Much like almost any of you reading this column, I despise rainouts. So many people had the DV-R on Monday and they experienced an added disappointment; the race was nearly three and a half hours long, going far longer than the regularly scheduled recording. Whomever at FOX Sports thought the race would finish within a three-hour timeslot was clearly mistaken.
Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400
The Cup race at Pocono was supposed to race on Sunday afternoon. That didn’t happen.
Instead of the race, viewers got a number of pre-race driver interviews during the newly-redubbed Ford RaceDay on FOX Sports 1. There was also a nice feature on the training that Joe Gibbs Racing’s pit crews undergo. This was supposed to air prior to the Coca-Cola 600, but it was cut from FOX NASCAR Sunday due to NASCAR instituting hurry-up mode.
I wanted a little more about the individual crew members; they definitely had the time. We learned that one of them used to be a backup quarterback for the Miami Hurricanes, while another crewman works in JGR’s marketing department.
Once 1 p.m. came along, FOX cut to bonus coverage of last year’s race, won by Martin Truex, Jr. FOX screwed this up again. All you have to do to prevent people from believing that last year’s race is live is to put a permanent tag on the screen indicating that it’s delayed coverage. There was eventually a scroll at the bottom of the screen indicating the race being delayed. Around 2 p.m., that was changed to the postponement. However, that wasn’t a permanent feature on-screen.
I just don’t know what to say here. I’m tempted to call all the people that seriously thought that the bonus coverage was the live race morons. However, not everyone watches pre-race coverage. Believe me, there is a solid group of people that only tune in right as the regular broadcast starts. The reasons vary; anything from church to household chores to despising Michael Waltrip. Our own Zach Catanzareti, by the way, got to talk to Waltrip at Pocono about his on-air persona. Based on the comments I read Monday morning at work, you guys weren’t exactly fans of Waltrip’s answers.
Regardless, FOX needs to watch themselves here. Don’t leave any doubt that the coverage you’re showing during a rain delay is live or not.
On Monday, I used FOX Sports GO to watch the race which was notable because my feed was choppy and would freeze quite a bit. When it unfroze, it would pick up right where it left off but it didn’t take long before I was ten or more laps behind the actual race. Compared to Saturday, when I watched bits and pieces of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on FOX Sports GO (using my own laptop at home) while the XFINITY race was on FOX, it was a far worse experience, probably the worst I’ve had to this point. Everyone’s experience can be different, of course but in this case the feed got so bad I ended up switching to my cell phone for the final 45 laps of Monday’s race. In that time, I used something like 500 MB of data to watch that portion of the event.
For a Monday event, this Pocono 400-miler was one of the more wreck-filled delayed races. Usually, these races run quicker because everyone wants to get home as fast as possible. Not this time.
Early in the race, NASCAR penalized Brad Keselowski for an illegal body modification. Replays showed that the jackman gave the right side a hip check. FOX did a good job explaining what happened at this point.
But on lap 141, FOX returned to the topic, and that’s is where things went downhill. Jeff Gordon tried to compare the instance to something that happened in Las Vegas. There was only one problem: Keselowski was not penalized in Las Vegas for anything resembling a body modification. Instead, he was busted for speeding in the pits. However, FOX did flash back to Las Vegas and showed a clip of the jackman hip-checking the car. At the time, it was controversial and it did leave a mark on the car, but Keselowski was not penalized for that. There was even an inset where the dent on the door was zoomed in on, compounding the on-air mistake by the FOX crew.
Gordon explained that the dents in the door can actually give the car more side force, an advantage that has apparently been proven in the wind tunnel. I’m not an aerodynamicist, but I can buy that. However, Gordon falsely represented what happened here.
After the race, Keselowski fired back, stating about Gordon and FOX “…They need to get some people that aren’t inbred to the sport and own teams and have internal knowledge, because that is pretty crappy. It is what it is.”
Later, Keselowski elaborated.
“It’s not that I don’t like Jeff Gordon in the booth,” he said, “It’s just that you need to have people in the booth that don’t own teams or have commercial interests to the sport because they say things that are very biased.”
We’ve brought the topic of bias in the broadcast booth up multiple times this season already. There’s the Waltrip’s bias toward Toyota (and in Darrell’s case, Kyle Busch). We’ve also discussed Gordon’s potential bias towards Hendrick Motorsports and Chase Elliott in particular.
I do agree with Keselowski’s first quote in that Gordon has internal knowledge of Hendrick Motorsports. I’m unsure whether or not he’s still sitting in on meetings in the shop. However, since he still has an ownership of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48, he technically could (Note: NASCAR no longer lists individual owners for each car in the official owner point standings; instead, they now list which team the car is part of). While yes, that inside knowledge can benefit a race broadcast, you can’t show favoritism toward your former team.
My advice would be for Gordon to watch Jeff Burton during the NBC portion of the season that starts in under a month in Daytona. Burton shows how you can cover your former employers as an analyst and not openly cheer for them.
To be fair, Gordon realized his mistake after the race ended and tweeted out an apology to Keselowski.
— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) June 6, 2016
Also, to be fair, the clip from Las Vegas made it pretty obvious that something shady was going on there. However, despite instituting the current rule prior to the start of last season, NASCAR wasn’t really policing those modifications as strictly as it does right now. Therefore, in that case a penalty was not called.
During one of the yellows, FOX told the story of Ray Beauchesne, a crewman who was introduced to racing by former Busch North Series racer Dave Dion while serving in Vietnam. He came back and started what has become a 46-year career in NASCAR, which ends this week (he’s retiring). It’s a nice story that led into reminiscences of Busch North and NASCAR North competitors such as the Dragons (Bobby and Beaver).
Moving along, post-race coverage was relatively brief given that the broadcast ended more than 30 minutes behind schedule. Viewers saw three post-race interviews (winner Kurt Busch, Elliott and Keselowski) and a point check before FOX Sports 1 left for NHRA coverage in New Hampshire. I’m not shocked, but I’m surprised that there was no interview with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., given his ever-present popularity and the fact he finished second.
Overall, I found the coverage to be a little too strategy-based. As a result, we got plenty of that kind of discussion, but not all that much action for position outside the immediate period of time around the restarts. The racing we did see was mainly at the front and there was way too much coverage given toward drivers such as Elliott. FOX has two more races to go and needs to cut down on that hyper focus. It irritates people and fosters the notion of bias.
Pocono Green 132
On Saturday afternoon, the XFINITY Series made its first-ever appearance at Pocono Raceway for what was supposed to be 250 miles of action. It ended up being 132.5, but regardless, there’s plenty of talking points here.
First off, Saturday was Danica Patrick’s second race in the broadcast booth as FOX’s guest analyst. Last year, she worked the booth for the XFINITY race at Michigan. I thought that she was the weakest of the guest analysts in 2015. Why? She couldn’t hang with Michael Waltrip and Adam Alexander.
Now, don’t interpret that to mean she didn’t try last year; she did. However, it quickly became clear to Patrick that she was overmatched. As a result, the driver admitted the next day during a rain delay that she voluntarily cut back. Ultimately, her appearance was more of a special guest slot, like the time Katy Perry showed up on The Simpsons in a puppet segment after her Sesame Street appearance was cut due to controversy over Perry’s attire.
This time, Patrick was able to assert herself more in the booth. However, once you get past that, you get to the next issue I have with Ms. Patrick: She’s boring as heck. Patrick’s analysis is like something I would do half-asleep. Then again, Patrick talks in the booth like she does in interviews, which is not really the case with other drivers. In the end, I really don’t think she added anything to the broadcast at all; if anything, she took away from it. While it was an improvement over last year, for sure, I just didn’t like the chemistry at all.
Also, the Dallas stuffed animal made another appearance in the booth, part of an ongoing charitable initiative. Or, it was; they’re tapped out now. Looks like Patrick will have to make a stuffed animal version of Ella after all as fans were treated to Michael Waltrip once again stroking the stuffed dog on-air. Last year, he carried one of the stuffed dogs around during one of his Grid Walks. At least tacos weren’t involved this time.
Second was the throwdown between Ryan Sieg and Ryan Reed, which did not make the broadcast. While I doubt FOX really wants to report on that kind of stuff all that much, it is a story. Reed and Sieg are full-time XFINITY Series drivers and deserve to get more coverage, even if it isn’t flattering. Ultimately, the only video we got of it was from Reed’s in-car camera Sunday morning during Ford RaceDay. I wish they had another camera handy, because it looked like quite the brouhaha. Expect some fines later this week.
I have no idea how the deuce Reed could possibly go 45 consecutive races without a top-10 finish, but that doesn’t change anything regarding who’s at fault for the fight. Also, it didn’t help that the booth couldn’t seem to identify what put Reed in the wall. Ideally, FOX would have been able to get some kind of report about what happened, or even additional information when Jeremy Clements got wrapped into Reed’s wreck. Instead? Nothing. It’s like there’s a wall up whenever something happens to a driver not running for Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske or JR Motorsports in the series.
The focus was on Joe Gibbs Racing (Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and, to a lesser extent, Daniel Suarez) once again. Kyle Larson stole the show by using fuel mileage to win, but overall, the race really wasn’t much to write home about. Perhaps, had it gone the full 250 miles, the outcome would have been different.
Once the rains came, FOX provided a good amount of rain-fill coverage, including multiple interviews. Then, we had a jet dryer burst into flames. NASCAR just can’t buy a break with those machines, part of the reason why they’ve been de-emphasized. Eventually, the race was called.
The broadcast in general was underwhelming for me. Patrick improved her form from last year, but still isn’t much to write home about. She doesn’t really drive the commentary at all. She’s a more boring Eddie Cheever, and you don’t want to be compared to Eddie Cheever in the broadcast booth.
Next weekend is shaping up to be very busy. The Sprint Cup and XFINITY series return to Michigan International Speedway where new rule changes look to make the Cup race interesting. In addition, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will also be on site.
Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Camping World Truck Series will be racing at Texas Motor Speedway. TV listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab at the top of the page.
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 at Frontstretch. Note that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is scheduled to be the guest analyst on Saturday. Which Earnhardt will show up: Racer Dale, Business Dale or Watercooler Dale? Comment with your answer!
The General Tire #AnythingisPossible 200 from Friday will be covered in the Critic’s Annex later this week. Either the Chevrolet Duals in Detroit or CBS Sports Network’s coverage of the Pirelli World Challenge GT races from Lime Rock (with bonus coverage) will join it.
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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