On Sunday, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season came to a conclusion at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s pretty obvious what the main topics of discussion were on this day.
NBC brought Bob Costas down to Homestead to basically serve as the broadcast’s host. However, his only real role of note was to interview Dale Earnhardt Jr. prior to the race. Costas seemed out of place in Homestead. He’s mainly a baseball guy these days and his knowledge of racing is unclear at best. It seems like it was completely unnecessary to have him there. Costas’ interview easily could have been conducted by Krista Voda.
It was a nice touch having a couple of sports legends giving dap to Earnhardt Jr. Shaquille O’Neal in particular. He’s an interesting guy in general, but not someone you’d think of in regards to NASCAR.
For a number of drivers, having a familiar face asking the questions actually does help quite a bit. They’re more willing to open up. Carl Edwards was apparently exactly like that. Earnhardt Jr. is not necessary that guy. He’ll give a decent interview to darn near anyone, even to his own detriment.
In addition to Costas-time, there was an “Appreciation” feature narrated by Justin Hartley of NBC’s This Is Us. The piece, partially filmed in the race car graveyard at “Dirty Mo Acres,” talked about the qualities that Earnhardt Jr. brought to the table during his career.
The focus was not really on his on-track abilities at all. Yes, he won a fair amount (26 races, not a bad total for anyone), but there was more to him than just winning. Earnhardt Jr. seems to embody a number of character traits that many people should aspire to be. Yes, he started his career in the shadow of his father and may have never actually escaped it. However, he clearly set himself apart from his father. His interviews on television are just one example of that. Dale Earnhardt was really only substantial if he won the race. You apparently had to earn his trust to get anything out of him.
Honestly, the piece (and his driver induction/procession afterwards) does an excellent job of showing just what Earnhardt Jr. means to NASCAR fans. It’s why the sport may struggle a bit next season. While there’s a good chance that many of Earnhardt Jr.’s fans might latch onto under drivers, others might just walk away. No one resonates in NASCAR like Earnhardt Jr. does. An unscientific poll we conducted Sunday in Homestead indicated that Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Chase Elliott could absorb some of his fans.
— Tom Bowles From Frontstretch.com (@NASCARBowles) November 19, 2017
Granted, these were out and out Earnhardt Jr. fans at a race. It remains to be seen if this sentiment holds throughout Junior Nation. Earnhardt Jr. would more than likely support that move.
Even with Earnhardt Jr. retiring, the championship was the biggest story by far. All four of the championship contenders got plenty of airtime prior to the race.
During the race itself, there was a heavy emphasis on the championship. No shock there. The contenders fought each other for a fair amount of the race, which was good to see. That meant that viewers got to see more racing for position than they would have otherwise.
There was a little too much focus on them. The other big stories of the day were completely overshadowed.
Post-race coverage was quite detailed and not detailed at the same time. That means that viewers got a bunch of coverage, but that coverage was heavily centered on champion Martin Truex Jr. Obviously, he’s the champ. He should get coverage. However, it’s like the rest of the race didn’t matter. Kenseth got next to no coverage and no post-race interview. Heck, the dude was all but avoided by all the media in Homestead. Our own Joseph Wolkin found Kenseth all by his lonesome after the race and got to briefly interview him.
Championship races are always difficult events to cover. The first thought is to cover the championship and nothing else. The production staff is basically running scared since the heads of sports production are usually in the house (Sunday was no different as NBC Sports’ Sam Flood was at Homestead and introduced during the Drivers’ Meeting). They’re watching the staff’s every move. Therefore, they can’t make the telecast theirs.
Even Earnhardt Jr. got ignored late in favor of the championship. It was unclear just what the heck happened to drop him from 16th (on the final restart) to a 25th-place finish. Apparently, it was a tire issue that cost him a couple of laps late.
With that, we’ve reached the end of the NASCAR season. Hard to believe that this is my ninth year of TV criticism. I currently plan to be back for a tenth year of keeping TV partners honest. In the coming weeks, we’ll have a season recap of NASCAR’s TV partners (NBC and FOX).
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Formula One World Championship comes to an end at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. It will be the final race (for now) for Formula One on NBCSN since the series will move back to ESPN after a 20 year absence next season. We’ll have a recap of the NBCSN Formula One farewell next week. As usual, TV listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab.
This will not be the last time that we will have Homestead critiques. An additional critique to cover the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races will be on tap as well.
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