Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX’s Action Adjustment Problem In Talladega

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are the primary objective. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and ARCA Racing Series were all in action at Talladega Superspeedway. Over 1,000 miles of restricted action took place.

However, before we start, I’ve got some news to talk about. Last Monday, FOXSports announced the cancellation of the Crowd Goes Wild, FOX Sports 1’s daily, laid-back sports/pop culture show meant to compete with ESPN2’s SportsNation. Ultimately, the show never really found an identity, especially with Regis Philbin being on the show from the beginning and taking in the vast majority of publicity. The lack of identity probably was responsible for the complete lack of an audience. Only a few times did the Crowd Goes Wild garner more than 75,000 viewers, despite a cushy 5 PM ET timeslot.

Currently, FOX Sports 1 really only has one magazine-style show that averages six figures in viewership. That show has also been tossed around the daytime schedule like a hot potato almost since the day FOX Sports 1 launched last August. That isNASCAR RaceHub, which outrates almost everything else on the network that isn’t live sports programming (or FOX Sports Live immediately after a live sporting event). As a result of the Crowd Goes Wild’s cancellation, FOX Sports is making two schedule moves. One is the expansion of The Mike Francesa Show from three to four hours. I doubt anyone reading this cares much about the New York-centric sports radio show, so I’ll just leave it at that. The other move is RaceHub moving into the Crowd Goes Wild’s former 5 PM timeslot. Being at 5 PM means that the show is no longer susceptible to schedule moves due to soccer. As a result, it will become appointment television. That should only benefit the show.

International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200

On Saturday morning, the ARCA Racing Series was back in action on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway. Due to the race being moved from Friday evening to Saturday morning, the distance was shortened by 50 miles. How did FOX Sports 1 do covering the race? Let’s take a look.

Even though the telecast started at 10 AM local time, there was a bit of a rush going on. When FOX Sports 1 went on the air, the cars were already out on the track. I guess ARCA and/or Talladega Superspeedway thought that there was going to be a bunch of wrecking. Ultimately, that did not turn out to be true.

If there’s one aspect of FOX Sports 1’s coverage that really stood out to me, it was the fact that their broadcast was quite limited. If you fell off the back of the lead draft, you were invisible. You didn’t matter. Admittedly, that’s not the best way to cover a restrictor plate race, especially considering that Grant Enfinger was completely dominating prior to the green flag pit stop.

Also of note, I would have liked to have seen some kind of replay explaining all the tire debris on the backstretch with a few laps to go. The booth made note of the carcass, which was visible to everyone, yet ARCA chose not to throw the yellow. My guess is that it came off of Clay Campbell’s car, but I don’t know for sure.

Since the race ended so quickly, there was a lot of time for post-race coverage. As a result, viewers saw 12 driver interviews, plus two checks of the unofficial results and some post-race analysis before FOX Sports 1 left the air. A number of those interviews were with drivers that were basically invisible during the race. An example of that was the post-race chat with Buster Graham, who finished tenth. I don’t recallFOX Sports 1 mentioning Graham all day.

FOX Sports 1’s plan was to focus on the frontrunners. With the green-flag feel of the race, that meant that the cream rose to the top. There’s more to an ARCA race at Talladega than the top 10, though. Yes, I’m sure that Enfinger, Justin Boston, Mason Mitchell, Bobby Gerhart and John Wes Townley were probably just fine with their coverage, as was Leilani Munter with her Blackfish car (and celebrity guests). However, even the race winner (Tom Hessert III) barely got a mention on-air before the final 15 laps of the race.

In the future, FOX needs to be more inclusive with their ARCA coverage. They’ll get another chance in two weeks at Toledo. Of course, covering Toledo requires a whole different mindset. Hopefully, FOX Sports 1 can adjust.

Aaron’s 312

Saturday saw the Nationwide Series back in action at Talladega. How well did ESPNcover the proceedings? Let’s see.

As we’ve covered in recent weeks, ESPN has been focusing strongly in recent weeks on JR Motorsports (and specifically, Chase Elliott). That focus continued with plenty of discussion of Elliott’s start to the season and recent form. Since Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top-3 positions in qualifying, they received a decent amount of focus as well (as in, the rest of it).

The racing was intense in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, and many of the regulars received a fair amount of coverage over the course of ESPN’s broadcast.
The racing was intense in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, and many of the regulars received a fair amount of coverage over the course of ESPN’s broadcast.

While it’s nice that some Nationwide regulars are getting some time onNASCAR Countdown, the show is still failing to cover everything that they should. For example, they should have explained what happened during Countdown that resulted in Chad Boat even being in the race at all (remember, Boat DNQ’d). It only ended up being covered real briefly by Allen Bestwick outside of pre-race.

During the event, I found that ESPN did a pretty good job covering the bases of what was going on out on the track, better than how FOX did on Sunday. Also of note, tire wear was a surprising issue Saturday. I doubt anyone accounted for that in the Tuesday afternoon storyline conference call. However, the combination of group qualifying and impound procedures resulted in teams running their first set of tires up to 55 laps. Some drivers like Ryan Blaney were showing cords on their Goodyears. Granted, Blaney did lock up while sliding into his stall, but the tire was showing a thin area of cords all the way around (it was wider where Blaney locked up).

Another good catch was when Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree noted the vibrations on Sam Hornish, Jr.’s roof cam and tying that into an issue with the windshield. Ricky Craven, had he been in the booth, would have caught it as well.

Post-race coverage was very brief due to the race ending right at 6 PM, the scheduled end of ESPN’s timeslot. As a result, there was only a minimum amount of post-race coverage. Viewers got interviews with Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith, then an immediate cut to SportsCenter. For those who don’t see much of the spotlight, that move hurts a little more than normal since a number of underdog drivers (David Ragan, JJ Yeley, Landon Cassill, David Starr, Joey Gase, etc.) were able to garner good finishes and it wouldn’t have hurt for them to get a little exposure. That exposure can lead to some pretty cool moments, like the time Shannon Spake interviewed Johnny Borneman, III after he finished fifth at Talladega in 2010.Unfortunately, the NBA Playoffs have been ridiculous so far this year…

Aaron’s 499

Sunday brought the Sprint Cup Series back for 500 more miles of stomach churning action. It didn’t hurt nearly as much to watch Sunday’s race as other recent restrictor plate events, but how well did FOX cover the action? Let’s take a look.

There was plenty of action in Talladega, but some things were left for fans to figure out. For instance, what was with the tires?
There was plenty of action in Talladega, but some things were left for fans to figure out. For instance, what was with the tires?

Since Talladega is considered a special race for FOX (probably their second biggest race after the Daytona 500),NASCAR RaceDay was hosted from pit road with a small crowd gathered. Despite the quasi-throwback to whenNASCAR RaceDay was much better to watch, the show was sadly not that different than normal.

With no Larry McReynolds interview this week, the most interesting piece was Darrell Waltrip’s sit down with Brad Keselowski. As you know by now, Keselowski doesn’t exactly mince words. He wasn’t all that happy about Richmond and let Darrell know about it. However, he also talked about aggression from a number of different points of view, which is a little unusual and a refreshing take on how drivers are pulled around emotionally. Could have done without the whole “Breaking Brad” theme, though.

Michael Waltrip was his usual annoying self. Earth to FOX. It’s not a good idea when one of your TV personalities opens up his button shirt in the middle of a feature (in this case, a look at some of the infield fun from Friday night) to reveal a Brian Vickers t-shirt underneath. I know that Vickers officially works for Michael, but it’s nothing less than pure favoritism. That’s not going to work. Just one more reason why Michael really shouldn’t be on the Sprint Cup broadcasts. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s annoying as heck on a regular basis. I don’t know why the deuce Michael adopts this whiny personality on television, but it’s ridiculous and probably makes the entire sport look bad.

Of course, since Michael was in the race this weekend, the actual race broadcast was 27 percent less ridiculous (Note: that’s an estimate). However, even with Michael in the No. 66, there were still some issues with the telecast.

Earlier, I mentioned that ESPN did a pretty good job covering the unexpected tire issues from early on in the Aaron’s 312. FOX was not so good. Despite at least one and possibly as high as three different incidents on track that had to do with tires,FOX never really talked about the issue. We never saw a tire or anything. They just ignored the whole thing. Terrible move. I’m sorry, but there were too many strange things that happened to cause wrecks on Sunday to ignore the tires.

I also had gripes with how a couple of the debris cautions were treated. The first one flew for what Darrell described as a piece of aluminum in the tri-oval. We never saw this debris, but Darrell claimed that he saw a track worker stop a truck and grab it.FOX should have gotten a camera on that. Another instance was when the shield for one of the caution lights on the backstretch apparently dislodged and brought out a yellow. We got a shot of a worker trying to rectify the issue, but nothing as to what caused it. Instead, Mike Joy had to give an explanation for what caused the issue. That’s a little weak.

Post-race coverage was about average as compared to the rest of the season. There were five post-race interviews and a check of the “Chase Standings” (mind you that we’re ten races into the season and the Chase doesn’t start for another four months).

Overall, there were some good aspects of Sunday’s Sprint Cup coverage from Talladega. Luckily, with almost everyone running in large packs, it’s pretty easy to show as much of the field as possible. However, you have to cover all the stories out there and I feel that FOX didn’t do that.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Kansas Speedway for their first-ever night race on the 1.5 mile tri-oval. They will be joined by the Camping World Truck Series, who will be competing in only their third race of the year. The less said about the stupidity of their schedule, the better. In addition, the Verizon IndyCar Series will race for the first time on Indinaapolis Motor Speedway’s infield road course, while Formula One starts the European swing in Spain. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, May 6
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
3:00-6:00am AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Las Vegas FOX Sports 1*# (from May 3)
4:00pm-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:00-6:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#

Wednesday, May 7
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
3:00-5:30am TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda (Prototype/GT-Le Mans Race) FOX Sports 1*# (from May 4)
10:00am-1:00pm AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Las Vegas FOX Sports 1*# (from May 3)
3:00-4:00pm motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Spain FOX Sports 2*/# (from May 4)
4:00-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:00-6:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
7:30-10:30pm Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 FOX Sports 2*/# (from May 4)

Thursday, May 8
Time Telecast Network
2:30am-3:00am NASCAR Now ESPN 2
12:00pm-1:00pm K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 FOX Sports 2*/# (from April 26)
4:00-5:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
5:00-5:30pm NASCAR America NBC Sports Network
7:00-10:00pm Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 4)

Friday, May 9
Time Telecast Network
3:00am-6:00am Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 4)
8:00-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Spain Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
12:00pm-1:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
1:30-2:30pm K&N Pro Series West Stockton 150 FOX Sports 1* (from May 3)
2:30-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
3:30-4:30pm NASCAR Live No. 1 FOX Sports 1
4:30-6:00pm Camping World Truck Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
5:00-5:30pm Countdown to F1 NBC Sports Network
6:00-6:30pm NASCAR Live No. 2 FOX Sports 1
6:30-8:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1
8:00-8:30pm NCWTS Setup FOX Sports 1
8:30-11:00pm Camping World Truck Series SFP 250 FOX Sports 1

Saturday, May 10
Time Telecast Network
3:00am-4:30am Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1*# (from May 9)
4:30-6:00am Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 1*# (from May 9)
8:00-9:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Spain Qualifying NBC Sports Network
9:30-10:00am F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
10:00am-12:00pm Camping World Truck Series SFP 250 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 9)
2:00-3:30pm Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 2*# (from May 9)
3:30-4:30pm Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2*# (from May 9)
3:30-6:00pm Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis ABC
4:00-5:30pm Pirelli World Challenge: Barber Park NBC Sports Network*/ (from April 26-27)
4:30-6:00pm Sprint Cup Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2*# (from May 9)
6:00-7:00pm NASCAR RaceDay FOX Sports 2
7:00-7:30pm FOX Pre-Race FOX
7:30-11:00pm Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 FOX

Sunday, May 11
Time Telecast Network
3:00am-3:30am NASCAR Victory Lane FOX Sports 1
6:00-7:30am Formula One Grand Prix of Spain Qualifying NBC Sports Network*# (from May 10)
7:30-8:00am F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
8:00-10:00am Formula One Grand Prix of Spain NBC Sports Network
10:00am-12:00pm IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Laguna Seca FOXSports 1*/ (from May 3)
12:00-1:00pm K&N Pro Series West Stockton 150 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 3)

Monday, May 12
Time Telecast Network
10:00am-1:00pm Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 400 FOX Sports 1*/# (from May 10)
5:00-6:00pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30-7:30pm NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*# *- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage #- Repeat Coverage

I will bring you critiques of the Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck and Verizon IndyCar Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For this week’s Annex in the Newsletter, I’ll cover last weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, aired in two 150 minute stints on Sunday from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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 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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