Labor Day Weekend is traditionally one of the biggest race weekends of the year. Basically every series of note was in action last weekend with the exception of IMSA.
Before we get started, news came out on Sunday that Daniel Suarez lost sponsorship from Subway due to Suarez appearing in a piece that aired on NBCSN. In the relatively innocuous piece, Suarez joined Rutledge Wood to go into the infield and deliver donuts to campers. On paper, it sounds perfectly innocent. Didn’t raise an eyebrow at all at the time.
However, the executives at Subway clearly didn’t feel that way. Subway apparently considers Dunkin’ Donuts to be a direct competitor since they both serve breakfast. As a result, the four-race sponsorship was terminated with cause. All references to Suarez being backed by Subway, including the commercial they did with him, have been scrubbed from the internet.
The termination means that Suarez now has an open race of sponsorship at Talladega later this year, while Subway has a PR nightmare on their hands. No one comes out of this mess looking good. Feature-wise, the one that cost Suarez his sponsorship was probably the most vanilla piece of the whole season. It was a feel-good piece that has resulted in acrimony. It is a real shame.
Frontstretch has not seen the specific language in this sponsorship contract. However, it sounds like there was some kind of clause in the Joe Gibbs Racing-Subway deal that prohibited Suarez from associating with competing brands publicly. Arguably, this whole mess is not necessarily the fault of Suarez, but someone didn’t mind their P’s and Q’s.
Bojangles’ Southern 500
Sunday evening brought the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series back to the forefront at Darlington. The broadcast went on and on claiming that the Bojangles’ Southern 500 would be a four-hour slog. It wasn’t. It ended up being three hours and 46 minutes. Regardless, we got some good action as the now nine-year old pavement at Darlington is becoming a throwback in its own right.
Throwback Weekend was in full swing on NBCSN as pretty much everyone got in the swing of things. For the booth and stage personnel, Miami Vice (an NBC series back in 1986) was the theme of the day for the men. Yes, Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas dressed like that on the show. However, seeing the suit jackets with t-shirt look makes me think of Troy Aikman in the ridiculous FOX Sports telenovela ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXTgXCmYg9s).
Meanwhile, Krista Voda and Kelli Stavast were dressed like Madonna around the release of her second album, Like A Virgin. That was something else. For all the times they showed pictures of A Flock of Seagulls last weekend, you’d think they would have given someone Mike Score’s signature hairstyle (or purchased a wig based on it). Fun fact: Score was a hairdresser at the time he founded A Flock of Seagulls and created the signature hairdo himself. Also, he’s bald now.
Once again, the “legends booth” (comprised of the father and son team of Ned and Dale Jarrett, along with Ken Squier returned to call a portion of the race. Once again, the legends booth’s airtime was cut. This year, they only got about 60 laps. Looking back at notes, they got about 90 last year and 120 in 2015.
With Squier on play-by-play these days, viewers aren’t necessarily more informed about the race they’re watching. However, it is arguable that they are more entertained. Even at 82, Squier still puts his all into the call.
There were a couple of strange instances, though. For instance, when Suarez crashed out of the race, Squier referred to him as “The Mexican.” While yes, Suarez is in fact from Mexico, the thought process at the time in my mind was “Oh boy, this might not go over well.” Sure enough, a check of Twitter saw some users ranting about Squier’s commentary. Although, there seemed to be more people ranting at those ranting at Squier than people that were ranting at Squier.
One reader personally e-mailed me before the critique was even written about this topic. He stated that in those situations, it should always be about intentions. Was Squier intentionally trying to denigrate Suarez with his commentary? That is seriously doubtful. Was Squier trying to bash Erik Jones when he referred to him as “that Jones boy” immediately afterwards? No, especially knowing that a compliment immediately followed.
Squier hasn’t called races on television regularly since the late 1990s. As you can tell, things have changed a bit since then in society.
Much like last year, the tires were a big story. However, you keep hearing about the drop-off, but you never see what that looks like with the tires. Compared to last year, NBCSN was much better in showing lap time progression as the tires wore. However, it is hard to see what the track actually does to the tires if they don’t show viewers the tires.
The only tire viewers did get to see was a right rear tire off of Kyle Larson’s car that had been rubbing. That’s not normal tire wear at Darlington.
The Legends booth segment of the race came to an end with the AJ Allmendinger–Matt DiBenedetto–Cody Ware incident. NBCSN really couldn’t prove what caused the incident. They made it sound like Ware simply stopped to avoid the crash when his car was trashed in the crash. Before his quasi-related Twitter meltdown Sunday night (which we’re not getting into here), Ware indicated that Allmendinger was to blame for the whole mess.
Haven't wrecked a car all year long.. Get taken out by a driver 30 laps down that I had passed 5 times on track, can't be smart for everyone
— Cody Ware (@CodyShaneWare) September 4, 2017
News to me at the time. NBCSN didn’t really investigate the incident further, so fans were left in the dark.
Another thing that fans were left in the dark about was the fact that Carl Long actually took relief from Timmy Hill during the race. Apparently, Long got sick and couldn’t go the distance. There was never any reference to that on the broadcast. Only found out about it on Twitter after the checkers. It doesn’t matter who it is, that should never happen during a broadcast.
You could make the argument that NBCSN simply didn’t know about the change. Judging by the focus of the broadcast, that’s possible. Irresponsible, but still possible. A name switch in the scoring bar never occurred on the broadcast. The last 30 or so laps saw only the top 20 positions shown on there. Perhaps they changed it and it never showed up on-air.
Last season, readers e-mailed me to ask if I could keep tabs on the usage of the interval sub-tab in races. They were concerned that they weren’t getting those intervals. At the time, it wasn’t really a problem, but we promised to keep an eye on it. It was a problem Sunday night, especially in the second half of the race. We barely got intervals for the entire second half of the race, except for when Denny Hamlin was running down Martin Truex Jr. from way the heck back.
If you’re not going to drop back and show as much racing for position as you can, that kind of information in the scoring bar is quite important. It is often the only way that fans can gauge whether their favorite driver is making any real progress.
Post-race coverage was fairly decent since the race ended ahead of schedule. Despite that, there were still only six different drivers interviewed. Hamlin was interviewed no less than three times. Spread the wealth, please.
Darlington is always an enjoyable race to watch. It is a place I’d like to visit for a race. Current responsibilities outside of Frontstretch render that impossible. Long story short, moving the race back to Labor Day was a detriment to me and only me.
Sunday night’s race had some good action and great storylines. However, the broadcast was a bit unfocused at times. There was some good action on-track, but NBCSN wasn’t doing the best job of being informative.
Chevrolet Silverado 250k
On Sunday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series held their one and only road race of the year at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. It was an interesting race with a controversial conclusion…again.
Let’s get right to it. Kaz Grala was in good position to pick up his second win of the year on Sunday. Winning at CTMP probably wouldn’t have been that much of a surprise given Grala’s road racing experience and the road racing knowledge that Kaz’s father Darius brings to the table. Remember that Darius has multiple starts in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, including the first-ever race for the Daytona Prototypes in 2003.
It was even noted on the broadcast that the Gralas compete together in sports car races in their spare time. Kaz has also competed in the last two Rolex 24s himself for Change Racing. First time out, Change Racing was racing for the class lead when teammate Justin Marks collided with Paul Miller Racing’s Bryce Miller around 1 a.m.
Most readers of this article already know what happened, but just as a refresher, Austin Cindric did this to Grala:
Cindric felt that he was doing what was necessary in order to qualify for these pointless playoffs that shouldn’t exist. Effectively, he was boxed in. Doesn’t make it right, though.
On FOX Sports 1, this incident was effectively referred to as a foregone conclusion. The booth was convinced that Cindric was going to hit Grala and knock him out of the way at some point. Sure enough, it happened.
As you can see above, it was one of the more dispassionate calls of last-lap contact in recent memory. Read into that whatever you want. It seemed like Michael Waltrip was bemoaning the current state of driver conduct in NASCAR.
By all indications, Cindric didn’t need to take out Grala to win the race. He had a fast enough truck to pass him cleanly. Instead, he wanted to take the easy way out. At least he admitted it afterwards. Heck, Cindric all but admitted that he’d do it during the pre-race interview if the opportunity arose.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief. Much of the focus was on the aforementioned last-lap incident. Viewers only got interviews with the top three finishers (Cindric, Noah Gragson and Grala), along with a check of the points.
Outside of wreck coverage, FOX Sports 1 did a middling job covering the race. The coverage of racing for position was not that great. You only got a general idea of how drivers were progressing their way through the field.
The pit strategy coverage was pretty good. Viewers were always reasonably informed about who was on what pit strategy and how it would affect their races.
Prior to the race, the news about Brad Keselowski Racing shutting down was the primary story of the show. While the news was made public way back on Aug. 17, it still came after the previous race (Bristol). As a result, it was a topic of discussion for both Todd Bodine and John Roberts in Charlotte along with the booth in Ontario. However, much of that discussion was on the team itself and Brad Keselowski. There was no mention about how this would affect the series at all.
Overall, Sunday’s broadcast from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park was a bit underwhelming. There were some good moments, like the wacky four-wide moment in turn 3 on lap 50 (still trying to figure out how they didn’t wreck). However, much of the race didn’t stand out. It was as if nothing was happening at all.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the regular season for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will come to an end at Richmond Raceway. 13 drivers have already qualified for the playoffs, while three others (Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray) are a virtual dormie state. As long as a new driver behind McMurray in points doesn’t win Saturday night, the three of them are assured berths. The XFINITY Series will serve as primary support. TV listings can be found in the TV Schedule tab.
We will provide critiques of the Cup and XFINITY broadcasts from Richmond for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter, we’ll cover Saturday’s XFINITY race at Darlington. High English maneuvers and Cup dominance will be stories covered there.
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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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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