This past weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series were at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for 700 miles of action. It was an interesting time.
Before we get started, it appears that FOX Sports 1 has begun to shift NASCAR Race Hub to 7 p.m. on weeknights as opposed to the 6 p.m. timeslot that the show has held for much of the last couple of years. The time change was advertised quite a bit last weekend, including during the races.
Do I think the change will affect ratings? I don’t know. Judging by the show’s current ratings (among the best of FOX Sports 1’s studio offerings) and the number of slot changes since FOX Sports 1 launched in 2013 (a bunch), I wouldn’t be worried. Maybe it will allow more people to watch who live further out west.
Well, let’s just be honest. You know exactly what this race will be best known for going forward. It is the actual racing on-track. It wasn’t even the dreaded speeding penalties that have already derailed one potential winning performance this year. It was a fracas. A donnybrook. A brouhaha. Whatever you want to call it. Because of this fact, we’re going to start right there.
You know exactly what caused the incident. Kyle Busch had to cut to the inside to avoid the slowing Brad Keselowski and unintentionally squeezed and hit Joey Logano. Logano appeared to clip the apron in Turn 3 and drifted up into Busch. Busch spun, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott snuck past and Logano continued. The spin ruined what would have been a nice comeback finish for Busch after an early penalty.
On Twitter, some of the experts were already concerned about Busch potentially going after Logano shortly after the spin. The whole circumstance had some similarities to the 2013 incident between Logano and Denny Hamlin.
That day resulted in someone going after Logano, but it wasn’t Hamlin because he was writhing in pain after hitting an unprotected concrete wall head-on. Tony Stewart went after Logano due to an unrelated issue (Stewart was unhappy with Logano’s conduct on a restart). You’ll probably remember the profane interview Stewart gave to Steve Byrnes that I described at the time as “Foytian.”
In Las Vegas, Vince Welch was able to chase down Kyle Busch and get an interview with him. Yes, it was short, but I’m surprised that he was willing to talk at all. For that, Welch gets a Trooper Award. Do I think anything more is going to come out of this? I don’t know, but Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage sure hopes so.
— Eddie Gossage (@eddiegossage) March 13, 2017
FOX was definitely late to the party and was unable to get footage of the beginning of the confrontation. By the time they cut to it, Kyle Busch was under a pile of crewmen. Meanwhile, Logano was being held back by his PR guy much like Jimmy Spencer was by a NASCAR official back in 1996 at Dover when he tried to punch Wally Dallenbach Jr.
As you all know, the Gluckmeister had the definitive view of the fracas and we’ve linked to it multiple times here at Frontstretch over the past day or so. Says something that TMZ picked up on it.
While I’m sure that FOX didn’t expect the heck to go down after the race, they were mediocre in covering it at best. ESPN did much better than this when we had the problems a couple of years back. Honestly, they should have kept a camera on Busch while Martin Truex Jr. was doing his donuts via split-screen.
Back to the race itself. On Friday, Mark Martin tweeted this:
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) March 11, 2017
I 100-percent agree with Martin’s tweet here and would expand upon it to include the teams as well. I kept the tweet in mind during Sunday’s race.
As compared to Atlanta last week, I felt that FOX did a slightly better job in being more inclusive. However, I really didn’t see much about any of the smaller teams. Exceptions to the rule were incidents like Corey LaJoie’s wreck and Landon Cassill’s close encounter with the wall in Turn 4. Even then, not ideal. FOX only mentioned what actually put LaJoie in the wall a couple of hours after the fact.
Despite that, there was a good amount of racing for position on-track Sunday.
Another issue came back into play on Sunday as well. That was attempting to coordinate the in-car cameras to the side-by-side commercials with the camera facing the drivers. I ranted about this a year or two ago, but here it goes. Viewers basically can’t see anything if you do that. The whole idea of having side-by-side commercial breaks is so viewers can see the action on the track and not miss anything important. I don’t know if FOX’s advertisers insist on it in order for the side-by-side breaks to exist at all, but doing it renders them pointless.
Overall, Busch getting angry is all this race will be remembered for. I watched SportsCenter on ESPNEWS after the race and they gave next to no coverage to anything outside of the fracas. Martin Truex Jr. winning was noted in only a “by-the-way” fashion. I don’t know why NASCAR seems to want that. I find this stuff to be stupid at all levels from Cup all the way down to the chaps racing G-bodies on a weekly basis. It reinforces the worst stereotypes that people have about NASCAR. You know, the stuff that NASCAR has been trying to rise above for the last 15 years.
FOX’s coverage of the end of race mess was good in some parts, but bad in others. They could have kept a much closer eye on Busch and if they did, they wouldn’t have missed the start of the fight. The chaps at PRN Radio definitely didn’t miss the fight. Jim Noble was right there, calling it as it happened from roughly six feet away.
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On Saturday, the XFINITY Series returned to action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Once again, Cup regulars stomped the field. FOX also had a newbie in the booth in Jamie McMurray. Interesting.
Pre-race coverage was relatively informative. Kenny Wallace took a camera up to race control to check out how NASCAR officiates speed on pit road. It is likely the closest thing in the sport to a solid line. You get owned if you cross it. Personally, I didn’t learn anything new here, but for those who may not be as much as a diehard viewer as I am, it would be helpful.
Later, Wallace took a number of the series’ youngest stars to The Big Apple Coaster and Arcade at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino to have some fun since they’re too young to gamble. Hijinks ensued.
Finally, it wouldn’t be FOX without some kind of cross-promotion. Saturday night was a UFC Fight Night in Fortaleza in Brazil. To that end, Ty Dillon took a trip to the UFC Training Center to train with fighters such as Cain Velasquez. Let’s just say that Dillon did not take on Velasquez. There would be a threat of Dillon being ripped asunder if he did.
With no real experience in the broadcast booth, I didn’t quite know what to expect out of McMurray. The more that I watched the broadcast, the more I seemed to like McMurray. He was relatively calm on the broadcast, but helpful at times. For instance, there was a point in the race that Justin Allgaier had an issue with one of his tear-offs. I could barely make it out on the broadcast (Note: I don’t have the best eyesight on earth; one of these days, I will get Lasik), but the tear off tore while being removed on a pit stop. The area that detached stayed on the windshield. McMurray did a pretty good describing why that would be such a problem for Allgaier.
I think that McMurray is very observant, not just in the broadcast booth, but in general. That’s a good quality to have if you’re in television. It means that you’re going to be good with notes. Some of the drivers that have served as guest analysts aren’t really about that. As a result, they can come off like they’re just there. Maybe there is a future in television for McMurray after he retires. Makes me wonder where all these guys are going to go when they retire, to be honest. They can’t all do television because there’s only a finite number of jobs available. Expect a revolving door of on-air personalities in the near future.
Later in the race, Martin Roy’s skills were brought into question when he charged into Ray Black Jr. and Dakoda Armstrong’s incident at way too high a speed. Honestly, Roy is lucky that he didn’t wipe out either Black or Armstrong, despite being behind them by quite a way when the wreck broke out. McMurray appears to have never met Roy, but did state that his spotter needed to be more aggressive. Others on Twitter agreed. Ex-XFINITY Series driver Eric McClure claimed that Roy’s skills are responsible for an injury he suffered at Kentucky in 2015.
My last concussion was brought to you by the 90. Using similar thinking and reaction as that
— Eric McClure (@ericmcclure) March 11, 2017
Honestly, Roy’s avoidance skills here look like something out of dirt racing. There’s a reason for that. The first time I saw Roy race was in the 2011 VP Small Engine Fuels 200 at the New York State Fairgrounds. Roy was racing a big block Modified that day. For the sake of this discussion, he ran in the top 10 before breaking. That’s more or less his background. It isn’t serving him well.
In regards to the actual racing, it was quite exciting at times. There was a good amount of side-by-side racing, likely more than the booth expected. It put a smile on my face. FOX Sports 1 did a decent job in bringing viewers that action.
Post-race coverage was about average. Viewers saw interviews with the top three finishers (Logano, Larson and Daniel Suarez), a check of the points and some analysis. In addition, there were replays of a relatively unusual crash on the last lap that resulted in Ty Dillon hitting a tire barrier.
Overall, I thought that FOX Sports 1 did a decent job on Saturday. I thought that it was the better of the two broadcasts. McMurray did very well in the booth for a newcomer. Quite a bit better than Elliott in Atlanta. Whether McMurray wants to do more of this is anyone’s guess. He didn’t tweet about his time in the booth afterwards, so I’m unclear as to what he thought of his performance. It seemed like he was enjoying himself, for what that’s worth.
That’s all for this weekend. Next week is quite busy as the western swing continues. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the XFINITY Series will be in action at Phoenix International Raceway. Meanwhile, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship travels to Sebring for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring with all of their support series in tow. TV listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab.
I will bring you critiques of the Cup and XFINITY Series races from Phoenix in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. The Critic’s Annex this week will have a double feature from St. Petersburg. Both Pirelli World Challenge GT Race No. 2 and the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener will be covered there. Automated Larry McReynolds will play a role there. In a separate piece, we’ll have your responses to last week’s Critic’s Annex piece on Darrell Waltrip.
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