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.
— Jamie Little (@JamieLittleTV) May 9, 2016
She’s expecting her second child later this year. Congrats to the Little/Selman family from us at Frontstretch.
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.
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.
— jordanANDERSON (@j66anderson) April 19, 2016
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.
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.
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