So, big news: Kansas Speedway’s NASCAR races were nowhere near as irritating TV-wise as Dover was. It feels great to not want to rip your hair out, doesn’t it? Of course, everyone can see my headshot to the right of the article. I don’t have that much to rip out.
However, just because I stated that I don’t want to rip my hair out this week doesn’t mean that ESPN was perfect in the Heartland as it broadcast two different series: the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. Far from it.
Before we start, I do need to clarify some TV information in terms of Suzuka from Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Yes, there is footage of Jules Bianchi’s crash. FOM (Formula One Management), which controls the video footage of Formula 1, appears to have caught the crash on camera, but has chosen not to air that footage. Also, FOM has quarantined the video of the race. That is why the scheduled re-air of the race Monday night on NBC Sports Network did not happen.
There is some amateur footage, though. Jalopnik has uploaded video of the crash from an amateur that happened to be at the race. We will not provide a direct link to the article where it is; however, it will be available on Jalopnik’s homepage by checking the popular stories on the left side of the page. Know ahead of time that it will probably ruin your day. We also have an article here at Frontstretch that I am constantly updating as new information becomes available on Bianchi’s condition.
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As you may have noticed last week, I was very upset with the extreme bubble driver focus at Dover. That was not necessarily repeated in Kansas. However, just because the most egregious examples of Chase bias weren’t evident doesn’t mean that the telecast was perfect.
You could claim that anyone that was on the bubble in Dover but failed to qualify for the Contender Round essentially spent their coverage ammunition for the season. Of the four Chasers that were eliminated Sunday, AJ Allmendinger likely received the least coverage. Where did Allmendinger finish? Eleventh. Anyone reading this article knows that 11th is a swell run at an intermediate track for JTG-Daugherty Racing. However, that wasn’t even good enough for much more than a peep.
The others all had issues again – including Kurt Busch, who crashed out. But that’s not what I want to talk about. On lap 34, Busch pitted for four tires. The commentary centered on Busch using a backup car and the team basically not knowing what it had (essentially the same issue as Regan Smith had on Saturday in the Nationwide race), but Busch’s car was smoking when he pitted. The smoke was never really broached by ESPN. What was it coming from? I had to look up the race report from Stewart-Haas Racing to figure out that Busch had garbage on his grille that caused the car to overheat, thus the smoke (or steam) and the lap 34 pit stop. I don’t recall a word about the issue on the telecast. That’s not going to work, especially since ESPN had a pit reporter calling the stop. Granted, they’re not always in the stalls when the stops are made (if they’re not, they watch the stops as they happen on a screen and commentate based on the screen action and what they already know), but the heat issues should have been noted.
The warmer temperatures actually changed the outcome of the race quite a bit. It was rather obvious that no one in the booth expected the groove to expand much at all during the race – and certainly didn’t expect it to go all the way up to the wall. As a result, one of the main topics that ESPN (and really, everyone else who covers the sport) had been going on about all weekend was more or less neutralized. Yes, you still had a bit of a swing, but it was ultimately nothing compared to even the last two fall races at Kansas. Wrecking is wrecking, but having multiple grooves created a better race.
The focus was still clearly on the Chase, even without the extreme bubble focus. Take Jimmie Johnson’s wreck, for example. It seemed that the booth was so focused on Johnson wrecking that they forgot Justin Allgaier was actually in the crash. Allen Bestwick originally stated that Allgaier’s incident was a wholly separate scenario, when in reality, Johnson clipped Allgaier. Suppose that’s simply one of those screw-ups that you can’t take back.
After Johnson came out of the infield care center, all he was asked about by Dave Burns was how the wreck affected him in the points. There’s more than points that viewers would likely want to know in this particular situation – like, say, the wreck itself.
Why wasn’t it asked? A couple of reasons come to mind. One is that ESPN had a narrative that it wanted to stick to. Possible, but I cannot say that for sure. Obviously, that would be the more irritating reason if that were so.
Another is that Johnson didn’t really want to talk about the crash, and if he were required to do so, would have declined the interview. That’s also possible. Based on Johnson’s brief mention of being taken out, I’ll argue the latter, with a healthy dose of trying to keep a positive attitude while cussing up a storm in his head.
Chip Ganassi Racing appears to be the only non-Chase team that has managed to get a decent amount of coverage since Richmond. Why is that? Because both Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray are crashing the Chase like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did weddings in Wedding Crashers. It appears that the only way to move the needle is to beat the Chasers at their own game, or wreck really bad. I’m talking the kind of crash that people would remember, not like what happened to Kurt Busch on Sunday. That really shouldn’t be the case.
Post-race coverage was, as expected, given almost solely to the Chasers. The exception to that rule was Larson, who stalked Joey Logano like no one’s business for the last part of the race. You could tell that Brad Keselowski wanted nothing to do with an interview. With it being that obvious, why not give some time to someone who actually did well and would be gracious to talk?
Someone like Martin Truex, Jr., who finished fourth. I know that I touted Truex last week, but the man is putting up some decent numbers in recent weeks and getting nearly bupkis as far as coverage is concerned in return. It has to be incredibly frustrating for anyone who’s a Truex fan. Heck, even with the somewhat limited amount of driver merchandise at tracks these days, you can still find official Truex and Furniture Row gear at the souvenir trucks. When I was in Daytona back in July, one of the Chase Authentics trucks had Truex shirts, diecast and hats. I know that ESPN’s off like a prom dress at the end of the season, but still needs to realize that every driver has fans. That is crucial. It’s the professional thing to do.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that some brass at ESPN may still feel miffed over how they were treated after losing their rights (excluding the then-Craftsman Truck Series) following the 2000 season. NASCAR more or less punished ESPN at the time by disallowing credentials for non-truck races for ESPN personnel, then framed it as a way to help FOX and Turner Sports build themselves up. You might remember that era of Cup Series coverage on ESPN was restricted to Mike Massaro interviewing drivers at the airport after races. The edict, which allowed ESPN to use NASCAR video only on SportsCenter, effectively killed rpm2night and significantly hurt the network’s ability to actually cover the sport. Of course, that immediately came back to haunt ESPN after Dale Earnhardt died and all ESPN could do with one of the biggest sports stories of 2001 was have Massaro talk about it from what looked like the second floor balcony of a hotel across U.S. 92 from the track.
Who knows how NASCAR is going to treat ESPN after the end of 2014, and vice versa. Past experience says not very well.
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The dreaded pigskin played a role once again on Saturday. As I expected, the Texas A&M-Mississippi State game ran long, pushing the start of the telecast to ESPNEWS. Those of you without access to the cable network missed more of the same, unfortunately.
Honestly, it’s as if ESPN has nothing better to do every week than to play up Chase Elliott on the Nationwide broadcasts. Nicole Briscoe even said herself that she’s running out of superlatives to describe his performance. Yes, Elliott’s had a great year. We know that. We’ve known it for months.
However, there’s 40 teams out there. I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of other stories that ESPN could publicize. Granted, the lack of a NASCAR Countdown pre-race show doesn’t exactly help the situation, but going on and on about the 18-year-old phenom driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and never really talking about much else other than Cup regulars isn’t going to help the series’ profile much. ESPN’s noticed the growth of Chris Buescher over the course of the season, but still doesn’t really give him much coverage. It’s like the powers that be still don’t know anything about him, despite the fact that he won at Mid-Ohio and could have won Saturday if he didn’t get wrecked.
During the race itself, the sheer amount of wrecking overshadowed a lot of the action – sad, but true. Having said that, when people weren’t wrecking every other lap, there were a few drivers on which the broadcast focused. One was Smith, who had problem after problem. I can only imagine how frustrated he must have been Saturday.
The actual amount of racing shown for position seemed to be a little more than normal. The action up front was actually quite good at times during the race. Even John Wes Townley got in the act before he managed to get wrecked about four or five times.
There were definitely a couple of aspects of the broadcast that could have been improved. For starters, I would have liked to know what put Corey LaJoie in the wall on lap 88. Bestwick mentioned the wall contact and mentioned that LaJoie was slow on track, but beyond that, nothing. No replays, no reports on damage. I only got an idea of how bad LaJoie’s car was when I saw a Twitter post from not Biagi-DenBeste Racing, but Richard Petty Motorsports showing the car in the garage.
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) October 4, 2014
Additionally, Bestwick noted that Jennifer Jo Cobb littered the track with debris in turn 2, bringing out the yellow on lap 46. We never saw that debris. I have no clue what it was.
Finally, a number of regular teams that do not start-and-park dropped out on Sunday and there was next to no mention of what happened to them – including the No. 01 of Landon Cassill, the No. 4 of Jeffrey Earnhardt and the No. 93 of Kevin Swindell. Of the trio, Swindell’s exit was the closest to an actual S&P (Swindell dropped out after 13 laps with electrical issues), but JGL Racing has not start-and-parked a race with Swindell driving all year. Quite curious to start that in October. Also, Cassill apparently blew an engine, which did not make the telecast at all. At least he followed that up with a good run Sunday to calm his nerves.
Earnhardt’s departure from the race was the most notable here. According to the official results, he crashed out. All we got on the telecast was that Earnhardt pitted the No. 4 and the team pushed it behind the wall. Earnhardt posted this tweet after the retirement.
— Jeffrey Earnhardt (@JEarnhardt1) October 4, 2014
Seems like there was some kind of stack-up on the restart following the Larson-Chris Buescher crash that ESPN failed to mention. Apparently, Earnhardt ran into the back of JJ Yeley on said restart, denting the rear bumper of Yeley’s No. 28 and possibly busting the No. 4’s radiator. It should be noted that I constructed that explanation with information from multiple Twitter and Facebook pages. It’s one thing to do that for something like the late model race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, but I shouldn’t have to go to those lengths when a race is actually televised.
Post-race coverage kept in line with what ESPN covered for much of the race. I would have preferred more coverage that was centered on the Nationwide regulars, but the race took so long with all the wrecking that it was right up on the end of the timeslot by the time it ended. I would have preferred a little more in the way of interviews with drivers like Elliott Sadler, who had one of his best runs of the year.
Admittedly, after everything that happened last weekend, I’m over crashing for now. Having Talladega in two weeks really makes me nervous.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series will both be back in action at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the traditional fall action. With Sprint Cup getting that much closer to the next cut-off, expect an increase in coverage of those who had trouble at Kansas. You know who they are. Here’s your listings for the week.
Tuesday, October 7
|5:00 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Wednesday, October 8
|3:00 a.m.- 5:00 a.m.||ARCA Racing Series ARCA 98.9||FOX Sports 1*# (from October 3)|
|11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.||TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Petit Le Mans||FOX Sports 1*/# (from October 4)|
|4:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||Formula DRIFT: The Gauntlet, Part 1||NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 20)|
|4:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.||Formula DRIFT: The Gauntlet, Part No. 2||NBC Sports Network*/ (from June 21)|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*#|
|7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.||The 10: NASCAR's Closest Calls||FOX Sports 2#|
Thursday, October 9
|5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.||Nationwide Series Happy Hour||ESPN 2|
|7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||ESPN 2|
Friday, October 10
|12:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.||Formula Off-Road presented by Traxxas: Orange County||NBC Sports Network* (from September 19)|
|1:00 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.||NASCAR America: Scan All 43||NBC Sports Network|
|2:00 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Live Xtra$|
|2:30 a.m. - 3:00 a.m.||The Grid||NBC Sports Network|
|6:00 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network|
|10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.||ARCA Racing Series ARCA 98.9||FOX Sports 1*# (from October 3)|
|5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Countdown to F1||NBC Sports Network|
|3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2||ESPN 2|
|5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour||ESPN 2|
|7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||NASCAR Countdown||ESPN 2|
|7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.||Nationwide Series Drive For The Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina||ESPN 2|
Saturday, October 11
|12:30 a.m. - 2:00 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 10)|
|2:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m.||Formula Off-Road presented by Traxxas: Coronado Speed Festival||NBC Sports Network*# (from September 21)|
|3:40 a.m. - 4:40 a.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 1 Qualifying||FansChoice.tv^|
|4:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Free Practice No. 3||NBC Sports Live Xtra$|
|5:10 a.m. - 6:10 a.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 2 Qualifying||FansChoice.tv^|
|7:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|7:25 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 1 Saturday Race||FansChoice.tv^|
|10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.||Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion||FOX Sports 1*/ (from September 20)|
|10:05 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 2 Saturday Race||FansChoice.tv^|
|11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.||The 10: NASCAR's Greatest Races||FOX Sports 1#|
|11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.||GP2 Series: Russia||NBC Sports Network*|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||K&N Pro Series East Drive Sober 150||FOX Sports 2*/# (from September 26)|
|6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay||FOX Sports 2|
|6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.||AMA Pro Flat Track: Pomona, Timed Practice||FansChoice.tv^|
|7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||NASCAR Countdown||ABC|
|7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.||Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion||FOX Sports 2*/# (from September 20)|
|7:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500||ABC|
|9:30 p.m. - 1:10 a.m.||AMA Pro Flat Track: Pomona, Main Events||FansChoice.tv^|
Sunday, October 12
|12:00 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia Qualifying||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 11)|
|12:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Japan||FOX Sports 1|
|2:30 a.m. - 3:00 a.m.||NASCAR America: Scan All 43||NBC Sports Network*#|
|3:00 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1*|
|5:00 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 1 Sunday Race||FansChoice.tv^|
|6:30 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network|
|7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia||NBC Sports Network|
|9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network|
|9:25 a.m. - 11:55 a.m.||Whelen Euro Series: Le Mans, Elite 2 Sunday Race||FansChoice.tv^|
|9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1*#|
|12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.||IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Road Atlanta||FOX Sports 1*/ (from October 3)|
|12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.||Rally America Climb to the Clouds Rally (Mt. Washington Hill Climb)||NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 27-29)|
|1:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*#|
|2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia||NBC Sports Network*#|
|3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||AMA Pro Flat Track Year End Banquet||FansChoice.tv^|
|4:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network*#|
|5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Formula DRIFT: Throwdown, Part No. 1||NBC Sports Network*/ (from July 18)|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||Moto3: Japan||FOX Sports 2*|
|6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.||Moto2: Japan||FOX Sports 2*|
|7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.||motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of Japan||FOX Sports 2*/#|
Monday, October 13
|12:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.||NASCAR America: Scan All 43||NBC Sports Network#|
|12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.||Rally America Climb to the Clouds (Mt. Washington Hill Climb)||NBC Sports Network*/# (from June 27-29)|
|2:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Formula DRIFT: Throwdown, Part No. 1||NBC Sports Network*/# (from July 18)|
|4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*#|
|11:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 12)|
|11:30 p.m. - 1:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Russia||NBC Sports Network*# (from October 12)|
* – Tape Delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
$ – Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability in your area.
A couple of notes. First, the schedule for early in the week is very screwy due to FOX Sports 1’s coverage of the National League Divisional Series. As a result, NASCAR RaceHub looks to be bumped for baseball, but how many times it happens is dependent on how long the two series (Cardinals-Dodgers and Giants-Nationals) go.
Second, once again, college football could play a role in NASCAR this weekend, with Sprint Cup coverage under the gun. ABC has regional coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Depending on where you are, you’ll have either Michigan State-Purdue or TCU-Baylor. The games are scheduled to run until 6:30 p.m., but there is College Football Scorecard scheduled as a built-in buffer until the start of NASCAR Countdown at 7 p.m. I will keep you advised on that front on my Twitter feed. Also, since the race is on ABC, there could be some localized preemptions, especially of NASCAR Countdown because of local news. If it comes to pass, ESPN will put out a release detailing such preemptions later in the week, which we will report on here at Frontstretch.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series races from Charlotte for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. In the Annex this week, I’ll be covering the ARCA 98.9, the race that looked like it didn’t have a title sponsor, but actually did. Also, it was ridiculous. Expect references to profanity and James Swanson getting torn a new one for his actions.
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:
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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