(Photo: Logan Whitton / NKP)

Couch Potato Tuesday: The Chase Stymies Dover Enjoyment

Author’s Note: This week, we’re going to keep this column to just the Cup race.  I will cover the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series races later this week.

Martin Truex, Jr. kicked some butt on Sunday.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was more than fine with that.

There’s more to a race than just one aspect of it, right?  That’s what I thought going in, but now, I’m not so sure.

Pre-race coverage was focused upon what drivers needed to do in order to lock themselves into the next round.  The points are so dang important that the race itself doesn’t really matter, and even the content of the race was almost completely Chase-related.  I’d imagine that if your favorite driver didn’t qualify for the Chase, you were probably turned off by the race.  There’s a reason that the ratings were so low on Sunday.  The NFL and the Ryder Cup can only play so much of a role.

During Sunday’s race, NBCSN kept the points as they run graphic on-screen for the vast majority of the race.  As I’ve already established in previous articles, what NBCSN uses to show the points is nowhere near as intrusive as what FOX Sports currently uses.  However, it is noticeable.

There was supposed to be a competition caution on Sunday, but that never happened because of the blown tire via track bar mount failure on Kevin Harvick’s car.  I couldn’t find any mention of it on the broadcast until right before the commercial break on lap 32.  Once again, if there’s going to be one of those, always reference it prior to the start of the race.  Put a graphic on the bar above the scoring bar where you put penalties during the race.  I don’t care whether NASCAR should have scheduled one or not, but if there is supposed to be one, you make explicit note of it prior to the start of the race.

With the Chase focus being so high, there really wasn’t all that much action for position.  I had to look back at the lead change chart and realized that viewers saw a grand total of one pass for the lead live all day on-track.  That was when Truex took the lead from Brad Keselowski on lap 6.  The others were either part of rounds of pit stops, or occurred during commercial breaks.

Outside of those breaks, it was Chase Chase Chase.  Chase discussion seemed to usurp any regular coverage of the race, which made it seem substantially more boring than it really was.  There’s a reason why fans told Jeff Gluck that it was the second-worst race of the year.

Was it really that bad?  I’m not quite sure that it wasn’t more that we just didn’t see much of the good stuff because it didn’t fit the story.

Were there some other stories out there on Sunday?  Sure.  Jeff Gordon got some airtime with the good run that he had as the only non-Chaser to finish in the top 10.  Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who was right behind him, got bupkis outside of the free passes.  In fact, I had no idea he finished 11th until I checked the results while writing this column.  Given where Roush Fenway Racing has been this season, that’s not bad for Stenhouse.

Even some of the Chasers didn’t get a lot of detail in their coverage.  By now, you know about Kyle Larson stalling during the second caution, which happened during a commercial break. They explained that he had stalled, but they more or less glossed over the battery issue until later in the race.

With that said, NBCSN was pretty good in explaining the penalty that ruined Jimmie Johnson’s race.  It was a cut-and-dry thing, a minor mistake that took any chance of winning away from him.  However, since Johnson was leading when it happened and the last 202 laps of the race were run under green, it ultimately didn’t hurt him that much.

Post-race coverage was again completely Chase-related.  NBCSN talked to 12 of the drivers that were in the Chase entering the day.  Two of them failed to advance to the second round (Larson and Chris Buescher).  They had already done an in-race interview with Jamie McMurray earlier in the race when he dropped out due to engine failure.

The only holdout was Tony Stewart.  It was noted on the broadcast that they tried to track Stewart down, but he apparently wasn’t biting.  Yes, Stewart is a car owner, but he’s still Stewart.  He probably wasn’t in a great mood and retreated to the solitude of his motorcoach (if not the nearest private jet).

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and XFINITY series travel to Charlotte for some night racing.  Last time the series raced in North Carolina, no one had anything for Truex. Meanwhile, Formula One returns to Suzuka in Japan, where the weather forecast also stinks to high heaven.  Should be interesting to watch at 1 a.m. late Saturday night/early Sunday morning in DVR Theater.

I will provide critiques of what I can for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch, back on its normal day.  For the Critic’s Annex in the Newsletter, I’ll cover the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series races from this past weekend for Thursday’s edition.  Friday will see a special additional Annex piece on Racing Roots: Kevin Harvick.

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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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 Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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3 comments

  1. Avatar

    “it was Chase Chase Chase. Chase discussion seemed to usurp any regular coverage of the race”

    It’s been that way every race since the chase started!

  2. Avatar

    The concentration on chase only teams put me to sleep quickly. Great afternoon nap times coming!

  3. Avatar

    It really isn’t race broadcasting anymore. its a 3 hour update on how all the Chase drivers are doing (or the chosen ones). They don’t care about the racing anymore. If something exciting happens on track, then its a bonus, but its really secondary.

    Phil, you sound like you are repeating yourself every week, but you are certainly 100% correct in your assessments. With the Ryder Cup, Football, and baseballs final day of the season on, I barely watched any of the race this weekend. It doesn’t look like I missed much either. What I saw was a singular focus on cars going round and round and a Truex butt kicking. Not worth my time when there are other more interesting sports to watch.