Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: NASCAR TV Coverage, Team Orders & Tapping the Roof

I am not a NASCAR TV critic. I leave that up to Frontstretch’s own Phil Allaway. And I’ve never been one to get my panties in a wad over a particular broadcaster’s production of a race or its on-air talent. After all, and as I’ve said here before, I remember a time when not every race was televised. However, this past weekend’s coverage was glaringly bad – even for a guy who usually lets that stuff slide.

See also
Talking NASCAR TV: Strong Pre-Race Show at Bristol, But In-Race Improvements Needed for ESPN

I’m not sure how a broadcast can be so substandard that it nearly ruins the Bristol Night Race, for gosh sakes, but ESPN came damn close. So before we get going, a few quick thoughts while watching the Bristol Night Race the way I always do; with a High Life and in total seclusion, so as to not be disturbed:

  • Yes Brad, we know how fired up you are. You tell us every week. Thanks for the contribution. Now let Bestwick talk.
  • Neil Goldberg’s bumper cam addiction is starting to affect the entire family. It’s time for an intervention.
  • Let me just thank the entire production staff for clarifying why Tony Stewart made an unscheduled pit stop early in the race that dropped him a lap. Yes Rusty, that’s sarcasm.
  • Oh yeah, and thanks for shipping us out to commercial on lap 319 just as a lead change was happening in lapped traffic. You saw it happening – hell, we all did – and it’s not like there had been very many up to that point.
  • For the record, those commercials were for Bank of America, Hanes, Golden Corral and ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Don’t know the relevance, just thought I’d mention it.
  • And lastly: Rain? There was rain in the area?! And we find out with, what, eight laps to go while the field is already red-flagged? Again, thanks for keeping us up-to-date on all the goings-on at the track and any extenuating circumstances that may have affected the outcome.

That’s right, you don’t want on my bad side.

Q: I listened to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s radio on Race View and heard something along the same lines (I’m paraphrasing) but the gist of it was that Junior who had the top lane on the restart was told that he should hang back if he could to let Mark [Martin], who had the bottom lane, get up to the top lane in front of Junior.

Junior was not happy and really complained about it because it shuffled him back several spots while Mark was able to move ahead. It was interesting because Lance [McGrew] and Junior had a spirited conversation after that in which Lance told Junior that the No. 88 was out there to win the race, and I guess that helping Mark was to be a one time thing.

Interesting that it happened to Jimmie [Johnson], too. I know from listening to the radio that Junior was not a happy camper to be a team player when he was in a position to really move to the front. – Carol Penrod

A: Hard to blame him, particularly when it seems his No. 88 bunch is finally making strides. However, the cold reality of Chase racing, circa 2009, is that team orders do come into play. We’re not going to see an owner instruct one driver to step aside when a win is on the line – I honestly believe that – but Mark is fighting for his Chase life; Junior… not so much.

Martin’s car – well, most everyone’s, for that matter – made more power around the top of the track. He needed a buddy to let him in line promptly after a restart or risk letting the leader(s) sprint away. Martin was the strongest Hendrick car that, at the time, had the best shot of winning. Junior just happened to be the teammate that drew the short straw. It’s really that simple.

As for Johnson, I was not privy to the in-car communications, but I’ve heard conflicting stories as to what exactly happened there. Was Johnson told by Chad Knaus to give the spot back? Was it just Johnson getting a quick five-point bonus? If it’s the former and I’m Johnson, I just ignore the order. What are they gonna do, fire the three-time defending champion?

Q: Hello Matt. When Tony Stewart had radio problems at Bristol, one of the ESPN announcers referenced tapping on the roof and tapping on the door of the car to signal if it was loose or tight. I’ve heard of this but it’s been years. Which means loose and which means tight and where did that originate? Thanks for a little history! – Marshall Pierce

A: It originated back before the teams used in-car radios (pre-1960s). Pit crews could communicate to the driver by using a pit board that was basically a big chalkboard that they’d use to relay when it was time to pit. The only way the driver could communicate back while on the track was through the use of hand signals. A tap on the roof meant the car was pushing, a tap on the door and the car was loose.

As for Tony’s other problems at Bristol, I think the only hand signal for a short in the ignition box is to wave to the nearest wrecker.

Q: Another failed broadcast by ESPN. Since they didn’t, can you clue me in as to what happened to the No. 48 on the last pit stop when they had trouble with the right-rear tire change? Too bad we have to get clarification from writers five days after the fact. – Anne Wright, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

A: I was told a lug nut became lodged behind the wheel so that it couldn’t be tightened correctly. Too bad, because I believe that if Johnson wasn’t better than Mark Martin, he was just as good. Hard to get down on that pit crew, though — they win him more races than they lose him.

Q: Matt, have you read the Jack Flowers book The Dirt Under the Asphalt? I have been trying to locate a copy, but to no success. Could you please tell me what you think of the book if you have read it and could you please point me in the right direction trying to find it? Thank you! — Kevin, Rock Hill, S.C.

A: I’d heard a lot about it but I’d not read it until I stumbled upon this excerpt. Now I realize it’s a poorly written, seemingly unedited 36-page paperback. Oh, the stories are something else – as are the implications. Boy, the implications.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of The Dirt Under the Asphalt. I’m sure a load of it is true, but I’m just as sure a jaded man is attempting to exact some revenge upon an organization he feels has wronged him, as well. Too many unnamed sources, speculation and innuendo prevent it from being an air-tight account of actual events. Or even close.

But hey, if that’s your thing, it looks like it’s available online at amazon.com. Otherwise, it’s kind of hard to get – nothing on eBay or craigslist. Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Buy.com are out of stock and Borders and Through the Magic Door have it on back order.

And now my lawnmower beckons.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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