Oh boy. As you know by now, stupidity has reared its head once again.
The original plan was to talk about Saturday’s Chevrolet 275k broadcast on NBCSN and maybe touch upon Landon Cassill’s Monza Madness. Had Kyle Larson not done what he did, that portion of the article would have likely covered Allen Bestwick chipping in on commentary and how the broadcast had so much flickering that it reminded me of the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES.
Instead, we must take a look at how the situation was covered on television. The last time we took a look at a situation like that was when Brian France got arrested on Long Island for driving drunk and possession of Oxycodone in 2018. At that time, you had multiple shows that gave context to the issue.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that right now. NASCAR America did not schedule an edition of their show for Monday. However, NASCAR RaceHub did air a regular episode in its current limited version.
The story ended up leading off the show. Adam Alexander introduced the story, then played the apology video that Larson posted to Twitter Monday morning. From there, it was on to the individual statements, first Chip Ganassi Racing’s, then NASCAR’s. However, it appears that the segments were taped before additional announcements were made indicating that Credit One Bank and McDonald’s were cutting ties with Larson. (Editor’s Note: In addition, Fiserv, parent company of sponsor Clover, and Lucas Oil also announced termination/suspension of their respective sponsorships of Larson.)
Jason Whitlock of FOX Sports 1’s Speak for Yourself and Regan Smith were brought on to talk about the situation. Whitlock spoke to NASCAR’s checkered history in regards to diversity and how this could affect how the sport is viewed. I’ll state this up front: It doesn’t strike me that he’s anywhere close to a fan and likely has preconceived notions about NASCAR. He struck me as wanting to attack NASCAR, but NASCAR gave him nothing to actually attack.
That said, he believes that it’s going to be a long road for Larson to ultimately atone for this self-created mess and get someone to be willing to take a chance on him. The only companies that have lent support to Larson as of this writing have been Plan B Sales (a die-cast collectible wholesaler) and Finley Farms (a sponsor of his dirt-racing endeavors). That backing won’t keep Larson in the Cup Series once his suspension is done. This won’t be Jeremy Clements being sat down for two weeks, that’s for sure.
Even though Smith is the NASCAR expert on the remote panel here, it was Whitlock who did most of the talking. For his part, Smith did state that he thought that the slur Larson used (and we all know what it is and why we’re not using here) has no place in the world. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.
For the sake of this argument, as an African-American, I do not agree with the idea that the slur is “our word” or anything like that. I never use it, or any of the variations of the word (if you’ve ever seen The Boondocks on Adult Swim, then you probably know what I’m getting at), but admit that people in my own family use it. When they do, I get angry at them and tell them to stop, but no one ever listens. The sooner racial slurs are gone from society, the better we’ll all be.
The sad truth of this matter is, I’m somehow not surprised. Remember last year during the rain delay at Darlington when Marty Snider went to find Larson and found him in a motorcoach playing a golf game with Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?
This resulted in a very awkward situation in which Hamlin and Stenhouse Jr. acted kind of shocked while Snider was put on the defensive. Looking back at it, it seems anecdotes along those lines from Larson may have been a lot more common than anyone realized. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Maury recently since I’ve been stuck working at home, but this comes off like one of those scenarios where a guy falsely accuses his wife of infidelity when he’s the one that’s been cheating all along. If you have a double run of Maury in your market, that scenario will come up roughly once a week.
What does the future hold for Larson? I don’t know. He’ll have to do whatever NASCAR and Chip Ganassi ask of him in order to get reinstated at bare minimum. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. I can’t imagine NASCAR reinstating him before the races start back up, though (if only because it would be highly unlikely for him to get the required sensitivity training completed).
Long-term, he’s going to have to convince sponsors that he’s not a liability. That’s going to be tough, especially with sponsors not actually having as much money to throw around in a festive manner as they did a few months ago. Let’s face it. This is probably not the end for Larson in Cup, but it might be it for 2020. The best-case scenario might see Larson exiled to Spire Motorsports once he’s reinstated with a replacement taking over the No. 42 (likely Ross Chastain, depending on Ryan Newman’s health).
In regards to everyone else, a number of fans are supporting Larson through this mess. I just want him to realize that you can’t just do that and expect no repercussions. That’s not how life works. I’ve never personally met Larson. He wouldn’t know who the heck I am. I have the utmost of respect for his abilities as a driver. However, I have lost respect for him as a person. I’m sensitive to this kind of stuff. I’ve had to deal with racists before.This is one of those scenarios (regardless of what side you’re on) where you find out who your real friends are.
Overall, FOX Sports 1’s coverage on NASCAR RaceHub was more or less dependent on when they chose to have Alexander shoot his piece from his house. They did well with what they had at the time, but that information was already somewhat outdated by the time it aired. Tuesday’s show will cover a lot more of the situation with everything that broke Monday after Alexander’s piece was recorded and everything that breaks up to whenever they record.
On a happier note, the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge held its third race of six Saturday at the virtual Michigan International Speedway. As compared to Barber Park, there were far fewer rants coming out of the action (Will Power actually lost his chatting privileges during the race for using a sexual slang term to describe fellow drivers on more than one occasion).
The only real difference in the presentation this past Saturday as compared to Barber Park is that Snider was added to the broadcast in something resembling a pit reporter role. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work all that well in this context. The setups are fixed, so any handling problems that aren’t caused by car damage cannot be adjusted on stops. Fuel mileage also seemed like guess work since you couldn’t talk to anyone about it. If I felt like it, I could probably figure out more about that than Snider could just by checking Twitch feeds.
The biggest story Saturday was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s inclusion on the grid. While I’m happy that he decided to have at it, I didn’t like how that affected the broadcast. I knew going in that he was going to get a fair amount of attention, but it got really annoying in the last 30 laps or so.
For lack of better words, the booth was convinced that Earnhardt Jr. was in position to win the race on fuel strategy. The dude wasn’t close. He finished about as well as he could have, given his strategy, but he wasn’t winning.
What you should have seen was a nice duel to the finish between eventual winner Simon Pagenaud and Alex Palou. Both of them pitted the same lap as Earnhardt Jr. The only reason that didn’t happen is that Palou blew it by hitting the wall while leading with under 10 laps to go. That wounded the No. 55 and forced him to pit. He would have been able to make it to the finish. Earnhardt Jr. had a chance for second, but Scott McLaughlin ran him down and took that away.
The actual racing was pretty good. Nothing like the insanity that was Fontana in 2015 that NBCSN replayed last week, but quite competitive. The fear of the race running up against a time limit led to officiating decisions that meant those that didn’t pit three laps into the race were screwed. For this weekend, those kinds of decisions cannot determine the race like it did this past Saturday.
New for Saturday was a recent update to the current Dallara IR18 in iRacing that allows for driver identification on the cockpit view. While I don’t recall this being requested by NBC Sports like Mike Joy pitched the idea to iRacing for the Cup cars, it’s still a good idea and will be able to be used by everyone. Look for this to continue to be rolled out to other cars.
The start of the race was rather embarrassing for the drivers as a huge pile-up occurred before the cars even reached the start-finish line. Immediately, the comparisons to the 1996 U.S. 500 came out. As someone who watched that live back then, those are not good comparisons.
Pitting was an unusually hazardous task as numerous drivers outright spun out or nearly did trying to stop. While yes, there have been issues in the pits in recent years, I’ve never seen it that bad in any form of racing, real or virtual. Must have been very slippery.
With the near complete refusal to throw yellows after the opening melee, there was still plenty of time for post-race coverage once the race ended. Viewers got a number of post-race interviews and a check of the results before the broadcast ended.
Overall, I enjoyed watching the race. I treat these events as diversions these days. If I can relax for 90 minutes and not get nervous about something, great. I think NBCSN may have been a little blinded in regards to Earnhardt Jr.’s presence in the race. Did it lend itself to a boost in ratings? As of this writing, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will return to action at Richmond Raceway (the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series races Tuesday night there as well). The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will also be in action at the virtual Twin Ring Motegi, while IMSA’s iRacing Pro Series returns at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch, we’ll cover Sunday’s action at virtual Richmond Raceway. Assuming something stupid doesn’t happen in the next week, we’ll also cover Saturday’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge race from the virtual Twin Ring Motegi.
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