Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Dreaded Debris Rears Its Head Again

Auto Club Speedway hosted a couple of relatively staid races last weekend. I cannot put it any better than that. However, FOX Sports still has a job to do, and that is to give viewers a good broadcast.

Before we get into the critique, I wish I had good news to report in regards to the ongoing issues between AT&T U-Verse and FOX Sports 1, but I cannot find anything that even remotely insinuates that the two parties are even close to settling their issues. Knowing that AT&T U-Verse was against paying more for FOX Sports 2 due to the potential of additional ad revenue from acquisitions, don’t expect to be able to watch the Cup race from Martinsville Sunday if the issue is not settled. You’ll be able to watch the Kroger 250 on Saturday, since the Camping World Truck Series is covered under their current deal, but the Sprint Cup race will likely be blacked out. You’ll have to hang tight and record one of the repeat airings on Monday (see below in the listings). FOX Sports GO would be blacked out as well. Unfortunately, that’s about the best I can do for you. The only way U-Verse viewers will likely be able to watch Sunday’s race live is by either going to the race in Virginia (I hear tickets are still available if you’re so inclined) or by following the race on RaceBuddy.

Auto Club 400

Before writing this week’s critique, I had the notion of going out for a drive and seeing if I could find some metal debris on one of the local roads, take a picture of it, and use it as the primary picture for today’s column. Unfortunately, time is of the essence. It just wasn’t in the cards. However, I did have to dodge a full bag of garbage that was inexplicably in the middle of a 55-mph road Monday morning while driving to work. Now that’s some debris.

As many of you saw on Sunday, debris was a major issue. Whether or not there was actual debris on the track, the cautions brought out because of it definitely changed the outcome of the race.

Do I think NASCAR threw the lap 200 caution just to stick it to Kurt Busch? Heck no. If NASCAR really wanted to stick it to Busch, he’d still be suspended right now. Was there actual debris on the track? Yes, there was. While the booth didn’t explicitly point it out, it did make air. Compared to everything else we saw in Fontana, that was clearly the exception rather than the rule.

Shortly after the yellow flew, FOX switched to a static view from a speed shot camera exiting turn 4, a place where Mike Joy had already informed viewers that the debris had settled. Sure enough, roughly one-third of the way up the track from the apron was a small object. To me, watching live it looked like a small piece that was reflecting sunlight. I’m not sure what it was, but it appeared to be metallic.

NASCAR’s official explanation is that since the whole track constitutes the groove at Auto Club Speedway, they felt that it was a risk for someone to hit it, blow a tire and wreck. That’s why they threw the caution. Did it completely change the race? Yes. Did NASCAR really want to do that? Probably not, but the minute they threw it, they must have known that they had changed everything.

My main issue with debris is not the lap 200 yellow, like seemingly everyone else. It’s the rest of the cautions from not just Sunday, but Saturday as well. As NASCAR’s TV partner, FOX Sports is beholden to do everything possible to find the debris every time a yellow is thrown for it. To the regular viewer, it seemed like they didn’t even try for most of the weekend. Four out of the seven debris cautions were for pieces that were unseen. The ones that were? The lap 200 caution that I mentioned above, the one where the piece hit AJ Allmendinger’s car on Sunday, and the last yellow where it was obvious to anyone watching that Kyle Larson’s TV panel took flight on the backstretch.

NASCAR telecasts seem to breed conspiracy theories way more often than with any other major sport. It’s likely because the playing field is so much bigger in motorsports than it is in stick-and-ball sports. Even there, it’s possible for things not to be seen, but it’s a rare phenomenon. FOX had over 70 cameras in Daytona for the Daytona 500. In Fontana, they probably had 55 or so. That’s still nearly a Super Bowl worth of TV cameras. Darn near every inch of the place should be covered. However, things happen.

Because of that, NASCAR really should consider having BSI install cameras on the pick-up trucks that cart around the clean-up crews, and even on the clean-up crewmen themselves so that we can see the debris being picked up in these instances. If it’s done that way, these cameras could be a shared resource between FOX Sports and NBC Sports.

Crashes are one thing. You know there’s going to be debris when someone bins it. In debris caution situations, there’s no guarantee that people will be able to easily see what caused it. Accountability is key here. Otherwise, you’ll have fans exploding on Twitter and claiming that the races are as rigged as the 1950s game show Twenty One. Unlike NASCAR races, Twenty One was incredibly rigged.

Aside from the debris issues, I felt that FOX needed to show as much racing as possible for position. Yes, races at ACS have the tendency to spread out. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that FOX can just rest on their laurels and relax. They have to make the race exciting. I don’t think they did the best job of it on Sunday. They did do a drop-back at one point and showed the top-20 drivers in the race at that point, but nothing else really stood out. We did get good action at times towards the front of the field, but Sunday was another Stewart-Haas Racing show. FOX could have done a better job showing how certain drivers plugged away to get closer to the front. Examples here would include Paul Menard, Justin Allgaier and to a lesser extent, Chris Buescher. I have no clue how Allgaier snuck into the top 10 for the final restart. He’s obviously happy with his 12th-place finish, but I would have liked to at least hear a little bit more about how he did it.

On a positive side, FOX slightly revamped their lap-counter box this past weekend. For much of both races, the counter displayed the current lap of the race, and the laps to go. Think of the lap counter on the scoring pylons at Texas Motor Speedway. I think it’s a nice change. For regular viewers, it probably wouldn’t have an effect at tracks like Auto Club Speedway. Instead, it would be most beneficial in races that don’t have a round number of laps, like the 400-mile races at 1.5-mile ovals (267).

Overall, the race just wasn’t all that great to watch. It was really quite boring. Yes, the finish was relatively exciting, but it’s very debatable whether that should have been the way that the race should have ended. If we did a poll here, it’d be something like six to one in favor of not throwing the lap 200 yellow.

Viewers missed Brad Keselowski‘s pass for the win live because FOX was showing Greg Biffle trying to figure out what to do with his trashed CleanHarbors Ford that stopped in the middle of the track. I had a brief Dale Jarrett at Loudon flashback for a moment. Ultimately, we only saw the pass via the replay. Weak. FOX also failed to show (or even talk about) what happened to cause Biffle to wreck. Nothing short of a cavalcade of mystery at the finish. In addition, Denny Hamlin apparently had engine problems late and spent some of the final laps smoking. I saw some of that smoke in the background on one of the restarts, but it was never mentioned on-air.

There was no mention at all on the broadcast about the wild moves that Martin Truex Jr. made towards the end of the race. As you may have seen, Tony Stewart was none too pleased with Truex, berating him with f-bombs on pit road. USA Today’s Jeff Gluck shot mobile video of the argument and put it on the internet. I would have liked to see the high-English maneuver from Truex that led to that mess.

Drive4Clots.com 300

Saturday’s Xfinity Series race from ACS saw the debut of Clint Bowyer in the broadcast booth. As you’ve seen on television, Twitter, or even in interviews, Bowyer is an interesting chap. What does he bring to the broadcast? At this point, it’s a little unclear.

Bowyer definitely brings his personality, quirky as it is, to the booth. The problem with that is Bowyer in the booth comes off a little like Darrell Waltrip, minus the Boogitys. We already have one Darrell Waltrip. We don’t need another one.

Ultimately, Bowyer’s presence did shake things up during one of the more boring Xfinity Series races that I can honestly remember watching. Bowyer has a unique vocabulary that some core fans will like. Others will view Bowyer’s contributions along the lines of the aforementioned Darrell Waltrip, or Larry McReynolds. You know what we’re getting at here. The butchering of the English language.  I know for a fact that Bowyer is going to rub some viewers the wrong way, but it appears that what you see is what you get with him.

Having said that, even if a race is boring, FOX Sports must find a way to make the race interesting. I don’t think they did a very good job of it. To me, a race should be memorable in one way, and not because Bowyer made up some random words.

Heck, FOX Sports didn’t do a good job of showing how Brendan Gaughan was able to put himself in position to finish second. Viewers never really saw much of Gaughan until he led a couple of laps during the final round of green-flag pit stops. Despite the runaway feel, there were a couple moments in which we got some good action.  That was a roughly 15-20 lap stretch when Darrell Wallace Jr. took it to Kevin Harvick and briefly usurped the defending Sprint Cup Series champion before dropping back through the field.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Martinsville Speedway for 500 laps of rooting and gouging, with the Camping World Truck Series serving as support. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series opens up in St. Petersburg and Formula 1 returns to Malaysia, where it can pour like heck whenever. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, March 24

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300FOX Sports 1*# (from March 21)
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#

Wednesday, March 25

10 a.m. - 1 p.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: DetroitFOX Sports 1*# (from March 21)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Iconic CarsNBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
5 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Memorable MomentsNBC Sports Network#
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
10 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Free Practice No. 1NBC Sports Live Extra$

Friday, March 27

12 a.m. - 1 a.m.Road to MercedesNBC Sports Network#
1 a.m. - 2 a.m.Mercedes F1: Road to RepeatNBC Sports Network#
2 a.m. - 3:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Free Practice No. 2NBC Sports Network
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1FOX Sports 1
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Happy HourFOX Sports 1
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1

Saturday, March 28

1:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Free Practice No. 2NBC Sports Network*# (from March 27)
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia Free Practice No. 3NBC Sports Live Extra$
5 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia QualifyingNBC Sports Network
8:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from March 27)
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2FOX Sports 1
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
12:30 p.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourFOX Sports 2, FOX Sports 1>
2 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.NCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250FOX Sports 1
5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia QualifyingNBC Sports Network*#
7 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network
8 p.m. - 11 p.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: St. LouisFOX Sports 1
10 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.NHRA 4-Wide Nationals QualifyingESPN 2*/ (from March 27-28)

Sunday, March 29

1 a.m. - 2:30 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of Malaysia QualifyingNBC Sports Network*# (from March 28)
2:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network
3 a.m. - 5 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of MalaysiaNBC Sports Network
3 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250FOX Sports 1*# (from March 28)
5 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network
5:30 a.m. - 6 a.m.The 10: Greatest Truck Series MomentsFOX Sports 1#
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: New OrleansFOX Sports 1*
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1*# (from March 27)
11 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network#
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.NASCAR RaceDayFOX Sports 1
1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.FOX NASCAR SundayFOX Sports 1
1 p.m. - 5 p.m.NHRA 4-Wide Nationals Final EliminationsESPN3$
1:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.Sprint Cup Series STP 500FOX Sports 1
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.NHRA 4-Wide Nationals Final EliminationsESPN 2>
3 p.m. - 4 p.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of QatarFOX Sports 2*/
3 p.m. - 6 p.m.Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. PetersburgABC
3:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network*#
4 p.m. - 6 p.m.Formula One Grand Prix of MalaysiaNBC Sports Network*#
6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.F1 ExtraNBC Sports Network*#
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR Masters of the Clock: The Legend of MartinsvilleFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.Moto3: QatarFOX Sports 2*
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.Moto2: QatarFOX Sports 2*
9 p.m. - 10 p.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of QatarFOX Sports 2*/#
10 p.m. - 1 a.m.AMA Monster Energy Supercross: St. LouisFOX Sports 2*# (from March 28)

Monday, March 30

12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.F1 CountdownNBC Sports Network*# (from March 29)
1 a.m. - 2 a.m.AMSOil Arenacross: New OrleansFOX Sports 2*#
1 a.m. - 3 a.m.Formula One Grand Prix of MalaysiaNBC Sports Network*# (from March 29)
3 a.m. - 6 a.m.Sprint Cup Series STP 500FOX Sports 1*/# (from March 29
10 a.m. - 1 p.m.Sprint Cup Series STP 500FOX Sports 1*/# (from March 29)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*#
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.AMSOil Arenacross: New OrleansFOX Sports 2*#

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

Note that FS1 will join coverage of Sprint Cup Happy Hour in progress once the horse race scheduled for 12:30 p.m. finishes up.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck and Verizon IndyCar Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex on Thursday in the Newsletter, I’m going to cover a little bit of FOX Sports’s coverage of last weekend’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. For next week’s Critic’s Annex, I’m looking at a new special that is set to premiere after Sunday’s STP 500, NASCAR Masters of the Clock: The Legend of Martinsville. I haven’t seen anything about the show as of yet, but it should be a very interesting watch. Look for that in early April in the Frontstretch Newsletter.

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:

FOX Sports

At this point, there is still no public contact email 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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I actually liked Bowyer’s presence in the booth..he didn’t try to be something he is not, he did come off as articulate and contributed to the program. I like him much better than the person with the initials KH in the booth. Brad did fine last week as well, both seem more natural than KH. I can only imagine who will be in the crosshairs of the fans that are convinced NASCAR did what they did to try and “screw” Kurt this weekend and god forbid if it isn’t a favorite that wins, it will be worse than normal. Kinda scary this type of mentality has flourished so robustly and quickly….”I scream and Nascar will listen”…don’t get your hopes up people..they have a long, long. long way to go!


Why do I think that if NASCAR called a caution on the Biffle spin, Larry and Moe in the FOX booth would be applauding NASCAR’s decision as loud as they cheered the call to let them race?

Bill B

Agree that the lap counter was an excellent addition that FOX made (I hate doing math on my day off).

Still, their coverage of the actual race sucked. Drivers getting the lucky dog or taking wave arounds were not mentioned on each caution.
How did Carl Edwards end up restarting 30th on the final restart? Apparently he got a speeding penalty but for some reason that wasn’t noteworthy enough to tell the fans about.
That should be their number one priority,,, keeping viewer up to date on what is happening in the race. They have seemed to lost track of that being the most important part of their job.

Bill W

Bill B ,I think they had the #15 and the #19 listed backwards as to the way they were running. The clowns in the booth have their on agenda and don’t know what is going on .

I may be wrong but it almost look like the #4 was going to let the #41 win so he would qualify for the chase .

Bill B

I don’t think so Bill W. I think he really restarted in 30th.

Here is a direct quote from Carl
““That was a hard fought race,” Edwards said of his fourth lead lap finish of 2015. “I got a speeding penalty towards the end and put us back in the back and made it back up to 13th. A great group effort by my guys with the backup car. Even though we couldn’t get a win, to put that effort forth was huge.””



Interesting how the boys in the booth seem to feel that 10 or 15 laps of close racing caused by late race cautions will make up for380 laps of relative boredom. Of course, there may have been more action beyond the top 2 runners, but I never saw it. Fox seems veritably incapable of showing any cars not in the top 5 or in their script for coverage.


No the reason Nascar races, make that Nascar in general, breeds so many conspiracy theories is of its inconsistencies. In the NFL offside gets you a 5 yard penalty -every time, no debate, no discussion.
With. Nascar maybe it’s a penalty, maybe it’s not. The punishment, assuming there is one, is anybodies guess.
That is what breeds conspiracy theories.


In the 50’s or 60’s there was a huge scandal when it came to light that bookies were paying college basketball players to shave points and thus manipulate the outcome of games. It was considered ” fixing”. People went to prison, I believe for conspiracy among other things. Through the GWC, lucky dog, wave around, double file restarts, hourly rules changes, and obvious (except to the racing press) use of the yellow flag for reasons other then safety NASCAR attempts to alter race outcomes. Explain to me how any of that attempted manipulation differs from the behavior of the bookies and basketball players. Wake up Phil, they are not conspiracy theories they are conspiracy facts.


I don’t watch the busch/nationwide/xfinity series on tv any more so whoever is the guest in the booth doesn’t matter to me. Watching one boring race (the one on Sunday was enough for me). That whole mess at the end was stupid

NASCAR is so consistently inconsistent that it has become just a joke, I don’t even bother to defend this “sport” to my friends any more. It is a shame that a sport that I once was so passionately interested in and would talk about and watch non-stop, has fallen to this level.


let’s take a look back at the number of debris cautions say about ten years back. What a joke to try to explain something that just simply is not there. If they needed a Debris caution, have a look at every grill on whomever’s car on the track. WWE is right. Why would you ever try to defend something that simply is not there.

Ron Schwalbe

Has anyone there thought of posting the comments in the proper order so we don’t have to read from the bottom up ??
NOBODY starts reading a story from the last page —
At least the replies aren’t upside down –


Transparency and Nascar should never be used in the same sentence. Putting cameras in safety vehicles would make it much harder for Nascar to throw a bogus caution to tighten the field up during a boring race, so don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Its bad enough they insult my intelligence by trotting Hoots or some other clown out to the media after the race explaining with a straight face the “legitimacy” of a caution everyone knows is bogus.

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