Wednesday , July 30 2014
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Couch Potato Tuesday: Technical Issues Mar TNT Broadcast… Again

Couch Potato Tuesday: Technical Issues Mar TNT Broadcast… Again

All three NASCAR series hit Kentucky Speedway for a weekend under the lights. The Nationwide and Camping World Truck series broadcasts were marred by problematic winners and other issues ranging minor to major, while the big one — the Quaker State 400 for the Sprint Cup Series — had its usual issues typified by TNT’s Summer Series broadcasts.

UNOH 225

A rare Thursday night outing for the Camping World Truck Series brought 32 trucks out for a 225-mile assault on the bumpy track. Kyle Busch was present; therefore, he was a force of nature.

The Setup talked about Kyle Busch’s recent streak of whoopin’, but not really all that much. Instead, the focus stayed (for the most part) on the regulars, which is really the best way to go.

The big feature of the week concerned Ashley Parlett, a mechanic with Turner Scott Motorsports and the girlfriend of recent Frontstretch interviewee Ryan Eversley. Admittedly, most of my previous exposure to Parlett had been through Twitter, where she is quite the prolific tweeter. Twitter aside, the piece was centered upon her entry into motorsports as a Sprint Car racer, and then her eventual move to Charlotte to try to follow her dreams.

I had no clue that she was a former racer (she claims on Twitter to be a “washed up former Sprint Car racer”) prior to seeing the piece. It was definitely a very interesting piece. You could tell while watching that Parlett is very close to her father, who encouraged her to follow her dreams. She doesn’t really know where she’s ultimately going to end up, but that she’s going to work hard and have a lot of fun getting there.

I rarely comment on the starting lineup graphics in the critique unless something unusual happens, and that was the case on Friday night. FOX Sports 1 tried to show which drivers got sent to the rear of the field for the start and it simply turned into a mess where multiple drivers were shown twice while others weren’t shown at all. FOX, you can do better than that.

Darrell Wallace, Jr., Kyle Busch and John Wes Townley on track at Kentucky. (Credit: CIA)

Darrell Wallace, Jr., Kyle Busch and John Wes Townley on track at Kentucky. (Credit: CIA)

While Busch once again dominated the race, there was still a good deal of racing for position further back in the field. FOX Sports 1 chose to show us some of that action instead of focusing on Busch all night long. That was good to see; however, the main stories still seemed to be Busch and Brad Keselowski. Even though they’re both team owners in the series, it’s not healthy for the series long-term.

Once again, post-race coverage was considered to officially be part of FOX Sports Live. I know the network is trying to boost the show’s ratings, but it’s really getting in the way of providing proper post-race coverage, or even filling the prescribed timeslot for the telecast (which Thursday’s telecast did not do).

There’s a fairly obvious reason why they’re doing it, too. Scroll down and check out these ratings from a couple of weeks ago for FOX Sports 1, made available by Awful Announcing. They show that the truck race at Gateway was FOX Sports 1’s highest rated program of that particular week (also of note, I believe those numbers are lower than what the trucks were getting when FOX Sports 1 was still SPEED). FOX Sports Live sadly barely draws anything without a live sports lead-in. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with cross-promotion, but don’t cut a show’s timeslot in order to do it.

John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300

Friday night brought the Nationwide Series back out to play. It also brought Busch and Keselowski back into play. Once again, they were on their best game. Surprise, surprise.

Pre-race coverage was relatively staid; nothing really stood out here except for Brendan Gaughan getting interview time because he won at Road America. The discussion on the telecast talked about it being a very popular win in the garage. However, if your only exposure to the Nationwide Series is via ESPN, then I doubt that you would notice Gaughan’s popularity. In reality, Gaughan is a friendly personality with race fans who is quite honest, sometimes to a fault. He’s a refreshing personality for the series that ESPN has failed to tap so far this year — seriously, he’d be a great driver to help promote the series. Even in the rush to get off-air after the Gardner Denver 200, ESPN still stopped to explain the significance of the win for Brendan in the context of his family at that time.

During the race, viewers got some racing for position, but not really all that much. I’ll argue that the track and the spread out nature of the race did play a role here. The focus appeared to be on Busch and Keselowski, since they had the two best cars. Kevin Harvick, who ultimately won, didn’t get anywhere near the coverage of the aforementioned duo.

Post-race coverage was very brief; viewers only saw interviews with winner Harvick and Keselowski, the dominant second-place finisher. Additional online-exclusive coverage saw interviews with Regan Smith and Paul Menard. There was no graphic showing the points after the race, but Allen Bestwick did mention that Sadler had taken the points lead. The telecast had gone over the slot, so ESPN had to leave quickly despite stories that needed to be fleshed out.

The one particular story that needed to be covered more substantially was the spat between Trevor Bayne and Chase Elliott, which went into its second week of shenanigans. Would have loved to hear from either party there. Heck, I would have liked to get comments from Ryan Sieg and Jeremy Clements, since they had visible on-track conflict during the race. Everyone knew Sieg’s spin of Clements under yellow was intentional; even the people posting the videos on NASCAR’s official YouTube channel stated it as fact.

Quaker State 400

On Saturday night, Sprint Cup Series teams and the fans gathered at Kentucky Speedway dodged raindrops in order to watch 400 miles of Team Penske butt kicking.

One aspect of pre-race stood out: Matt Yocum’s one-on-one interview with Joey Logano. Here, Logano talked about constantly being under the microscope as a young driver at Joe Gibbs Racing and coming of age in the public eye, his past confrontations, and being at Team Penske at the behest of Brad Keselowski, something that he’s apparently still shocked about. It’s a real kick in the tuchis for a champion to come right out and say, “I want you.”

Due to the potential for more rain, Countdown to Green ended 10 minutes early due to the opening ceremonies being moved up. That’s fine, as long as you notify the viewers. I feel that TNT failed to do so here. Also, there were some raindrops reported from drivers early on during the race. It was not enough to bring out a caution. Was that reported to viewers? Not that I can remember. I do remember seeing that on Twitter, though.

Also, TNT should have made note of the competition caution that was scheduled for lap 30 before lap six of the race. It should have been mentioned when Adam Alexander mentioned the rain on Countdown to Green.

Sadly, TNT’s continued technical issues shined brightly once again. Remember the audio issues I wrote about after Pocono? Well, they returned Saturday night, and with a vengeance. Worse than it was previously. The audio was so choppy that I couldn’t figure out what the deuce the booth was talking about. If something like this happens in Super Troopers, where someone “does the repeater” on a traffic stop, it’s funny. Here, it’s infuriating. I’m not saying this just to be vexatious; on the surface, it looks like there’s no quality control here.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leads a pack of drivers at Kentucky in the Quaker State 400. (Credit: CIA)

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leads a pack of drivers at Kentucky in the Quaker State 400. (Credit: CIA)

However, I can rant all I want about the issue.  Getting an official reason why this is occurring is far more beneficial for my readers.  To that end, I contacted Nate Smeltz, vice president of communications for NASCAR on TNT on Monday and asked him about the issue.  Smeltz replied promptly and explained that TNT has been having “isolated breaks in our satellite transmission,” which is responsible for the repeating of audio.  Smeltz also noted that TNT is making every effort to solve the matter once and for all.

While it still bites, TNT is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Hopefully, it isn’t an issue at Daytona or Loudon.

Honestly, the main saving grace of TNT’s broadcasts is the fact that they are an easier watch than an equivalent broadcast on FOX. There isn’t anywhere near as much stupidity coming out of the broadcast booth. Having said that, I don’t think it was a good idea to give Wally Dallenbach, Jr. a Louisville Slugger Baseball bat.

Post-race coverage was somewhat decent. TNT provided viewers with six driver interviews, plus an interview with winning crew chief Paul Wolfe. In addition, there were checks of the point standings and the unofficial results (finally fixed after weeks of being screwed up).

At this point, I suppose the best part of TNT’s broadcasts is the fact that TNT is willing to go the extra mile to get things right. It’ll show multiple replays in order to figure out what happened in crashes (the Almirola-Bowman-McMurray crash is an example of that strategy). The team spreads its knowledge around in a way that is less in your face than FOX. Heck, it’s better than FOX is in finding debris on track most of the time.

However, whatever goodwill that TNT could actually build up is being lost in its technical issues. The glitches (unfortunately without Old Man Snitches) on the technical side make the race hard to watch. It simply drives me nuts, knowing that TNT prides itself on its NBA coverage, which is essentially second to none. I thought it’d have its technical issues fixed by now, but I guess not.

Next weekend appears to be a busy one. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide series make their annual July 4 weekend visit to the sweatbox known as Daytona International Speedway. My advice: wear thin clothing. Otherwise, you might sweat through it, as I found out the hard way two years ago. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series teams have 500 miles of action at Pocono Raceway on tap. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, July 1
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-3:00am Verizon IndyCar Series Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, Race No. 2 NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 29)
10:00am-12:00pm DTM: Norisring CBS Sports Network*# (from June 29)
4:00-5:00pm K&N Pro Series East Visit Hampton VA 175 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 21)
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
8:00-10:00pm Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 26)

Wednesday, July 2
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-3:00am DTM: Norisring CBS Sports Network*# (from June 29)
3:00-4:00am Blancpain Endurance Series: Silverstone CBS Sports Network*/# (from May 25)
4:00-5:00am Blancpain Endurance Series: Paul Ricard CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 29)
1:00pm-3:00pm Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 26)
4:30-5:00pm Kurt Busch: 36 NBC Sports Network#
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
7:30-8:00pm 100,000 Cameras FOX Sports 2#
8:00-9:00pm Moto3: The Netherlands FOX Sports 2*# (from June 28)
9:00-9:30pm Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race CBS Sports Network*# (from April 12)
9:00-10:00pm Moto2: The Netherlands FOX Sports 2*# (from June 28)
10:00-11:00pm motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of the Netherlands FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 28)
11:30pm-12:00am Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race CBS Sports Network*# (from April 12)

Thursday, July 3
Time Telecast Network
1:00pm-3:00pm Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 26)
3:00-4:00pm The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt FOX Sports 1#
4:00-5:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:30-6:30pm The Day: Daytona Primetime FOX Sports 1#
6:30-7:00pm Kurt Busch: 36 NBC Sports Network#
6:30-8:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
9:00-9:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Friday, July 4
Time Telecast Network
12:00am-1:30am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 2*# (from July 3)
1:30-3:00am Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2*# (from July 3)
4:00-6:00am DTM: Norisring CBS Sports Network*# (from June 29)
5:00-6:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain Free Practice No. 1 NBC Sports Live Xtra$
9:00-10:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
10:00-11:30am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1*# (from July 3)
10:30am-1:00pm “1” NBC Sports Network#
11:30am-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1*# (from July 3)
12:00-2:00pm DTM: Oschersleben CBS Sports Network*# (from May 18)
1:00-2:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
2:00-3:00pm K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 1*/ (from June 21)
2:00-4:00pm DTM: Norisring CBS Sports Network*# (from June 29)
3:00-4:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
4:30-5:00pm NASCAR Live FOX Sports 1
5:00-6:30pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
6:30-8:30pm Pirelli World Challenge: Road America NBC Sports Network*/ (from June 20-21)
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN 2
7:15-9:15pm NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals First Round Qualifying ESPN3$
7:30-10:00pm Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 ESPN 2

Saturday, July 5
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am The Grid NBC Sports Network
3:00-4:30am Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1*# (from July 4)
4:00-6:00am Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 ESPN 2*/# (from July 4)
4:30-5:30am NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1*# (from July 4)
5:00-6:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain Free Practice No. 3 NBC Sports Live Xtra$
5:30-6:00am 100,000 Cameras FOX Sports 1#
8:00-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain Qualifying CNBC
10:00-11:00am K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 21)
11:00am-12:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2*# (from July 3)
12:30-2:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2*# (from July 4)
2:00-3:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*# (from July 4)
2:00-3:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain Qualifying NBC Sports Network*
3:00-4:00pm AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series: Redbud NBC
4:00-5:00pm AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series: Redbud, 250 Class Moto 2 NBC Sports Network*
5:30-6:30pm NASCAR RaceDay FOX Sports 2
6:30-7:30pm Countdown to Green Served by Sonic TNT
7:00-8:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network*
7:30-11:00pm Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 TNT
11:00pm-1:00am NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Final Qualifying ESPN 2*/
11:30pm-12:00am NASCAR Victory Lane FOX Sports 1

Sunday, July 6
Time Telecast Network
7:30am-8:00am F1 Countdown CNBC
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain CNBC
9:00-10:30am ARCA Racing Series Akona 250 presented by Federated Car Care CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 21)
10:00-10:30am F1 Extra CNBC
10:00am-12:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Continental Tire 150 at the Glen FOX Sports 1*/ (from June 28)
10:30-11:00am Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race CBS Sports Network*# (from April 12)
11:00am-12:00pm Blancpain Endurance Series: Paul Ricard CBS Sports Network*/# (from June 29)
12:00-1:00pm K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 21)
12:00-2:00pm Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort CBS Sports Network*
12:00-4:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Pocono 500 NBC Sports Network
12:00-6:00pm NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN3$
2:00-4:00pm ARCA Racing Series Herr’s Chase the Taste 200 CBS Sports Network
2:00-4:00pm Red Bull Mint 400 NBC*/
4:00-5:00pm Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Pocono 100 NBC Sports Network*
5:00-5:30pm F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network*#
5:30-7:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain NBC Sports Network*#
7:30-8:00pm F1 Extra NBC Sports Network*#
9:00pm-12:00am NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN 2*/
11:00pm-12:00am GP2 Series: Silverstone NBC Sports Network*
11:00pm-1:00am Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort CBS Sports Network*

Monday, July 7
Time Telecast Network
1:00am-2:00am NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*# (from July 4)
2:00-3:00am K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 21)
2:00-4:00am ARCA Racing Series Herr’s Chase the Taste 200 CBS Sports Network*# (from July 6)
10:00-11:00am K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 21)
11:00am-1:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Continental Tire 150 at the Glen FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 28)
4:00-6:00pm Blancpain Sprint Series: Zandvoort CBS Sports Network*# (from July 6)
4:30-5:00pm NASCAR America: Scan All 43 NBC Sports Network
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:30-8:00pm Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain NBC Sports Network*# (from July 6)
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
7:30-8:00pm Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship FOX Sports 2#
8:00-10:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Continental Tire 150 at the Glen FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 28)
*- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
#- Repeat Coverage
$- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet service and/or programming provider for availability.

Now, I will be in Daytona on credential for Frontstretch this weekend. As a result, it will be next to impossible to bring you a regular critique next week (Long story short, I won’t get home early enough). However, I will still be DVRing all three major races (Sprint Cup and Nationwide in Daytona, IndyCar at Pocono). I will still have thoughts on them. The Coke Zero 400 telecast will likely be critiqued in the Critic’s Annex on July 10 in the Newsletter. For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering the livestream of last Saturday’s Continental Tire 150 at the Glen for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at Watkins Glen International.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:

FOX Sports
TNT
ESPN

At this point, there is still no public contact e-mail for NBC Sports. When they finally get around to creating a new link, I will post it for you.

As always, if you choose to contact the 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 Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Newsletter Editor for Frontstretch since mid-2008, Phil is responsible for the site’s Monday-Friday FREE e-newsletter that keeps fans up-to-date with the latest racing news, along with exclusive features and commentary. Our head news writer, Phil also doubles as our broadcast critic, keeping broadcasts honest for years with his Couch Potato Tuesday column. A writer for the Troy (NY) Record, Phil is also one of the lead reporters at Lebanon Valley Speedway in Pennsylvania every weekend during short track season.

6 comments

  1. The tech problems are easily overlooked since we don’t have to listen to the Waltrips, which is worse than a whole night of tech. problems.

  2. It would seem that the only thing Adam Alexander knows how to say for sure is ‘NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’

  3. The audio issues only lasted about 5 minutes this week. I can deal with that. Still better than FOX though. At least I don’t feel like putting my foot through the tv whenever they open their mouths.

  4. So the audio sounds like a bad rap song for a few minutes, so what. Do not miss the larger picture, Dallenbach and Petty are actually informative and there are NO Waltrips and no outright buffoonery. TNT’s problem is that they interrupt even more frequently than Fox with extended commercial breaks. But, I DVR the race so I don’t care about that either though I do wonder how anyone without a DVR lasts more than 50 laps. As to NNW and CWTS coverage, does it really matter since NO ONE is watching anyway.

    • You’re correct about the DVR.
      However, some of us “fans” do watch the Nationwide and Truck races because we are “fans”.

      • I used to love both NNW and CWTS and I miss both. It is just that now, like many I find both series unwatchable. I really hope NASCAR recognizes the problems and fixes them. I just got my DVR. Do you find that it greatly improves the experience for you too?