Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC’s Failure to Make Kentucky Interesting

Kentucky Speedway has been a bit of a mess pretty much ever since the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series got a date there in 2011.  The first year was marked by some of the worst traffic for a NASCAR race in 30 years and quite possibly the worst parking ever.  Crowds started to back away from there shortly afterward.

The racing has never really been all that competitive for Cup.  The old surface was really bumpy and the groove never expanded that much.  Granted, the groove was wider than it is now, but the races weren’t that competitive.  Now, it is a single-groove track with back-to-back repaves.  Let’s hope they don’t have to go in again.

Quaker State 400

Saturday night brought the only race of the weekend in Kentucky that wasn’t affected by rain.  However, it was also a complete runaway as Kyle Busch dominated the first half, with Martin Truex Jr. taking control for the second half.

Pre-race coverage was about average.  Nothing seriously moved the needle for me. Rutledge Wood spent some time in Georgetown, Ky. at the Toyota plant where the Camry is built.  There was also a piece in which Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers were asked who of their teammates would be most likely to do certain things.  My only thoughts there were that Daniel Suarez seemingly wasn’t in most of it and that Busch apparently will never hold a political office, regardless of his desire to do so.

The biggest takeaway I can give you from the final 114 laps of Saturday night’s race is that NBCSN didn’t make the race look exciting at all.  Truex just plain ran away from the field and hid.  He went from eighth on the restart to leading by 13 seconds in 40 laps.

Once Truex got that massive lead, it was like nothing mattered.  I’m sure that the race wasn’t actually as boring as it looked.  Problem is, we didn’t see anything that could bring home the fact that there was actual racing outside of the restarts.

Also, NBCSN seemed to choose not to show intervals beyond the top three drivers for the vast majority of the final stage.  I shouldn’t have to rely on the live leaderboard at NASCAR.com to be able to get live intervals.  The result of that was that I really couldn’t figure out where everyone was for much of the final third of the race.  NBCSN seemed to be in awe of what Truex was doing.  That shouldn’t determine how you cover a race, though.

Post-race coverage was rather substantial, but started off with dual Truex interviews.  I know why NBCSN is doing it, but on paper, it doesn’t really work.  I think they’re doing it the way they are right now because of sponsors that have their names on Victory Lane (Ex: Gatorade).  Once those sponsorships lapse, you can do this up right.

Outside of the double dose of Truex, viewers got interviews with a number of the top finishers.  We were not left wanting for anything in regards to driver interviews and post-race analysts.

NBC Sports seems to be able to use their available technology better than FOX can.  However, they need to use it for more than slow-motion replays of AJ Allmendinger obliterating a water bottle.

Overall, I tend to be more informed during an NBC race broadcast as opposed to a FOX one.  However, I don’t really want to just stare at the leader all night when nothing’s going on around him.  NBCSN needs to do a better job bringing the on-track action to viewers.  The second half of Saturday night’s race could not have been as boring at the track as it was on TV.

Alsco 300

The XFINITY Series was originally scheduled to race on Friday night.  For what seems like the fifth year in a row, the atmosphere decided that it would be the case.

A nasty line of thunderstorms swamped the track from the northwest, resulting in the early curtailing of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying.  It didn’t take long for NASCAR to postpone the race before the pre-race show would have started.

In addition to the dangerous lightning, there was also an incredible amount of rain.  It took some quick thinking to save the pace car.

High noon on Saturday brought the XFINITY Series teams back out for 300 miles of action.  The problem with races pushed back a day due to rain often is the fact that there is no previewing of the race.  The race came on NBCSN at noon and the command was three minutes later.  Granted, I’d argue that there might not have been much more of a preview than “Kyle Busch is on the pole and he’s a tough out,” but there are stories out there.

Viewers ultimately ended up with a race in which the XFINITY Series regulars really didn’t figure into the outcome very much.  While the notion of William Byron going for his third win in a row was a story, he really didn’t rate much on Saturday.

Most of what we saw was a series of Cup drivers (Busch, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, etc.) battling each other.  Cup regulars led every lap on Saturday afternoon.

There were some thoughts of the race potentially being better since it was during the daytime as opposed to at night.  I don’t know about that.  It seemed like it would have been about the same.

Post-race coverage was actually pretty decent.  Viewers got a few driver interviews in addition to post-race analysis and a point check.  The race itself pre-empted mainly reruns, so they weren’t particularly tight on time like in Daytona.


This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY Series travel to New Hampshire for an assault on the flat oval.  They will be joined by the Whelen Modified Tour (points race, and an All-Star race) and the K&N Pro Series East.  The latter two series’ races will air via tape delay.  Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series makes their annual trip to Toronto to race at Exhibition Place.  Note that the INDYCAR race is on up against the Cup race on Sunday.  As a result, the Honda Indy Toronto will air live on CNBC, then repeat immediately after the Cup race on NBCSN.  Finally, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns to action at the Nürburgring.  TV listings are in the schedule tab.

I will bring you critiques of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and XFINITY races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  The Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 will be covered in Wednesday’s newsletter.  The Critic’s Annex will cover Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series from Iowa Speedway.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below.  If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

FOX Sports
NBC Sports

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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Bill B

I can’t give NBC any grade higher than an “F”. As you mentioned, there were long stretches where time intervals and laps down info were not displayed on the ticker. That is an unforgivable sin as far as I am concerned. If they aren’t going to follow the entire field then the only way that a viewer can tell what the hell is going on is with that ticker. I don’t care what else they did right, …no ticker,,,, no laundry.


Maybe they aren’t allowed to show how close the Diva is to being lapped! Or they don’t want to show how many cars are racing each other that they won’t show because they’re not the chosen few. It would have been nice to see Lawson actually passing cars on his way to the leaders.


Sorry Larson. Wrong key!


Could have been worse; “Boggity, Boogity, Boogity”


I just don’t understand why both networks televising races are so stuck on showing only the front of the field, or the leader running up front with no one in sight! I heard that Kyle Larson passed most of the field twice, but never saw his progress covered. Might have been more interesting that Kusch or Truex running away from the field. From attending races, I KNOW that there are always close races going on, even if it’s for 25th place, or the ‘lucky dog’ spot. That would be much more interesting than the lone leader. And they wonder why so many fans say the races are boring or uncompetitive? If TV doesn’t show the actual racing, wherever it is, that is the message they deliver.

Bill H.

Indeed, with others here. Larson was a big story starting in the back. They told us that and yammered endlessly about that. Then he went to the back again. They told us that too. They yammered on and on about how he had passed 87 cars when only 40 were on the track. How many did we actually see him pass? Right.

Two minutes and 22 seconds babbling about speeding on pit road. “Time and distance” and “one mile per hour over and that’s it,” followed by, “not five miles per hour over, or two miles per hour, but one mile per hour over and you’re tagged.” Or words to that effect. Actually, they allow five miles per hour; is the brain connected to the mouth?

As TheNASCARJeff says, though, it could have been worse. It could also have been much, much better.


NBCsn has the best breakdown of pit road coverage with their 3 panel coverage. With no excitement on track I believe they covered other action quite well’


well you described very well why I watched very little of the race. I happened to be home, turned on the race, was uninspired by what was being broadcast and changed the channel. A little while later, I repeated the process with the same result and then again later, same result and I think the 4th time I changed back to see if anything on the race was worth watching, I gave up and that was that.

A big part of Nascar’s problem with attendance and viewership lies with the way the TV partners broadcast the races – although to be fair, the stands at KY looked pretty full.

I don’t bother with the pre-race “shows” these days.

Al Torney

They should have covered Larsen’s charge thru the field. That was the only Racing going on. There was no other passing except for restarts. After stage two How many laps did Harvick run 4th, Kenseth in 12th, Patrick 17th? I mean the leaderboard never changed.

No matter how everyone spins it stage racing hasn’t changed the actual racing. It has only changed the points system. A big problem has been clean air for how many years now? Fans want to see drivers racing for the lead and stage racing has not created it. Look how many stages have had one leader for the entire stage. And then stage two goes to the guy who wins the race on pit road and then he wins a stage.

Since the only exciting racing occurs coming to green after a caution for two laps maybe they should just throw a caution every 25 laps and be done with it. This is no more rediculous then planned cautions the way they are now just more of them.

Everything that Bill France Jr. Did to take the sport to the top has been dismantled. Such a shame.


Third generation destroys the business.

Capt Spaulding

We need a catchy name for the new cautions….
How about “commercial caution”……yea, that will work.

Bill B

Or “piss on us and tell us it’s rain caution”.. after all, we’re all that stupid.

ben stern

First, nbc needs to fire the two color guys. They have annoying voices and are totally inept. The announcer is ok. If anyone could listen to the color guys in the past, Benny, Ned, and others then compare them to what we have now. Seems that we have an ex driver and crew chief just there to make themselves some money. Not a bit of broadcasting savvy. So sad, we get rid of dw and end up with 2 jokers.

Jeff M.

Since when did it become a networks job to make a sport interesting? It is the state of the sport that is the problem. For instance…..
A person could find a petrified piece of manure and carve/whittle it into a beautiful rose or other some such flower however, at the end of it all, you still have a piece of…..well, manure!
The problems with NASCAR do not lie with the networks. The problems stem from within!

I’ve said all this (among other things) for years and nobody listened. I got tired of beating a dead horse. It’s why I quit! (Please note that one should never beat any animal, especially if deceased because it is a waste of time, and certainly not live ones!)


Phil, its obvious the networks do not read your critiques every week because you sound like a broken record, repeating the same things (show more of the field than just the guys our front) and nothing is ever done differently.

Like another poster stated, they wonder why viewership is bad, but they insist on showing us lap after lap of one car going around and around. How is that exciting? Its like they are not there to cover the action, but to simply cover how each individual driver is doing during the course of the race. Its maddening and don’t get me started with their ADD obsession with in car cameras when they actually show battles for position.

I choose not to watch this product that is being shown on my tv. At this point, I only check in towards the end of the race to see the final laps. Until things change, its not worth my time. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one that feels this way.


I agree that nbcsn coverage needs significant improvement and it should start with Rick Allen, he does not have what it takes for the cup series, the statements he makes are often wrong such as at the end of one of the stages he said something like not only do the get stage points but that’s how they line up on the restart. No clue. He often repeats the same calls when cars are passing such as kenseth going low for the pass when in all actuality kenseth was 10 car lengths behind the car he was trying to get close to to pass and he never goes low. There are dozens of calls like that every race. His knowledge of current driver/car stuff is non-existent I’ve never heard him say while he was in the garage talking to (drivers name) or crew chief blah blah blah. Burton is decent and letarte talks too much and too fast. My”dream broadcast team” would be a combo of Mike joy and Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett, slugger labbe and maybe a little bit of Larry Mac. Pit road would be Dr,Jerry Punch, Jamie little, Matt yocum .

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