Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Deals With a Nightmare in Texas

The All-Star Race in recent years has become NASCAR’s skunk works in order to try out new things. Things tried here in recent years that have made it into the Cup Series full-time include the new hood escape valves that are on the Next Gen car, along with the travesty that was the 550 horsepower package.

Sunday really didn’t have that much. They did have a mini Pit Stop Competition and something like the 13th different format for the race. What it did have were some strange decisions from both FOX Sports 1 and NASCAR.

Before we get going, a couple of things to cover. First off, news broke over the weekend that Dave McClelland has died at the age of 85. For those of you that are big into drag racing, McClelland was the voice of the NHRA for decades. If you were watching John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Don “The Snake” Pruedomme, Joe Amato or Bob Glidden have it at in the 1980s or 1990s on ESPN or TNN, he was probably calling it for Diamond P Sports.

Secondly, we’re starting to get close to the beginning of negotiations for the next NASCAR TV deal. As of now, there are still 2.5 years remaining on the current 10-year deal that runs through the end of 2024. SportsBusinessJournal’s Adam Stern reported back in February that NASCAR wants to do another long-term TV deal, but the Race Team Alliance (RTA) may want a different split since track ownership has changed substantially since the current deal started. We’ll ultimately have to see what will happen going forward, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what the TV landscape is going to look like in 2025. NASCAR has a lot of properties that can be monetized, but whatever happens will likely be much different than what we currently have.

Honestly, Sunday night’s All-Star Race will be best remembered for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. suffering his second flat right rear tire on the last lap. One of NASCAR’s new rules for the All-Star Race is that the race must end under green, no matter what. As we all know, that came into play.

I understand what NASCAR is trying to do with this rule. It wants to create more excitement. It got more than what it was worth. This caution shouldn’t have been thrown. Had Stenhouse actually hit the wall, then it would have been different, but based on the replay I saw, he didn’t hit it.

Mike Joy made note of Stenhouse’s trouble on the final lap about half a lap before what would have been the finish. They deigned to keep track of it just to make sure that it wasn’t going to be an issue. However, the final call in this situation goes to race director Jusan Hamilton. He hit the plunger to call the caution. NASCAR’s Scott Miller explained afterwards that he thought Hamilton’s decision was hasty.

To me, there was no doubt that the yellow was out before Ryan Blaney got to the line, although the broadcast booth didn’t seem so sure. Given this situation, it’s no different than a caution coming out with two laps to go in a regular race within 500 feet of the leaders taking the white flag. This has happened multiple times in the past.

The alternate flagger was waving the caution flag before Blaney got to the line, in addition to the lights being on. If this is where the lunacy finished up, then OK, this would have been fully on NASCAR. However, Blaney was convinced that it was over and took his window net down.

Obviously, that’s a thing. You can’t race without that up at any level. Note that dirt modifieds generally don’t run window nets. Letting Blaney run the Green-White-Checker with his window net out of compliance was ridiculous. Thankfully, nothing went down during that three-mile sprint, but jeepers, not cool.

Given that this is the All-Star Race, a couple of different decisions could have been made. One is to do what NASCAR did and let him run it out. He had managed to position it so that he could drive with both hands on the wheel by that point, even though it wasn’t fully up and locked. Another would be to allow him to pit and have the crew put it back up and allow him to keep his spot. The more draconian option would be to force him to pit and make him restart at the back of the lead lap, literally costing him the race.

All three of these options are bad. Had Blaney waited a couple more seconds, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because he wouldn’t have dropped the net at all.

FOX Sports knew ahead of time that this format was likely going to be a mess. Thus, they had Larry McReynolds back in the booth. He’s always on top of things when it comes to the labyrinthine rules that are in play in NASCAR these days, and I was happy that he was there.

McReynolds was on his A-game Sunday night. You have to be in order to deal with some of this craziness.

In addition to McReynolds, there was another guest. Frankie Muniz was in the booth for the All-Star Open and was on pit road during Michael Waltrip’s grid walk. This is a somewhat random choice.

Muniz is likely best known for the FOX sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, which ran from 2000-2006. Of course, they made light of this on the broadcast by literally putting him in the middle.

Today, Muniz is attempting a stock car racing career after previously racing in the Champ Car Atlantics Series. Any chance he had at reaching IndyCar ended after the Champ Car/IRL merger, which more or less orphaned the Atlantics (it was Champ Car’s top support series at the time). He’s racing late models at Irwindale Speedway these days and wants to run in either ARCA or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next year. However, given his past, I don’t know about that. He has admitted to multiple concussions in the past from a variety of different things, at least nine.

When he was able to chime in the booth, he seemed to be talking extremely fast. It was like everything from him came in a stream of consciousness style. That said, he was able to contribute a little to the broadcast. He did also say that he couldn’t imagine going as fast as the drivers were in the Open. If you really want to run in the ARCA Menards Series, Frankie, you better get used to that.

I found his time on the broadcast to be bizarre. I literally couldn’t figure out why he was there.

When you have a new race car, there are going to be some times in which you have duds. Sunday night was a dud of a race. It really wasn’t all that competitive despite the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series races being much better. In 140 laps of racing, there were three lead changes, and it was very hard to pass. Kyle Busch very well could have led the whole thing had he not cut his right rear tire on lap 48.

FOX Sports 1 did OK in showing the racing for position that we actually got. The Open might have been more competitive than the All-Star Race since it was held when it was still light outside.

The PJ1 TrackBite that was put down on the track years ago continues to be a problem for nearly everyone. I think the fierce Texas sunshine has played a role here since it makes the track ultra-slick and embeds the compound into the track more. That contributed to a couple of wrecks Sunday night and makes the track nearly unraceable at times for INDYCAR.

There’s a substantial group of people that want the track to be bulldozed and returned to the previous status as a field. I don’t think the track should shut down, but it’s pretty much been proven that they can’t get rid of the compound. They may have to rip up the turns for the third time and repave again to fix this issue. I guess they’ve learned now that you can’t hurry this stuff. Paving technology these days makes it difficult to have a racy track early on, but you can’t take shortcuts. PJ1 TrackBite is a shortcut.

There were some bad choices in regards to commercials. Kyle Larson’s big wreck occurred right as FOX Sports 1 was going to a side-by-side break.

As soon as the graphic that plays when FOX Sports 1 goes to the side-by-side break ended, you saw Larson in the quad-oval grass after pounding the wall. Given that this was a side-by-side break, they could have curtailed the break, but they chose not to. Had it been a local break, that would be another story.

The Busch crash occurred right after Larson stated in an interview that Busch could not be caught. Oh, how wrong he was.

Here, they showed a bunch of in-car replays of this crash. Unfortunately, despite the dual path technology in use, neither of the shots from Ross Chastain’s car showed anything worthy of use on the broadcast, and they kept using them. As a result, you couldn’t really see much.

Post-race coverage was next to nil. The race broadcast was originally scheduled to end at 10 p.m. ET. The checkered flag (for the second time) flew at 10:40, well into when FOX Sports 1 was supposed to be airing the Philadelphia Union-Portland Timbers MLS game. As a result, viewers only got an interview with Blaney on the frontstretch and a little bit of post-race analysis before they left Texas in a hurry to get to Portland.

Honestly, if you took away the ridiculousness, this would have been the most boring Cup race of the year to date. Not much really went on. Running at night continues to hurt this race. There is no reason why this should be a Sunday night race on a non-holiday weekend. Also of note, if you’re wondering, Texas Motor Speedway is in the middle of a grandstand renovation, so there weren’t as many seats open for the weekend.

Gotta tell you, seeing Ric Renner on here was so weird. He used to be the sports director at WRGB, the CBS affiliate here in the Albany, N.Y. market in the mid-1990s while doubling as the host of a bloopers show called Out of Bounds.

FOX Sports 1 did what it could to make this event look competitive, but it just wasn’t. And it wasn’t their fault as the love affair with the sticky stuff continues to hurt Texas. They’ll have to do a lot more than install a bunch of huge bars to make this place better.

That’s it for this week. Next weekend is going to be a doozy. NASCAR will be in Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. The NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series will be there as well. In Indianapolis, you have the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

You also have the Grand Prix of Monaco, where the smoozing day has been eliminated. Finally, you the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring as well. If you’re a race fan, you might as well work a groove into whatever you plan on sitting on this weekend. TV listings can be found here.

Hoo boy. Reminds me of the time I did a project in sixth grade where I tracked how much racing that I watched on television during the week leading up to Memorial Day. I remember logging a full 12 hours on Sunday.

At bare minimum, we’ll have a critique of FOX’s broadcast of the Coca-Cola 600 for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. We’ll be working some overtime over the next week and change since everything major that runs this weekend should be written about.

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

FOX and NA$CAR have only themselves to blame for the fiascos they are creating. They want game 7 moments all the time and they have Angel Hernandez making the calls.

Charlie

That person made Angel Hernandez look like Doug Harvey.

DoninAjax

Doug Harvey was also a defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens in the 50s. He made better decisions too.

janice

what amazed me with larson’s wreck…..yes it was a side-by-side, but 6 commercials later they return to the race.

John

A well written an accurate account of the race and broadcast. The appearance of Frankie Munoz still has me scratching my head. You could tell how messed up the final caution was from the reactions by the commentary team. The tone changed. They even dared to say it was a wrong decision. MRN did as well, but quickly recovered “the party line.” The hi-jacking of the sport in the name of entertainment is eroding my interest. I’d rather watch Larson lead every lap at Attica than watch him run in a Cup race. There it’s still about the sport and not throwing random cautions to create game 7 moments. I’ve sat in the stands at Dover and Pocono and watched some incredible demonstrations of dominating races. That didn’t make them bad races, at least in my eyes, but not being able to pass makes it a non-event. The PJ1 competition enhancement for NASCAR has made the track unsafe for IndyCar and has ruined their second most exciting event.
But thank you for calling a turd a turd and I hope you keep your credentials.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Mike Joy sounded more frustrated about that caution than Cody Ware, and that’s saying something.

Charlie

I am a sports official. Dave Moody incorrectly stated on Monday’s show, and he was adamat, that MLB, NFL, NBA officials are employees of the league same as NASCAR. That is not correct. MLB has an umpire’s association, same with football, though New York is injecting itself more in decisions, think the end of the super bowl, and the NBA officials are employees of the league. NASCAR needs independent officials. The race director, if he was part of an officials’ association would be fired. That was a BLOCKHEAD AND BONEHEAD move.
Now, having Larry Mac in the booth working with Clint made the broadcast interesting. It was the high point.
Scary thought is they are on basically the same track Sunday night. I do believe the car still has the Clean Air problem. The broadcast team will have some long unexciting stretches. I will be at the race, but this may be it for me as I haven’t missed a May race since 1965. Can’t take any more of the follow the leader………………………
I will interesting to see your feedback next week and I hope you give us a synopsis of Monaco and Indy.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Charlotte may be a D shaped tri-oval but it will likely put on a show more similar to Kansas and Vegas rather than Texas, which has that really wide turn 2 exit. I think we’ll be in for the best 600 in years, seeing as how the intermediate races this other than Texas have been great.

WJW Motorsports

From your lips to God’s ears I hope you are right. My eyes however have told me nothing’s changed on intermediates. If we have cautions and restarts – we have a “great” race. If we don’t, we get an aero parade. I believe the NASCAR suits are quite pleased with the tire failures adding to the caution count, and will be counting on that to make Charlotte another “great” race.

Chris A

Charlotte is my home track also, but for several years has not been entertaining with Cup races. Having friends in the industry most are saying this areo problem can be fixed by doing 3 things..#1 get the cars off the ground and go back to ride heights more like the late 80’s. #2 Get ride of the side skirts to allow more air under the car so the cars have to slow down in the turns to allow more passing. But keep them for Daytona and Talledega which could be a safety issue. #3 Do away with tappered spacers and reduced HP except Daytona and Talledega.

Jeremy

PREACH ON, Brother Chris! I’d also add; mandate a more durable, harder compound tire. It doesn’t necessarily need to “wear out” if it doesn’t have as much grip to begin with.

Fed Up

Fox Sports’ presentation of NA$CAR will never improve as long as Artie Kempner is in charge of direction. Same stale shots every week.

johndawgchapman

I’m trying to think when I haven’t seen Larry Mac be on his A game…… But I’m coming up blank.

Sally Baker

Since it’s Nascar’s sandbox and their rules, they could have easily said the yellow was thrown in error the race was over and Blaney won. Instead, they try to cover their butts and put Blaney in a horrible position. Just stupid all around. Another consequences of making so many silly rules that no one understands them, so no one really cars.

Bill B

They mistakenly threw the caution then doubled down, as you said by not admitting it, and then doubled down again with another stupid decision by letting Blaney drive without a window net.
All to keep from admitting they made a mistake.
In the end, they pretty much had to admit they made a mistake anyway because it was so obvious. It’s sad to say, and it’s one of their biggest problems, they never want to admit they are wrong.

DoninAjax

NA$CAR is attempting to resuscitate a dying patient. If NA$CAR gives the figure for the new TV deal it will be an indication of how much spin they put on the numbers they use. If, due to the ineptitude of network personnel it is worth more, I foresee more TV time outs and overall commercials.

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