NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Martinsville Brings Brisk Action & Denny Hamlin’s Dirty Mouth to NBC

Martinsville is a wacky weekend these days. NASCAR moving the race weekend to be the second-to-last of the season basically creates a scenario that breeds ridiculousness. Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race is what you get when drivers go crazy.  We’ll cover that craziness later this week. Crikey.

Sunday was not that ridiculous. That said, there was still plenty of content to talk about here.

We’ll just start with the last 25 laps of the race. There was a lot of stuff going on.

There were multiple races for position on-track. One was the battle for the lead between Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman.  Another was between Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. A third involved Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch. All three were important duels, so NBC went to the triple box to show the battles. This was good stuff.

As a result, viewers got to see the contact that ultimately decided the race in real time. The general opinion of the booth was that this was a racing accident with no intent involved. I tend to agree. It seemed like Bowman either got loose or wheel-hopped getting into turn 3. Either one would result in the No. 48 sliding up the track and into Hamlin. Hamlin clearly thought otherwise.

After the race, Hamlin was very angry with Bowman and intentionally invaded Bowman’s victory celebration to confront him. He tried to prevent Bowman from doing donuts by nosing into the Ally Chevrolet. He then gave Bowman a double middle finger salute, but that was literally a blink-and-you-missed-it thing since NBC cut to another camera. Admittedly, I didn’t see it when this happened live and only actually saw it Monday night.

Another thing I didn’t notice was the fact that some nut from the stands threw a beer that hit Hamlin’s car square in the windshield. While whoever threw that clearly has good aim, I cannot under any circumstances support anyone doing that. What if your aim stinks or you don’t have a strong enough arm to get it over the fencing? You could hurt someone.

Then, we had the post-race interview with Hamlin, where he dropped an uncensored F-bomb and referred to Bowman as “a hack.” I talked about this in Monday’s edition of the Frontstretch Newsletter. Hamlin’s lucky that this is 2021 and not 2004. If that interview happened back then, he would have been looking at a monetary fine and a points penalty. NASCAR would have forced him to pay the FCC fine NBC would have received for profanity on live TV.

Of course, calling someone a hack is OK, although we’re talking about someone who has more wins in 2021 than Hamlin does. It comes off as rather weird, to be honest.  This is a little more than someone just angry in the moment (which he definitely was). There seems to be more to this than just Sunday.

As for Kyle Busch, the remarks that ultimately got him reprimanded and forced to go to sensitivity training were not on the broadcast.

See also
NASCAR Requiring Kyle Busch to Complete Sensitivity Training

That occurred during the media bullpen session on pit road. Our own Davey Segal just so happened to be there when it happened.

On the broadcast, Kyle Busch was quite a bit calmer. Dave Burns did not bring up the bumping with Keselowski at the finish in the interview, so he wasn’t fired up. Basically, a normal Busch interview if he doesn’t win.

Also during the race, Quin Houff was penalized five laps for spinning out Josh Bilicki under caution. Houff appeared to be under the opinion that Bilicki was driving like a nincompoop with damaged goods (Bilicki had previously backed into the turn 4 wall 15 laps earlier). The whole intentional spin was ridiculous to begin with. It’s even worse that it happened right in front of a safety truck, although there is a good chance that Houff wouldn’t have known it was there when he did it.

That said, I’m fine with the penalty. That whole situation was ridiculous and didn’t need to happen. Houff was already eight laps down at the time he was penalized. Docking him five laps put him on the same lap as… Bilicki. The two of them stayed on the same lap as the other for the remainder of the race, finishing 17 laps down.

As far as rough driving penalties go, they’ve all but disappeared from NASCAR once the “Boys, have at it” refrain was coined by Robin Pemberton. They rarely show up anymore. In 1994, Jimmy Spencer copped a 5-lap penalty for spinning Ken Schrader out under yellow in the First Union 400 at North Wilkesboro.

Likely more infamously, Kyle Petty got one for being judged responsible for this multi-car crash in the 1996 Coca-Cola 600.  It ended up being a 7-lap penalty after NASCAR tacked on extra laps due to Felix Sabates’s verbal abuse of a NASCAR official.  That directly led to the team running a protest scheme a week later at Dover.

During the race, there was the typical amount of contact between drivers. After all, it’s Martinsville. I’d be shocked if drivers weren’t hitting each other. We are talking about a race that had 15 cautions, yet still did run over the scheduled timeslot on NBC.

There were some tire issues of note. Austin Dillon brought out two separate cautions due to right-front tire failures, but I’m not really sure what caused either one. Dillon had run into Ryan Blaney early in the race and damaged the right-front corner, but his car seemed to actually run better afterwards.

The booth theorized that loose bodywork could have cut the tire or Dillon could have melted a tire bead, but it’s unclear. With the high temperatures right around 60 degrees Sunday, the track really wasn’t taking all that much rubber (track temperatures were a little too low for that). As a result, wear was apparently not that high. Also, there weren’t any really long runs Sunday. The run from the start to the competition caution ended up being the longest green-flag run of the race.

Overall coverage of on-track action was pretty good Saturday. There was a decent amount of battling and NBC did a good job of bringing that to the viewers.

As you’d expect, there was a substantial amount of focus on the playoff contenders, so much so that the sole Through the Field only covered them despite the fact that three of the top five drivers at the time weren’t in the playoffs. That’s rather frustrating. Yes, it’s a cutoff race, but that shouldn’t significantly change how a race is covered. If the race for the win Sunday was between Bowman and Chris Buescher, then it shouldn’t have been covered any differently than if it was between Kyle Larson and Hamlin.

As noted above, the race ended within the 4-hour time-slot on NBC. Viewers on there saw the aforementioned mess with Hamlin and Bowman and the Busch interview before NBC left for local news. On NBCSN’s NASCAR America Post-Race, viewers got additional interviews with the remaining playoff contenders that didn’t make the NBC portion of the show. There was also post-race analysis and closing remarks before the end of the broadcast.

Will this race go down as some kind of classic? Perhaps. I don’t know if I’d want to be known best for a race like this if I were Bowman (or Hamlin, for that matter). There was good action to be had. Lots of side-by-side racing and it didn’t seem that the playoffs played that big of a role in what ultimately happened in the race itself.

The playoffs did play a role in how the race was covered to a certain degree. Nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but it was definitely evident.

That’s all for this week. Next week brings the 2021 NASCAR season to a close. A quadruple-header of racing is on tap with the Camping World Truck Series Friday night, a doubleheader for the Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series West Saturday, and Cup on Sunday. In addition, Formula 1 will be in Mexico City while the World Endurance Championship season ends in Bahrain. Finally, DIRTcar has the season finales for all three of their major touring series (World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series and the Super DIRTcar Series) at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.  TV listings are here.

We will provide critiques from Phoenix for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch.  The article will not be a review of NBC Sports’ coverage for the season. That is tentatively penciled in for Nov. 23.  Why the 23rd?  Next week is just going to focus on Phoenix. After that, I’m traveling to Atlanta to cover the Motul Petit Le Mans and won’t be back until Monday the 15th.

In the Frontstretch Newsletter this week, we’ll have a couple of articles this week. One will be on the broadcast of the United States Grand Prix from Oct. 24. The other will be on Saturday’s doubleheader for the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series at Martinsville.

Before we go, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand is reporting that NBCSN will officially shut down on Dec. 31.  That means that Saturday’s Xfinity race will be the last live NASCAR event to air on the network.  Next season will see the majority of the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series races that aired on NBCSN air on USA.  Two INDYCAR races will be there as well (13 more will be on NBC, while two are Peacock-exclusives). IMSA will likely be split between NBC, USA, CNBC and E!, but we only know that three hours of the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be on NBC for sure right now.

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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Echo

That was a water bottle, rewatch the videos. That causes you pause ! Mmm, well what do you think of Hamlin pushing the winners car backwards after Bowman already had the window net down, safety harness off and hands off the wheel ! Does that bother you at all !! Just wondering if you will reply to that concern ! And while I’m at it, what did Bowman do intentionally wrong. He was racing for the win. 3 years ago Hamlin intentionally hit Chase to wreck him. No comparison, not even close.

Tom B

Everyone made a big deal when Kyle Busch pushed Kevin Harvick’s car out of his way on pit road a few years ago. Hamlin gets a pass on this one.

1911_Bandit

“Of course, calling someone a hack is OK, although we’re talking about someone who has more wins in 2021 than Hamlin does.”

Ouch!

janice

so hamlin won’t be fined for the word said in the interview, and i don’t mean hack? that is part of accepted language now?

so ky busch has to go to sensitivity training. seems a few of gibbs’ drivers, past and present, having to attend training.

oh well….one more week.

Pam

Denny Hamlin is a petulant child who has no room to complain about other drivers. He’s as guilty as any of them. Wasn’t it Dale Sr. who would shrug and say ‘that’s just racing’? Grow up, Denny, and take your knocks.

DoninAjax

Being petulant seems to be a prerequisite for getting a ride with Reverend Joe.

John Dawg Chapman

It would seem that the fans have spoken loud & clear. Hamlin was loudly booed at his introduction. Cheered, when he was spun out, & booed again during his interview. He’s so full of himself that this probably doesn’t bother him all that much. But the lingering resentment against him not only by Bowman, but probably from the entire Hendrick org, wouldn’t seem to bode well for someone trying to get the 500 lb. gorilla off his back at Phoenix. And at least as far as Bowman goes, could well change the way he races him for the rest of his career.
The same could be said of Brad also, but he’s been pretty much racing Kyle the same way for years. That’s why Kyle has such a short fuse where he’s concerned. It’s refreshing to see two drivers who clearly don’t like each other & don’t try to hide it.

A Different Steve

Gotta love the fan base. They all complain about vanilla drivers and them never showing emotion except canned answers every interview. When they finally do, you all complain, want them fined, banned, suspended, whatever.

Personally, no matter who was doing the bumping, its making Nascar look like quite the joke compared to other forms of racing like F1 and IndyCar. If Bowman is no hack and had the better car, why couldn’t he pass Hamlin cleanly? This taking out the leader to win a race is getting old. Its not racing and takes no skill at all. If you can’t pass the leader cleanly, settle for 2nd.

WJW Motorsports

Was this your first time watching a race at Martinsville? The next “clean” pass at Martinsville will be the first. People don’t like Denny (or Kyle for that matter if talking about what he said) and they are just being vocal about that – but people love a single groove short track for a reason – and this is it. And you can bet every F1 and Indy driver would love to be able to rub fenders regularly – instead of being stuck whining about someone over the radio to some person with a name like Toto.

Jeremy

Indycar drivers don’t have a front bumper to push someone out of the way, but if they can get inside far enough that “8 wheels corner better than 4” they will use that body tub to shove an opponent up out of the groove if given the opening.

Jeremy

I’m sure Terry Labonte agrees with your last 3 sentences!

TSB

What is a Vanilla driver?

Sally Baker

Denny sounded like the ultimate poor loser, venting his sour grapes about a driver who has won more races than he has this season. I hope Bowman has a long memory, and races Denny as hard as possible next weekend. For a driver who has yet to win a title in numerous attempts, he might have wanted to not anger other drivers. Particularly those that have no title to lose. But, if behaving like a petulant 3 year old makes Denny feel ‘superior’, so be it.

DoninAjax

It would be nice if Bowman could challenge for the win at Phoenix, but NA$CAR will only allow one of the Focused Four to win the farce.

TSB

Denny Hamlin said far worse than Kyle Busch, so I am really confused why Hamlin doesn’t have to do”Sensitivity Training”
Kyle said that something Brad did was retarded, he could have used a better word but he didn’t call him a name. Big Difference!!!!
Denny needs training too.

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