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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Couch Potato Tuesday: Does a GWC Alone Make a Broadcast Great?

Kentucky Speedway provided viewers with a somewhat mixed race. Yes, you had a classic finish between the Busch brothers. You also had the other 266 laps. How did NBCSN handle them?

Quaker State 400

Saturday night saw an average Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. In all honesty, none of these races have ever really been that exciting.

Then, you had the GWC. We’ll start there.

The final two-lap scramble to the finish of Saturday night’s race was probably the most exciting moment for the Cup Series in the nine years that it’s raced at Kentucky Speedway. To be fair, it doesn’t have a lot of competition.

The broadcast was right where it needed to be to make the final two laps as exciting as it should have been. Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch weren’t giving each other an inch, and Rick Allen came to play with the right level of enthusiasm. A great way to cap off the race. Also, you’ll have some iconic moments going forward in the brothers’ battle, Kurt Busch’s interview with Marty Snider and the car ride (despite the fact of the NASCAR official being a party pooper). It had been something like 20 years since something like that happened.

That said, this was only a few minutes of the broadcast from Kentucky. There’s more to talk about, like the overall amount of action viewers saw. That was decent, but it was a little better earlier on before the sun set. It was rather confined though. The coverage needs to be more inclusive.

Joey Logano (who probably would have won had Bubba Wallace not cut his right rear tire with seven laps to go) had tire problems of his own during the race. That forced him to make an unscheduled stop in stage two. I would have liked to have seen that tire. There were enough tire issues Saturday night that I would have liked to see what the wear was looking like. Problem is, we didn’t see a tire all night.

Post-race coverage was pretty extensive. The race ended a little ahead of schedule despite seven cautions. Viewers ended up with 10 driver interviews (not including the three with Kurt Busch), point checks and analysis. Pretty comprehensive.

Prior to the race, this week’s Behind the Driver segment was a change of pace. Instead of talking about his mentor, Ryan Blaney talked about how his sisters Erin and Emma played a role in his development as a man. An interesting reversal of fortune.

Overall, this was an average race at best for the first 266 laps. It got great at the end, which does lend itself to questions that we’re going to look at here at Frontstretch later this week. Quite simply: Does a great finish equal a great race? In terms of the TV broadcast, does a great call of the finish usurp everything else that had aired for the previous four-plus hours? I don’t believe that it would completely usurp the rest of the broadcast, but it could elevate it as a whole to a slightly higher level that it wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.

The actual racing for position seemed to drop off a bit as it got darker, but I thought that NBCSN still did search for some battles. That said, they do need to diversify who gets coverage. It felt like much of the action we saw only surrounded a few teams. Loudon next weekend can get spread out as well, but things will be much different with the much-needed horsepower. There should be a little more racing to go around.

Buckle Up In Your Truck 225

Thursday night saw the Gander Outdoors Truck Series return to Kentucky Speedway for its 20th visit. What we got was a topsy-turvy race with a first-time winner and the playoff race being thrown upside down.

Unlike Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago, the booth crew did not travel to Kentucky for the race.  Let’s face facts: It shows when they don’t make the trip. They’re slower on the uptake since they lose out in regards to surroundings. They may have a gigantic wall of monitors back in Charlotte, but it’s not the same as being able to just look up and notice things.

Pre-race coverage was about average. It was very much studio-centered. I would prefer a few more driver interviews in order to preview the race. As it stands, the only interview during NASCAR RaceDay – NGOTS Edition was with defending race winner (and Kentucky native) Ben Rhodes.

Stage one was pretty typical. Sheldon Creed got the lead at the start and pulled away. Behind him, there was some decent racing for position and some not so great camera angles.

Stage two ended up being a doozy, but that’s not because of anything FOX Sports 1 did. Everyone lost their dang minds. First, you had Spencer Boyd, Natalie Decker and Jordan Anderson crashing out. The replays here were pretty definitive that Boyd cut across Decker’s nose way too quickly. Then, Chad Finley wrecked after running well.

Harrison Burton wiped it out from third on the next restart. Despite getting hit by Gus Dean, he more or less got out unscathed.

Then, you had the biggest hit of the night when Grant Enfinger and Brandon Jones collided and smacked the wall while racing for the lead. The wrecking left the booth somewhat confused since all of stage one ran under green, and all of the final stage was green once it restarted.

The fuel strategies in the final stage were somewhat confusing, to be honest. Tyler Ankrum won the race despite an atrocious final pit stop that cost him something like 12 seconds to Brett Moffitt. However, he stopped earlier and the DGR-Crosley crew put more fuel into the truck.

I understand wanting to get out of the pits as fast as you can, but it seemed like the fuel mileage calculations just weren’t up to par Thursday night. It seemed like Moffitt had no business running out of fuel late in the race, yet he did (along with Todd Gilliland).

The post-race coverage made it pretty dang clear to me that no one at FOX Sports 1 expected Ankrum to win this season. Seriously, they ran one of their little vignettes going to commercial that has a featured driver. They took one with Tyler Dippel and changed it so that it read Ankrum’s name. Seeing as I’ve covered Dippel’s racing since he was 12, there was no way in heck that I wasn’t going to notice that.

Why did they do that? I have no clue. Since Ankrum was still 17 at the start of the season (remember, he missed the first three races because he was ineligible for superspeedways at that point), he likely skipped the hangar shoot that FOX Sports does every year in Daytona. That’s where they shoot the vast majority of the bumpers that you see during the FOX NASCAR broadcasts each year. I guess they just had to run something, so they winged it.

In addition, there was a near fight on pit road between Rhodes and Brennan Poole after the race. This was never broached on the broadcast. However, FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass was there when the confrontation happened.

To be fair, this near-scrap came to be because of a collision with 23 laps to go in turn 4. FOX Sports 1 did a good job covering that incident at the time (which did not bring out a caution). I don’t think that it was intentional by any means, but it did ruin Rhodes’ race as he cut a tire due to the contact and finished 19th.

As for the brief argument/hat snatch/hat drop involving Boyd and Decker, that did not make the broadcast. At least some well-deserving charities are going to benefit from those shenanigans, though.

In addition to the issues surrounding Ankrum’s victory, there were a few other driver interviews and a check of the points before FOX Sports 1 left Kentucky. Remember, despite moving up to fifth in points, Burton fell out of the playoffs despite finishing third.

Thursday night’s race was interesting to watch at times. There was a lot of action on-track that FOX Sports 1 did a decent job covering. Not having the broadcast booth on-site hurts the on-air product, no matter how much it saves money.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series travel to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a full weekend of racing. They’ll be joined by the K&N Pro Series East and a doubleheader of Whelen Modified Tour races (All-Star race Friday, then a points race Saturday). Also, there’s a new dirt track on the property as well. IndyCar will be at Iowa Speedway with ARCA on the undercard. Finally, IMSA will be at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. TV listings are in the Television tab.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Loudon in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, we will cover Friday night’s ALSCO 300. The question to be answered there is simple. How do you handle a butt-kicking?

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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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
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 Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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9 comments

  1. Avatar

    Glad to hear others commenting on the “sounds of the race”. All sports have gotten that way in the last few years since someone won an award for the “sounds of the game” during a World Series event. The background racket is louder than the announcers and the production people continue to ignore it. Any baseball game produced by ESPN is intolerable and don’t get me started on the cranked up “music”.

  2. Avatar

    Did anyone notice how quickly they were restarting the race after a caution for a car spinning/crash? At least that’s how Rick Allen was calling it. I said no way that is the restart. It was a replay of a start. Yet Rick Allen went right into calling it the restart. What are these guys watching in the booth, only the live broadcast on their tiny monitors. How embarrassing! Common sense about time would tell you that wasn’t the restart Rick Allen. Do these guys ever look at the live race track. He should be fired for that stupid blunder. No excuses. And it’s not the only time he has done dumb similar calls. Like saying a car is ready to pass the car in front of him, when that car actually just got passed by the car in front of him.

  3. Avatar

    Another weekend when I watched Formula 1, Indycar and NASCAR all on the same day. Big mistake if you like NASCAR, because it makes NASCAR look like buffoons.

    1. The endless brand naming is beyond tiresome (no pun intended). Formula 1 tells us at the beginning of the broadcast that tires are from Pirelli, and then we never hear that name again. NASCAR tells us a dozen times every round of pitstops that a driver is stopping for “four Goodyear tires and a tank of Sunoco fuel.” Then even have sponsors for the “last lap sponsored by Credit One Bank.” It has gone beyond being annoying.

    2. The endless hyping the excitement. We keep being told “it’s going to get exciting” and that “we’ll see a lot of action when…” The promises of big thrills almost never come to pass, and when they do they never happen as the announcers predicted. Formula 1 lets the racing speak for itself as it happens.

    3. Announcers endlessly jaw jacking at length over trivial details. A formula 1 driver heard a “screech” on acceleration, and the announcers spoke about that for a few seconds. They told us he heard it, they told us it was not something the driver wanted to hear, and they told us when the engineer told the driver not to worry about it. At Kentucky a driver felt a vibration, and we heard it the announcing crew yammering about it for four full laps. We heard about how drivers are always feeling things, and how it worries them, and sometimes they smell something, and sometimes it turns out to be nothing, and sometimes it’s a tire and sometimes it’s the engine blowing up and sometimes….

    4. Former drivers giving driver lessons. “He’s going to put his front bumper right up against the back wheel, and then he turns the steering wheel, and then he goes to the bottom, and then he nods his head, and then he goes back to the top, and then he lets off the gas and then he touches the brake…” I don’t want to know how to drive a race car, I just want to watch competition.

    I was hoping that when we got rid of Darryl Waltrip things would get better, but if anything they are worse. I am rapidly approaching the point where I just cannot watch NASCAR any more.

  4. Avatar

    I spent Saturday night watching the Atlanta Braves baseball game out in San Diego. Once it was over, I thought I’d pop over to the NBCSN app and watch a replay of the race. But, as soon as the app opened up, it was plastered all over the screen that Kurt Busch had won at Kentucky. Knowing who won just takes all the interest out of watching so, I didn’t bother. That’ll teach me to set the DVR from now on…

  5. Avatar

    Watched pretty much all of the race and part of the issue this brings up is I believe as I looked at the finishing order I counted at least 6 drivers/teams in the top 20 that were barely mentioned during the broadcast, one of those Kyle Larson who finished 4th.

    Also, here’s a thought about the lack of coverage of actual racing during the race. If the leader is over 1 second ahead or “substantially” ahead stop showing that and show where drivers are actually racing, be it 5th, 10 , 15th, 20th, or 25th. This would be especially true if there are 3 or more drivers in said battle.
    I was physically at the Michigan race where it went green the entire race and Dale Jarrett was the winner. I cannot imagine how boring it would have appeared on TV since other than the top 3 essentially stomping the field, there was a lot of actually racing to watch as well it just happened to be for 5th on back.

    • Avatar

      Which is what Formula 1 does. Mercedes is always 1st and usually 2nd as well, but coverage includes action of all drivers in the race and is pretty much continuously entertaining. The leader (Hamilton) is shown well under half of the time.

  6. Avatar

    Not a big fan of the GWC. More times than not it arbitrarily awards a win to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have (Kurt Busch) and takes it away from the guy that should have won (Logano). While I have to admit that I get sucked into the excitement, I never lose sight of the fact that it is a contrived way to create drama (entertainment) at the expense of competition.

    As I mentioned in yesterday’s comment, it seemed like the three stooges (Burton, Letarte and Earnhardt) were using their indoor voices on Saturday night and NOT YELLING AT ME. Perhaps sb’s point about the sound of the engines being amped up makes them have to yell most weeks. So I am not sure what was different but I found them much more subdued than normal and I really enjoyed it.

    I thought the last third of the race was pretty good. The first two stages, not so much,

  7. Avatar

    NBC needs to work on their sound during the race. Too often the sound of the cars drowned out the commentary. Either focus on the cars or the booth. Both does not work. Also, playing in car comments while the booth is talking is another problem. Timing seems to be an issue with the sound.

    And no, I don’t think 2 or 3 exciting laps make up for a basically dull race.

  8. Avatar

    Damn “Bubba”!