Last weekend was nothing short of a perfect storm for race fans. Three days of rain in Indianapolis meant that no one managed to turn a lap on the 2.5-mile oval until Monday morning. That, plus DVR issues (can’t just take the day off to watch the races) meant that viewing the races for this column has been very difficult. Opinions of NBCSN’s broadcast of Monday morning’s Lilly Diabetes 250 will be seen later this week in The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch newsletter.
Before we get started, there are two stories of note that we must mention. First, Mike Hogewood passed away last Wednesday at the age of 63. Hogewood is probably best known for his coverage of ACC basketball in the Carolinas, but he does have NASCAR ties as well. Hogewood spent a number of years working on TNN and TBS telecasts, in addition to serving as the backup host of TNN’s RaceDay.
Additionally, you’ll likely see less of Kenny Wallace on TV next year. On Monday night, Wallace took to social media to announce that he intends to race Modifieds full-time in 2019.
He believes that FOX Sports will still welcome him back on a limited basis next year when he can fit it in, but he likely won’t be around every week. Naturally, Wallace’s decision will lead to some changes in regards to FOX Sports’ on-air talent, especially early in the season. What that will look like is unclear at this time. Regardless, Wallace has chosen to focus on what’s fun for him in 2019. Not everyone has the chance to do that full-time.
The main feature of Monday’s broadcast was the return of MVP (multiple vantage point) coverage. Last used at Watkins Glen, the format resembles that of a radio broadcast. MRN Radio’s Mike Bagley returned to the broadcast in the Turn 2 radio stand. He was joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Turn 3 and Jeff Burton in Turn 4. Rick Allen and Steve Letarte held down the fort in the broadcast booth.
Unlike Watkins Glen, this approach really did feel much closer to a radio broadcast. Watkins Glen is more of an outlier than anything else, to be honest.
Bagley is obviously the radio expert, having worked on MRN Radio broadcasts for years. He did make a couple of mistakes (Ex: He screwed up on the No. 6, stating that Trevor Bayne was in the car instead of Matt Kenseth), but was still solid. He was quite descriptive with his commentary and enthusiastic.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You get enthusiasm out of the booth on NBC race broadcasts, but you don’t get the descriptive commentary. Instead, they tend to let the action speak for itself and chime in with additional comments.
Having commentators in different locations means that the production has to be able to keep with the commentary. Darrell Wallace Jr.’s crash is an example of when they were unable to do so.
The crash happened directly in front of Earnhardt. He was right on it, as he should have been. However, it was something like five seconds before the coverage cut to the incident. By that time, David Starr was just about to hit Wallace.
In the past, I’ve written about how the commentators by themselves can help guide the production truck to the action. Probably one of the bigger examples of that was when Ken Squier helped the cameras find the battle for the win in the 1979 Daytona 500 between Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip after the infamous Cale Yarborough-Donnie Allison crash. That is just as possible now as it was 40 years ago. The control room has dozens of cameras to choose from. The correct button just needs to be pushed.
Speaking of enthusiasm, Earnhardt’s was on full display during the battle for the win between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Admittedly, it sounded somewhat similar to the battle between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson at Chicagoland earlier this year, but not quite as buzzworthy. He came to play with the proper call.
Post-race coverage was decent since this was the cutoff race for the playoffs. Viewers got a bunch of post-race interviews, but they all seemed to be playoff-based as opposed to about the race with a couple of exceptions.
While the MVP coverage was the primary story of the day, there really wasn’t all that much coverage of racing for position during the race. Everything really seemed to be based around track position and pit strategy. You would just see the cars and get commentary based on their pit schedule and where they were on track. It seemed very limited in focus at times.
Meanwhile, the pit reporters seemed to be on their game from the very start. Martin Truex Jr.‘s failure that put him out was quite possibly foretold before the start of the race. A report during the pace laps indicated that Truex’s brakes were acting funky at the time. Sure enough, the brakes turned traitor just after the 100-mile mark.
Should MVP coverage be used more often? Probably not. Most of the venues aren’t anywhere near as big as Indianapolis. What NBC Sports can do is take what you get from MVP coverage and try to ingratiate that into the regular coverage. Be more descriptive at times. More detailed coverage. Keselowski noted during the XFINITY race that there were wider camera shots. Make use of that in your arsenal as well.
Yes, the best part to me?
Someone got the production booth to zoom the cameras out this week so we can really see what’s happening.
The racing always looks better to me this way. Thank you to NBC production booth. https://t.co/9WYHJ7tf7I
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) September 10, 2018
Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 100 degree temperatures are expected. They’ll be joined by the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship will be decided Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. Listings can be found in the Television tab.
We will provide critiques of the three races from Las Vegas Motor Speedway in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.
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