Kentucky Speedway has been a bit of a mess pretty much ever since the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series got a date there in 2011. The first year was marked by some of the worst traffic for a NASCAR race in 30 years and quite possibly the worst parking ever. Crowds started to back away from there shortly afterward.
The racing has never really been all that competitive for Cup. The old surface was really bumpy and the groove never expanded that much. Granted, the groove was wider than it is now, but the races weren’t that competitive. Now, it is a single-groove track with back-to-back repaves. Let’s hope they don’t have to go in again.
Quaker State 400
Saturday night brought the only race of the weekend in Kentucky that wasn’t affected by rain. However, it was also a complete runaway as Kyle Busch dominated the first half, with Martin Truex Jr. taking control for the second half.
Pre-race coverage was about average. Nothing seriously moved the needle for me. Rutledge Wood spent some time in Georgetown, Ky. at the Toyota plant where the Camry is built. There was also a piece in which Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers were asked who of their teammates would be most likely to do certain things. My only thoughts there were that Daniel Suarez seemingly wasn’t in most of it and that Busch apparently will never hold a political office, regardless of his desire to do so.
The biggest takeaway I can give you from the final 114 laps of Saturday night’s race is that NBCSN didn’t make the race look exciting at all. Truex just plain ran away from the field and hid. He went from eighth on the restart to leading by 13 seconds in 40 laps.
Once Truex got that massive lead, it was like nothing mattered. I’m sure that the race wasn’t actually as boring as it looked. Problem is, we didn’t see anything that could bring home the fact that there was actual racing outside of the restarts.
Also, NBCSN seemed to choose not to show intervals beyond the top three drivers for the vast majority of the final stage. I shouldn’t have to rely on the live leaderboard at NASCAR.com to be able to get live intervals. The result of that was that I really couldn’t figure out where everyone was for much of the final third of the race. NBCSN seemed to be in awe of what Truex was doing. That shouldn’t determine how you cover a race, though.
Post-race coverage was rather substantial, but started off with dual Truex interviews. I know why NBCSN is doing it, but on paper, it doesn’t really work. I think they’re doing it the way they are right now because of sponsors that have their names on Victory Lane (Ex: Gatorade). Once those sponsorships lapse, you can do this up right.
Outside of the double dose of Truex, viewers got interviews with a number of the top finishers. We were not left wanting for anything in regards to driver interviews and post-race analysts.
NBC Sports seems to be able to use their available technology better than FOX can. However, they need to use it for more than slow-motion replays of AJ Allmendinger obliterating a water bottle.
Overall, I tend to be more informed during an NBC race broadcast as opposed to a FOX one. However, I don’t really want to just stare at the leader all night when nothing’s going on around him. NBCSN needs to do a better job bringing the on-track action to viewers. The second half of Saturday night’s race could not have been as boring at the track as it was on TV.
The XFINITY Series was originally scheduled to race on Friday night. For what seems like the fifth year in a row, the atmosphere decided that it would be the case.
A nasty line of thunderstorms swamped the track from the northwest, resulting in the early curtailing of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying. It didn’t take long for NASCAR to postpone the race before the pre-race show would have started.
In addition to the dangerous lightning, there was also an incredible amount of rain. It took some quick thinking to save the pace car.
— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) July 8, 2017
High noon on Saturday brought the XFINITY Series teams back out for 300 miles of action. The problem with races pushed back a day due to rain often is the fact that there is no previewing of the race. The race came on NBCSN at noon and the command was three minutes later. Granted, I’d argue that there might not have been much more of a preview than “Kyle Busch is on the pole and he’s a tough out,” but there are stories out there.
Viewers ultimately ended up with a race in which the XFINITY Series regulars really didn’t figure into the outcome very much. While the notion of William Byron going for his third win in a row was a story, he really didn’t rate much on Saturday.
There were some thoughts of the race potentially being better since it was during the daytime as opposed to at night. I don’t know about that. It seemed like it would have been about the same.
Post-race coverage was actually pretty decent. Viewers got a few driver interviews in addition to post-race analysis and a point check. The race itself pre-empted mainly reruns, so they weren’t particularly tight on time like in Daytona.
This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series travel to New Hampshire for an assault on the flat oval. They will be joined by the Whelen Modified Tour (points race, and an All-Star race) and the K&N Pro Series East. The latter two series’ races will air via tape delay. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series makes their annual trip to Toronto to race at Exhibition Place. Note that the INDYCAR race is on up against the Cup race on Sunday. As a result, the Honda Indy Toronto will air live on CNBC, then repeat immediately after the Cup race on NBCSN. Finally, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns to action at the Nürburgring. TV listings are in the schedule tab.
I will bring you critiques of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 will be covered in Wednesday’s newsletter. The Critic’s Annex will cover Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series from Iowa Speedway.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. 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.
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.