Last weekend marked the final time that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will race in September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and as could be expected, the playoffs themselves were the primary topic of discussion from the very start of NASCAR America Sunday on NBC Sports Network.
Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Krista Voda basically squinted their way through pre-race coverage due to their location at the south end of pit road. The sun was completely in their eyes, and all of their prep work took place under the cover of umbrellas held up by production assistants.
Since the race has been run, the big story in NASCAR has been the sport being dragged into the anthem protests by President Donald Trump. We’ve all seen the quotes from Richard Petty and Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s rebuttal and NASCAR’s official statement. However, the vast majority of the real uproar hadn’t occurred yet when this show aired. It was never mentioned during any of NBCSN’s pre-race programming. However, you can be sure that it will be a point of discussion on next week’s show.
What was discussed was the biggest issue prior to the anthem mess: inspection woes. Right now, I’m sure NASCAR wishes it only had an inspection issue on their hands.
Rutledge Wood spent some time hanging out in the Whelen Modified Tour paddock to give fans an idea of what the series means to fans in the Northeast. We also get to meet a couple of the stars of the series (Timmy Solomito, Andy Seuss), plus an explanation for why Ryan Newman is addicted to the series.
While I watched Whelen Modified races on TV since the early 1990s, this past weekend was the first time I’d seen one live. It is quite the experience. I also spent time in the paddock talking to some of the drivers during the Camping World Truck Series race for another piece about Ted Christopher.
Also, even though some of the teams have massive Class 8 transporters like Cup teams, others have far more rudimentary setups. Rowan Pennink, who finished second in Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100, races out of a box truck (as seen in the piece). Other teams have smaller box trailers, and Wade Cole’s No. 33 is typically hauled on the back of a flatbed.
The piece wrapped up with discussion of the new super weekend announced Friday that will replace the fall Cup weekend. Thoughts on the 250-lap Modified race ranged from excitement to a wait-and-see attitude in the Modified paddock.
Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 had the third-lowest number of lead changes ever in a Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With a general lack of action towards the front of the field, you would naturally have to fade back a fair amount to give fans decent action. It appears NBCSN did that. We got a decent amount of side-by-side battles and racing for position.
In regards to battles, the broadcast could have been quite a bit worse than it was. Had the focus been on Kyle Busch at the front all day, that would have made things quite boring.
The biggest moment in Sunday’s race was clearly the lap 150 crash that knocked Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead. When the wreck happened, NBCSN was showing footage from Newman’s bumper cam. We couldn’t see the wreck break out until Newman was all but driving through it.
Replays showed there was slight contact from Austin Dillon that spun out Kevin Harvick. NBCSN then immediately went into a rehash of the Harvick-Dillon(s) conflict over the years. Then, when NBCSN talked to Harvick, he made it sound like he wrecked on his own.
That whole situation made it seem like NBCSN was trying to create conflict where there was none at first. Shortly after the NBCSN interview (as in 10 seconds or less afterward), Harvick gave another interview to PRN Radio where he stated that Dillon actually hit him. There would not have been enough time between the interviews for Harvick to have seen a replay. It is unclear why Harvick took that approach.
NBCSN went back to the crash coverage during the next yellow (70-plus laps later) just so it could play the PRN Radio interview. NBCSN definitely covered all its bases with this story, but the whole thing just seemed off. It should also be noted that Harvick didn’t talk to the print media after exiting the infield care center.
The coverage of Kasey Kahne’s track bar breakage was quite good. Kahne stopped himself on track in order to draw the caution and then brought himself into the pits once he drew the yellow.
At first, the thought was that Kahne had a flat tire. We’ve seen people draw cautions intentionally with flats before. Terry Labonte won a race at North Wilkesboro Speedway back in 1987 by doing that. However, during Kahne’s stop, Steve Letarte noticed that the right-rear wheel on the No. 5 was wobbling in an unnatural way. That’s how he determined that there was a broken suspension piece on the No. 5.
NBCSN and most of the media present thought that the PJ1 TrackBite application was going to be a big story on Sunday. However, it really wasn’t. Busch told me during his post-race press conference that once the tires wore a bit, any advantage went away. Everyone would then gravitate toward a traditional line. As a result, it really wasn’t referenced all that much during the broadcast.
Post-race coverage was decent. Still too much focus given to the race winner (Busch), though. His reference to lobsters as “equestrians” as opposed to “crustaceans” was pretty funny, though.
If you stayed long enough, you still got a good number of interviews. However, in order to do that, you had to stick around for up to 50 minutes after the race. It seems like overkill at times.
Overall, Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 was not exactly the most exciting race to watch, but NBCSN did a decent job covering it. They were a little shaky covering the big wreck just before halfway. That was one of those situations where you go with your first hunch. They did at first and used their NBCee-it (zoom function) to show said contact. Then, when Harvick didn’t mention the contact, it was like they thought someone was going to come after them or something.
NBC Sports has more than enough technology on-site to be able to back up everything they say — that is, unless they blatantly make something up. It seems like they couldn’t trust their gut instincts here.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is the final split weekend of the season. The Cup and XFINITY series teams will make their second visit of the year to Dover International Speedway. For Cup teams, it will be the cutoff for the end of the Round of 16. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series makes their yearly visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a standalone weekend. Next year, that race will make quite a bit more sense.
I will provide critiques of all three of the races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, we’ll cover the UNOH 175 for the trucks from Loudon and the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 from Kentucky for the XFINITY Series.
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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.
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