NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Splashes About in Charlotte

Charlotte was … drier than expected. I was convinced that it was going to rain all day Saturday and all day Sunday. We ended up with two races in the rain Saturday and the Cup race starting on a drying track. It made for some interesting television, to say the least.

Bank of America ROVAL 400k

Sunday saw the NASCAR Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL. History was made here as the Cup teams had to deal with rain tires in a race situation for the very first time. That definitely changed things up.

Yes, the weather was a constant issue. The race started with rain still falling. Not much, but enough to show up on roof cams. NASCAR mandated that everyone start on rain tires, which was probably the right move at the start, but I don’t really like NASCAR forcing a selection onto the teams like that. I’d rather leave tire selection solely up to the teams.

For example, the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans saw rain begin to fall during the pre-race fan walk (note: I was there, and showers moved through twice during that time). When the race started, it was somewhat damp and a number of the teams present started on wet tires while others pressed their luck on slicks. Eventually, the track dried out and those who started on wet tires had to make an extra stop. Weather-wise, that race was somewhat similar to Sunday’s race due to the fact that hurricane remnants were expected to make the day miserable. Ultimately, it wasn’t so bad. Then, the drenching rains showed up after the race.

In the case of Sunday, the drenching rains were tied to a line of thunderstorms that were slowly moving toward the track through South Carolina. I was thinking that they might get to the track before the race ended. That didn’t come to pass.

What did come to pass was that the storm significantly strengthened and one portion of the storm began to rotate. This led to a tornado warning being issued for parts of northern South Carolina that are within the Charlotte viewing area. This is dangerous stuff. Being the nut for weather that I am, I take that stuff seriously. I don’t live in the Charlotte area, so that didn’t affect me. It did affect those in the Charlotte area watching the race since WCNC broke into the race for weather coverage, angering a lot of people.

I know, it stinks. Don’t be a jerk about it, though. In that situation, the weather is more important than the race, and whining about that on social media does nothing but make you look like a moron and tick people off. I know that at least one NASCAR on-air personality did so (they’ve since deleted their tweet). If you have a pay-TV subscription, there might have been a way around the situation (for instance, perhaps you could watch on the NBC Sports app or something). Far from ideal, but they have to do what has to be done in that situation.

Speaking of this tornado warning, it did show up on NASCAR’s radar that NBC showed on the broadcast. That’s what the purple trapezoid was. The booth didn’t explain that, though. Maybe they didn’t realize what it was.

Prior to the race, NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico did a remote sit-down interview with Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman. Here, Johnson talked about the importance of mentorship for young racers (Johnson had Jeff Gordon while Bowman, William Byron and Chase Elliott have Johnson). Bowman talked about what it means for him to take over the storied No. 48.

In addition to all that, it was still a cutoff race Sunday. So there was plenty of cutoff coverage before, during and after the race.

I feel like NASCAR might have gone a little overboard with the track drying vehicles prior to the race. This track should have been wet for much longer than it was Sunday. They just wanted to not have standing water, but that’s easier said than done. Saturday’s race is proof of that.

Since so much track drying had taken place prior to the race, it didn’t take long for the track to get to the point where slick tires could be used. Drivers and crew chiefs showed their inexperience with the situation at times. Rodney Childers chided himself for what he felt were strategy mistakes.

On that note, viewers did get a look at how badly the first set of rain tires got on Kevin Harvick’s car. It was chunking pretty badly, and that was after just 11 laps.

Ty Dillon was the revelation early in the race, jumping into the top five in the opening laps from 17th on the grid, then becoming the first driver to go to slicks during the competition caution. He then drove through the field to win stage one.

It’s a shame the rest of his day didn’t work out. The thought here is, yes it’s great that Dillon was able to get up there and fight it out at the front, even before he switched to slicks. But how did he get up front that quickly? What made him so good in the opening laps? I don’t know. That’s where NBC is really supposed to come in.

This past weekend saw the first NASCAR races with booth commentators at the track since Phoenix in March. Here, NBC Sports simply used the booth setup that they’ve had since July. Apparently, they’re going to go back to the other remaining tracks for the rest of the season. If that’s so, that’s good to hear.

Having the booth commentators back at the track does help the broadcast significantly, if for no other reason having eyes that can pick up on things on the track never hurts a broadcast. This was even more so Saturday as shenanigans were going down on a regular basis.

There are some not-so-great portions of the track for the broadcast. One of those is the section between turns 1 and 3. Matt Kenseth crashed late on Sunday and I have no clue what happened. It seems like Kenseth stuffed his car in the barriers after the yellow came out.

Another topic of discussion that came up during the race is anxiety. Apparently, Bowman can get quite anxious at times. It happens. Nothing to be ashamed of. Dale Earnhardt Jr. described Bowman’s feelings of anxiousness during the broadcast. Knowing Earnhardt Jr.’s working relationship with Bowman, he’s likely seen it firsthand and understands what he’s gone through in the past. That said, this led to a bit of a social media firestorm. I don’t believe that Earnhardt Jr. did anything wrong here. Someone else did who’s not affiliated with the broadcasts. I think you can figure out who that is on your own.

Post-race coverage was about typical for a cutoff race. There wasn’t very much post-race coverage on NBC because the Cup race ran very close to the 6 p.m. sign-off time. Just a couple of interviews aired there before the switch to NBCSN was made. On NBCSN, viewers got a bunch more interviews and post-race analysis.

I think I was honestly expecting a race more like Saturday’s event on Sunday. When the rain stayed away for most of the race, that wasn’t necessarily the case. What we did get was a race that Elliott dominated at times and basically showed that he’s the best road racer currently in Cup. It’s really rather interesting given his background.

There was quite a bit of competitive action Sunday, and NBC did OK in bringing viewers that action. I do believe that they expected a little more chaos than what we got. There was enough to go around, though.

Drive for the Cure 250k

Oh boy. If I were at this race, I probably would have ruined my iPhone and would still be trying to dry my clothes and my shoes. Heck, I almost ruined a previous iPhone I owned taking pictures during Rolex 24 qualifying in 2016.

Regardless of the nasty conditions, NBC had a race to cover. And it was actually enjoyable at times despite the looniness.

Pre-race coverage was quite brief. Even though this was also a cutoff race, viewers only heard briefly from Austin Cindric prior to the race. Given his skills on the twisties, Cindric was considered to be a big favorite. Therefore, it was quite surprising to see that he never led the race at all. Cindric still finished sixth, but was never really a factor and that had everyone scratching their heads.

The rains came early. A couple of laps into the race, Brett Moffitt suffered some kind of suspension failure and spun to bring out a yellow. During that caution, it started raining. NASCAR brought everyone in to change to rain tires. From there, it was on.

Honestly, vision was not great on Saturday, and that’s not just for the drivers. NBC’s cameras dealt with significant fogging issues through much of Saturday’s race, which isn’t really that much of a thing with races in the rain. However, given the current circumstances, a lot of those cameras are robotic cameras. It’s unlikely that someone can go in there and clean the lens or spray Optix 55 Fog Gone on there since the crews don’t get much access to the track itself once the race weekend truly starts.

Standing water was quite the issue Saturday. It’s why NASCAR went a little overboard with drying before the Cup race. Given the weather they had Sunday, they wanted to prevent this:

Now, I’ll admit that that was something else. Having watched my share of races in the rain in the past, I can tell you that the conditions Saturday were extreme at times (it was actually much better during the IMSA race). I do agree with NASCAR’s decision to put the race under the red flag, but the lack of lights in the infield really complicated things. Honestly, they probably should have put the red out when everyone started falling off the track on lap 14 instead of lap 31.

Due to the late race, NBC made no attempt to stay with the race to the conclusion. They decided to move the broadcast to CNBC at 5:55 p.m. (NBCSN was going to air the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season finale from Fox Raceway in California live at 6 p.m.). I’m not a fan of this move. The only thing I’m happy about here is that they gave viewers plenty of warning. This wasn’t like what happened at Talladega where the move to NBCSN was announced, then it happened two minutes later. Plus, there was more than half the race to go when they made the announcement.

As it stands, the race ended after the scheduled sunset in Charlotte. In other words, it would have been pretty much dark had it been sunny on Saturday. With rain and fog, plus the glare from Charlotte’s massive HD screen behind the backstretch, good luck seeing much down there. This is what it looked like when Brandon Brown’s race came to an end.

Remember that the cameras can adjust how much light can come in and brighten up the view. Take that away, and it probably looked about as dark as the end of Cup qualifying for the DieHard 500 at Talladega back in 2000.

Now, prior to Brown drowning his car in water and mud, he had apparently binned it. I’m not sure where it happened or when (my guess is in turn 3), but he had dislodged his decklid and damaged his car badly before this happened. Never got a shot of what happened there.

Aside from the wacky weather, one of the big stories here was Noah Gragson and Riley Herbst having at it. Herbst dumped Gragson on lap 27 while racing for the lead.

It was pretty clear that it was some kind of payback to an incident at Texas back in July. During the red flag due to intense rain that followed, he was asked about it and gave a non-answer. Gragson basically said that he was going to get his.

Given how far beyond the end of the scheduled time slot this race took, there wasn’t much post-race coverage. Viewers got interviews with winner AJ Allmendinger and the man who should have won (Chase Briscoe), along with a check of the points before leaving Charlotte.

Despite the terrible conditions, this was the most competitive of the Xfinity races on the ROVAL. There were 14 lead changes Saturday, twice as many as last year. There was actually a lot of good racing despite the adverse conditions. NBC did as good of a job as they could to bring viewers that action. That said, the conditions were very challenging in regards to weather and light.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, we have a quadruple-header at Kansas Speedway. All three of NASCAR’s National Series will be on the premises, while the ARCA Menards Series will have their season finale Friday night. Meanwhile, IMSA will be back in action at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the Motul Petit Le Mans. It’s a very quick turnover for the GT teams that just raced Saturday night in Charlotte. Especially Corvette Racing, who is currently fixing the No. 4 Corvette after a suspension failure put Tommy Milner in the turn 14 SAFER barrier in the closing minutes of the race.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Kansas in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex is currently undecided, but we’ll come up with something.

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

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.

3 comments

  1. Avatar

    FOX is televising the truck event at Kansas on Saturday at 4. NBCSN is telecasting the Busch event at Kansas that NA$CAR has starting at 7 on Saturday.

    Right now TSN is scheduled to televise the Busch event at Kansas at 3. That is probably going to change.

    • Avatar

      Yes, TSN tends to be a bit slow announcing these updates. I’ve already jumped the gun and I’m showing the correct time in my CDN listings

  2. Avatar

    I thought NBC did a terrible job Sunday. Even though the broadcasters were at the track, it is obvious they are still watching the race through there little monitors. Not one commented that Kyle Busch pitted for gas with a few laps to go. I figured it out by seeing his car come out on to the track because they were showing another car on the track.

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