Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: What Was NASCAR On FOX Doing at Atlanta Showing All Those Kids?

Atlanta Motor Speedway brought a series of unknowns to the table.  What would the racing look like?  Would it be enjoyable to watch?  We know now that it was edge-of-your-seat action, the debut of a mini-superspeedway. Whether it’s the right kind of racing for the 1.54-mile quad-oval remains up for debate, a topic well beyond the weekly look into NASCAR on FOX’s television coverage.

Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Sunday brought the NASCAR Cup Series to Atlanta for 500 miles of action.  This shouldn’t have taken nearly four hours, but that is what we got.  Naturally, the track itself was the star of the show.  FOX Sports got quotes from a number of drivers (William Byron, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, etc.).  These quotes, gathered during FOX Sports’ Hanger Shoot in Daytona, encapsulated a near unknown idea of what to expect.  The race ended up being a bit more competitive than they thought it could be.

There was a feature on Chase Briscoe, who won in Phoenix.  His parents describe him growing up as a huge Tony Stewart fan.  The piece talks about his rise through the ranks and how he was feeling towards the end of the race.

In a secondary piece, Briscoe talked about being on the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge, which was a reality show that aired on SPEED in 2013 (I wrote about it for The Critic’s Annex back then).  You might remember that Dr. Patrick Staropoli won that show and got one start in the K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Menards Series West) out of it before making a few more starts later on.  He eventually made one Truck start at Homestead and…it didn’t go well.

I’ve met Briscoe twice previously, the last occasion being in Daytona two years when he was racing in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.  He’s a legitimately good dude who has worked his butt off to get where he is.  He deserved that triumph.

During NASCAR RaceDay, a preview of a feature narrated by Misty May-Treanor was aired on Betty Skelton, the first woman to be a licensed racer.  She was a pilot by trade who was convinced by Bill France Sr. to try out racing cars.  Ultimately, she ran speed trials at Daytona Beach in the 1950s.  This will be a Beyond the Wheel special that will officially premiere Wednesday night as part of NASCAR RaceHub.  I find this story to be quite interesting and I recommend checking it out.

For Sunday’s race, Jeff Gordon returned to the broadcast booth after nine months in the guest analyst role.  Gordon always had a fairly substantial role with Hendrick Motorsports during his time with FOX Sports, but it’s much larger now.

I mention that because someone in that position has to put their biases on standby and be impartial.  Gordon admitted during the broadcast that he did let his biases come into play.  If he’s going to continue in a guest analyst role this year (remember, we don’t know who will be in that role beyond Austin next weekend), he has to watch his Ps and Qs.  Don’t be a homer.

Then again, with the scenario we had in play Sunday, there was no special analyst that really could have helped much since there were so many unknowns.  No one knew what to expect and that notion was played up to a certain extent.

We at Frontstretch do chat among ourselves during the race.  A number of my colleagues didn’t like some of the terminology being used to describe the action.  For example, Mike Joy described the racing as being a like a “180 mph pace lap” on at least one occasion.  I can understand why some viewers might not like that since it makes it sound like watching a parking lot.

More obvious to me was the constant selling of the race as being like Daytona and  Talladega.  That might be 30% true.  Since Atlanta is far tighter than either Daytona or Talladega, it’s going to be much harder to progress through the field than at either one of the bigger tracks (although it was possible).  I do fear that NASCAR and/or SMI might look at what we saw Sunday and think of this as the future of intermediate racing.  It definitely should not be, if for no other reason than the fact that it would be hideously expensive for the track operators.

Clint Bowyer thinks that the reconfiguration made Atlanta much better than it was previously.  Our own Mike Neff found this statement to be incredulous.  Bowyer responded thusly:

My thoughts on Atlanta is that yes, the racing there in recent years hasn’t been great.  This race last year did have only 11 lead changes.  I don’t even know if the track itself was to blame for that.  The high-downforce 550 horsepower package run there the last three years has to be at least a little responsible though.  They did hold off on repaving the track for three to five years too long as well.

Post-race coverage was brief since the race ended about a half-hour behind schedule (seems to happen every week these days).  Viewers only got interviews with Byron and Ross Chastain and some post-race analysis before FOX left Atlanta.

Given what happened at the end of the race, this post-race coverage was somewhat deficient.  Fans were undoubtedly wondering about the conditions of Justin Haley and Bubba Wallace after they took nasty hits.  Luckily, they’re both going to be fine.  That hit for Wallace was not good, though.

Given that this is now effectively a superspeedway race, a lot of the same rules that I wrote about after the Daytona 500 now apply.  Specifically, the need to cut down on the usage of bumper cams.  With everyone right up on each other, you can’t see anything except splitters and bumpers.

As compared to Daytona, this was a little better.  That said, the usage was relatively high early in the race and I have to ding FOX for that.  It made it into the live notes.

Something that didn’t really make it on air is the fact that Goodyear sent a representative to the Media Center Sunday during the race to talk about the failures for Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  He believed that it was a manufacturer-specific issue.  They talked about camber on the broadcast, but not that it was specifically a Chevrolet issue.

Overall, Sunday’s Cup broadcast was just ok.  It was nothing really special.  I guess I enjoyed it a little more than the last plate-style race at Daytona, but the constant comparisons to Daytona wore thin pretty fast.  In practice, it was a lot closer to those INDYCAR pack races at intermediate tracks in the 2000s that were incredibly dangerous.

Nalley Cars 250

Saturday saw the Xfinity Series race for 172 of a scheduled 163 laps.  This race was a little bit much.

Everything surrounding this race broadcast ran late, including the start of it.  This is because the Camping World Truck Series Fr8 208 ran long.  Pre-race coverage started 22 minutes late and really wasn’t all that great.  Kind of the problem with pre-race coverage these days.  They don’t really preview the race.  Instead of that, they talk about overarching themes for the season.  That might leave fans feeling a little confused about what they were seeing.

Saturday’s race left me wanting at times.  Likely the best example of this was during the 10-lap caution period that resulted from the Daniel HemricJoe Graf Jr. crash.  During that yellow, Loris Hezemans found a way to junk his car in the grass.  It took a good 10 minutes for viewers to see this, and it wasn’t from the best shot.  It was from a fisheye lens that is usually only used coming out of commercial breaks.

Brad Keselowski made note of it and stated “we don’t have any idea how that happened.”  Sure enough, through that fisheye lens, the booth realized that there was a whole second part to this crash that they hadn’t noticed before.  Apparently, NASCAR didn’t notice it either.  That’s why that splitter and undertray hung out in the grass for so long, along with the literal rocks on the frontstretch.  Even after they saw this replay, they couldn’t tell who had junked themselves.

What will probably be remembered the most from this broadcast was that FOX Sports 1 seemed to spend a lot of time showing shots of random kids.  Especially these two girls wearing Shake and Bake t-shirts.

I guess the idea here is to show youngsters having fun at races since race crowds tend to skew older these days.  There’s a limit for that.  After about the fifth time they cut to the same two little girls, it crossed the line from fun to creepy.  You don’t want to be creepy.

The second half of this race de-evolved into ridiculousness.  You had a bunch of wrecks on the track, and whoever was driving the Reaume Brothers Racing truck got directed the wrong way out of the garage and peeled the trailer back.  Made me think about a devilish rail bridge in Durham, N.C. and what it does to unsuspecting jamokes on a near-monthly basis.

Ultimately, this race ended about an hour behind schedule.  Luckily, it was pre-empting a repeat of the Truck race.  That said, viewers only got interviews with the top two finishers (Ty Gibbs and Austin Hill) before FOX Sports 1 left Atlanta.  Also, the celebration that got Gibbs on Put It Out! Sunday?  It was a bad attempt at emulating Jeff Gordon.

Former teammates Keselowski and Joey Logano were in the booth together Saturday and they have an interesting interplay going on.  It’s almost like the 1987 film Dragnet with Dan Ackroyd and Tom Hanks with Keselowski as Joe Friday.  Which is quite strange since Keselowski is not that much older than Logano (their age difference is seven years and change).  Keselowski at one point referred to Joey as “Joseph,” as if he was Joey’s disapproving father.  Given the randomness of the race, they really couldn’t add too much because they were learning just as well as everyone watching.

Keselowski was quite confused that no one seemingly took the time to tape the inside of their windshields since vision was a real problem all race long.  The 5 p.m. start time should have convinced them that it would be a thing.  Keselowski made sure that it wouldn’t be an issue for him during the race on Sunday.

Overall, I found the broadcast rather irritating to watch at times due to the strange production decision making.  The racing was decent to watch, but the wrecking was irritating.  This seemed like three-plus hour race when it wasn’t.

That’s all for this week.  After last weekend’s marathon of racing, this will be a quieter weekend.  We have a tripleheader of NASCAR action at Circuit of the Americas.  So far, the weather forecast looks good.  There will likely not be a repeat of this:

Tony Stewart will be back in the broadcast booth for the Cup race on Sunday in place of Jeff Gordon.  Monster Energy AMA Supercross will be at Lumen Field in Seattle as well.  TV listings can be found in the Television drop-down menu.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Circuit of the Americas for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover Saturday’s Fr8 208 for the Camping World Truck Series.

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.

About the author

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 the Super DIRTcar Series.

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DoninAjax

I set my PVR for the Saturday event and noticed it was scheduled for 5-7. I thought that was not enough for 250 miles and extended it by 30 minutes. I tuned in around 5:40 expecting to see about 40 laps into the event and it was just taking the green flag so I extended it to 60 minutes. Tuning in periodically I realized it was going longer than that so I extended it to my maximum 90 minutes. When I watched the recording the checker flag flew with 18 seconds left at 8:30. So the telecast ended more than an hour and a half past the scheduled time. The network must have been going bananas

TSN didn’t show the event on Sunday on any of their FIVE channels. And I don’t think they’re showing the farce from Texas this Sunday either. Makes sense to me if the choice is between the NCAA games and the example of Brian’s product.

George Webster

Yes it’s true that this race was not shown on any ‘TSN’ channel in Canada. I got it on CTV2 on my Bell Fibe service. I’m not sure how widespread is the availablity of CTV2. Note that there’s a CTV2 broadcast this coming weekend as well …

George Webster

Something that didn’t really make it on air is the fact that Goodyear sent a representative to the Media Center Sunday during the race to talk about the failures for Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He believed that it was a manufacturer-specific issue”
Phil: Am I not correct in believeing that all makes of Cup cars are spec-identical under the skin (except for the engine)? If so, comments about the make of car affecting the way the tires wore would not make sense?

Christopher

The car allows both pre-race and in-race adjustments in wheel camber. Too much, too radical and the tire wear is negatively affected. What I heard during the broadcast was that Goodyear felt it was team-specific, not manufacturer specific.

WJW Motorsports

I think Brett on DBC did a good job calling out Clint for cheerleading that race in his new role and conveniently forgetting what it’s like as a driver. Frustrating you can’t make a move out of line to go anywhere, usually ending up wrecked or upside down and concussed, baffled by the blind luck of the winner.

Christopher

“Keselowski at one point referred to Joey as “Joseph,” as if he was Joey’s disapproving father.” This is not new. Last year when the two were in the booth they called each other Bradley and Joseph, so apparently it’s something quite normal for them. As to the writer opining that showing kids so much was creepy, when it was clearly being used for comic effect, it says more about the writer than it does the broadcasters.

DoninAjax

I think Logano is a little old to be called “Joey.” He’s not a baby roo. I remember when Chris Economaki called Petty “Ricky” during an interview very early in his career and his mother went ballistic.
“If we’d wanted him to be called Ricky we would have called him Ricky. It’s RICHARD.

Bill B

“I think Logano is a little old to be called “Joey.””

Still better than “Junebug”. LOL

DoninAjax

Maybe Bubba can be “Butterfly?” Floats around and waits for other drivers’ problems? No sting like a bee, though.

Kevin L

Been a NASCAR race fan since 1960…
I’m not sure how much longer I can stand these overly designed, laser tech nightmare Cookie-Cutters knocking one another out in the last 10 laps of 98% of the races.

Nor am I impressed by the too-many road course events… with more appearing to be in the planning (as if NASCAR’s front office actually thinks through their “planning” stages anymore). The correlation between how an idea looks on paper, and the actual results, has been an ever widening gap.

Incessant experimentation is where we seem to be at these days. I am over the constant major changes to these race machines. Apparently continuity is a thing of the past?

NASCAR has all but eliminated the opportunity to see races won by utilizing the drivers’ talents in these Attrition Fest’s. Instead we get the all-too predictable 2-lap Demolition Derby finish.

I guess that’s better than a Figure 8 crash-fest… or perhaps this in the ‘planning’ for NASCAR?

GIVE US OUR GENUINE RACING COMPETITION BACK!!!!!!!!!

TamzJJ48

As a Racing Fan since I can remember , cause I was born into it, now age 49, so I am a Dedicated Fan. As my Dad was a Race Car Driver, & ProStocks Champion more than 6 times at Nascar Sponsored Tracks & I know more than I could even imagine about Racing & Nascar. I personally had no problems with this Race At Atlanta for Cup, some of the stuff you wrote about in my opinion was Crazy & so far off. As a Fan watching from home & at the Tracks, I enjoyed the Race for the Xfinty Cars & Cup Cars… Also the Anouncers were excellent. Glad to see Jeff back in the booth. The 3 of them work well together & have a Great sense of humor. Not just Cup Anouncers, Xfinity too.😁 Like I said my opinion!😁

I Love watching long Races can’t get enough, so I always set DVR over scheduled time even into next few programs just in case.👍😃

Jason

No mention of Vince Welch at the end of the Truck Race forgetting who was driving the 51?

D. C. Sphar

If I am not mistaken this is still a free country and we all live under the constitution of the UNITED STATES. Now that being said we add the amendments and I didn’t see FOX doing anything wrong except for that part where they showed that semi trailer that found a low bridge. This happens about 20 or 30 times a day.

Pooky

Love how that only a couple of the 13 comments I read mentioned the writer or article and only those have down votes (at the time of my reading it.) Frontstretch staff damning people? Hmmm….

Last edited 3 months ago by Pooky
James Butter

Harsh words – much like Monday quarterbacking. It must be nice to have that perfect 20-20 rear view vision.

Paul Esterline

It sounds like the author may have watched a different race than the one I saw at the tracking ATL. It was a great race and even in the “cheap seats” we had a great view and both my wife and I enjoyed that race very much!…. maybe the author is KB fan… he didn’t like the race erither.

Ron

Now of the TV sounds board guy could figure out how to turn the microphones on the track down a little and the broadcast both up a little it’s be better. Half the time the sound mix of the cars drowned out what the broadcasters are saying.

Steve

Wow,

I kind of thought that Atlanta was the best race yet this year.

Too much negativity from your article…can’t you be happy with anything?

Jenny

What drives me crazy is Clint seems to have all the answers now that he is in the booth. Drivers need to do this, be ready for that etc. Yet what did he do when he was in the car himself-not much.

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