Weather-wise, last weekend was brutal. Temperatures in Loudon, NH got up to 93 degrees during the race. At Lime Rock on Saturday, it was worse. Apparently, Michelin brings its own weather station to the track each week. It measured an air temperature during the Northeast Grand Prix of 98 degrees. That was combined with a dew point in the upper 70s. It was not swell running around in that weather.
At least we got some good racing to make things feel just that little bit better. Lime Rock had both classes come down to the wire. Meanwhile, Loudon saw Kevin Harvick use pit strategy to get the lead. Then, he nearly received a reversal as compared to last year.
Admittedly, the strategy that Harvick used on Sunday is not a new one for Loudon. Regardless of the rules package over the past 25 years at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, track position has been key. Remember in 1998, Jeff Gordon won after taking two tires on his final stop. Jack Roush cried foul, which led to “Tiregate.”
More recently, there have been multiple instances of drivers staying out in order to get track position late in the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Taking four tires on Sunday often put you in a tough position because it would take 50 laps to get back where you were.
In regards to tires, most of the problems we saw on Sunday with them resulted from contact. For example, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed out because he had contact with Erik Jones. I don’t really know what caused Austin Dillon’s original problem. I can assume that the second one was caused by residual issues from the first failure.
For much of the final segment, NBCSN provided viewers with a good amount of coverage of Denny Hamlin trying his hardest to get to Harvick. That said, we also got a decent amount of additional action down the order. Matt DiBenedetto was quite impressive on Sunday to finish fifth. More on him a little later.
Then, we got to the final couple of laps. Lapped traffic slowed Harvick up a little bit, and Hamlin took advantage. Once again, Rick Allen was on his game as the battle for the win took shape. It was a great finish to watch.
Then, we had post-race coverage. The race ran a little longer than normal, which restricted the amount of interviews and coverage that viewers could get before coverage shifted to Stamford. That said, there were a couple things we should note.
First, as you know, DiBenedetto finished fifth on Sunday. It’s his first-ever top five finish on an oval and only the second of his career. Yet he got swept off to NASCAR Victory Lap. That’s weak. I feel like he deserved better. Then again, I all but expected it to happen.
Part of that is because we got no less than three interviews with Harvick. That is overkill. There’s only so much that you can talk about. Perhaps that’s why so many of the drivers these days are short with the media. Also, giving the winner that much more time means that there is less to go around. Granted, NBC Sports tends to make more time available for post-race coverage than FOX Sports, but it still stands.
I’ve talked about the frontstretch interviews in the past, but they do get a little annoying. Apparently, the idea behind them is that you get more genuine thoughts from the drivers. Is there truth to that? I don’t know. Since these frontstretch interviews were instituted a couple of years ago, you have gotten some gems, like Stenhouse at Daytona in 2017.
The thing is, what was stopping Stenhouse from saying that in regular victory lane as opposed to the tri-oval? I suppose nothing.
Long-term, I have no idea what NASCAR’s plans are for victory lane. It sounds like they want to get rid of it. I don’t think that’s a good thing, but their rationale is that the frontstretch interviews bring the celebrations closer to the fans. If I were a competitor, I’d want to go to victory lane as quickly as I could. Burnouts at this point are passe.
Now, before we go on, instances such as Brad Sweet’s expletive-laden winner’s interview from Saturday night’s Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway don’t really count as frontstretch interviews to me. That’s because Sweet’s interview actually took place in victory lane. That said, Sweet was excited as heck. It’s not even like Saturday night was the first time he’s won the Kings Royal.
Speaking of cussing, you probably noticed that Hamlin cussed during his post-race interview. If this were 2004, he’d be looking at a point penalty since the FCC was going crazy at the time (Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show fallout). Now, not so much. I don’t think you’re going to hear anything more about this going forward.
Compared to recent Loudon races, Sunday’s 301-lap race was a bit more competitive than normal. There was a good amount of on-track action to be had, and I felt that NBCSN did a good job in bringing out action to viewers.
That said, I did notice that as the race continued on, the focus did narrow a fair amount. Regardless, there was plenty going on to keep the fans occurred. You weren’t bored watching the race.
Randomly searching on Twitter last weekend during a lull at Lime Rock, I came across this tweet about NBC Sports’ coverage of The Open Championship last weekend from Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. I found it interesting.
NBC Sports has shown all 156 golfers at The 148th Open on @GolfChannel, fulfilling the mantra: “If you’re good enough to qualify for The Open, you deserve to be seen on TV.” @NBCSports has shown at least 1 golf shot from the entire field at #TheOpen for 4 consecutive years. pic.twitter.com/x3metu4i6Q
— Golf Channel PR (@GolfChannelPR) July 19, 2019
Apparently, NBC Sports (and by extension, the Golf Channel since that is considered part of NBC Sports these days) take great pride in giving coverage to every golfer in the field at the Open Championship. Such a strategy probably should carry over to NASCAR coverage as well.
Speaking of NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN welcomed Danielle Trotta to the team. If you’re reading this column, then you already know who she is and what she used to do at FOX Sports. She currently does radio work in Boston and appears on NBC Sports Boston, a regional sports network. She’ll apparently be hosting Victory Lap this season in place of Carolyn Manno.
Pre-race coverage was fairly interesting. This week’s Behind the Driver piece saw Ryan Preece describing his time racing against his now-wife Heather. A bit of an unusual circumstance, but not unprecedented. It sounds like he actually did race her differently since they were together by that point.
2017 was a tough year for Preece. He threw everything into one basket. He got his own backers to put up money for him to do two races at Joe Gibbs Racing with the goal of winning. Incredible pressure. He knew what he needed to do, told his wife that, then went to Iowa and did it.
Overall, Sunday’s race was quite exciting at times. There was some pretty decent racing and that additional power really did wonders. NBCSN did a decent job showing the action, but needs to be more inclusive. It seems like they cover the front and those that get sent to the rear for various reasons. Once those drivers make their way toward the front, then the focus narrows.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a split weekend in the world of NASCAR. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Gander Outdoors Truck Series will be at Pocono Raceway. They’ll be joined by the ARCA Menards Series. Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series will make its second visit to Iowa Speedway with a combination race for the K&N Pro Series on the undercard. The NTT IndyCar Series will be at Mid-Ohio, while Formula 1 travels to Hockenheim in Germany. TV listings are in the Television tab above.
We will provide critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Pocono for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, we’re going to take a look at another Xfinity butt-kicking, this time in New Hampshire. Of course, there was one incident that overshadowed much of that race.
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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.