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(Photo: Brett Moist / NKP)
(Photo: Brett Moist / NKP)

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX NASCAR Schedule Shifting

As much as the action this season has improved in the Sprint Cup Series, places like Kansas (and specifically, this race) are key to how the aerodynamic package performs.  So far, it’s not so hot at night but pretty good during the daytime.  Broadcasts have to adjust to that reality and step up to the plate to cover it.

Before we get started, FOX Sports’ Jamie Little made an announcement of her own on Sunday.

She’s expecting her second child later this year.  Congrats to the Little/Selman family from us at Frontstretch.

GoBowling.com 400

In retrospect, I should have seen my main issue with this broadcast coming: scheduling issues.  I first noticed that FOX’s prerace show was in jeopardy of not airing on FOX Sports 1 around 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.  The Chicago Cubs-Washington Nationals game was booked for a three-hour timeslot.  With an average MLB game these days, that’s enough for the whole game, plus a little pre and post-game analysis.  Not so much for the Game of the Week.

Also, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was walking Bryce Harper like it was his job (13 times in four games, including six on Sunday).  As a result, the game slowed to a crawl.  By the time NASCAR RaceDay was due to start at 7 p.m. ET the game was still in the eighth inning.

That means alternate measures needed to be taken.  I felt sure enough of those issues to try to put FOX Sports 2 on my DVR.  They were scheduled to air a repeat of Garbage Time with Katie Nolan.  Unfortunately, FOX Sports 2 just doesn’t have the same reach as its counterpart.  FOX made the decision to put pre-race coverage on FOX Business Channel as a result.  Yeah, that bites.

According to TV by the Numbers, FOX Business Channel was in 74 million homes as of February of last year. That is approximately 60 percent more than FOX Sports 2.  FOX News Channel has another 13 million more homes than FOX Business Channel but also has much better channel positioning.

This adjustment was about as far away from ideal as you get.  Of note, this event is the last Saturday night points race for the FOX portion of the season so we will not see this affect a Cup points race for the rest of FOX’s time airing Sprint Cup this year.  I cannot rule this conflict out for Sprint All-Star Race qualifying, though.

The game didn’t finish up until after George Brett gave the command to start engines.  You didn’t miss any racing but the game went long by 42 minutes.  That’s not going to work, long-term.  Unfortunately, baseball is not like college football; you can’t really gauge how long a game is going to take.  It’s over when it’s over.

I was quite concerned about how the racing would ultimately look like Saturday night.  At first, it wasn’t half bad.  However, that was partially due to the fact that the green flew at 6:48 p.m. local time.  The sun was still out.  As the race continued on, it got a little harder to pass as the cars were able to turn in faster laps.

Early on, FOX did a pretty decent job showing the action for position.  Later on, they started to struggle.

FOX was on the ball when it came to other issues, though.  For instance, Jamie McMurray was busted for an illegal manipulation of the body on lap 30.  It appears that the Hawkeye system from NASCAR didn’t really show it very well.  Darrell Waltrip first inferred that the left-side skirt was flared while Jeff Gordon refuted that idea by stating that his situation there could be caused by the track itself.  There was a bit of confusion.

One of FOX’s cameramen figured it out by doing something that I like to do in the rarity that I’m in the pits during a Cup race.  He/she zoomed in on the No. 1 team’s big screen TV in the pit box.  There, we saw the replay of the stop from their camera that showed the Jackman administering what Gordon described as a hip check to the right side of the car.  That was a good catch.

Last week, I talked a bit about Gordon’s apparent bias toward Chase Elliott.  Watching the broadcast from Saturday night, that was not anywhere near as much of an issue.  Granted, Elliott wasn’t up front all night, but it was a bit refreshing.

Waltrip did nail the idea of Martin Truex, Jr.’s team beating themselves out of the win. Man, Truex must be mentally sore right now.  At least he gets another chance this weekend.

(Photo: Brett Moist /NKP)
It seemed as though Jeff Gordon has scaled back his talk of his old team and their new driver this week. (Photo: Brett Moist /NKP)

The late crash involving Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson was quite quirky.  Hamlin took it three-wide and managed to wreck everyone without touching anybody.  Interesting.  If I didn’t watch the truck wreckfest Friday night, I’d tell you something different caused the incident.  However, the trucks get even looser running side-by-side than the Cup cars do.  Hamlin just put himself there in the middle and whipped Keselowski around (unintentionally).

Post-race coverage appeared to be rather rushed at times since FOX Sports 1 was going straight to Las Vegas to join the AMA Monster Energy Supercross finale in progress as soon as the broadcast ended.  Despite that, viewers still got a decent amount of interviews and analysis before the telecast wrapped up.

Overall, I feel like we got a better broadcast Saturday night than in Talladega, but I did notice some skimping.  For example, the broadcast only had four in-car cameras, a number of cars with in-car cameras that I honestly don’t remember seeing in a Cup points race in the last 20 years.

In practice, that can actually hurt the broadcast because it can take away vantage points of certain incidents.  For example, a number of incidents with the wall were only caught using stationary cameras at the exit of corners.  The incident would occur way in the background so you couldn’t quite make out what was going on.  At the same time, less in-car cameras does decrease the amount of in-car shot abuse, like the rear bumper cams at Talladega where you see nothing but grille.

Especially early on, there was a little more time between breaks so that we could see more action as well.  However, I do believe that the broadcast was a little too reliant on a few storylines and that’s been the theme of FOX’s 2016 season to date.

Toyota Tundra 250

On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to action after more than a month off at Kansas Speedway.  It certainly looked like they were jonesing for action.  FOX Sports 1 definitely made note of it.

During the Setup, a piece on Jordan Anderson aired.  I’ll fully admit that I knew about it ahead of time.  Anderson tweeted this picture out three weeks ago.

I asked Anderson shortly after he posted when it was going to run.  At the time, he wasn’t sure, but said either Kansas or Charlotte.  FOX Sports 1 went with Kansas and I think it turned out great.

The only thing I didn’t like about Anderson’s piece was that they more or less glossed over last season.  As you may have read, Anderson basically ran the whole schedule, maintained trucks and dragged them to the track by himself.  However, we did get an idea of the background behind the ride.  Yes, Mike Harmon gave him the opportunity, but he basically provided the bare minimum in financing.  Anderson had to truly do everything, including driving the dually pick-up and trailer to the races.  I’d hate to see his bank account at the time because the man might have overdrafted it in order to make it to races.

Anderson’s continued presence in the Camping World Truck Series is quite the story.  I’ve noticed this season that FOX Sports does give a decent amount of coverage to Anderson’s travails because they are cognizant of what he’s willing to do.  Everyone at the track notices his drive to succeed.  Hopefully, Bolen Motorsports can get its truck repaired and not miss the next couple of races.

During the race, the action was fast and furious.  Honestly, I’ve never witnessed a truck race at an intermediate track quite like it.  However, you had the caution clock in play.  The clock itself didn’t cause any problems, but the artificial caution resulted in a bunch more cautions (ten in all).

The sentiment I took away from the broadcast was a bit of shock that everyone was so aggressive.  Sure, if my schedule didn’t let me race for a full month, I’d want to get it out of my system as well but…

I thought that FOX Sports 1 did a decent job at covering the on-track action Friday night.  There was a lot of racing for position, especially around the restarts and we saw a lot of that action.  Even once you got away from those restarts we got good coverage on track.

Having said that, there were some issues.  One was the lack of regard for drivers with mechanical problems.  Austin Wayne Self ended up in the garage very early for a short stint.  I had no idea he was behind the wall until I looked up and noticed that he was seven laps down.  Turns out that it was an evil radio that cost them all that time.

Friday night was supposed to be the debut of a 30-minute long Camping World Truck Series post-race show.  Seriously.  It was right there on the schedule at FOXSports.com.  Seems like they knew something that we didn’t ahead of time because they needed almost half of that just to finish the actual race.  As a result, post-race coverage was not all that substantial.

FOX Sports 1 did get an interview with Johnny Sauter, which I found surprising.  After all, he’d just been wrecked out of the lead on the last lap.  I figured that he’d be rather upset.  Instead, we got a different Sauter than the one back in 2011 at Texas after he was black-flagged out of a win.

Despite the fact that he dominated late, William Byron was lucky to get the win.  Ben Rhodes got overzealous.  Simple as that.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend is a tripleheader at Dover International Speedway.  You have the Camping World Truck Series on Friday, the XFINITY Series on Saturday, then Sprint Cup on Sunday.  Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.  TV Listings can be found on the link bar at the top of the page.

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be writing about the season opener for DTM at Hockenheim, which aired Sunday on CBS Sports Network.  Next week’s Annex will cover the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Note that Saturday’s XFINITY Series race will air on FOX instead of FOX Sports 1, eliminating the need for a baseball watch.  Regardless, I will keep tabs on that for the rest of the FOX portion of the season.

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 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.

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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 Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Newsletter Editor for Frontstretch since mid-2008, Phil is responsible for the site’s Monday-Friday FREE e-newsletter that keeps fans up-to-date with the latest racing news, along with exclusive features and commentary. Our head news writer, Phil also doubles as our broadcast critic, keeping broadcasts honest for years with his Couch Potato Tuesday column. A writer for the Troy (NY) Record, Phil is also one of the lead reporters at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York every weekend during short track season.

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10 comments

  1. Thanks Phil for the TV Schedule. I am having trouble with recording series lately. I think the DirecTV DVR doesn’t recognize the name changes in the TV guide. For instance, now, Monster Supercross is called AMA something and did not automatically record. NHRA is the same. The old timer that recorded all races doesn’t work anymore. After looking at your TV guide I found the split airing of Vegas Supercross and was able to record it and didn’t miss any. You mentioned watching, how about that mud race in the desert?

  2. Phil, It seems that you are in a way blaming Fox Sports for the amount of in car camera’s and the lack of them, but I think you might be overlooking one key part, those in car camera’s are brought to you by sponsors , at least they were at one time, so I would say lack of sponsoring is the reason for few in car camera’s.

  3. And I thought the Truck race was an abomination! Faithfully yet again, the farcical implementation of the “caution clock” pristinely illustrated that the integrity of the CWT race, & series there-in, has been completely destroy. The race opened with 1/2 hour of unadulterated pure green flag racing. Then the inexplicable integrity shattering “clocked” caution flew. A synthetic manufactured caution that instigated a rash of 5 cautions that were only broken-up by green sessions that were all less than one minute. And another 2 cautions that were only broken up by green sessions that were less than two minutes. For a total of 7 (or more, I lost track) actual cautions, prior to the half-way point, that seemingly would NOT have occurred if Nascar were in the business of empowering an organic & integral racing process.

  4. I see a trend: rice patty goons intentionally wrecking Team Penske! It’s happened roughly a dozen times since (& including) the fall KS race in ’15. Practically a weekly occurance. Set yer watch by it! Aka: “JGR Yota Driver Code!” KS aint Dega or Tona & 3 wide is a definate NO NO! Only way Denny gets thru that corning is to lift off the gas, which the ignert goes on national TV & laughs whilst saying he knew he was not about to make a so (in so many words) & is not worried about wrecking fellow compeitors. Aka: “Im in the “Chase”, so my mission is to be a Penske wrecking ball for the rest of the season.”

  5. Funny how you monitor Gordon with regards to Elliott, but ignored the nauseating love fest that Darryl has for Kyle. It was just constant and sickening for the last 20 laps or so. I only caught the end of the race, but all I saw were Jr spotlights and commercials. Tough to get new fans when they don’t see much racing. But then again I’m just a casual fan now after not missing a second of any race over 5 years ago.

    Its time for Darryl to retire and get some new blood up in the booth. Gordon is helping but Darryl is bringing that group way down. He doesn’t know anything about the current cars, since he hasn’t driven one in years, so I’m not sure what he adds to the broadcast anymore, except embarrassing the sport with his boogities.

    • Men who hadn’t driven for years (Ned Jarrett, Buddy Baker) did a great job in their positions because they made up for not driving by observing, absorbing, and only commenting with authority about racecar dynamics when it was something any driver in any era would feel. Waltrip still talks as if it’s his first season post-“Victory Tour.” Gordon (who I greatly disliked as a competitor but enjoy as a broadcaster) will say something about how the current cars feel, and instead of filing it away and asking Gordon about it when a similar situation pops up later, will say something like, “well, I was talking to Rick Hendrick, and…”

      It also appears that getting McReynolds away from the booth has shown that he does a pretty good job of keeping up with the changes, for a guy who was last a crew chief several years before the kit car era.

      • Agree. Other than his destruction of the English language, I think Larry knows his stuff and is generally informative. I just don’t see what Darryl adds. I haven’t for some time now. He just doesn’t have the knowledge anymore. Now all he gives us is boogities and tells us how things were back in the day. You need to bring more than that.

    • Jeff Gordon doesn’t fawn over Chase Elliott nearly as much as DW fawns over Jr. Perhaps you missed all the times DW referred to Jr. as Junebug? I didn’t.

    • There is only so much commenting on it he can do , he has talked about it before, but at this point, him going on about it would get just as old as DW sucking on Kyle’s manhood has.

  6. Is anybody else getting sick of Dale Jr. Performance reports? DW at work. I won’t mention the Nationwide crap.

    Does the Teryota Camry pace car have a splitter like the splitting image factory car? It gets more camera time than most “race” cars.