Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: More of the Same from ESPN; Fox Sports 1 Achieves Despite Technical Issues

The second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup would undoubtedly bring a new feature – who’s in and who’s out – into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series broadcasts on ESPN, and the Sylvania 300 didn’t disappoint. For those watching the race for the Chase, the addition may have been welcome, helping them pick out where their driver stands as the first round of eliminations approaches. For others, it’s yet again a point of contention as coverage is dedicated to coulds and could nots that may or may not actually happen.

As such, it was more of the same for ESPN. Meanwhile, a day before, FOX Sports 1 was much more of a bright spot, overcoming technical issues to shine a spotlight on the Camping World Truck Series.

Note: The Nationwide Series’ VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 from Kentucky Speedway will be covered in the Critic’s Annex in the newsletter this week due to time constraints.

Sylvania 300

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returned to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a scheduled 300 laps of action. Somewhat unexpectedly, the second half of the race turned into a wreckfest.

A good chunk of NASCAR Countdown was again dedicated to the Chase – more specifically, who’s safe and who’s not. It’s driving me nuts. If you want to see people being safe from elimination like what we’re seeing, watch Survivor, Dancing with the Stars or one of the other reality competitions that are all over the dial. Despite being a game show fan (see: my failed attempt to qualify for season three of GSN’s The Chase earlier this year), I’ve never warmed to reality competitions. I don’t want that type of mentality in NASCAR. It’s ridiculous.

As with ESPN’s pre-race coverage from Chicagoland Speedway, actually previewing the race itself continues to be somewhat secondary to the Chase itself. I have no idea how the heck that helps the tracks that are hosting these Chase races. They’re completely secondary. ESPN couldn’t seem to care less about the race itself. All that matters is how it affects the championship.

Additionally, I was notified by reader Daniel Caudell that the infamous fork that I referenced in last week’s critique is retired. Brad Daugherty apparently mentioned it during an AMA on Reddit’s NASCAR subreddit last month. That’s swell. At best, it was a conversation piece, the sort of thing you put in your rumpus room just to say, “I have a giant fork in my rumpus room.” It didn’t work as a prop for on-air stupidity at all. Unfortunately, the “Stick a Fork In ‘Em” segment has been replaced with more hype instead of an actual race preview.

The Chase-centric mentality continued into the race itself again. Much of the battles shown for positions either involved two Chasers fighting it out, or a non-Chaser fighting with a Chaser. I have no idea how that is going to flesh out as the eliminations take place. I wouldn’t be shocked if the focus of the telecast narrowed as the rounds continue on (again, Talladega will likely be an exception to that rule).

Also, the Chase focus results in ESPN forsaking other responsibilities – like telling viewers that there would be a competition caution. As far as I’m concerned, if the situation arises, viewers should be notified prior to the start of the race. The pace laps should be the latest that it happens. Not everyone checks Twitter 46 times on Sunday mornings.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Denny Hamlin struggled at New Hampshire, starting when his crew failed to get the No. 11 full of fuel during the competition caution. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

I had some other issues with the telecast. For example, Denny Hamlin’s crew failed to get the No. 11 full of fuel during the competition caution, which forced a stop under green. ESPN was convinced that the team was short-pitting. It seems like either ESPN had bad information at that time, or just didn’t have the scoop. Those listening on PRN or on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio knew that the crew failed to get the car full when Hamlin made the green flag stop. ESPN didn’t relay that fact to viewers until the second yellow flew for debris.

I’ve talked about those kind of traits before with ESPN. Back in 2009, I even asked Dr. Jerry Punch about one such occasion during a Nationwide Series broadcast at Phoenix. The situation was different, but the result was ultimately the same: ESPN looked lost.

I also took issue with some of the shot selections. For instance, there was a time in which there was four-wide racing on track, yet producers decided to cut to single-file racing at the front. The leaders weren’t even really battling. I know what happens at the front is important, but choices like that make the race look less exciting than it actually is.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the race was right up against the end of the timeslot. As a result, NASCAR likely told Joey Logano to hustle his butt to Victory Lane as soon as he could. That move seems weird knowing that SportsCenter (which followed the telecast) devotes the first couple of segments to the race on Sundays. They’re cutting away from live coverage to get to highlights of what just happened. Seems pointless.

UNOH 175

On a chilly Saturday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first time since 2011. Admittedly, it was not the most competitive race on earth. However, FOX Sports 1 was there to cover all the action.

During the Setup, the most interesting piece was a feature on Shane Hmiel that came out of nowhere. Why did they choose New Hampshire to run the feature? Because it marked 10 years since Hmiel won his first Truck race at Las Vegas while driving for Billy Ballew. The piece might have worked a little better next Saturday night, but it appears that there will not be an edition of NCWTS Setup prior to that race.

Regulars of NASCAR RaceHub may remember that they aired a couple of pieces on Hmiel’s recovery and life after the big crash. While the piece that aired on Saturday was decent, I preferred the features from RaceHub. If you saw those RaceHub features like I did, then what aired Saturday really didn’t cover anything you didn’t already know.

On Saturday, we had Steve Byrnes back in the booth. I’m not really a fan of Byrnes and Adam Alexander sharing the play-by-play role in Rick Allen’s absence, but it was more or less forced on the network. I find that Byrnes works better with Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip than Alexander.

Speaking of Waltrip, the Dancing with the Stars references are minimal, but that doesn’t mean that his boothmates won’t prompt him. Since Dancing with the Stars is on a competing network, I believe FOX Sports is telling Waltrip not to talk about it all that much, which I’m fine with.

Saturday’s race wasn’t all that exciting, especially early on; Cole Custer spanked the field. However, there was still a decent amount of racing going on that FOX Sports showed to viewers. Turned out it was a little more important than normal for the network to show the action because the FOX Box was having technical issues. With no running order for much of the race and no intervals for even longer, it forced the production to work a little harder.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series return to Dover International Speedway for another race on the concrete high banks. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series travels way out west for a standalone event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, September 23

5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR ChampionshipFOX Sports 2#

Wednesday, September 24

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.K&N Pro Series West Bakersfield 150FOX Sports 1*/# (from August 30)
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.ARCA Racing Series ZLOOP 150FOX Sports 1*# (from September 19)
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175FOX Sports 1*/# (from September 20)
4:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Miami Heat, Part No. 2NBC Sports Network*/# (from May 31)
5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.The 10: NASCAR's Most Bizarre MomentsFOX Sports 2#

Thursday, September 25

5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: Los AngelesNBC Sports Network*# (from September 21)

Friday, September 26

10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.Nationwide Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Nationwide Series Happy HourESPN 2
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingESPN 2
5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6:15 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Early QualificationsESPN3$

Saturday, September 27

4:00 a.m. - 4:30 a.m.The 10: Greatest Families in NASCAR HistoryFOX Sports 1#
4:30 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1*# (from September 26)
10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.Whelen Modified Tour F. W. Webb 100FOX Sports 1*/ (from September 20)
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 1
11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.Langley Speedway PracticeFansChoice.tv^
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Nationwide Series QualifyingFOX Sports 2
1:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR ChampionshipFOX Sports 2#
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 2
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Lake County Speedway Hot LapsFansChoice.tv^
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Langley Speedway QualifyingFansChoice.tv^
3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Nationwide Series Dover 200ESPN
4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Tucson Speedway PracticeFansChoice.tv^
5:50 p.m. - 8:50 p.m.Langley Speedway Sherwin-Williams Night At The RacesFansChoice.tv^
5:55 p.m. - 8:55 p.m.Lake County Speedway Winged Outlaw Figure Eight SeriesFansChoice.tv^
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.AMA Pro Flat Track: Calistoga, Timed PracticeFansChoice.tv^
8:15 p.m. - 9:15 p.m.Tucson Speedway QualifyingFansChoice.tv^
9:30 p.m. - 1:10 a.m.AMA Pro Flat Track: Calistoga, Main EventsFansChoice.tv^
9:55 p.m. - 12:55 a.m.Tucson Speedway Susan G. Komen Race For The CureFansChoice.tv^
10:00 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Rhino Linings 350kFOX Sports 1

Sunday, September 28

3:30 a.m. - 5:00 a.m.NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Final QualificationsESPN 2*/ (from September 27)
7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of AragonFOX Sports 1
9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1*# (from September 27)
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Final EliminationsESPN3$
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.NASCAR CountdownESPN
2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.Sprint Cup Series AAA 400ESPN
2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Pirelli World Challenge: Miller Motorsports ParkNBC Sports Network* (from September 13-14)
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.Moto3: AragonFOX Sports 1*
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Final QualificationsESPN 2*//#
4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Moto2: AragonFOX Sports 1*
4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.NHRA AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Final EliminationsESPN 2*/
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: COTAFOX Sports 1*/ (from September 19)
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.DTM: GuangzhouCBS Sports Network*
7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1

Monday, September 29

1:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m.Sprint Cup Series AAA 400ESPN 2*/# (from September 28)
3:00 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Rhino Linings 350kFOX Sports 1*# (from September 27)
4:00 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.DTM: GuangzhouCBS Sports Network*# (from September 28)
5:30 a.m. - 6:00 a.m.The 10: NASCAR's Greatest RacesFOX Sports 1#
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR ChampionshipFOX Sports 2#
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
// – Highlighted Coverage that has been Cut a Second Time
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.

Immediately prior to the Nationwide race from Dover, ESPN will be showing Tennessee-Georgia. Yes, it’s SEC Football. There is a good sporting chance that the race telecast could end up being shifted to ESPNEWS. Of course, that’s assuming that the Tulane-Rutgers game that ESPNEWS is showing at noon finishes reasonable amount of time.

The plan is to critique the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races from Dover and the Camping World Truck Series race from Las Vegas for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Annex will cover the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 from Kentucky, a race in which Brendan Gaughan scored his second win of the year and drivers like Ross Chastain snagged top-10 finishes. In addition, FOX Sports 1’s telecast of the Beijing e-prix will be covered.

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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A few quick points. 1) The constant pointless Chase fluff makes Race Hub unwatchable right now. 2) The Cup World Toyota Series has committed suicide. Why waste your time with evaluating the coverage of races no one is watching? 3) How could you not mention the alleged NASCAR NONSTOP coverage where ESPN shows commercials on 3/4 of the screen with a tiny postage stamp size in screen of the race in progress. The “nonstop” is so small you would need binoculars to see it. Just another excuse to hit us with COMMERCIAL NONSTOP coverage. Certainly worthy of mention.

Bill W.

ESPN does mess up from time to time, but they have two things going for them , no Mikey and no Jaws. Is it my imagination , has Dale Jarrett started talking more and more about the #15 and #55 . Maybe he is auditioning for Fox next year.


Anymore to me the races are all hype and no content. From Daytona on this year it was all about hyping the Chase. Well here we are in the Chase and it’s still all about hyping the Chase. And after all the hype, all the news, and all the marking of the calendar, when the Chase starts ratings are crashing.

Bette Geraud

If I didn’t already dislike Brad K. I sure would have after hearing nothing but how great he was and seeing the 2 car most of the race !!!! Boring ,, !!! I looked and there were a lot of other drivers and cars out there !!!!! I want to hear about them at least a little bit —‘please !!!!

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