Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Confusion Reigns at NASCAR Indianapolis

Indianapolis Motor Speedway remains one of the biggest NASCAR race weekends of its season’s second half. With that said, the Goodyear tire debacle of 2008 was more or less a death knell for the Brickyard 400 on the oval. NASCAR and Goodyear seemingly never made amends for that, and attendance cratered from there.

Starting last year, the former Brickyard 400 was moved to the IMS infield road course. It still attracts a somewhat similar crowd to the final years on the oval, but it’s more spread out and less noticeable on air.

Unfortunately, the first edition of the race last year was marred by curbs breaking and massive crashes. This year’s race will be remembered best for the final restart and the chaos that ensued.

When I was watching this restart live on Sunday (July 31), I thought to myself, “What!  He can’t do that!” It was literally Ross Chastain taking the “Joker” on the final restart.

(For the uninitiated, a “Joker” is an alternate route on the track, typically seen in Rallycross. The FIA Touring Car Cup uses such a setup at the Vila Real street course event in Portugal. Let’s just say that the joker lap at Vila Real is just one of the many weird things about that street course.)

Now, in that circumstance, every driver is supposed to use the “Joker” once per race. That is not the scenario that is supposed to happen in NASCAR.

Instead, Chastain’s move created confusion as he literally came out of nowhere to get himself into the lead. After the race, Tyler Reddick described his surprise out front.

“I was like, ‘uh-oh.’,” he said. “But that was a scenario that had been talked about. If you get bottled up, what do you do? Take the access road.”

Had Chastain used the motorcycle loop to stop, he likely would have finished wherever he ultimately did on the track. Since he didn’t, NASCAR slapped a 30-second penalty on him, which dropped Chastain to 27th.

NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. noticed Chastain had gone straight at turn 1 when he did it, but didn’t seem to notice that it was Chastain at the time. Austin Dillon also pulled the same maneuver and got hit with the same penalty (not mentioned on the broadcast – it should have been).

The call from NBC picked up with Chastain fighting tooth and nail with Reddick for the win. Reddick’s ultimate pass on Chastain in turn 13 was probably one of the most impressive of the day knowing that he pulled it off on the outside of a flat turn. The one Chastain put on Reddick at the quick flick chicane was equally so.

The whole mess on the penultimate lap made for an extremely messy call as the booth had to figure out just what the deuce was going on in progress. I feel like NASCAR penalized Chastain quite a bit before they announced the actual consequences on the broadcast. In the clip above, you can see when the penalty announcement was made on air.

Since the race was run under mostly green-flag conditions, it ended much earlier than last year. Post-race coverage was fairly substantial, and the content that was exclusive to Peacock did provide additional value.

However, the whole timing of that transition was really weird. The NBC broadcast from Indianapolis was scheduled to run until 6 p.m. ET Sunday. It did. When I went onto Peacock to check for the post-race show, it mentioned a start time of 5:45 p.m.

What did that mean in practice? It meant that the feed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App cut out in the middle of regular post-race coverage, claiming it had concluded when it really hadn’t. I don’t understand how that type of oversight happens.

Luckily, I have a smart TV, so I switched over to Peacock at that point. It turns out that the really interesting stuff post-race ended up exclusive to Peacock.

For instance, the clip that showed Ryan Blaney intentionally spinning out Daniel Suarez only aired on Peacock. Prior to that, you had Parker Kligerman’s awkward interview with Richard Childress, where you could tell that he was still angry over the whole contract mess with Reddick, despite the fact that Reddick just won the dang race.

The whole intentional spin of Suarez doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like Suarez got hit by Austin Cindric and that bounced him into Blaney. Suarez also didn’t spin him out… AJ Allmendinger did. The whole situation was ridiculous, but Suarez is blameless here.

Sunday’s race also saw the bizarre situation of Chris Buescher’s car bursting into flames on pit road. This incident resulted from contact with Bubba Wallace that moved the right side exhaust on the No. 17 Ford. That contact, on lap 2, pushed Buescher into Chastain, who spun out. Buescher explained this situation Monday.

Two thoughts come out of that fire. One is that NASCAR might have to look into the exhaust system in order to prevent similar fires from happening in the future. Yes, it was a sizable hit, but I’m sure they would want to know why a fire would result from it 15 minutes later.

Also, had Buescher gotten out of the car when the fire was burning, he would have been forced to go to the infield care center and he would have been out for the day. That is a ridiculous rule that has to change.

In the end, Buescher is lucky that he didn’t end up ingesting a bunch of the fire retardant material. Honestly, I’m happy that he looks OK right now after that mess, although he’ll probably need a new fire suit. While yes, a fire suit is supposed to protect you from fire (which it did here), I don’t think the suits like the retardant material very much.

Early on in the race, there were a spate of incidents at IMS as drivers were wiping out under braking and going off into the grass. I didn’t really understand why no one seemed to think that was going to be an issue.

Indiana in late July is generally pretty hot and humid. That’s a regular thing. In addition, this race was one week later than when ESPN used to kick off its portion of the Cup schedule with the Brickyard 400 under the previous TV deal. Heat was always an issue there.

Also, practice started at 9:35 a.m. ET Saturday morning. Unless it’s going to be ridiculous outside that day, you’re likely to get decent temperature conditions at that time. It’s not going to be representative for a race that went green a little after 3 p.m.

So I’m not shocked that the track temperatures were 25 degrees higher than in qualifying. The teams would have to compensate for that temperature difference in their setup.

Meanwhile, with NASCAR and INDYCAR sharing the weekend in Indianapolis, there were multiple opportunities for cross promotion. I am good with that. I’d expect nothing less, especially knowing that NBC Sports is a media partner for both sanctioning bodies.

Likely the biggest crossover was that James Hinchcliffe played a role on both the Cup and NASCAR Xfinity series broadcasts. Hinchcliffe helped out on Countdown to Green and spent the race Sunday with Dale Jarrett.

I’m not really sure that Hinchcliffe added much there with Jarrett, but I thought he did a pretty good job on Countdown to Green. Hinchcliffe has never raced in NASCAR, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him give it a try at some point. On Saturday, he spent time in the booth, specifics that I’ll cover in the Critic’s Annex in our Frontstretch Newsletter later this week.

In addition, you had a piece with Patricio O’Ward and Suarez talking about their experiences together racing in Monterrey, Mexico. The two drivers are seven years apart in age, but there was a time period in which they were both karting in the Monterrey area when Suarez was about 15 and O’Ward eight (they didn’t race against each other, but knew of each other and were at least friendly at the time).

Fast forwarding to 2022, the two are friends and keep track of each other’s racing. Quite interesting and easily the best pre-produced segment of the weekend.

Racing-wise, there were a decent amount of battles for position to be had, but it all tended to be clustered around the restarts. Despite the insanity toward the end of the race, the competition got fairly spread out. I think NBC could have done better in regards to the amount of racing for position shown.

Overall, this event was fairly middling by race broadcast standards, but the confusion at the end of the race is what everyone will remember. A lot of strange things went down over the course of the afternoon: some intentional incidents that made no sense, somewhat unusual mechanical failures, Buescher’s fire, joker laps, and Allmendinger’s medical issues after the race.

I think that the Peacock show was done by the time Allmendinger got out of the infield care center. They were only able to give small updates on him because that’s all they had.

With the help of Harrison Burton (who had his own adventure on the way to a third-place finish), Parker Kligerman was able to describe what ultimately happened to broil Allmendinger in his car. We had a more definitive update on him on our own YouTube channel shortly after post-race coverage concluded.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series will be at Michigan International Speedway for their sole visit of the year. They’ll be joined by the ARCA Menards Series.

NTT IndyCar Series teams will be in Nashville for the second annual Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. GT America will be on the undercard. IMSA will be at Road America, where their 2023 season schedules will be unveiled. Detailed racing TV listings can be found here.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Michigan in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover a combination of the INDYCAR race from Saturday, including Earnhardt Jr.’s guest appearance, along with Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck series action.

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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babydufus

you’re a better man than me.
or maybe it’s you get paid to participate.
i found the even unwatchable.
i used my god given ff button and got at least an hour an a half back in my life.

Fed Up

Worse case of TV production this season: The idiot Xfinity director had a split screen on the leader and the battle for 3rd until the last lap when ( “we can only show you the leader on the last lap”) cuts to the leader and his in-car camera. Why would anyone pay advertising dollars for this inept presentation?

DoninAjax

It could have been worse on Sunday. They could have been showing the Chastain/Reddick battle and cut to Bubba’s in-car camera showing him turning the steering wheel on the output screen.

Why didn’t they show Bubba’s in-car camera when he cut across the grass and picked up ten positions?

johndawgchapman

I personally like road courses, but the final lap madness was a Blivit (trying to put 10 lbs in a 5 lb bag, situation. But in this case it was cars. Drivers have proven they can drive like idiots on ovals, as well as road courses. Some RC layouts just make it a little easier.

I tried for 15 min to log into Peacock, I have a free account but wasn’t able to do it. They pretty much waste an hour of network time on meaningless pre race crap. But can’t be bothered post race when there are meaningful things to cover. Go figure.

Kevin in SoCal

Its because of ratings. Studies have shown over and over that most people change the channel once the checkered flag waves. The pre-race shows gets higher ratings than the post-race show, so this continues.

Charlie

Good recap. That had to be torture. I still like the roadcourse over the oval. What would be funny if some dwarf that drives today had bommed into Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Richard Petty, David Pearson. They would have suffered the same fate as the late Tim Richmond when he said something to David Pearson.
Anyway. The drivers are aware of the consequences. I listened to the race and had the DVR working in case there was a specific thing I wanted to watch. There wasn’t.
Not into streaming. Will NOT watch.
ON to Michigan. I am interested to see how the car has improved on a track that size. At least Sunday the drag race was good.

Echo

Hey Phil, can you explain to me how bubba cut off a whole corner by going through the grass during a wreck, and he gained 10 positions doing that. 19th to 9th. Yet nascar nor NBC even mentioned it.

DoninAjax

Chastain broke a NA$CAR “rule” and like every NA$CAR “rule” the interpretation of any “rule” is currently based on the owner of the car involved. It appears to be like Indiana Jones said, “I’m making this up as I go.”

Echo

Your right, make it up as they go. Someone decided that passing 10 cars in the grass during a caution is ok if your on the preacher’s team. Just ignore the snake in the grass and maybe nobody else will notice.

Bob

My thoughts exactly no penalty for the bubber hmmmmmmm

Dale EarnHog

Bubba got knocked into the grass by Briscoe who got knocked into Bubba by somebody else.

Echo

They were all knocking into each other but nascar has gobs of cameras and somebody should have spotted the snake in the grass.

DoninAjax

“This year’s Indianapolis race will be remembered best for the final restart and the chaos that ensued.”

That is exactly the purpose for double file restarts and GWCs.

DoninAjax

As an afterthought, the 4 TV timeouts on Saturday and Sunday too 4 laps each at 12 minutes each. 16 laps and 48 minutes is a lot of commercials and useless drivel.

Jake

Great write up per usual, Phil.

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