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.
That occurred during the media bullpen session on pit road. Our own Davey Segal just so happened to be there when it happened.
Kyle Busch's post-race thoughts:
On not advancing: “We ran like dog shit last week and this week.”
On Bowman: "It’s just not smart. But these boys love doing it.”
On Brad: "Just freakin’ retarted man. So stupid. I should beat the shit out of him right now is what I should do.” pic.twitter.com/22avTAyiAT
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) October 31, 2021
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.
Jimmy Spencer was handed a five lap penalty after spinning Ken Schrader under caution at North Wilkesboro in 1994. pic.twitter.com/hYLWFxarGl
— NASCAR Memories (@NASCARMemories) October 31, 2021
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.
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