NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Phoenix a Tiring Challenge for NASCAR on NBC

Normally, Sprint Cup races at Phoenix International Raceway are some of the shortest of the year. Sunday was clearly an exception to that rule, as there was over 10 hours of coverage on NBC and NBCSN from Avondale. We’ll get to the desert in a moment.

On Monday, NBC Sports announced a special ramping up for Sunday’s Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Ford EcoBoost 400 will air as a simulcast between NBC and NBCSN. NBC will have the normal broadcast with the regular cast of on-air personalities that you’re used to. Meanwhile, NBCSN will air a special Hot Pass telecast of the race. There will be a multi-window setup focused in on all four championship contenders, complete with Leigh Diffey and Dale Jarrett providing exclusive commentary on the championship battle. Think of it as something similar to the simulcasts that ESPN and ESPN2 used to do back in the mid-1990’s for selected Winston Cup and INDYCAR races.

NBC Sports seems to be quite jazzed for the simulcast.

“Get ready to experience history in real time from the drivers’ headset and perspective,” Dan Steir, NBCSN’s Senior Vice President of Production stated in a press release. “NBCSN Hot Pass will deliver a constant spotlight on the Championship 4 drivers and allow the race fan to access the strategy and drama in a more focused manner.”

It appears that you’ll have a choice on Sunday. Complete and total championship focus, or still a bunch of focus, but other stories would be covered as well. Tough choice. I’d like to hear what you think about NBC’s move for this weekend down in the comments.

Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500k

I don’t know what happened on Sunday. It’s as if the Boogie Man from The Powerpuff Girls showed up, but instead of blocking out the sun with his giant disco ball so he and his friends could party forever, he used it to seed the clouds and cause a deluge. It’s doubtful that any NASCAR weekend at Phoenix saw as much rain as we saw on Sunday. Naturally, that led to a very long day.

Prior to the rain delay, NBCSN aired a piece about how Hendrick Motorsports trains their pit crews. It’s way more complicated than finding a bunch of guys in and around the shop to train. Instead, it has become more like scouting a professional sports team in that most of the new crew members going over the wall these days are former athletes at the college level. Teams basically take on guys that aren’t good enough to make it into the pros, but are still athletic, and mold them into the over-the-wall men of the future.

In addition to the new piece, there were replays of multiple features that have run over the past couple of weeks, like Marty Snider’s sit-down interview with Jeff Gordon, Scan all 43 pieces from Martinsville and Texas, etc.

I was not really surprised that the race got moved to NBCSN. Sunday Night Football is currently the highest-rated show on television. NBC cannot and will not pre-empt it for a race. The only surprising part to me was the race coverage moving to NBCSN at 6 p.m. Maybe had it not rained again around that time, the race could have potentially started on NBC before shifting over. I was thinking that the shift would occur at 7 p.m., but NBC chose to run newscasts instead.

Once the race got started, the immediate story in play was Kurt Busch screwing up the start. Here, NBC was right on task. We had replays of the start (perhaps too many) showing Kurt beating Jimmie Johnson to the start-finish line. That was aided by footage of Richard Buck talking about the very topic during the drivers’ meeting earlier in the day in response to a question from Gordon. Fortuitous? You betcha.

Ultimately, Sunday night’s race didn’t exactly have the most action. After the competition caution, it was all green up until the Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Joey Gase crash. During that 150-lap stretch, viewers saw some battling for positions, but really not that much. Unfortunately, Phoenix isn’t exactly the most competitive track and losing the apron on the backstretch likely didn’t help much. The weather situation also played a role in that drivers likely raced cleaner than normal, a common trait in these situations.

As a result, much of the coverage was centered upon the Chasers and those at the very front. Seemed like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano spent half the race battling each other while Kevin Harvick could seemingly run away at will (his lead could easily have been ten or more seconds had his pit crew given him their best possible stops instead of costing him time, obviously something worth watching for this upcoming weekend).

The rains that ultimately ended the race seemed to arrive rather suddenly. My thoughts were that it was debatable at best that they could have completed 312 laps when they started the race. I saw a futurecast that indicated that it was going to rain around 9 p.m. local time. The race went green at 7:27 p.m. local time (after 19 pace laps). We actually got a little more racing than I expected.

By the time they got around to interviewing drivers during the red flag, there was a fair bit of dejection, especially with Carl Edwards. Says a lot that Toyota PR doesn’t have any quotes from Edwards in their post-race recaps (they do have quotes from Darian Grubb in Edwards’s place). That’s not even really an opinion. Instead, it is an observation of Edwards’s attitude. It seems that almost everyone just wanted to get the race done with and get out of town.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief. Post-race coverage that was part of the race telecast itself consisted of only a couple of interviews and a check of the points. The abbreviated version of NASCAR Victory Lap (originally scheduled for 90 minutes, but ultimately 25 or so) featured replays of interviews during the red flag for the most part. Compared to recent weeks, it was really minimal. I know it’s raining (hence Krista Voda, Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty being moved upstairs to the booth), but I really wanted more.

Regardless, Sunday was a very hard day for broadcasting. It takes a lot of energy to keep yourself going on-air as long as they did and produce a broadcast worth watching. The rain fill was full of interesting conversation and analysis, but not quite as many interviews as FOX has done in similar situations. The race itself was a bit of a dud, but the coverage leading up to it was pretty good. I’m not sure how Homestead is going to work out with the simulcast, to be honest. It could be a bit of a quagmire, but we’ll find that out together.

DAV 200 – Honoring Americas Veterans

Saturday saw the Xfinity Series return to Phoenix for what has turned into a Kyle Busch benefit. Barely anyone could touch the Sprint Cup veteran, who notched his 76th career win.

Prior to the race, the focus was on the four-way championship battle between Chris Buescher, Regan Smith, Ty Dillon and Chase Elliott. In all honesty, the talking points here are pretty well fleshed out by now. No one can make a big point swing on Buescher, even though he’s been giving his competition an opening for weeks now. It really seems to be frustrating Kyle Petty. Saturday was no exception, as he couldn’t keep himself in the top 10 and got lapped in the last few laps.

Kyle Busch got a good amount of coverage, but aside from restart, Busch spent the whole race running by himself. Team Penske would get Brad Keselowski out of the pits first, but Busch would take that lead back just as quickly, then run off and hide. It really wasn’t much of a race for the fans to watch. Just a coronation.

Since the race ended so quickly, there was a lot of post-race coverage, which is decent way to introduce viewers to some of the drivers since the race aired on NBC. In the case of Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr., they didn’t get all that much airtime during the race.

The championship storyline, for reasons mentioned above, was a bit of a dud. Nothing really happened. As a result, Homestead looks to be some form of coronation for Buescher as long as nothing breaks. Then again, we’ve seen stranger things happen before.

Lucas Oil 150

Friday night saw the Camping World Truck Series take on the 1-mile tri-oval on FOX Sports 1. Much like the NXS race on Saturday, the championship battle was the primary story. Here, the battle became white hot.

Pre-race coverage was cut down by 40% due to the St. John’s-Wagner college basketball game running long. I know, it bites. However, compared to the last couple of years, we’ve gotten off real easy in regards to conflicts. Can’t do much about college players who stink at the foul line. That’s why they intentionally foul late.

Despite only 18 minutes for pre-race, we still got a decent amount of coverage. The primary piece of the show was a feature about Daniel Hemric, who is a rarity in NASCAR these days. He’s the up-and-coming racer out of North Carolina who came up through the short tracks of the Southeast. Racers like him used to be a dime a dozen, but not so much now. Here, Hemric talks about growing up in Kannapolis and racing in the shadow of Dale Earnhardt (more than likely the most famous man ever to live in the small city) and how his family sacrificed so that Hemric could race.

Hemric seems like a very driven individual who has given up a lot to be able to race. Now, he’s here and it looks like he’s here to stay. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure about his fiancé Kenzie Ruston’s racing career. She seems to have plateaued in the K&N Pro Series East, which is a real shame. I’d like to see what she could do in a truck, but I couldn’t tell you if that’s in the cards or not.

An unexpected perk of Friday night’s coverage was a question of which driver was most likely to claim their first win during the pace laps. I cannot recall FOX Sports doing that in the recent past during race broadcasts (they used to do it on Cup telecasts before I started critiquing through some kind of partnership with Cingular Wireless). Perhaps that’s going to be more of a common thing. I am not opposed to such a move.

In the race itself, the moment of the night was when Matt Crafton and Erik Jones collided on a late restart. Of course, if you watched the replay of the race, which I woke up to early Saturday morning, they kind of skipped it. I know it was something like 4 a.m., but that stands out to me. That will go down as a “whoopsies.”

Here, we got plenty of replays of the incident and reports about the condition of all three trucks involved. As I’ve stated previously, Jones is quite emotional at times. Friday night was no exception. I’m surprised that he actually agreed to an on-air interview after the race. I almost want to say that his PR rep convinced him to do the interview with the whole “It’s for your own good” argument. He clearly wasn’t feeling it. He was about five seconds away from just walking away mid-interview. I don’t blame FOX Sports for that. He wasn’t feeling it.

With Crafton and Jones out of the way, the final stretch of the race was a thrilling duel between Timothy Peters and John Hunter Nemechek. Here, the booth came into their own. Peters and Nemechek provided the thrills and chills while the booth properly put it into context. Also, let’s hope that Nemechek’s primary sponsor from Anderson’s Maple Syrup actually grows into something more.

Reading Twitter this past weekend indicated to me that JJ Haley was not getting the dap that he deserved, both Thursday night in the K&N Pro Series West season finale and Friday night. The young un’ did a great job both nights. It’s nothing short of a shame that he couldn’t bring it home Thursday (Note: The Casino Arizona 100 airs Thursday night on NBCSN. Here, Haley did get a fair amount of airtime, but he didn’t cop any post-race coverage due to the race going long by 15 minutes).

Post-race coverage was short. We heard from race winner Peters and the three championship contenders. That’s about it. Definitely would have liked to hear from more drivers like Nemechek, Haley and John Wes Townley, who finished a solid third. Unfortunately, FOX Sports Live was waiting on the race to end and FOX Sports has desperately tried to make that the centerpiece of the network. You can only do so much, especially when you’re already over time.

Overall, it was a pretty good race to watch. Unfortunately, a number of the storylines FOX Sports tried to cover didn’t exact pay off (they thought Brandon Jones was potentially in line to win, only to see him get wrecked on lap 7 after contact from debutante William Byron). Despite that, it was a good race to watch, more than likely the best of the weekend.
That’s all for this week. Next week is the final NASCAR race weekend of the year. Three champions will be crowned in Miami-Dade County. However, NASCAR’s National Series are not alone in wrapping up their seasons. The FIA World Endurance Championship also has their season finale Saturday morning in Bahrain. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, November 17

TimeTelecastNetwork
1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network*# (from November 15)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 16)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 16)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 16)
5 p.m. - 6:10 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Wednesday, November 18

TimeTelecastNetwork
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 17)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 17)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 17)
5 p.m. - 6:10 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road: Las VegasCBS Sports Network*/ (from November 5)
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.AMA Endurocross: BoiseCBS Sports Network* (from November 7)

Thursday, November 19

TimeTelecastNetwork
1 a.m. - 2 a.m.AMA Endurocross: BoiseCBS Sports Network*# (from November 7)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road: Las VegasCBS Sports Network*/# (from November 5)
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 18)
4 a.m. - 5 a.m.AMA Endurocross: BoiseCBS Sports Network*# (from November 7)
5 a.m. - 6 a.m.SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road: Las VegasCBS Sports Network*/# (from November 5)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 18)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 18)
5 p.m. - 6:10 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 West Casino Arizona 100NBC Sports Network*/ (from November 12)

Friday, November 20

TimeTelecastNetwork
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 19)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 19)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*/# (from November 19)
9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series PracticeFOX Sports 1
12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.XFINITY Series PracticeNBC Sports Network
4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
7:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.NCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
8 p.m. - 10 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200FOX Sports 1

Saturday, November 21

TimeTelecastNetwork
3:30 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200FOX Sports 1*# (from November 20)
7 a.m. - 9 a.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Bahrain, Part No. 1FOX Sports 1
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Bahrain, Part No. 2FOX Sports 2
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2CNBC
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingCNBC
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR America No. 1NBC Sports Network
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.FIA World Endurance Championship Post-RaceFOX Sports GO$
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.NASCAR America No. 2NBC Sports Network
2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC
3 p.m. - 6 p.m.XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300NBC
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR America No. 3NBC Sports Network

Sunday, November 22

TimeTelecastNetwork
8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.NASCAR America SundayNBC
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road: Las VegasCBS Sports Network*/# (from November 5)
3 p.m. - 7 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 (Regular Broadcast)NBC
3 p.m. - 7 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 (NBCSN Hot Pass Broadcast)NBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR America Post-RaceNBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network
10 p.m. - 11 p.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*#

Monday, November 23

TimeTelecastNetwork
12 a.m. - 1 a.m.AMA Endurocross: BoiseCBS Sports Network*# (from November 7)
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1*# (from November 22)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 22)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 22)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 22)
12 p.m. - 2 p.m.NASCAR 120: Ford EcoBoost 400NBC Sports Network*/# (from November 22)
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
Key:
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming.

Now, I will actually be in Homestead this weekend to cover Ford Championship Weekend for Frontstretch. As my flight is scheduled to arrive back in Albany at 10 p.m. Monday night, there will not be a regularly scheduled edition of Couch Potato Tuesday next week. However, there will still be a critique. I can take my notes for the critique right in the Media Center. I’ve done it before. I will also DVR all three races (including both versions of Sunday’s Cup race) here in New York so that I can watch everything and come up with a decent critique.

For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, I have just acquired a copy of the Adam Carolla-produced and directed film, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, which was released last week. I will watch it on my flight to Fort Lauderdale Wednesday morning and write about it for this week’s Annex. The Hot Pass edition of the Ford EcoBoost 400 will be covered in the Newsletter on Nov. 30.

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.

FOX Sports
NBC Sports

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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Bill B

Phil, the simulcast sounds like a good idea and I will definitely check it out but how much do you want to bet that both stations’ broadcasts are going to be pretty much centered on only four drivers. I could be wrong but my guess is that if your name isn’t Gordon, Truex, (Kyle) Busch or Harvick, you probably won’t be talked about much on either station. Championship, championship, championship, chase, chase, chase. That’s all that matters anymore from Feb to Nov. The individual races are just a pesky formality needed to set up the chase sort of like qualifying is to the races themselves.

DoninAjax

How much do you want to bet that the last topic on Sunday will be “Who do you think will make the chase next year?”

GinaV24

oh heavens, you are probably right, Don. The good news for me — I won’t care!

I may check out the simulcast just to see if it is any different. Since I use the scanner feature on racebuddy as much as I use anything else since I am mono-focused on one driver, the tv coverage is just secondary since most of the time, they don’t show the racing anyway and we pretty much can predict the focus on 4 drivers.

I had plans to meet friends for dinner on Sunday night and since it was raining when I tuned in for the broadcast, I went. I got a tweet at 6 p.m. from MRN saying – they were back on the air, then saw another tweet immediately afterward from someone else that said “it’s raining again”. So I didn’t hurry home. I missed the KuBu restart. I got back in time to see the last part of the race broadcast and that was plenty.

J. Smith

Potentially we will get simulcast with 5 screens showing the Air Titan for hours. Great.

PCar

Phil,
I heard a stat on the radio the other day that i wondered if you could confirm. The guy said that over 4 million people watched the first episode of Kellie Pickler’s reality show. Wouldn’t that be a larger audience than some recent nascar races?

salb

I have to agree about the simulcast. I’d be willing to bet a chunk of $ that the ONLY in depth coverage of the race on Sunday will involve 4 drivers. I’m so burned out on all this hype for what is basically a crapshoot, I don’t even know if I’ll bother watching.

russ

Weather was really nice so spent the day trying to complete a major project. Although hard work was nowhere near as tedious as watching a Nascar rain delay.

JohnQ

Or a NASCAR NON delay! I haven’t watched since Dover and really haven’t missed it. If there is one thing that NASCAR does flawlessly it is chase away fans.

Od Farmer

Am I the only one who found it interesting that Johnson”s teammate Gordon, who was starting about eighth or so asked a question about jumping the start when it was obvious that he had no chance to do so? Question answered, Johnson starts easy, Busch gets penalized, Bush is out of the Chase. Coincidence? I seriously doubt it. Just more Hendrick dirty tricks to me.

Chris

No Od Farmer, I too wondered about the start of the race. When they first called the penalty I was confused. It didn’t help that every replay of the start showed the cars once they were about a car length or so past the start line; not right at the start line which is what I really wanted to see. When they showed footage taken from the drivers meeting I thought it was a good explanation by NASCAR as to the start rule but then I was confused by who actually asked the question as they, after all these years of racing should know that rule. Clearly they were looking for clarification. I also thought it odd that the booth had footage of the drivers meeting on hand to quickly pull that question/answer up. I brought this potential issue up back when the restart penalty issues happened. I pointed out then (on this board) that there could be the potential for team-mates (in the one and three position) to sandbag a restart (or start) in order to have the guy in the number two spot pull a penalty to knock them out of contention. I’m not a psychic nor do I play one on TV but it was pretty easy to see that any team in that position would be pulling that trick.

J. Smith

If NASCAR was a real sport they would have pulled the data from the 48 car to see if he cracked the throttle at the start and penalized the hell out of him if he did. That’s funny.

Jeff Brower

A quick comment on the initial start. I do understand a published rule should be followed. Although, I enjoyed race hub showing previous restarts this year that were not black flagged. With this rule in place, why do we need a flagman. Just my opinion, but I would suggest a rule that says “until” the flagman throws the green flag, the second place car must not be in front of the pole car.

Steve

Folks, here’s your chance to speak with your tv sets. There has been alot of complaints through the first 9 races about the hyper Chase coverage and everyone else being ignored, well here is your chance to force change. If you want more inclusive coverage of all drivers, not just the Chase drivers, stay off NBCSN on Sunday.

What does that say about the Chase that even a competitor still alive wanted to get out of town instead of run the race to conclusion? Even the drivers hate the format and its becoming more and more obvious by the day.

I still wonder how Nascar is going to handle this race if it rains. I’m afraid they will somehow screw this up and the winner will be happy and the 3 losers will be get screwed because Nascar manipulated another race. I still think Nascar will manipulate it to get the winner they want as it is, but I’m always hopeful (probably delusionally so) that they let the race play out on its own and let the drivers decide who wins it.

russ

Maybe its more of a statement about how affluent these top drivers are these days. Trophies and rings are nice but when you dont have to worry about the mortgage its not the same.

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