Welcome back. The weather is just brutal lately in the United States. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about the floods in Louisiana brought on by a stationary low pressure system that dumped feet of rain in areas. Other parts of the country had to deal with constant thunderstorm threats. Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I have been unable to properly critique the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Blame my work schedule and rain for that. I will cover the marathon Sprint Cup race later this week.
Food City 300
On Friday night, the XFINITY Series returned to Bristol Motor Speedway for an unsegmented 300 lap race. The result was a very interesting race.
One of the main storylines during the race was the cutoff for the upcoming Chase. It was relatively tight entering the race, so viewers got interviews with those close to the cutoff line. That meant interviews with Blake Koch and Ross Chastain, drivers that don’t really get all that much airtime. Ultimately, that ended up playing a pretty big role in the race itself.
The only feature on Countdown to Green saw Parker Kligerman hitch a ride up to Colossus and give viewers an idea of just how massive it is. Getting hoisted up to the scoreboard must have been one of the most frightening moments of Kligerman’s life. Ultimately, it was rather lean on information, but heavy on scale.
During Friday night’s race, there was a good amount of action for position. You had battles for the lead early on, you got to see how the VHT-esque substance was working and how it changed throughout the race.
Once Kyle Larson took control, the race took a different tone. Larson was nearly unassailable when in the lead. Larson would just run away from the pack and leave everyone to fight amongst themselves.
Darrell Wallace, Jr. somehow earned a top 10 finish Friday night and I’m not really sure how he pulled that off. First, he took a shot to the left rear from Ty Dillon when Ty spun out. That caused a rather serious tire rub. NBC Sports noted that NASCAR told Roush Fenway Racing to develop a fix. It sounds like they did, then Wallace smacked the wall later on in a crash that more or less confused the broadcast booth.
I’m almost willing to bet money that something was broken on Wallace’s car, but I can’t find anything to support that. The team stated in their post-race press release that the car “…drastically shifted to the loose side,” which resulted in the meeting with the wall.
Speaking of the Chase cutoff, I feel like NBC Sports could have given a little more coverage to Ryan Sieg’s issues. Sieg broke a shock mount Friday night and his team apparently made a move to try to rectify it that failed horribly. Coverage of that issue should have been given before Sieg was in the process of retiring from the race.
In Chastain’s case, he didn’t get much coverage during the race, then he crashed out of the race following contact with Regan Smith. It was only at that point that NBC Sports noted that due to Sieg’s aforementioned issues, Chastain was inside of the top 12 at the time of his crash (naturally, the crash took him out of there).
As far as I’m concerned, Jeremy Clements’ run was one of the biggest stories of the night. Just making the final round in qualifying is an accomplishment for this small team. Being able to back up his qualifying form with an excellent run in the race was the cherry on top. Getting up to third on merit is very rare.
The fuel issue ultimately decided the race, but confusion reigned here. As stated, it really shouldn’t have been an issue, especially since most of the leaders pitted with 65 laps to go. Even if they didn’t stop on lap 235, they still should have been able to reach the finish from lap 195. Obviously, some chaps failed to get their cars full of fuel. That’s a story that NBC Sports should have covered more when it happened.
Naturally, the wrecks late were a pretty big story. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski colliding (again) could have decided the race had Keselowski not run out of fuel. Busch didn’t talk to NBC Sports on-air Friday night, but later ranted about Keselowski when walking through the garage. He might think that Keselowski’s “dirty,” but he wrecked himself.
Earlier, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez collided and crashed, creating a near worst case scenario. Never good when your teammates have contact. To be fair, Jones took this incident like a professional. He’s matured a fair amount since last year’s rants about lapped drivers at Gateway.
Post-race coverage was fairly substantial. Viewers got seven post-race interviews, plus a check of the points before leaving the air. For some reason, they chose not to interview Clements on-air. I’m not sure what happened there. Interview-wise, NBC Sports talked to the drivers that finished in positions one through five, seven and 12 (Keselowski). Doesn’t seem right that they skipped Clements. Maybe they did and it didn’t make air. Regardless, I didn’t like that fact.
Overall, Friday night’s race was very interesting to watch. There were good battles that we got to see, and some we didn’t. For the most part, NBC Sports was on the ball, but they were deficient in other areas. The fuel issue likely should have been pinpointed way earlier than it was.
Central Illinois SuperChevyStores.com 100
Sunday afternoon, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returned to action at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for 100 miles of action. While the race went off as scheduled, it was still a nightmare at the track since heavy rains during the week flooded a good chunk of the grounds. The USAC Silver Crown event that was supposed to be run Saturday was completely washed out. A number of campers darn near lost their recreational vehicles to floodwaters.
Sunday’s race was covered by the American Sports Network (ASN) and aired on a collection of over-the-air channel affiliates, digital subchannels, regional sports networks (RSN’s) and via livestream at ASN’s website. Here in Albany, N.Y., the race was available on TV, but only on a very low powered station whose signal is relatively weak and their tower is 50 miles away. As a result, I critiqued based on the livestream.
Unlike the previous ASN broadcasts that I’ve looked at this season, pre-race content was relatively light. Ray Dunlap and Jim Tretow did a good job explaining the situation in Springfield that led to teams being unable to bring their transporters into the infield and why qualifying was scrapped. Charles Krall conducted an interview with pole sitter/points leader Chase Briscoe, who once again clearly had the best car.
There was also a clip of repairs being done to the outside wall after a huge crash for Dick Doheny during the sole practice session. Doheny apparently crashed through a gate in turn 3. A Jersey Barrier had to be moved into place to temporarily replace the gate. The No. 23 that Doheny was due to drive was destroyed and the team was forced to withdraw.
During the broadcast, the overall aesthetics of the Springfield Mile played a somewhat detrimental role on the broadcast. It appears that a lot of the sound that was being picked up on the frontstretch was coming through the grandstand, so you had a bit of a reverb effect. Also, viewers could barely hear Dunlap and Tretow in the booth. While some of you might like that, I find that its not necessarily beneficial to be unable to hear commentary. You lose a lot of context when that happens. However, I have no doubt that the issues I had hearing the commentary was not intentional. Instead, it was likely caused by the setting.
Generally, I had a very good stream on Sunday. The actual picture only really degraded once during the whole two-hour broadcast, and that was quite brief.
In regards to the pit road coverage, pitting at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is difficult in the best of times. The setup has never been ideal. Krall called the stops from what appeared to be a camera tower between the track and pit road. You can’t really see everything from there due to obstructed viewers, but I felt that Krall did a pretty decent job.
Prior to the race, Krall showed off some of the methods in which teams were trying to keep mud from clogging up their radiators. It appeared that John Wes Townley‘s and Tanner Thorson’s teams did not do a good job at it since they both were in the pits overheating within a few laps. It almost looked like Athenian Motorsports did nothing special to Townley’s No. 05. That clearly backfired.
Josh Williams took a big hit late while going for the lead. Admittedly, I’m surprised that Ryan Unzicker was not penalized knowing that he caught Williams in the right rear to cause the wreck. As for Williams, he wrote off a car and took a hard hit on the drivers’ side into an unprotected concrete wall. He was clearly out of it after getting out of the car, but I’m not sure as to whether that was a physical thing, or that he was simply crushed mentally.
Physically, Williams is banged up after the crash for sure. He went to the hospital after the race for a check-up. Williams’ girlfriend (using Josh’s Twitter account) indicated that he will be fine, but that he’s likely a sore puppy right now. And I don’t blame him because that was a big hit.
Since the crash happened on lap 94, there was no time to actually talk to Williams once he got out of the Infield Care Center because the broadcast would likely have been over by the time he would have been released. No real update was released on Williams until the aforementioned tweets, which occurred around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Post-race coverage was about average for ASN. Viewers saw interviews with the top 3 finishers and a check of the overall results before ASN left the air.
Overall, Sunday’s race saw a lot of good racing, especially when Briscoe got back down the order. Let’s face it, Briscoe was more or less stinking up the show. When he was out front, no one could run with him. The commentary from Dunlap and Tretow was pretty much top-notch. Viewers saw some great racing on-track, but it was very difficult to pass. Unlike an event like the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby, it was nearly impossible to pass up high. You all but had to bump n’ run in order to pass. Its hard to do that.
As a result, the restarts were crazy as people tried to get what they could. The fans in attendance got a great show as the drivers raced each other hard.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series travel to Michigan for 600 miles of racing. Meanwhile, the XFINITY Series wraps up road course month with a visit to Road America. Formula One returns from summer break in Belgium, while the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship holds a GT-only round in Virginia. You can see this week’s listings in the TV Schedule tab above.
I will provide critiques of the three NASCAR National Series from Michigan and Road America for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex this week will cover yesterday’s ABC Supply 500 for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
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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