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Couch Potato Tuesday: Some Quick Thoughts

The season is now complete. You’re probably wondering what I thought of the broadcasts this past weekend from Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truth is, I was in Homestead last weekend covering the event for Frontstretch. I wrote articles, interviewed drivers, tweeted and took over 3,000 photos. Pretty busy weekend, don’t you think?

That said, I haven’t been able to fully break down the broadcasts from last weekend (I just got home at 5:30 p.m. Monday and I’m writing this two hours afterwards). That will be coming later this week. I need to properly view everything and rest up because I’m exhausted. Friday was especially tiring because I didn’t get back to my hotel until nearly 2:30 a.m. after the Truck Series race.

For now, I do want to talk about a couple of things. First off, this is not the end for Couch Potato Tuesday. I have agreed in principle to return for my 12th season of TV writing. Crazy when you really think about it. The column will be back in it’s current form on Tuesdays here at Frontstretch for you to enjoy.

According to the grandmaster Tom Bowles, readership is actually up quite a bit for the column this season. I’m happy to hear that, but I also understand that readership of my column is more or less dependent on what happens with the broadcasts.

2019 has had some pretty big news stories in the world of television. Likely the biggest story of all is Darrell Waltrip’s decision to retire after 19 seasons as an analyst for FOX. Another big story was the mess surrounding Tyler Dippel‘s arrest in his hometown of Wallkill, N.Y. and FOX Sports 1’s handling of it. Personally, I’m just happy that everything worked out OK there.

Officially, FOX Sports has not made an official announcement about what they’re going to do with their on-air personalities for NASCAR races next season. Since June, the rumor has been that FOX will go with a two-man booth of just Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy. If that were to come to pass, you would have a very different dynamic in the booth. Joy and Gordon both would need to contribute more. There won’t be Waltrips around to fill time.

Meanwhile, we got some additional news on FOX Sports 1’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series coverage for 2020.

Sadler has been a mainstay on Gander Outdoors Truck Series broadcasts in the role of a pit reporter since 2011. Before that, he was a regular on SPEED’s NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane. He currently intends to spend more time with his family and tend to his many businesses in and around Emporia, Va. As of now, these holdings include two restaurants (Hermie Sadler’s Fo Sho and the Hermie and Elliott Sadler Restaurant), along with the Sadler Travel Plaza and a UPS Store (all of which are in one complex). He also co-owns Premier Karts.

Clearly, Sadler will have plenty of ways to keep himself busy going forward. For FOX Sports, Sadler’s departure will leave a hole on the Truck broadcasts. Generally speaking, they will replace Sadler. While Alan Cavanna will assume the lead pit-reporter position (if he didn’t already have it), the second pit-reporter role could be up in the air.

Dillon Welch has come up as a possibility, having split time between FOX Sports and NBC Sports this year in a variety of different series. He’s done fairly well in all of them and wouldn’t be a bad choice for a full-time role. Jamie Howe, who normally works on FOX Sports’ NHRA coverage, has filled in as well. You might see more of her, depending on what FOX Sports decides. There are a couple of other names that have been broached too. One is Kim Coon, who worked a couple of ARCA races this year for FOX Sports and has worked for MRN Radio as a pit/social media reporter since her time as a Miss Sprint Cup ended.

We’ll likely get a better idea of the direction in which FOX Sports plans to go later on in the winter. My personal desire is that FOX Sports stop giving the Gander Outdoors Truck Series short shrift. I believe that the skinflint nature of truck broadcasts over the past couple of years has hurt the series to a certain extent. At bare minimum, not having the broadcast booth on-site means that they cannot help themselves to information that can be used on broadcasts. Texting only helps so much.

For NBC Sports, you have a lot more stability. As far as I know, everyone’s coming back for 2020. The on-air staff at NBC Sports is generally younger than at FOX Sports. Steve Letarte is the youngest full-time booth analyst in NASCAR at 40 (Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 45, while Rick Allen is 50).

While everyone with NBC Sports clearly takes their work seriously, they still take time to have fun. I met Rutledge Wood Sunday on the grid prior to the race. He was chatting with sports car racer Ryan Eversley, who he had invited to Homestead, and introduced him to Bob Pockrass.

Even though I was very busy in Homestead, I noticed a number of fans on social media had trouble finding the regular broadcast of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. It seems like NBC Sports didn’t do a very good job of advertising the fact the the NBCSN broadcast was the hyper-focused Championship 4-only telecast with Leigh Diffey and Dale Jarrett.

I knew about the broadcast beforehand. I noticed it in the press release that NBC Sports put out last week. I recall it being mentioned during the practice session that ran in place of Cup qualifying on Saturday, but without a lot of momentum behind it. It seems like they figured that fans assumed that it would be there. That’s not swell.

That’s all for today. While the NASCAR season is now complete, that doesn’t mean that it’s hibernation time. This weekend sees the beginning of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in Ad-Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. They have a doubleheader scheduled with races on Saturday and Sunday in DVR Theater due to the time difference. In addition, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship concludes on the streets of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. TV listings are in the Television tab above.

Later this week, we’re going to take a look at the actual Championship 4 race broadcasts from Homestead in a special edition of Couch Potato Tuesday that clearly won’t be on Tuesday. Admittedly, it’s rather difficult to critique events that you’re there for and unable to take notes on, but I must bring you that coverage. I know that you crave and deserve it. Also, I want to be able to give you a complete critique because I did miss good chunks of the coverage with all the running around that I did.

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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12 comments

  1. Avatar

    Phil, keep up the good work.

    I cannot stand the HMS booth beotches. Steve LETARD is a bully and a smug SOB. His bias Stevie Wonder could see and his outright dislike for other drivers is clear. IMO! What is objective about the vocally challenged high pitched man????? Running for President of the Mean Girls Club? Big Stevie does think very highly of himself, just ask him! IMO to all of it!

    So sick of the CLYDE hype. Most popular? Oh please. Maybe his Pappy, but him? Why? Do tell. All manufactured bullshit from NASCAR and the Shallow Hal’s companies that hype this crap. DP was supposedly the most popular in NASCAR too. We had to hear that crap every time she crashed, finished last. The next week you would think they were talking about a superstar. Blah, Blah, Blah. I, and after consulting with many, many others concluded we must have missed their phone call or knock on the door…cause they never asked me and others who was the most popular!. Oh the BS. NASCAR is full of it.

  2. Avatar

    Its amazing to me that most all anouncers on fox and nbc are ex drivers or crew chiefs for rick hendrick. Im really tired of steve letarte promoting chase elliot its real obvious. He is constantly talking about william byron and how great chad k is. Actually the networks have ruined racing as a whole and nascars involvement in talking up who they think are the new stars. Its as bad as a hollywood reality show. Now since the hendrick boys cant drive nascar changes rules so the boys can just put the peddle to the floor and turn left. This is whats wrong with nascar. Cars on the street have more hp than the nascar cars mainly bc toyotas were blowing engines when the ford and chevrolets were making 850 hp and you had to feather the throttle to make the car turn. Thats when real drivers knew how to drive. What a shame its come to this.

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    Glad you are going to return. I look forward to reading them they are always entertaining and informative. Thanks for returning.

  4. Avatar

    I think the announcers are just as bored with the racing as the rest of us, so they drift to other topics. Hard to get excited when drivers can’t pass and have any real racing going on.

  5. Avatar

    Maybe two man booth will work out better. Might mean they have to report on race instead of trying to be comedians. Instead of joking, which we don’t need, just watch the track for what’s happening.

    Neither fox or NBC announcing and coverage is really any good.
    But PRN or MRN are getting poor also.

    So glad ur column is coming back next year. The only one I look forward to. Great big thank you

  6. Avatar

    Just want to say I am happy you will be back next year. I use to be a fan of Cheers and Jeers but your analysis is much deeper. Glad you got to go down to FL. to watch the racing in person. You don’t get the opportunity often. Hope you have fun with your colleagues. Look forward to your review but the Sunday NBC broadcast was so bad I don’t know why they needed the NBCSN one (other than listening to Leigh Diffey who I like).
    Sorry for us that Sadler is leaving. He is another good one and will be missed.

  7. Avatar

    About announcers for Nascar Cup races: All they do is focus on their favorite driver. There are many more drivers that never get shown on TV. They should just focus on the entire race. Sometimes things happen and we never see it until 2 laps later. Plus they have a microphone but scream out so much that I feel like turning off the sound. Please bring in new announcers for Cup especially the ones starting in the second half of the season. Thank you

  8. Avatar

    Phil,
    I’m glad to read that you will be back next year on Frontstretch. i think we all appreciate your hard work and effort to bring us your news and commentaries. Thank you Phil, and thank you to all the Frontstretch personnel.

  9. Avatar
    Pittsburgh Nascar Fan

    I absolutely love reading this column each week because it serves a “sanity check” regarding what I thought and felt as I watched the weekend’s races. You really hit a nerve with the paragraph regarding Fox Sports’ coverage, or lack of same of the Truck Series. For the last couple of seasons, the downward spiral seems to begin right around the time that Fox Sports coverage of the Cup and Xfinity series is over. The season starts out strong with live & streaming coverage of truck practices and then quickly diminishes to streaming-only coverage of practice and then nothing more than NASCAR-provided Timing & Scoring until qualifying. By the time Fox Sports hands off the Xfinity & Cup to NBC, you can easily sense that Fox Sports has seemingly lost all interest in the Truck series, content to just “mail it in” for the second half of the season. I have no particular complaints with any of the on-air personalities, but it is obvious to knowledgeable fans when the folks in the booth are at the track, haven’t been walking & talking to the drivers, crew chiefs and teams in the garage. Two pit reporters can’t be expected to pick up on and report all the various stories in the garage.

  10. Avatar

    Just an FYI, the regular NBC broadcast was just as focused on the four ‘contenders’, just one at a time. Barely any coverage of any other car/driver/team for the entire race. I gave up as stage 2 started, deciding I could get more information about the race in reading about it post race.

  11. Avatar

    I think a lot of these FOX decisions are financially driven. With the amount of money sunk into the current TV contract, the only way to minimize some of the impact is to reduce overhead. Between an almost non-existent presence at some truck races, the reduction of pit reporters at Cup races and the rumored move to a two-man booth, it is pretty evident.