Last weekend was a mess for NBC Sports and NASCAR in general. Both races scheduled for last weekend were postponed due to rains from Hurricane Matthew. Friday was a complete washout with heavy rains, while Saturday saw the race called early enough that some were openly wondering why. However, drizzle continued well into the night on Saturday, so postponement was likely the right move. Regardless, Sunday brought 800 miles of action for NBC. How did they handle it?
Bank of America 500
As you’re obviously aware of by now, rains from Hurricane Matthew resulted in the Sprint Cup race being moved from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. It made for a very long Sunday afternoon. On the TV front, it didn’t exactly go off without a hitch, but I spent an enjoyable day in.
During Countdown to Green Sunday morning, the main feature of the show was a piece on the Kyle and Samantha Busch Bundle of Joy Fund, a fund that provides funding to families who are unable to conceive naturally for In-Vitro Fertilization treatments. The Busches have partnered with REACH (Reproductive Endocrinology Associates of Charlotte) to help the less fortunate. Here, we hear from one particular family, the Harris family (Darmarlon and Hannah) who acquired funding via the Bundle of Joy Fund and now have twins. They’re obviously incredibly pleased and grateful.
In addition, the story of Samantha Busch’s own issues in trying to conceive a child was used to show the background of Bundle of Joy’s creation. Much of this struggle for the Busches was private and took place during the 2014 season (their son, Brexton, was born right around the time Kyle Busch returned from his injuries at Charlotte last year).
I’m not privy to Samantha’s health, so we’re not going to go there. All I can say is that such a scenario is heartbreaking for a young couple that wanted to start a family. Does the short feature serve to humanize Kyle Busch? Definitely. He appears to have gone into the IVF treatment head-first and was determined to be at Samantha’s side the whole time.
The Bundle of Joy Fund is simply the Busches wanting to help others. That’s admirable. The $12,600 mentioned in the piece? That covers the complete first cycle of treatment from egg retrieval to the required shots (depicted in the piece) and embryo implantation. If that works, huzzah. The success rate is dependent on a number of factors including the age of the mother. Generally speaking, the younger the mother, the better.
Outside of the human interest was more and more Chase coverage. We got plenty of Chase interviews and such. However, since Charlotte was race No. 1 of the Round of 12, not so much time was spent with the point scenarios. That helps a little, but I guarantee that talk will be back next week.
Also of note, Sunday’s race was a simulcast between NBC and NBCSN. Depending on where you were, you could get the race on both channels. In other areas, you could only get it on NBCSN. The only market I know for sure that was the latter category was Topeka. If this issue affected you, please make note below. In my case, it was the former and I watched the race on NBC.
During the race, tires were the big story. A number of drivers either tasted the Styrofoam-reinforced steel, or were forced to make unscheduled stops due to issues. Let’s face facts; this was not a good look for Goodyear. It seems like the tire was constructed purely to race at night, and that obviously didn’t happen.
NBC was on top of the issues, showing viewers problematic tires, such as the one that came off of Kyle Busch’s car. In Kyle Busch’s case, he caught it quickly. For Alex Bowman, Joey Logano and others, not so much.
Usually when you have a rash of issues, you can come up with a reason for it pretty quickly. On Sunday, not so much. NBC put Rick Heinrich, Goodyear’s Sprint Cup Series Operations Manager on-air and asked him about the failures on lap 189. Heinrich confirmed delaminations on a couple of cars including Kyle Busch’s, but also noted that other failures were due to “something compromising the adhesion between the compound and the body plies.”
I’m not a tire specialist, so I’m not exactly sure what that means. However, to me, it sounds like they literally “tore themselves a new one” from the inside out. Looks like Goodyear’s got some work to do. There’s only one more tire test scheduled this season, a one-day test next Monday at Kansas Speedway where some teams will stay over after Sunday’s race to test compounds. That may be key for Texas and Homestead.
For NBC’s part here, I thought they did a pretty good job covering the issues as they came up. However, I’m unsure what a tire that wasn’t having issues would have looked like here. NBC did note that drivers like Jimmie Johnson weren’t seeing the same issues. According to NBC, Chad Knaus actively told Johnson on the radio to stick to the inside in hopes of avoiding issues.
With only 12 drivers in the Chase this week as opposed to 16 at Dover, I felt that NBC did a better job of being inclusive this week. The reasoning is three-fold. One, having a strict focus on 16 different teams is rather difficult and, in my opinion, stifling for a broadcast. Two, having so many Chasers have problems allowed non-Chasers to come to the fore. Three non-Chasers (Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson) finished in the top 5 on Sunday. The third reason is that the points, while still important, are not completely imperative in the first race of a round.
Having said that, I still wish that non-Chasers could get more attention during these races. Should they have to put themselves in position to win just to get mentioned at all? No. If that were the case, anyone who didn’t make the Chase would struggle to race at all.
There are a number of drivers that had great days on Sunday that really didn’t get much recognition for it. Danica Patrick, who finished 11th after just getting pipped at the line by Jamie McMurray, is one of those drivers. Say what you want about Patrick, but she had what was probably her best weekend of the whole season from beginning to end. It’s an overdue and refreshing turn for the No. 10 team. Even Tony Stewart, who finished ninth, was more or less overlooked. While I don’t think this will be an issue at Talladega because its Talladega, it will be something worth looking at next week.
Sunday’s Cup race ended just about when I thought it would; right before 4 p.m. With the XFINITY Series race scheduled to start 45 minutes after the Cup race ended, I knew going in that post-race coverage would be limited. What we did get were a few interviews and a check of the points. NBC ceased coverage immediately after their Victory Lane interview with Johnson and pushed the rest to NBCSN.
However, I’m unclear as to the full extent of that coverage. NBCSN on my TV went out while Kelli Stavast was interviewing Brad Keselowski and stayed out for about ten minutes. By the time it came back, NBCSN was in the middle of the brief pre-race coverage for the XFINITY race.
If this happened to you, please post in the comments and where you watched the race. My picture was glitchy for part of the race as well, but the Cup post-race was the only time it just froze on me.
Drive for the Cure 300
Following the Cup race, we still had 300 miles of action to go. However, the aforementioned freezing affected my experience at first.
By the time my picture unfroze, I was already planning on watching the race using the NBC Sports App (less than ideal). However, it unfroze about a minute before the command to start engines. As a result, I’m actually unclear on if there were any interviews with XFINITY drivers conducted prior to the race, and it wasn’t my fault.
Since Sunday was a cutoff race, a lot of time was given to those that were trying to lock themselves into the next round. Darrell Wallace, Jr. was one of them, and he didn’t do himself any favors by running into the back of Brennan Poole on the initial start of the race.
NBCSN also augmented their points as they run pylon in both races with gold numbers on drivers that they want to emphasize at any moment. I suppose this helps the visual learners out there. Its not a bad touch and really doesn’t distract from the race itself.
The race itself was admittedly not the most competitive outing ever. In fact, it reminded me of last year’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Larson ran away and hid, like he was channeling the Noid. Had Erik Jones’ crew not screwed up, we would have had an instance where two drivers would have finished the race on the lead lap. My guess is that Larson would have won by 15 seconds.
With a general lack of competitiveness amongst lead lap drivers, the next step is to look throughout the field and see if there was any action for position. NBCSN did this to a degree, but not all that much. Much of the commentary was still centered on the Chasers, who were spread all over the field. I think a little too much time was given to Ty Dillon‘s troubles. Was there nothing else going on out there?
Also of note, the broadcast did show Austin Dillon making a fairly questionable pit stop with three laps to go. I have no idea what was going on there. It didn’t appear that the crew actually took an air gun to a lugnut or not (didn’t hear it, at least). That led to a number of people thinking that something bush league (no pun intended) went down there in an attempt to get Ty Dillon into the next round. Just the possibility of this stupidity going down is more than enough to scrap any Chase in my opinion.
The coverage of Poole’s electrical issues was actually pretty good. The battery change that the team did under green seemed to solve Poole’s issues on the surface, but it completely took him out of the hunt. NBCSN wasn’t really sure if it was just the battery that failed, but did make note of the fact that Poole didn’t have a working tachometer when he made his pit stop prior to the backfire-a-rama.
After the race, Poole tweeted that the issues were more than just the battery.
Hey guys officially the alternator failed. It wasn't meant to be. Had a car 2 win tonight.Can't wait to compete for a championship next year
— Brennan Poole (@brennanpoole) October 10, 2016
Replacing a battery under those circumstances would have been a short-term solution. With about 110 miles to go when he returned to the track, the new battery likely just barely made it to the finish. If this were the Cup race, the team would have had to put another battery in there before the finish.
Also, do I think Poole could have won, as he stated above in his tweet? No. Had Erik Jones’ crew not screwed up, nothing could have beat him. Instead, Logano snuck by on a late restart and took home the spoils.
With no real schedule to worry about, post-race coverage was fairly substantial. Viewers got seven post-race interviews and a fair amount of analysis previewing the Round of 8 that starts Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
Overall, I found the XFINITY race to be way less exciting than the Cup race due to Larson running off and hiding. However, that happens in racing from time to time. NBCSN kept viewers informed of the various scenarios in the Chase (and there were a lot of them) and generally put on a decent broadcast. Aside from the pre-race technical issues I mentioned above, I had no issues seeing everything that happened.
That’s all for this week. Next week, the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series travel to Kansas Speedway for yet another Chase race. For the XFINITY Series, it is the start of their Round of 8. Meanwhile, the ARCA Racing Series holds their season finale in Kansas Friday night. Listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab at the top of the page.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, XFINITY and ARCA races from Kansas for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Annex in the Newsletter, we’re going to finally get to Racing Roots: Kevin Harvick. I wanted to do it last week, but I miscalculated how busy I was going to be last week. It happens, unfortunately. Regardless, that will run this week.
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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.