After a fairly unsatisfactory race at Texas Motor Speedway, viewers got a much more enjoyable race to watch Sunday (Oct. 24) at Kansas Speedway. However, there were problems early.
Hollywood Casino 400
Knowing that the race started about 14 minutes after the Formula 1 race, then almost immediately got red-flagged due to lightning, I do fear that a lot of people changed the channel from the NASCAR Cup Series race and didn’t come back. Simply put, this could end up being a different version of one of the most infamous moments of the Monday Night Wars in pro wrestling.
On Jan. 4, 1999, WCW gave away the results of a tape-delayed WWF Monday Night RAW where Mick Foley won the WWF Championship during a live broadcast of WCW Monday Night Nitro on TNT (the fight had occurred six nights earlier). The result was that hundreds of thousands of people changed the channel to see the taped show on USA instead of the live show on TNT. Given that another infamous incident occurred earlier in the TNT broadcast that night, that could have played a role as well.
Thankfully, the delay Sunday in Kansas was quite brief. But that might have been all it took for fans to not come back. The ongoing issues with NASCAR’s high-downforce rules on intermediate tracks over the past couple of years have really soured a lot of longtime fans. I hope they did return, especially knowing that the Grand Prix was done around the time the final stage started.
With more action on tap than in Texas, NBCSN had a decent amount of content to show. The non-playoff contenders were also right up in the hunt as well. That made me very happy as this was not a playoff-dominated broadcast.
That said, it still can be very difficult to see where people are running with the constant point standings updates at nearly all times. I just don’t care enough about the playoffs to want to deal with that. It’s annoying and gets in the way.
Sunday also saw Parker Kligerman make his first Cup start since the 2019 AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. To that end, NBCSN had a helmet cam in Kligerman’s car and made use of Kligerman as an in-race reporter. That isn’t necessarily shocking to me. Why not make use of your colleague in such a fashion? It’s nothing that they haven’t done with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s singular Xfinity starts the past couple of years. In this role, Kligerman also discussed topics such as the fierce racing further down the order that really doesn’t get a lot of press.
What was unusual was what amounted to cheering for Kligerman and the outright pimping of the Fast.co hoodie sweatshirt stuff. That comes off like you’re biased. Not a good move. You have to keep that in check, dudes. I know that Kligerman’s your co-worker, but you have to be professional there.
Having said all that, I did want Kligerman to do well Sunday. He was going to run for rookie of the year in 2014, but Swan Racing expanded themselves way the deuce too fast. Getting off to a bad start effectively killed his career. By the end of April, he was done and so was Swan Racing.
Sunday’s race was Kligerman’s second-best non-plate finish of his career (only his 18th-place finish at Texas in his Cup debut in 2013 was better). He apparently had one of the best cars on long runs. Who would have thought that entering the race?
I admit to being a weather nut. I checked the radar at the start of the race and saw the dark clouds on the broadcast. I went straight to the RadarScope app to check the radar and saw that it was just a skinny little line. This was a cold front, and behind it was cooler weather and wind.
That wind put a number of drivers into difficulty as it literally blew them into the wall exiting turn 2. Never really seen anything quite like it. The wall contact also led to a series of tire failures. Brad Keselowski smacked the wall on lap 38. Martin Truex Jr. followed Keselowski into the SAFER Barrier immediately afterwards. Kyle Busch went into the barrier as well later on. Tyler Reddick had an excellent day until fading late. Wall contact in the final 25 laps ruined Reddick’s day and dropped him to a 22nd-place finish.
Almost all of the failures seemed to be with drivers who had hit the wall at some point, so all viewers really got to see was the flattened tires after the contact when the cars came into the pits under green. The only failure I’m somewhat unsure about it is the one that Anthony Alfredo suffered. That one seemed to be different as it let go entering turn 1 and pitched him into the wall.
Weather ended up being a big issue Sunday. Not just due to the brief lightning delay, but with the wind that came afterwards. Rudy Fugle took a big shot to the head from an awning. No replay was shown of that, but I’m pretty sure one of those Hawkeye cameras caught it. Luckily, he was OK, but he had a visible knot on his forehead. I have no doubt that he had to take a bunch of Advil afterwards.
Also, you might remember that last year’s Hollywood Casino 400 broadcast finished with the final 40 laps of the race being nothing but Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano’s battle, despite the fact that no move was ever made for the lead. That was rather agitating to watch at the time.
Sunday’s broadcast wasn’t quite that bad, but it did seem like it could have gone there again with Harvick and Larson. As compared to last year, I did find the broadcast to be more inclusive.
The race ran a little long on Sunday, so the actual post-race coverage was relatively brief. NASCAR America Post-Race ran until about 7:15 p.m. in order for interviews with a number of drivers to air.
Overall, this was a far more enjoyable race to watch than Texas. There was a lot more going on all through the field. My suggestions are to remain as inclusive as possible and watch yourselves when it comes to colleagues in the race. I know you want them to do as well as they can, but it shouldn’t show on the broadcast. You’re doing everyone else a disservice if it does.
Kansas Lottery 300
Saturday saw the Xfinity Series make its sole visit of the year to Kansas for 300 miles of action. This was a competitive race that seemed like it was Austin Cindric’s to lose. Then Ty Gibbs came in late and snatched victory away, meaning that the race settled nothing.
There are a couple of hard and fast rules in broadcasting that generally need to be followed. We’ve already talked about one of them today: Don’t cheerlead. It’s bush league.
Another is not to try to direct the crew on-air with direct commands. You can use what you’re talking about in your commentary to guide the production to the proper view if it’s not already on screen, but you shouldn’t give outright instructions on shots on-air. Steve Letarte apparently did this late in Saturday’s race during the Cindric-Gibbs battle. That’s not a good look and really peeves off the production truck personnel. Our own Adam Cheek works for Mediacom in Richmond, Va. He describes this as “Rule No. 1 of broadcasting.”
Based on the time that I spent in the broadcast booth in Charlotte back in 2018, I know that the booth commentators all have access to these boxes that allow them to talk on-air, talk privately to the producer and more. Here’s an example.
This is a box found in NBC’s NASCAR broadcast booth. It allows for commentators to switch their Mike’s between the broadcast and off-air conversation. pic.twitter.com/8J4Wmk5Urq
— Phil Allaway (@Critic84) October 26, 2021
A mute button, often referred to as the “cough button,” can also be included. In this case, you can just push a button and take your mike off-air as well. My best guess is that Letarte meant to only say that to the producer and failed to press the proper button. Regardless, it doesn’t do anything good for morale.
In regards to the rest of the race, there was some pretty decent action to be had. Side-by-side racing for position was common. Anyone who watched the race Saturday was likely satisfied with the on-track product.
Unlike Sunday, there were some tire wear issues Saturday, especially early in the race. Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton (who later crashed out together) both corded their tires on the first run of the race.
Post-race coverage was very brief as the broadcast on NBC ran up against the six o’clock news. Viewers only got a brief interview with Gibbs and a check of the points (now tied between Cindric and AJ Allmendinger) before leaving for the news. A couple more interviews were posted to NBCSports.com afterwards.
Overall, this was a decent race to watch, and very competitive despite Cindric leading three-quarters of it by himself. I did find that the radio chatter aired on the broadcast more succinctly described the Dylan Lupton–Jade Buford crash much better than the booth did without any replay to go by. Just shows how on it spotters must be at all times.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, there is a NASCAR tripleheader on tap at Martinsville Speedway. By Sunday night, we should know who the 12 drivers will be that will battle for the championships in Phoenix.
In addition, Formula 1 looks to continue the momentum from Sunday at Circuit of the Americas with a jaunt to Mexico City to race in front of a large crowd at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The FIA World Endurance Championship will also be back in action with the first of two consecutive races in Bahrain. TV listings can be found here.
In next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch, we’ll cover as much of the action from Martinsville as we can. For this week’s edition of The Critic’s Annex, we’ll cover ABC’s coverage of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix. How did they handle the tactical battles, Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance, Danica Patrick’s performance, and more?
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