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Couch Potato Tuesday: TNT’s Swan Song Exposes More Cost Cutting?
Kyle Petty is one of many who have done a fantastic job on NASCARAmerica. There’s just one problem: finding the time the show is on.

Couch Potato Tuesday: TNT’s Swan Song Exposes More Cost Cutting?

It was the end of an era Sunday afternoon in Loudon, N.H.

The Sprint Cup Series ran a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as it does twice a year. But Sunday wasn’t just the final race for TNT’s 2014 Summer Series — it was also the final scheduled race for TNT in NASCAR broadcasting, period. The network and Turner Sports will not air a race in 2015, for the first time in over 30 years.

As such, there was much ado about TNT’s final weekend of NASCAR coverage, but two other networks — FOX Sports 1 and ESPN — also got in on the action with coverage of the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series, respectively.

American Ethanol 200

On Friday night (July 11), the Camping World Truck Series traveled to Newton, Iowa, for a good night of action. FOX Sports 1 had their usual crew on hand for the festivities.

During the race, there was some good racing for position and I thought that FOX Sports 1 did OK in bringing it to viewers. The telecast, however, seemed a little more limited in focus than normal. Since Friday night was actually a standalone race, that’s a bad thing. There were a number of part-timers and first-time racers that should have gotten some coverage, and I think the only one that did was Jeff Choquette.

A pack races in the Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014. (Credit: Getty)

A pack races in the Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014. (Credit: Getty)

I also had gripes about how NASCAR had declared a competition caution for lap 45 (ultimately not used because of a wreck around that time), and FOX Sports 1 neglected to reference it until lap 22 of the race. As far as I’m concerned, that is something that should have been referenced in the pace laps, bare minimum, or during the Setup beforehand.

Post-race coverage was again brief so that FOX Sports 1 could get to FOX Sports Live. Yes, FOX Sports Live’s ratings are very dependent on a live sports lead-in. This link shows the range of FOX Sports Live’s ratings from June 30-July 6; it ranges from just 7,000 on June 30 to 391,000 on July 6. Audience-wise, that’s a huge range for FOX Sports 1. However, I contend that FOX Sports Live shouldn’t be chopping time out of a live broadcast (and on the same note, that shows with lower ratings should not be chopping time out of higher rated shows. (Ex: America’s Pregame taking time out of NASCAR RaceHub). As a result of the post-race cutting, FOX had time to show three interviews and check the point standings before going to the nightly meeting with Jay (Onrait) and Dan (O’Toole).

Sta-Green 200

Saturday (July 12) saw the Nationwide Series return to action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A field of 40 drivers essentially played second fiddle to Brad Keselowski all day (with the exception of Kyle Busch).

The Nationwide Dash 4 Cash was one of the primary sources of content during NASCAR Countdown, which I find interesting since prior to Daytona, nobody mentioned it at all. It literally just snuck up on everyone. It was unclear whether Nationwide was even going to do it this year until Daytona.

During the race itself, ESPN was put in the position of having to juggle the Busch-Keselowski duel and the Dash 4 Cash. I believe that ESPN did OK in balancing the two stories, but there’s only so much of the Cup regulars running away and hiding that they should be showing. Granted, we did see James Buescher nearly wipe out in front of Busch on lap 188 live. Apparently, Busch doesn’t like Buescher much — or thinks that he’s sloppy behind the wheel at least.

Knowing that Keselowski led 152 of the 200 laps (including 152 of the last 166), there really wasn’t all that much action up at the very front. As a result, action further down the order would make or break the telecast. On that note, ESPN did OK. There was a decent amount of action, but I would have liked to see more.

Also notable, the camera crews in Loudon seemed to be a lot better at picking up debris on track at Loudon in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races. That’s very good to see. Perhaps that was made a point of emphasis in a recent meeting.

Camping World RV Sales 301

Sunday (July 13) brought TNT out to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for their final race in the Summer Series, and the last race that will be produced by Turner Sports for quite a while.

Since Sunday was Turner Sports’ final race, they chose to spend a chunk of the telecast looking back at events that they had covered. I think they’re making the Motegi race from 1998 out to be a lot more than it was, honestly. It’s not the biggest race they ever televised. My guess is that one of the Coca-Cola 600’s is their biggest race ever (probably 1994, when Jeff Gordon won). Also, they aired a best-of compilation of the 11 All-Access features that have run over the past two Summer Series.

What really stood out were two aspects of the show. One was the coverage of the formation of the Race Team Alliance (RTA) at the beginning of the show. FOX Sports had a one-on-one with Rob Kauffman that aired as part of NASCAR RaceDay, but TNT also got an interview with him. Part of it was aired in soundbite fashion and interspersed that with comments from Mike Helton’s media availability from Friday. Maybe not the best way to go about the situation, since it has the potential to grow into a huge story in the future. Having said that, Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. understand what it could grow into a lot more than the rest of the production staff.

The other feature that stood out was Larry McReynolds’ one-on-one interview with Trent Owens, crew chief on Aric Almirola’s No. 43. Generally, I like these setups because we can learn things about the subject that we wouldn’t ordinarily know. For example, it came out that Richard Petty hid from the rest of the team that he and Owens were related, so as to ward off charges of nepotism. I think anyone with the time to look it up could have found that out on their own (I already knew), but it says something that they didn’t talk about that. McReynolds is not necessarily best known for interviewing guys (he’s more the technical guru at TNT (and FOX, for that matter), but he did a very good job here.

There were some inklings of additional technical issues during the Countdown to Green show, but I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. That’s good to see because Turner Sports has had a tough six weeks on the technical side, and a lot of that has been out of their control.

New Hampshire is always tough when it comes to coverage because it’s a shorter race than normal. As a result, commercials come into play more often. The commercials hurt the telecast. Three of the seven cautions came out during commercial breaks. The two biggest crashes of the day (story-wise) both occurred during breaks. It just bites. Simple as that. If that were the only issue and we had very good replays of what happened, maybe I wouldn’t be so perturbed.

Unfortunately, not only did the wrecks happen during commercial, but neither showed up all that well in replays, especially Jimmie Johnson’s crash. In that case, all TNT had to show was slow motion video of Johnson’s left rear tire rippling on the backstretch, then the No. 48 in the wall in turn 1. How am I supposed to know that the rippling tire was even the one that exploded, given the circumstances of Johnson’s short day? I don’t know.

TNT had so-so pictures of the Joey Logano-Morgan Shepherd crash and next to nothing of Justin Allgaier’s crash that caused the green-white-checkered finish. While I’m sure that they’ll miss covering Sprint Cup after 32 years, it seems like they also skimped on the number of cameras on-site in New Hampshire. That would argue a far different desire from Turner Sports, one that would be to the regular viewers’ detriment.

Justin Allgaier pilots his No. 51 around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Credit: CIA)

Justin Allgaier pilots his No. 51 around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Credit: CIA)

When it came to actual racing for position, TNT was decent on Sunday. We got to see a good amount of squabbling, but when you’re losing 34 minutes of the green flag action to commercials, there’s only so much good stuff to see.

Post-race coverage was fairly decent. Viewers got six driver interviews, plus an interview with winning crew chief Paul Wolfe. There were also checks of the unofficial results and points before the telecast came to a close. Given the situation, perhaps TNT should have tracked down Shepherd and gotten his opinion on the whole issue with Logano like some of the assembled credentialed writers did. It would have shown good initiative on TNT’s part to get both sides of the story.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s telecast had a number of the hallmarks of the rest of the Summer Series. Technical issues hurt the better race telecasts so that they were indecipherable at times. Other races were disadvantaged by cost-cutting moves. While they weren’t quite as obvious as last years’ ditching of their lift-away car in favor of borrowing backup cars from mid-tier teams, there was cost-cutting and it hurt the telecasts at times. The booth is a refreshing change from the utter ridiculousness (at times) that is FOX, but Alexander to me is the weak link here. I enjoy Petty and Dallenbach, but I just really haven’t warmed to Alexander. I actually like him calling K&N Pro Series races more than Sprint Cup.

That’s all for this week. This weekend is the final off-weekend of the Sprint Cup Series’ 2014 season. Normally, that bites. However, there’s plenty of action to fill the gap. The Nationwide Series travels to Joliet, Ill., for a standalone race at Chicagoland Speedway, with the ARCA Racing Series running as primary support. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series travels to Toronto for its third and final doubleheader weekend of the season. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, July 15
Time Telecast Network
5:00pm-5:30pm NASCAR America: Scan All 43 NBC Sports Network
5:30-6:00pm NASCAR’s The List: Rookie Seasons NBC Sports Network
6:00-8:00pm Pro Motocross Championship: Budds Creek NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 12)
8:00-11:00pm TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix FOX Sports 2*# (from July 13)
10:30-11:30pm Kurt Busch: 36 Director’s Cut NBC Sports Network#
11:00pm-12:00am NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2
11:30pm-12:00am NASCAR America: Scan All 43 NBC Sports Network#

Wednesday, July 16
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR’s The List: Legendary Drivers NBC Sports Network#
10:00am-1:00pm TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix FOX Sports 1*# (from July 13)
4:00-5:00pm K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 1*/# (from June 21)
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:30-6:00pm NASCAR’s The List: Memorable Moments NBC Sports Network
6:00-6:30pm NASCAR’s The List: Fights & Feuds NBC Sports Network#
6:00-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
6:30-7:00pm NASCAR’s The List: Rookie Seasons NBC Sports Network#
7:00-7:30pm NASCAR’s The List: Famous Families NBC Sports Network#
7:00-8:00pm K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 FOX Sports 2*/# (from June 21)
7:30-8:00pm NASCAR’s The List: Legendary Drivers NBC Sports Network#
8:00-9:00pm Moto3: Germany FOX Sports 2* (from July 13)
9:00-10:00pm Moto2: Germany FOX Sports 2* (from July 13)
10:00-11:00pm motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Germany FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 13)
11:00-11:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network#
11:30pm-12:00am NASCAR America: Scan all 43 NBC Sports Network#

Thursday, July 17
Time Telecast Network
12:00pm-1:00pm Moto3: Germany FOX Sports 1*# (from July 13)
1:00-2:00pm Moto2: Germany FOX Sports 1*# (from July 13)
2:00-3:00pm motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Germany FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 13)
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:30-8:00pm NASCAR America: Scan all 43 (5 separate episodes) NBC Sports Network#
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#

Friday, July 18
Time Telecast Network
4:00am-5:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Germany Free Practice No. 1 NBC Sports Live Xtra$
12:00-1:00pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*/ (from July 12)
1:00-3:00pm Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 11)
2:30-4:00pm Formula One Grand Prix of Germany Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network*
3:00-3:30pm Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship FOX Sports 1#
3:30-4:30pm Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
4:30-5:30pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
6:30-8:00pm Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
8:00-9:00pm The Mudsummer Classic: The 2013 Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora FOX Sports 1
9:00-10:00pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 12)
9:15-11:45pm? NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals First Round Qualifying ESPN3$
10:00-11:00pm Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 2*#
11:00pm-12:30am Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2*#

Saturday, July 19
Time Telecast Network
12:30am-2:30am Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 11)
2:30-3:00am The Grid NBC Sports Network
3:00-4:00am Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1*# (from July 18)
4:00-5:30am Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1*# (from July 18)
5:00-6:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Germany Free Practice No. 3 NBC Sports Live Xtra$
6:00-7:00am Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 12)
7:00-8:00am Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 2*# (from July 18)
8:00-9:30am Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2*# (from July 18)
8:00-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Germany Qualifying CNBC
10:00-11:00am Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
11:00am-12:30pm Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1*# (from July 18)
12:00-1:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Germany Qualifying NBC Sports Network*#
1:30-3:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network*
3:00-6:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto, Race No. 1 NBC Sports Network
4:00-5:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2
6:00-8:00pm Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship: Spring Creek NBC Sports Network*
6:00-8:00pm ARCA Racing Series Ansell ActivArmr 150 FOX Sports 2
8:00-8:30pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN 2
8:30-11:00pm Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300 ESPN 2
11:00pm-12:00am motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Germany FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 13)
11:00pm-1:00am NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals Final Qualifying ESPN 2*/

Sunday, July 20
Time Telecast Network
3:00am-5:00am ARCA Racing Series Ansell ActivArmr 150 FOX Sports 1*# (from July 19)
4:00-6:00am Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300 ESPN 2*/# (from July 19)
5:00-6:00am Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
7:30-8:00am F1 Countdown CNBC
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Germany CNBC
10:00-10:30am F1 Extra CNBC
10:00am-12:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park FOX Sports 1*/ (from July 12)
12:00-12:30pm F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network*#
12:00-1:00pm K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 11)
12:30-2:30pm Formula One Grand Prix of Germany NBC Sports Network*#
1:00-6:00pm NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN3$
2:00-2:30pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*//# (from July 12)
2:30-3:00pm F1 Extra NBC Sports Network*#
2:30-4:30pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
2:30-6:00pm NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN 2>
3:00-6:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto, Race No. 2 NBC Sports Network
4:30-5:00pm Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship FOX Sports 1#
6:00-7:00pm motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Germany FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 13)
6:00-7:00pm Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Toronto 100 NBC Sports Network*
7:00-8:00pm GP2 Series: Hockenheim NBC Sports Network*
7:30-8:30pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 2*/# (from July 12)
8:30-9:00pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 2*//# (from July 12)
9:00-11:00pm ARCA Racing Series Ansell ActivArmr 150 FOX Sports 2*# (from July 19)

Monday, July 21
Time Telecast Network
11:00am-12:00pm K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 11)
12:00-1:00pm Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
1:00-3:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park FOX Sports 1*/# (from July 12)
3:00-5:00pm ARCA Racing Series Ansell ActivArmr 150 FOX Sports 1*# (from July 19)
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:30-6:00pm NASCAR’s The List: Iconic Cars NBC Sports Network
6:00-8:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto, Race No. 2 NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 20)
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
7:30-8:00pm 100,000 Cameras FOX Sports 2#
8:00-10:00pm ARCA Racing Series Ansell ActivArmr 150 FOX Sports 2*# (from July 19)
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
// – Highlighted Coverage that is cut a second time
# – Repeat Coverage
$- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.

I will provide critiques of the Nationwide, ARCA and IndyCar telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering the Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn INDY 300 from Iowa Speedway.

Since FOX Sports is providing no less than nine chances over a span of four days to watch last weekend’s Modified race from New Hampshire, I will be covering that event for the July 24 edition of the Critic’s Annex. FOX Sports, you asked for it. I hear it was a good one, if the 35 lead changes in the box score are any indication.

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. I’m really going to miss Kyle and Wally in the booth. Neither is afraid to speak their mind, but they also aren’t afraid to let the racing ‘speak’ for itself. They don’t feel the need to fill every second of air time with meaningless babble. Such a refreshing change. They will be missed.

    • totally agree with you on that. Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip & Larry Mac are a joke to listen to anymore. Especially with their helping NASCAR push the “DANICA” agenda. ESPN has lousy announcers too. Jarrett and Petry need to go. I’d rather have Rusty in the booth because he tells it like it is too….

  2. I’ve watched Nascar since I was a little kid in the 1970′s. I must say that TV coverage these days can never hold a candle to the great coverage of ESPN back in the 80′s & 90′s. Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons, Ned Jarrett, Jerry Punch, John Kernan & Dick Bergerren have never been matched for their knowledge, enthusiasm and their true love for the sport.
    Today’s NASCAR stinks compared to the racing back in the 70′s & 80′s. It’s too commercialized and the “CHASE” is an absolute joke. It’s a slap in the face to Guys like Petty, Earnhardt, Yarborough, etc. who had to win a Championship by being the best every race in the season, not just by getting into a 10 race playoff system. Lucky Dog & Wave Around free laps back are also a joke. Why are drivers rewarded for having a crappy car or bad luck by getting back on the lead lap without a hint of earning it.
    Today’s NASCAR and the product it produces is why you see so many empty seats from the blimp and why ratings are down just about every week. I’m just glad I watched NASCAR when it truly was a sport and not the commercial joke it has become now…

  3. There is no question in my mind that the decline in viewership is due partly to the number of commercial breaks. It borders on absurdity.

  4. Sorry to see TNT go because I like Petty & Dallenbach. I feel the same way as you do about Alexander – I could never warm up to him as the PXP guy, he simply doesn’t cut it. I stopped watching the pre-race stuff some years ago because I was tired of so much crap and not enough substance. the TV partners have never been able to regain my interest and I don’t really miss it.

    I record race hub and that’s the only programming I watch on FS1, so the whole live lead in thing is lost on me.

    Not really looking forward to ESPN taking over, I think they are terrible at covering NASCAR and with them being a lame duck, why would they bother to do very much? Plus we will get chase chase chase until my ears bleed and that bores the heck out of me, too. Cover the race, that’s why I tune in, the end of the season crapshoot will wait.

  5. I agree with you about America’s PreGame cutting in on Race Hub, like NASCAR fans care what NBA star beat his wife in the Escalade while snorting coke on the way to a shoot out in front of a club. Fox NASCAR coverage is so bad that it is difficult to find fault with TNT or ESPN efforts, with the possible exception of Larry McCommercial and his inability to utter a sentence without the words Sunoco, GoodYear or Toyota. CWTS and NW coverage are really irrelevant as viewership consists of immediate family. In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions to the Sponsorship Search Fund.