday afternoon brought the Camping World Truck Series back onto network television for their one over-the-air race of the season from Talladega. With the additional exposure, the series likely had their biggest audience of the year. Did they get a good race broadcast on FOX?
During the Setup, the big story was a feature on FDNY Racing, a part-time team owned by original Truck Series team owner Jim Rosenblum that competes with a volunteer crew of former firemen from the New York Fire Department. While the honors of the NYFD are apparent from the very start, the piece is really a look into the smallest of small teams in the series. The team has no sponsorship and spends roughly $15,000 a race. Apparently, their truck doesn’t have a fuel pressure gauge.
Regardless, it’s a small team with very experienced personnel (in addition to Rosenblum owning a truck team during the inaugural season in 1995, the Rahillys (former car owners in Cup are involved).
FOX Sports did a great job profiling a team that most fans really don’t know much about. Helping families torn apart by 9/11 is a very difficult task, but FDNY Racing is doing the best they can, given their resources. Unfortunately, Andy Seuss couldn’t get the No. 28 Chevrolet into the field for Saturday so that the team could further their cause.
For Saturday’s broadcast, Harvick made his return to the broadcast booth alongside Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip. Personally, I would have preferred that Harvick worked with Phil Parsons. However, Harvick’s booth experience has been with both Alexander and Waltrip. The thought process likely was to make sure that Harvick was as comfortable as possible.
Overall, I found that Harvick eased back into the analyst role pretty well. He brings a lot of insight to the booth that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Just wish he were more forthcoming as a driver. As annoying as Michael Waltrip can be at times, a restrictor-plate race is probably the best place for him to chime in. Over the past 15 years, the plate races have been the best events for the veteran racer/car owner. I’m not going to say that he has a secret in regards to how to race at Daytona and Talladega, but the man’s won four restrictor-plate races and could have made it five back in 2012 had Tony Stewart not cut him off at the pass.
Restrictor-plate races do bring a slightly more varied cast of characters towards the front of the field, but the current style of racing in the trucks makes it quite difficult to pass. Regardless, you still got all kinds of coverage throughout the field. Good to see.
Post-race was relatively brief since the telecast had already gone overtime once the race ended. Despite that fact, viewers still got five post-race interviews and a check of the points before FOX signed off.
Overall, FOX put together a pretty good broadcast on Sunday. While yes, the race ended under caution and that bites, there wasn’t any controversy over it. They wrecked it on the backstretch, and that was it. Nothing malicious on John Wes Townley’s part. He misjudged what he was doing and wrecked Spencer Gallagher.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series return for their second visit of the year to Martinsville Speedway. Contact and tempers could be in play. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, October 27
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 26)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 26)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 26)|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 26)|
|4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||Off the Grid: Talladega||NBC Sports Network#|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Wednesday, October 28
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 27)|
|3 a.m. - 4 a.m.||Moto3: Malaysia||FOX Sports 1*# (from October 25)|
|4 a.m. - 5 a.m.||Moto2: Malaysia||FOX Sports 1*# (from October 25)|
|5 a.m. - 6 a.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Malaysia||FOX Sports 1*/# (from October 25)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 27)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 27)|
|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: Everett||CBS Sports Network* (from October 17)|
|9 p.m. - 10 p.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Road Atlanta||CBS Sports Network*/ (from October 2)|
|10 p.m. - 11 p.m.||AMA Endurocross: Everett||CBS Sports Network*# (from October 17)|
Thursday, October 29
|12 a.m. - 1 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Road Atlanta||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 2)|
|1 a.m. - 2 a.m.||AMA Endurocross: Everett||CBS Sports Network*# (from October 17)|
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 28)|
|3 a.m. - 4 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Road Atlanta||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 2)|
|5 a.m. - 6 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Road Atlanta||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 2)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 28)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 28)|
|5 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Friday, October 30
|3 a.m. - 4 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*# (from October 29)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 29)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 29)|
|11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Free Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network|
|1 p.m. - 2 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1||FOX Sports 1|
|2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||The 10: Greatest Truck Series Moments||FOX Sports 1|
|2:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour||FOX Sports 1|
|3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||NBC Sports Network*|
|10:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Mobil 1's The Grid||CBS Sports Network#|
|11:30 p.m. - 1 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network*|
Saturday, October 31
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||AMA Endurocross: Everett||CBS Sports Network*# (from October 17)|
|9 a.m. - 10 a.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2||CNBC|
|10 a.m. - 11 a.m.||Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America: Road Atlanta||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 2)|
|10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.||Camping World Truck Series Qualifying||FOX Sports 1|
|11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||Porsche Rennsport Reunion V||FOX Sports 1*/|
|12 p.m. - 1 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour||CNBC|
|12 p.m. - 1 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Free Practice No. 3||NBC Sports Live Extra$|
|1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.||NCWTS Setup||FOX Sports 1|
|1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200||FOX Sports 1|
|2 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series: Las Vegas||CBS*/ (from September 18-19)|
|2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Qualifying||CNBC|
|10 p.m. - 11 p.m.||Porsche Rennsport Reunion V||FOX Sports 2*/#|
|11 p.m. - 3:30 a.m.||FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Shanghai, Part No. 1||FOX Sports 2|
Sunday, November 1
|1 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico Qualifying||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 31)|
|3 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.||NHRA Toyota Nationals Qualifying||ESPN 2*/ (from October 30-31)|
|3:30 a.m. - 5 a.m.||FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Shanghai, Part No. 2||FOX Sports 1|
|10 a.m. - 12 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay||FOX Sports 1|
|11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||NASCAR America Sunday||NBC Sports Network|
|12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.||Countdown to Green||NBC Sports Network|
|1 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||NBC Sports Network|
|2 p.m. - 4 p.m.||V8 Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 11)|
|2 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NHRA Toyota Nationals Final Eliminations||ESPN3$|
|2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC|
|3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||NHRA Toyota Nationals Qualifying||ESPN 2*/# (from October 30-31)|
|3 p.m. - 5 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico||NBC|
|4 p.m. - 6 p.m.||V8 Supercars Armor All Gold Coast 600||CBS Sports Network*/ (from October 24-25)|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||F1 Extra||NBC|
|5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.||NASCAR America Post-Race||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. -7:30 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*#|
|7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1|
|7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico||NBC Sports Network*#|
|8 p.m. - 11 p.m.||NHRA Toyota Nationals FInal Eliminations||ESPN 2*/|
|11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*#|
Monday, November 2
|2 a.m. - 3 a.m.||V8 Supercars Armor All Gold Coast 600||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 24-25)|
|4 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1# (from November 1)|
|4 a.m. - 5 a.m.||V8 Supercars Armor All Gold Coast 600||CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 24-25)|
|6 a.m. - 7 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from November 1)|
|7 a.m. - 8 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from November 1)|
|8 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lap||NBC Sports Network*# (from November 1)|
|12 p.m. - 2 p.m.||NASCAR 120: Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||NBC Sports Network*/# (from November 1)|
|5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|7 p.m. - 8 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. The Annex in the Newsletter on Thursday will cover Friday night’s episode of The Soup, which aired live from Talladega.
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.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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