Last weekend was created as a backup weekend, something designed to give all three of NASCAR’s National Series and the ARCA Menards Series a replacement road-course weekend after the scheduled races at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park were scrubbed. The result was probably not even close to what I honestly expected, in more ways than one.
Go Bowling 235
Sunday’s race will go down as one of the quickest sign-offs from the track at the end of a Cup race that I can recall in the better part of 20 years. This is quicker than the time NBC broke away from Charlotte in 2003 because the race ran up against the late news, leaving Allen Bestwick to only be able to say sorry to viewers as Tony Stewart did his burnout. I think it’s the quickest sign-off since ESPN had to leave coverage of the 2000 Pepsi 400 presented by Meijer at Michigan due to coverage of X Games VI from San Francisco.
At the time, this coverage was negatively received. While this was 7.5 years before I started writing about the sport, I recall seeing some fans that were angry about the coverage at the time. They argued that ESPN had sour grapes toward NASCAR since they had lost rights to Cup and the then-Busch Series for the 2001 season to the combination of FOX/FX and NBC/TBS (a switch to TNT wasn’t announced for another few months).
This scenario clearly doesn’t apply these days. We’re in the sixth year of a 10-year TV deal. No one has to worry about sour grapes. However, what we do have is a jam-packed schedule. Good luck doing anything without problems. It’s hard enough to do basic tasks around the house without something stupid happening. Can’t even get a package of Buffalo Sabres masks from the NHL Shop without stupid stuff happening with the shipping (long story short, they shipped it July 13, got it to my post office five days later, where it was ready for delivery to my house. Only someone goofed and put it on the wrong truck).
Why did NBC provide absolutely no post-race coverage? It’s because the race was delayed for 31 minutes on lap 38 due to lightning. Am I surprised that it happened? No. It’s Daytona in mid-August. There’s a reason why they used to start the now-Coke Zero Sugar 400 at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. when it was still during the day: To avoid those shenanigans.
Pre-race coverage was fixated on basically the unknown. No one had ever raced a Cup car on Daytona’s road course. Yes, someone has used a Cup car in the Rolex 24 previously. However, that hasn’t happened since 1995 (note that this is actually a Cup car, but Butch Leitzinger did race it in 1994 at Watkins Glen).
Also, in a random move, NBC brought back Wally Dallenbach Jr. to give viewers a tour of the road course. Remember, he’s a four-time Rolex 24 at Daytona class winner. This was complete with the old Wally’s World theme that was last used in 2006. Seems rather strange to be honest. He didn’t have a race car, so they stuck him in a Toyota Supra to do it. I think that was a good move. A lot of NASCAR fans might not be as well-versed about Daytona’s road course as I am. Not everyone has traversed the majority of the course inside of the chain-link fence like I have.
Rutledge Wood interviewed Kyle Busch about his experience driving for AVS Vasser Sullivan and how it helped him for this weekend. Layout knowledge helps, but that’s about it. At the time, he had no idea that the Cup Series was going to race on the course this year. Jack Hawksworth was also brought in for his opinion of Busch’s skills. Apparently, he thinks Busch is pretty good and wants him back for another go-around (currently up in the air). There’s a reason why Busch is platinum-rated by the FIA.
During the race itself, coverage was very front-centric. Unlike the Sunoco 159 and UNOH 188, this was a much cleaner event where the leaders were able to open up big leads. You can’t just show a few people on-track and allow that to show the whole story. It’s frustrating. I felt really lost, and you don’t get that much outside of the playoffs. This was the case in the truck race as well.
It was far worse toward the end of the race, when NBC’s decision to give viewers no post-race coverage on television led to a bunch of questions. Like how Bubba Wallace, who started the final lap in ninth, ended up finishing 25th. Here’s what happened to him:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 17, 2020
Yes, NASCAR’s tweet mentions contact from Alex Bowman. However, this instance was not Bowman’s fault. Joey Logano (on fresh tires) got a little overzealous and got in the back of Bowman while also touching the grass. That shoved Bowman into Wallace and spun Wallace out.
Also, Ryan Blaney finished a very disappointing 31st. It appears that he missed the final chicane late in the race. That’s just a killer. Viewers would have never known about it without Twitter. I shouldn’t have to find out these things on social media.
Having the booth commentate remotely really, really hurt on Sunday. They needed extra eyes on-site in Daytona. Unfortunately, the current protocols just don’t allow it, even though INDYCAR has come up with a way to make that happen. It’s really, really frustrating.
Early Sunday afternoon saw the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race for 47 laps on Daytona International Speedway’s road course. This was likely the most rough and tumble race of the weekend.
This was the only race of the weekend that came down to a green-white-checkered finish. The coverage of said GWC … stunk. I was left trying to figure out what the heck happened. I knew that Sheldon Creed won, then cussed during his winner’s interview. We know that for a fact. Creed deserved that win. He’s always been sneaky good on road courses, and it’s not necessarily because of his time racing in SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks.
Everything else from that point on is a bit of a question mark. We did get a replay of Christian Eckes junking his truck at the finish, courtesy of Stewart Friesen. There was a lot of heck going down in the final chicane. I don’t know what happened there, or who was involved. We never got a replay of that.
Then, there’s this damage done to Zane Smith’s No. 21. Yikes.
Still wondering what happened here. pic.twitter.com/zC0EjAdbfU
— Jay Lopez (@jlopez7220) August 17, 2020
According to Smith, he got spun into by one of the four Niece Motorsports Chevrolets in turn 1 on the GWC. If that’s true, then Smith got hit by Natalie Decker. She’s the only one of Niece’s drivers that made it to the GWC (Mark Smith dropped out with brake issues, Ty Majeski pulled off after overheating, and Carson Hocevar stopped on course to cause the GWC in the first place). Regardless, that’s rather frightening. I don’t like how the B-pillar looks on Smith’s truck.
Given that the race ran long, post-race coverage was minimal. Viewers got the interview with Creed and a replay of Eckes’s issues, but that was about it. At the time, I was not expecting that to be the more complete post-race coverage of the two races Sunday.
The rest of the race broadcast was deficient in certain ways, but it wasn’t all bad. Jamie McMurray was back in the broadcast booth alongside Vince Welch and Michael Waltrip. While this never really came up on the broadcast, it should be noted that McMurray is a former overall winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (2015, with Kyle Larson, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan) and has run in the endurance event eight times. He’s no dummy when it comes to Daytona’s road course. He was generally really good. That’s been my opinion of McMurray in booth roles since he debuted as a guest analyst during an Xfinity Series broadcast a couple of years ago. He was literally the name on the press release announcing the driver analysts that you glossed over when it was released, but who really impressed right away.
Even Welch had his decent times. There was a lot of discussion of how Hawksworth (basically the fastest driver in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona class) was brought in to help Eckes and Raphael Lessard with their road racing. That work probably looked a little like the simulator work that aired on Countdown to Green later that day during the aforementioned Busch interview. Whatever Hawksworth did clearly worked since Lessard finished a career-best third, while Eckes ran well before getting wrecked.
The broadcast suffered from all of the same problems that plagued the Cup race on NBC. You never really felt like you were in the race. You would miss so much that it wasn’t even funny.
Something that really wasn’t covered well on either broadcast was the sheer heat in play (the exception, of course, being JJ Yeley‘s issues that forced him out of the car and Bayley Currey to take over). There’s a reason why you don’t want to race in the heat of the day at Daytona this time of year. I’ve seen it before. Richard Petty leading in his final Cup race at Daytona in 1992, only to have to pull out due to fatigue. The travesty that was the X1-R Firecracker 200 at then-Volusia County Speedway later that day. Robin Liddell forgoing use of a Koolbox during the Rolex Series Brumos Porsche 250 in 2010 and looking like a beet afterwards. Heck, just doing interviews in that kind of weather is arduous. I relayed my own story during the Cup race Sunday.
In 2011, I did an interview in broad daylight at @DISupdates with @RickyCarmichael. It was 82 degrees with a dewpoint of 78. Cooler weather than today, but I still felt dizzy afterwards. If you're there, be careful, dudes.
— Phil Allaway (@Critic84) August 16, 2020
Sunday’s temperatures were 10 degrees hotter than that with the same dewpoint. A dewpoint that high is quite rare, even for Florida. Summer heat in Daytona is no joke. I instituted a “must have shade” rule after that for July weekends in Daytona. I also instituted a dri-fit shirt rule for Daytona summer races on credential after I perspired through a polo shirt in 2012 while chatting with a friend of mine.
I was clearly expecting something different out of Sunday’s races. The Cup race was quite benign, actually. There was probably quite a bit more action than you’d think, but you couldn’t see a lot of it unless you were in the grandstands. Same with the trucks. I found the experience to be somewhat of a letdown. I guess I expected the track to be faster, for one. The ARCA Menards Series drivers in the wet Friday night were getting through the International Horseshoe faster than the Cup cars in the dry, which really confuses me. That shouldn’t happen. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re down 250 horsepower on Cup cars these days.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is hideously busy. Both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams have doubleheaders at Dover International Speedway. The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will race Friday in a doubleheader with the ARCA Menards Series East. Meanwhile, the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 is Sunday, directly against both the Xfinity and Cup races. Expect it to be the lowest-rated Indianapolis 500 ever just for that reason. In addition, IMSA will be at VIRginia International Speedway. In the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, this is the first of two GT-only races (the other is at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October). TV listings are in the TV tab above.
Given the rather crazy schedule for next weekend, I’m trying to figure out what I can cover, given my own busy schedule with covering the IMSA action from VIR. The current plan is to critique at least one of the Cup races, along with a Xfinity race for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch.
For the Critic’s Annex, I will cover Saturday’s UNOH 188, a doozy of a race that ended with a rather predictable outcome: Austin Cindric winning. The goal will be to look at how NBCSN got there.
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