Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: ARCA Return to MAVTV Does Not Go Smoothly

As you’re all likely aware by now, most of the major racing series here in the United States were off last weekend for Easter.  While drivers spent the time relaxing, spending time with their families or daydreaming, teams worked on their cars.  What’s a critic who covers race broadcasts to do in that scenario?  Check out some sports car racing from Silverstone, as last weekend’s coverage here at Frontstretch attests.

However, I didn’t want to bore you guys with rants about the World Feed letting viewers down.  There aren’t likely to be that many readers as gung ho about sports car racing as I am.  However, I didn’t get a chance to write about something that might actually interest you.

Before I start, we have a little TV-related news.  Last week, FOX Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie announced that she is pregnant with her first child.


As always, we at Frontstretch send our congrats to Vincie and her fiancé, Blake.  Sounds like the next four months will be rather interesting in her household.

However, it does raise the question of what happens when Vincie goes out on maternity leave.  She’s got a number of roles with FOX Sports’ NASCAR coverage.  The roles include pit reporting during Camping World Truck Series race broadcasts, appearances on NASCAR RaceDay, RaceHub reporting and the Facebook interview show Off Track.  Subs will have to be tapped to fill those roles.  I have no doubt that FOX Sports will miss Vincie’s presence during her leave.

While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series teams were racing in Texas, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returned to MAVTV for the first time in a number of years.  The Toledo-based series has signed a multi-year deal to put races on the Lucas Oil-owned network, replacing their deal with the Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned American Sports Network (ASN) for good reason.  Last month, ASN quietly folded.  ARCA had the MAVTV deal done months before the closure, but it just goes to show that they had to find a new entity.

The first race in MAVTV’s new deal was the Music City 200 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.  This race has jumped around TV-wise in the past couple of years.  In 2015, it aired on ARCA’s website via pay-per-view.  Last year, it was the first race that was recorded to air on ASN (the premiere came months later).  Regardless, an interesting night of short track action was nigh.

Since I do not get MAVTV at home, I had to watch the race broadcast on Lucas Oil Racing TV.  Watching this race was the first time I used the Lucas Oil Racing TV app on my Xbox 360, so I’ll be talking about that as well.

Quick note for those of you who want to watch the race on Lucas Oil Racing TV.  The saved streams include commercials.  You’ll have to skip past those.  Or, go ahead and sit through them.

For the races, MAVTV has Ken Stout and Rob Klepper in the broadcast booth.  These two are experienced commentators that know quite a bit about the series.  Same with Jim Tretow, who served as the pit reporter.

Pre-race coverage was relatively brief.  Viewers got an interview with Daytona winner Austin Theriault and that was about it before the race started.

Sadly, there were technical issues almost from the start of the race.  The sound went out just after the green came out.  Luckily, it came back relatively quickly.  Additional audio issues did negatively affect the broadcast.

Production values-wise, what viewers saw back on Apr. 8 is somewhat similar in scope to what I saw last year on ASN.  There were a somewhat limited number of cameras available.  Those that were on-site were typically trained onto the frontrunners.  This created some problems.

The problems weren’t so much about the lack of action being shown.  That wasn’t the issue.  The issue is that this was a race with 11 cautions, seven for on-track incidents.  I think we got replays of maybe two of those incidents.  One crash resulted in a verbal confrontation between Bobby Gerhart and (I think) Vinnie Miller.  I can’t fully confirm that because I’d never seen Miller race before in anything (this race was his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut).  Also, the booth didn’t mention that it was Miller being berated (for lack of better words) by the veteran Gerhart.

Yes, I know that Gerhart and Miller were eliminated in the same crash.  What we don’t know is what caused the wreck.  There were no replays.  The coverage just cut to the crash after it had already happened.  Basically, if you hadn’t seen that, it was an argument apropos of nothing.  There were no in-race interviews with any driver that had been eliminated, so we can’t use that to our advantage, either.

I can understand the reason why there were no in-car cameras at Nashville.  I’ve talked to ARCA officials in the past and they’ve told me that the cost is substantial to have them available for these broadcast.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief, but again hampered by issues.  Tretow seemed to be unable to get his microphone to work, which delayed the winners’ interview with Chad Finley.  Ultimately, viewers got interviews with the top two finishers and a check of the unofficial results before MAVTV left the air.

Going into the race, I figured that last year’s ASN broadcasts would have been good to measure this broadcast against.  From what I saw, MAVTV does have some places where they can improve.  Getting the technical side down pat is crucial and I think they can work that out before Salem.  Also, and I think this is more a Lucas Oil Racing TV thing than anything else, but it was too quiet.  I had to jack the sound up on my TV way higher than normal in order to hear it.

I think the commentary was good.  Stout and Klepper were very enthusiastic, especially when the action got good late in the race.  Tretow was his usual self, but he was underused on the broadcast.

The overall production was a letdown.  I would have liked this race better had Rick Benjamin’s Carolinas Broadcast Group was putting it on.  A number of the ASN broadcasts from last year were better than this one.  What we have on MAVTV is what you would have gotten with the pay-per-views in 2015 if the scoring didn’t break.  There is definitely room for improvement.  Luckily, they’ve got eight more tries this year to work out the kinks.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series teams will be back in action at Bristol.  The VHT will makes its presence known, so it could be an interesting weekend.  Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series will be at Barber Motorsports Park.  TV listings can be found on in the TV Schedule tab at the top of the page.

I will provide critiques of the Cup and XFINITY races from Bristol for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  This week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex is currently undecided, but we will have some good content for you there.  The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be covered in the Apr. 27 edition of the Annex.

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. 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 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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I miss Stevie Gaines

I personally like Mavtv, tractor pulls and such, pretty good read Phil.

Will Selzer

through no fault of their own, MAVTV is not broadcast in HD, which is my one pet peeve. I am a Direct TV subscriber, and they will not broadcast the network in HD even though the only feed that is sent to them is in HD. I am considering subscribing to the Lucas Oil Racing tv feed, and watch on my big screen, which is connected to my pc. In order to get MavTv with DirectTv, you have to take one of their highest priced packages also. Dish Network the last time I checked, had no plans to carry it at all. MavTv really does have good racing coverage, quite a variety. It compares to the old Speed network, and has a lot of their shows, with new episodes. 99 dollars per year to subscribe to Lucas Oil Online is a little more than I can afford right now, but I may still do it and drop down one Direct Tv package. Thanks for letting me rant

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