Oh boy. Where do we start? Texas Motor Speedway has been a problem child since about 2015. Back then, the issue was old pavement and drainage issues. The 2016 INDYCAR race being postponed because they literally could not get the track dry due to seepage issues led to the repave.
Technically, there isn’t anything wrong with what they did for the repave. It’s just that the track (and NASCAR) insisted upon the PJ1 TrackBite for the first race weekend there in 2017, then continued putting it down. The traction compound has literally ruined the place for INDYCAR and made it very difficult for the track to naturally widen out.
Now, the natural settling is causing problems with the Next Gen car. The bumps, combined with the rules for the Next Gen cars, seemed to be a contributing factor to what we saw.
Tire failures are going to be the biggest takeaway from the race. It was embarrassing to the sport and to Goodyear. However, it was also really hard to see just what was going on to cause these issues.
The only real idea of what could have been causing it was a shot on pit road of a blown out tire with a large bubble on it. Problem is, since the tire was blown out, you couldn’t really tell if that had occurred due to the blowout or before it happened. If these bubbles appeared before the blowout, it would lend credence to a number of the vibrations that were reported on the broadcast. They would all make a lot of sense if you were driving over that bubble hundreds of times a lap.
The problem with that is the fact that there had already been a number of blowouts by that point. It was hard to figure out everything that was going on if you can’t really look at anything that hadn’t already failed.
Steve Letarte indicated on air that he thought that it was indicative of an internal failure as opposed to running over something or a setup issue (ex: excessive camber). That is in contrast to what Goodyear’s Greg Stucker told the assembled media in Texas after the race Sunday.
Regardless, as the race continued on, the failures became more and more common as the sun went down. The lightning delay really caused a lot of problems because it resulted in unexpected speeds as the track cooled down by 20 degrees.
It was to the point where Brad Daugherty was getting scared for the drivers. You never want to see a TV personality or a team owner (in the case of Daugherty, both) say that on-air. Let’s just state the obvious: A repeat of Sunday can’t happen.
In his post-race interviews, Byron noted that the contact bent a toe link on his car. He thought that the contact could have put him on the DVP clock and eventually out of the race. Obviously, that didn’t come to pass.
USA caught this incident live, but they were using the aerial view. Given the angle, the booth couldn’t quite tell whether or not Byron actually hit the wall. To be fair, I couldn’t quite tell either, but I thought he had. It took until the replays came out to be able to tell for sure.
A few laps later, Martin Truex Jr. crashed out of the lead after blowing a tire. Byron then paid Hamlin back. At the time the payback happened, I thought that it happened right as the yellow came out, but the subsequent video that came out showed that it came three or four seconds after the yellow was signaled.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 26, 2022
Now, this shot is from the camera in Byron’s car accessible to all on NASCAR Drive at NASCAR.com. It was not used at all on the broadcast. In fact, it seems like NBC Sports has no access to these shots. I do not understand why this is the case. Even worse, NASCAR Race Control apparently doesn’t have access. That comes off as crazy to me.
Most racing series that have cameras in every car (Formula 1, Repco Supercars Championship, etc.) do it primarily for officiating purposes. That is not what NASCAR has done here. Going forward, NASCAR race control needs to have access to these cameras at all times.
For NBC Sports, having access to those cameras would be very helpful as well. We’ll use the pit officiating cameras as an example. NASCAR grants the TV partners access to those cameras so that viewers have a better idea of what leads to those nasty pit road penalties. The access to those cameras would be much along those lines.
After the yellow came out, you could see that Hamlin was ticked. He wanted to wreck Byron under yellow, but backed off when they came upon the safety workers around Truex’s car. Instead, Hamlin pulled a Chris Jericho and added him to his list.
We also had the terrible crash involving Cody Ware where he twitched in turn 4, went hard into the outside wall, then careened down pit road with no brakes and nearly hit the blunt end of the pit wall at an opening. This was an ugly, frightening crash.
USA chose to withhold replays until Ware was out of the car and in the ambulance. Mind you, they had no real update on Ware at the time other than the fact that he was going to the infield care center, which we could see. They showed Ware getting out of the car in a good amount of discomfort. He then tried to step over the wall and collapsed in pain.
There was no mention made of this on-air collapse from the booth. After a few seconds of this, the camera shots pulled away in order to give a certain sense of privacy for the situation.
There was some good here, but a lot of it wasn’t good. In the years leading up to the Next Gen car’s introduction, driver injuries were quite rare. A situation like this would rarely come up. Ryan Newman’s crash at the end of the 2020 Daytona 500 is one example. Another is when Aric Almirola got hurt at Kansas in 2017. Generally, both of these incidents were treated with care and professionalism. In the case of the Almirola crash, some of that was undone by showing pictures of Almirola in pain while being extracted from the car after the race.
On Sunday, you simply had no reaction to Ware’s issues from the booth, like they were numb to it. That seemed really weird and off-putting. I understand the pulling back. Perhaps that should have been done earlier.
There was no real mention made of Ware after that until the lightning delay, where they ran the tweet from Rick Ware Racing after Ware was released from the infield care center. I don’t know what this would have meant overall.
Does that mean that they would not have interviewed Ware if he was made available? Did someone at NBC Sports ask for one and the team or Cody declined? I’m not sure, as it was never made clear.
The whole scenario came off as cold. Never felt that way about a NASCAR broadcast before.
The stupidity regarding Ty Gibbs on pit with Ty Dillon only made the broadcast in the background and wasn’t really remarked on. However, that garbage is unacceptable. Who died and made Ty Gibbs the king of anything? You don’t intentionally hit a car on pit road while crews are working. Whether NASCAR does anything about that remains to be seen.
Post-race coverage, despite the race ending roughly 90-105 minutes late, was just about normal. Viewers got a half-dozen driver interviews and some post-race analysis before USA left Texas for a 9-1-1 marathon.
Overall, there’s a lot to look back on here. Yes, the race set a Texas record for lead changes with 36. It’s also the longest Texas race by a bunch, the slowest Cup race at Texas and had 20 more laps under yellow than any previous Texas race. Racing-wise, there was plenty to be had. NASCAR will likely publicize the fact that there were nearly double the number of passes as compared to last year, but I don’t know if I’d want to publicize much of anything about this race.
When they weren’t wrecking Sunday, there was some decent racing. USA had a good amount of side-by-side racing to show. While some of the coverage was front-centric, there was a decent amount of coverage further back as well. It appears that the Next Gen car has resulted in a new plan in regards to coverage since so many more teams can potentially win races.
That’s all for this week. Next week, NASCAR’s three National-level series will all be at Talladega Superspeedway for 1050 miles of racing. There’s a high chance of shenanigans. IMSA is scheduled to wrap up their season with the 25th running of the Motul Petit Le Mans. Finally, Formula 1 will be back in action in Singapore. TV listings can be found right here.
My current schedule is to be at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta Wednesday-Saturday to cover the Petit Le Mans weekend, then drive to Talladega for the Cup race on Sunday. However, any of this could be thrown for a loop due to Hurricane Ian. There is a possibility that the 10-hour race gets postponed due to the storm.
We will definitely keep you updated about the upcoming weekend and any changes that may occur. If the race weekend in Braselton goes ahead with a bunch of rain and winds around 30 mph, I’ll be prepared for that.
We will have a critique of Sunday’s broadcast of the YellaWood 500 from Talladega in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter, we’ll take a look at Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300, where a different variety of chaos reigned.
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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.