Daytona International Speedway in July. Good cripes. I covered six consecutive years’ worth of July weekends there for Frontstretch (2010-2015). In that time, three of the Cup races were affected by rain. The 2010 race started over two hours late and ended at 12:50 a.m. The 2014 race, like this past weekend’s race, was postponed to Sunday, then rain-shortened. inally, the 2015 race started at 11:45 p.m. after a four-hour rain delay and ended with Austin Dillon in the catchfence at 2:40 a.m. Also, the Xfinity race in 2015 started at 10 p.m. due to rain, much like Friday night.
Honestly, I really could do without a Cup race starting at nearly midnight like in 2015. It was nearly sunrise by the time I finished up at the track, and there were still seven or eight other writers still in the Media Center at the time (their plan was to keep working there until it was time to go catch their flights back to Charlotte). Also, that was the year the race ran on Sunday night, so I had to deal with rush hour traffic while driving back to Orlando.
Coke Zero Sugar 400
For Cup fans, Saturday night was a washout. Before NBC left Daytona Beach, they gave viewers a number of pre-race interviews with drivers from all over the field, which I found interesting.
They also went on-and-on-and-on about the William Byron–Brad Keselowski incident in practice on Thursday and Keselowski’s declaration about not lifting. I know that it was going to potentially be a thing during the race on Sunday, but it was just ridiculous. There are other stories that could be covered. I’m definitely not alone in thinking this.
Outside of Keselowski’s edict, this week’s Behind the Driver concerned Jimmie Johnson and his mentorship early in his career (motocross and Mickey Thompson Stadium racing) from Rick Johnson. While yes, Johnson had humble beginnings in El Cajon, it was a good place to be if you wanted to be involved in motocross.
Rick Johnson is a champion in Supercross and Motocross, the first of three great champions for Honda (the others being Jeff Stanton and Jeremy McGrath). After his motorcycle career, Rick drove off-road trucks and dabbled in stock car racing. He ran a full year of ASA in 1999 with Herzog Motorsports as a teammate to Jimmie, as seen here at DeSoto Speedway. He also made a few truck starts with a best finish of fourth at Sonoma in 1997. Here’s a clip of him racing Ron Fellows early on.
Everyone needs someone to give them that push to help them succeed. While Jimmie was 26 by the time he got to Cup, he was racing against Rick in Mickey Thompson equipment when he was barely 18.
On Sunday morning, NASCAR moved up the start of the race by nearly 20 minutes to 1:04 p.m. As a result, there was no real build-up when the broadcast started. By that time, the cars were already on track and about to get the one to go before green.
Once the race got underway, the big storyline was the ongoing manufacturer agreement to only work with cars in your own manufacturer. Yes, it’s a big story and NBC covered it thoroughly. Honestly, it is something that NASCAR should look at before we get back to Talladega in October. It’s one thing to work together with your teammates, like what we saw at Talladega last fall with Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s another for the manufacturers to essentially manipulate the race. I think these clandestine meetings and forced protocol is bad for the sport as a whole and needs to go. That, and it probably would lead to a race that isn’t as exciting for the fans to watch both at home and at the track.
Having said that, once they dispensed of that stupidity, you had a much different race. A much wilder one as well.
Production-wise, I did have one gripe with the NonStop breaks. It’s as if they forgot to minimize the live action window so that viewers could see what was going on during the break around lap 40. What I did see was something like a quarter of the full picture instead.
I fully admit that I did a TV Compound tour last September in Charlotte. It was a great learning experience. We’re going to run an article based on that a little later this year. I don’t recall that coming up during said tour. It’s like there’s a switch that must be hit in order to put the footage in the proper position and it wasn’t hit. Luckily, this was only the case early in the race and was fixed for later on.
Sunday’s race saw some quirky instances as well. Both David Ragan and Paul Menard lost cowl flaps due to turbulence. My understanding in the past was that NASCAR would have forced the teams to replace the flap, but apparently that’s changed. I’d like to see some kind of representation of the air shown via a feature to show how that is possible. The massive rear spoiler is at least partially responsible.
Then, we have the Big One. This crash happened right after NBC emerged from a NonStop break. Watching the race, I was immediately reminded of incidents like the big wrecks in both races at Daytona in 2002. NBC pretty much nailed the coverage. It was pretty easy to figure out that it was a failed block by Austin Dillon that caused the wreck.
Afterwards, you had a mess, and none of it was NBC’s fault. By now, you probably know about the lightning issues that ultimately led to the race being red-flagged. NBC did a great job informing fans of the policy and just how far the lightning strike that triggered it was from the track (7.4 miles, too close for comfort). Especially after Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR wasn’t going to take any chances here.
During the delay, NBC had Marty Snider and Kelli Stavast set up in the Media Center, where they conducted interviews. That is normally the room used for driver meetings. It’s technically easily accessible from the Deadline Room, but the track marks it as an emergency exit, so you can’t go that way. The media would have to go outside and walk around the building to get in there.
The second lightning delay was a killer. The clock reset occurred right before the race would have restarted. That bummed everyone out. Then, it starting pouring.
NBC left Daytona shortly after 5 p.m., moving coverage to NBCSN. Monster Jam was pre-empted to bring viewers continued coverage. Barely 10 minutes after the move was made, NASCAR called the race and awarded the win to Justin Haley.
Once the race was called, NBCSN interviewed Haley, who was overcome by joy. Then, they left Daytona to return to the monster trucks.
I cannot say anything about NASCAR deciding not to wait longer here. Yes, I’ve seen the pictures of sunny skies and a dry track that were posted to Twitter. I don’t know if NBC Sports played a role in the race being called. I personally doubt it. It’s not like they had anything pertinent that needed to air on NBCSN. The volleyball that NBCSN had been advertising rather extensively had already aired by this point (it’s part of the reason why the IMSA race ended up on CNBC instead of NBCSN).
Overall, I found the broadcast to be pretty interesting on Sunday. The broadcast booth seemed very prepared for the race and had decent explanations for everything that happened. In regards to the lightning delay, I think that they should have had a lightning delay clock on-screen for the entire delay. f this happens again this year (and I’m sure that no one wants it to), that would be a good move to make. Thankfully, the Byron-Keselowski stuff died down once the race started. Technically, Keselowski’s threats didn’t amount to much since he ended up being taken out via a traditional bump as opposed to a block.
Circle K Firecracker 250
Friday night brought more rain. It also saw the Xfinity Series race 250 miles.
The race ultimately started a little over two hours late due to rain. Viewers got a few interviews from the shelter of the driver introductions stage, then in the Media Center. Later on, viewers got to see a decent amount of the Camping World 400 from Chicagoland Speedway.
Finally, around 10 p.m., the action began. AJ Allmendinger’s regular gigs this year involve NASCAR America and calling IMSA races. For Friday night, Allmendinger also served as an in-race reporter. Viewers were provided with a good amount of content during cautions from Allmendinger, including a post-stage win interview. Of course, as you’re probably aware of by now, that has been taken away from Allmendinger.
I found the whole situation surrounding Haley at the end of stage one to be somewhat confusing. Haley finished sixth in stage one, but was found to have forced Riley Herbst below the yellow line. This is all but a first. Yes, NASCAR warns drivers that a call such as that can be made during pre-plate race drivers’ meetings (I’ve attended a couple over the years), but actually making that call is so rare. The broadcast booth noticed Herbst going below the line quickly, but wasn’t sure of the call that was ultimately going to come out of it.
Prior to the restart, NASCAR made the call to send Haley to the rear and take his points away. Dale Earnhardt Jr. explained the penalty fairly well (he didn’t really agree with it, which is fair). Given what happened, NBC probably should have provided a replacement top 10 since that resulted in point changes.
Given that the race ended at nearly 12:30 a.m., post-race coverage was limited. Viewers only got a couple of post-race interviews before NBCSN left Daytona. Of course, you still got to see Ross Chastain smash some watermelons.
Overall, this was a decent broadcast. Even the rain delay coverage was interesting. You got to hear from drivers that you don’t ordinarily hear from. For example, they took time to talk to Chris Cockrum, who drove the No. 25 Chevrolet during the race (he ran well before getting eliminated in the Big One). You rarely get to see stories from further down the field.
Speaking of Chastain, the booth took notice of Chastain’s aggressive driving for much of the race. Chastain’s driving style likely angers some of his peers at times, but it makes for interesting racing. He likely made the race better.
That’s all for this week. Next week is coming up pretty quick. There’s a NASCAR tripleheader starting Thursday at Kentucky Speedway. Meanwhile, INDYCAR is back in action at Exhibition Place in Toronto. Formula 1 returns to Silverstone in England, while GT4 racing will take place at Portland International Raceway. Listings can be found in the Television tab.
We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 will be covered in The Critic’s Annex next week. This week’s Annex will cover Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. I haven’t been able to proper critique NBC Sports’ IMSA coverage so far this year and I want to give it a proper look.
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