For the most part, drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had a pretty easy weekend. Some of them hung out at their homes or vacationed with their kids. Kurt Busch went to France to check out the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I’m pretty sure that Chip Ganassi is not in a good mood right now, but that’s not because of anything Busch did.
Meanwhile, the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series teams traveled to Iowa and dealt with severe weather. That set up a doubleheader on Sunday (June 16) at Iowa Speedway. The first half of the doubleheader was far more interesting for what happened.
The original plan was to run the M&M’s 200 Saturday night. Terrible weather put the kibosh on that. Instead, 11 a.m. local time was the time to go. This race will be remembered for two things and only two things.
The first of those was the disqualification levied to Ross Chastain after he won the race on the track in a surprisingly dominant performance. Given the fact that the race ran a little long, everything that happened pertaining to the inspection issue occurred after FOX Sports 1 had left Iowa to go to NHRA coverage from Bristol. That’s no one’s fault. It happens.
Ultimately, the DQ was properly covered at the beginning of NASCAR RaceDay – XFINITY Edition. By that time, it was already 5 p.m. ET and news of the disqualification had already been out there for the better part of two hours. It’s why we didn’t have unofficial results in our race recap right away on Sunday. They weren’t posted until after the disqualification was official.
Here, Larry McReynolds and Jamie McMurray discussed the situation. Basically, they thought it was a mess. I would have liked more coverage of this issue, regardless of the fact that it was during the pre-race show for the Xfinity race. At bare minimum, they should have had some kind of explanation for what happened with Chastain’s truck on there from NASCAR. We didn’t get that. Perhaps we would have had NASCAR RaceDay – XFINITY Edition started on time. It was a little late because the drag racing in Tennessee ran long.
For what it’s worth, there was a brief explanation of the penalty in the Media Center from Gander Outdoors Truck Series managing director Brad Moran posted to NASCAR’s YouTube channel Sunday night. Also, due to a previously scheduled special celebrating Richard Childress Racing’s 50 years in NASCAR, NASCAR RaceHub didn’t cover the situation on Monday (June 17) either.
The other major issue that came out of the truck race was the whole Austin Hill–Johnny Sauter schmozzle. Hill believes that Sauter was angry with him after this wreck in Texas, which was probably not intentional.
A couple of laps before the crash Sunday, Hill and Sauter were racing each other for position, and Sauter appeared to give Hill a tap entering turn 1. At the time, I really didn’t think much about it. It looked to me at first that Sauter just got loose. On a second glance, Sauter did indeed hit Hill here.
Hill didn’t take kindly to that. About a lap-and-a-half later, this happened:
The booth definitively determined that Hill’s contact on Sauter was an intentional payback. Before the replay was even done, Sauter intentionally wrecked Hill under caution.
The reason why the clip starts out like it did is that FOX Sports 1 literally jumped out of the replay of the previous wreck to cover this live. Here, FOX Sports 1 did about as well as they could.
Later on, Alan Cavanna attempted to get a quote from Sauter after he got out of the infield care center, but Sauter wasn’t giving him (or anyone else that was following him) anything. That’s Sauter’s prerogative, although NASCAR might not be a fan of that move.
Hill did talk after the race, admitting that the crash was a payback and that he wasn’t going to take Sauter’s ridiculousness. As for Sauter, when he talks, we’ll have it for you. Might be Saturday night before he does, though.
Outside of the whole controversy, there were other aspects of the broadcast that should be noted. For one, FOX Sports 1 refrained from sending the booth commentators to Iowa (same thing for the Xfinity race as well). For truck coverage, this was the second week in a row that this decision was made. There is no way that such a move helps the broadcast. It means that they’re isolated from what’s going on. Yes, you have Cavanna and Hermie Sadler there, but they can only do so much. Having the additional knowledge that can only come from having your feet on the ground in Iowa is critical.
Also, being there as opposed to the FOX Sports studios in Charlotte can help you point out certain things on-track to the viewers quicker. I’ll admit that it’s more useful at a place like Texas than Iowa, but it’s still crucial.
That said, there was some good racing to be had Sunday. Viewers got to see some side-by-side racing for position for much of the race. Chandler Smith tried to run away with the race early on (and this would have been a much different race had Smith not had his radio issues), but viewers were entertained with good action.
I do think that FOX Sports 1 was slow to recognize the issues that befell Juan Manuel Gonzalez early on. I noticed that he had gone up the track on lap 15 with a flat left front tire. Nothing was said for a couple of laps until he brought the truck in with the shredded tire. Also, I don’t recall seeing a replay when Gonzalez blew a second tire and binned the No. 10.
As noted above, post-race coverage was very brief. Viewers got interviews with the provisional winner (Chastain), his crew chief (Phil Gould), the aforementioned Hill interview and a quick points check before leaving for Bristol.
Overall, I don’t like not sending the booth to the site of the race. It just doesn’t work for NASCAR broadcasts. Besides the fact that it makes the network look cheap, you miss out on the things that make a broadcast better.
The on-track action was fast and furious and quite enjoyable to watch. The Hill-Sauter spat is something to watch going forward, although I don’t think anything stupid is going to happen this weekend. Then again, I have been wrong before.
CircuitCity.com 250 presented by Tamron
After the fireworks-filled Gander truck race, the Xfinity Series took to the track for 250 laps of action. This was a much different race in that there was no controversy. Just a butt-kicking.
Prior to the race, FOX Sports 1 traveled to the Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, N.C. so that McMurray could conduct a one-on-one interview with Tyler Reddick. Topics here included his move to Richard Childress Racing and his excellent form to this point in the season (Sunday was an exception to the rule). Chops-busting from his former JR Motorsports colleagues was discussed, as was his confidence.
For one of the first sit-down interviews that McMurray has conducted, I thought he did a good job. We got some good anecdotes from Reddick. Also, if you’re ever in Mooresville, do check out the Memory Lane Museum. It’s $10 to get in and there are lots of interesting things there.
Sunday marked the final Xfinity race of the season that will air on FOX Sports 1 (the series is off while Cup teams are in Sonoma, then NBC Sports starts up in Joliet). Given that this was a standalone race, they didn’t bring any current Cup drivers to the “booth.” Instead, they had Regan Smith come as the guest analyst of the week alongside Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip.
Honestly, I really liked Smith in the booth. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Having a couple of years in the pits under his belt has kept him fresh in regards to what’s going on with the cars. He’s quite descriptive when he explains things, and puts those explanations into language that everyone can understand. He’s legitimately solid.
Outside of Christopher Bell and Cole Custer stomping the field (they combined to lead all but five laps Sunday), the biggest stories revolved around tires. Fall-off over the course of a run was significant. Those who could handle it best would do well. Reddick cut his right rear tire on a lap 57 restart right after taking four tires. While NASCAR did give the No. 2 an extra right rear tire, he was out of the hunt for the day.
Noah Gragson had a loose wheel (and by loose, I mean visibly loose) and had to pit under green on lap 74. Viewers got a good idea of what that did to the wheel. It also apparently stripped the studs, which is not good. There are ways to alleviate that (wheel spacers were noted as an option), but FOX Sports 1 never really followed up with what the No. 9 team chose to do in order to fix it once and for all.
There was not quite as much racing for position during the Xfinity race as compared to the truck race, but viewers did get some decent action. They also saw Justin Allgaier get put in the wall by Austin Cindric and Justin Haley jumping the cushion from his helmet cam.
Post-race coverage was extremely brief as the race had run up against pre-game coverage for a World Cup match between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Viewers only got interviews with Bell and Custer, along with the points.
Overall, I enjoyed the Xfinity race less than the truck event because of less action being available. FOX Sports 1 did an OK job compensating for a decreased amount of racing for position. What we did see was good.
I liked Smith’s work in the booth and hope he gets to do more races upstairs. FOX Sports has a big decision to make in the coming months. You know exactly what it is. They should keep Smith’s work in mind when they go into deliberations to make that decision.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is going to be quite busy. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns from its break to race at Sonoma Raceway. The weekend will feature the swan song in the broadcast booth for Darrell Waltrip and a near-complete unknown quantity for much of the field as the race moves back to the 2.52-mile-long course for the first time since 1997.
Meanwhile, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series will be at the newly rebranded World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the ARCA Menards Series as primary support. The NTT IndyCar Series will be at Road America in Wisconsin, while Formula 1 returns to Paul Ricard for the Grand Prix of France as well. Listings can be found under the Television tab.
We will provide critiques of the Cup race from Sonoma and the Truck race at Gateway in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.
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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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