Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the scene of a couple of butt-kickings last weekend, in addition to some tempers flaring inside of racecars (but not outside). We also had the return of Kevin Harvick to the booth.
However, before we get started, a couple of minor news items. Recently, we noted the proposed trade between ESPN and FOX Sports that would have brought Katie Nolan to ESPN so that she could write for Grantland. At the time, The Big Lead reported that the introduction of Marty Smith into the deal ultimately killed the trade. Well, SI.com’s Richard Deitsch reported in the write-up of a recent interview he conducted with Nolan that before the deal was killed, it had evolved into a straight-up Nolan for Smith deal. Interesting. It’s difficult to gauge the importance of both personalities to their respective networks as they generally operate in different fields. However, since FOX Sports considers Nolan to be a star in the making (hence her new TV show that premieres Sunday night), they made the price for ESPN to get Nolan quite steep. That just shows the regard in which Smith is held in media circles.
Also, a quick note for the listings at the bottom of the article. Last month, CBS Sports Network quietly announced their Torque.TV lineup, which will be on the digital cable network for the next three years. We’ve already touched upon Pirelli World Challenge and the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) being part of it. Sunday will mark the premiere of the V8 Supercars on CBS Sports Network. Fans of Marcos Ambrose will now have a place to watch the former Sprint Cup regular’s exploits back home in Australia. Right now, it appears that races will be televised in one hour highlight packages. The Clipsal 500 telecast premieres Sunday at Noon.
Boyd Gaming 300
Saturday brought the XFINITY Series back to action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. What we got was a race that was all but over on Friday afternoon. Austin Dillon gave everyone a whooping. Of course, just because someone executes a whooping doesn’t mean that it’s a relatively light day for FOX Sports.
The XFINITY Edition of NASCAR RaceDay continues to try to find its legs through three weeks. Generally, I enjoy watching it, but I do believe that Kenny Wallace can be over the top at times. Then again, it appears that being over the top is Wallace being normal.
For the race, FOX Sports 1 welcomed Harvick back to the booth for his second go-round of the season. Viewers got a great performance in the booth once again from the defending Sprint Cup Series champion in what continues to be an incredible contrast of personalities in the booth. Harvick is a methodical analyst who is more than willing to walk viewers through his viewpoints. His commentary is meant to inform. It’s similar to having Ricky Craven in the booth, but with a different tone of voice.
Harvick, who is apparently donating his time to FOX Sports 1 for the telecasts (meaning that they’re not paying him), takes the time to study up prior to the telecasts in and around all the other responsibilities he has. In addition, Harvick has all his knowledge from the driver’s seat. Coming off of a dominant victory and going to the booth allowed Harvick to bring that knowledge from Atlanta. For example, viewers heard a fairly in-depth explanation of the “spoiler ears” and how they affect the handling of an XFINITY Series car during the race.
Even the hot-button issue of hitting concrete walls was handled in a reasonable manner by Harvick. He explained why the point where Erik Jones hit the wall didn’t have a SAFER barrier and how it wasn’t something that Las Vegas Motor Speedway overlooked, but a concession to the drivers who wanted the extra space on corner exit. While we know Larry McReynolds’ opinion on the issue from Daytona (and to a lesser extent, Atlanta), keeping yourself calm when giving your views does help in the situation. Harvick came off as very rational and understanding.
Meanwhile, Harvick (and Adam Alexander) continue to share the booth with Michael Waltrip, who is anything but methodical in…anything. Michael clearly is on the good side of FOX Sports management. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to do 60 races a year on TV. However, I’m unsure what he really brings to the booth other than star power and past experience. Yes, Michael is a past winner in the XFINITY Series (from back in the 1980’s and 1990’s), but just doesn’t bring all that much other than being irritating. Yes, it’s great that Michael’s having fun in the booth and I don’t begrudge anyone on a telecast from having fun. However, if being the fun-loving third of the booth is all Michael brings to the table, he could end up being more distracting to the viewer than beneficial.
Saturday’s race was ultimately not all that exciting to watch for most of the day. Dillon just stomped ‘em. During the long green flag runs, we only got a fair amount of battling for position. There was some focus on Cup regulars, but not as much as there would have been if drivers like Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano or Kyle Busch had been in the field. As a result, the race did feel a little like a standalone race at times. The booth gave dap to drivers like Blake Koch (before he binned it in turn 4), Jones and others.
Post-race coverage (once again interrupted by FOX Sports Live) was only average. The coverage was truncated because the race had gone over its scheduled slot. As a result, viewers got what could be considered the bare minimum before FOX Sports 1 left to go to FOX Sports Live.
Harvick is simply a natural in the broadcast booth. It seems to come about as easy for him as racing at intermediates since he moved to Stewart-Haas Racing. Having to bounce his thoughts off a court jester doesn’t necessarily help his case. Harvick likely only has one more race left this year on FOX Sports 1, which is a shame. As for the rest of the schedule of guest analysts, I will try to get an official schedule for you.
Sunday brought Sprint Cup back to Las Vegas for 400 miles of action. The race also saw the return of Brian Vickers to the No. 55 after open heart surgery. We’ll just start there for good measure.
Naturally, Vickers’ situation back in December was quite serious. Anytime you hear the words “open heart surgery” together in a row, it’s not going to be a simple thing like getting your bottom wisdom teeth extracted. That’s something you can have done with minimal anesthesia in ten or so minutes while listening to Journey.
Everything that was released about Vickers in the off-season made his situation sound unfortunate, but something that he was going to bounce back from without too much of a problem. After all, he’d bounced back previously. FOX’s piece with Vickers Sunday painted a different picture. Rather than do the piece as a one-on-one interview, FOX simply had Vickers describe what happened. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation here. Vickers started experiencing chest pains due to the rejection issues and had he not gotten to the hospital as quick as he did, he likely would have had a heart attack. Having a heart attack at 31 is far more likely to be deadly than a heart attack at 75. The reasons for that are rather numerous and getting into it here would be getting way off-topic. Regardless, the idea of Vickers openly questioning whether he’d even race again was quite sobering.
Outside of Jeff Gordon’s mini-incident with Danica Patrick in Happy Hour that forced him to start at the rear in a backup car, one of the bigger stories that came out of Sunday morning was the decision for NASCAR to throw a competition caution on lap 25. I have no clue why they did it. In Atlanta, it was obvious why NASCAR made that call. Las Vegas, not so much. FOX tried to explain the situation by using the new rules as NASCAR’s reasoning. I really don’t get it. If that were so, that would mean that NASCAR’s going to throw a competition caution every dang week. I just don’t think FOX did a good enough job explaining why it had to be done.
On the plus side, FOX came up with a graphical depiction of the new driver-adjustable track bar. Admittedly, it’s something that FOX probably should have had ready to go at Atlanta, but they didn’t. I just wish they had shown it during FOX NASCAR Sunday and not on lap 121 of the race.
Overall, the racing for position shown on FOX was OK. Viewers saw a decent amount of action around the restarts. Beyond the restarts, the action was little and far between. Viewers would see a battle here or there, but the focus would go onto storylines. After lap 91, Jimmie Johnson’s charge up through the field was one of those storylines. However, we never really saw him pass anyone. We would get an update on his position while looking at Johnson via one of the in-car cameras. You saw his progress through the field, but never anything around him until he stuffed it in the wall.
To FOX’s credit, they did get viewers interviews with drivers involved in the few incidents on Sunday. Johnson told viewers in his interview about how he apparently melted a bead to cause his first tire failure. It’s an explanation (given to him from his crew via Goodyear engineers) that would make a whole lot more sense this weekend in Phoenix. I’d like to see how that’s possible given the limited usage of brakes at Las Vegas.
Carl Edwards actually apologized to Kasey Kahne for his role in creating the wreck that saw him spin out and nose into the inside wall. It’s interesting, but Edwards’ track record here left me skeptical. We all remember what he did in 2010 at Atlanta.
Unlike Saturday, the Cup race ended relatively early, leaving viewers with a good amount of post-race coverage. However, despite some good stories in the race, FOX’s post-race coverage more or less stuck to the general storylines of the day. FOX took time to talk to Gordon post-race despite the fact that he finished a lap down in 18th after getting wrecked for the third week in a row. Yes, I know it’s his last start at Las Vegas, but there are other stories that should be covered. Gordon got plenty of airtime Sunday despite his problems.
On the other hand, I would have liked to see AJ Allmendinger get some airtime after the race. He’s currently fifth in points and just claimed his third-best ever intermediate finish (tied with Atlanta in 2010). Drivers like Allmendinger deserve to be able to thank their sponsors just as much as people like Denny Hamlin, who finished barely half a second ahead of Allmendinger. One false move and the ‘Dinger would have gotten him in the last couple of laps. The JTG-Daugherty Racing team is showing incredible form early on, but it’s been under the radar because nobody is showing Allmendinger.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a very busy weekend for race fans. The Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series continue the western swing with a trip to Phoenix. Meanwhile, Formula One starts their season in Australia and Formula E returns in Miami after a two month break. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, March 10
|2 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.||NASCAR America: Celebrate the States, Part No. 1||NBC Sports Network#|
|2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR America: Celebrate the States, Part No. 2||NBC Sports Network#|
|5 a.m. - 6 a.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1*# (from March 9)|
|10 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.||XFINITY Series Boyd Gaming 300||FOX Sports 1*# (from March 7)|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
Wednesday, March 11
|4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||NASCAR America's The List: Iconic Cars||NBC Sports Network#|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
Thursday, March 12
|2 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.||NASCAR America's Celebrate the States, Part No. 1||NBC Sports Network#|
|2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.||NASCAR America's Celebrate the States, Part No. 2||NBC Sports Network#|
|5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||NASCAR America||NBC Sports Network|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
Friday, March 13
|12:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 1||NBC Sports Network*/|
|1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 2||NBC Sports Network|
|3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1||FOX Sports 1|
|4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Practice No. 1||FOX Sports 1|
|6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||XFINITY Series Happy Hour||FOX Sports 2|
|7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||FOX Sports 2|
|10 p.m. - 12 a.m.||NASCAR Mexico Series Toyota 120||NBC Universo|
Saturday, March 14
|12:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Free Practice No. 3||NBC Sports Network*|
|1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.||Countdown to F1||NBC Sports Network|
|2 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia Qualifying||NBC Sports Network|
|10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.||Sprint Cup Series Qualifying||FOX Sports 1*# (from March 13)|
|11 a.m. - 1 p.m.||Pirelli World Challenge: Austin, GT/GTS/GT Cup Races||CBS Sports Network*/ (from March 7-8)|
|11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2||FOX Sports 1|
|12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.||XFINITY Series Qualifying||FOX Sports 1|
|2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour||FOX Sports 1|
|3:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY Edition||FOX|
|3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.||FIA Formula E Championship: Miami||FOX Sports 2|
|4 p.m. - 6 p.m.||XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200||FOX|
|5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.||FIA Formula E Championship: Miami||FOX Sports 1|
|7 p.m. - 10 p.m.||AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Indianapolis||FOX Sports 2|
|11 p.m. - 12 a.m.||Mercedes F1: Race to Repeat||NBC Sports Network#|
|11 p.m. - 12 a.m.||AMSOil Arenacross: Tampa||FOX Sports 2#|
Sunday, March 15
|12 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.||Countdown to F1||NBC Sports Network#|
|12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network|
|1 a.m. - 3 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia||NBC Sports Network|
|1:30 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.||NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Qualifying||ESPN 2*/ (from March 14)|
|3 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network|
|3:30 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.||AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Indianapolis||FOX Sports 1*# (from March 14)|
|6 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*#|
|6:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia||NBC Sports Network*#|
|7 a.m. - 9 a.m.||NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Qualifying||ESPN 2*/# (from March 14)|
|8 a.m. - 10 a.m.||Pirelli World Challenge: Austin, GT/GT Cup/GTS Races||CBS Sports Network*/# (from March 7-8)|
|11 a.m. - 12 p.m.||AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas City||FOX Sports 1*|
|11 a.m. - 5 p.m.||NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Final Eliminations||ESPN 3$|
|12 p.m. - 1 p.m.||V8 Supercars Clipsal 500||CBS Sports Network*/ (from February 28-March 1)|
|12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.||NASCAR RaceDay||FOX Sports 1|
|3 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||FOX NASCAR Sunday||FOX|
|3:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500k||FOX|
|4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.||F1 Countdown||NBC Sports Network*#|
|4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.||Formula One Grand Prix of Australia||NBC Sports Network*#|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||V8 Supercars Clipsal 500||CBS Sports Network*/# (from February 28-March 1)|
|6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.||F1 Extra||NBC Sports Network*#|
|7 p.m. - 9 p.m.||NHRA Amelie Oil Gatornationals Final Eliminations||ESPN 2*/|
|11 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1*|
Monday, March 16
|12 a.m. - 3 a.m.||AMA Monster Energy Supercross: Indianapolis||FOX Sports 2*# (from March 14)|
|5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.||NASCAR Victory Lane||FOX Sports 1*#|
|10 a.m. - 1 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500k||FOX Sports 1*/# (from March 15)|
|1 p.m. - 2 p.m.||AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas City||FOX Sports 2*#|
|2 p.m. - 5 p.m.||Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500k||FOX Sports 2*/# (from March 15)|
|6 p.m. - 7 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 1|
|7 p.m. - 8 p.m.||NASCAR RaceHub||FOX Sports 2*#|
|8 p.m. - 9 p.m.||AMSOil Arenacross: Kansas City||FOX Sports 2*#|
|9 p.m. - 10 p.m.||FIA Formula E Championship: Miami||FOX Sports 2*/# (from March 14)|
* – Tape delayed
/ – Highlighted Coverage
# – Repeat Coverage
^ – Available via free internet streaming.
$ – Available via password-protected internet streaming. Check with your internet and/or programming provider for availability.
Note that all motorsports coverage on FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 is available on the FOX Sports GO app. Availability is dependent on your provider.
I will critique the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races from Phoenix for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. As of this writing, a topic for the Critic’s Annex is undecided for this week. Next week’s edition may see me try to critique NBC Universo’s coverage of the Mexico Series’ Toyota 120 on Friday night (Note: NBC Universo is what used to be Mun2 until last month).
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 FOX Sports personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage, 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.