Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Needs to Watch Their Danica Quotient

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday. This past weekend brought the first oval-track action to the small (or quite huge, depending on your home entertainment situation) screen. I was amped up, to be honest, even though at least one of my colleagues was not a big fan of the pack racing being back (I’m sure you can figure out who that is).

However, even though I was enthralled with the on-track action, there were still some race telecasts to be critiqued. Two of them, to be exact.

Before we start, MRN Radio announced last week that all of their races will be streamed online this year. Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout (Feb. 18) was the first race in which listeners could tune in. Best of all, it’s free. Previously, you could only listen to the race on the Internet if you anted up to get Trackpass, or if your local MRN affiliate didn’t blackout their internet feed during the race.

PRN Radio does not have an equivalent service to this as of yet. However, I don’t expect them to just sit on their hands. Don’t be surprised to see something out of them before their first race of the year in Las Vegas.

Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200

As is current tradition in Daytona, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards served as the support series to the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday afternoon. Like Sprint Cup, the 200-mile ARCA season opener is the biggest event on the calendar. However, some of the coverage left a little to be desired.

Usually for the biggest race of the year, there would be a little bit of pre-race hype. Here, you got “custody of my diddly squat.” Right after the telecast started, the command to start engines was given. No pre-race interviews or anything. During the NASCAR Live! segment that preceded the race, Ray Dunlap spent a little time hanging around some of the drivers at driver intros, but that was effectively all we got. Kinda weak. We couldn’t have gotten 15 stinkin’ minutes of ARCA pre-race?

This race also served as the stock car race telecast debut of Jamie Howe on pit road. Howe is a veteran of sports car racing and brings years of experience. She’s quite solid and I expect to see a little bit more of her this year.

During the race itself, the coverage was most focused at the front of the field. Now, this is somewhat typical with ARCA telecasts, but it’s especially bad here. ARCA restrictor plate races over the past five years or so have featured a long, single-file line towards the front where nothing seems to happen. There was better racing further back in the pack, but this was rarely shown on-air.

Having Brandon McReynolds leading the race could have created a bit of an interesting situation since Brandon is the son of Larry McReynolds, noted contributor to FOX and SPEED. However, I think that SPEED did a good job of not pandering their coverage towards him.

SPEED tends to not do the best job in covering what happens to drivers after they have incidents. The first yellow on Saturday was one example of this. Yes, I know it was Milka Duno, but I don’t care about that. This was a decent car that Duno had (she was very fast in testing and with a very good team in Eddie Sharp Racing). Yet, she spins out and doesn’t hit anything.

We see replays of the spin, but no follow up of what happened to her. Eventually, she ends up 13 laps down. My best guess is that she knocked a suspension part off the car during the spin. You gotta help us out here, SPEED.

I could almost understand SPEED not having a replay of Bill Coffey‘s rather unusual spin on pit road on lap 56. However, I don’t understand why they never showed a replay of Paulie Harraka‘s incident on the backstretch with a few laps to go. Perhaps it was because of the fuel-mileage situation, I don’t know. Regardless, I’m still not a fan of that decision.

Since the race ended ahead of schedule, there was plenty of time for post-race coverage. However, a fair amount of that time was taken up by replays of the wreck that occurred at the finish and figuring out just who the heck finished where. Granted, that’s a legitimate question, since seemingly half the top-10 finishing order changed before SPEED left the air (that’s another rant for another time).

In addition to all of the wreck replays, SPEED brought us interviews with what turned out to be the top-three finishers (Bobby Gerhart, Drew Charlson and Will Kimmel), along with the winning crew chief (Bill Gerhart).

Overall, the broadcast could have used some improvement. The high points were the pit reporters and the overall commentary (I have the utmost of respect for Rick Allen. He always brings his A-game). However, the production just wasn’t the best. The production decisions in the truck needed to be better. Also, focusing solely on the front of the pack in an ARCA plate race is a recipe for trouble. SPEED should keep that in mind for Talladega in April.

Budweiser Shootout

Saturday night brought the Sprint Cup cars out to play for what was supposed to be a 187.5-mile race (it ended up being 205 miles). It was supposed to be a quasi-dry run of a normal FOX telecast. That was not the case.

As many of you likely know by now, Chris Myers’s 19-year old son Christopher was killed last week in a car accident in California. Myers left Daytona to return home to be with his family. Darrell Waltrip made note of this during the very brief pre-race show. In Myers’s place was John Roberts, promoted from SPEED’s NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot.

Granted, the show was very short, but Roberts performed admirably. Roberts’s hosting duties on NASCAR RaceDay were handled just fine by Steve Byrnes (before he jetted out to pit road to perform his normal duties).

Since Michael Waltrip was actually in the race, he only briefly appeared in the pre-race show from pit road. He seemed pretty upbeat about his chances in the Shootout. Ultimately, his race didn’t last very long.

Now, the one thing that everyone took away from pre-race is the fact that FOX decided to shove some Danica Patrick down viewers’ throats. What’s the benefit of doing that? Patrick wasn’t in the race. She was just hanging out before the race. They’ve already done enough interviews with her (including Darrell’s one-on-one with her in the media center’s deadline room). We didn’t learn jack here.

She said that she was going to watch the race from the spotters’ stand, let her go and do that. Instead, she stayed in the “Hollywood Hotel” for the first segment to give her thoughts on the action. I just don’t think she added all that much to the telecast.

Also, the performance by Little Big Town (who later performed the national anthem) was incredibly unnecessary. Anyone who watched that could see that it was obviously tape-delayed and cut to hell and back.

Saturday also showed off Jeff Hammond’s new role as a roving reporter. What this will entail is probably going to change from week to week. However, one thing that I’m pretty sure will be a weekly thing is Hammond’s new cutaway car on the touch screen. If Hammond’s anything like Tim Brewer, he’s going to love having that screen at his disposal, and we’re going to reap the benefits (Note: Brewer considers the touch screen in the Craftsman Tech Garage to be his “baby.” Seriously.)

During the race, we were treated to the usual amount of booth chatter and hyperbole. Darrell pointed out the main reason why all of the wrecks occurred on Saturday night pretty quick (the bumping on the left side of the rear bumper in the turns, something that you weren’t supposed to do last year with the tandem drafting, interestingly enough). No one was given too much coverage as compared to the rest of the field, which was good to see.

Post-race coverage was quite brief, mainly because of the race running long by nearly a half hour. As a result, FOX showed interviews with the top-two finishers (Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart), along with a brief interview with Jeff Gordon. There was also a quick check of the unofficial results before FOX left for the night.

See also
2012 Bud Shootout Belongs to Kyle Busch

Generally, FOX’s race coverage was pretty good. The commentary was on point, while the production values were generally good. I suppose NASCAR cutting back on tandem drafting definitely helps here since we don’t just see decals up close and personal when we saw bumper cams. However, I wish FOX’s camera zoomed out just a little bit more (or that they switched to another view) so that we could have seen the finish a little bit better.

The pre-race coverage definitely left me wanting, though. I wanted to see drivers actually in the race (besides Michael) getting interviewed, not another excuse to trot Danica out there. They need to be careful. Too much of this and you’re going to be ABC in 2005 and 2006 during their coverage of the IndyCar Series. Todd Harris’s play-by-play work from that time has a special place in my personal hall of shame.

Before I go, I saw some posts on Twitter where some fans (including our own Summer Dreyer) were having issues with their sound watching Daytona 500 pole qualifying on Sunday. I cannot vouch for any of those issues. I had no technical issues at all while watching on Sunday. I don’t doubt that there may have been some technical issues, but I didn’t see any here.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is one of the biggest race weekends of the entire season. It starts out Thursday with the Gatorade Duels, the 150-mile races that will ultimately determine the starting grid for the Daytona 500. That is followed up by the season openers for the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series before the big kahuna on Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 22

Time Telecast Network
12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
2:30 – 4:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
9:00 – 10:00 p.m. Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace SPEED

Thursday, February 23

Time Telecast Network
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Practice SPEED
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot SPEED
2:00 – 5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Gatorade Duels at Daytona SPEED
~5:30 – 6:00 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour SPEED

Friday, February 24

Time Telecast Network
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 3 SPEED
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 4 SPEED
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Nationwide Series Qualifying ESPN2
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying SPEED
7:00 – 7:30 p.m. NCWTS Setup SPEED
7:30 – 10:00 p.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 SPEED

Saturday, February 25

Time Telecast Network
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
12:00 – 1:15 p.m. NASCAR Countdown ESPN
1:15 – 4:00 p.m. Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 ESPN

Sunday, February 26

Time Telecast Network
8:30 – 9:00 a.m. SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN2
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot SPEED
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. FOX Pre-Race FOX
1:00 – 5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 FOX
~5:30 – 6:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. SportsCenter at Daytona ESPN
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. SPEED Center SPEED
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Wind Tunnel SPEED

~- Approximate starting time

I will bring you critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series season openers in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The SPEED special Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace will be covered in next week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex.

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 would like to follow me via Twitter, you can go to my Twitter page here. And 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:


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 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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