Couch Potato Tuesday: ESPN Sidesteps Stewart Bristol Salute

This past weekend, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series were all in action at Bristol Motor Speedway, but don’t be looking for the latter here.

I will be covering the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by Zloop later this week in the Critic’s Annex, along with the ARCA race from Wisconsin – because last weekend, it made much more sense to focus on ESPN’s coverage of the Cup and Nationwide broadcasts on Saturday and Friday nights, respectively.

As usual, the general issues plagued ESPN broadcasts, with some particularly intriguing problems during the Irwin Tools Night Race last Saturday. Still, some high points persisted.

Irwin Tools Night Race

On Saturday night, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Bristol to do battle in front of a sizable crowd. NASCAR’s equivalent of a football stadium put on a decent show, but one omission on the broadcast was the real story. More on that shortly.

During NASCAR Countdown, ESPN aired a piece where Marty Smith went one-on-one with Carl Edwards. The main topic at hand was Edwards’ decision to leave Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing. What we learned here was not necessarily what Edwards said; it wasn’t much, actually. Normally, Edwards is a fairly loquacious guy when he’s around people with whom he’s familiar. However, he looked like a mental wreck in the piece. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why he chose not to talk about his situation for so long prior to last week’s announcement. I cannot recall seeing Edwards at such a loss for words. It’s like he’s hurt inside. He knows that he wants to win titles and can do that at JGR, but the Roush Fenway ties are very strong.

During the race, there were three big stories that the broadcast had to make note of. ESPN properly covered one.

Naturally, the easiest of the three for ESPN to cover was the Kevin HarvickDenny HamlinDale Earnhardt, Jr. crash. That was up front and center. Harvick and Hamlin were racing for the lead when contact sent Hamlin into the inside wall. ESPN was all over that; I would expect nothing less.

The HANS Device throw was captured on camera, but the reaction was interesting. The booth seemed shocked while NASCAR Nation? And the collective media? They were very much not. Jalopnik, for example put out its opinion on the throw before the race was even over. Everyone thought that Section 9-16 in the rulebook would put an end to shenanigans like that. Guess not. We’ll see what NASCAR will do with Hamlin later this week.

Second, we have the Kyle Busch stomping off/argument with crew chief Dave Rogers. That particular incident was not covered at all; however, it occurred at roughly the same time as Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth were battling for the win. Naturally, ESPN’s focus was elsewhere. Keen-eyed viewers could notice Busch running around the apron relatively slowly with 53 laps to go. Later, you could see his crew pushing the No. 18 away from the speed shot camera. It was only after the race that we found out about Busch ditching his car on pit road and storming off. I personally didn’t hear about the incident, along with the resulting radio chatter until Sunday.

While I understand that ESPN probably shouldn’t have taken time away from the battle for the win to talk about Busch throwing a hissy fit, the producers should have made note of what happened prior to the end of the race, or even once the race ended. As it stands, it basically wasn’t mentioned at all, and that just won’t work. I have no doubt that ESPN had the audio from that whole conflict; it archives radio chatter for broadcast use like no one’s business.

But perhaps no part of the broadcast was more talked about than the Stand with Smoke movement.

A grassroots initiative meant to show support for Tony Stewart through the ordeal he’s currently going through, while at the same time celebrating the memory of Kevin Ward, Jr., was organized by fans during the week. The grandmaster plan for Saturday night was for a standing ovation during laps 13 and 14 of the race, one that would last for all of 31 seconds. It’s a gesture that reminded longtime NASCAR supporters of the lap 3 tribute given to Dale Earnhardt throughout the 2001 season following the driver’s tragic demise at Daytona.

ESPN, through its television broadcast surprised many by not showing it, despite at-track reports thousands followed through on the movement. However, the commentators in the booth did notice what was going on at the time. Allen Bestwick made note of it on lap 276, one of the only references to Stewart made on the whole broadcast.

(Credit: Mike Neff)
There was a salute to Tony Stewart during Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series race.  But it was only mentioned, not shown. (Credit: Mike Neff)

The camera shots ESPN was using at the time of the standing ovation essentially did not show the crowd at all. Instead, we had a top-down perspective. That plays into another aspect of Saturday night’s coverage that has nothing to do with the movement that bears noting. I think it’s partially forced due to the design of Bristol Motor Speedway, but still… there were other options at the time.

ESPN not showing the aforementioned salute angered a number of fans, especially those on Stewart-Haas Racing’s Facebook page. We reached out to ESPN to see if the network knew the grassroots movement was coming, along with the two-lap ovation prior to the race – and if so, if it planned on showing it. The reply we received indicated that the network was aware, but otherwise, they chose not to comment.

Overall, the broadcast had its ups and downs. It peaked with the coverage of the Hamlin-Harvick run-in. However, there was a fairly strong focus on the front of the field. If you weren’t there, you were chopped liver. Jeff Gordon got himself lapped right before the first debris caution and there was nary a mention of it at all. We knew he was running about 15th and struggling with his car, but that was about it. Not good enough.

Food City 300

Friday night brought the Nationwide Series out to the high banks for the very first 300-lap night race, but little fanfare accompanied 300 laps around Bristol. Instead, more of the same was presented when covering the series – and that’s not OK.

The start of the race was delayed by 50 minutes due to rain. As a result, there was an expanded edition of NASCAR Countdown. Nicole Briscoe sat the weekend out due to illness. As a result, Dave Burns took her place in the Quicken Loans ESPN Pit Studio and performed admirably. He’s becoming a jack of all trades in the final year that he’ll be with ESPN. Perhaps he’ll get another chance in the booth for Nationwide standalones next year on NBC Sports Network (Note: Burns has already signed on to serve as a pit reporter for NBC next year).

There were no major features aired, but we got 16 driver interviews. The Chase Elliott love fest continued with two Elliott interviews, plus a montage of his earlier accomplishments this season. I know that he’s doing very, very well for a rookie, but this fawning over a dude who just graduated from high school three months ago passed ridiculous months ago. You got to back off a little. We know he’s good; he’s got talent up the wazoo.

However, there are other people out there. Heck, one of those other people (Chris Buescher) won at Mid-Ohio. Yes, they did interview the younger Buescher. Most people that watch the series just know him as James Buescher‘s cousin. There’s got to be more to Chris Buescher than that. You don’t get the attention of Jack Roush just by being the cousin of an (at the time) somewhat mediocre racer in the Camping World Truck Series (Note: Chris Buescher made his ARCA debut back in 2009 for the Roulo Brothers, a team with Roush Fenway Racing ties, and won the ARCA title in 2012).

ESPN has a lot of resources at its fingertips. Sometimes, it doesn’t or simply cannot take advantage of everything that it has. The crash that eliminated Steve Wallace at the last Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis (2011) is an example of ESPN’s resources failing.

The crash that involved David Starr, Tanner Berryhill and Chad Boat Friday night is an example of things looking bad for figuring out what happened at first. However, through the use of their available cameras, ESPN was able to piece together absolutely everything that happened for viewers. The stationary camera at the start-finish lineshowed the contact from Boat that put Berryhill into the inside wall, while the same camera that caught Starr’s crash caught Berryhill’s car bound off the inside wall and hit Boat, who then spun into Starr.

Berryhill, who it should be noted was coming off a career-best 17th (on the lead lap) at Mid-Ohio, was granted a rare on-air interview and he vented about how Boat apparently didn’t slow down when Starr wrecked. Boat also had a chance to give his side of the conflict. Pretty comprehensive coverage of that incident. I found the argument interesting since Vision Racing actually allowed Boat to use its points to start the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega earlier this year after Berryhill made the race, but lost their only car in qualifying.

But ESPN isn’t always in the game. For example, on lap 252, Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler were racing each other for the Lucky Dog when they encountered Jeffrey Earnhardt’s Flex Seal/Flex Shot No. 4 Chevrolet. The booth mentioned that Earnhardt was holding the two of them up. Uh, no he wasn’t. Earnhardt was running his own line at essentially the same pace as Bayne and Sadler. In fact, Earnhardt was actually a full lap ahead of Sadler and Bayne at the time and eventually finished a strong 12th. Looks can be deceiving.

Post-race coverage was somewhat brief. Viewers saw four driver interviews, one of which being Jamie Little’s interview of Kyle Busch. Busch gave Little the absolute bare minimum required to not get fined by NASCAR (since he finished second, he’s required to give a post-race interview for TV). The whole thing is even more ridiculous knowing that Busch didn’t have a leg to stand on. This behavior is ridiculous. It’s a Nationwide race, Kyle. You’re not even full-time in the series. You’re just addicted to hardware. Having said that, I definitely give kudos to Little for putting up with Busch’s impetuousness to get at least something out of his butt on the run.

There was also an argument between Ty Dillon and Regan Smith on pit road after the race. Much like the Jimmie JohnsonRyan Newman spat at Michigan, ESPN chose to mute the audio for this conversation. Smith’s contention seems to be that Dillon roughed him up over the last few laps, and Dillon contended that he “got tight.” Unlike at Michigan, ESPN got interviews with both principals involved. However, we did not see what precipitated the whole argument in the first place. I’m drawing a huge blank about their beef.

Much like with the Cup race, there is still a substantial focus issue in the Nationwide Series telecasts. I’ve stated it numerous times this year, but there are only a certain number of teams that get any real coverage unless they’re wrecking. All three of JR Motorsports’ teams get solid coverage, as do the JGR entries, Team Penske’s No. 22 and Richard Childress Racing’s entries. Beyond that, it can be a tough go to get yourself noticed.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series both travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the last Labor Day weekend assault on the 1.54-mile quad-oval. The Camping World Truck Series makes its second visit to the 2.459-mile Canadian Tire Motorsports Park northeast of Toronto. Finally, the Verizon IndyCar Series has its season finale at Auto Club Speedway. I’m not a fan of IndyCar ending their season as early as it is. Not a good move listening to The Boston Group there. However, that’s a rant for another day. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, August 26

5:00 PM - 6:00 PMNASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 PM - 6:00 PMNASCAR RaceHub Schedule Reveal SpecialFOX Sports 1
7:00 PM - 8:00 PMNASCAR RaceHub Schedule Reveal SpecialFOX Sports 2*#

Wednesday, August 27

5:00 PM - 5:30 PMNASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 PM - 6:00 PMNASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7:00 PM - 8:00 PMNASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#

Thursday, August 28

7:00 AM - 10:00 AMTUDOR United SportsCar Championship Oak Tree Grand Prix (GTLM/GTD Classes Only)FOX Sports 1*# (from August 24)
10:00 AM - 11:00 AMBlancpain Endurance Series Total 24 Hours of SpaCBS Sports Network*/# (from July 26-27)
5:00 PM - 5:30 PMNASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 PM - 6:00 PMNASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 PM - 7:00 PMEmpty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR ChampionshipFOX Sports 2#
7:00 PM - 8:00 PMNASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
8:00 PM - 9:00 PMAMA Pro Motocross Championship Series: Utah, 450 Class Moto 2NBC Sports Network*# (from August 23)

Friday, August 29

1:00 AM - 1:30 AMNASCAR America: Scan all 43NBC Sports Network
1:30 AM - 2:00 AMThe GridNBC Sports Network
2:00 AM - 3:00 AMRed Bull Global RallyCross: DaytonaNBC Sports Network*# (from August 23)
1:00 PM - 1:30 PMThe 10: Earnhardt MomentsFOX Sports 1#
1:30 PM - 2:30 PMNASCAR RaceHub SpecialFOX Sports 1
2:30 PM - 4:00 PMSprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
4:00 PM - 5:00 PMNationwide Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
5:00 PM - 5:30 PMNASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 PM - 5:30 PMNASCAR LiveFOX Sports 1
5:30 PM - 7:00 PMNationwide Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1
6:00 PM - 9:00 PMNHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals First Round QualifyingESPN3$
7:00 PM - 8:00 PMVerizon IndyCar Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
7:00 PM - 8:30 PMSprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1

Saturday, August 30

4:30 AM - 6:00 AMSprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from August 29)
6:00 AM - 6:30 AMThe 10: Greatest Drivers in NASCAR HistoryFOX Sports 1#
10:30 AM - 12:00 PMSprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from August 29)
12:30 PM - 1:00 PMNASCAR America: Scan All 43NBC Sports Network#
1:00 PM - 2:00 PMWhelen Southern Modified Tour Practice No.^
1:00 PM - 2:30 PMPirelli World Challenge: SonomaNBC Sports Network*# (from August 23-24)
1:30 PM - 3:30 PMSouthern National Motorsports Park^
2:00 PM - 3:30 PMLangley Speedway^
3:00 PM - 4:00 PMSprint Cup Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 2
3:00 PM - 4:30 PMLake County Speedway Hot^
4:00 PM - 4:30 PMWhelen Southern Modified Tour^
4:00 PM - 5:30 PMNationwide Series QualifyingFOX Sports 2
4:30 PM - 5:30 PMLangley Speedway^
5:00 PM - 7:00 PMEvergreen Speedway^
5:00 PM - 6:30 PMSouthern National Motorsports Park^
5:30 PM - 6:00 PMEmpty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR ChampionshipFOX Sports 2#
5:55 PM - 9:55 PMLake County Speedway Browns vs. Steelers^
6:00 PM - 7:00 PMSprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 2
6:45 PM - 10:45 PMSouthern National Motorsports Park Labor Day^
6:50 PM - 8:20 PMLangley Speedway Bayport Credit Union Night, Part^
7:00 PM - 7:30 PMNASCAR CountdownESPN 2
7:15 PM - 8:30 PMEvergreen Speedway^
7:30 PM - 10:30 PMNationwide Series Great Clips 300ESPN 2
8:30 PM - 9:30 PMWhelen Southern Modified Tour Bayport^
8:55 PM - 9:45 PMEvergreen Speedway Heat^
9:00 PM - 1:00 AMVerizon IndyCar Series MavTV 500NBC Sports Network
9:30 PM - 11:00 PMLangley Speedway Bayport Credit Union Night, Part^
10:00 PM - 12:00 PMEvergreen Speedway Rory Price^

Sunday, August 31

8:00 AM - 10:00 AMmotoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Great BritainFOX Sports 1
10:00 AM - 12:00 AMIMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: VIRFOX Sports 1*/ (from August 23)
11:00 AM - 3:00 PMNHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Final Qualifying, Part 1ESPN 2
11:15 AM - 1:00 PMAMA Pro Flat Track: The Springfield Mile, Timed^
12:00 PM - 1:00 PMWhelen Modified Tour/Whelen Southern Modified Tour Bush's Beans 150FOX Sports 1*/ (from August 20)
1:00 PM - 1:30 PMNCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
1:30 PM - 4:00 PMCamping World Truck Series Chevy Silverado 250kFOX Sports 1
2:00 PM - 5:45 PMAMA Pro Flat Track: The Springfield Mile, Main^
5:00 PM - 6:00 PMRally America New England Forest RallyNBC Sports Network*/ (from July 18-19)
5:00 PM - 7:00 PMNHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Final Qualifying, Part 2ESPN 2
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
7:00 PM - 7:30 PMNASCAR CountdownESPN
7:30 PM - 11:30 PMSprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500ESPN
8:00 PM - 9:00 PMMoto2: Great BritainFOX Sports 2*
9:00 PM - 10:00 PMMoto3: Great BritainFOX Sports 2*

Monday, September 1

12:00 AM - 12:30 AMNASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1
1:00 AM - 3:30 AMSprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500ESPN 2*/# (from August 31)
11:00 AM - 6:00 PMNHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Final EliminationsESPN3$
12:00 PM - 6:00 PMNHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Final EliminationsESPN 2>
2:00 PM - 3:00 PMWhelen Modified Tour/Whelen Southern Modified Tour Bush's Beans 150FOX Sports 1*/# (from August 20)
3:00 PM - 5:00 PMCamping World Truck Series Chevy Silverado 250kFOX Sports 1*/# (from August 31)
5:00 PM - 5:30 PMNASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 PM - 6:00 PMNASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:00 PM - 8:00 PMARCA Racing Series Herr's Live Life with Flavor 200CBS Sports Network*# (from August 24)

* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
> – Joined in progress
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.

Also of note, if you checked TV Guide or CBS Sports Network’s website recently, you may have seen that the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Southern Illinois 100 from the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds was apparently scheduled to air via tape delay Monday at 6 p.m. EDT. This is not true. I contacted ARCA’s Don Radebaugh Sunday night and asked him about it. He sent a simple response to my query.

“DuQuoin will not be aired on any TV network in 2014, so if you’re seeing that anywhere, it’s a miss-print [sic],” Radebaugh wrote. While that’s not what a lot of viewers want to hear, it’s the truth. The listing has since been changed to note a replay of Sunday’s race from Madison.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races from Atlanta, along with the Camping World Truck Series race from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, I will cover CBS Sports Network’s broadcast of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards’ Herr’s Live Life with Flavor 200 from Madison International Speedway. The Sept. 4 edition of the Annex will cover the MavTV 500, the season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series from Auto Club Speedway.

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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People made their “tribute” to Stewart, fine. The problem is they want to be acknowledged by their actions. They want a pat on the back from the whole world for nothing really. We have all seen this behavior before and it reeks of attention seeking, not for the goodness of the “deed”. And frankly, when they did it after Sr. died, it drove me nuts too! So ESPN didn’t show it? Is that what it was really about? ESPN did the right thing, for a number of reasons..and again, I am no fan of any media outlet.


sorry, whatever outlet was broadcasting the race…


This is the second straight week ESPN has missed some type of conflict. At Michigan, it was the Dale Jr/Denny Hamlin pit road discussion and now the Kyle/Dave Rogers war of words at Bristol. Interestingly, it was discussed in the live race chat on but nary a mention on the telecast.
Another story was the avenue by which some viewers could or could not even see the race. In a few markets, the race did not air at all because of NFL preseason football games on the local ABC channel and in many others, was on a sister station or alternate HD channel. This was the case even in Charlotte. This so illustrates the continued decline in NASCAR that one of the biggest races of the year is usurped by preseason football in


Speaking of decline. Did you happen to see the schedule for 2015 and what networks are covering it? I saw over 20 Cup races as listed as being on secondary channels for NBC (NBCSN) and FOX (FS1). Nascar is back to a niche sport folks.

I have many many issues with social media, but weren’t we subjected to the networks showing people stand up on Lap 3 for every race after Dale Sr died? Why is this so different? It would have shown the Ward family that Nascar fans do care about what happened to that kid. even if the tragedy did involve a Nascar driver. I think ESPN dropped the ball on this badly. If it were the other way around and a Nascar driver were killed, it would have been front and center on ESPN.

Bill B

Those fans that stood wanted to show support for Tony and Kevin’s family, right? They did that by standing, right? So what’s the problem? Why do they need ESPN to validate it and make a spectacle out of it?
Someone please explain that to me.

I’m also tired of seeing people dump buckets of ice water on their head. Just write the damn check, support the cause, and stop trying to get a spotlight on you for doing the right thing. Doing good should be it’s own reward.


I would love to play the Old Fart card and blame this on the social media generation but this is a long standing flaw in the American character. We have an almost macabre need to intrude on the tragedy of others. Ever see those newspaper (remember newspapers) photos of grieving relatives at the funerals of loved ones? Grief is private, not news, and none of our business. The Ward family should be allowed to grieve privately as they see fit. So please, sit down, shut up and watch the race. It isn’t always about you.


Thought the whole Kyle Busch thing was pretty funny, considering he acted like a jerk after the Nationwide race and then followed it up by acting like an even bigger jerk in the Cup race. Wow, he’s “matured” so much and shows so much leadership to his team. LOL – not!

As far as ESPN not showing the fans doing their tribute, well, if the fans know they did it, what difference does it mean whether or not it got on TV or not?

Considering how poorly ESPN covers a lot of the racing, well, taking time to show the stands rather than the track (which is why I tuned into the race) would be annoying IMO. ESPN and Fox, too, is the reason why I pay for raceview – even though I wish I didn’t need to – so I can find out what is going on rather than have to wonder. On another topic, I was thinking of getting raceview mobile since I finally stepped into the current century and bought a smart phone but of course that is NOT included in the current subscription (like most print publications do), NASCAR wants MORE $$ for it. Why am I surprised?

Amy Henderson

I can’t speak for everyone, but I hardly think the people who chose to stand in support of Ward and Stewart were trying to do anything other than show support for them in what’s a terrible time for them all. I think the reason fans were disappointed that it didn’t air is because the intended audience (Ward’s family and friends and Tony Stewart) was not given the chance to see it if they so chose. I don’t think fans were trying to impose at all, but rather the opposite…they were trying to say “hey, you don’t know me, but I am thinking of you” in a totally non-intrusive way. To many people who are going through difficult times, that kind of gesture means the world, because you often feel like you’re on an island while the world goes on around you.

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