Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL is an interesting proposition. On paper, it doesn’t seem all that difficult. In practice, it’s a bit of a wreckfest. Sunday’s race was rather ridiculous at times. That said, ridiculousness is perfectly fine here. It’s how the ridiculousness is covered that is important.
Bank of America ROVAL 400k
Looking back, likely the biggest thing that I took away from Sunday’s broadcast is that it was substantially focused on the playoffs, to the point where it negatively affected my enjoyment of the race. I understand that Sunday was a cutoff race. That doesn’t matter. The playoffs should not affect my enjoyment of any race.
In addition, it should not get in the way of trying to figure out where the heck someone is running. The second half of the race saw NBC use their vertical scoring pylon for a good chunk of it, then dedicate all of it to the points as they run. It’s overkill and negatively affects my enjoyment of the race.
The playoff cutoff focus even hurt coverage of those within the playoffs. As you’re aware by now, Chase Elliott kicked some butt to get back to the lead to win after wrecking on lap 65. It was very hard to follow Elliott’s charge back towards the front with all of this point talk. That said, you did see the definitive reason why Ryan Newman failed to advance in real time (missing the chicane and drawing a penalty).
Outside of the playoffs, likely the biggest story coming out of the race was the shenanigans between Bubba Wallace and Alex Bowman. Bowman believes the constant flipping of the bird was due to contact on the first lap. That contact came as a result of Bowman wheel-hopping and spinning himself out. I guess Wallace really was upset with Bowman, but he’s a rather habitual bird-flipper. It’s sort of something he does from time to time. If he wasn’t angry with Bowman at that point, getting intentionally wrecked really grinded his gears.
The post-race water squirt on Bowman did not make the regular broadcast. A replay was shown during NASCAR Victory Lap. I’ll state right here that it was not in good taste to do that knowing that he was receiving medical attention. The EMT sitting next to Bowman didn’t need to put up with that stupidity. She didn’t do anything to deserve that. That said, Danielle Trotta stated that she had not seen the video (which had been widely circulated on Twitter via NASCAR’s own Twitter feed) prior to it airing on the show. She seemed surprised.
The first caution on lap 20 when Ryan Preece spun in the backstretch chicane set up a bunch of the cautions later in the race. Preece appeared to wheel-hop under braking and spun out. He didn’t hit anything and continued almost immediately. The caution was still put out. A number of the teams were rather unhappy with that yellow. NBC played audio from William Byron’s radio of Chad Knaus acting rather displeased at the yellow.
One of the callers on NASCAR Victory Lap outright stated that this was a bad call. It ultimately set up the rest of the race because the remaining 89 laps was run with the racing equivalent of college basketball Ivy League referees. Ticky-tack fouls were the norm. Although, you could argue that the chicane rules personified that more than anything.
Post-race coverage was pretty predictable for a cutoff race. Everything was about the playoffs. Then again, a number of drivers in the playoffs finished right up front. The Wallace-Bowman spat got some airtime, but not much else. Since the race ran long by nearly 20 minutes, post-race coverage was extended all the way to 8 p.m.
Prior to the race, Wallace talked what he considers to be his home track, Concord Motorsports Park. Here, he describes an incident in which he “nearly killed his dad” with a go-kart. It appears that Darrell Wallace Sr. came out of that incident much better for the wear than Sean Heckman did when he got hit by a kart.
This week’s Behind the Driver segment featured Byron. He talks about the relationship he had with Dennis Lambert, his crew chief back in his days racing Legends cars (which wasn’t all that long ago). Apparently, Byron came into the fold really green with no experience outside of video games. That made Lambert (and a lot of others) squeamish about working with him. However, it appears that Byron was a quick study. He’s not your garden variety racer by any means. Very different racing upbringing from normal. You’re likely to see more racers like Byron coming up through the ranks in the coming years.
The point situation and focus on the cutoff really did negatively affect my enjoyment of the race. It made it hard to follow at times. The on-track product was dodgy, but that’s because there were a bunch of wrecks. 10 cautions in a road race is pretty rare in NASCAR. It’s only happened a handful of times in NASCAR history. The booth enthusiasm was just about normal, which is pretty good. It’s just that the playoffs seemed to get in the way of broadcasting the whole race. I’m not sure how that can be rectified with the current setup in place.
Drive For The Cure 250k presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Saturday saw Xfinity Series teams take on the 2.28-mile ROVAL. Here, we saw the first instances of chicane skipping that would play a huge role on Sunday. Unlike Sunday, the ROVAL was not a cutoff race for the Xfinity Series teams.
Pre-race coverage was more or less average as compared to the last few weeks. Viewers got a solid preview of the race, along with interviews with the top contenders.
Then, the trouble started on-track. The first lap of the race saw JJ Yeley lock up entering the backstretch chicane and run into the back of Garrett Smithley. That flung Smithley into Josh Bilicki, who spun out. Meanwhile, Justin Haley broke his track bar in the first three laps of the race. Steve Letarte pointed out the issue before it was noted on the radio.
Speaking of the chicane, there was a split rule in effect this past weekend. If you missed the backstretch chicane, you had to skip the frontstretch chicane and come to a complete stop in the restart zone. If you missed the frontstretch chicane, you had to stop on the paved apron just after the start-finish line. A bit bizarre, to be honest. That might get changed for next year, but I think NBCSN did a decent job explaining it.
As compared to Sunday’s broadcast, this race was quite a bit more inclusive. It wasn’t a cutoff race, so you didn’t have that intensive focus. Thank goodness.
While Sunday’s race will get the lion’s share of coverage for ticky-tack calls, that strategy was already in play Saturday. There were a number of cautions called for single-car spins during the race in which the driver involved quickly restarted. It seemed like NASCAR made a plan a few days before the race that said something along the lines of “if someone spins here, put it out regardless.”
Much like pre-race coverage, the post-race coverage was somewhat typical. Viewers got interviews with race winner AJ Allmendinger and most of the primary championship contenders. Obviously, no one expected Allmendinger to try to pick up Rutledge Wood (not recommended), but it was clear that Allmendinger was very pleased.
I fully admit that I watched the majority of Saturday’s race on the NBC Sports app en route to Citi Field to take in a New York Mets game (they beat Atlanta three to nil). The feed was crystal clear for the entire ride to Queens from my dad’s house in New Jersey. No buffering issues at all.
Saturday’s race, despite a number of incidents, was definitely the quieter of the two races. You had a much more balanced broadcast thanks to the race not being a cutoff event for the Round of 12. We’ll have to see what Dover has in store for the Xfinity Series.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series travel to Delaware for some high-banked action. The K&N Pro Series East is also on the schedule as they will wrap up their season. Meanwhile, the FIA World Endurance Championship is back in action in DVR Theater this weekend at Fuji Speedway in Japan. TV listings are in the Television tab above.
For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch, we’ll have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Delaware. For the Critic’s Annex on Thursday in the Frontstretch Newsletter, we’re going to take another look at Glory Road.
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