Last weekend, NASCAR descended upon Arizona for some toasty racing. Going into the weekend, the primary story was the fracas in Las Vegas. Good lord, that story was “beaten” into the ground.
Camping World 500k
Kyle Busch obviously knew going into Phoenix that a lot of focus would be on his confrontation with Joey Logano. NASCAR decided to be proactive and put both him and Logano in their mobile office to talk things over. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
Then, the meeting ended. While Logano had a weekly press conference and talked about the meeting, Busch tried to channel Marshawn Lynch’s whole shtick. I don’t think that Busch has a leg to stand on here. It was ridiculous. I’m sorry, dude. If you don’t want to answer questions, be up front with the media and tell the assembled media members so (or, have your PR rep do it).
Also of note, Busch really can’t use the Lynch strategy. Lynch apparently took that attitude toward the media due to his upbringing. He’s been like that since high school. It’s nothing new. It appears to be a reluctance that is exacerbated by playing probably the most team-oriented sport there is. Having said that, Lynch never seemed to have anything against the media at large.
On the other hand, Busch can “do media.” He’s had negative dealings with the media in the past, though nowhere near the same level as his older brother Kurt. In this case, he just decided to troll the media. As far as I’m concerned, his actions were unprofessional. At least he’s trying to benefit his charity from this whole mess.
As far as how this played on FOX, it seems like they took this in stride at first. However, it quickly wore thin.
Back to Sunday’s broadcast. Fighting and tempers were promoted substantially on NASCAR RaceDay, and to a lesser extent, on FOX NASCAR Sunday. As far as I’m concerned, it was overkill. Then again, I’ve been watching NASCAR for more than 25 years now. I’ve seen footage of the vast majority of instances were tempers overflowed in Cup over the past few decades. I still don’t think actively promoting tempers helps the sport much. The ratings show that. If it really helped, more people would have watched.
I still want a more comprehensive preview of the races on FOX NASCAR Sunday. I know they’re capable of it, but you can’t just assume everyone’s watching RaceDay. Remember, that show aired on FOX Sports 2 on Sunday. While they’ve made strides in distribution of the channel over the past couple of years, it is still in 30 million fewer homes than FOX Sports 1.
In lieu of the lack of actual race preview information and pre-race interviews on FOX, Michael Waltrip has been forced to pick up his game with his Grid Walk. He can’t be a complete doofus since he’s darn near the only person on the ground actually talking to people on-air. On Sunday, he actually conducted a number of decent interviews prior to the race while Amanda Mertz, one of the Monster Energy Girls and a former Miss Coors Light, provided him shade with a black umbrella. While I’m happy that Michael Waltrip isn’t as annoying as he once was, I think that FOX should re-dedicate their pre-race show to properly previewing the race as opposed to a series of weekly segments.
During the race, FOX did try to bring additional attention to the Logano-Kyle Busch spat, but those two drivers didn’t spend much time around each other. There was a point in which they raced side-by-side for position, but that occurred during a commercial break.
With the fight story clearly a dud for FOX, the race itself would have to make up for it. What we got was a somewhat typical race for Phoenix, which has never been the easiest place to pass at. Weathering takes much longer there than other tracks.
Still, there were some interesting stories on Sunday. Later in the race, we started seeing the outside groove come in. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made good use of that groove to move up the order. Granted, the upper groove was not the reason why he finished fourth, but it was still good to see.
As the race wound on, viewers got to see a little more action for position further back down the order. I feel like there are still a number of stories that should be told. For instance, David Ragan blamed his crash on Trevor Bayne because Bayne got in a bumping match with Danica Patrick. Avoiding that mess resulted in Ragan having contact with Matt DiBenedetto, which cut Ragan’s left rear tire. The tire went down and caused the crash that put him and Gray Gaulding out of the race.
Also, say what you want about Gaulding, but he seems to be slowly improving in the No. 23. He was fighting with Ragan for a Lucky Dog before getting wrecked on Sunday. Gaulding was clearly a risk for the team when they signed him and the SunFrog sponsorship deal hasn’t exactly brought them any goodwill. All I hope for with Gaulding is that he continues to improve as the season goes on and he gets more seat time.
As for Gaulding’s teammate, Corey LaJoie, he’s managed to wreck in all four races so far this season. Knowing that the team isn’t locked into the races, that is only going to hurt LaJoie going forward. Apparently, LaJoie thought Sunday’s wreck exiting the dogleg was intentional.
— Corey LaJoie (@CoreyLaJoie) March 19, 2017
Unfortunately, the coverage of the crash on FOX was inconclusive to determine any intent on Reed Sorenson’s part. They picked it up too late. Of note, Sorenson has not tweeted about the wreck, so we do not have his side of the matter.
This is another example of why FOX (and NBC, for that matter) should do a better job of covering all the teams. In this situation, they would have known that something could have been up here. It could have been more than just your garden variety wreck where the young racer puts it in the wall for the fourth week in a row.
Finally, I do believe that FOX should have done a little better job explaining the tire issues that affected drivers like Logano and Matt Kenseth. They both wrecked big time (the Kenseth wreck, in particular, was nasty). However, they just determined that they blew tires and that was about it. Nothing about what caused the blown tires. There were enough issues Sunday that I think they should have pursued the story a little more.
Post-race coverage was about normal, given that FOX was right up against the end of the timeslot when the race ended. Viewers got interviews with the top-four finishers (Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Stenhouse) along with a check of the points and post-race analysis.
DC Solar 200
Saturday brought the XFINITY Series to FOX from Phoenix International Raceway. The Dash 4 Cash was on (with no heat races, thank goodness). How did it go?
Pre-race coverage started off with fracas coverage, but quickly moved towards the regulars. I know they had to cover that fight, but I was happy that it was kept to a minimum. Much like with the Cup race on Sunday, I would have liked more driver interviews, though.
For the race, Kevin Harvick returned to the booth for his second appearance of the year. Phoenix is pretty much Harvick’s best track, so he naturally has plenty of knowledge on what’s required to hit pay dirt there. It didn’t take long for good information to come. Harvick is easily able to disseminate information about track conditions to viewers and how he would adjust himself if he were racing.
It just appears more and more likely that when the pressure is off, Harvick is a far more civil person to be around and has a lot of knowledge to share. To Harvick, analyzing races is a stress-free diversion. As a result, he can shine here.
What really stood out was the kind of action that we saw on Saturday. There was very good racing on-track. Just wish more people could have been at the track to watch it. There was excellent racing for position, especially at the front of the field. FOX Sports did a decent job in covering that.
One of the more discussed TV instances on Twitter this week was Jamie Little blocking Austin Dillon from leaving an interview in order to get his thoughts on being sent to the XFINITY Series trailer after the race. I’ll fully admit that I probably would not do that. Then again, Little probably has at least 700 times the stature that I have in the XFINITY Series garage, in addition to a TV network behind her. With her clout in the garage, Little can do that. It ended up working out just fine (although I doubt that anyone other than Dillon enjoyed a Coca-Cola during said meeting).
I’m pretty sure that I couldn’t get away with that. If I tried that, it’d probably get our whole website black-balled from covering races on-site.
With all the stupidity surrounding Kyle Busch’s antics on Friday (see above), it made me think that some of the TV personalities are getting a little tired of that type of behavior. I think that’s reasonable. You can’t just let these guys stomp all over you.
Post-race coverage was pretty substantial. Viewers got multiple interviews with the key personalities and a check of the points before FOX left for Supercross action at the top of the hour.
Overall, I enjoyed watching Saturday’s race. Good action on-track, a slightly more inclusive broadcast than we had on Sunday. I was satisfied with what I saw from FOX. I can’t necessarily say the same about Kassi Jayde, who sang the National Anthem on Saturday. I generally don’t comment on anthems unless they’re completely ridiculous, but Jayde did mention that it wasn’t her best performance.
Based on her Instagram page, she rarely performs in large venues. She doesn’t have to project herself as much as she would have had to Saturday. Oh well, she’ll get a chance to redeem herself sometime in the future.
That’s all for this week. Coming up this weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series travel to the Inland Empire to wrap up the West Coast Swing. Meanwhile, in DVR Theater, the Formula One World Championship gets underway in Australia. TV Listings are in the schedule tab at the top of the page.
I will provide critiques of the Cup and XFINITY Series races from San Bernardino County for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. Thursday’s edition of The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover part of Super Dirt Week from Oswego Speedway last year.
I just discovered the Super Dirt Week broadcasts on Lucas Oil Racing TV (I don’t get MAVTV here) and will take advantage of them. In addition, I will add outside information to the pieces since a number of the drivers in the broadcasts are regulars at Lebanon Valley Speedway, where I am the press officer.
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. 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.
As always, if you choose to contact a network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.