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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Sports Takes on Talladega

Talladega is a bizarre place, filled with some of the wildest and wooliest of NASCAR fans. Most of the time, they’re a great, knowledgeable bunch. Sometimes, they do things that make the whole fan base look bad. The clips shown of Jeff Gordon’s car being pelted with beer cans during the Put It Out! segment (many of which were full) after he won the Aaron’s 499 in 2004 is just one example. Left unsaid is the fact that it accelerated a trend of stupid stuff that would happen when races ended under yellow that culminated in the assistant flagman getting hit by a cooler at Pocono.

Luckily, there wasn’t any stupid stuff like that on Sunday. What we did get was 508 miles of action.

GEICO 500

Once Tag Team got the show underway, viewers were treated to a lot of action. Thankfully, this was a more exciting race than the GEICO 70 Wednesday night. Honestly, that looked more like an ARCA race.

Right before the race started, it was revealed that most of the Toyotas were forced to go to the back because NASCAR didn’t like something having to do with the A-post. It struck me as weird knowing that all the cars subject to this penalty passed inspection. Did an official eyeball this setup and thought something wasn’t kosher?

I suppose with little time prior to the start of the race, it’s rather difficult to provide viewers with a proper explanation of this, but this resulted in three of the top six starters having to drop back. On the broadcast, viewers got an explanation from Mike Joy on lap 5, but that was about it. I suppose if you want a more detailed explanation, you’d have to have watched NASCAR RaceHub Monday night. I was too busy writing this column to do so.

NASCAR is not the greatest when it comes to transparency. I personally believe that NASCAR should not be sending teams to the rear of the field to start races simply due to “unapproved adjustments.” For the sake of transparency, I want to know exactly what the “adjustments” are going forward. There’s no way I’m the only person that believes this.

Honestly, Talladega might be one of the easiest tracks at which to cover a Cup race. Most of the time, everyone’s close together. If they’re not, you almost need an explanation as to why.

For example, Ryan Blaney lost the draft and fell back 15 seconds behind the leaders before getting saved by a caution. Why did that happen? FOX showed his team taking four tires when everyone else took two. That is a whoopsies. Despite a good stop, he ended up three seconds behind the next car. That doesn’t work at Talladega, and he fell like a stone.

Also, the track seemed to be way bumpier this year than it’s been in a long time, but only in one spot. That place was where a cut-and-cover tunnel was installed a few years ago entering turn 3. Rather strange that the bumpiest part of the course has the freshest pavement. Guess the quality wasn’t up to scratch as compared to the rest of the track.

Sunday’s race will probably be best remembered for Joey Logano’s flip on lap 60.

Am I shocked that it happened? No, not really. Is it preventable? Probably not. Logano’s car only flipped because he was hit by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after he had spun out. No amount of anti-blowover technology will prevent that. You’d need a system capable of preventing blowovers at 350 mph or more. I don’t see that coming down the line anytime soon.

This kind of stuff is nothing new at Talladega. Before the race, Jamie McMurray was talking about his practice flip in 2018. The cause of that was a cut tire, but the secondary hit from Ryan Newman caused that one as well.

I could go on and on for quite a while on this, but I’d just be piggybacking off Zach Sturniolo’s column from Monday, where he talks extensively about this. It’s nothing new and sure, NASCAR’s going to study it (they should). I just don’t know if all that much will come of it.

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Zach's Turn: Joey Logano's Tumble Highlights Need for Change in Superspeedway Racing

What might be more concerning were Logano’s comments after the crash. By the standards of Cup drivers these days, Logano is one of the taller ones out there. The notion of his head hitting a roll bar is something to think about. As a NASCAR Cup Series champion, Logano’s words do have a fair amount of weight to them. What’s the most likely thing to come out of this? Maybe a strengthening of the top of the roll cage, but I don’t see NASCAR changing how the Gen6 cars race at Daytona and Talladega with only two races left on those tracks before the NextGen car shows up.

In regards to how FOX broadcast this incident, they had it covered from multiple angles. The shot from Bubba Wallace’s visor cam was scary. Still seemed rather crazy that he didn’t end up with more damage after that. Never really got a good look. I’d imagine that the roof cam would have been even scarier.

If you weren’t in the lead draft and had issues Sunday, FOX probably didn’t have a really good view of what happened to you. Examples of this include Joey Gase’s incident and Quin Houff’s late crash due to an apparent blown tire right in front of the leaders.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief. Viewers ended up with five post-race interviews, but nothing with second-place finisher William Byron. Interesting. There was also a check of the points before FOX left Talladega.

Probably the most annoying part of that was the fact that Ross Chastain took a pretty bad hit at the finish and viewers never really saw that hit. We did see him unbuckling after the crash, though. He did go to the infield care center, get checked over and released. Chastain described it as “a very hard hit at the end of the race,” but not much more than that.

Overall, it’s rather difficult to screw up a Talladega Cup race. Give viewers a good account of the action and you’re 85% of the way there. How you screw up a Talladega race is to miss major things. That didn’t seem to happen Sunday. There are some minor things that could be improved, like keeping track of those who had fallen out of the lead draft.

Ag-Pro 239

These days, it’s pretty rare for the Xfinity Series to get airtime on FOX. However, that is exactly where they were on Saturday as teams gathered for what was supposed to be 300 miles of racing. It ended up being 239, thanks to rain. Jeb Burton walked away with his first win while a number of others walked away with scowls.

Prior to the race, FOX aired a sit-down interview that Shannon Spake conducted with Martinsville winner Josh Berry. Of course, for someone like Berry, winning at a place like Martinsville is a big deal. He described the victory as “fulfilling” and the culmination of a lot of what he’s been doing with JR Motorsports for years.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has put a lot out there for Berry over the years. While it seems like Berry’s the new guy in town, he made his debut in the then-Nationwide Series seven years ago. He’s been in the JR Motorsports fold for nearly a decade. Earnhardt Jr. effectively built him up into a winner on the highest stage. It’s a big accomplishment for him.

Despite a weather forecast a couple of days prior to the race that could be best described as putrid, the Ag-Pro 300 got started on time Saturday. Joining Adam Alexander and the aforementioned Logano in the broadcast booth was Tyler Reddick. I found that both Logano and Reddick were well prepared for the race and brought a lot of interesting commentary to the mix. They came off as professional and knowledgeable.

The weekend’s races in Talladega also brought out former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, who watched both the Cup and Xfinity races from his home in Tampa. He seemed to enjoy the races and sent his personal congrats on Twitter to both Jeb Burton and Brad Keselowski after their victories.

He also spent some time ranting about the amount of the commercial breaks during the broadcasts.  ’d post those tweets on here, but he has since deleted them. From what I remember when I saw them, he was frustrated about Daniel Hemric losing the lead during one of the breaks and not knowing what happened.

Of course, we’re talking about Talladega here. Had this been next weekend in Kansas, it would be a whole ‘nother story. Sunday was more of the same with an expletive-laden rant about the number of commercials.

Being in my 13th year writing about NASCAR race broadcasts, I don’t really write about that aspect of the broadcasts all that much. I’ve come to expect a certain number of commercials on race broadcasts so that they can pay the $400 million a year or so that they’re paying NASCAR to air the races. The number and frequency of commercials didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary Saturday and Sunday.

That said, I still keep track of it every week using the stopwatch function on my iPhone. It’s not like we were missing an hour of racing under green Sunday.  hat has happened once before, though. It was around half that on Sunday and less than 20 minutes on Saturday.

During the GEICO 500 Sunday, our own Zach Sturniolo tweeted this, but it could apply to Saturday’s race as well.

Honestly, I’m not shocked that FOX likes to incorporate the radio chatter into their Crank It Up segments, but hearing spotters going on during it does take away from the natural sound. That’s kind of the point of the whole segment. It’s likely more of an issue at Talladega than anywhere else on the calendar.

Despite that, let’s take a look back at the first time FOX Cranked It Up during the Daytona 500 in 2001 and compare.

There is an audible difference. I guess that FOX believes that the spotter audio adds to the experience. I don’t know.

Given the time of the day that the rain came into Talladega and how quickly the track was lost, I’m not particularly surprised that it was a quick call. However, this might have been the quickest call for weather that I’ve ever seen in NASCAR.

With the race ending 23 laps early with the quick call, there was an hour left in the timeslot when the race ended. Despite this, viewers only got interviews with Burton and Noah Gragson, who won the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash. I believe the lack of post-race coverage was due to the threat of lightning, although this was never stated on the broadcast. Even though the rain was already gone by the time they signed off, the threat of lightning was probably still there.

As for Gragson, he got the $100,000 once again, but there was a major gaffe after the race. They couldn’t find the novelty check. It DNQ’d when it needed to be there. Apparently, someone gave Gragson a paper plate with $100,000 written on it in a pinch.

Saturday’s race was pretty exciting to watch, but the rain made for an underwhelming finish. That’s not FOX’s fault. Alabama weather can be tough to predict in April. They’ve had everything from blazing heat and humidity to cool weather, dry and wet, calm to near tornadic conditions. Most of that has happened in the 10 years. You just never know what you’re going to get there. FOX did what they could. Honestly, I was shocked that they got as much racing as they did in on Saturday.

That’s all for this week. The upcoming weekend will be very busy for race fans. The NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series will be in action at Kansas Speedway. The ARCA Menards Series will also be there. Formula 1 returns to Portimao in Portugal, while SRO America continues their season at Circuit of the Americas. The FIA World Endurance Championship starts their 2021 season in Belgium, while MotoGP is back in Jerez. Finally, Monster Energy AMA Supercross wraps up their 2021 season in Salt Lake City.  TV listings can be found here.

Gotta love the race name. There’s always going to be someone who comes up with something like Buschy McBusch Race in a contest, and sure enough, it won.

For next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch, we’ll have critiques of the Cup and Truck races in Kansas. For the Critic’s Annex, we’ll look at Saturday’s General Tire 200. How did FOX Sports 1 handle the horrible Derrick Lancaster crash, along with everything else that happened?

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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As always, if you choose to contact a network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

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4 thoughts on “Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Sports Takes on Talladega”

  1. Great article; however, the danger of racing at 200+ mph is what makes stock car racing different. We don’t want F-1 teams with computerized cars racing. We want to see rough and tumble, rubbing and banging and guys coming and going. AS a fan for over 30 years (and I am only 39) I DO like seeing safety improvements like a strengthening of the upper role bars but they already did that, after Newman’s crash. Just let em’ race and if some want to “go home” let them go home. I’m no Logano fan by far, but I am glad he was okay. Wallace did a masterful job of missing his car-you can only attribute it to his driving and reaction time.

    Reply
  2. Phil – another great column. Thank you.
    Joshua- “Wallace did a masterful job of missing Logano….”…..Are you kidding? Wallace was just plain lucky that Logano’s car didn’t land in his windshield!

    Reply
  3. I was very unhappy with the lack of coverage of some of the cars involved in accidents. what happened to Bowmans car? How about the other 2 Hendrick teammates? So little attention was paid to many others. Never did get a good look at the damage to the #23, or how they fixed it. Once again, feeling as if they only cover half of what goes on. On the good side, Clint has certainoly loosened up Jeff Gordon, making listening to them much more enjoyable!

    Reply
  4. Uh…where’s the Critic Annexes? I don’t know why but the last few years it’s been harder and harder to find the Annexes.

    Reply

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