NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Multiple Bristol NASCAR Storylines Produce Tough NBCSN Coverage Decisions

Bristol Motor Speedway’s August NASCAR weekend has always been one of the sport’s can’t miss events on the calendar.  This year was no exception as there was a trio of highly competitive races to broadcast on television.

Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

The weather ultimately made the Bristol Night Race not quite as much of a night race.  But, they got all 500 laps in and that’s what’s important.  At any other track on the circuit, the pre-race thundershower that descended on the track less than an hour before the race would have delayed the start.  The track crews did an excellent job getting everything prepped.

During pre-race coverage, the centerpiece seemed to be the driver intros with the self-picked songs.  Apparently, Landon Cassill didn’t pick one, so they gave him Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy?”  Who knows if that’s true, but the intros took up half the show.

Yes, the intros are exciting at times.  You can get something interesting out of them, like Kyle Busch claiming that he doesn’t need an intro.  Or the time Brad Keselowski dissed Kyle Busch.

That said, I don’t really watch a pre-race show for intros.  I watch it to get some pre-race information for the race.  I didn’t really get that Saturday night.

Obviously, the big pileup was big news early on.  I still don’t like the Damaged Vehicle Policy and wish it was never created, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

NBCSN did ok explaining just what the deuce happened here.  However, it sounds like Kyle might have had contact even before the spin.  That was not caught on-air.

There was plenty of work to be done on the No. 18 and NBCSN covered the story pretty well during the yellow.  However, it seemed like they only really covered Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and (to a lesser extent) Daniel Suárez.  We never got interviews with any of the four drivers eliminated in the crash.  Darrell Wallace Jr. all but referred to it as an “ARCA Brakes” situation in quotes released by Chevrolet Performance.

For much of the race, the broadcast talked about how Saturday night was all but a must-win for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. since Bristol is basically his best track.  This was effectively beaten into the viewership.  Everything was good until he got busted for speeding in the pits during the Competition Caution.  It was all downhill from there.

I don’t know if this was for everyone on Saturday night, but I dealt with some feed issues during the race.  The picture would cut out from time to time, especially later in the race.  Despite all the precipitation we’ve had recently here in Upstate New York, it was perfectly fine weather-wise during the race.  Can’t quite say that for Lebanon Valley Speedway, which had a flooded infield and this lake in the parking area Saturday due to torrential rains Friday night.

https://www.facebook.com/451696975532/photos/pcb.10160927579190533/10160927574455533/?type=3&theater

Luckily, the infield (and most of this lake) was drained in time for sprint car racing Sunday night.  Tony Stewart even took some time to joke about it.  If anyone had any technical issues watching the race Saturday night, please post below.

The incident late in the race between Kyle Busch and Truex is likely going to get more mileage than it should.  It seems like it was completely accidental.  Kyle Busch admitted fault, which seems rare at times.  Truex was overcome with anger, but still consented to an interview in what seemed like the Media Center (Note: I’ve never been to Bristol, so I don’t know for sure).  Also, JJ Yeley clearly took the bigger hit there, but it seems like everyone there ignored him.  Weak.

All weekend long, NBCSN touted the fact that the inside line was nearly completely useless on restarts.  Then, Kurt Busch emphatically proved everyone wrong with his Lap 477 start that got him the win.  Either Kurt Busch pulled off the impossible, or NBCSN made it seem way tougher than it was.

Post-race coverage was quite extensive as viewers got multiple interviews with a number of drivers.  Here, you saw Kyle Busch accept responsibility, Kyle Larson rant to himself about not having a good car and Erik Jones wish he was better on short runs.  Also, good to see Chris Buescher get some time even though his finish was not the best.

The altercation that Kyle Busch had with the crazed fan outside the track was not reported on by anyone (as far as I know) until after NASCAR America Post-Race ended.  Regardless, that whole affair is ridiculous.  Just shows that Kyle Busch is very good at being a heel.  At wrestling shows in the southern territories, it was not out of the ordinary for fans to smack heels from time to time.  Even little old ladies would get in on that.

Overall, I did enjoy the broadcast on Saturday night.  The action was fast and furious and left those that were in attendance quite satisfied.  The weather at Bristol has been iffy in recent years (especially in the Spring) and that’s really hurting attendance, sadly.

Food City 300

Friday night brought the XFINITY Series to Bristol for 300 laps of action.  Admittedly, this was the least competitive of the three major NASCAR races last weekend, but there were still some interesting things to talk about.

First off, this might have been the most dominant start to a XFINITY race in years.  No one was touching Kyle Busch.  He would have lapped into the top 10 before the end of Stage No. 1 had he not wrecked it.

Also of note, Kyle’s matter-of-fact interview is going to get lots of mileage over the next couple of years.  Not because of anything he said in it, but how he exited stage left as if he was Snagglepuss.  As of this writing, it is the fourth GIF that pops up when you type Kyle’s name into Twitter’s GIF search.

Kyle Busch and Larson combined to lead over 270 laps Friday night.  Normally, that means that you get a race that stinks like Limburger cheese to watch.  Was the case?  No.

Viewers got plenty of action to whet their appetites all night.  While the action for the lead was really not that hot outside of restarts, there was plenty of side-by-side action much of the night, especially after Kyle Busch was eliminated.

That said, there were a couple of issues that I had.  The cautions fell in places that resulted in a good amount of pit strategy.  Thing is, NBCSN has to do a good job of explaining who is doing what.  They were deficient here Friday night, especially early in the race.

Kyle Busch’s wreck occurred with 15 laps remaining in Stage No. 1.  Naturally, you’re going to have some people going for the points while others just don’t give a tuchis about them.  That’s fine.  We saw the stops during the caution for the leaders.  Larson pitted, then managed to get the lead back before the end of the stage.  That just tells you how strong he was.

On the restart, you had Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick on the front row.  We didn’t have any information about who stayed out until the restart was happening.  NBCSN has to do better than that.

I also would have liked to know what happened to Daniel Hemric at the end of the race.  As you likely are aware of, Hemric spun out to bring out the yellow that caused the GWC.  For something that could have affected the outcome of the race, you would expect to know exactly what happened to cause it.  Not so much.

Despite the fact that the race actually started 15 minutes early due to forecast rains (that started right after the race ended), the broadcast ended up running long.  As a result, there was very little post-race coverage.  Even with the tight window, NBCSN insisted on their double victory interview setup and lollygagged getting to it.  As a result, viewers only got interviews with Larson and Justin Allgaier before NBCSN left Bristol for the night.

Overall, the XFINITY Series seemed to put on a pretty good race Friday night.  That said, Kyle Busch wrecking was the only thing preventing this from becoming the 2015 Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead.  In that race, they were so much better than everyone else that an 87-lap green-flag run led to all but the top four cars getting lapped.

UNOH 200

Thursday night saw the Camping World Truck Series race in primetime on over-the-air television for the very first time.  Take rates from affiliates for the broadcast were very good.  Only seven chose not to air the race in favor of NFL football.  Five of those markets moved the race to alternate channels.  Only Erie and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Penn. were unable to watch the race on television.

Since the trucks being in primetime on FOX was quite the occasion, they decided to switch things up.  Kevin Harvick was back in the broadcast booth for this momentous occasion.  With Harvick, you get someone that wants to inform fans about what they’re seeing and what to look out for.  He’s generally a very good analyst.  I’m sure the media would love to be able to get this kind of analysis from Harvick in interviews.  In that case, it seems to be almost completely dependent on his mood as to what you get.

That said, it appears that Harvick is still a little green.  The end of Thursday night’s race is just one example, although he’s not solely to blame.

John Hunter Nemechek seemingly had the race won with nine laps to go.  He had cleared lapped traffic and had a solid two-second lead over Johnny Sauter and Stewart Friesen.

Then, all of sudden, Nemechek encountered a fuel pick-up issue.  He slowly started dropping back into Sauter’s clutches.  While this dropback was occurring, Vince Welch was talking about some various stats.  It was as if no one was paying attention to the race at hand.

No one even noticed that it was truly a race for the lead again until Sauter was already alongside of Nemechek.  Quite simply, FOX has to do a better job of covering the event than that.  That was sad.  I know that you don’t want to interrupt Welch (the play-by-play man), but someone had to tell him that something was up earlier than they did.  They couldn’t even use the remote broadcast explanation here because they were actually on-site.

Just a terrible ending to a race broadcast.  This was a showcase race for the Camping World Truck Series and it was important to bring your A-game.  FOX did not bring their A-game Thursday night.

Outside of the rather dreadful conclusion to the race, FOX actually redeemed themselves.  There was good coverage of the racing for position and good commentary from the booth.  Having Harvick in the booth is a bit of a check on Michael Waltrip.  He cannot get too outlandish.

The race ended a little bit earlier than normal.  As a result, there was a decent amount of post-race coverage.  This coverage (six driver interviews, winning crew chief, points and analysis) is actually more than viewers on FOX Sports 1 regularly get.  The only bad thing here was that we didn’t hear from Nemechek, the man who realistically should have won this race.  I’m unclear as to whether he declined an interview or if FOX didn’t seek one out, but it would have benefited the broadcast had they been able to get him on there.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes their final weekend off of the season.  While Cup drivers are relaxing, the XFINITY Series will be racing at Road America in Wisconsin.  Camping World Truck Series teams will be at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, while the Verizon IndyCar Series will be at Gateway.  Formula 1 returns from their summer break at Spa in Belgium and the Intercontinental GT Challenge will race 10 hours at Suzuka Circuit in Japan.  Listings are in the Television tab.

We will provide critiques of the Johnsonville 180 from Road America and the Chevrolet Silverado 250k from CTMP in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway.  Given what happened there, there is one primary topic of discussion.

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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John W.

Did Vince Welch lose alot of weight recently? He looked different.

Bill H

The announcers need to quit showing off their expert knowledge by predicting what’s going to happen, because it almost never does. “Nobody is going to pit this time,” and then everybody does, is much on the par with, “Nobody can win the start from the inside line,” continuing to be repeated even after two different drivers had done it three times.

Ozark_Lee

We can all gripe about the little things but Bristol is about as tough to call from the booth as it is to drive. The truly dreadful broadcast is coming it two weeks. Ken Squier is so bad that I just mute the TV.

A way better throwback announcer would be Bob Jenkins, I’ve seen him hanging around at the tracks at a few races and he at least knows who the drivers are and what car they are driving.

NASCARJeff

I agree, Ken Squire was a bad announcer when he was in his “prime” and he made many name and car mistakes during the broadcast. Bob Jenkins would be a better choice, loved Ned, Benny and Bob during the years ESPN actually cared about the sport.

Andy

“The weather at Bristol has been iffy in recent years (especially in the Spring) and that’s really hurting attendance, sadly.”

The weather has an effect on attendance, but nowhere near what I think you are implying here. Attendance is down all across the board, and there are many factors…

bob

certainly agree with you on that. it used to be some one had to die for you to gt a bristol ticket for either race. it is a wonder that nascar doesn’t go out and find all the homeless and give them tickets to make it look like the stands are full.

Another Viewpoint

It’s ironic that the haters are obsessed with Kyle Busch, yet they complain when KyBu gets all the media coverage. Hey geniuses! Maybe if you’d just ignore him, the media would too! But as long as he is the lightning rod for the fans, he will continue to be the story. And as long as stupid fans confront drivers, that will take away from the story of the race itself.

Steve

Interesting how I’m not hearing excessive hype about points at this stage of the season. Although I didn’t watch the race flag to flag so maybe they got it in during the times I wasn’t watching. Could it be that Big Brian’s playoff setup has created exactly zero drama over the last 2 races since virtually all 16 playoff spots are locked down with 2 races to go. Even still, they made it sound like Kurt punched his ticket Saturday, even though he was comfortably in a playoff spot before his win.

I see Nascar announcing has gone the way of every other sports broadcasting. Spouting off about everything but the race, constant stat graphics that mean very little ad nauseum, and in car cameras that add nothing. Its no wonder they miss things. Just shut up and call the race as you see it and stop trying to create fake drama. Seriously, was Kyle Busch the only one involved in that wreck on the first few laps. The way they covered it, everyone else was ignored. That was also a hell of a long 6 minutes but there was no way in hell Nascar was going to park Kyle despite NBC telling us it could happen.

I’m sure the racing is good watching it in person. My frustrations have always been with the broadcast which is why I don’t watch much anymore and the ones I listed above are just a few of them. Until they stop insulting the viewers intelligence, I will simply be a casual fan of this sport. Sad, because I used to plan my weekend around the races.

Tom B

The one interview I wanted to hear was John Hunter or his dad telling us what happened to the truck. They only interviewed truck drivers who were in the point battle. That’s not good coverage.

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