NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Ticks Off the Fanbase at Talladega

Talladega Superspeedway is an interesting place. You can have wild races, or you can have races like the 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500, where Stewart-Haas Racing turned the race into their own bash that was completely designed to allow Aric Almirola win. Sunday’s race (Oct. 4) was the former, but that created problems for NBC.

Outside of the championship race at Phoenix Raceway, the biggest NASCAR Cup Series race in the playoffs for NBC is the YellaWood 500 at Talladega. Talladega itself attracts a broader audience than normal mainly because of the potential for shenanigans to break out. Shenanigan fans got more than their fill on Sunday.

However, this race took way too long for NBC’s taste. The race was scheduled from 2 – 6 p.m. ET (1 – 5 p.m. CT) on NBC. They were completely unwilling to wait one minute beyond 6 p.m. As a result, NBC bumped the triple overtime finish to NBCSN.

Let’s just say that it didn’t go over very well. NBCSN was trending on Twitter for approximately an hour after the race due to fans being rightfully ticked off over the move. I received this tweet after the move was made.

If you’re wondering, no, the YellaWood 500 did not finish before the Indianapolis 8 Hours. That race finished up during the lap 189 red flag. At the time the Cup race went green, there was still four hours to go at Indianapolis. Normally, it’s pretty easy to complete a Cup race at Talladega in that time. Sunday wasn’t a normal Talladega race. A quick cursory look at Racing-Reference reveals only one Cup race there (the 2004 Aaron’s 499) that had a slower average speed. That was before races could be extended past the scheduled distance, though. That was the race Jeff Gordon won under caution only to have fans pelt his car with detritus in what was the second-worst track littering that year (yes, Pocono was worse since one galoot actually hit the assistant flagman with a cooler).

That same look also shows that there are no Talladega races in which the amount of time that the cars spent in motion was longer than Sunday’s race. I don’t think any Talladega race (excluding red flags) had ever lasted more than four hours prior to Sunday. That says something right there.

My guess is that the chaps at NBC knew that a caution leading up to an overtime restart at Talladega was likely to lead to chaos. Sure enough, it did. That said, NBC is also spending stupid money to broadcast NASCAR (more than $400 million a year through 2024). You’d think paying out that much scratch would give the sport some kind of preferential treatment.

Given that this was one of their biggest races of their schedule, NBC really should have stayed to the end, then shifted to NBCSN for post-race coverage. For all we know, this could have been a quick two-lap shootout that wasn’t worth kicking it to NBCSN.

There is one more factor in play. As probably anyone knows that’s reading this article, President Trump was in the hospital last weekend being treated for COVID-19 (as of this writing, he’s back at the White House and seemingly chipper). NBC likely thought that viewers wanted the absolute latest news about Trump’s condition. I don’t want to go into that whole situation any more than that. Regardless, I am confident that it played at least a partial role here.

Despite all that, the optics look bad for NBC and NASCAR. It makes it look like NASCAR’s TV partner is abandoning them on one of their biggest stages, although they would never admit to such a thing. Let’s face some facts: NBC will always have a bigger reach than NBCSN, no matter what NBCUniversal does to expand the cable network’s reach. I have cable. I could still watch the conclusion of the race without an issue. Not everyone can. Those people who couldn’t have every right to feel robbed. And what about people who watch the race on DVR?

Post-race coverage was actually more substantial than advertised. The original plan was to finish for the night at 6:30 p.m. following a post-race show on NBCSN. They ran until 7:30 instead. Viewers got a bunch of post-race interviews, point checks and analysis.

Following the race, the big story was the dreaded yellow-line rule coming into play once again. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett are not fans of the rule as presently interpreted. Earnhardt’s idea is that he doesn’t want NASCAR to have to act at the end of races and affect the outcome. I can understand that. This was a rather unusual race in regards to the rule. NASCAR is becoming more proactive in how they police the rule. In the 78 Cup points races at Daytona and Talladega held since the rule was formally instituted, the number of times that drivers have been penalized for forcing foes below the line is approximately five in 20 seasons. This happened at least three times Sunday, including twice on the final lap. It’s unheard of.  Matt DiBenedetto lost second place due to a penalty for forcing William Byron below the line, while Chris Buescher lost his top-10 finish as well. Had Buescher not been penalized, he would have earned the most points Sunday.

Having said that, Earnhardt actually believes that NASCAR’s rulings were in line with the rule as written. They’ve always included the possibility of penalizing those who force, usually with verbiage along the lines of “if you force someone below the yellow line, then you may be penalized.”

Quick note: The yellow line was first suggested by Dale Earnhardt as a way to tell drivers to not be stupid and go down there.  There was no penalty attached to it. The penalties only started showing up after a battle for the win in the 2001 Subway 300 in which a number of drivers went way below what is now the yellow line in an attempt to make passes. The blocking was strong that day.

The next day in the caution-free Talladega 500, NASCAR started admonishing drivers for going down there. One crew chief or spotter (not sure which) was heard on FOX’s broadcast saying something along the lines of “…NASCAR ain’t tolerating that <expletive deleted> today.” By the Pepsi 400 in Daytona, the rule was formally in place.

I cannot recall a race that had post-race result changes that didn’t involve disqualifications like Sunday’s race. I do recall some position shifting at Daytona once, but that was 20 years ago. Let’s just say that I had to make multiple edits to the points standings section in Monday’s edition of the Frontstretch Newsletter before I sent it out because of that.

During the race itself, you didn’t really have to worry about whether the broadcast was being inclusive as much as even typical Talladega races. Having 13 cautions meant that most of the field stayed close together. The only round of green-flag stops was interrupted by Ryan Blaney cutting a tire and hitting the wall to bring out a yellow.

That said, you did end up with drivers that ended up with decent finishes that were barely acknowledged. Brennan Poole got his first top-10 finish in Cup by keeping his Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet clean. Before he got put in the wall on the final lap, Cody Ware had done well to keep himself up there most of the race. He didn’t need a lucky dog to get back on the lead lap at any time because he was always there. It’s a commendable effort for someone that takes a lot of slack.

As for what happened to him on the final lap, I’m not really sure. It looked like it got a little rough on the backstretch. It seems like Justin Haley got hit and slid across the track to clean out Ware unintentionally. He was able to recover to finish 19th.

Viewers didn’t get a replay of that incident. More importantly, they didn’t get a replay of the incident involving James Davison. Yes, I know Davison was 82 laps down at the time. It doesn’t matter. That incident and the shedding of debris led to the caution that put the race in overtime. It’s important that the fans fully understand what led to the extra 45 minutes of action.

Finally, I know that you probably noticed the loud cheers that seemed to erupt when Bubba Wallace got in the wall on lap 183 exiting turn 2. With only a small crowd on-site, it seemed like quite a big pop, much along the lines of what typically happened when an Earnhardt would snag the lead. The booth didn’t really acknowledge this, but it didn’t sit right with me. Maybe there was some sound stuff going on there. If not, that’s a group of fans actively cheering for Wallace to fail. If that’s so, this sport still has a long way to go. Not classy.

That’s all for this week. This weekend, the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a weekend of racing on the ROVAL. In addition, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT classes will join the card on Saturday night for a 100-minute sprint race that will replace the cancelled race at Lime Rock Park. Race fans would do well to keep their eyes peeled to weather forecasts over the next few days since Tropical Storm Delta is brewing in the Caribbean Sea right now. It is currently forecast to strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall on the Gulf Coast. The remnants from that storm are currently forecast to dump rain on Charlotte this weekend. Things could get sketchy.

Meanwhile, Formula 1 will be at the Nurburgring for the Eifel Grand Prix. The weather there looks quite sketchy as well. However, this will be a light rain with weather in the 50s. Problem is, it’s going to be like that all week.

We will be back with critiques of both the Cup and Xfinity broadcasts from Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL, regardless of how looney those races end up being. Honestly, if it does rain, NASCAR is going to have to do something. You can’t send these guys out there with no practice on a track that no one’s ever really raced in the wet in cars that have all but never run in the rain. This could get ugly.

In the Newsletter, we will cover both the Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 broadcasts. Both races have their own issues.

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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About Phil Allaway

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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.

24 comments

  1. Avatar

    maybe it was cries of anguish for bubba. but then again, don’t bet on it. go bubba go. run forest run.

  2. Avatar

    If there were no GWCs there wouldn’t have been the need to switch channels. And no need to worry about running out of S’noco fuel. And a lot less controversy. Except for those complaining about the end under caution.

  3. Avatar

    Judging from the majority comments on this site on any article dealing with Bubba Wallace, Nascar has ad VEY long way to go.

  4. Avatar

    You want class from NASCAR fans? You must be either be new to the sport (I know you’re not) or deaf. I have heard fans cheer when drivers have violent wrecks, BEFORE they knew the driver wasn’t hurt, every year since I became a fan. Nothing new there.

  5. Avatar

    “If not, that’s a group of fans actively cheering for Wallace to fail. If that’s so, this sport still has a long way to go. Not classy.”

    Perhaps fans know Wallace lied through his teeth about a “noose” & besmirched an entire population. He’s been handsomely rewarded for his fraud. Hence the boos.

    • Avatar

      How ignorant are you, man? Bubba had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE F***ING NOOSE. It was reported by SOMEONE ELSE. Bubba never even SAW the damned thing! Do some some honest research and stop spewing bullshit to support your quasi-racist leanings. I get that the dark-skinned man driving race cars is scary and makes you uncomfortable, but you need to just put a sock in it.

      If you lack the intelligence to absorb FACTS because they don’t fit YOUR narrative, kindly turn off your computer/internet device and stop embarrassing yourself.

      • Avatar
        Race Fan in Tennessee

        He never even saw it, yet he was positive that it was a death threat left specifically for him by a fellow NASCAR competitor, NASCAR official, or track official. Did he wait for the facts to come in before slandering fans as “simple minded” racists for questioning the narrative? – Nope. He went on The View and Don Lemon’s show and let ‘er rip. I think Mike is expressing some frustration with that, and I get it, because none of us enjoy being slandered as racists. Especially before any true facts are known, as you point out.

        One question for you, though. Is bigotry bad? Simple question. I ask because you, and some others, have displayed bigotry toward anyone who expresses an opinion you don’t agree with. What color is Mike’s skin? Do you know? I bet not, yet you label him a quasi-racist. Why? That is an honest question. Instead of applying bigoted labels, perhaps it would be better to slow down, listen to a person’s point of view, and attempt to understand it from his perspective. Just an observation.

      • Avatar

        Thank you for setting the record straight…
        People are ignorant.

    • Avatar

      I support your observation wholly. I for one will boo every time. The bubbler has brought it on himself with the help of nascar bending over backwards

    • Avatar

      See? Bubba never even saw the noose. One of his team members was the one who reported it. But then, it doesn’t seem that facts are terribly important to you.

      • Avatar

        Yes, facts are important. And the fact is booba was/is running around claiming to have been victimized, terrorized, traumatized, shocked ‘n’ appalled. But certainly not at a loss for words. The whole thing was a fake noose charade piggy backing on the BLM charade, which itself is built upon falsehoods.

      • Avatar

        It used to be religion was the last refuse of a scoundrel. Now it’s howls of “rayyyyycist”

        Regardless of the color of his skin booba has shown his true colors.

    • Avatar

      Agree with you 100% Mike. I used to pull for Darryl – but no more after that farce he perpetuated. I couldn’t care less if the man is green – he showed himself to be a fraud with no integrity. He had the chance to be a real leader and a voice of reason. He failed and showed is true character instead.

    • Avatar

      People who are appalled at Bubba Wallace being booed by the fans seem to forget that those same fans were cheering Bubba not too long ago. Remember Bubba out tossing the football around with fans during rain delays? That was great! How about the cheers he got for winning the truck race at Eldora!
      I was cheering for him, he had a great attitude and clearly respected the sport. Bubba was getting cheered and he had a growing fan base.

      What changed? Bubba alienated his fan base. The fans didn’t change – Bubba changed, or at least his persona changed. If Bubba had waited for the FBI investigation to be completed before commenting (and if his comments were respectful), I would bet he’d still be getting cheers today. Behavior has consequences, and folks don’t like being slandered. However, that cuts both ways – some of the comments made by offended fans could probably be worded better.

      Drivers have been receiving boos and jeers from race crowds since at least 1949. Bubba isn’t the first, he wont be the last either. He also isn’t the first driver to get booed for saying something offensive.

      • Avatar

        He’s just riding around the track trying to portray a driver. No cigar Bubba. Try selling crying towels. You’ll make more money!!!

  6. Avatar

    When Richard Petty offered Bubba an ownership position, Bubba’s response was to say that he was “exploring my options.” Anyone who disrespects Richard Petty is going to be highly unpopular with NASCAR fans.

    • Avatar

      I thought it was Andrew M. who made the comment about offering Bubba a percentage of the team. Petty has been a figurehead for quite a few years now.

  7. Avatar

    I am not a fan of the way the broadcast “partners” exert so much control over the racing. That said, I believe that NBC was operating on the likelihood that Trump would be leaving the hospital, (inside info maybe?), during the 6-7 time frame. That meant wall to wall live coverage. Trump almost certainly timed his parade and TV exposure opportunity to what is probably normally one of the largest TV audience time frames. They HAD to cover it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, LOL.

  8. Avatar

    If denny hamlin had been DQed then no playoff drivers would have finished in the top 10 which would have made there fake playoffs look even worse then they are, If chase elliott had been DQed then he would have dropped to 8th in points and NASCAR did not want this so they cheated like they allways do and gave chase his points back, Thats why NASCAR’s playoffs are so fake with there carry over welfare points system and the cheating of NASCAR to get the drivers they want in the championship

    • Avatar

      Hamlin should still be dq, the rule is, if you go below the yellow line, you can not improve your position. #21 woods brothers won the race fair and square.

  9. Avatar
    Race Fan in Tennessee

    Regarding Bubba.

    Did it ever occur to any of you that Bubba was fairly popular with the same fans that are now booing him? What changed? Maybe it was Bubba calling fans “simple minded” (on “The View”) for expressing skepticism about a NASCAR competitor or official leaving a lynching symbol in Bubba’s pit stall. Turns out Bubba was wrong and the skeptical fans were right, but Bubba never apologized, instead he doubled down. Let’s be clear, Bubba Wallace called a large majority of NASCAR fans “racist” – this was clearly his intent. This was and is a slander and to many of us, very offensive.

    For most, if not ALL, the color of his skin matters not at all, but the content of his character matters much. This is the same Bubba that assaulted Alex Bowman while Bowman was clearly in medical distress. This is also the same Bubba that ridiculed Michael McDowell’s Christianity after getting tangled with McDowell at the Bristol Open race.

    So yes, slander us as racists, insult our religion, and you might get booed.

  10. Avatar

    To bad Nascar can’t fine NBC. They should get out of sports altogether. Got up and cleaned my tv screen it the first few minutes of the U.S.Open, only to realize it wasn’t my tv. Are those the same camera’s that was used in the British Open way back when Palmer and the greats was making those putts the like to show the highlights of. One day is forgivable but everyday? No one noticed those dark splotches? Was they hoping no one would notice? Whoever was in charge of covering the Open along with who switched channels Sunday should be fired. Alot of fans like me DVRD the race instead of sitting in the house all day on a beautiful Sunday. If your going to bid on events then commit fully to give the best coverage possible or don’t bid. P.S. Steve Latart talks to much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Avatar

    Thanx to that activist group supporter I can’t fly my confederate flag at the track . Displaying the flag labels me a racist . The group he supports Burns , Loots and Murders . They are labeled protesters . All of his acquired sponsors support the Group ! Hey !! Denny !!! What are you thinking ?? You already lost popularity when you wrecked Chase @ Martinsville ! 2 of Bubba’s new sponsors are in trouble . Come on 2021 !!!!!

  12. Avatar

    NBC sucks anyway, but, this was one of only a handful of races we were able to watch after cutting AT&Ts Direct TV cord after there abomination. So disapointed.

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