Another NASCAR race weekend, another weekend plagued by weather. Good lord. Luckily, every stock car race got in with full network television coverage.
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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams took to the Monster Mile on Sunday for 400 miles of racing. Arguably, the track’s longtime nickname doesn’t really reference the present. It came about before the track was concreted. You know, when the track played host to a series of 500-mile races that lasted nearly five hours. They were the longest races on the calendar and felt like it. Today, that’s not the case.
Prior to the race, the primary story was inspection woes…again. NASCAR sent a memo to crew chiefs indicating that the splitter was going to be a point of emphasis in inspection. Sure enough, three different teams flunked inspection thrice, resulting in three car chiefs getting the heave ho. Rough.
These inspection issues seem to crop up every other week and it’s rather agitating to watch. It’s obviously news and must be covered, though. FOX Sports 1 did a decent job in covering that action.
We also got Kenny Wallace dressed in late 18th century clothing talking about Dover Days and Michael Waltrip getting more airtime than I would have liked. Speaking of Wallace, he looks like he’s having the time of his life here. Dressing like a Patriot works for him.
— Delaware's Quaint Villages (@VillagesDE) May 7, 2018
Weather was a topic of discussion as well. I cannot speak for my readers, but I can tell you that I looked at the forecast multiple times over the days leading up to the race.
For the most part, it was just cloudy on Sunday in Dover. Unfortunately, the rains moved in late and put the race under the red flag with 80 laps to go. That would have still been better than what the forecast said on Wednesday. During the 49-minute stoppage, FOX Sports 1 provided viewers with about a dozen decent driver interviews. They also explained that this was one of those situations in which the rain that was falling at the track really didn’t show up on the radar.
That said, it was pretty obvious while watching the race that the conditions were deteriorating and the booth seemed to say nothing about it. I don’t have the biggest TV at my disposal for critiquing purposes, but I could tell that it was getting misty for about 15-20 laps before they threw the yellow. We’ve had this discussion before. I know that you don’t want rain. Neither do I. It doesn’t cost me money if it rains during a Cup race. Regardless, you cannot shirk your duties to inform viewers just because mentioning rain is bad juju.
Like many recent races at Dover, there were a series of long green-flag runs that saw the field get stretched out. Not surprising. Dover races since the track was concreted average 7.383 cautions. Sunday’s race had eight, right in line with normal.
How was the action that viewers got to see? It was ok, but it wasn’t as prevalent as the action Friday or Saturday. Viewers did get to see some battling, but the coverage was emphasized far too much on the leaders. This is a race in which two drivers (Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski) led over three-quarters of the race by themselves.
We keep hearing about the ratings drops in recent years. It seems like FOX Sports 1 is not doing all that good of a job of making the race exciting. I’ve never been to Dover, but it seems like the race in person would have looked more competitive than what we got on TV.
Since the rain delay caused the race to run long, there wasn’t all that much post-race coverage. Viewers got interviews with the top four finishers (Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suárez and Martin Truex Jr.) and a check of the points before leaving for NHRA coverage.
Overall, the race seemed to be somewhat boring at times based on what viewers could see. You can’t have a sweet duel all day every week, but it seemed like no one could run with Harvick or Keselowski. Because of that, the whole broadcast suffered. That shouldn’t necessarily be the case. Let’s face it, the TV broadcasts are one of the primary ways in which fans (and non-fans) experience the sport. They can’t just focus in on a couple of guys and hope it clicks.
Friday night saw the Camping World Truck Series take on Dover for what is honestly one of my least-favorite races of the year. It’s not even because of the on-track action. It’s the scheduling. As you may remember, SPEED used to tape-delay this race for years.
Since Dover doesn’t have lights (except for the infield harness track), a tripleheader weekend is difficult to pull off. Much like Talladega, the tertiary series gets stuck with a really substandard start time, in this case, 5 p.m. A number of race fans are barely getting out of work when the race starts. Fewer people can come out to the race because of the schedule.
Likely the most memorable part of Friday night’s race was the late battle between Noah Gragson and Johnny Sauter. This was a very satisfying duel to watch. While yes, there was some bumping and rubbing, this was a clean battle for the most part. Yes, Sauter just grazed the outside wall exiting turn 2, but that was the equivalent of knocking paint chips off of a crackly wall. Then, Gragson wrecked himself on lap 199.
Obviously, Gragson was crushed. He looked like he wanted to cry, but knew that he had to be strong in that situation. He handled the situation properly.
NASCAR RaceDay – CWTS Edition started with a recap of the first four races. That’s because it had been nearly seven weeks since the last race. We’ve ranted about that fact multiple times in the past here at Frontstretch. NASCAR can’t find a place for the trucks to race in the entire month of April? It continues to be ri-got-dang-diclous.
FOX’s scoring pylon seemed to have technical problems all weekend. It would randomly swap drivers around for no reason and act as if certain drivers had not started the race. Weird as heck. Hopefully, FOX Sports can get that fixed prior to Kansas.
Austin Hill was forced to drop out of the race only because his truck failed to refire after his accident with Myatt Snider. This is complete garbage in my opinion. Someone decided that NASCAR needs to be as strict as Formula 1 in that regard. This isn’t Formula 1, so stop acting like it is. If someone needs a push-start, give them one. I don’t approve of the Damaged Vehicle Policy in general. It needs to be ditched. However, this no-push rules pre-dates it and might be stupider.
Parker Kligerman had an excellent run on Friday, qualifying well and taking advantage of pit strategy to lead some laps. However, his day ended just before the end of stage No. 2 in a cloud of smoke. What happened?
The interview that Kligerman did with Alan Cavanna didn’t really answer that. However, it’s likely that they didn’t even know at the time. After the race, Kligerman tweeted about what actually happened.
Damn…. Steering box cracked the oil cooler. Definitely had winning speed in the pick up truck this evening. The monster continues to elude us
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) May 4, 2018
It appeared that the truck was leaking fluid for the majority of Stage No. 2. When Kligerman was leading and Sauter was giving chase, there were spots showing up on his roof cam. It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine that coming from Kligerman’s No. 75.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the race ran long. Cavanna’s interview with Gragson was quite simple and direct. It cut right to the chase and provided viewers with the emotion that many fans claim is missing from the sport. You could also see Cavanna’s news reporting experience come out here (he worked for WSOC 9 in Charlotte before joining the NASCAR beat).
In addition to the emotional Gragson, viewers got interviews with the top two finishers (Sauter and Matt Crafton) and a check of the points before leaving for live NHRA qualifying.
Honestly, this was the more enjoyable of the two races here to watch. Sunday’s IMSA race was right up there as well. Can’t do much about that being opposite of the Cup race on SD-only FOX Sports 2. That’s another discussion for another time, though.
Friday night saw a great amount of racing up front and some interesting drivers putting themselves into the discussion (Gragson, Jesse Little, Todd and David Gilliland, etc.). While there are some technical issues that FOX Sports needs to work, the broadcast itself was quite enjoyable. Will Kansas Friday night bring the same excitement? Who knows.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series will be in action at Kansas Speedway. The Verizon IndyCar Series takes on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s infield road course. Finally, Formula 1 begins their European season in Spain. For this week, ESPN has enhanced their Formula 1 offerings. Every on-track session will be available on television. The Friday Free Practice sessions will air live on ESPNU, a channel that is somewhat underused this time of year. Why the heck not? TV listings can be found in the Television tab.
We will provide critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Kansas in next weekend’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. Saturday’s XFINITY Series OneMain Financial 200 will be covered in the Critic’s Annex later this week.
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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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