Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NASCAR Fans Needed FOX Sports GO For Bristol

Rain screws up race weekends.  Simple as that.  You should see the e-mail string that goes out when a Cup race gets postponed.  As a result of Sunday’s deluge, Monday’s Food City 500 took place while I was at work.  Naturally, that causes problems.

Food City 500

Now, let’s not freak out.  Yes, the race took place while I was at work on Monday.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t watch the race.  I watched it all, thanks to FOX Sports GO.  Yes, it was delayed by at least three minutes by the time I got to the finish, but I more or less saw everything.  I do have some thoughts here.

One, Spectrum (the cable company that resulted from the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications) screwed up royally.  Normally when these rainouts occur, they’ll pump out a schedule update to the guide that would show the race at the new time.  That didn’t happen.  However, that isn’t necessarily the end of the world.  Figure out where the race starts and time the DVR to record those shows (in this case, a couple of infomercials and new episodes of The Real, The Wendy Williams Show and The People’s Court).  Therein lies the problem.  The DVR kept saying that everything was being recorded when in reality, nothing was.  Thank goodness for FOX Sports GO.

Two, there is the delay.  I can understand the service being on a delay when you first start.  What I don’t understand is why you get further and further behind as the race goes on.  I’ve had the same issues with NBC Sports Live Extra in the past.

Third, I really don’t get the idea of ads exclusive to the app.  As far as I’m concerned, it would be better for everyone involved to just sell the ad space and the advertiser gets time on both the broadcast and on FOX Sports GO.  The app-exclusive stuff should stick to those local breaks (that’s a whole ‘nother level of looney that I don’t think anyone wants to get into).

My issue there is that the ads aren’t the same length.  Viewers can come out of commercial to find that the TV coverage was already out of the break for ten seconds.  That happened with the first caution on Monday for the Kurt BuschReed SorensonChris Buescher crash.  Came out of the break mid-crash replay.

The picture quality was top notch all day long, which is admittedly rare.  No freezing and a clear picture all day.  Then again, I was using the work computer.  If I’m on my phone, the quality shifts anywhere from “pretty dang good” to “atrocious” with a blink of the eye.  Like ESPN’s offerings, I cannot adjust the quality.  You get what you get.

The main takeaway from the broadcast (and the race itself, for that matter) is that this wasn’t your ordinary Monday race.  Much of the time, everyone just wants to get the dang thing over with so they can go home.  As a result, they aren’t always the most competitive events.  The Food City 500 was anything but uncompetitive.

Drivers were racing each other hard and FOX did a decent job bringing home to viewers just how aggressive the action was.  The action at the front once Kyle Larson was usurped was fast and furious.  There was additional good action further back.  However, we only got to see that every once in a while.

There is a downside to seeing the action at the very front for the vast majority of the race.  You miss things.  For instance, Matt Kenseth charged to the front late to score a well-deserved top five finish.  I think he was mentioned on the broadcast once or twice before the final 20 laps.

Also, I felt that FOX was a little slow to react to some of the stuff going on.  Yes, there was a lot going on, but no one seemed to pick up on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car smoking.  As we all know, Earnhardt Jr. went straight in the wall on the restart.

Note our own Zach Catanzareti behind Earnhardt Jr. and Vince Welch.  At the time, I thought Earnhardt Jr. was ticked off and was going to refuse the interview request from Welch.  However, he put on a good face and explained his confusion about what happened to Welch.  Later on, Earnhardt Jr. took to Periscope and gave a little more detail.

I wish FOX could have made use of this clip in some way, shape or form since Earnhardt Jr. shot this before the race ended.  Definitely would have helped the viewers understand some of what went on.  As it stands, FOX didn’t go back to the story after Welch’s interview.

Post-race coverage was decent.  Given the fact that they didn’t really have a time slot to stick to, FOX provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the points before leaving for whatever your FOX affiliate was supposed to air after the race.

Did I enjoy watching the race on Monday?  I guess I did.  Did I like having to do it on FOX Sports GO with no DVR backup?  Heck no.  One false move and I couldn’t bring this critique to you until Wednesday.  Has FOX Sports GO improved?  Yes, but it still has a way to go to get to where it could be.

Do I still think that Darrell Waltrip cuts people off?  From time to time.  Did Mike Joy screw up and claim Sorenson was in the No. 55 instead of the No. 15 on Monday?  Yes, twice in the early laps.  Did he dis Derrike Cope?  No.  Cope’s car just didn’t have the pace.  That’s why he ended up 35 laps down.  He kept himself out of the way and finished the race.

Before I go, there was a big issue on the West Coast in regards to the ability to watch the Food City 500.  For viewers in the Bay Area (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Calif), FOX affiliate KTVU chose to shift the race to KTVU Plus (also known as KICU, the sister station to KTVU), an independent station.  Meanwhile, KTVU chose to air their regular schedule, including the aforementioned Wendy Williams-hosted talk show.  Problem is, the on-air guide did show FOX affiliate KTVU as showing the race.    It sounds like there was a miscommunication and a lot of people got screwed over, as this Awful Announcing article attests.

Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300

For Fitzgerald Glider Kits, a seller of rolling tractor chassis (think of it like a race car that is being sold with everything but the engine and transmission), racing is a great way to get their brand out there in the general consciousness.  Just last weekend in Bristol, they announced their sponsorship of Juan Pablo Montoya in next month’s Indianapolis 500.  Their time in racing started by sponsoring the spring XFINITY Series race at Bristol.

Much like Monday’s Cup race, the XFINITY Series teams had to deal with the wet stuff.  Unlike Cup, the broadcast still more or less had the full complement of pre-race programming.  On there, viewers got a couple of pre-race interviews, but not a whole lot else.

Once again, Kevin Harvick made his presence known in the broadcast booth.  This time, he brought a rather snazzy jacket with him.  I have no idea who chose the carnation color, but it seems to fit him just fine.

The race had a long red flag just past the halfway point due to rain.  During that down time, the FOX chaps did a number of things to pass the time.  Harvick was put on the spot to reminisce about the 2002 Channellock 250, best known as the time he got wrecked late after contact with Greg Biffle.  After the race, he went after Biffle and grabbed him by the epaulets.  I wrote about this race last year in the Frontstretch Newsletter.  It was…insane.  The whole thing that got me at the time is that everyone knew that Harvick was going after Biffle after the race, yet not one person did anything to prevent it.  Ridiculous.  That was just the beginning of what ultimately got him suspended a month later for the Virginia 500 at Martinsville.

A feature from NASCAR RaceHub about Darrell Wallace Jr. starting a new scholarship at his alma mater, Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C. aired as well.  Basically, this is Wallace’s way of giving back to his school.  It’ll help out two well-deserving students.  The application deadline for Northwest Cabarrus High School students was Apr. 1.  Here’s the information from Cabarrus County Schools on the scholarship.  There is a potential preference for those looking into motorsports as a career, but it is not limited to those people who want into NASCAR.  Even though the school has a Concord mailing address, it is actually in Kannapolis.

Also, heck went down during the red flag.  Apparently, Jeremy Clements went after Ross Chastain for what he felt was rough driving on the Florida native’s part.  Clements grabbed Chastain on the shoulder in an attempt to get his attention.  Chastain’s response was to turn around and punch Clements in the schnozz.

This tweet by the Bristol Herald Courier’s Earl Neikirk includes pictures that back up Chastain’s version of the events.  I am unclear if FOX sought out Clements to get his side of the story.  That would have been nice if they could have gotten Clements on-air, but he would have the ability to decline if he felt like doing so.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your outlook), there is no video footage of the punch available.  Jamie Little did get Chastain for an interview where he explained what happened.  The short version of it: I have to defend myself if you grab me from behind.  Clements didn’t even want to fight Chastain.  He just wanted to ask him, “What the deuce?”  We’ll see if anything comes out of this incident later this week.

The whole scheduling issue on Saturday actually made me sweat.  I was actually surprised that FOX Sports 1 stuck with the race all the way to the end despite the start of the New York Mets-Washington Nationals game coming with 109 laps to go in the race.  I thought they were going to move the race to FOX Business Channel or something like that.  Instead, they chose to start the game on a combination of SportsNet New York (the regional sports network that airs Mets games), Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (the regional sports network that airs both Orioles and Nationals games) and FOX Sports GO.

Why did that make me sweaty and nervous?  Because FOX Sports 1 didn’t indicate what they were doing until 4 p.m. (the original sign-off time).  They should have made their plans known (if they had them way earlier).  I knew the minute that it started raining that this was going to be an issue.

After the rain delay, Michael Waltrip ventured out of the climate controlled booth to what I guess was the spotters’ stand.  There, he actually provided some decent commentary about how Erik Jones was able to reel in the leaders that he may not have been able to do in the booth with all the screens there.  Also, they tethered him up there.  Interesting.  That was not for show as the cameraman next to him was also tethered to a cable above the platform.  Makes me wonder if they’re always tethered up there, or only at certain tracks.

Racing-wise, Saturday’s race was actually quite similar to Monday’s.  Lots of action up front, although Saturday’s race was rougher.  I still don’t think FOX Sports 1 did a good enough job covering all of the requisite stories.  In this age of 50-60 cameras at the track every week, people shouldn’t be able to sneak up on the lead, but it happens a bunch.

Post-race coverage, as you would expect, was quite brief since the race had gone over the scheduled slot by more than 90 minutes.  Viewers got quick interviews with race winner Erik Jones, Dash 4 Cash winner Daniel Hemric and the disappointed Ryan Blaney before cutting out for Citi Field.

Overall, I thought that the enthusiasm for the race itself was on point.  There was some good action on-track and everyone was happy to see that action.  Harvick did a good job in the booth and brought some good analysis to the broadcast.  I found Michael Waltrip to be less annoying than normal.  His contributions were more positive than normal. I cannot vouch as to whether venturing onto the roof is going to become a regular thing for him, but I think it did benefit the broadcast.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend sees some more short track racing.  The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series will be in Richmond.  The Verizon IndyCar Series has their first night race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.  Formula One will make their fourth visit to Sochi in Russia for the Russian Grand Prix while Pirelli World Challenge begins their Sprint-X season at VIR.  TV Listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab above.

I will provide critiques of the Cup and XFINITY races from Richmond for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  For the Critic’s Annex on Thursday, that will be an INDYCAR column with critiques of the new show INDYCAR Next and the Alonsothon (also known as Sunday’s broadcast of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama).

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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How about the insane robot, sheep, corporate idiot, shill..ADAM ALEXANDER, who deserved a smack! DASH FOR CASH about a billion times came out of his mouth!!!!!! Xfinity race.

No, nobody held me down and told me to listen, however I was doing things around the house and wanted to see when the race was going to start and was hoping unsuccessfully his point was made the first 30 times!

I did eventually mute the idiot(s), but the damage on my psyche was done!!!!!!!!!!

Biff Baynehouse

For me, this weekly discussion begins & ends here…
April 24 2017 Bristol Commercials (Focks proper)
Total laps: 500
Total commercials: 263
– Total traditional: 70
– Total split-screen: 29
– Total graphics & scripted: 164
At short-tracks, where laps are done in under 30 seconds, the proportion of laps vs. commercials is skewed & appears better than it really is. But of course with, things like the NFL, at least the game stops while the broadcasters cut from event coverage. Imagine if full 1/3 of all the plays from scrimmage of an NFL game were obliterated while a broadcaster was making ad revenue? That is comparable to what broadcasters do to motorsports events, yet somehow the fan base does not revolt?
I have given up on Nascar, American TV sports coverage & essentially ALL American cable TV. NOWHERE else in the World are paying customers bombarded with egregious levels of ads. Who pays hundreds per month for a service that is nearly 1/2 advertising? AMERICANS & that is absolutely ridiculous! NHL is the only pro sport I have the time for on TV. The NHL is in control of the amounts of advertising & have disallowed the fragmentation of the integrity of their events. They place their value & identity on sports integrity, NOT on how much ad revenue they can instigate for broadcasters. Kudos to the NHL!
Specifically with sports, I have taken to watching foreign brands (AV8SC for example) streamed from abroad. The entertainment value, generally, with any foreign programming, is FAR superior. There is roughly 5 – 10% of the ads as compared to American cable networks. American consumers really need to raise their expectations, cut the cable & DEMAND better!
Of course, Nascar’s “chase” & pee-break “staged” events make their categories all more unpalatable, mock-ish & uncompetitive with categories like IMSA, AV8SC & open-wheelers.

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