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Couch Potato Tuesday: NASCAR TV Creates Dale Jr. Sub Narrative

Sometimes, you have to sit back and think about things.  Today’s critique marks the 600th combined TV critique for Frontstretch between Couch Potato Tuesday (and its former title, Talking NASCAR TV) and The Critic’s Annex.  Where does the time go?  Crikey.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted a Joe Gibbs Racing benefit last week.  It says something that of the 501 laps run, drivers either running Gibbs equipment or with a Gibbs satellite team led 492 of the laps.  That’s a whoopin’.  Despite the whoopin’, NBCSN still has to cover it just the same as the other races.

New Hampshire 301

Sunday saw the Toyotas dominate.  Leading all but two laps, they were the class of the field.  However, they weren’t the whole field.

Prior to the race, the big story was obviously Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sitting himself down due to a potential concussion.  I don’t know how many concussions that Earnhardt, Jr. has had (he’s admitted to three, but who knows what the truth really is), but he’s really susceptible these days.  Over the course of the weekend, Kyle Petty had the strongest takes, suggesting that Earnhardt, Jr. consider retirement.

I’m no doctor, but I don’t think Earnhardt, Jr. is at the point where he has to take that step.  If any of you happened to watch Monday’s edition of NASCAR RaceHub on FOX Sports 1, then you likely saw someone who has no business in a race car at all (and hasn’t driven one in years).  NASCAR RaceHub had Jerry Nadeau on the show to talk about his experiences with concussions and head injuries.  It’s the first time that I can recall seeing Nadeau on TV in years and it seems like there’s a reason for that.

Nadeau is still feeling the effects of his 2003 head injury at Richmond to this day.  I looked at Nadeau and saw behavior similar to retired football players like Jim McMahon.  He’s forgetful.  It’s pretty bad.  Essentially, Nadeau will never be the guy that won the pole for the 2003 Pontiac Excitement 400 ever again (yes, it’s true, he had won the pole for the race, then had his career-ending crash in Happy Hour a couple of hours later).  Nadeau also mentioned another nasty crash in the 1999 Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington in which he blew a tire, hit the wall exiting turn 2, then took a hit to the drivers’ door from Mike Skinner.  Ouch, man.  The aftermath shot from the in-car camera drove that home as well.

While yes, Nadeau technically walked away from that crash, he has no real memory of the incident because he took a couple of big hits.  Nadeau even stated that he had no memory of being choppered to the hospital after the crash.

The idea is to prevent something like that from happening to Earnhardt, Jr.  For what its worth, I’m squarely in the “take as much time as you need” group.  My guess is that he’ll be back for Pocono or Watkins Glen.  Indianapolis this weekend is iffy at best.

During Sunday’s race, NBCSN did a decent job of showing the action on-track.  However, I still believe that there is too much of a focus on action towards the front of the pack.  When there’s actually racing for position there, it makes sense.  However, if there really isn’t, NBCSN should have no qualms about dropping back to cover as much action for position as possible.

I’ve mentioned this before in past years, but the TV coverage of races at tracks like New Hampshire and Phoenix likely give those tracks a bad name.  They aren’t as boring as it seems like they are on TV.  We just don’t see as much action as we could see.

There was a bizarre instance during the second commercial break in which NBCSN had some kind of technical issue that resulted in the broadcast breaking out of commercial mid-break with no audio.  It was rather bizarre.  I thought something had happened on-track.  Turns out that it wasn’t the case.  After the typical amount of time in a Physical Challenge on Double Dare, the broadcast abruptly cut back to commercial.  Weird.  They must have some new equipment down in the TV compound this year and there could be teething issues.

I will say this: NBCSN did nail the notion of the race becoming a bit of a wreckfest in the last 50 laps.  I don’t recall seeing quite as many rubbing fenders late in a Loudon race as we saw Sunday.  Joey Logano should be lucky that his left rear tire held out.

Post-race coverage was fairly decent.  Viewers who stuck out for the full post-race show (up until 5:30 p.m.) got roughly ten interviews, checks of results and points, post-race analysis and more.  Not half bad.  I still find NASCAR America Post-Race to be a little heavy on analysis for my taste.  I’d like more interviews.

Ultimately, I thought that the telecast was ok.  However, I would have liked some additional content.  For example, there was essentially no mention of the brake issues that put Brian Scott behind the wall early.

All we saw was that he was penalized for having too many men over the wall, then he was off the track.  He would eventually return, but many laps down.

Another instance that I think deserved a little more coverage was the incident involving Chris Buescher and Josh Wise.  The replays were unclear, but it looked like Buescher ran up on Wise, had to stomp on the binders and wiped out in the process.  The booth made it sound like Wise had smacked the wall exiting turn 2.  I suppose that makes sense, but it didn’t quite look like that.  I thought Wise had dropped fluid or something on track.  Regardless, he was done for the day after that incident.

AutoLotto 200

The XFINITY race was once again the Kyle Busch benefit.  The top 4 finishers all finished where they started the race.  However, there was content worth covering during the 200 lap race, right?

Countdown to Green didn’t really have much of note, except for one brutal takedown.  In an interview, Ryan Reed talked about sweeping floors at the beginning of his racing career.  Kyle Petty heard this and replied to the effect of “Where was this floor? A bank where he could sweep up money?”  Ouch.  I’m not even giving an opinion on Petty’s statement.  It was just harsh.

Also, I noted a number of people remarking about Joe Cantone’s rendition of the national anthem.  It was…interesting.  It’s sort of like what you would get if Rutledge Wood sang the Star-Spangled Banner (he even looks a little like Wood).  He’s been singing the anthem in competitions for years.  Here’s a clip from last year of Cantone singing in a competition.  It’s nearly identical to what you saw Saturday.

Under normal circumstances, I prefer to refrain from talking about anthems in this column.  However, the video above proves that Cantone sang the national anthem Saturday like he normally does.  In his eyes, he didn’t screw up, even if it sounded a little off-kilter.  I had way more of an issue with Tony DiMatteo’s app download request/command than anything Cantone did.  There’s a reason DiMatteo got booed.

For NBCSN, Saturday’s race marked the pit reporting debut of Parker Kligerman.  While he has worked practice sessions in the past and provided decent race analysis for K&N Pro Series races, this was his first live race telecast.  Overall, I thought that Kligerman did a pretty good job.  His on-air language was a little hackneyed at times, but you’re speaking in an extemporaneous manner as a pit reporter.  Its much different than doing color commentary on K&N Pro Series West races from Shasta Speedway.  I think he’ll get a little more comfortable in the role with more experience.  I’m currently unclear on how many races he’ll be in the pits for, though.

Aside from Kyle Busch opening a can on the field, one of the biggest stories of the race was the crash involving Ty Dillon and Alex Bowman.

Here, NBCSN did a pretty good job of covering the incident.  They determined that Bowman came down off the wall exiting turn 2 and got into the right rear of Dillon.  This was augmented by radio from Bowman that indicated that the No. 88 was really tight and the wheel effectively locked to the left and put him into Dillon.  Nothing intentional about it.  Dillon didn’t think so.

Dillon gave an interview to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast that indicated that Bowman showed why he doesn’t get to race all that much.  He was an angry man, but there was no payback administered.  The coverage when Bowman got around the Dillon brothers later in the race was a little annoying.  I know that you have to prepare the viewers just in case stupidity goes down, but I just didn’t think it was truly necessary.

Speaking of Bowman, its almost like Bowman’s last two full seasons in Sprint Cup never happened on NBCSN.  They were referring to Bowman as a rookie all weekend, which is ludicrous.  Apparently, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing is not considered racing in Sprint Cup despite racing against all the Cup teams every week.  I doubt Regan Smith would agree with that.  This was an ongoing thing all weekend.  Bowman is not a rook.  He’s raced a number of races already this season for JR Motorsports.  Bowman has generally i  I find it inappropriate.

I would have liked a little more coverage for Corey LaJoie on Saturday.  LaJoie had an excellent run going before he had a mechanical failure.  LaJoie described it in this Twitter post.

Sure, he went out and won the K&N Pro Series East race later that day (the race airs Thursday night at 11 p.m. on NBCSN), but that’s no real consolation.  LaJoie was tenth at the time of his crash and had not even been mentioned at all.  JGL Racing is not quite as strong this year as they were last year when JJ Yeley was driving the No. 28.  They were having a great day and deserve to get some coverage when that is the case, especially since everything was so close at the time.

The booth seemed perplexed about what happened to cause the incident since LaJoie went into the wall all by himself.  However, the tweet above appears to be definitive.

With the late-race slowdowns, the race ran a little long.  Post-race coverage was ok, but almost none of it was part of the official race broadcast.  Viewers did get a number of driver interviews and checks of the points and results. Post-race coverage was centered on Busch’s dominance and the Dillon-Bowman spat that as far as I’m concerned is nothing.

Overall, the race was really not all that exciting to watch.  I suppose that’s why so much attention was given to the Bowman-Dillon spat.  In reality, there were some good stories that NBCSN could have covered, but chose not to.  Not everything has to be about Joe Gibbs Racing. Fans get tired of that storyline over and over again.

That’s all for this week.  This week, the Camping World Truck Series makes their annual haul out to Eldora Speedway for the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby.  It’s a ghastly name, but an exciting race.  Practice starts today.  Later this week, the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series take up shop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IMSA will be at Lime Rock Park and so will we.  Formula One will make their 31st visit to the tricky Hungaroring, while the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will be at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.  Pretty busy week of action.  The TV listings can be found in the TV Schedule.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and XFINITY broadcasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  Wednesday’s Dirt Derby (once again, that name bites) will be covered in the Critic’s Annex since it will be fresh on my mind.

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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6 thoughts on “Couch Potato Tuesday: NASCAR TV Creates Dale Jr. Sub Narrative”

  1. There was something I noted about the Saturday broadcast, and that was the (Surprize! Surprize!) lack of crowd. So much for Brian’s notion that it’s Kyle putting butts in the seats. Comparing it though, I haven’t been to New Hampshire since July of 2004. I had to locate any pictures I took from that weekend to verify something. That weekend, the Saturday program was a double header with the then Busch Series running followed by the then Busch North Series race. The attendance that Saturday was about the same as what the attendance was for this passed Sunday. And that race was dominated by Matt Kenseth when he drove for Roush. Well, at least traffic isn’t a problem getting in or out of the facility. For the record, I only tuned in to see if anything was said about Junior’s situation, which, as far as I know, was not discussed. Once the race started, and Kyle began his domination, the TV was off before the 10th lap.

    A friend of mine made a comment about the majority of the races being on NBCSN and FS1 and FS2. Since those channels are ones you have to pay extra for, was this some arrangement between Brian and the networks to test the waters for all the races becoming pay-per-view? If this is an experiment, Brian is in for a rude awakening. Hey, what am I saying! He’s too dumb and intoxicated, so he won’t know the idea will fail miserably.

    My final comment is about the National Anthems. While the U.S. National Anthem was interesting, my beef is with the Canadian Anthem. Hey New Hampshire, I know you are close to Quebec, but, only about 6-percent of Canada is French. The rest of us speak ENGLISH! We have enough problems in this country with that damned province throwing their weight around. Singing the Canadian Anthem in French only fuels the problem. Screw those treasonous separatists! Michigan gets it right, why can’t you?

  2. The said wreck fest with 50 laps to go was precipitated by a caution for a water bottle. Last I knew, water bottles don’t mysteriously appear on a race track. It had to come from somewhere. Maybe I should just be happy that we saw the debris on the track.

    • True, they don’t, rg72. In Kentucky, NBCSN caught Ryan Reed trying to draw a caution in that fashion. He failed. I guess this time, they didn’t catch the perpetrator. NASCAR should institute a rule requiring teams to put their drivers’ number on every water bottle they give him. Then, actual penalties can be levied against those who try to create their own bush league cautions.

      Ken, I believe part of O, Canada was sung in French as part of a solidarity move after the truck attack. It is not treason in any way, shape or form. Personally, I was a little surprised, but I’ve watched more than my share of hockey in the past. I’m personally fine with it. Had the attack not happened, it probably would have been all in English.

      • The Canadian anthem contains French translations. If the French parts were there it was a proper rendition of the anthem.

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