Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBCSN’s Disorganized NASCAR Loudon Experiment

Rainy weather is the bane of race fans’ existence during the racing season.  For those of you that go to local tracks, it doesn’t really take all that much moisture to end the evening.  At NASCAR races, it means you’re treated to the buzzing of the Air Titan track-drying equipment.

Sunday was another one of those long days, combined with a special booth for the occasion.  Rick Allen spent his Sunday in the coach lot and on pit road, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte were in the booth.

Before we get to the booth experience, we have to cover how NBCSN treated the seemingly interminable rain delay.  Due to the forecast, NASCAR moved up the start of the race to 1 p.m.  Ultimately, that didn’t matter since it was raining when NBCSN went on the air at Noon.

There were four solid hours of rain fill coverage prior to the start of the race.  Kyle Petty was supposed to be on pre-race coverage, but due to the forecast, he relocated to NBC Sports Group headquarters in Connecticut with the plan of appearing on NASCAR Victory Lap.  That show never aired.

Given the sheer amount of time at NBCSN’s disposal, it could have literally done whatever it wanted.  Two-thirds of the field got interviewed on-air, including StarCom Racing teammates Landon Cassill and Kyle Weatherman. There was a sit-down interview where Dale Jarrett talked to Jimmie Johnson at length.  Topics here included Johnson’s drive to succeed (ever strong), his current run of futility and how he keeps himself grounded.

Other pieces that ran during the delay were ridiculous.  A popular thing to do during New Hampshire weekend is to impersonate really bad New England accents.  It’s like everyone read too many Bill Simmons articles from when he was still with ESPN and assumed that everyone was like his friend Sully.

During the broadcast, NBCSN sat down a bunch of drivers and asked them to assume New England accents.  It was pretty rough.  AJ Allmendinger seemed like he wanted to walk out the minute it was broached because it was so stupid.  I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.  That stuff was played out years ago.

Some of the driver interviews even got pretty stupid as well.  Once you get into the third hour of rain fill, you’re reaching for content.  That’s when stuff gets dumb.  You hear about kids standing out in the rain, Hungry Hungry Hippos (one of the quickest board games out there) and more inane things.  It gets rough, simple as that.

After four hours of this silliness, we get to the race.  Finally.  Honestly, it struck me as disorganized.  Perhaps, intentionally so.  The three previous analyst-only setups (ESPN’s backseat drivers in 2009 and the two drivers only XFINITY broadcasts on FOX) more or less maintained the traditional roles.  That wasn’t really the case on Sunday.

It was a bit of a free-for-all at times.  If anyone was the closest to a play-by-play man, it was Letarte.  Truthfully, it was hard to tell.  I could just tell that Earnhardt was not that man.

The problem with having a free-for-all in the booth is that stuff can get missed.  Chatting with your buddies watching a race is what people do when they watch the race at a bar or in someone’s rumpus room.  If you’re calling the race, you have to provide a certain amount of information to the viewers at home.  I felt lost at times.

An example of that was Clint Bowyer being penalized for pitting outside the box during the round of green-flag stops.  It was not referenced on-air even graphically until the scoring bar indicated that Bowyer was given the black flag with the white cross.

I know that Bowyer was having a pretty terrible day on Sunday.  The reason had to do with broken parts in the left rear of the No. 14.  Despite the fact that he was running pretty far back, the penalty should have been noted far before it was.  That goes double since it wasn’t a drive-through penalty.  He was going to be held for a full lap.  It’s unclear whether or not Bowyer was not scored for a lap before he served the penalty, though.

Brad Keselowski’s issues were covered fairly well.  New Hampshire Motor Speedway is rather difficult on brakes and Keselowski’s were simply not up to the task.  Viewers got updates on Keselowski’s situation and why he slipped back.  The situation just got worse and worse.

Earnhardt picked up on certain things that you don’t necessarily hear about.  For instance, he made note of Ross Chastain running 25th when he was lapped late in the race for the third time and mentioned that it was a good run.

The battle at the end of the race was likely the high point of the broadcast and the race itself.  The booth knew that Kevin Harvick had a better car, especially on the exit of Turn 1.  They noted that Harvick’s diamonding of the turn was way better than anything Kyle Busch could come up with.  They were expecting the bump-and-run and got it.  For what it’s worth, Busch took the bump n’ run at face value.  He knew it was fair game because he did it to Larson in Joliet.

For Allen, Sunday was likely not one of his better days.  We had inane rain delays interviews, then he admitted to “blacking out” while calling Kyle Larson’s pit stop during the first caution.  It’s obvious that he’s not used to working in the pits.  I cannot recall a time that he had ever done it previous to Sunday.

Also, the blatant reference to the slogan of Harvick’s sponsor in Victory Lane was rather ridiculous and unnecessary.  Especially since a Busch commercial had just aired approximately two minutes prior to the interview.  It seems like Allen will watch the DVD he gets of the broadcast later this week and realize that he’s got it good in the booth.

Post-race coverage was rather brief knowing that the race was hours over the sign-off time. Viewers got five post-race interviews (two with Harvick), plus a check of the points before NBCSN left for rugby coverage that was originally supposed to start at 5:30 p.m.  Or, that’s what the updated schedule on my cable box said when I set my DVR.

The broadcast Sunday was just too disorganized for my taste.  As someone who wants to know everything, I’ll likely never be satisfied, but, there is a bare minimum in some areas that, at times, NBCSN didn’t reach.  Part of that was due to the disorganization of the broadcast.  Even the drivers only FOX broadcasts were more organized than this one was.  I have no doubt that NBC Sports is going to try something like this again.  I suggest some changes to smooth it out.

Also, the clothing choices in the booth threw me at first.  I’m a pretty casual person and it didn’t really bug me.  Just took some getting used to.

Heck, I was almost expecting Earnhardt to show up in a Tim Richmond shirt bought off eBay from one of my best friends.  The Trickle shirt was likely intentional since we’re coming up on the anniversary of his death.

Next weekend is a split weekend for NASCAR.  The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck series will both be in action at Pocono Raceway.  The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will serve as tertiary support.  Meanwhile, the XFINITY Series will make its second visit of the season to Iowa Speedway.  Formula 1 makes its yearly trek to the Hungaroring in Hungary before the mid-season break.

We’ll have critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Pocono at a bare minimum in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter Thursday will cover Saturday’s Lakes Region 200.

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 agree about the booth attire. They are there to cover a car race, not a state dinner or a royal wedding. Lighten up.

It seems like the practice of replaying a prior race from that track during a rain delay is hit or miss. You only have so many interviews or doppler radar shots to fill four hours.
Maybe there’s hyper-sensitivity to not give free air time to sponsors who have left the sport or they couldn’t find a New Hampshire race memorable enough to give the light of day again.

PattyKay Lilley

The problem with running last year’s race is that NBC doesn’t have it. They’ve covered the late race, while the early one was broadcast by FOX Networks. Those two do not play nice with each other, and I guess rerunning the fall race would throw off the timing. That and the fact that most races at Loudon are real stinkers and you chance the audience falling asleep.


i got sick of hearing about the booth attire. they’re hired to do a job. if they don’t want to wear suits, wear “casual friday” gear of golf shirts, like the broadcasters do on saturdays. this is all catering to jr and his lack of wanting to follow the rules. sometimes you have to realize 42 or 43 is no longer 16. for the paycheck you’re getting, be a bit more responsible. seems like nbc is catering to jr’s wants hoping he’ll save the day. nbc you’re a bit late.

i was really surprised when race was moved from cnbc back to nbssports (or whatever it’s called).

Joel Schiffman

Coat and tie? C’mon, it’s a NASCAR race. No one tunes in to see what the announcers are wearing. Rick Allen is the worst race announcer ever. Leave him in the bus lot.


I really don’t care what they wear in the booth, since we seldom see them. Comfort seems like a good priority. I remember complaints about the NBC pit lane crew wearing fire suits too. some people are never happy. While the broadcast was a bit disorganized at times. I generally enjoyed it. While I’m sure they misesed
things, it seemed to me they had a broader view of the race, and commented on several drivers not usually included. All in all, not bad for a first try. Poor Rick Allen was really out of his element, wasn’t he?


Phil, I understand you comments and you POV. But shaking things up a little isn’t bad. Especially one off and not so big events. I wouldn’t do it at say Dayton, Darlington, Martinsville, etc. But maybe a better fit at a cookie cutter track where the races are boring and need something entertaining going on.
I will say I am not a huge fan of Rick Allen, so not having in the booth was kind of nice. He is fine, he just likes his crutches and he gets too over the top. I guess I hoping Mike Joy would join NBC, maybe get Bob Jenkins or Allen Bestwick. Rare to get perfect I know. I still night and day better than Fox (not including Joy of course).


Phil, you have a right to your opinion but you must have stayed up all night to write that stuff. Just get over it and move on , its not that important what you think anyway. While I would agree there’s a lot to criticize about NASCAR in general, which is exactly what you’re really doing by the way, tearing down other people’s work is crap. Why all the negativity? Someday NASCAR just might disappear and the junk you write is part of the problem if that’s what ultimately happens. Remember, don’t bite the hand that feeds.
Besides, that was as good an ending to a race as you could have and if all you naysayers can’t agree on that then why are you still watching. What,you’re gonna watch baseball instead, really./

Lin Hunnicutt

I thought this was one of the more entertaining New Hampshire races. I really enjoyed the banter from the booth, much better than Fox.

Phillip L. Shropshire

I started watching races on the radio when I was 6 years old. I never knew what the MRN guys had on. And to be honest, I was raised in short track dirt racing, grew up in JD McDuffies garage, and we watched/Listened to the race on my Uncle’s 58 Ford radio. We could only imagine what was happening on track. Today we have the blessed experience of actually watching the race on a LIVE TV broadcast!! It’s COOl!! Now, what was Barney Hall wearing at Darlington in 1978??? Men cannot fake excitement. Rick was honest when he told us he blacked out. He was just excited. LeTarte was just as honest. If the excitement you hear in Jr’s and Burton’s is not authentic to you, maybe you should watch it on the radio.


Well all I can say about the mess in the booth is that each one tried to out talk the other. Thought I was watching “the view”. That’s the new booth. Everyone out doing the other guy and not watching the racing. Too bad there isn’t a good announcer on any channel.

Ken S

Have not seen mentioned anywhere that 4 people in the announcers booth is one too many. I think they are searching for the right mix of three, and Rick Allen just might be the odd man out! Only problem with that is the fact that it is so hard to tell if it is Junior or Burton talking when you can’t see them, as they sound so much alike. (Maybe they should try Ward Burton – nobody sounds like him!) As to the attire in the booth – I have been campaigning for years against the suits and ties, however the T-shirts were just a bit too much the other way. In my opinion, the proper attire are the casual shirts that they wear on practice and qualifying broadcasts.


I actually liked it… I did.
I remember the ESPN “Backseat Driver” race with Evernham, Rusty, Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty (why Brad was on the broadcast I will never know) but it was awful since they all speak in in-complete sentences and Rusty Wallace butchers the english language.

But watching and listening to Steve, Jeff and Junior it felt like three guys watching a race and talking about it while it happens. When I have people over and we watch a race that is what it sounds like.

I hope NBCSN does this again and during the playoffs too since its just talking and not having an agenda pushed at us with catch phrases and no Boogity.

BTW the NASCARonFOX drivers only is something Ford pays for since it is all Ford drivers on the broadcast. I like it but they should call it what it is, a promotion of its drivers and product.

Joe P

another positive vote for the broadcast team and tshirts. NBC did a great job with the experiment. the disorganization created a much more ‘real’ feel, like you were sitting in the living room watching with friends. 10x better than anything fox puts together.

Dave in Indy

The experiment was okay. I enjoyed it. It may sound harsh bit I rather enjoyed Rick on pit road. That is a fine place for him. Leave him there and get Bestwick in the NBC booth.


Rick Allen has come along just fine. He’s grown a lot with experience and is poised to join the likes of Allen Bestwick, Mike Joy, good old Eli Gold and the inimitable Bob Jenkins as the best in show. Naturally I’m referring to lead seats. There are also many great color commentators and pit reporters.


I don’t care what they wear (Dale Jr. always looks like a slob) and even less about what they say. Junior is an illiterate moron and he is reason enough to use the Mute Button.

Hardly anybody watches this crap and far fewer listen. Today’s NASCAR is for morons. The low ratings indicate that some of the American people still have some degree of intelligence.

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