Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Raining On FOX’s NASCAR Parade

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to another edition of Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are par for the course… that is, when the weather allows the races to take place. This week, we’ll look at the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series telecasts from Texas.

Also, as a funny aside, my mom decided to chip in with her thoughts about the Formula One telecast from Bahrain on Sunday. She seems to think that the broadcast team of Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett is quite annoying. Doesn’t like all the “whoas” that you hear (Reasoning: “I think it’s stupid.”) Seriously, she was mocking those guys. It was actually kind of funny knowing that my mom knows bupkis about Formula One. Also, that race was sweet… on to the stock car types now…

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300

With the unusual schedule in Texas, the Nationwide Series was up to bat on Friday night. After dodging severe thunderstorms Thursday, 40 cars were out to battle for 300 miles of competition.

There was not much in the way of previewing Friday night’s race outside of the five pre-race interviews (admittedly more than normal). ESPN was also skewed towards coverage of Larson and Busch, along with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Granted, all four of those drivers were at or near the lead for much of the evening, but there was some other side-by-side action going on. This focus allowed Chase Elliott to sneak up to the front of the field rather quietly.

Given its touting of Chase Elliott as the sport’s next big star, Bill’s son’s win Friday night was certainly welcome for ESPN.
Given its touting of Chase Elliott as the sport’s next big star, Bill’s son’s win Friday night was certainly welcome for ESPN.

Outside of the big four beating up on each other, tires were a big story. It was a little different from Sprint Cup, on Monday but teams were wearing out right rears at an alarming rate. Multiple teams saw blowouts, while others simply cut tires. ESPN covered the issues to a point, but I just don’t think it was done well enough. The leaders seemed to believe that they weren’t having problems, but we never saw any of their tires so that we could prove that. We only saw complete trash fires like the right rear off of Brendan Gaughan’s car.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief. There were no checks of the point standings. We just got Chase Elliott in Victory Lane, along with comments from both his very happy parents, Bill and Cindy.

I know ESPN is very happy that Elliott got to Victory Lane Friday night. Much like how officials in other sports have “points of emphasis” call-wise at certain times of the season, Elliott is one of ESPN’s points of emphasis for 2014. The network would like to publicize the heck out of the high school senior, last seen on Twitter asking about what happened to Earnhardt, Jr. on Monday from school (Jeff Burton responded to that with the classic “[You are] in school. Go back to class!”).

In addition to the desire for more coverage of the tire woes, I still wish that ESPN would be more inclusive. It’s rather annoying that only about 7-10 guys get any real TV coverage all night. If you’re a fan of someone else, you’re guessing as to how they’re doing. I know that it’s a “lame duck” year for the network, but that doesn’t mean it can slack off like it has a case of “Senioritis.” You still have a job to do.

Duck Commander 500

The Sprint Cup Series was supposed to race on Sunday in a duckstravaganza that could not be beat. However, rains and weepers prevented that from happening. Fans did not get to see Si Robertson give the command to start engines live at the track and make himself look like a moron in the process (instead, Si taped a somewhat subdued command before leaving to tape more Duck Dynasty). I consider that to be a good thing.

Sunday’s rain delay coverage was fairly typical. There were a number of interviews on tap. These were either live in the Hotel, done via satellite or with the pit reporters. The longest of these segments was when Joey Logano joined the Waltrips and Chris Myers in the Hollywood Hotel for roughly an hour. Logano seemed to have a great time. The Waltrips were themselves, while Myers was OK until he missed a commercial signal. That resulted in a mess.

Normal segments were abound on NASCAR RaceDay. Among them? Darrell Waltrip shot the breeze with Kyle Busch. I will say this much about that interview: Kyle seems to be quite comfortable and loose with Darrell. Also, the discussion was a little different this time. There was no mention of Samantha and how she centers him, and not even so much about his aggressive nature. Instead, Busch talked about topics like a budding rivalry with Kyle Larson. That’s something to look forward to as time goes by. Also of note: the supposed Kyle Busch-Larson rivalry looks like the friendliest one I’ve ever seen right now. Of course, that can change.

Michael Waltrip continued his offbeat stupidity by going line dancing at the Stockyards. That piece brought back bad memories of middle school gym class. It had to have been the Brooks & Dunn music…

FOX’s coverage, like the Texas race weekend was defined by one nagging problem: rain.
FOX’s coverage, like the Texas race weekend was defined by one nagging problem: rain.

FOX then chose to leave Texas at 5:30 PM ET for alternate programming, telling fans to check FOXSports.com and/or Twitter for updates. I still don’t think that’s the best way to go here. Of course, since it’s Sunday afternoon, “alternate programming” here meantThe Tim McCarver Show and some infomercials. Watching the most boring sportscaster on television interview Ryne Sandberg is not really how I want to spend my Sunday. Also, content like I mentioned above is technically “local” programming, which means “locally scheduled.” The onus is on my affiliate (WXXA) to update viewers, and they’re not all that good at it, especially since they quasi-merged with our ABC affiliate (I can’t really explain that whole mess, but I guess that it’s one step away from being an FCC violation).

FOX also left the air with no real clue as to where the race would air if it resumed. By 6:50, it stated on Twitter that the race would continue on FOX Sports 1, like at Bristol if it did get underway. This change was announced on FOX during its 7 PM update. Shortly afterward, the race was postponed, and FOX chose to announce that via aFOX Sports News Break on FOX Sports 1. No cutback was given to Texas after the announcement was made; instead, a scroll came down on most national FOXaffiliates delivering the news.

Yeah, there are better ways and methods to get your information out there than what FOX chose. Twitter is a great resource, but NASCAR has an older audience, one that might not be Twitter-savvy. Much like a teacher in a classroom, FOX needs to make accommodations for those who aren’t on social media, or don’t even have Internet access when it comes to this sort of situation in order to get the word out.

Unlike the last few years, FOX decided to air a special Monday pre-race show on FOXSports 1. Here, we discovered the first rain-delayed change of the day: no Chris Myers. Myers stated on his Twitter page that he had to fly back to Los Angeles last night in order to anchor MLB Whiparound, the new Baseball Tonight competitor that airs at 7 PM on FOX Sports 1. As a result, Steve Byrnes put on his suit and tie, replacing Myers in the Hollywood Hotel. Jeff Hammond, wearing a Stetson solely because he can, became the substitute pit reporter. Honestly, Hammond did a good job. The whole roving reporter thing is stupid anyway. If FOX is insistent about not hiring anyone else to replace the long-retired Dick Berggren, well, they might as well give the fourth pit reporter slot to Hammond.

FOX probably could have handled the mess that occurred during the green/yellow period a little bit earlier. While it is true that what happened was unprecedented,FOX should have notified viewers quicker as to how drivers were allowed to retain their spots after pitting (it wasn’t mentioned until the beginning of lap 9, after the stops were pretty much over). They also should have notified the fans quicker about how the competition caution rules were changed. It was mentioned right at the end of Monday’s edition of NASCAR RaceDay on FOX Sports 1. Of course, since it’s NASCAR, you never know. However, the sport probably made an announcement about that at the track before the 11:30 AM NASCAR RaceDay even started. It is something that should have been noted in the first segment of the show…

During the race, Monday night’s national championship game between UConn and Kentucky took center stage multiple times, resulting in arguments between Mike Joy (a Connecticut native) and Darrell Waltrip (born in Kentucky) over which team is better. I don’t watch Sprint Cup races to hear you guys arguing over college basketball (or for that matter, college football either). Annoys the heck out of me. I know that the game is 29 miles from Texas Motor Speedway, but that was the least of my concern Monday afternoon. I think that was the case for race fans as well.

On-track coverage was about average by FOXstandards. We saw a good amount of action for position, but a lot of it was focused towards the front of the field. FOX also appears to have its own version of ESPN’s Up to Speed. The only difference is that its coverage is sponsored by Dr. Pepper.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief given thatFOX took away time its affiliates normally use for lucrative syndicated programming to air the race. The network brought viewers four post-race interviews, plus a check of the point standings before leaving the air with a promise of more coverage on NASCAR RaceHub (the race finished during the originally scheduled slot on FOX Sports 1 for the daily NASCAR show). Also of note: there was an awkward moment in which Michael Waltrip referred to Byrnes as “Chris.” Oops. Seems like someone wasn’t paying attention in the production meeting.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend appears to be quite busy. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are scheduled to come back east and race on the high banks of Darlington Raceway. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series will be in Long Beach, California, for one of its signature events, joined by the Prototype and GT-Le Mans classes of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship. Here’s your listings for the week…

Tuesday, April 8
Time Telecast Network
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:00 – 5:30 PM NASCAR America NBC Sports Network

Wednesday, April 9
Time Telecast Network
2:30 AM – 3:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:00 – 5:30 PM NASCAR America NBC Sports Network

Thursday, April 10
Time Telecast Network
2:30 AM – 3:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Friday, April 11
Time Telecast Network
1:30 AM – 3:00 AM GP2 Series: Bahrain NBC Sports Network*/ (from April 5-6)
2:00 – 2:30 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
3:00 – 6:00 AM Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 FOX Sports 1*/# (from April 7)
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
1:00 – 2:00 PM NASCAR Live FOX Sports 1
2:00 – 3:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
4:00 – 5:30 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2
4:15 – ~7:15 PM NHRA zMax Four-Wide Nationals Qualifying ESPN3$
6:00 – 7:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
7:30 – 8:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN2
8:00 – 10:30 PM Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 ESPN2

Saturday, April 12
Time Telecast Network
2:30 AM – 3:00 AM The Grid NBC Sports Network
3:30 – 5:30 AM Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 ESPN 2*/# (from April 11)
5:00 – 6:00 PM NASCAR RaceDay FOX Sports 2
6:00 – 6:30 PM FOX Pre-Race FOX
6:00 – 7:30 PM Verizon IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network
6:00 – 8:30 PM Tudor United SportsCar Championship Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach (Prototypes and GT-Le Mans teams only) FOX Sports 1
6:30 – 10:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 FOX
7:00 – 8:00 PM motoGP Grand Prix of the Americas Qualifying FOX Sports 2*
9:00 – 11:00 PM NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Final Qualifying ESPN2*
10:30 PM – 1:30 AM AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Seattle FOX Sports 1

Sunday, April 13
Time Telecast Network
2:30 AM – 3:00 AM NASCAR Victory Lane FOX Sports 1
12:00 PM – ~5:00 PM NHRA zMax Four-Wide Nationals Final Eliminations ESPN3$
1:00 – 2:00 PM Moto3: Austin FOX Sports 1
2:00 – 3:00 PM Moto2: Austin FOX Sports 1
2:30 – 4:00 PM Firestone Indy Lights Long Beach 100 NBC Sports Network
3:00 – 4:00 PM motoGP Grand Prix of the Americas FOX Sports 1
4:00 – 7:00 PM Verizon IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach NBC Sports Network
8:00 – 11:00 PM NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Final Elminations ESPN2*/

Monday, April 14
Time Telecast Network
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:00 – 5:30 PM NASCAR America NBC Sports Network

*- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
~- Approximate start time #- Repeat airing
$- Available via password-protected streaming. Check with your programming and/or internet service provider for availability.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Verizon IndyCar series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Annex, I still plan to look at NASCAR Now this week.

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

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 ones 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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