Phoenix International Raceway was one of NASCAR’s last, best chances to impress during a year tough on television ratings and attendance. The West Coast track has been well attended lately, posting several sellouts in an era of empty seats and fresh pavement at the one-mile oval has started to age. Did the older asphalt and heightened competition lead to fresher coverage from NASCAR On NBC? It was a prime opportunity to get back on network television for the sport after the Texas rainout last week shoved NASCAR’s top-tier series off to NBCSN.
Sunday saw the Sprint Cup Series settle once and for all who would be racing for the championship in Homestead. I’m sure you can figure out who’s still in the running, so I’m not going to be redundant here.
Likely the biggest moment of Sunday’s race was the first green-white-checkered restart (Note: I’m not on onboard with calling it simply NASCAR Overtime). We all know what happened, but just in case you missed it, here’s a clip:
Now, there’s no problem from my end with the wreck itself. It bites for Matt Kenseth and I know Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch didn’t want that to happen. Analyzing that is not why we’re here. Instead, my main gripe with NBC’s broadcast on Sunday comes out of the order confusion that resulted from the caution.
Now, since the Kenseth crash didn’t end the race, video doesn’t determine the finishing order. Scoring loops do. However, I have no idea where the scoring loops are at Phoenix International Raceway. All I can go by is that Kyle Busch was able to get past Joey Logano and had the lead when the caution came out. However, NASCAR determined that Logano was ahead at the last scoring loop passed before the yellow flag.
For me watching at home, I found this sequence confusing and I know I’m not alone. NBC needed to do a better job showing viewers just where these scoring loops are located and where the drivers were positioned when they passed over said loop. This process was important because that call ultimately decided the race. I don’t know for sure if Kyle Busch would have won if he restarted on the outside line like Logano did but there’s a good sporting chance that he could have pulled that off. It didn’t really change who would have earned spots in the Championship 4, but it could have. Networks need to do a better job of explaining these moments that swing the standings; these matter more than just incessantly showing points as they run on the side of the screen.
Another gripe that I had Sunday was the decision not to use a “triple pits” setup during the final round of stops for the leaders on lap 257. This moment was a full round of stops for all leaders, with the exception of Denny Hamlin. Yes, we saw what probably would have been the winning stop for Kenseth, but the extreme focus on individual stops meant that fans missed out on the race off pit road. We only knew that Kenseth won the race off pit road because Rick Allen said that he did. You couldn’t see that, resulting in a miss for the NASCAR on NBC team. Maybe there was a technical issue that kept the network from doing the normal “triple pits” setup but viewers missed out regardless.
On the positive side, I thought that NBC did a pretty good job explaining the whole “pulling up to pit” disaster that got Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex, Jr. docked a lap early on. That whole thing has been a mess for much of the season, but NBC used the technology that they had available to them to show what is considered OK and what is considered naughty in that scenario.
Rick Allen mentioned that he helps out with the NASCAR Drivers’ Meetings from time to time. This point is factual. In the past, it used to be just the series director giving instructions. Today, there’s an introduction (along with special guests), then a video clip is played that shows all the pertinent information for that track. Allen is part of a group of commentators that narrate this video (it is someone different each week, but I can state definitively that the narrator is either a NASCAR TV or radio personality). Afterwards, David Hoots (in Sprint Cup) gives additional instructions, if any, then takes questions.
It seems like NASCAR decided to make pulling up to pit a point of emphasis much like officials in other sports watch out for certain types of fouls. Johnson and Truex ended up getting burned as a result. Look for drivers to be more careful in Homestead.
Overall, I thought that NBC was a bit too focused on the Chasers. However, when the Chasers were battling amongst themselves (which was a fair amount on Sunday), we got a good amount of coverage of that. My thoughts are that NBC was hoping that we’d get another race where the Chasers were rough on each other. That really didn’t happen. Yes, Bowman got into Kenseth, but that was accidental. Kyle Busch’s bump more or less caused the crash, much like the time Ryan Newman shoved Clint Bowyer at Martinsville in 2012.
Newman ended up winning that day, while Johnson ended up in the wall and restart leader Jeff Gordon spun out. On shorter tracks, that can happen.
Post-race coverage was fairly extensive and very much focused on the Chase itself. Bowman was the only non-Chaser that got any appreciable coverage after the race and that’s because he kicked tail for much of the event.
I would have liked to have at least seen an interview with Kyle Larson. The man had a race that was the epitome of up and down. He started second, spun on the first lap, dropped to the rear, came back up to midfield, spun again, then raced up to finish third. Quite the adventure and definitely worth a soundbite in my eyes.
I understand the Chase focus since we’re coming down to the end of the season, but once again, the race still stands on its own. A shortened window meant fewer interviews for NBC and the whole day felt like a missed opportunity for the sport – again.
Lucas Oil 150
Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to the site of the series’ very first points race back in 1995 for 150 miles of action. William Byron spanked everyone, but a bad engine kept him from paydirt.
What really stood out even more than the racing Friday night for me, though was how time-crunched everything was. Qualifying coverage began right at 8:30 p.m. with the green flag coming out. They went through the three rounds, then immediately into NCWTS Setup. Of note, the Setup was fully based on site in Phoenix; no John Roberts or Todd Bodine in Charlotte this week. It was good to see as viewers got a better preview of the race.
Byron was considered to be a pretty substantial favorite for the championship entering the event. To that degree, Michael Waltrip traveled to Lynchburg, Va. to visit Byron at Liberty University (not just his sponsor, but his school as well). The idea here seemed to be just to see what the life of a racing college student was like.
Fortunately for Byron, Waltrip came by on an off day from classes. We see DeMoss Hall, where Byron goes to study in a quiet space (Note: We see the new rear portion of the building as Liberty has just expanded it). Apparently, this building is home to, among other things, Liberty’s College of Education. Here, Byron talks about the stress that he’s under with the Chase and how iRacing helped launch his career.
I found that this piece was interesting. Byron’s a dedicated student, although I would really hate that Biblical Worldview class that he has. It isn’t the subject matter, but the class size. 500 dudes in one class? Heck no. That’s part of the reason I went to Seton Hall in New Jersey. I never had a class with more than 50 or so students the whole time I was there, including the core classes that everyone has to take.
Of course, this interview came before the stresses of final exams for Byron. I know he was already taking online classes (like 100,000 other people did) last year, but next month will see him taking regular college finals for the first time. He won’t have the additional pressure of racing when that happens since the Snowball Derby will be over by then, but it will be a far different experience than the 18-year-old is used to.
Friday night’s race was a bit of a wreckfest to be honest, especially early on. Austin Cindric, fresh off the announcement that he would race for Brad Keselowski Racing full-time in 2017, spent the whole night dodging crashes before spinning out himself late in the going. The inside wall entering Turn 1 also came into play more in this race than in nearly any other Truck race that I can remember at Phoenix. Myatt Snider nearly smacked that wall on the first lap after contact from Cindric. Later, Dominique Van Wieringen hit it after being bumped by Austin Wayne Self, resulting in Tommy Joe Martins getting into the outside wall.
There really wasn’t all that much racing at the front of the field Friday night because Byron had the ability to stink up the show on his own. However, behind him, viewers still got to see a decent amount of racing for position. While yes, the Chase was important, it wasn’t the end-all that Cup broadcasts make it out to be.
Despite the eight cautions causing the race to run long, viewers still got a good amount of post-race coverage. We saw a number of interviews, got some post-race analysis, results and points.
The race broadcast itself was not necessarily the most exciting to watch, but that’s mainly because Byron was destroying the competition. Once he was out, blowing an engine with a handful of laps remaining the action heated up quite a bit.
Finally, FOX Sports 1 chose to re-air Sueños de NASCAR, a look at Daniel Suarez and his rise from Monterrey, Mexico to the XFINITY Series as part of the Camping World Truck Series Post-Race show on Friday night. Note that the mini-film originally premiered last week on NASCAR RaceHub. However, I missed the original airing, so that night was the first time that I had the opportunity to watch.
I liked what I saw. Suarez was by no means a rich kid in Monterrey. His dad, Alejandro, ran a shop that restores older Volkswagen Beetles. It isn’t like Suarez came from the same family as Lance Stroll, who will drive for Williams next season alongside of Valtteri Bottas (Note: Stroll’s father is a billionaire and has reportedly paid an exorbitant amount of money to get the seat). There’s a fair amount of money in that in Mexico since original Beetles were sold there all the way to 2004. However, compared to some racers that come up together, it is a rather frugal beginning.
Suarez showed talent from an early age at the local go-kart track (Autodromo Monterrey) and impressed a lot of people. Alejandro gave as much as he could to help Daniel and nearly bankrupted the family in the process. Nowadays, Daniel tries to help his family as much as he can to thank them for helping him reach his goals. The formerly shuttered restoration business is back open. Daniel’s mother has a small food stand and apparently makes some good grub.
Overall, this piece was put together nicely. While we’re talking about something that takes place in Mexico, the story isn’t really all that different from a number of drivers who have come up through the ranks. With everything that’s gone on in the past couple of months that you clearly don’t need me to rehash, I think we need something like Sueños de NASCAR right now. We’re not all that different. Also of note, the piece was scheduled to re-air here regardless. It just looks really nice that Suarez won the race prior to the re-air.
That’s all for this week. Next up is the final NASCAR weekend of the season. All three of NASCAR’s National Series championships will be decided this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida. In addition, the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a conclusion Saturday in Bahrain. TV Listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. I will be covering the race in Homestead. Believe me, we will have a full court press at the track this weekend. I don’t know if we’ve ever had this many people at the same track covering the same race.
Just because I will be there doesn’t mean that the race will go uncritiqued, though. We’ll just have a different schedule next week. I get back from Florida late Tuesday morning. I will watch the race on my DV-R at home and write a critique of it to run next Wednesday at Frontstretch. The other races will be covered in the Critic’s Annex.
In this week’s Annex on Thursday we’ll be covering Saturday night’s Ticket Galaxy 200 in the Newsletter. Yes, that race that Kyle Busch annihilated the field in once again. Ten wins in 17 starts? Crikey. They should give him the success ballast when he shows up.
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.
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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.