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Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Decides to Cheap Out on Road America

Last weekend saw the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series take their final weekend off of the year.  Cup drivers spent the time relaxing, vacationing, and finding plenty of other ways to spend their time.  Meanwhile, NASCAR XFINITY Series teams traveled up to Road America in Wisconsin for 180 miles of action. Unfortunately, there were some aspects of NBC coverage that also chose to take the week off.

Pre-race coverage on NBC was about par for the course when it comes to standalone races.  Dave Burns hosted Countdown to Green from the broadcast booth and interviews were the name of the game.  The result was that viewers were reasonably informed of what was happening going into the event.

In addition, regular NBC Sports pit reporter Parker Kligerman was running the race driving for Rick Gdovic’s Precision Performance Motorsports (he finished a swell tenth after starting 39th).  Kligerman gave a good breakdown of what to expect on the 4.048-mile road course.

Watching the race on Sunday, you might have noticed something missing.  There were no in-car cameras at Road America at all.  Nothing.  Bupkis.  Two weeks ago, we talked about how you cannot cheap out when it comes to road racing coverage just because the Cup Series isn’t there.  Instead, NBC cheapened out even more.  We cannot recall a broadcast of a race for one of NASCAR’s national series that went on without in-car cameras during the last 20 years.

This omission is ridiculous and a slap in the face of teams that run the XFINITY Series.  NBC is obviously paying a ton of money in order to broadcast NASCAR races through 2024.  I’m pretty sure the sanctioning body expected NBC to put their best foot forward when they signed that deal to cover the sport.  This decision is more like shooting yourself in the foot, dumbing down the broadcast and depriving the viewer of what’s become a permanent part of every stock car telecast for decades.

Perhaps the threat of rain scared off BSI?  That’s the only logical explanation one could think of. Meanwhile, contrast that decision with what MRN Radio chose to do.  They went all out.

Having nine turn announcers would mean that there were well over a dozen on-air personalities on MRN Radio’s broadcast.  Yes, that would mean that you would have a potential fight for airtime.  But MRN was covered when all heck went down at any point.

I wouldn’t be shocked if NBC missed a bunch of action simply because they skimped on equipment and manpower.  At bare minimum, there were on-track incidents that viewers did not get replays of.  One example was Christopher Bell’s off-course excursion during Stage No. 2.  Another was Brennan Poole’s crash entering Canada Corner on lap 27.  Unlike Bell’s incident, Poole’s wreck was fairly significant.

Later on, Austin Cindric was in good position to win Sunday’s race before cutting his left-rear tire with eight laps to go.  We have no idea how that happened.  It was unclear if Cindric had contact with Cole Custer or if he ran over something.  Whatever caused it, Cindric had to pit and finished 16th.

The lack of awareness of slow and/or stopped cars on course was really noticeable.  It was as if NBC skimped on spotters for the broadcast.  For a road race, you absolutely cannot do that.  There’s only so much that your cameras can cover on a 4.048-mile road course, especially if you’re not bringing the full complement of personnel.

There were at least two instances of NASCAR letting things go with stalled cars in the groove.  First up, Tim Cowen stopped in turn 14 on lap 19. Viewers didn’t know about it until the leaders approached the final turn and there Cowen was.  Also, on the final lap, Dylan Lupton stalled right before turn 13.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he ran out of fuel, but who knows? NBC provided no details.

In past years, NASCAR has been criticized for “not knowing how to use a local yellow.”  Sunday’s race was the exception to the rule.  Other than the stage yellows (another discussion all together), the only questionable caution was the one for Ryan Sieg’s tire casing coming off on lap 14.  Everything else was understandable.  It was surprising that Cowen’s crash into the tires with five laps to go in a fast section of the track didn’t draw one.  It sounds like NASCAR had a very different drivers’ meeting Sunday morning and emphasized they weren’t playing around.  Now, if we can only use waving yellow flags for local yellows instead of the blue flag….

In regards to pit strategy, NBC could have done a better job in keeping viewers informed on the strategies the frontrunners were planning on using.  And while we have no doubt that NBC was cool with Kligerman racing on Sunday, I think viewers would have been better off if he were pit reporting.  It would have given NBC more people on staff that could have provided crucial information.

As it was, Kligerman’s role as a “Driver Reporter” was somewhat limited.  It felt like the role was little more than lots of hype.  Viewers heard from Kligerman just once during the race.  That occasion was pretty funny, as he described racing at Road America like meeting a celebrity crush but that’s not exactly making the most of this opportunity.

Having outright ranted about the nuts and bolts of the broadcast, we come to the booth.  Burns and Dale Jarrett continue to work very well together.  They bring the proper knowledge to the broadcast and are very enthusiastic about what they’re covering.  However, they were let down by the rest of the production.  It is a team effort to put together a race broadcast and you’re held back by the weakest members of the team.  We know that NBC is going to bring their best efforts to Darlington this weekend. Unfortunately, Road America was treated as an afterthought despite being on over-the-air television.

Post-race coverage was actually a little thin for the sheer amount of time that NBC had at their disposal.  Viewers got interviews with the top three finishers (Jeremy Clements, Michael Annett, Matt Tifft) along with racer/reporter Kligerman.  Weirdly enough, Kligerman seemed to get more airtime during post-race than both Annett and Tifft combined.

In regards to Clements’ victory, it is quite the upset.  But, not as much as you’d think.  Clements’ performances on road courses, especially in qualifying in recent years, have been excellent.  We’re talking about someone that has nearly been fast enough to make the final round of qualifying at Watkins Glen in the past, an XFINITY race Cup drivers tend to dominate thoroughly.

Among XFINITY Series regulars, Clements is likely one of the three or four best road racers in the series.  Perhaps his background in dirt late models helps quite a bit.  Car control is paramount on a road course and Clements’ experience should provide that in spades.

In closing, no one noted the fact that Clements darn near wheel-hopped while trying to make his move on Tifft in turn 8 with a lap and a half to go.

There is a sizable likelihood that Clements roasted his rear tires by doing that.  He had much less grip when he made the move that ultimately spun both drivers out.  Had Clements not wheel-hopped it, he probably would have won the race anyway, but done it more cleanly.

Traditionally, NASCAR teams don’t bring out the latest and greatest for road races.  Even in Cup, teams have been known to bring out older cars.  In the 1980s, you’d have teams bringing out previous generations (For example, 1988 saw a number of teams racing the Oldsmobile Delta 88, Buick LeSabre, and Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 even though all three cars had been replaced for that year).  Today, they likely trot out one of the older cars in the shop, although you wouldn’t be able to tell.  Current NASCAR rules don’t really allow for older body styles anymore.

Having said that, teams using older chassis doesn’t shock me.  I’d like to know where Jeremy Clements Racing got their supposed nine-year-old car.  More than likely, it is a former Car of Tomorrow (now Gen5 car) from the Cup Series that got converted.

Hopefully, NBC Sports brings back their full complement of reporters for this weekend in Darlington.  What should have been a showcase broadcast for the XFINITY Series turned out to be very disappointing.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend is full of action.  The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series will be at Darlington Raceway for their throwback weekend.  We’ll have a gallery of all those throwback schemes on Frontstretch at some point this week.

The Camping World Truck Series travels to Ontario, racing at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, while the Verizon IndyCar Series will be at Watkins Glen.  Finally, sports cars’ Pirelli World Challenge will wrap up the Sprint-X portion of the schedule at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Tex.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and XFINITY series races from Darlington in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday.  The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 from Gateway will be covered in the Critic’s Annex later this week in our Frontstretch Newsletter.

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.

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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.

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kb

Good report. I agree about Parker Klingons and his role in this race. Hell it summed up his whole being on NBC..a lot of hot air and nothing. Connecticut native or not!

salb

I confess I didn’t notice the lack of in car cameras…which should tell you something. Instead, I got to see the race as I would if I was sitting in the stands! what a unique idea! I agree that the coverage in general was rather thin, but I rather like not having the gimmick shots…and especially the ‘visor cam’!

Don

Let’s face it guys, the nets don’t give a damn whether we see any of the race. Their business revolves around selling commercials.

Steve

With the lack of in car cameras, I wish I had watched more of the race. The obsession the networks have with that gadget makes me want to tune out normally. Sunday would have been a breath of fresh air. Good to see a feel good story win a race and no Cup guys. Another great show by the regulars. Tell me again how the Cup guys make that series more interesting?

DoninAjax

F1 is at Monza this weekend.

russ

Yes it is. And of course we have the controversy about Mercedes breaking the gentlemens agreement about oli burn. And being allowed by the FIA to use, the engine despite previously announcing that they were tightening up on this practice. Gotta love the piranha club boys (and girls).

Bill H

Actually, I thought Burns and Jarrett were awesome. I totally enjoyed listening to them and thought they were the best team in any race I have heard all year. They did not hype the drivers and did not scream at me in a high pitched shriek even once. It was wonderful. Going into the start of the race I did not know any of the drivers, but by the end of the race I felt like I knew them better than I do the Cup drivers.

It was a huge relief not to have to listen to trivial details about hydraulic brake lines, where they are routed and how they are cooled, and what effect the drivers hand position has on the forward speed of the car in the first twenty feet of the car’s progress through a turn.

As to the incar cameras, oh my God, the race was infinitely better without them. 100% improvement to not only not have the camera which presents a view so limited that the driver with a similar view requires a spotter in order to know what’s happening, but to not have to listen to an announcer screaming at about how wonderful the view is that I am looking at when I can see for myself that it totally stinks.

PattyKay Lilley

Amen! What HE said! This old school fan votes to keep Burns and Jarrett in the booth from now through 2024. It was a pleasure to hear two men with male voices speaking of a sport they know well, and not listen to a pair of coloratura sopranos warming up for the opera.

As for the trick cameras, I say hooray for leaving them at home! If I wanted to be in the driver’s seat, I’d get a NASCAR license and go for it. I’m a fan. I just want to see the race from home as close as possible to the way I see it at the track. Last Sunday, we got that. What the write calls “cheap” I would describe as “excellent.” No one sees everything at a road course, or for that matter, at many of the oval tracks we visit through the year.

NBC, if you’re reading, BRAVO for the great coverage at Road America! It’s such a beautiful place to visit. This time, we got to see more of its beautiful layout and less of the roll cage inside a race car combined with the visor of the driver.

As my Gram used to say, “Some folks would complain if hung by a new rope!”

Bill H

Mama PKL, you made my day.

Sol Shine

The in car cameras are useful for fans since in many instances they show what really happened from the driver’s perspective which often changes one’s perception of events. That is if you know what to look for.

I always liked Dale Jarrett, he was class act as a driver, a clean racer and great role model, and he continues to be one as a broadcaster. It is interesting that they let him do a lot of the summary that the full time broadcast guy usually does, speaks to his polished and easily understandable delivery.

I really enjoy Xfinity, this was a good race and it proves you don’t need Cup drivers to get good racing in this series. Now if Nascar would just wake up and let this series be more than a support event for Cup it might take off.

wildcatsfan2016

I agree that the broadcast team of Burns & Jarrett was the best I’ve heard in the booth in a long time. Clarity and information abounded instead of the usual hysterical shouting we get in the Cup races. While NBC probably cheaped out (why is that a surprise), the race itself was interesting and I was especially happy that there were no Cup drivers to interfere with my enjoyment of the race.

DoninAjax

It’s also Oswego Classic weekend!!!!!

Fed Up

Glad to see that others hate the in-car cameras. They do not show racing and are only good for showing replays of wrecks. NBC has become orgasmic over them and I get tired of the announcers hyping them. They are basically in-car advertising. Kudos to the Jarrett and Burns for calling a calm and informative race. Glad they left the “I’ve been there and done that” guys at home.

bob

I didn’t even realize there weren’t in car cameras… Though looking back to
Sunday, I didn’t yell “SHOW THE $#@!$@! RACE!!!” once. I usually yell
that at least 10 times between the in car useless shots and the one they love
on the RESTART, the stationary camera coming out of turn 2 that shows NOTHING
except that the cars are going “fast”..

That was kind of nice.

Ken Block

In car cameras are routinely overused and rarely add anything of value to a NASCAR broadcast. Presumably they are used primarily to provide views of strategically placed company logos, as well as to justify their expense to the company providing the broadcast. So often, an on-track incident occurs while an in car is in use, and the network is forced to provide a replay to show the incident, since it was completely missed by the in car.

KarKevin

I thought the cover age was great, nice and raw. Didn’t even notice or care that there was no in car cameras.Loved seeing the Wisconsinites in the background after the race. The whole thing was just real and was glued to the Tv. Wish they did this for the darlington race, then it would be a real throwback back night.

TheNASCARJeff

I like Dale Jarrett but he uses “uh” and “uhm” in the middle of his sentences.. MRN and PRN bring it every week, they paint a great picture of what is really happening on track.

I listened to MRN while watching the Mid Ohio Xfinity race, great coverage, I would love to hear one of the two broadcast the Kentucky Derby.

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