Las Vegas Motor Speedway brought a fair amount of clarity regarding Ryan Newman’s crash in Daytona 500 and the aftermath. If the transcript of Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark’s press conference is to be believed, Newman’s family was joking in the hospital about him “having no neck” and referring to him as thick last week. Note that the official transcript did not use the alternate spelling, “thicc,” that seems to be getting a lot of use these days.
Much like Daytona, Las Vegas was plagued by rain. Crikey. If this continues, it’s going to be a tough season.
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Pre-race coverage Sunday dealt with overrunning issues, which is somewhat unusual for FOX Sports. NASCAR RaceDay started on FOX Sports 2 because of the Penn State-Indiana basketball game running long. The move to FOX at 3:00 p.m. was delayed because of PBA Bowling running long. That is not a misprint. That happened.
Naturally, the coverage began with a recap of the whole Newman scenario over the previous six days. We had thoughts about the whole experience from Larry McReynolds, who admitted to being very concerned last Monday.
Sunday’s race will probably go down as one of the more interesting races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in recent years. There was a good amount of action for position, especially around the restarts. Those were ridiculous. It’s actually rather shocking that there weren’t more wrecks Sunday.
Aside from the 55-lap stretch that Kevin Harvick led early on, no one led for more than 28 laps at a time for the entire race. No one really got away, either. There was always someone close by. My guess is that a race like Sunday is what NASCAR wants to see every week with this rules package, but it’s been fleeting over the past year.
Since there was a lot of action toward the front of the field, a lot of the coverage was contained there. As a result, it was a little difficult to see things going on further back. A number of drivers had to start in the rear, most notably Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. In Hamlin’s case, he spent the entire day trying to get somewhere near contention and never got there. Busch was able to get to 10th before dropping back to a 15th-place finish after having contact with John Hunter Nemechek to bring out the yellow that ended the race.
An interesting moment Sunday occurred after the end of stage two. Martin Truex Jr. won the race off pit road and looked like he was in good position. However, while Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon were talking to Truex on the radio, the news came through (via James Small cutting into the interview) that he had loose lug nuts. That’s an interesting and unexpected moment that FOX was able to catch.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the race ended behind schedule. Viewers got a few interviews before FOX left Las Vegas.
Overall, this was an OK race to watch. I would have preferred a little more inclusivity on the broadcast. Also, there were some issues on the final restart. The booth incorrectly noted that the final caution flew before Joey Logano got the white flag. I thought it came afterwards in real time. As we know, it did come after the white, ending the race.
Viewers at home might have been a little confused watching this because Joy and Gordon accidentally made viewers believe that there was going to be another restart. Had that happened, it would have been just as interesting as the first one, especially since drivers such as Jimmie Johnson had moved up after stopping.
The Joy-Gordon pairing appears to be coming along a bit. Sunday’s broadcast was not as quiet as the Daytona broadcasts were, but the end of the race shows that they’re still getting used to being by themselves in the booth and getting into that proper groove. With some luck, this two-man pairing will work out.
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Xfinity Series teams had to deal with a 25-hour delay due to rain. When the rain wasn’t falling, you had an interesting race to watch.
For me, the most notable moment of the race was when Myatt Snider spun out with 39 laps to go in the tri-oval. Fairly innocuous spin, to be honest. But, there’s some extra stuff at play here.
— Steve Luvender (@steveluvender) February 24, 2020
Basically, for lack of better words, Snider was dumped in the tri-oval by Noah Gragson. In addition, Gragson had one of FOX Sports’ helmet cams for the race. That means that viewers got a replay from the driver’s seat of the incident that made it look like Gragson turned to the right. Gragson was also wearing white driving gloves, so it looked a little like that from the outside as well.
The situation resulted in a significant difference of opinion between the two analysts in the broadcast booth. First, you have Michael Waltrip. He seemed to not want to take sides here, stating that it was “tough to tell.” On the other hand, you have Austin Dillon, the guest of the weekend. He came out right out and said, “it looked like he turned right into him and put him in the grass.”
Here’s the situation: Technically, both analysts are somewhat compromised here. In Dillon’s case, Snider is a teammate at Richard Childress Racing. It could be assumed that Dillon was going to back his colleague up. At the same time, Waltrip had been talking up Gragson for a good chunk of the weekend prior to the crash. FOX Sports 1 had aired multiple pieces about Gragson over the weekend since he grew up in Las Vegas.
Waltrip continued to try to defend Gragson even though the footage seemed to show Gragson directly turning into Snider’s left rear with what seemed to be next to no wheelspin. Eventually, Dillon was able to convince Waltrip that what he saw was what happened.
For what it’s worth, the two drivers did talk this out after the race on pit road. I don’t think Snider got any closure from that, for as FOX’s Bob Pockrass noted, the two didn’t end with a handshake:
Myatt Snider and Noah Gragson talk about the contact in the race. No handshake afterward. pic.twitter.com/zF2il4fxRs
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 24, 2020
Gragson stated in a bullpen interview that the air pushed him into Snider. Plausible, but it seemed like such a sudden move from the No. 9.
Guest analysts aside, the goal of being an analyst is to provide an objective accounting of what is happening (in this case, on the track) and why it is happening. Personal feelings really shouldn’t come into the equation.
The postponement ultimately pushed the majority of the Xfinity race onto FOX Sports 2 (FOX Sports 1 had an XFL game during the time the race was on). For me, that means that I couldn’t watch the race in HD, as Spectrum only has an SD feed for FOX Sports 2. Weak. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s rather surprising for 2020 that I can’t get the channel in HD. Also, FOX Sports 2 doesn’t have anywhere near the reach that FOX Sports 1 does. That said, even with the cord-cutting that you hear about these days, the channel’s reach is still better than it was at launch in 2013 since it is now carried by Comcast’s Xfinity service. You know, the dudes that have the naming rights to the series.
Of course, the move to FOX Sports 2 didn’t come without issues. Originally, FOX Sports 2 was scheduled to air a live Major League Rugby match live in that time slot. The coverage was billed as starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. That time came and went with no change. An update on the bottom of the screen updated that time to 7:50 p.m., then the network went past that. I can understand some viewers getting a wee bit surly about that. At least we didn’t miss anything.
The rain delays themselves didn’t really have that much content from the track. For instance, it rained during the pace laps on Sunday, resulting in a delay of 45 minutes. FOX Sports 1 did five interviews, one of which being with Gragson while he was being dripped on inside of his car, before leaving for a repeat of NASCAR Presents: Neil Bonnett, The Winner (Note: I believe that was originally part of the Beyond the Wheel series). By the time that ended, the track was almost dry and it was time to go once again.
The second delay literally had two interviews before FOX Sports 1 cut to This Racing Life: McKenna Haase. Admittedly, this was a pretty good show whose debut more or less got nixed because of the rain delays (sensing a pattern, here?) on the night of the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona. Upon the conclusion of the Haase special, which I should write about at some point for The Critic’s Annex, FOX Sports 1 left Las Vegas for other programming. Adam Alexander stated that if the race resumed, it would be on FOX Sports 2. It was nearly three hours before NASCAR called the race for the night.
Post-race coverage was fairly quick. Viewers got interviews with the top three finishers (Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg) before FOX Sports 2 left Las Vegas to get back to … the same rugby game they left to go to Las Vegas in the first place. On my on-screen guide, the race was supposed to run until 10:00 p.m. ET (of note, the broadcast was also supposed to start at 7:30). If that was supposed to be the case, then FOX Sports 2 left Las Vegas 15 minutes early.
Overall, this was a decent race to watch. With a lot of the bigger names from recent years having moved to Cup, FOX Sports is in a position where they have to promote some of the newer drivers in the series quite a bit more than they have in the past. That can lead to some annoying things, like the focus on Kim Burton (Harrison Burton’s mother) in Daytona. Yes, Kim is really into Harrison’s racing. She’s no different today than she was 30 years ago. On the other hand, it can also lead to increased focus on drivers such as Sieg and Brandon Brown. If anything, the increased focus can only benefit the smaller teams in the series.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will travel to Auto Club Speedway for 700 miles of racing. Should be interesting. Meanwhile, Monster Energy AMA Supercross will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. TV Listings can be found in the Television tab.
We will have a critique of the Cup and Xfinity Series races from Fontana in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter, we’ll cover Friday night’s Strat 200, also known as the race which brought forth a bounty.
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