Kentucky Speedway provided viewers with a somewhat mixed race. Yes, you had a classic finish between the Busch brothers. You also had the other 266 laps. How did NBCSN handle them?
Quaker State 400
Saturday night saw an average Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. In all honesty, none of these races have ever really been that exciting.
Then, you had the GWC. We’ll start there.
The final two-lap scramble to the finish of Saturday night’s race was probably the most exciting moment for the Cup Series in the nine years that it’s raced at Kentucky Speedway. To be fair, it doesn’t have a lot of competition.
The broadcast was right where it needed to be to make the final two laps as exciting as it should have been. Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch weren’t giving each other an inch, and Rick Allen came to play with the right level of enthusiasm. A great way to cap off the race. Also, you’ll have some iconic moments going forward in the brothers’ battle, Kurt Busch’s interview with Marty Snider and the car ride (despite the fact of the NASCAR official being a party pooper). It had been something like 20 years since something like that happened.
That said, this was only a few minutes of the broadcast from Kentucky. There’s more to talk about, like the overall amount of action viewers saw. That was decent, but it was a little better earlier on before the sun set. It was rather confined though. The coverage needs to be more inclusive.
Joey Logano (who probably would have won had Bubba Wallace not cut his right rear tire with seven laps to go) had tire problems of his own during the race. That forced him to make an unscheduled stop in stage two. I would have liked to have seen that tire. There were enough tire issues Saturday night that I would have liked to see what the wear was looking like. Problem is, we didn’t see a tire all night.
Post-race coverage was pretty extensive. The race ended a little ahead of schedule despite seven cautions. Viewers ended up with 10 driver interviews (not including the three with Kurt Busch), point checks and analysis. Pretty comprehensive.
Prior to the race, this week’s Behind the Driver segment was a change of pace. Instead of talking about his mentor, Ryan Blaney talked about how his sisters Erin and Emma played a role in his development as a man. An interesting reversal of fortune.
Overall, this was an average race at best for the first 266 laps. It got great at the end, which does lend itself to questions that we’re going to look at here at Frontstretch later this week. Quite simply: Does a great finish equal a great race? In terms of the TV broadcast, does a great call of the finish usurp everything else that had aired for the previous four-plus hours? I don’t believe that it would completely usurp the rest of the broadcast, but it could elevate it as a whole to a slightly higher level that it wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.
The actual racing for position seemed to drop off a bit as it got darker, but I thought that NBCSN still did search for some battles. That said, they do need to diversify who gets coverage. It felt like much of the action we saw only surrounded a few teams. Loudon next weekend can get spread out as well, but things will be much different with the much-needed horsepower. There should be a little more racing to go around.
Buckle Up In Your Truck 225
Thursday night saw the Gander Outdoors Truck Series return to Kentucky Speedway for its 20th visit. What we got was a topsy-turvy race with a first-time winner and the playoff race being thrown upside down.
Unlike Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago, the booth crew did not travel to Kentucky for the race. Let’s face facts: It shows when they don’t make the trip. They’re slower on the uptake since they lose out in regards to surroundings. They may have a gigantic wall of monitors back in Charlotte, but it’s not the same as being able to just look up and notice things.
Pre-race coverage was about average. It was very much studio-centered. I would prefer a few more driver interviews in order to preview the race. As it stands, the only interview during NASCAR RaceDay – NGOTS Edition was with defending race winner (and Kentucky native) Ben Rhodes.
Stage one was pretty typical. Sheldon Creed got the lead at the start and pulled away. Behind him, there was some decent racing for position and some not so great camera angles.
Stage two ended up being a doozy, but that’s not because of anything FOX Sports 1 did. Everyone lost their dang minds. First, you had Spencer Boyd, Natalie Decker and Jordan Anderson crashing out. The replays here were pretty definitive that Boyd cut across Decker’s nose way too quickly. Then, Chad Finley wrecked after running well.
Then, you had the biggest hit of the night when Grant Enfinger and Brandon Jones collided and smacked the wall while racing for the lead. The wrecking left the booth somewhat confused since all of stage one ran under green, and all of the final stage was green once it restarted.
The fuel strategies in the final stage were somewhat confusing, to be honest. Tyler Ankrum won the race despite an atrocious final pit stop that cost him something like 12 seconds to Brett Moffitt. However, he stopped earlier and the DGR-Crosley crew put more fuel into the truck.
I understand wanting to get out of the pits as fast as you can, but it seemed like the fuel mileage calculations just weren’t up to par Thursday night. It seemed like Moffitt had no business running out of fuel late in the race, yet he did (along with Todd Gilliland).
The post-race coverage made it pretty dang clear to me that no one at FOX Sports 1 expected Ankrum to win this season. Seriously, they ran one of their little vignettes going to commercial that has a featured driver. They took one with Tyler Dippel and changed it so that it read Ankrum’s name. Seeing as I’ve covered Dippel’s racing since he was 12, there was no way in heck that I wasn’t going to notice that.
Why did they do that? I have no clue. Since Ankrum was still 17 at the start of the season (remember, he missed the first three races because he was ineligible for superspeedways at that point), he likely skipped the hangar shoot that FOX Sports does every year in Daytona. That’s where they shoot the vast majority of the bumpers that you see during the FOX NASCAR broadcasts each year. I guess they just had to run something, so they winged it.
In addition, there was a near fight on pit road between Rhodes and Brennan Poole after the race. This was never broached on the broadcast. However, FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass was there when the confrontation happened.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 12, 2019
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 12, 2019
To be fair, this near-scrap came to be because of a collision with 23 laps to go in turn 4. FOX Sports 1 did a good job covering that incident at the time (which did not bring out a caution). I don’t think that it was intentional by any means, but it did ruin Rhodes’ race as he cut a tire due to the contact and finished 19th.
As for the brief argument/hat snatch/hat drop involving Boyd and Decker, that did not make the broadcast. At least some well-deserving charities are going to benefit from those shenanigans, though.
We're excited to release our newest shirt, "The Hat".
All proceeds from the sale of this shirt will be donated to Trinity Oaks, a non profit that uses hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities to give back and make a difference in the lives of others.#RecordRack #deerfeed pic.twitter.com/Bz2WTe66N4
— Spencer Boyd (@SpencerBoyd) July 12, 2019
In addition to the issues surrounding Ankrum’s victory, there were a few other driver interviews and a check of the points before FOX Sports 1 left Kentucky. Remember, despite moving up to fifth in points, Burton fell out of the playoffs despite finishing third.
Thursday night’s race was interesting to watch at times. There was a lot of action on-track that FOX Sports 1 did a decent job covering. Not having the broadcast booth on-site hurts the on-air product, no matter how much it saves money.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series travel to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a full weekend of racing. They’ll be joined by the K&N Pro Series East and a doubleheader of Whelen Modified Tour races (All-Star race Friday, then a points race Saturday). Also, there’s a new dirt track on the property as well. IndyCar will be at Iowa Speedway with ARCA on the undercard. Finally, IMSA will be at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. TV listings are in the Television tab.
We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Loudon in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, we will cover Friday night’s ALSCO 300. The question to be answered there is simple. How do you handle a butt-kicking?
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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.