Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: How To Cover A NASCAR Wreck… Or Not

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were at Bristol Motor Speedway for their first mixer of the season.

Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300

Bristol Motor Speedway brought lots of side-by-side action this year. Phil Allaway tells us whether the networks showed it to us.

On Saturday afternoon, ESPN returned with their full compliment of on-air personalities.

NASCAR Countdown was shortened once again this week for two different reasons. Firstly, the show started about five minutes late due to the America East Championship game between SUNY Albany and Vermont going long. However, the other reason is that NASCAR moved up the start of the race due to potential race not during the Nationwide race, but during the season opening DRIVE4COPD 125 for the K&N Pro Series East that came right after the Nationwide race. As a result, Countdown was cut from 30 minutes to roughly 15. Viewers were treated to some pre-race analysis from the Pit Studio and three short interviews.

Host Nicole Briscoe was suffering from a case of laryngitis on Saturday (this was the same case that caused her to miss the DVR Theater late Tuesday night episode of NASCAR Now). As a result, she sounded breathy on air, but gutted through. Unfortunately, that happens. Not much that she could do about that besides drinking a copious amount of tea and honey. Luckily, according to Briscoe’s Twitter feed, she’s back to 100 percent now.

The race itself saw a fair amount of racing for position on track (not as much as in the Cup race on Sunday, but still quite a bit). However, there was still a bias towards the front of the field, especially early in the race. As a result, we really couldn’t see as much of that as we should have. It’s a shame.

The broadcast booth had another special guest in Denny Hamlin. Hamlin spent his time in the booth talking about a variety of subjects with the commentators, including his decision to rescind his appeal, what he could learn from watching the Nationwide race, his thoughts on Jeremy Clements’ performances in the No. 51 (right before he wrecked), and other topics. Hamlin came across as a very knowledgeable person in the booth, but still knew his role in the setup. With some of the things going on in the race at the time Hamlin was there, it appeared that Bestwick still had complete control of the booth. The big fact that I took away from Hamlin’s time in the booth was that he accurately predicted the left side tire changes that we saw during Sunday’s race. Makes me think that the FOX commentators didn’t take note here since they seemed surprised at it when it actually did go down.

Due to the fact that the race started early, there was quite a bit of post-race coverage. ESPN provided viewers with seven post-race interviews, a check of the points (the unofficial results remained in the scroll for the most part), and a healthy dose of post-race analysis from both the broadcast booth and the Pit Studio. I noted that Parker Kligerman was interviewed here, yet all but didn’t get mentioned at all during the race except for being the driver immediately behind Nelson Piquet, Jr. when Jamie Dick got wrecked (Piquet claimed that Kligerman hit him and effectively forced him into Dick).

The broadcast booth was in awe of Kyle Larson’s skills in the No. 32 on Saturday, but didn’t take note of a dirty trick executed by Kyle Busch that Dick Dastardly himself would like (and would have probably used on Wacky Races if his car wasn’t twice as fast as anyone in the field). I am convinced that Kyle Busch put Larson in the wall coming to the finish. No one noted this fact. Maybe it’s just me thinking here.

As mentioned above, the telecast was centered too much on the front of the field at times. The battles for position that we did get to see were very nice to watch. Hamlin was pretty cool to listen to in the booth and actually did add quite a bit to the overall conversation about the race at hand.

Food City 500

On Sunday afternoon, FOX returned to Bristol Motor Speedway for their 13th airing of the Food City 500.

Pre-race coverage was interesting and irritating at the same time. The closest thing to a primary feature that FOX aired was quite possibly the most annoying thing that you’ll see for their entire portion of the season. Chris Pizzi, whom I despise, returned for a segment in which he claimed to be friends with all of the new Gen6 cars on Facebook. The piece has Pizzi narrating conversations between the cars. Good lord, this was bad. I’ve stated in the past that Pizzi has no place on a NASCAR telecast. I stand by that. He doesn’t need to be there. Get him out.

Michael Waltrip ventured out of the Hollywood Hotel to interview some of the drivers prior to their introductions in a semi-Marc Summers-on-Double Dare getup (suit, tie and dress pants, but with sneakers). Of course, that led to some ribbing from other drivers. I should state that I’m happy that Michael actually got out there and talked to somebody, but his interviews about bupkis shouldn’t amount to three of the four pre-race interviews. We’re missing out on things.

During the race, there was quite a lot of side-by-side action for position early in the race and FOX did a decent job in showing that action to us. Gotta be honest with you, I was surprised with the amount of side-by-side action that we saw on Sunday. Seemed like it was a little more than what we got back in August. The new Gen6 cars just made the action even more frantic (if that’s possible).

The main gripe I had with the telecast concerns FOX’s coverage of the sixth caution of the day. This was when Aric Almirola crashed right after halfway. FOX was doing their Mid-Race Report at the time and chose to all but ignore what happened in order to finish up before telling viewers why the race was under yellow. It was only then that we learned that Almirola had wrecked. I could almost see them doing that if it were just a debris caution (it still wouldn’t have been proper), but with an actual wreck at hand here, it’s intolerable. FOX handled the situation horribly. They should have just stopped what they were doing and covered what happened appropriately. Then, they could have finished up their Mid-Race Report.

What we actually got was more along the lines of, “Well, take a look [at the wreck]. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.” No analysis at all, although Mike Joy did state that Almirola (who we saw walk away) was checked and released from the Infield Care Center. We’re talking about a driver that was running well in the race and was tenth in points entering the event. That’s a travesty.

If you’re wondering what Almirola had to say about the incident, he said “We were having a solid day. Our Smithfield Ford Fusion was decent. We needed it to be better, but it was decent and coming off pit road somebody ran into my left-rear and I guess it cut the tire down. We took off on that restart and I was out of control and crashed. We just had a flat left-rear.” That quote was recorded by one of Ford’s PR reps at the track.

After the Almirola travesty, one of the primary stories that Darrell Waltrip was pounding into the ground was what would Joey Logano do when he got up to Denny Hamlin after his incident. The answer ended up being nothing during the race, but a nice little argument afterwards. However, Darrell pounded it into the ground for the last quarter of the race. We know what happened. That stuff goes down sometimes. There has to be something else you can talk about.

Post-race coverage was fairly decent. FOX brought viewers six post-race interviews, checks of the unofficial results and point standings. There was coverage of the confrontation between Logano and Hamlin, and the pushing match that resulted prior to FOX’s interview with Logano. Honestly, that whole thing is a mess. That breakup is at least as ugly as when Brian Vickers left Hendrick Motorsports for Team Red Bull.

Overall, FOX’s coverage was ok. Take away the stupidity mentioned above at the halfway point, and it was actually pretty good. However, if a wreck like that happens, you can’t treat it like a simple debris caution. You have to report on it. FOX failed to do so here, and thus, failed at their primary goal in covering the race. I hope that we do not see a repeat of FOX’s actions around halfway on Sunday in the future.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend will be quite busy. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams are both heading back out west to Fontana in order to race at Auto Club Speedway. Meanwhile, the IZOD IndyCar Series will have their season opener Sunday afternoon on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida while Formula One will be back in action in Malaysia.

TV Listings

Tuesday, March 19

Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Wednesday, March 20

Time Telecast Network
2:00am-2:30am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

Thursday, March 21

Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED
7:00-7:30pm Ryan Hunter-Reay: An American Champion NBC Sports Network

Friday, March 22

Time Telecast Network
2:00am-3:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
2:30pm-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
4:30-7:00pm Nationwide Series Practice SPEED
7:00-9:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
9:00-10:00pm Trackside SPEED
10:00-10:30pm SPEED Center SPEED

Saturday, March 23

Time Telecast Network
4:00am-5:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Qualifying NBC Sports Network
12:30pm-1:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
1:30-3:30pm Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED
2:30-3:30pm Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network
3:30-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
4:30-5:00pm NASCAR Countdown ESPN
5:00-7:30pm Nationwide Series Royal Purple 300 ESPN
7:00-7:30pm SPEED Center Saturday SPEED

Sunday, March 24

Time Telecast Network
3:30am-4:00am Formula One Pre-Race NBC Sports Network
4:00-6:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia NBC Sports Network
~6:00-6:30am F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
9:00-10:00am NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN 2
11:00am-12:00pm Firestone Indy Lights: St. Petersburg NBC Sports Network
12:00pm-12:30pm SPEED Center, Pre-Race SPEED
12:00-3:00pm Izod IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg NBC Sports Network
12:30-2:30pm NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
2:30-3:00pm FOX Pre-Race FOX
3:00-6:00pm Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 FOX
~6:00-6:30pm NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
7:00-8:00pm SPEED Center, Post-Race SPEED
8:00-8:30pm Wind Tunnel SPEED

Monday, March 25

Time Telecast Network
6:00pm-7:00pm NASCAR RaceHub SPEED

~- Approximate Start Time

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and IZOD IndyCar Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday right here at Frontstretch. In addition, I will cover the DVR Theater known as NASCAR Now this week in the Annex.

I had considered writing about Sunday’s episode of The Cleveland Show for the Annex since Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart guest-starred. However, they were in the show for maybe a minute and I honestly couldn’t tell whether they were voicing themselves or not (they apparently did, but you’d be hard pressed to identify Dale Jr.‘s voice as Dale Jr.). I guess they tried to project a different image or something. Regardless, I will not be covering the episode for Frontstretch or the 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 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:


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.

Contact Phil Allaway

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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