Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBCSN Pulls No Punches With NASCAR on Intentional Wrecking

Martinsville Speedway. Home to tight racing, bumping and banging, and the occasional intentional crash. That’s what we had to deal with this past weekend at the paperclip.

Before we start, we’ve reached a milestone. Today, we’re celebrating the fact that I’ve written 500 critiques for Frontstretch, either here on the website or in our Newsletter, since 2009. It’s a rather substantial body of work and I’m happy to continue providing my readers with facts, opinions and TV listings. I enjoy the feedback I get from my readers and I’m incredibly pleased that there are actually people who care what I have to say about anything, let alone race broadcasts. Thank you for your patronage. Let’s aim for 500 more critiques.

Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500

I thought that we could get through another race without something stupid happening. I guess not. As you all know, Matt Kenseth’s intentional wreck of leader Joey Logano on lap 454 of Sunday’s race is one of two things that the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 will be remembered for. The other is the far more joyous occasion of Jeff Gordon winning, and the sheer expression of unmitigated joy that resulted.

Due to the level of ridiculousness involved here, we must deviate from the normal protocol and immediately delve into how the incident was covered by NBCSN. For the record, I do not agree with Kenseth’s actions. However, that will not inform my opinion of the handling of the incident.

From what I could see, the booth seemed to immediately put it out there that the crash was intentional. Steve Letarte stated that he previously had thought such conduct was beneath Kenseth. Obviously, he was mistaken. Instead, Letarte, along with Jeff Burton, believed that “Kenseth would make it tough on Logano.” Earlier in the race, Kenseth did just that. He executed a bump n’ run on Logano to take second away from Logano. That’s hard racing, but fair for Martinsville. Allen brought the facts here, noting that Kenseth had been parked by NASCAR for his conduct, and reviewed the previous beef between the two drivers.

Burton and Letarte also discussed whether or not there is a line to the whole “Boys, have at it” thing that NASCAR has been promoting for the last five seasons. There clearly is. NASCAR just doesn’t want to admit it because they think they’ll lose fans if they do anything more than slapping a driver’s wrist. That is a fear that I don’t believe actually exists in any other sport, at least not right now.

NBCSN did a great job to get interviews with both of the principals involved. Logano was naturally ticked off, which is completely understandable. I’d be angry as well if someone crashed me out of the lead like that.

Kenseth acted like nothing happened. He seemed to be sticking to his hurt car story. It makes me think back to the early, pre-Chicken Pit portion of the 1983 film Stroker Ace. As you may remember, Ace (Burt Reynolds) gets taken out intentionally by arch-nemesis/ridiculous caricature Aubrey James, then proceeds to lie through his teeth about seemingly everything to Ken Squier. As you’d expect, Snider is Squier in this example. In the film, Squier rants (and cusses) at Ace and crew chief Lugs Harvey (Jim Nabors) as soon as the live shot ends, demanding the truth (I tried to find a clip for you of that instance, but one is not available). I feel like Snider might have felt the same way at the time. As far as I’m concerned, Kenseth outright disrespected him on live television. At press time, NASCAR has still not made a decision as to how Kenseth will be punished (and he will be).

Both Dave Burns and Snider did very well in getting the statements on-air from both Logano and Kenseth. Situations like Sunday are very tough. People often shut themselves off and don’t want to talk to anyone. We’re lucky to get what we got out of the two belligerents.

After the race, NBCSN made a conscious decision to focus on Gordon’s victory. Under normal circumstances, it would be an incredible feel-good moment for NBCSN and NASCAR as a whole. In reality, it’s every bit as such for Gordon, but it’s tempered for NASCAR because of the stupidity. It was a full 45 minutes after the race before it was even touched upon during the NASCAR America Post-Race. Here, Kyle Petty stated that Kenseth’s actions were “complete BS” and “a black eye on our sport.” I’m inclined to agree with Petty. Even with Sunday’s events, the race couldn’t make the first 60 minutes of a 90-minute SportsCenter because of all the football, along with the World Series.

The real takeaway for me was Petty’s terse quote, “This is [why] people laugh about NASCAR at the water cooler on Monday.” It’s really true. It’s hard to take a sport seriously in which people can enact vigilante justice in the most blatant way possible, and recent history has shown that not only will NASCAR not give it the proper correction that it deserves, but they’ll use it to promote the sport. NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell stated to Mike Massaro that the sanctioning body was “disappointed” in Kenseth’s actions and that they’ll have a decision by Tuesday (today). We’ll just have to see what they decide. When they make an announcement, we’ll have it for you here on Frontstretch.

With the post-race focus on Gordon, there really weren’t a lot of people interviewed after the race. I believe it was four drivers (all Chasers) in a full hour. I know that they wanted to focus on the feel-good story and all, but you’re masking a lot of the stories from the race by doing that. Did heck go down after the race between anyone else? I don’t know. Doesn’t appear so at this point.

Would I have liked to hear from Jamie McMurray, who had his best run of the year to finish second? You betcha. I know McMurray wanted to get some well-deserved airtime for himself, his team and sponsors. However, it appears that they didn’t even conduct an off-air interview with him.

Really, dudes? What the heck? With that much available airtime (NBCSN cancelled the rerun of F1 Countdown from earlier in the day to stay live at the track until 6:30 p.m.), we could have gotten a lot more information. Instead, we got replays of champagne spraying and such. Like it or not, there’s only so much you can get out of Gordon’s child-like delight at winning before you start repeating yourself. There’s a number of people that they could have put on-air, but chose not to. They could have done so much more.

Outside of the main topics of discussion, NBCSN’s coverage did have a bit of a Chase focus, but not as much as in recent weeks. The Chase order pylon was back as I figured that it would be. When it first showed up at Talladega, I thought that it could be intrusive, but it really hasn’t been so to this point.

Non-chasers like McMurray, Kenseth (before he lost his mind), Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger got their proper dues. Others, such as Tony Stewart, not so much. Seems like Stewart had a long run car on a day in which short runs were the name of the game. Early on, drivers like Casey Mears got their due when they were putting their cars up towards the front as well.

Overall, the coverage of the intentional wreck was complete and great. The coverage of the actual racing was decent, but the post-race was too focused and rather deficient. You just can’t get hung up on one topic for 40 minutes. That just doesn’t work.

Kroger 200

Saturday afternoon brought the Camping World Truck Series back to Martinsville for their second visit of the year. The event was pretty much wide open with all kinds of different stories. How was it covered? Let’s check it out.

The Setup was focused at first on Kyle Busch Motorsports’ big driver announcement, which was made on last Thursday’s edition of NASCAR RaceHub. By all indications, KBM will look a little different in 2016. Kyle Busch does not appear to be getting behind the wheel in the series next year, as of now. We’ll see if that holds true. My guess is that the Daniel SuarezCody Coughlin entry will be the No. 51, Christopher Bell keeps the No. 54 and William Byron will take the No. 4, but I’m not sure. We’ll see how that goes.

Also on the show, Ray Dunlap traveled to South Florida to do a feature on Ray Black Jr., a rookie driving for SS-Green Light Racing and a professional scuba diver. Here, we learn about Black’s long background with diving (he learned from his dad and has been diving since age 9), the fact that Dunlap is a diver as well, and the similarities between diving and driving a race truck. I thought it was interesting. We’ve covered somewhat similar material with Black previously here at Frontstretch, with similar results (I’m pretty sure Joseph Wolkin didn’t don a wet suit for that interview, though). In Black, we have a driver that’s relatively new to the series that a lot of people really don’t know much about. Sure, at this point, Black’s history with scuba diving is similar to John Wes Townley and his family’s background with chicken, but it’s something to build off of.

Early on in the race, FOX Sports 1 had some issues with the FOX Box early in the race. Basically, we had no FOX Box and no real idea of everyone’s position. In that situation, I believe that the broadcast booth needs to do a better job in updating positions in order to compensate for the lack of available technology. In practice, they may have done that just a little bit, but it wasn’t all that noticeable to me. Definitely not enough.

Later on, it appeared that FOX Sports was caught off-guard with the pit stops during the second caution. As in, they had no idea that the leaders were stopping. They went to commercial after showing a replay of Brandon Hightower’s spin. Afterwards, they returned, seemingly dumbfounded that nearly everyone pitted. However, they covered practice on Friday.  The fact that the tires were wearing heavily wasn’t lost on anyone. It’s like they forgot what they saw overnight.

A good chunk of the second half of the race was literally going from wreck to wreck. In between the wrecks, we saw a decent amount of racing for position, and more than a good amount of bumping. I would have liked to see an interview with JJ Haley after he crashed out due to losing his brakes. Viewers got no information about it before he wiped out on lap 121.

Post-race coverage was somewhat limited since the race ran long. As a result, there were only a couple of quick interviews, along with a check of the points before FS1 headed off to Lawrence, where Oklahoma was set to demolish Kansas (possibly the worst team in Division I-A (FBS) football at the moment). It kind of bites, but given scheduling this year, I’m not necessarily shocked.

Normally, there’s a lot of hurt feelings after Martinsville races, especially one with as many yellows as Saturday’s race (12).  However, we didn’t see any of that.  Did heck potentially go down?  I don’t know.  Perhaps.  I read that a number of people weren’t happy with Gray Gaulding after the race since he was involved in a number of incidents.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad telecast, but FOX Sports does need to watch out for instances like I mentioned at the very beginning of the race. Yes, what I’m assuming was a technical issues with the FOX Box was unplanned, but you have to work around that and still provide superior service. The racing for position was pretty good, better than we’ve seen in recent fall races at Martinsville. We got a lot more action at the front of the field, but also a lot of charging through the field. With the exception of drivers like Erik Jones and Cole Custer, people would come up from the back quickly with little to no explanation. I would have liked FOX Sports to give a little more focus to these charges because it helps make other aspects of the race make more sense.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, we begin the stretch run. All three of NASCAR’s National series will be in action at Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, motoGP finishes out their season at Valencia in Spain, while Formula E returns to Malaysia. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, November 3

2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 2)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 2)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 2)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR Scan all 43NBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Wednesday, November 4

2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 3)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 3)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 3)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Texas Motor SpeedwayNBC Sports Network
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.Formula DRIFT: Irwindale, Part No. 1CBS Sports Network*/ (from October 9)
8:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.V8 Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 11)
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Thursday, November 5

12:30 a.m. - 1 a.m.Formula DRIFT: Irwindale, Part No. 1CBS Sports Network*/# (from October 9)
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 4)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 4)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 4)
4:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Texas Motor SpeedwayNBC Sports Network#
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1

Friday, November 6

2 a.m. - 3 a.m.Dakar Series: Desafio GuaraniNBC Sports Network
2 a.m. - 3 a.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 2*# (from November 5)
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 5)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network*# (from November 5)
9 a.m. - 10 a.m.FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of ShanghaiFOX Sports 1*/# (from November 1)
12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.NASCAR's The List: Texas Motor SpeedwayNBC Sports Network#
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1NBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.XFINITY Series PracticeNBC Sports Network
4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.Camping World Truck Series QualifyingFOX Sports 1
6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.Sprint Cup Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
8 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.NCWTS SetupFOX Sports 1
8:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350kFOX Sports 1
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.FIA Formula E QualifyingFOX Sports 2*

Saturday, November 7

12:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.FIA Formula E Championship: PutrajayaFOX Sports 1
3 a.m. - 4 a.m.FIA Formula E Championship: PutrajayaFOX Sports 1*/#
4 a.m. - 6 a.m.Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350kFOX Sports 1*# (from November 6)
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.Mobil 1's The GridCBS Sports Network
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2CNBC
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.XFINITY Series QualifyingNBC Sports Network
1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
2 p.m. - 3 p.m.Sprint Cup Series Happy HourNBC Sports Network
3 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC
3:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.XFINITY Series O'Reilly Auto Parts ChallengeNBC

Sunday, November 8

7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.motoGP World Championship Grand Prix of ValenciaFOX Sports 1
8 a.m. - 8:30 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.NASCAR America SundayNBC Sports Network
1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.Countdown to GreenNBC
2 p.m. - 6 p.m.Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500NBC
3 p.m. - 4 p.m.FIA Formula E Championship: PutrajayaFOX*/# (from November 7)
6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.NASCAR America Post-RaceNBC Sports Network
6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network
7 p.m. - 8 p.m.Moto3: ValenciaFOX Sports 2*
7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m.Red Bull Global RallyCross: Las VegasNBC Sports Network*/ (from November 4)
8 p.m. - 9 p.m.Moto2: ValenciaFOX Sports 2*
11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*#

Monday, November 9

1:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.NASCAR Victory LaneFOX Sports 1
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 8)
7 a.m. - 8 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 8)
8 a.m. - 9 a.m.NASCAR Victory LapNBC Sports Network*# (from November 8)
12 p.m. - 1 p.m.Porsche Rennsport Reunion VFOX Sports 2#
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350kFOX Sports 2*# (from November 6)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.NASCAR 120: AAA Texas 500NBC Sports Network*/# (from November 8)
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.NASCAR AmericaNBC Sports Network
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.NASCAR RaceHubFOX Sports 1


* – Tape Delayed

/ – Highlighted Coverage

# – Repeat Coverage

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series race telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. Coverage for the Annex this week is currently undecided, but there are a couple of shows that may be considered.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments and I’m happy with the increased number of comments so far this year. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

FOX Sports
NBC Sports

As always, if you choose to contact a 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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Good calls, congrats on your milestone!


This was the first race I’ve watched since Dover and while I knew attendance was continuing to decline I was surprised at just how much. Even the miles of tarp we have all become accustomed to could not hide the fact that of the uncovered seats at best half were occupied. Anyone see the Sports Media Watch TV numbers yet? I wonder if the television audience is equally disinterested?


PS: just checked SMW, 1.9 down 17% from last year’s pathetic numbers. On a positive note, the sponsors must not be paying attention or they surely wouldn’t continue to pour dollars into advertising that no one sees.


Money’s already budgeted so it has to be spent. Who wants to tell the boss you screwed up and this money will just be wasted? Easier to just hit your knees every night and just say a little prayer.


Know what’s funny about all that. The numbers are compared to last year are bad, but I would love to see a comparison for 5 years ago since the sport has been declining for at least that long. I think BZF would choke on his vodka if he saw those numbers, but nobody wants to bring that up.


I wondered about that too. On site attendance decline is hard to hide with the obvious sections of tarp and row upon row of empty seats (sections) easily visible. Do you have any idea what the TV numbers were 5 or 10 years ago. This year’s 1.9 was down from the pathetic less than 2.something last year.


Jayski has a matrix of the rating, by race, going back to 2011. Click on the TV/Media tab at the top, on the drop down clip on TV ratings. Scroll down thru all the race by race verbiage and you will see the matrix.
For example this years fall race at Martinsville drew a 1.rating. in 2011 it was on NBC and drew a 3.6 with 4.923 viewers.


I could see the camp grounds in some of the shots and there was a lot of empty space. I guess there’s no waiting list now for camping either.


Remember its the economy – or maybe the weather. Thats it – the weather prevented me from using these tickets that I bought months ago.


Ha, well I don’t buy tickets far in advance any more because there isn’t a need to any longer.

Martinsville date used to be mid-October and the weather could be counted on to be pretty good.

down 17% – not to worry, NASCAR is still a great proposition for advertisers says BZF. I wonder who he will sucker into being the title sponsor for the cup series with Sprint leaving?


Brian’s probably has detectives following company CEOs to get pictures that he can use for “persuasion” to be the title sponsor.


Perhaps you noticed my sarcasm. But since the broadcast rights are more important, for all sports now, it really doesn’t matter I suppose.


Virtual crowds, the answer is virtual crowds. It’s not like the networks or the spayed and neutered racing press would tattle to us stupid fans.


Please don’t give them any ideas. I already suspect Fox uses fake crowd noise every time Jr takes the lead during their races and I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.

Robert B.

Some of the tracks are already doing the virtual crowds thing with how the seats are painted. On some TV shots, it’s hard to tell exactly how full, or more importantly, how NOT FULL the stands are.


I find it interesting that the NASCAR media and tv broadcasts who go to so much trouble to promote this sort of behavior and more than likely will focus on it ad nauseum up thru Homestead want to stand there and say “how terrible” and that THIS will make NASCAR a joke.

I doubt it is THIS particular incident that has made NASCAR a shadow of what it used to be and a joke. Nope that honor belongs to BZF and his efforts to turn a season long sport into a series of Game 7 moments. Achieved his goal and now the media wants to say how awful it is.

Obviously I’m biased and I very much enjoyed the post-race coverage of Gordon’s win.

Congrats on your milestone.


Congrats Phil, your Couch Potato column is one of my weekly reads here. Keep up the good work.


Would have to agree that Nascar looking clownish-Foolish-Neanderthal happened LOONNGG before last Sunday. Due to many similar incidents…I was at Phoenix when Jeffy WAITED yes waited for Bowyer to get there & then Bowyer made all the evasive moves to get around him, but Jeffy was not to be denied that day, there was also some innocent victims that day (Danica in flames comes to mind)…So Matts actions are not unprecedented…Also one would have to penalize Danica for her actions with the 38(tho a little more justified on that day to the recipient) I can to a degree understand Matts frustration with Brad (more Penske) taking him out while manipulating the race(all within the rules) Speaking of manipulating the “chase” isn’t what Harv did at Dega the same(or even worse) than what MWR’s team did in the recent past & couldn’t Matts actions have been to assist his fellow Gibb’s teamates that are still in? Oohh what a mess this “chase” has made..How do they penalize(not “punish”)a driver as he “embarrassed the sport” & then use it on Every Clip to market their event(some Big B.S. Here) …Congrats to Jeffy(no he’s not my guy but sure is due the respect) as I thought it was Fantastic to see him get one & I really hope he can finish it off at Homestead. Best to All


it goes back way longer than this. Probably as far back as there was stock car racing. The stakes are different thats all.

J. Smith

That’s twice I’ve noted you mentioned the pylon format of showing running order. I’ve always liked the use of the pylon in F1 qualifying. It is far and away the best way to follow a race. All televised racing should convert to it’s use. It should constantly show the top 10 or 20 with car numbers or name abbreviations and the intervals to the lead. I don’t understand why all the sudden TVs got so wide but let’s take advantage of it and use some of that wasted width. NASCAR could sell sponsorship for the pylon to Pabst, color it blue, and call it the Pabst Blue Ribbon. On second thought, BZF has made a concerted effort to hide intervals from us in the name of illusion so count them out.


It takes a lot to get Matt mad, so when he does, look out, he will take action. Back in my day, my drivers did exactly the same, if they did nothing about it, they would have to find another ride. NASCAR did nothing a couple of years ago when Crazy Carl flipped Bad Brad. Which was a lot more dangerous. My Motto, race me clean, I race you clean. You race me and rough me, I will return the favor. The way drivers drove back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s 90’s had more respect. When they did turn some one, 98% of the time it was accidental. You take that deal at Daytona with Donnie Allison and Cale Yarbrough. Cale started inside Donnie and Donnie came down to block and at that point and speed, the cars where hard to control and ended up crashing together. Cale was not intentional to turn right to get Donnie, it was about trying to get control and Donnie thought it was intentional. That is how the fight started. I do not believe in blocking, when you do, the out come is very risky.

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