Monster Energy All-Star Weekend is always a bit of a toss-up each year.
FOX did not air the post-race bumping match between the two drivers live (that was replayed, though). Bowyer going after Newman on pit road after the race was caught live right after Kyle Larson’s sans steering wheel burnout.
The interviews with both drivers involved aired back-to-back. As a result, Bowyer was able to watch Newman’s interview with Vince Welch on Matt Yocum‘s monitor. The whole thing seems strange to me. Basically, it should not have happened.
That said, watching this broadcast, you would have had no clue what started this whole mess. Newman stated that the whole schmozzle started because of a block during the race. We never saw that block. Without that evidence, this whole situation appears to be apropos of nothing.
FOX Sports 1 never really noted that Newman was a lap down at one point after his slide into the grass. They just made note of the fact that Newman got the free during the fifth caution when Austin Dillon slid up into Erik Jones after getting hit by Kyle Busch.
Saturday’s racing had a decent amount of on-track action, and FS1 seemed to do pretty well in actually showing it to viewers. I’m really not sure how those special splitters and the hood vents affected the racing, though. They really didn’t talk about it much on Saturday. What should have gotten more coverage was the carbon fiber splitter. I’d almost bet money that it caused at least one of the flat tires Saturday night during the squeeze play.
Since the race broadcast ran long, there was a limited amount of post-race coverage. Much of that was dominated by the aforementioned confrontation. In addition to that coverage, viewers got interviews with the top two finishers (Larson and Kevin Harvick) before leaving for Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
There was a lot of talk about Charlotte Motor Speedway’s move to FieldTurf in the quad-oval to replace natural grass. I know why the track did it, but I don’t feel that they should have had to spend the money to do so. NASCAR actually officiating ride height and dumping splitters in favor of a valence could have alleviated the problem without forcing SMI to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prior to the race, FS1 had Bryson Byrnes (Steve’s teenaged son) back on the broadcast to conduct the Grid Walk interviews. Byrnes seemed to do very well in this role. He took the work seriously and got some decent quotes out of the drivers he interviewed. Yes, I know that Michael Waltrip’s whole public persona is based around goofiness, but there is a time for that. The grid prior to the race is really not that place.
There’s nothing wrong with having fun with your job, but it almost seems like half the drivers don’t even respect Michael. Denny Hamlin is a special case because it’s pretty obvious to me that they’re best buddies away from the track, so they have a borderline shtick together in this scenario. It just looks like he’s disgusted with Michael (although that taco thing probably really did tick him off).
Regardless of the reasoning, Waltrip is supposed to be a seasoned pro. Getting shown up by a high school student doesn’t look good.
Another big story that evening was Bubba Wallace’s form. As you’ve probably heard, it has not been a great couple of months for him. Saturday was a very satisfying day and night for him, and he likely received more coverage than he had gotten all year to this point. The broadcast booth seemed somewhat surprised with his run but was very happy for him. Then again, no one really knew how these rules were going to work until the green flag fell on the Monster Energy Open.
Finally, there was a not so great moment on lap 23 when Jones hit the wall in turn 4. Viewers could just see a glimpse of Jones smacking the SAFER Barrier in real time, but FS1 ignored it.
Three laps later, Jones blew his right front tire, bringing out the race’s first caution. It was only here that Jeff Gordon made note of the fact that Jones had hit the wall. You can’t ignore those kinds of things. It looks bad.
Overall, there was a high amount of enthusiasm on the broadcast Saturday night that I’m not really used to. There was a good amount of racing for position that FS1 brought to viewers. However, it’s obvious that the Bowyer-Newman duel was the story of the night, and they really didn’t bring enough evidence to properly inform the audience of why Bowyer felt that the fists needed to fly.
I made use of my DVR to go back and look for the contact that Newman noted in his interview, but could not find it. I buy Bowyer’s argument about thinking that Newman was down a lap because he was at one point. I guess his crew chief or spotter never made it clear that Newman got back on the lead lap.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is ultra-sweet. Charlotte, Indianapolis and Monaco. The perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV. If you’re venturing to Charlotte, keep yourself hydrated because it is currently forecast to be over 90 degrees all weekend at the track. TV Listings can be found in the Television tab.
I will have a critique that will cover the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500. This week’s Critic’s Annex will cover the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
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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.