Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Watkins Glen Brings Antics But Isn’t Dale Jr.’s Best Day

Watkins Glen International always provides an interesting race for fans to watch. Sunday (August 4) saw a race that was light on lead changes but high on storylines and shenanigans.

Also, before we start, yes, Racing Wives finally premiered Friday night on CMT. My hotel room in Vestal, N.Y. last weekend did not have the channel available. Therefore, I have not watched it yet. I’m generally not a fan of reality shows, but I plan on watching the series in full and writing about it. Look for that in the Frontstretch Newsletter in the coming weeks.

In terms of what I did see, something that irked me is the fact that NBCSN made next to no reference to the fact that AJ Allmendinger got DQ’d from Saturday’s Zippo 200. The unofficial results from Saturday during NASCAR America Sunday still listed him as finishing second despite the DQ coming down within 90 minutes of the end of the race. I thought that was strange.

As for the shenanigans, they started early when Kyle Busch spun in turn 1 on lap 2 after rubbing against William Byron. Looking at it a second time, I still don’t understand Busch’s anger here. It seems like he simply made a mistake. NBCSN seemed to think that it was a simple “racing deal.” They didn’t think much of it at the time. Steve Letarte referred to it as “harmless.” Honestly, I thought so as well.

Prior to the end of stage one, Busch got back to Byron’s bumper and made his thoughts known. The original replay made it look Byron just went straight. It seemed like they didn’t realize that the No. 18 had hit Byron. What we saw at first was likely the first shot that the production truck found of the excursion.

After the break, we got more replays that showed the true nature of the encounter. Audio of Chad Knaus imploring Byron to get into the back of Busch was played. The idea stated on the radio was to get the grass off of the nose. Technically, that was more or less mission accomplished. While NBCSN never outright said it, it appeared that Kyle brake-checked Byron.

On lap 39, Bubba Wallace spun and hit the tires in turn 5 to bring out the third yellow. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not have a visual on the crash and thought Wallace might have been caught out by the stay-dri put down due to Reed Sorenson’s previous issues. We now know that that wasn’t the case.

Sure enough, Busch got into him. Unfortunately, there was no replay of that contact. All we got was a replay of Wallace going wide and then hitting the tires. At the time, Wallace was running 18th and Kyle was 19th, recovering from a pit road penalty at the end of stage one that put him at the rear. This angered Wallace and resulted in the bumping match that we all saw.

Right before that, you had Jimmie Johnson hitting the tires in turn 5 after contact from Ryan Blaney. Blaney tried to explain the situation as a racing deal, but Johnson was incensed.

The actual racing that we saw was pretty decent. Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. essentially staged a duel for the entire second half of the race, and that kept everyone satisfied. That resulted in coverage that was quite centered at the front of the field. It was hard to follow progression of drivers through the field, especially in the second half of the race. Matt DiBenedetto getting up to sixth was a pleasant surprise. Had no idea that he was right back up there. Having timing and scoring at your fingertips only helps so much.

In the Media Center, we were keeping track of Kyle’s progress through the field. I thought that he could get back to 10th, while our own Dustin Albino thought otherwise. In the end, he got back to 11th, which meant that he didn’t have to do the bullpen interview post-race.  There was a golf cart waiting for him right behind the pit wall after the race so he could make a quick escape.

The weekly Behind the Driver piece focused on Truex and his relationship with Kevin “Bono” Manion, his crew chief with Chance 2 Motorsports in the then-Busch Series. Yes, they were a driver-crew chief pairing back then, but they were also very close friends, along with everyone else that worked on the team (crazy to think about it now, but Chance 2 was a joint venture with DEI, namely, Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr.). The piece mentions a Chance 2 group text that allows the former Chance 2 guys a way to keep in touch. Basically, Chance 2 was more than just racing.

The Grassroots piece of the week was a little more in-depth than usual. Kurt Busch made an appearance last weekend at Outlaw Speedway (formerly Black Rock Speedway) in Dundee, N.Y., which is roughly a 25-minute drive from Watkins Glen International. Here, Rutledge Wood talked with track owner/promoter/former Super DIRTcar Series regular Tyler Siri about bringing the track back from the brink. It was an interesting piece. Albany-Saratoga Speedway went through a similar renaissance starting in 2012 after it was first leased, then acquired by Lebanon Valley Auto Racing (full disclosure: I do write for the website for LVAR’s Lebanon Valley Speedway, in addition to Frontstretch). Sometimes, it’s as simple as having the right guy in the right place. Also of note, I did find it interesting that Kurt made the appearance there at Outlaw Speedway. Many fans’ first time meeting a Cup driver will come in such a scenario. The first time I met a Cup driver was at Albany-Saratoga in 1996 when a number of drivers appeared there (I met Ernie Irvan and Ned Jarrett, while Richard Childress, Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace were also present).

Post-race coverage was fairly typical. Viewers got a decent amount of driver interviews (including three with Elliott), analysis and point checks. It was an interesting race to watch despite very few lead changes.

With the radio-style broadcast, one thought comes to mind. Having the three analysts (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Mike Bagley) out there is designed so that certain things could be pointed out more easily. It didn’t seem to work that way on Sunday. An incident like Wallace’s spin is the perfect example here. That crash all but happened right in front of Earnhardt. I know that he likely had some monitors up there, but last I checked, it’s really loud out there. Few cars that aren’t Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs or previous generation Aston Martin Vantage GT4s are as loud as Cup cars.

What I’m saying is that the first Wallace incident should have been Earnhardt’s time to shine. You had an incident that ended up being way more important down the line happen right in front of you (more or less), and you basically missed it. The cameras couldn’t save the situation here. I didn’t have a scanner on Sunday (long story short, I have a $319 paperweight right now), so much like the viewers at home, I had no idea that Wallace had effectively gotten dumped. The retaliation seemed to come out of nowhere.

The incident with Byron was a lesser version of the one with Wallace. Same scenario. Unfortunately, Earnhardt didn’t bring the goods Sunday when it counted. He’ll get the file with the race broadcast, review it, and kick himself mentally later this week. I don’t think his performances on television keep him up at night, but he’ll likely be thinking about this one for a little while. That said, I like his enthusiasm and I’m perfectly fine with the pitch of his voice. If that’s “Excited Dale,” then I’m happy to have Excited Dale in play. However, Excited Dale needs to be on his game as well.

The benefit of a radio-style broadcast is to get that extra information that you wouldn’t get by watching a regular broadcast. I just didn’t see that on Sunday. I understand that there’s a lot of stuff going on. You have five voices in your ears at all times. It can be hard to focus. Unfortunately, this was step-up time

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is another split weekend for NASCAR’s National Series. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Gander Outdoors Truck Series teams will be at Michigan International Speedway. Meanwhile, the month of twisties for the Xfinity Series continues as the series travels to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. TV Listings can be found in the Television tab.

With a far less busy weekend on tap, we will be able to provide critiques of both races from Michigan, plus the 170-mile Xfinity race from Mid-Ohio, in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.

In regards to the Truck and Xfinity races from the past few days, we will have two editions of the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter. Wednesday will cover the Eldora Dirt Derby, which I already have notes for. The regular Thursday show will cover the Zippo 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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Sol Shine

Personally, I find Earnhardt’s noise to be grinding. I know people just love him because he’s old Ironhead’s kid, but really, he accomplished little in racing other than being voted fan favorite year after year just because he’s old Ironhead’s son. His yammering is just annoying at times, verges on stuttering. I would prefer real broadcasters to former drivers as commentators, you don’t need to have done the activity to be able to describe the activity. A trained observer is way better.

Cliff Simpler

Listening to Dale Jr and Jeff Burton is like listening to chalk scraping across a chalk board. I mute the sound and just watch the race. Both of their voices are unbearable for long periods. And besides neither one of them never really did anything as drivers. Sure they won some races and Jr got voted most popular driver but that was because of his name. I’ve always wondered what DEI would be like if Dale Sr were still alive. I believe he would have built a power house team because he was all about winning. Like he always said second place is the just the first loser.


yes yes yes couldnt agree more (1st 2 sentences)


I have to mute when jr talks. After a while my ears hurt. Listen to dale jr download and he’ll address this. Apparently he was called out on Twitter y many on Sunday.

Don James

He’s certainly not my favorite either. But I like him.


I am hard pressed to tell the difference between the girly voice of JUNIOR or JEFF. It is like listening to my sisters daughters having a sleep over jacked up on KIDDIE JUNGLE JUICE and disgusting cake and cookies from a sugar overload factory! When the race is on and my animals are in the house taking a nap..one of these two or both with their voices seem to make their heart beat faster and their poor legs seem to wanna run from something and they bolt up looking for something. I am proactive as much as I can be muting the idiot box, I don’t want their heart failure on my watch.


Maybe not a champion, but 50 wins in Cup and Xfinity, over 200 top 5 finishes, and over 300 top 10 finishes combined in both series. He’s overshadowed, and has done more than people want to believe. Trained observers don’t hold the same sway with the audience as a former, popular driver, IMHO. However, the driver can become a trained observer, which I expect Dale to do.


Dale Jr. did win back to back Busch series titles in ’98’99 in case you forgot.


Glad you got to go to one in person in the media center and I am sure you enjoyed seeing the big boys.

Bob Grier

In all fairness to Dale, no one caught the incident that sent Bubba into the tires. Stuff happens fast at the Glenn.


Having attended races live, I know how fast something can happen during a race. Interesting that some fans think that announcers should be able to see everything all the time so they never miss a thing. Often, the angle at which something occurs makes a big difference. I envy those fans who have never missed an incident at a race live.

George Webster

Phil: Now that we have a more complete picture of Kyle Busch’s transgressions and bad behavior (it seems he made mistakes and then blamed everyone but himself for the problems) it seems clear that this was a day that KyBu should be apologizing for. Too bad he finished outside the top ten …

WJW Motorsports

I’d agree Jr. has a long way to go to being considered any kind of professional broadcaster.. But, comments like “he accomplished little in racing other than…” or regarding him and Burton ” neither one of them never really did anything as drivers” are just absolute nonsense.

Mark p

Somebody ever completely satisfied in this sport. Ran off DW, now complaining about Dale Jr good grief

Tom B

Even I knew Kyle put the bumper to Byron in the Bus Stop without seeing a replay. You could see both cars in that first replay and knew what happened. I thought Dale Jr was covering that part of the track, yet no comments. I also have a hard time distinguishing Burton and Earnhardt’s voices. But really Rick Allen is the worst. He has these racing sound bites that he uses whether they fit the situation or not. Listen to a broadcast from the seventies and see how right they get everything.


If they would shut up an let us hear thw horsepower it would b a break between all them mouths running all the time .A new fan to the sport wants to hear an feel the horsepower not a bunch of has beens

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